[Norm’s note: this is a re-post of an older post but with an update. Scott Noble has completed part two of his two part documentary, a link to which I append below: Plutocracy II: Solidarity Forever. I haven’t viewed it yet, but it’s the next item on my list of videos to watch.]
In an essay published in 1970 and titled “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation),” discussing some of the ways in which, according to Marxist theory, capitalist society ‘disciplines and controls’ its ‘citizens,’ Louis Althusser writes a brief and condensed summary of the essential purpose or function of the bourgeois or capitalist state. The summary, to my mind, despite its brevity, does indeed nicely capture the pith of the reality:
The Marxist tradition is strict, here: in the Communist Manifesto and the Eighteenth Brumaire (and in all the later classical texts, above all in Marx’s writings on the Paris Commune and Lenin’s on State and Revolution), the State is explicitly conceived as a repressive apparatus. The State is a ‘machine’ of repression, which enables the ruling classes (in the nineteenth century the bourgeois class and the ‘class’ of big landowners) to ensure their domination over the working class, thus enabling the former to subject the latter to the process of surplus-value extortion (i.e. to capitalist exploitation).
The State is thus first of all what the Marxist classics have called the State Apparatus. This term means: not only the specialized apparatus (in the narrow sense) whose existence and necessity I have recognized in relation to the requirements of legal practice, i.e. the police, the courts, the prisons; but also the army, which (the proletariat has paid for this experience with its blood) intervenes directly as a supplementary repressive force in the last instance, when the police and its specialized auxiliary corps are ‘outrun by events’; and above this ensemble, the head of State, the government and the administration.
Presented in this form, the Marxist-Leninist ‘theory’ of the State has its finger on the essential point, and not for one moment can there be any question of rejecting the fact that this really is the essential point. The State Apparatus, which defines the State as a force of repressive execution and intervention ‘in the interests of the ruling classes’ in the class struggle conducted by the bourgeoisie and its allies against the proletariat, is quite certainly the State, and quite certainly defines its basic ‘function’.
The documentary by Scott Noble, Plutocracy, if only as yet half-complete, also very precisely underscores and vividly illustrates by an abundance of historical examples the essence of the capitalist State as being primarily a deliberately designed instrument of oppression aimed at producing and maintaining social and economic conditions favorable to the extraction of profit by big money cartels.
The website, Dissident Voice, writes:
Plutocracy is the first documentary to comprehensively examine early American history through the lens of class. A multi-part series by filmmaker Scott Noble, Part I focuses on the the ways in which the American people have historically been divided on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex and skill level.
Plutocracy: Divide et Impera (Divide and Rule) includes sections on Mother Jones, the American Constitution; the Civil War draft riots; Reconstruction; Industrialization; the evolution of the police; the robber barons; early American labor unions; and major mid-to-late 19th Century labor events including the uprising of 1877, the Haymarket Affair, the Homestead strike and the New Orleans General Strike. The introduction examines the West Virginian coal wars of the early 20th Century, culminating in the Battle of Blair Mountain.
Part II (‘Solidarity Forever’) will cover the late 19th Century to the early twenties.
The filmmaker is currently seeking donations to complete the project. If you’d like to help, you can donate to their Patreon account.
Noble’s two part documentary is very much worth a viewing, I think:
(Hat tip to Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall)