interview on Power/Knowledge

It’s true that since the late nineteenth century Marxist and ‘Marxised’ revolutionary movements have given special importance to the State apparatus as the stake of their struggle. What were the ultimate consequences of this? In order to be able to fight a State which is more than just a government, the revolutionary movement must possess equivalent politico-military forces and hence must constitute itself as a party, organised internally in the same way as a State apparatus with the same mechanisms of hierarchies and organisation of powers. This consequence is heavy with significance. Secondly, there is the question, much discussed within Marxism itself, of the capture of the State apparatus: should this be considered as a straightforward take-over, accompanied by appropriate modifications, or should it be the opportunity for the destruction of that apparatus? You know how the issue was finally settled.

The State apparatus must be undermined, but not completely undermined, since the class struggle will not be brought to an immediate end with the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Hence the State apparatus must be kept sufficiently intact for it to be employed against the class enemy. So we reach a second consequence: during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the State apparatus must to some extent at least be maintained.

Finally then, as a third consequence, in order to operate these State apparatuses which have been taken over but not destroyed, it will be necessary to have recourse to technicians and specialists. And in order to do this one has to call upon the old class which is acquainted with the apparatus, namely the bourgeoisie. This clearly is what happened in the USSR. I don’t claim at all that the State apparatus is unimportant, but it seems to me that among all the conditions for avoiding a repetition of the Soviet experience and preventing the revolutionary process from running into the ground, one of the first things that has to be understood is that power isn’t localised in the State apparatus and that nothing in society will be changed if the mechanisms of power that function outside, below and alongside the State apparatuses, on a much more minute and everyday level, are not also changed.



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