How Can We Resist the State?


Why is it that all of history’s successful revolutions have ended up in the production of denser bureaucratic nightmares than the states they had sought to replace? We have to hand it to Dr. Finlay, his questions are brilliant. Not for a second am I suggesting here that his answers are any less brilliant; merely that with one of them I happen to disagree. In his consideration of ideas of resistance he, if I am understanding him correctly, adopts the method of refusing the state and advocates an alternative power – rather the power ‘to do’ than power ‘over others.’ With his conclusion I am in perfect agreement: “The state and good governance are not the solution.”

So our endpoint is the same, and all that we differ on is the question of power. Can we refuse the state as power with daily acts of resistance? I think not. Of course we can, but this resistance would be continuous and without end. Our perpetual resistance will exhaust us into submission because power in the bureaucratic state, unlike our individual resistance, is not located in a single person. State power is a renewable energy. Yet we are still confronted with the same problem; that of all revolutions ending in bureaucratic statist nightmares.

While this observation is true, much of it relies on what one considers to be a successful revolution. I’m not sure, insofar as political and social revolutions are concerned, that we have ever witnessed a successful revolution (and by ‘revolution’ here I am speaking only of those whose objective was to overturn the modern bourgeois state). Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat” was never realised in the creation of the Soviet Union, and, ultimately, Marx is incapable of imagining a stateless qua power-less fruition of revolution. So long as any revolution is limited to an ideology of the transformation of the state then it is doomed to recreate the state.

The solution, if there is one, can neither be in the endless resistance to the state nor in its takeover. For the week that’s in it I would like to propose a third way – the redemption of the state. St. Athanasius of Alexandria, speaking on the incarnation of God and the salvation of humanity, said “What has not been assumed has not been redeemed.” Can we apply this then to the revolution, can the state be assumed in order to destroy it? Well of course it can be. Previous revolutions have assumed the state only to continue it. All that is being suggested here is that the state be taken and then dismantled.

Quite unlike the route of perpetual resistance, the redemption of the state has a goal – the end of the state. Mere resistance to the state so far as such resistance does not become a threat to the life of the state will always be to some extent tolerated by the state. Any such resistance that does become a threat to the state will eventually be met with the full force of the state that is the monopoly of violence. Moreover, resistance envisages no end to itself. Only the destruction of the state can guarantee the end of the state when the purpose of the revolution is that end.


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