Revolution Manifesto Class 2: Historical Materialism and Our World

Jan 23, 2016


The purpose of this class is to develop a more sophisticated appreciation of the concept of the withering away of the state and to engage the historical evidence that proves the necessity of focusing on questions of state power.

Learning objectives and outcomes:

At the end of class 2, comrades will:

  • Understand the impact that The State and Revolution—and Leninism in general—has had on our world.
  • Be able to articulate why political analysis and practice must be grounded in the examination of history and concrete conditions.


From Revolution Manifesto

  • How the Ideas of ‘The State and Revolution’ Changed History, by Brian Becker (pp. 7-29)
  • Chapter 2: The Experience of 1848-51, by Lenin (pp. 111-128)

Recall activity:

  • What do you remember taking away from last class? Write at least three things down.
  • Share in pairs or as a whole group.

Discussion questions:

For “How the Ideas of ‘The State and Revolution’ Changed History:”

  • What is the primary purpose of Lenin’s text? (p. 7)
  • What is the significance for this moment? Has it changed over time?
  • Why does it matter that we base our political theories in analyses of history and experience?
  • What were the main differences between the 1st and the 2nd Internationals? Do these differences exist today in political organizing?
  • What happened to the German Social Democratic Party after Marx’s death, and what are some lessons that we should take away from this period of time? (pp. 13-16
  • How did Lenin’s view of the state change over time? (pp. 16-19)
  • What were Lenin’s April Theses, and were they a departure from his previous writing? (pp. 19-25)
  • What is the difference between utilizing the bourgeois state vs. smashing the bourgeois state and creating a new state? (pp. 25-28)

For “Chapter 2 The Experience of 1848-51”

  • What do Marx and Lenin mean by the dictatorship of the proletariat? How would you define it in your own words?
  • Why is Marx’s concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat one of his most important? What do you think about its relevance for today? (pp. 118-120)
  • Are socialist reformers and utopians betraying the interests of the working class? Why or why not?
  • How did the bourgeois state come into being? (pp. 122-126)
  • What distinction does Lenin make between opportunists and revolutionaries at the end of the chapter? (pp. 126-128)?
  • Why does Lenin argue it is wrong to focus on the class struggle as the touchstone of Marxism?

Engaging activity:

Representations of revolutionary theory in music

  • After reading and discussing the text for today, listen to the song, “Get up, Stand up” by Bob Marley here.
  • Break up into small groups of between 2 and 5 people
  • In your group, discuss the content of the song and how it relates to the reading for today. List at least 5 common themes or ideas. Spend at least 10 minutes doing this.
  • Now think about the sounds and general feel of the song. List some common themes or ways you’d identify them.
  • Next, reconvene with the larger group, and have each group report out what they discussed. Presentations should be short, between 2-3 minutes.