Melbourne Anarchist Archives Index

The Modern State (1966)

The modern state's ideal is the corporative state, that type of state that appeared in extreme form under Mussolini and Hitler and in a less extreme form under Franco. (I use the word 'corporative' to refer to this pattern of politico-economic organisation as the usual term 'fascist' has by now lost all precise meaning.)

This sort of state has arisen as a response to modern conditions; in particular the increasing complexity of the economy, the revolutionary attempts and formerly acute political aspirations of the lower classes, the increasing incidence and cost of war and the desire of ruling elites in all spheres to increase their control over the masses.

The primary symptom of this is tie progressive erosion of parliamentary power and the transfer of decision-making to the cabinet and head of state who are linked mainly with the heads of the civil service. Once parliament does not make decisions and only Holt does he does so on the basis of the information and interpretations given to him by the, departmental chiefs together with their suggested courses of action. Unless the head of state is strong the country comes to be run by the heads of departments. To a large extent parliamentary debates become an irrelevance together with most other parliamentary activity. In consequence ex-progressive clubs like the ALP club come to deny the validity of any political activity beyond that of finding reasonable motives for doing what the government has already done by virtue of its stupidity, cruelty or ineptitude. The result is political apathy.

This sort of government appeals to the salaried and professional classes who are foreign to conceptions outside the narrow ambit of short range planning and avoidance of responsibility, who distrust independent initiative or radical change and who are totally dominated by petty-bourgeois thinking and values. In the west these are also the groups most susceptible to nationalistic appeals since they lack the imagination to understand the cosmopolitan parisites above who still profit no matter what anti-capital laws are enacted and would only be destroyed by complete socialisation of which the salaried groups can hardly conceive. The working class at least maintains a certain cynicism about governments and their allies.

Apart from the obviously sterile features of such a state it also has some positively evil ones. First it is a class state and hence divides society against itself quite apart from the additional complications introduced by racial and religious divisions. Secondly it is an "economic" state; one in which work is emphasised at the expense of the play side of man's nature, i.e. the "real" triumphs over the erotic. The result of this economic and class nature is tension, envy, frustration and (some) real need all of which tend to produce mental illness and amoral behaviour - the institutional reaction to which further divides the society and degrades the individual. It is also interesting that such a state retards the intellectual progress on which material progress depends by its administrative discouragement of independent thought and initiative. (Cf. the myth current in the U.S. that scientific progress depends on teams rather individuals and that in any case there are no important theoretical advances needed.)

Modern states have divided the world into mutually antagonistic rich and poor areas, 'Free' and 'red' areas, white and coloured areas, etc and the homeostatic selfinterested and a moral nature of the administrative machines tends to perpetuate and intensify these divisions. The tensions caused by this have transformed the world into a shifting network of armed camps with continual outbreaks of violence where they overlap. These objective conditions together with the lunatic subjectivity of nationalist feeling continually push the world to the brink of total war.

Obviously universal brotherhood or understanding is impossible under these conditions and within the state individual moral responsibilities have been transformed into legal ones and the domain of individual responsibilities is steadily shrinking to zero. Soon the only socially and morally responsible man will be the man against the state.

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