Thinking About Anarchism: The State


Anarchists are those socialists who are anti-authoritarian, who place great stress on liberty and workers’ control. For this reason, we want to abolish the state at the same time as we abolish the division of society into a boss class and a working class.

When a minority class rules, it needs its own institutions to enforce its rule. It needs a legal system to put the stamp of approval on its ownership of the means of production. It needs a standing army to protect its interests from both external and internal challenges. It needs a way of convincing the working majority that all is fair. The state is put forward as the ‘impartial’ guarantor of their rights.

Whatever the exact system of government, the point is that the majority have relatively little power over their own lives. Whether they have their power taken away or they actually give it away to politicians in the polling station does not alter the fact that the majority are left without real control over society. The State only serves a purpose when a small class of bosses rules. It is a means of keeping a minority in charge. It has no other use.

Socialism is about the working class taking control of industry and doing away with exploitation. It is about production to meet needs, co-operation and workers’ direct control.

Can this new society be ruled by a small grouping organised in a state structure? Of course not. How could anyone seriously propose that a minority rule a society where there would be no rule by minorities!

But there will always be a need for administration, planning, defence and so on. We don’t need the old structures for this. The way we will tackle these tasks will have to reflect the new society. Certainly specialists will work at their jobs but they will be under the supervision of delegates elected from the workers’ councils. Power will come from below with everyone able to have their say about decisions that affect them.

Delegates will carry the decisions to local, national and eventually international level. If the delegates don’t do their job they will be stood down and new ones elected. In this structure there is no way that any gang of power-seekers could take over, yet the affairs of society can be organised in a most efficient manner.

Defence of the revolution against its enemies would not fall to a standing army but to the whole people trained and armed in militias. This makes impossible any chance of the army becoming divorced from the people and led into a coup by power-hungry officers.

Any attempt to create a ‘socialist state’ will only lead to a new ruling class. It can never lead to economic and human liberty. Either the working class has a direct hold on power or someone else does, there is no middle ground.



This article is from Workers Solidarity No 121 published May 2011