Poulantzas Revisited: State, Classes and Socialist Transition; An Interview with Panagiotis Sotiris

Thomas Goes: Why should we, today, study the work of Nicos Poulantzas, a theoretician who died almost 40 years ago? Or to put it differently, what can activists, organizers, and cadres within the anti-capitalist left learn from his writings that could be useful, indeed, even necessary to build a strong, promising left? 

Panagiotis Sotiris: The work of Nicos Poulantzas is one of the most important contributions to a possible Marxist theory of the state and of class antagonisms within the state. His was a highly original, relational conception of the state — the state as not simply an instrument in the hands of the ruling class but as the “condensation of a class relation.” He offered invaluable insights into the complexity of state apparatuses, articulating multiple relations between the state and the terrain of class struggle including the realm of production, and the myriad ways that the state functions as a crucial node in the (re)production of bourgeois class strategies. 1

Poulantzas’s final book, State, Power, Socialism, offers one of the most sophisticated conceptualizations of how the state plays a crucial role in the production and reproduction of repressive measures and ideological interpellations, but also shapes discourses, strategies and technologies of power, to borrow Foucault’s term. This approach is reminiscent of Antonio Gramsci’s integral state, the “entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its dominance, but manages to win the active consent of those over whom it rules.” 2 In this sense, Poulantzas’s theory is a tool to help militants understand what they are up against. 

At the same time, Poulantzas’s relational conception of the state offers a way to theorize the effectiveness of class struggles. It is true that there has been a tendency to interpret this relational conception as a form of reformism, that it points toward a gradual transformation of the state by means of the struggles that are “interiorized” within it. I disagree with a reading that would turn Poulantzas’s work into something like Eduard Bernstein’s reformism. According to Poulantzas, state apparatuses are the “materialization and condensation of class relations.” So, we are talking about a class state inscribed with the strategic and tactical interests of the bourgeoisie. 3 In any case it is neither fortress nor instrument but a terrain of class antagonisms. Subaltern classes can induce ruptures, openings, and gains as part of a strategy for hegemony, which in the end will also need a confrontation with the very materiality of the repressive apparatuses of the state (what in classical Marxist theory was described as the necessity to smash the state). This is yet another useful reminder for militants: radical politics is neither a long march through institutions nor a simple preparation for a final confrontation with the state. We might think of it instead as a complex dialectical process: of changing the class balance of forces in favor of the subaltern classes, creating conditions for working class hegemony and preparing for the confrontation with the class strategies materially inscribed in the state. 

Lastly, I want to emphasize the importance of Poulantzas’s theorization of authoritarian statism. Poulantzas was one of the first Marxist theorists in the aftermath of the capitalist crisis of 1973-4 to suggest that the reaction of the capitalist classes and their political representatives in the state was the result of extensive capitalist restructuring (and the first signs of the neoliberal turn) along with an authoritarian transformation of the state. I think that this dual tendency has since been a constant feature of social and political power. On the one hand it is exemplified in developments within capitalist states e.g. the expansion of repressive surveillance, the move of the center of power from the legislative to the executive, insulation of the decision processes against any form of intervention by the popular classes, and reduction of the scope of political debate with important strategic choices presented as simply technical. On the other hand, it is evident in the authoritarian institutional framework of the European Union, in some ways the model par excellence of authoritarian statism in Europe. 

TG: Maybe we can move on to Poulantzas’s class analysis. What is its importance for our activism today? Why should we distinguish between a working class and what he called the “new petty bourgeoisie” composed of different layers of wage earners? 

PS: Poulantzas offered a theory of class structures grounded in three key points.

First, he suggested that social classes are unthinkable outside of the terrain of class struggle. He wrote that “social classes involve in one and the same process both class contradictions and class struggle; social classes do not firstly exist as such, and only then enter into a class struggle. Social classes coincide with class practices, i.e. the class struggle, and are only defined in their mutual opposition.” 4

Second, he argued that relations of production are not simple relations of legal ownership but rather complex relations of power and control of the means and process of production. 

Third, he said that when we deal with the relations of production and the formation of class we are not simply talking about “economic” aspects but also political and ideological ones. In this sense, we avoid both the narrow economism of many traditional Marxist approaches and, at the same time, the underestimation of the centrality of relations of production that characterizes neo-Weberian theories of class stratification. 

Poulantzas’s insight into the new petty bourgeoisie was essential. 5 It was based upon a conception of the primacy of the social division of labor over the technical division of labor (which is the reflection of the primacy of the relations of production over the productive forces). For Poulantzas, “it is the social division of labor, in the form that this is given by the specific presence of political and ideological relations actually within the production process, which dominates the technical division of labor.” 6

Consequently, he stressed the fact that the emergence of contradictory class positions that represent at the same time aspects of the collective laborer and of the collective capitalist was not a “neutral” technical evolution, but the expression of a deepening of the capitalist character of the labor process and of the political and ideological relations within the terrain of production. Despite certain shortcomings, such as Poulantzas’s tendency to identify the working class with productive labor (a choice that leaves out important working class segments), I think that this is an important contribution to any Marxist theory of social classes. 

Moreover, I think that Poulantzas’s analysis can help us understand why treating these social strata as “working class” would mean taking for granted this form of the capitalist labor process and of the capitalist division between intellectual and manual labor. Moreover, it would also mean the incorporation of important elements of the petty-bourgeois ideology. 

This does not mean that these strata could not be a part of the “people” as the alliance of the subaltern classes. Indeed one of the most important challenges today is gaining these strata in such political direction. In our time, contemporary capitalist restructurings tend at the same time to expand such positions but also to worsen their working conditions, thus polarizing them towards the working class. Organizing such strata, incorporating them in trade unions, engaging them in collective practices and demands and breaking the ideology that they are “middle class” or “professionals” is indeed one of the most important stakes of class struggles today.

TG: Poulantzas argued for a class alliance between the working class and the old and new petty bourgeoisie. He named it “the people.” So, first, how did he assume such a “people” develops? And what was, in his understanding, the role of the state and the party within this process? My impression is that his understanding of the party’s role was quite traditional.

PS: Poulantzas attempted a reconstruction of a theory of class alliances based upon his conception of the people as an alliance under the hegemony of the working class. In this sense, he offers a class-theoretical perspective of the people in contrast to current positions such as the ones associated with reading of the work of Ernesto Laclau that tend to treat the people as a form of interpellation and as a discursive construction. 

It is true that Poulantzas treated the Communist party as the main terrain for the creation of the political conditions of such an alliance. He had in mind both the experience of the Greek communist movement, how the KKE became the leading force of the people in the Resistance and the Civil War, and the experience of the titanic Communist parties of Italy and France. He therefore also had in mind the idea of an alliance of the forces of the Left. 

However, it is important to note that he did not restrict his view to the Party or parties. He also underscored the significance of autonomous social movements. In his last interventions, shortly before his suicide, we can find elements of a deeper apprehension of a certain crisis of the Western mass workers’ parties and an even stronger emphasis on autonomous social movements. 7

Unfortunately, because of his untimely death, we cannot say to which direction his work would have gone. Nowadays, we know that we cannot deal with these questions simply within a traditional party-form. Social movements, especially new forms of political intervention also based upon the reclaiming of public space, such as the Movement of the Squares in Greece or Indignados in Spain, have enabled exactly this coming together of the different social classes and groups that the “people” is comprised of. However, I still think that the question of working-class hegemony within the articulation of such an alliance still requires a common political project and the organizational form that can support it, namely a novel form of the radical left front in its encounter with autonomous initiatives from below.

TG: How would you judge Poulantzas’s theoretical and political trajectory? One can easily recognize a Maoist inflection to his work, especially in Fascism and Dictatorship and in Classes in Contemporary Capitalism. What was the precise influence of Maoism on Poulantzas? 

PS: Poulantzas’s theoretical and political trajectory began with his experiences as a youth in Athens, within the Greek Left (the illegal organizations of the Communist Party and the legal organizations of the EDA) and then by his close experiences of the French developments surrounding May 1968. It also included a series of theoretical influences beginning with Jean-Paul Sartre and Lucien Goldmann before his turn to Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser. Another important experience for Poulantzas was the particular way he experienced not only May 1968 in France, but also the split in the Greek Communist Party in 1968 and his participation in the Communist Party of the Interior. 8

The traditional approach is to describe the rupture in the Greek Communist movement in terms of a split between the pro-USSR hardliners of the KKE and the more “eurocommunist” or “right-wing” approach of the Communist Party of the Interior (KKE-Es). However, many militants that sided with KKE-Es were looking for a radical or even revolutionary renovation of the strategy and tactics of the Communist movement, and did so in opposition to the more traditional and bureaucratic approach of the KKE. 

The local organization of KKE-Es in Paris, of which Poulantzas was an active member, was far to the left of the leadership. At the same time, it is obvious that Poulantzas was also influenced by both the radical critique of economism and reformism not only by his experiences with May 1968 but by the Chinese experience, by Mao and also the Cultural Revolution. For example, his insistence on not treating the hierarchies within the labor process as “neutral” and “technical” echoes the Cultural Revolution’s critique against the capitalist social division of labor.

However, later, particularly in the second half of the 1970’s we see a different political approach by Poulantzas. He opts for what he defined as a Left Eurocommunism and he seemed to be sympathetic towards both a strategy of left unity and democratic road to socialism. This is more obvious in the last chapter of his last book where he defended such an approach, where he insists on the possibility of combining a parliamentary majority with strong autonomous movements from below. 9 This is indeed a contradictory position. Still, it is an attempt to think thoroughly about an important problem. Since we have the benefit of hindsight, we can say that at that particular moment he was overly optimistic about such possibilities. At the same time he did not discern how the socialist parties of that period (such as PS in France or PASOK in Greece), in the end, would end up implementing capitalist restructuring from the 1980’s onwards. 

It is important to stress that this debate with the interventions of Poulantzas, Althusser, Balibar, the replies by Henri Weber or Daniel Bensaïd, the interventions by Christine Buci-Glucksmann, and the parallel Italian debate (see for example the texts by Ingrao) all represent the last major debate on questions of strategy regarding socialist transition as a real, not simply theoretical, question. 10

TG: You mentioned Poulantzas’s critique of economism and reformism. What was his criticism exactly about? And how did it influence his own theoretical and strategic thinking? For example, in Fascism and Dictatorship we find a constant argument that the parties of the Third International had an economistic approach. But his only strategic suggestion is that a more mass line politics would have been necessary. For example, how did it influence the politics of the local group of the KKE-Es in Paris? 

PS: Poulantzas’s critique of economism is evident in many aspects of his work. First of all, the very idea of attempting to elaborate on a complex theory of the state and its role is in contrast to any instrumental conceptualization of the state. Second, the critique of Third International economism is a crucial aspect of the argument he attempts to present in Fascism and Dictatorship. Third, his theory of social classes, which includes political and ideological determinations and insists on the primacy of social division of labor to the technical division, also represents a rupture with economism.

Regarding his critique of the Third International, it is very interesting how Poulantzas attempted to draw a line of demarcation with both “third-period” sectarianism but also a reformist conception of “popular fronts” and political alliances with “democratic” bourgeois parties. Having said that, I would like to draw attention to his interventions in the debates within the Greek Communist Party of the interior. 

I would like to draw attention to a text he wrote under an alias in 1970, in Agonas (“Struggle”) the organ of the Paris local organization of the KKE-Es. 11 This is an answer to an article by L. Eleutheriou, a member of the leadership of the Party who suggested a strategy of alliances from above with democratic parties (such as the parties of the center), based on the idea that these parties represented the petty bourgeois strata. 

Poulantzas opposed this conception of political representation, rejected the idea of alliances only “from above” and insisted that the United Front tactic required work from below and an attempt from the communist parties to also work within the peasantry and other petty bourgeois strata. Since Eleutheriou evoked the 7th Congress of the Communist International and Dimitrov’s positions, Poulantzas uses his critical approach to these positions that we also find in Fascism and Dictatorship, to suggest that a different approach to political alliances was necessary. 

I would like to stress here that the question of political alliances was very crucial in the debates of the Greek Left in the period of the 1967-74 dictatorship and the challenges that the Left faced such as how to create unity in struggle against the dictatorship while avoiding giving the bourgeois forces the hegemonic role in the anti-dictatorship struggle. This was also evident in his interventions after the dictatorship, in the debates around the strategy of KKE-Es where Poulantzas criticized “national anti-dictatorship alliance” that promoted, again, an alliance with bourgeois forces. In this sense, we can say that, in his interventions, Poulantzas was always to the left of the leadership of KKE-Es. 

On the other hand, Poulantzas always referred to the communist movement, not to some form of heterodoxy. His positions were, by all accounts, to the left of European communist parties, and we can find, in his work, many positions that were critical of what we might call “communist reformism.” However, he never opted for a form of gauchisme [ultra-leftism] and his focus was on the communist parties. He never seemed to suggest that the solution was to adopt the positions of Maoist or Trotskyist groups of that period, whose positions he treated as one-sided; he stressed the importance of autonomous and radical mass movements.

TG: At least since 1989 there has been little discussion about a socialist transition within the broad European left. Except for some smaller groups within the revolutionary left, for example the Socialist Workers Party in England or the LCR (now the NPA) in France, left parties have focused more or less on fighting for reforms. In one way or another this was tied to strategies that tried to build alliances with social democratic and/or left-liberal parties. This was even true for the PRC [Communist Refoundation Party] in Italy – a party that tried to rethink the relationship between social movements and the party. To put it another way: The anti-neoliberal government has been the main strategic idea within the broader European Left. From a Poulantzian point of view, and also based on the Greek experience, what do you think about this strategic orientation? 

PS: It is true that the period after 1968 represents a strategic crisis of the Left that took many forms. One of these was the “de-communization” of major parties of the Left and their transformation into social-democratic and later social-liberal parties. The Italian Communist Party is the one that comes first to mind. On the other hand, most of the tendencies that refused such an openly social-democratic turn did not develop something more than an anti-neoliberal position in the 1990’s, along with a defence of mass movements and a general, abstract support of socialism.

At the same time most tendencies of the revolutionary or anti-capitalist Left, or the Left that referred to the experience of 1968, also experienced an ideological crisis. Many groups dissolved and those tendencies that persisted were relatively small and lacked strategic renovation. This was obvious in the 4th International, the IST, and others.

At the same time, especially after the second half of the 1990’s with the symbolic expression of the anti-globalization movement, there was a renewed radicalism. This radicalism was expressed in the streets, in social movements, and in confrontations with the police. In some cases it was manifested in important electoral results such as the LCR-LO in 1999 France and the impressive result for Olivier Besancenot in the 2002 French presidential election, or at a different register in the PRC’s newfound appeal with youth. However this was not followed by a strategic debate. This was obvious in the European Social Forum and the World Social Forum where one could find thousands of militants, social movements of great significance, and a burgeoning interest in Marxist theory, but no real strategic debate. Daniel Bensaïd’s call to reopen the strategic debate went unanswered.

Even more unfortunate was the substitution of left strategy for alliances with social democracy especially anti-neoliberal governments or – worse yet – “anyone but” governments. The disastrous experience of the PRC’s participation in the second Prodi government, from which the communist left in Italy never recovered, offers a lesson we cannot ignore. It is true that in various instances, Poulantzas was invoked to support such strategies, but there was no depth and no strategic debate. It was not a “democratic road to socialism” but a full capitulation to parliamentary logic and the ceding of hegemony to social democracy in a period when it was one of the main political forces that implemented “actually existing neoliberalism.” 

This vacuum of strategy created by this approach and the fact the substitution of electoral politics and basic anti-neoliberal reforms is the fundamental limitation of this left variety; it created a version of the Left that is rhetorically radical yet incapable of thinking about strategies of rupture. The most tragic example of this is SYRIZA whose programmatic unpreparedness and compulsive Europeanism paved the way for a thoroughgoing capitulation to the Troika and now a full-fledged acceptance of an aggressive neoliberal logic. The younger members of SYRIZA’s leadership, including Tsipras himself, received their “political education” in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, exactly during the period of European Social Forum and peak popularity for the idea of an “anti-neoliberal front.” 

TG: Some comrades would argue that the balance of forces as well as the “character of the period” do not allow more than anti-neoliberal politics. In the German left it is common to hear the argument that, given different possible roads of capitalist development (either more authoritarian and neoliberal or more social and democratic) as well as the balance of forces, anything we do is pushing for a better capitalism. Thus we create better conditions for class struggle, social movements and more space for the Left. In other words, in their perspective there is only one solution. But that’s not revolutionary politics; it is called in German the “Reformalternative.” The late Poulantzas, with his interest in left Eurocommunism, is a point of reference for these kind of strategies. What is your reply to these strategic suggestions?

PS: I think that such an approach is a very anti-dialectical one. The very idea that the Left can present a project of a better capitalism and thus create a better terrain for movements is almost absurd. I mean the very history of the workers’ movement suggests that whenever there was a “better” capitalism, this was not the result of the Left promoting alliances for a good capitalism. It has always been the outcome of autonomous and militant struggles and of a broader anti-capitalist challenge to the existing social order, exemplified in the communist movement of the 20th century. Only such dynamics could force the capitalist powers to make reforms and concessions to the subaltern classes.

Moreover, such an approach underestimates another important aspect of the current conjuncture: the combination of the neoliberal fuite en avant. This has been the answer to the 2007-8 capitalist crisis. Increased authoritarian statism and an almost “post-hegemonic” approach, along with the erosion of any democratic process, has meant there is not much space for reforms towards a “better” capitalism. Of course, the class struggle never ends and there is a constant character to social antagonism. At the same time, the actual decision-making processes are more insulated against the intervention of the subaltern classes than at any time in the past. 

What is needed is a much more confrontational approach that presents a radical alternative. We are now talking about a transitional program, a series of interlinked demands and goals that challenge the power of the capitalists, accentuate the contradictions of the current form of bourgeois politics and crisis-management and open up the way for a post-capitalist social configuration. Such a programmatic approach can, on the one hand, re-establish the Left as a truly anti-systemic force, draw a line of demarcation with bourgeois forces, suggest an alternative narrative (and not the fantasy of a better capitalism) and offer a political perspective for mass movements. Such an approach can really open up the way for truly hegemonic projects of the forces of labor, and can create conditions for a Left that aims at not only resistance, but also power and hegemony. 

I can understand the possible invocation of Poulantzas in such debates and positions. Yet Poulantzas never referred to a left that would simply struggle for reforms. Even when he made a political turn to the “democratic road” we should never forget that he was referring to a “democratic road to socialism,” a process where a parliamentary victory of the Left with a radical program towards socialist transformation would be combined with strong autonomous social movements in a complex process of social transformation. We can criticize these positions and bring forward their contradictions and lacunae, such as Poulantzas’s underestimation of how the state apparatus would react to such a challenge, or his all-too-positive approach to the possibility of collaboration of the communist left with parties like PASOK, yet we must admit that he never suggested an alliance with social-democratic forces just in the name of “better capitalism.”

Moreover, Poulantzas also realized that simply aiming at governmental power was not the answer to the question of strategy, even if he championed – contra more classical “insurrectionist” approaches – the possibility of a “democratic road.” He always gave credence to the importance of mass movements from below, autonomous movements that would also pressure even a left-wing government to overcome its shortcomings, move in a more radical direction, initiate processes of transformation and answer any potential counter-offensives from the part of the bourgeois forces. Take the following passage from a 1979 interview by Poulantzas: 

However, to modify the balance of power [le rapport de force] within the state, and furthermore, radically modify the materiality of the state, is only one aspect of a democratic transition to socialism. The other aspect of the process depends on, at the same time, grassroots social movements propelling the spread [l’essaimage] of spaces of direct democracy: in short for movements to ground themselves in popular struggles that always spill over beyond, and keep a distance from, the state. To remain limited to the state terrain, even in order to adopt a strategy of ruptures, is to unwisely slip towards social democracy; because of the specific weight of the materiality of the state, to even change the relation of forces within the state can only happen by also relying on struggles and movements which go beyond the state. 12

TG: What would an alternative strategy look like? As far as I can see, there are three major alternative strategies discussed in the radical left. First, the idea of an anti-monopolistic alliance and a progressive democracy. This is for example the strategic framework of the declining German Communist Party. Second, the idea of non-state radical politics, in its different varieties – anarcho-syndicalism or some autonomous currents. And last but not least, revolutionary Marxist organizations mostly of a Trotskyist current, organizing their politics around the idea of a deep revolutionary crisis and the development of situations of dual power. Do you see an alternative approach? In a discussion I attended last year, Stathis Kouvelakis argued for a left government that would mobilize for anti-capitalist reforms working together and in tension with social movements. 

PS: This is surely an open and rather difficult question. First, I think that the idea of an anti-monopolistic alliance is based on a misapprehension of the dominant social bloc. The contrast between monopolies and more medium or small bourgeoisie is a tension within the dominant bloc which is managed by the dominant segments of the power bloc. For instance, we can see how “monopoly capital” instrumentalizes labor deregulation and overexploitation to maintain its leading role relative to medium and small businesses. Moreover, the reproduction of medium and small businesses in many cases is conditioned upon the strategy of monopoly capital (outsourcing and new flexible forms of concentration/centralization). It is one thing to try to think of a potential alliance with the self-employed or very small business and another to insist on the fantasy of an alliance with progressive elements of the bourgeoisie. 

There is the idea that we can do away with politics in the sense of a struggle for revolutionary power. From Alain Badiou’s “politics at a distance from the state” to John Holloway’s notion of changing the world without taking power, there is an abundance of examples. 13 However great the changes made by autonomous movements, there is a limit. We need strong, autonomous, and victorious social movements, just as we need successful experiments of alternative social configurations such as the experience in self-management. Yet this is not enough. Social change also needs confrontation with the power of the dominant classes: the power that is materialized and condensed in state apparatuses. This is especially true if we look at current forms of authoritarian statism, especially in the form of state of permanent economic exception and urgency (such as the “regime” imposed by the Troika in Greece). There is a tendency towards the pre-emptive undermining of social movements and towards the drastic reduction of the possibility of major changes induced by movements. There is an extreme insulation of the decision-making process against such developments. In such a conjuncture you need political power to change the world. 

However, the idea that the seizure of power would be a simple repetition of October 1917 is absurd. This is more fantasy than an actual strategy, and in certain cases (the current anti-capitalist rhetoric of the Greek Communist Party is an example that comes to mind) an excuse for not doing much. I can understand the defence of the revolutionary road as an ideological reference point against political and theoretical anticommunism, yet this has to be translated into strategy. This means actually thinking about the conjuncture, the opportunities offered and the original ways necessary to take advantage of them. In no case does it mean constantly treating the situations as “not ripe enough.” In 2010-12 Greece came closer to a hegemonic crisis than any European country since the “fall of the dictatorships” in the mid-1970’s. What could be more “ripe” than that? 

Does this mean simply combining a left government with a transitional program and strong autonomous movements form below? I think that we need a more dialectical approach. On the one hand, recent developments not only in Europe but also in the previous decade in Latin America have shown the possibility that in a condition of extreme social and political crisis that leads to mass movements and to major breaks in the relations of representation articulated around systemic parties, it is possible for forces of the radical left to reach governmental power. At the same time, the extent of the transformation of the state (the solidification and materialization of a class relation of forces in favor of capital), and the degree of development of authoritarian statism mean that it is very difficult to exercise power in a normal way. This is especially true when we talk about a government that (in contrast to SYRIZA) would have gone all the way towards a rupture with the European Union and imperialism (since it is impossible to have any form of social change within the embedded neoliberalism of the Eurozone and the EU institutional framework). 

What is needed is an excess of popular power from below to counter the capitalist strategies inscribed in the very materiality of the state and to answer potential bourgeois counter-offensives. We need not just strong movements but also novel forms of dual power. Sooner or later it would need to not only run the state or reform it but also to bring about a more profound transformation in a process that would require a rupture with the bourgeoisie and lead to a constituent process that could implement institutional arrangements antagonistic to the capitalist ones: limits to ownership, new forms of democracy, new forms of participatory planning, democratic control, and reduction of oppressive mechanisms.

These cannot be simple abstract blueprints for the future. They must be based on real experiences and experimentations, the collective ingenuity of the masses, the learning process associated with movements and radical politics, and open theoretical debate. Radical or revolutionary politics is a process of constant experimentation. Unfortunately most organizations and fronts of the Left have failed so far to become the kind of collective laboratories for the production of strategies, discourses, and intellectualism needed. Even the experience of SYRIZA, if we take it as a test case, has not dealt with its tragic deficiencies and defeats. 

Some will argue that now we only need resistance and movements since the “window of opportunity” for revolutionary politics has closed, where perhaps it was open in 2010-12. The reply is that strategic debate has never been a luxury for the Left. From 1848 to the Paris Commune to the 1905 revolution to 1917 the idea that we learn from major experiences and constantly reassess and transform communist theory and practice and even revolutionize strategy has been like oxygen for both Marxism and the working class movement. We need that oxygen today. 


1 Nicos Poulantzas, Classes in Contemporary Capitalism, trans. David Fernbach (London: Verso, 1979), 26.
2 Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971), 244.
3 Poulantzas, Classes in Contemporary Capitalism, 25.
4 Ibid., 14.
5 Poulantzas argued that the conditions of monopoly capitalism give rise to a new petty bourgeoisie class of non-productive salaried workers. Examples include office workers, engineers, and technicians.
6 Poulantzas, Classes in Contemporary Capitalism, 21.
7 See, for example, Nicos Poulantzas, “The State, Social Movements, Party: Interview with Nicos Poulantzas (1979),” trans. Patrick King, Viewpoint Magazine.
8 Nicos Poulantzas, “Interview with Nicos Poulantzas,” in The Poulantzas Reader: Marxism, Law and the State, trans. James Martin (London: Verso, 2008) 387-388.
9 Nicos Poulantzas, State, Power Socialism, trans. Patrick Camiller (London: New Left Books, 1978). The chapter in question is entitled “Part Five: Towards a Democratic Socialism.”
10 See the debate between Henri Weber and Poulantzas in The Poulantzas Reader, 334-360 and Buci-Glucksmann’s many interventions in the review Dialectiques.
11 Nicos Poulantzas, “On the question of alliances,” Agonas, July 1970 (in Greek, written under the pseudonym, N. Skyrianos).
12 Poulantzas, “The State, Social Movements, Party.”
13 John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power (London: Pluto, 2002).

Authors of the article

has taught social and political philosophy as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Crete, Panteion University, the University of the Aegean, and the University of Athens. His research interests include Marxist philosophy, the work of Louis Althusser, and social and political movements in Greece.

is a sociologist, focusing on Sociology of Work and Labor Relations. He is working at the Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut (SOFI) Göttingen, is a member of »Organisieren Kämpfen Gewinnen«, Projekt M and DIE LINKE.