A Marxist Critique of Anarchism

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darren p's picture
darren p
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Oct 9 2008 09:59
A Marxist Critique of Anarchism

A digitally restored recording of Steve Colman's 1982 talk "A Marxist Critique of Anarchism" is now available online.
http://www.theoryandpractice.org.uk/A_Marxist_Critique_of_Anarchism.mp3
(right click and choose "save as")

Comments?

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Bilan
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Oct 12 2008 08:00

Í'm going to listen to it now and then respond. But first I want to say: ugggghhh.
Reason: "Marxist" critiques of anarchism usually are a/ ridiculous and b/ boring as hell.

At the moment, I'm reading Lenins State and Revolution, and the critiques of anarchism are bullshit. I think anarchists and Marxists are never going to agree because they never listen to each other.
Plus, the state nonsense is never going to end.
Marxist: A state is an organ of class domination.
Anarchist (At least, class struggle anarchist): The state is a centralized political organ of class rule.

Thus, when a proletarian state is mentioned, anarchists are up in arms, even though some things we advocate really are within the Marxist understanding of the state - such as Syndicates and Workers Councils, which are both organs of class (proletarian, of course) rule.

But I will listen and respond. grin

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jura
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Oct 12 2008 09:19

I think most marxist critiques of anarchism are way more interesting than anarchist critiques of marxism. Anarchist theoreticians criticizing Marx usually make the same mistake that Marx's bourgeois critics make: they set up a straw-man Marx (usually a conglomerate of Engels, 2nd International popes of marxism, and Lenin) and then give a "devastating" critique. (Rocker's Marx and Anarchism is, I think, an example of this approach).

Marx's critique of Proudhon, for example, whether in Poverty of Philosophy or Capital or in some of the correspondence, is very interesting and still worth reading -- even though Proudhon does not have many vocal proponents today, his ideas live on in many of the fantasies of the worse part of anarchism.

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Bilan
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Oct 12 2008 10:00

Anarchist critiques of Marxism are generally shit too. I read Marx and Anarchism and consider it to be one of the shitter essays Rocker ever wrote.
The Poverty of Philosophy is, in a word, brilliant. One of my favourite political books ever written.

And so I agree. The critiques, from both sides, usually suck.
However, critiques I've read in the ASR of Marxist critiques (A critique of critical criticism? ba-zing!) have been really good. I've not read them all though, and I don't feel I have the authority to defend all of them, in case anyone is planning on demanding me to defend them.

Hence, I consider myself a Libertarian Marxist, of sorts. Heavily influenced by Marx (probably more so than most anarchist authors, with Maurice Brinton as perhaps the exception [even though he was not 'strictly' anarchist, more Libertarian Socialist]), but remain in favour of anarcho-syndicalist methods and Libertarian structures.

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darren p
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Oct 12 2008 11:00

Have you listen to the talk yet? I think you'll find it's not the type of stereo-typical drivel you'd expect..

Quote:
At the moment, I'm reading Lenins State and Revolution, and the critiques of anarchism are bullshit.

Leninism and Marxism aren't the same thing, as Coleman explains...

There's a good critique of Proudhon here http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1846/letters/46_12_28.htm Coleman thought this letter to better than "Poverty of Philosophy"

Just for the record, I am no Marxist - Marx's ideas developed and changed throughout his life and where never presented as a whole and complete-in-itself system, so to call oneself "Marxist" is nonsensical...

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Bilan
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Oct 12 2008 12:25

I know they're not the same thing, that's not what I was trying to get across.

And it cut out TWICE when I tried to download it. A third time commences...now!

Also, if you consider "Marxist" nonsensical, why name this thread after it?

I more interpret "Marxist" to be "Scientific Socialist" and adhering to the ideas of historical materialism, dialectics, blah blah. But eh!

Oh, and, that letter is in my edition of the Poverty of Philosophy, as is Marx's letter to J. B. Schweitzer and "On the Question of Free Trade"

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Bilan
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Oct 12 2008 13:34

I listened to it.
It was quite good. It wasn't as good as I was expecting.
I would say some of the claims are a bit floppy. For example, his claim that anarchists did not see capitalism as a historical development of productive relations.
I don't think is true - now. Perhaps "then". I regard, personally, capitalism as exactly that.

Further more, it treats anarchists as if they neglect class. Speak not of the CNT? Speak not of anarcho-syndicalism at all? Anarchist communism?
He mentioned Kropotkin in passing. but Durruti? Malatesta?
How can one make this claim still, with evidence piling up against this claim?

Needless to say, many anarchists do neglect class, many negate the idea of "proletarian revolution" against the Capitalist class; some regard the revolution as "self defence" (an idea which I find totally bizarre); some regard the state as a form of "behavior". The list goes on, and on.

Needless to say, these are not the largest, nor the most active parts of the anarchist movement. The IWA, I highly doubt, would regard capitalism as simply "unjust", the revolution against it as "self defence", and the state being "behavior"!
Perhaps, though, many adhere to the state being simply "unjust" rather than an organ of class rule. This might be so. And this is certainly a product of the misteachings of anarchist theoreticians such as Bakunin, Proudhon, etc.
On the nature, and origin of the state, it was Marx & Engels, not Bakunin who were right.

I also found the speech to lack the real, fundamental conflict between anarchists and Marxists. Essentially, the nature of organization after the revolution and even before it!
The conflict lies more strongly here, and is most relevant here, not in the squabbles between Marx and Bakunin & Proudhon!
The difference might be "obvious" in theory - one being anti-state, the other supporting a proletarian state, which is to whither away (Of which even Lenin, in State and Revolution, admitted [albeit only in theory] that the proletarian state in no way replicates the bourgeois state - the practice showed something quite different) - but in practice, the difference is at times rather a grey area.

Both sides use rhetoric, and even there, have different understandings of (in particular) the manifestations of the state!
The anarchists (and i refer here to those who I consider anarchists of any relevance to the working class movement, that being, class struggle anarchists of whatever form - syndicalist, communist, etc) refer to it as a centralized political organ of class domination; the Marxists, as an organ of class domination. The manifestations are obviously different. One is quite specific in its form (anarchist), the other, asserts (from, I would agree to some extent, a more accurate historical point of view) less of a "certain form" than the anarchist.

And thats all I can be bothered with saying at 1am.

Anarcho
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Oct 14 2008 15:26
anarcho_and_peace wrote:
At the moment, I'm reading Lenins State and Revolution, and the critiques of anarchism are bullshit.

And Lenin's presentation of Marxism is equally nonsense, deliberately confusing Marx's comments on smashing the state machine (which, for Marx predated the republic and did not exist in true capitalist states) with the republican state as such. Marx and Engels both argued that the republican state could be seized by the working class, by the ballot box, and used to introduce socialism. Regards of what Lenin tried to suggest.

anarcho_and_peace wrote:
Thus, when a proletarian state is mentioned, anarchists are up in arms, even though some things we advocate really are within the Marxist understanding of the state - such as Syndicates and Workers Councils, which are both organs of class (proletarian, of course) rule.

Marx never advocated syndicates and workers councils as the framework of a free society. Bakunin did. As for being within the Marxist understanding of the state, well, Marx seemed to disagree. But, yes, most modern day marxists subscribe to an understanding of the state which is basically anarchist in nature. Only the SPGB actually hold the position Marx and Engels did. A fact which, ironically, most Marxists would deny.