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The economic role of the state

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Marxism regards the state as an instrument of power which is used in two principal ways: firstly as a means of suppressing any resistance to the interests of the ruling class in society; secondly, as a means of supporting and reinforcing the economic domination of the ruling class.
In Australia today, the violent and repressive aspect of imperialist-capitalist class rule is mainly held in reserve – for the time being. As the contradiction between the people and US imperialism sharpens, measures have been taken to strengthen military special forces, Federal Police and ASIO, as well as introduce a host of anti-democratic laws and restrictions on existing civil rights. Under the smokescreen of “anti-terrorism”, most of these measures are aimed at current and future peoples’ struggles against the US imperialist takeover of Australia. It demonstrates the critical truth of Lenin’s statement, “A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.” (Lenin The State and Revolution 1917)
While never forgetting this essential feature of the state, it is also important to understand the role of the state as an economic manager of the capitalist system, nowadays directly serving the interests of US imperialism and its global corporate monopolies. 
Engels’ definition of the state
Marx’s loyal comrade, Frederick Engels wrote extensively on the state, defining it as “…a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is an admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it is cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel…a power seemingly standing above society became necessary for the purpose of moderating the conflict…this power, arisen out of society, but placing itself above it, and increasingly alienating itself from it, is the state.” (Engels Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State 1894)
Note that Engels says, “seemingly standing above society”. This is in sharp contrast to the false myth of the apolitical independence of the military, the courts, the public service and all the other trappings of the state apparatus. All these trapping arose as tools of class control. 
The ruling class in society, whether slave-owners, kings, feudal lords or today’s monopoly capitalists, all adopted and moulded pre-existing instruments of authority and repression to suit the further domination of their particular class. Economic power leads to political power, and the capture and re-shaping of the state apparatus is an essential component of this process. “As the state arose from the need to hold class antagonisms in check, but as it arose, at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of these classes, it is, as a rule, the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class, which, through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class, and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class.” (Engels Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State 1894)
Economic management under capitalism
The mass production needs of capitalism cannot be met by the resources of individual capitalists alone. Collectively they need roads, railways and ports to trade their goods. They need educated workers to operate their factories work in their shops and offices, and other workplaces. They need laws and regulations to moderate commercial conflicts. They need gas, electricity and water, telecommunications systems, hospitals, etc.
The state provides all these needs, spreading the costs across the whole population through taxation, rates and other charges. In this way the infrastructure necessary for mass production and global trade is built, maintained and extended. Only a small portion of the capitalists’ profits need be set aside for any unavoidable company taxes.
Monopoly capitalism and the era of imperialism
Of course, the more powerful and influential capitalists get even more benefits from the state, in the way of timely and convenient infrastructure development, tax concessions and juicy government contracts. Thus the tendency towards monopolisation is pushed along by the state, squeezing out the smaller capitalists. Historically, the role of the state has overseen the transition from “laissez faire” capitalism to monopoly capitalism.
Quoting Engels comments on a democratic republic, Lenin noted, “…wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely”, first, by means of the “direct corruption of officials” (America); second, by means of “an alliance between the government and Stock Exchange” (France and America).” (Lenin The State and Revolution 1917)
In Australia, the monopoly capitalists lobby and bribe not only the national government, but also the regional state governments. They have often played one regional government against another, in order to squeeze out more concessions for new investments.
But monopoly capitalism in Australia is now dominated by the foreign corporate monopolies and financial houses, the biggest being the US, followed by European and Japanese interests.  They put pressure on all the local capitalists, even local monopolies. They exert enormous influence on the various governments, demanding the privatisation of previously state-owned utilities and services. They demand the dismantling of laws and regulations restricting foreign penetration of the local economy and the accelerated takeover of Australian capitalism.
US imperialism is forced by economic necessity to expand or die. It seeks to control Australia: politically through the subservient Howard government, militarily through the integration of armed forces and military bases, and economically through unfair WTO treaties and the scandalous Free Trade Agreement.
The words of Lenin are truer than ever in today’s world…
“Imperialism – the era of bank capital, the era of gigantic capitalist monopolies, the era of the development of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism – has demonstrated with particular force an extraordinary strengthening of the ‘state machine’ and an unprecedented growth of its bureaucratic and military apparatus, in connection with the intensification of repressive measures against the proletariat both in the monarchical and in the freest, republican countries.” (Lenin The State and Revolution 1917)


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