Anarchism; more popular than marxism?

James Farmelant farmelantj at
Thu Dec 9 14:53:46 MST 1999

On Thu, 09 Dec 1999 09:40:18 -0500 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
>>In short, the new 'anarchist' movement is more popular than Marxism -
>i.e it
>>has a more active base of support within certain imperialist powers -
> but
>>only by virtue of it being 'last man standing'.  It's come out of the
>>and 90s in better shape than rival political traditions (needless to
>say it
>>has little to do with Bakunin et al at present).  As Phil Ferguson
>>others have suggested, what looks like a popular movement is closer
>to a
>>youth subculture, made up of drop-outs who need to grow up.
>>Graham Barnfield
>This is comparing apples and oranges. Marxism is actually in better
>than the *organized* anarchist ideological current. For example, one
>of the
>better known groups "Love and Rage" fell apart not too long ago. From

I guess that shows that anarchists are, well, anarchic.

>The break-up of Love and Rage was preceded by a two-year-long debate
>the organization around a number of issues that proved irreconcilable.
>the course of this debate, the ex-RSL members and a few others active
>the Anti-Racist Action Network (ARA) signed onto a document entitled
>We Believe (WWB), which argued that all of the practical and
>problems that faced Love and Rage could be answered from "within

Nothing like good old anarchist sectarianism to make one
feel better about Marxist sectarianism.

>Other members raised provocative questions (How do you
>the ideals of a new society without replicating elements of a state?

The answer would seem to be that you cannot.  BTW the traditional
theorists of anarchism didn't seem to do that much better in
struggling with this question either.  Bakunin was an advocate
of reliance upon secret societies in order to promote revolution
(shades of vanguardism?) and in some of his writings he
even went as far as arguing that a temporary dictatorship
would be required following a revolution.  And in any case
Bakunin was himself at least partially "corrupted" by Marxism.
He after all once accepted a commission to translate *Capital*
into Russian.  And a careful perusal of his writings makes its
evident to the reader that he borrowed freely from Marxism
even though he was unwilling to provide attribution to
the hated Marx.  Other anarchist theorists also borrowed
from Marxism.  Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman
turned to Marxism for their analysis of capitalism even if
they also turned to Nietzsche for their moral ideals.
The contemporary anarchist theorist, Murray Bookchin,
the father of "social ecology" is an ex-Trot and he has
always drawn upon Marxism in developing his own theories
which he has at times characterized as representing a
dialectical critique of Marxism.

>does a revolutionary relate to her or his communities as an
>organizer?) and
>often found that anarchist history and thought didn t have satisfying
>answers. The WWB document and its backers offered vague and moralistic
>answers to such questions. Worse, WWB warned that this questioning was
>evidence of a covert plot to corrupt anarchism with Marxist thought."

May Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin and all the other gods of
anarchism save them from such a fate!  -:)

Since the anarchist masters themselves have drawn upon Marxist
thought and continue to do so this seems quite absurd.

>When one joins a Marxist organization, you customarily go through a
>rigorous training period. You study the literature and take
>There are no such equivalent duties in the anarchist "movement".

In contrast with Bakunin's proposals which would have been at
least as demanding.

>the dues being much lower, obviously membership--such as it is--is
>demanding. Marxists from the Communist Party and the Committees of
>Correspondence have been responsible for convening the Black Radical
>Congress. They are also supplying the foot soldiers for new
>initiatives in
>the labor movement, including NYC's Transit Workers Union which is
>about to
>go on strike. There are no such things as IWW led labor struggles.

At least not for the last 60 or 70 years anyway.  IWW supporters
will tell you all about their involvement in contemporary
labor struggles but these people seldom seem to play significant
leadership roles.  The reform movement in the Teamsters was
for example spearheaded by Trots (of Shachtmanite disposition
I believe).

>When you
>get down to the nitty-gritty of working class and oppressed
>resistance to the capitalist system, it is disciplined Marxist cadres
>are supplying the leadership and energy.
>There is one area in which the anarchists have made inroads--and this
>demonstrated in the Seattle actions--and that is in the Green
>Bioregionalism and anarchism have a lot of affinities. This is from a
>I wrote on the Unabomber:
>Green anarchism contains some deeply reactionary tendencies. There is
>belief in the Gaea principle which regards the natural world as some
>of self-regulating, perfect mechanism. Homo Sapiens can be seen as
>superfluous or, worse, as intrusive. If humanity does nothing to mend
>ways, the natural system will continue without it.

The 'deep ecology' tendency which was founded by the Norwegian
philosopher Arne Naess seems to me to be deeply anti-humanistic
since it treats humans as just one other biological species.  In
contrast within Green anarchism there is the 'social ecology'
tendency which was pioneered by Murray Bookchin (who as
I pointed out before) has drawn rather freely upon Marxism
and has criticized the deep ecologists rather trenchantly
for their anti-humanism.   On the other hand despite Bookchin's
progressive instincts it is not altogether clear to me whether
his brand of Green anarchism can in practice avoid the
reactionary tendencies that are manifested by other
Green anarchists which seem to flow from their commitment
to localism and bioregionalism.

>Green anarchists embrace localism. One of them says that each
>should exist as "totally separate geographical and social entity. If
>is much social mixing between the groups, if people work outside the
>it will weaken the community bond ... xenophobia is the key to the
>community's success." (R. Hunt, "The Natural Society: a Basis for
>Anarchism") Some welcome the break-up of Eastern "communism" as an
>expression of bioregionalism and embrace Yugoslavia's dissolution into
>Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia.
>The belief in a "natural order" defies attempts at creating ethical
>imperatives since there are no "moral values" in nature. Sale says
>[people] look with Gaean eyes and feel a Gaean consciousness, as they
>do at the bioregional scale, there is no longer any need to worry
>about the
>abstruse effluvia of 'ethical responses' to the world around."

That is probably just old fashioned romantic naturalism but
its similarities with Nazi pronouncements on nature and
on blood-and-soil are clear enough to be more than
a little discomforting.

>As a corollary, politics in the conventional sense is to be shunned.
>anarchists bypass the class struggle and seek to implement visions of
>"new society" in the here-and-now within the framework of capitalist
>society. They are encouraged by such phenomena as urban dwellers
>without state aid, green spaces, playgrounds, etc. from waste grounds.
>This hostility toward the state is typical of traditional anarchism.

And which brings them uncomfortably close to contemporary
neo-liberalism.  There is little in the practical initiatives of
the Green anarchists that could not be supported by right-libertarians.
In fact if right-libertarians were just a bit more clever they
would be making the effort to coopt the Green anarchists since
there is little there that the libertarians could not themselves

>Moreover, the green anarchists share with "postmodernist" Marxism a
>non-class based enthusiasm for the new social movements. Communities
>peace activists and feminists who are non- hierarchical, sharing and
>spontaneous, and who live in harmony with nature represent pockets of
>new order. Workers hardly figure in this schema.

I remember that years ago Murray Bookchin argued that anarchism (or
at least his brand) did not reject class analysis only Marxist class
analysis.  Bookchin advocated an anarchist class analysis based
on Bakunin's writings, in which the lumpenproletariat rather than
the proletariat would be seen as the true revolutionary class.  Bookchin
also argued for the view that tradictional class distinctions had become
meaningless (due to the post-WW II affluence) since nearly everyone
whether bourgeois or proletarian had become imbued with a bourgeois
consciousness.  The best way
to combat this being in his view the embracing of lumpen values.

>One other reason that anarchism has grown in influence in the green
>movement is that Marxists, except for the Australian DSP, largely
>it. Some give lip-service to the movement, like the American SWP while
>others like the Spartacist League are outright hostile. The reason
>Marxists have tended to shun the movement is that they are
>underdeveloped around the question of sustainable agriculture, energy
>depletion, etc. While Marx and Engels were deeply cognizant of such
>the Trotskyist and Stalinist movement tended to neglect them
>completely. In
>recent years some academy-based Marxists such as John Bellamy Foster,
>Burkett and James O'Connor have attempted to re-establish the
>between Marxism and ecology. Such efforts are largely ignored by
>who prefer a Marx falsely understood as a champion of "Promethean"
>of nature. Ironically, this distortion is embraced both by Frankfurt
>thinkers and the few remaining Marxist thinkers connected to Furedi's
>The former group, of course, intend to "correct" Marxism of this flaw
>Heideggerian insights, while the latter want to ratchet up the
>Louis Proyect
>(The Marxism mailing list:

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