No more anarchists

James Farmelant farmelantj at
Sat Dec 11 09:23:11 MST 1999

On Sat, 11 Dec 1999 08:16:01 -0500 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
>>btw: I remain amazed how folks allow intervention by obstructionists
>>(be it individuals or one of sundry alphabet soup groupuscles) to
>>temporarily hijack e-lists.  Names change, ideological spins change,
>>but red oranges (apples, bananas, peaches, etc.) come and go...
>>keep the x in xmas, Michael Hoover
>When the normally olympian Michael Hoover complains, I know it is time
>take action. I just unsubbed Jamal Hannah.

It is too bad that the now departed Jamal short-circuited what
could have been a useful discussion of the relations between
Marxism and anarchism both in terms of what they have in
common as well as in terms of they are in contradiction with
one another.  The fact is that the two movements have always
interacted with one another in ways that were both cooperative
and antagonistic.  Marx and Proudhon were hardly strangers
to one another and one of Marx's earlier works *The Poverty
of Philosophy* was written as a critique of Proudhon.  Yet
Marx had earlier found some useful ideas in Proudhon's work
as when in *The Holy Family* he praised Proudhon's
*What is Property?* as "a real scientific advance,"
which made possible for the first time "a real science
of political economy."

Marx's relationship later on with Bakunin was both more
complex and ultimately more antagonistic.  Originally,
the two men enjoyed reasonably good relations and
Bakunin even accepted a commission to translate
*Capital* into Russian, a project that he apparently
never completed.  Bakunin in his own writings drew
upon Marx's work especially for his analysis of capitalism
(as have many anarchist theorists ever since).
By the time of the formation of the First International
relations between the two men sharply deteriorated
as the anarchist wing of the First International clashed
with the Marxist wing.  Bakunin challenged Marx for
the leadership of the International and his rhetoric
combined charges of "authoritarianism" with
anti-Semitic and anti-German invective.  Bakunin
charged that the triumph of the Marxists would
open the door to the rise of a red bureaucracy that
would be more tyrannical than the bourgeoisie.
(Does that make Bakunin the father of the theory
of bureacratic collectivism?).  And yet Bakunin's
own forms of political practice seem to have
been hardly any more democratic than Marx's.
Bakunin was very partial to reliance upon secret
societies and of conspiratorial methods.  He even
argued that a temporary dictatorship would be necessary
after the revolution.  In other words he was at least as
guilty of all the things (i.e. authoritarianism and bureacratism)
as he charged the Marxists of being.

And yet the fact was Marx was quite capable of assimilating
from anarchists those ideas that seemed to him to
be of benefit to the workers' movement.  The Paris Commune
was largely dominated by Proudhonists and latter day
Jacobins, and yet Marx praised it for having discovered
in practice the organizational forms appropriate to the
dictatorship of the proletariat.

Twentieth century anarchism has hardly be free of
contradictions and of betrayals of its own.  The great
Russian anarchist, Petr Kropotkin supported the
Allies during WW I, and later on with the Russian
Revolution, he supported Kerensky's regime.
On the other hand a good many anarchists in Russia
supported Lenin during the October Revolution, and
some of them even became Bolsheviks afterwards.
In the US anarcho-syndicalism was strongly represented
within the IWW and many of these people later on became
Communists following the October Revolution.  ("Big" Bill
Heywood after all died in the Soviet Union where he had
fled into exile).  Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkaman
had a confused relationship with the Bolsheviks.  The
returned to Russia at Lenin's invitation and they were
at first enthusiastic supporters of the Bolshevik regime.
Later on they turned against the Bolsheviks especially after
the Kronstadt uprising and Goldman in her later years was
a most fervent anti-communist, probably one of the first
major anti-communists to come out of the left.

Anarchism as most people was a major political force
in Spain and they played an important role within the
Republican camp during the Spanish Civil War. One of
the major Spanish trade union federations, the CNT was
dominated by anarcho-syndicalists.  Their
relations with the other political factions on the Republican
side is too complex to sktch out here in any detail but
the Spanish Civil War did see such events as anarchists
taking ministerial posts in the Republican government,
the emerging antagonisms between the anarchists and
other Republican factions including especially the Stalinists
and the suppression of many of the anarchist collectives
by the Republican government.  Basically the Spanish
Civil War represented the last gasp of anarchism as
a significant force within the workers' movement,
something that some anarchist theorists like Murray
Bookchin will acknowledge.  In its present manifestations
anarchism seems to represent more of an anti-statist
trend within the youth culture than anything else.  This also
I suppose takes us into a consideration of the 'anarchism'
of Noam Chomsky whose actual political practice looks to
me much like that of a left social democrat.  Chomsky has
even been a memeber of such organizations as Solidarity and
of the Labor Party which hardly looks like traditional anarchist
practice to me.

The relationship between Marxism and anarchism has
been both long and complex.  Both have influenced each
other and they each have offered often useful critiques of
each other.  It is too bad that the religiosity of people like
Jamal precluded a useful discussion on all this.

Jim Farmelant
>Louis Proyect
>Marxism mailing list: (

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