anarchist critique of marxism

One place where Stirner seems to anticipate Marx is where he briefly mentions a doctrine which Marx will later make into one of the corner-stones of his economic theory - the doctrine of surplus value. However, because he conflates reformist and Leninist parties, he too quickly slips from a critique of the former to a rejection of the latter. Engels, Frederick, 1988 [1872], “On Authority”, in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. Consequently, even if these forms of organisation are successful, they are doomed to reproduce the kind of hierarchical and alienated power relations characteristic of the state.18, Taken as an account of reformist socialist political organisations Holloway’s arguments are insightful: these parties do tend to undermine their own progressive roots by subordinating their activity to work within capitalist states.

Gramsci, Antonio, 1971, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (Lawrence and Wishart). It is not that Marxist parties are immune to the danger of elitism, but that this danger tends to have different roots: particularly when workers’ struggles are at a low ebb there is tendency for organisations whose lifeblood is the struggle to degenerate into sectarianism.46 If anarchist groups are prone to a similar tendency, the problem with the reification of direct action as the radical tactic of choice—in which, as Franks revealingly argues, “a small part of an entity represents the whole thing”47—is that it is liable to reinforce rather than challenge the propensity to elitism and substitutionism: the tendency of activists to substitute their activities for broader social movements. 15: The rational kernel of the anarchist caricature of Marxism is the fact that the most powerful voices claiming to be Marxists in the 20th century were statists (of either the Stalinist or Maoist variety) who presided over brutal systems that were far from anything we would recognise as socialist. He argued that within the workers’ movement anarchism therefore, in a way that paralleled reformist trade unionism, led to the “subordination of the working class to bourgeois politics in the guise of negation of politics”.26 It was to counter this tendency that Lenin argued to build a national political party that aimed to link together all the local struggles across Russia into a general offensive against the state.

The reality however is more complicated and messy than that. This aspect of Bakunin’s thought reflects a widespread failing within anarchism to develop an adequate conceptualisation of democracy: a weakness which is rooted in an incoherent model of human nature that fatally undermines the socialist side of anarchism’s claim to be the most consistent form of libertarian socialism. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 900 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. If you have an ebook reader or a Kindle, check out our guide to using ebook readers with Over the next few years Gramsci sought to overcome these weaknesses while building on the strengths of the L’Ordine Nuovo period. One of the most important anarchists of post-revolutionary Russia was Emma Goldman, whose political life spanned the I.W.W.

The passage in Stirner reads: `"Money governs the world" is the keynote of the bourgeois epoch. It is our nature.

Five major anarchist thinkers--Stirner, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin and Bookchin--are surveyed briefly to give the beginner reader Despite differences in their rhetoric, both the Bolsheviks in Petrograd in 1917 and the anarchists in Barcelona in 1936 organised the “vanguard” of a revolutionary movement from below, and both recognised the need to build a unified military opposition to the counter-revolution.

Whereas traditional parliamentary and revolutionary parties have oriented towards the states whose power they wished to capture or defeat, because anarchists reject these approaches in favour of prefiguring an alternative to the state they reject the form of centralised political parties that are necessary to confront states, often, though not uniformly, embracing instead supposedly non-hierarchical “horizontal” forms of organisation.36. Click here for the guide.

55: Goodway, 1989, p1; Chomsky 1970, pxii; Marshall, 2008, p639. Gordon, Uri, 2008, Anarchy Alive (Pluto).

For instance, the French socialist Blanqui envisioned revolution as an act won by a small elite of revolutionaries who would act on behalf of the workers.89 Commenting on the Blanquists in the wake of the Commune, Engels argued that this group were “socialists only in sentiment”, because their model of socialism was not underpinned by anything like an adequate account of either the class struggle or the historical basis for socialism itself.

But it is one in which the issues involved have been primarily assumed rather than stated.

The point of the party is to help win a majority of the working class to socialism, and to build a workers’ movement that offers a desirable model of liberation to other groups outside it.

67: Collins and Abramsky, 1964, p101; Compare Gilbert, 1981, p90. As Trotsky argued, it is a mistake to counterpose spontaneity to leadership for they are better understood as two sides of the same coin.91, This approach to the problem of revolution filled out one side of the general model which Marx and Engels had elaborated in 1845. l'll throw my two cents in here. institution.

Login via your All Rights Reserved. Ironically, while many anarchists have gravitated towards similar conclusions at highpoints in the class struggle, even at these points their failure to distinguish between bourgeois and workers’ states has proved fatal. Click here to register now. Cliff, Tony, 1986, Lenin: Building the Party (Bookmarks). For a year in 1793-4 the Jacobins were at the forefront of the French Revolution.

As we shall see, this claim involves a massive misunderstanding of classical Marxism which not only serves to conceal its essence as the theory of working class self-emancipation but also obscures the way this theory points beyond the practical limits of anarchism. Led by Robespierre, they rode a contradiction during their time at the head of the government.

▶ Bookmark articles to your own reading list Paul G. Pickowicz, Read Online (Free) relies on page scans, which are not currently available to screen readers. On 18 August 2014 over 10,000 port truckers in Ningbo, China, went on strike, not having had a raise in over 8 years. Thus Engels comments that, while all revolutionary socialists agree “that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution”, this would not mean the end of social organisation. This was not a case of taking over the old state, but of replacing it with a new organisation. For this reason it is very different from previous (top-down/statist) attempts to realise a better world, and goes some way to explaining why Marx believed it was important for revolutionaries to have a sure grasp of history: if a socialist revolution was possible only in specific historical circumstances, it was important to recognise what these were and how they differed from the conditions that had given rise to other revolutionary moments. Today, by contrast, because we live in a world marked by an international division of labour, our society is global. As Trotsky wrote, “To renounce the conquest of power is voluntarily to leave the power with those who wield it, the exploiters”.40. Although Guérin rejected the idea that revolutions necessarily degenerated into tyranny, he nevertheless agreed that Marx had not fully overcome the tension between the “communal” and “Jacobin” aspects of his politics, and that Lenin went further along the Jacobin path.80 The reference to Lenin is an allusion to his famous comment that “a Jacobin who wholly identifies himself with the organisation of the proletariat—a proletariat conscious of its class interests—is a revolutionary Social–Democrat”.81 This phrase has often been cited as evidence that Lenin at least failed to escape the limits of Jacobinism, and that because of this the Russian Revolution, like its French predecessor, was doomed to end in terror. Rather it is best understood as a precursor to Robert Michels’ famous “iron law of oligarchy”, according to which all organisations inevitably generate ruling elites.98 Duncan Hallas comments that when applied to democratic centralist organisations, this type of argument smells of “a secularised version of the original sin myth”,99 and, just as the original sin myth condemns us to a life of hardship, despite its formal radicalism the anarchist idea that all organisation negates freedom leaves little hope for a progressive alternative to capitalism. The state is for liberals therefore, in Tom Paine’s felicitous phrase, a “necessary evil”!, Lenin, Vladimir, 1968 [1917], “The State and Revolution”, in Lenin, Selected Works (Progress), Proletarian revolutions, by contrast, because they are made for and by the working class—”the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”87—were necessarily qualitatively more democratic in both their execution and their outcome. 29: For an overview of the importance of these distinctions to socialist politics see Hallas, 1979, chapter 3. Guérin, Daniel, 1989, “Marxism and Anarchism”, in David Goodway (ed), For Anarchism (Routledge). Chris Harman’s detailed comments were, as ever, both generous and superbly insightful.

59: Collier, 1990, p41.

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } 51: Kinna, 2005, pp114-115; Freeman, 1970. Israel, Jonathan, 2001, Radical Enlightenment (Oxford University Press). The truth is that while there are many people described as anarchists from before the founding of the First International - William Godwin and Max Stirner for example - they never actually used that word to identify themselves. It is not that the problems anarchists point to in democratic centralist organisations do not exist—Franks gives an unfortunately caricatured list of what are best understood as sectarian tendencies within Leninist parties53—it is rather that these problems are a necessary feature of socialist activity, and they are shared to a greater or lesser degree by any form of radical political organisation, including anarchist and autonomist organisations. To access this article, please, Access everything in the JPASS collection, Download up to 10 article PDFs to save and keep, Download up to 120 article PDFs to save and keep.

Select the purchase 22: As we shall see below, anarchists (or at least most of them) do not reject building organisations, but they do reject political organisations because they tend to define politics narrowly as pertaining to winning state power. And indeed the anarchist theorist Uri Gordon has argued that “there are major parallels between some of the values animating activists’ collective process practices and those which feature in the more radical end of democratic theory”.48 However, as Gordon goes on to point out, because democracies allow for majority control whereas anarchism defends the absolute rights of the individual against the state, it is best understood as “not ‘democratic’ at all”.49 Similarly, in his classic survey of anarchism, George Woodcock argued that “no conception of anarchism is farther from the truth than that which regards it as an extreme form of democracy.


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