Anarchism, marxism and class struggle

Karl Marx, left and Mikhail Bakunin, right

Any attempt to understand anarchism without reference to class struggle would be akin to studying the life of a shark without reference to its teeth. Class struggle is a vital component of anarchism and any attempt to separate them denies not only the rich history and roots of anarchism but also leaves it useless and hollow, becoming no more than an extreme liberalism or “liberalism with a bomb under its arm” as many a grinning Trotskyist has remarked.

Anarchism with out the class struggle is left with neither a coherent analysis nor an agent, and indeed historically when anarchism has drifted from the class struggle it has tended towards nihilism and terrorism, as witnessed in “propaganda by deed” . A practice and theory that earned the anarchist a somewhat dubious image as bearded bomb thrower, as well as reducing the life expectancy of Kings across late 19th century Europe. It is worth pointing out that “propaganda by deed” did not abandon class struggle but rather attempted to act as a catalyst for it. Thus it didn’t reject a class analysis so much as it reflected the brutal suppression of the working class and its organisation’s, following the Paris Commune of 1871 and the lack of alternative courses of action. Indeed many of its advocates were very aware of the limits of such a strategy.

“Others decide that they wanted to defend the workers against the State, to demoralize the ruling class, and to create a revolutionary consciousness amongst the workers. They did not expect the acts themselves to overthrow capitalism or the State: assassinating a despot would not get rid of despotism. But as Alexander Berkman observed ‘terrorism was considered a means of avenging a popular wrong, inspiring fear in the enemy, and also calling attention to the evil against which the act of terror was directed.’”1

In contemporary times this turn away from direct involvement in class struggle can be witnessed in the somewhat less deadly and indeed less coherent life style politics of many self proclaimed “anarchists”, this form of anarchism defines itself primarily through a counter culture of fashion and a distaste for all organisation. It believes that change stems from individual lifestyle choices therefore it advocates people attempt to remove themselves from capitalism, to drop out, in the words of the hippies. By simply arguing for a dropping out and focusing on individual lifestyle choices this current, easily walks into moralistic and elitist dead ends and overlooks the necessity for wider social change. Murray Bookchin scathingly attacks such lifestyle anarchists in the essay “Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm” as a merely reflecting the rampant individualism and self-narcissism that permeates much of today’s cultural landscape. It swaps workplace and community organising for self help psychology dressed up in the rhetoric of insurrection and the ego. Indeed, in the ego we see the real soul of lifestylist philosophy, the self of laissez faire individualism dressed up in muddled post modern new age pseudo Focaultian language.

“Their ideological pedigree is basically liberal, grounded in the myth of the fully autonomous individual whose claims to self-sovereignty are validated by axiomatic 'natural rights,' 'intrinsic worth,' or, on a more sophisticated level, an intuited Kantian transcendental ego that is generative of all knowable reality.”2

So it seems that whilst in Spain 1936, anarchists called for the arming of the working class and workers control, today anarchists of the lifestyle variety call for the arming of desire and the dropping out of capitalism and mainstream society , demands and strategies which if not objectively reactionary are downright meaningless. Not surprisingly such shallow posturing lends itself to commodification and indeed modern capitalism is adept at selling such empty rebellion, from the hippies to the sex pistols, youthful angst and rebellion has become a rite of passage, which soon gives way to the real world and its regulations.

Although Bookchin’s essay is aimed squarely at showing the futility of lifestyle politics, this is not to dismiss the cultural and personal planes of struggle completely; indeed such a dimension is always necessary and indeed always present in any social struggle . But in the absence of and sometimes in direct opposition to a wider social movement these planes tend to become increasingly atomised and eventually assimilated into a “sophisticated and highly creative cultural order capable of handling contradictions and in the process making them ‘insouciant, but deliciously safe’” .3

Such processes are evident in feminism and the gay rights movements, which have increasingly moved from issues of social justice in general, to narrow identity politics in which success is measured by the “Pink Pound”, gay celebrities, women in the boardroom and capitalism’s acceptance (read assimilation) of gay’s and women’s issues. Hence, Margaret Thatcher and the Spice Girls become feminist icons despite the fact they offer nothing to their “sisters” other than the aping of male competitiveness or a patronising ‘we’ve made it, so can you’ which seems of dubious relevance to a single mother on welfare. Meanwhile companies like Coca-Cola and Gap, renowned for their keen sense of social justice, sponsor Gay Pride marches.

Anarchism therefore has and continues to find it’s relevancy within the class struggle, therefore to grasp a truer picture of anarchism we must place it firmly in the context of that struggle. Anarchism is probably not the first philosophy that springs to mind when one hear the words class struggle, that award would no doubt be picked up by a tearful Marxism, who might possibly mumble something about the USSR before thanking it’s leading actor V.I. Lenin for holding back its true potential for all those years. Bad Oscar jokes aside, any attempt to examine class and class struggle from the mid 19th century without reference to Marxism would be a fruitless task. This is not to say that Marxism’s influence has always been a positive factor in the struggle for working class liberation rather that for good or bad it has had a major role in its development. Therefore, it makes sense that in order to grasp anarchism’s development we must study its relationship to Marxism, a relationship that runs deep not only in theory but in history.

Proudhon, Bakunin and Marx
Modern anarchism developed as a coherent philosophy from the 19th century on. Indeed it was Proudhon, the first political economist to question the sanctity of private property, who was first to declare himself an anarchist and answer the query “What is Property?” with “Property is theft!” . Proudhon’s contribution to political economy is often overlooked as it was superseded by Marx, however his influence on the young Marx was great, though Marx would famously go on to scathingly criticise Proudhon in his “The Poverty of Philosophy” (the title itself being a sly swipe at Proudhon’s “The Philosophy of Poverty”).

“Monsieur Proudhon has the misfortune of being peculiarly misunderstood in Europe. In France, he has the right to be a bad economist, because he is reputed to be a good German philosopher. In Germany, he has the right to be a bad philosopher because he is reputed to be one of the ablest French economists. Being both German and economists at the same time, we desire to protest against this double error.”4

Yet such harsh criticism is belied by Marx’s earlier comments:

“Proudhon makes a critical investigation – of the foundation of political economy, private property. This is the great scientific progress he made, a progress which revolutionises political economy and first makes a real science of political economy possible. Proudhons’s treatise ‘Qu’est-ce que la propriete?’ is as important for modern political economy as Sieyes’s work ‘Qu’est ce que le tiers etat?’ for modern politics.”5

In some way Marx’s changing opinion on the validity of Proudhon's work may be explained by the two men’s personal relationship which was rather frosty. Indeed Marx had invited Proudhon to join his international communist group just prior to the publication of “The Philosophy of Poverty” but Proudhon turned down the invite, viewing Marx as doctrinaire and his communism as authoritarian. Although personal differences play a major factor in Marx and Proudhon’s disagreements there were real political and philosophical differences between the two. Despite Proudhon being the “father of anarchism” and Marx obviously the father of “Marxism” the differences between the two often played out in such a way as to see Marx taking the historically anarchist stance and Proudhon taking the historically Marxist stance.

“Marx continued to attack Proudhon for advocating class collaboration and pro-scribing trade-union and parliamentary activity.”6

The contradictions in Proudhon and Marx’s positions are made even more glaring by the fact that Marx explicitly endorses parliamentary activity and class collaboration in his most famous work “The Communist Manifesto”. Proudhon also opposed strikes for higher wages, believing that a rise in wages meant a rise in general prices, on this Marx disagreed and pointed out that

“Thus apart, from a few fluctuations, a general rise in wages will lead, not as M. Proudhon says, to a general increase in prices, but to a partial fall, that is, a fall in the current price of goods that are made chiefly with the help of machines”.7

But Marx saw that behind the strike for higher wages lay the foundations for the development of class-consciousness. It is in this insight that Marx goes beyond the inhuman mechanical political economy that separates the economic, political and social into separate distinct categories. Marx outlines the development of the working classes organs of resistance and how they take on a more politicised nature.

“Large-scale industry concentrates in one place a crowd of people unknown to one another. Competition divides their interest. But the maintenance of wages, this common interest which they have against their boss, unites them in a common thought of resistance- combination. Thus combination always has a double aim, that of stopping competition among the workers, so that they can carry on general competition with the capitalist. If the first aim of resistance was merely the maintenance of wages, combinations, at first isolated, constitute themselves into groups as the capitalists in their turn unite for the purpose of repression, and in the face of always united capital, the maintenance becomes more necessary to them than that of wages. This is so true that English economists are amazed to see the workers sacrifice a good part of their wages in favour of associations, which in the eyes of these economists, are established solely in favour of wages. In this struggle-a veritable civil war-all the elements necessary for a coming battle unite and develop. Once it has reached this point, association takes on a political character.”8

Here Marx’s analysis of how wage struggles take on a political nature comes very close to syndicalism (which will be discussed later) and indeed he is certainly more anarchistic than Proudhon on this issue.

However in one vital aspect Marx placed himself outside of the anarchist tendency, his assertion that the state can be seized and used as a weapon of the working class. However, Marx’s writings regarding the state are somewhat ambiguous and veer from anarchist, for example in the much of his early work, to extremely mechanical and statist, most obviously in “The Communist Manifesto”.

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as a ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.”9

Contrast that to these remarks in “Critical Remarks on the Article: ‘The King of Prussia and Social Reform”.

“The state ... will never see in 'the state and the system of society' the source of social maladies. Where political parties exist, each party sees the root of every evil in the fact that instead of itself an opposing party stands at the helm of the state. Even radical and revolutionary politicians seek the root of the evil not in the essential nature of the state but in a definite state form, which they wish to replace with a different state form.”10

“The existence of the state and the existence of slavery are inseparable. The classical state and classical slavery-frank and open class oppositions-were not more closely forged together than the modern state and the modern world of haggling, hypocritical, Christian oppositions”.11

Or this statement at the close of “The Poverty of Philosophy”

“Does this mean that after the fall of the old society there will be a new class domination culminating in a new political power? No.
The condition for the emancipation of the working class is the abolition of every class, just as the condition for the liberation of the third estate, of the bourgeois order, was the abolition of all estates and orders.”12

It was in Marx’s confrontation with another famous anarchist that the issue of the state and centralisation came to a head and ultimately led to the split in the 1st International, and to the polarisation between Marxism and Anarchism. Whilst Proudhon’s idealist philosophy and social conservatism made rather easy pickings for Marx, he met a rather more robust opponent in Mikhail Bakunin. Like Marx, Bakunin had been deeply impressed by the atheism of Feuerbach and philosophically Bakunin embraced the core of Marx’s work. Bakunin had become an anarchist under the influence of Proudhon, however his philosophical background made him closer to Marx. Bakunin accepted Marx’s historical materialism and rejected Proudhon's idealism. Like Marx the stamp of Feuerbach was obvious as can be seen in the similarity of the two’s thoughts on religion.

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”13

This Marx’s sentiments are echoed in Bakunin’s assertion that religious beliefs are;

“An aberration of mind as a deep discontent at heart. They are the instinctive and passionate protest of the human being against the narrowness, the platitudes, the sorrows, and the shame of a wretched existence.”14

Bakunin is asserting, as Marx did, that even false ideas have their roots in real material circumstances. This view runs counter to Proudhon’s idealism that saw injustice and inequality as an aberration of reason. Bakunin also rejected Proudhon’s static and mechanical view of human nature in favour of Marx’s dynamic and social dialectic. In a denouncement of individualist philosophies Bakunin takes issue with Rousseau’s famous battle cry “Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains” , insisting instead that “outside of society, not only would a human not be free, he would not even become genuinely human”.

Whilst Bakunin shared the core of Marx’s philosophy he was often at odds with Marx’s politics. In regards to organisation Bakunin favoured Federalism over Marx’s centralism, much as Proudhon had. Whilst Bakunin embraced collectivism over Proudhon’s mutualism, he rejected the centralised economy that Marx laid out in “The Communist Manifesto”. Instead of Marx’s centralised command economy and Proudhon’s mixture of the market and self-management, Bakunin wished to see a society, “organised from the bottom upwards, by the free association and federation of workers, in associations first, then in communes, region, nations, and finally in a great international and universal federation.”

In this vision of a future society Bakunin paved the way for revolutionary or anarcho-syndicalism, and indeed anarcho-syndicalism has been traditionally strongest in those countries that Bakunin had the largest influence, mainly Spain, Italy and France. Whilst for Bakunin the Paris Commune of 1871 had only strengthened his federalist and anti-state sentiments, it caused a major rethink within Marxist circles. Marx’s rather mechanical description of the working classes seizure of the state apparatus outlined in the “The Communist Manifesto” had been totally negated by the events in Paris, and Marx was forced to reassess his previous views on the “workers state”.

This change in position was laid out in Marx’s most libertarian essay “The Civil War In France” written just after the brutal suppression of the Paris Commune. At its core lies the assertion that the working class must smash the state apparatus and introduce its own forms of organisation.

“But the working class cannot simply lay hold to the ready made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes. The Centralised State power, with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy and judicature-organs wrought after the plan of a systematic and hierarchic division of labour.”15

Marx is also at pains to add that the Commune was not merely an attempt to resurrect the decentralist tendency of the middle class crushed by the 1789 revolution, but a step towards the creation of a new society which would abolish class rule.

“Thus, this new Commune, which breaks the modern State power, has been mistaken for a reproduction of the medieval Communes, which first preceded, and afterwards became the substratum of, that very State power. The Communal Constitution has been mistaken for an attempt to break up into a federation of small States, as dreamt of by Montesquieu and the Girondins”16

Whilst it is clear that Marx has substantially changed his attitude regarding the state from that put forward in much of his other works, how much he actually believed in what he was writing and how much of it was a fickle attempt to ride on the coat tails of the Communes popular support, has been a source of much debate.

“The picture of a Commune in armed insurrection was so imposing that even the marxists, whose ideas the Paris revolution had utterly upset, had to bow before the actions of the Commune. They went further than that; in defiance of all logic and their known convictions they had to associate themselves with the Commune and identify with its principles and aspirations. It was a comic carnival game, but a necessary one. For such was the enthusiasm awakened by the Revolution that they would have been rejected and repudiated everywhere had they tried to retreat into the ivory tower of their dogma.”17

Many anarchists also see historical parallels with Lenin’s most libertarian work “State and Revolution” in which Lenin reversed his past opposition to the Soviets, in an attempt to keep the Bolsheviks relevant to the workers and peasants and adopted the anarchist slogan of “All Power to the Soviets!”. As Gabriel Cohn-Bendit points out in “Obsolete Communism; The Left Wing Alternative” Lenin was originally deeply opposed to the soviets and in 1907 at the Fifth Congress of the Social Democratic Workers Party proposed and had passed a resolution condemning “independent workers’ organisation and the anarcho-syndicalist currents with in the proletariat” declaring “The participation of Social Democratic organisations in councils composed of delegates and workers deputies without distinction of party... or the creation of such councils, cannot be countenanced unless we can be sure that the party can benefit and that its interests are fully protected.” 18

Of course, it would be extremely harsh to judge Marx by the same standards of Lenin, after all Marx did not go onto wrest power from the Commune and set about neutering it. For all Marx’s faults and contradictions he resolutely defended the position that the “Emancipation of the working class must be carried out by the working class!” and was at pains to assert “I am not a Marxist!”. In fact Marx’s view of the state in “The Civil War in France” are really a return to his earlier writings such as “The Jewish Question” in which he argued that the state is a form of alienation brought about by the division of the private and the public.

Bakunin not only went beyond Marx in his critique of the state but also developed critiques of science and rationality well before Focault or post modernism became fashionable, although his criticism never degenerated into an embrace of the irrational, as much of what passes for post modernist does. Bakunin like Marx drank heavily from the fountain of the enlightenment wanting to further it rather than to smash it.

“Bakunin is not simplistically anti-reason or anti science, but is principally concerned with the authoritarian dangers of a scientific elite. Instead of science remaining the prerogative of a privileged few, he would like to see it spread amongst the masses so that it would represent the ‘collective consciousness’ of society.”

At a time when faith in scientific rationalism was at its height, as best illustrated in utilitarianism, such concerns stand as particularly perceptive, and stand up well in the light of events of the 20th century, in which ‘scientific’ rationalism has been used to justify many atrocious acts, from racial inequality to out right genocide. Bakunin also warned of the dangers of bureaucracy and his words are almost prophetic in light of the events in the Soviet Union.

“They are to take over the reins of government, because the ignorant people stands in need of proper tutelage: they will set up a single State Bank which is to concentrate into its hands the totality of commerce, industry, agriculture and even scientific output, while the mass of people is to be divided into two armies: the industrial and the agricultural, under the direct command of the State engineers who will make up a new, privileged erudite-political caste.”19

The relationship between Bakunin, Proudhon and Marx is far too complex and contradictory to fit into a simple anarchist versus marxist analysis, as all three often held self-contradicting positions. Whilst Bakunin would seem to be the most consistent in his arguments, he too had his contradictions, namely his fondness for secretive and conspiratorial groups, which by their essence tend towards authoritarianism organising models. Also much of Bakunin’s insights were made possible by standing on the shoulders of Marx. Whilst Proudhon's federalist and anti-statist ideas put him in the anarchist camp his sexist, racist and his contradictory economics are at great odds with the anarchist tradition. Daniel Cohn-Bendit provides a simple but largely true overview of the relationship between the three:

“The history of ‘leftism’ is, in fact, the history of all that is truly revolutionary in the working class movement. Marx was to the left of Proudhon and Bakunin to the left of Marx.”20

Marxist Leninism and the Bastardisation of Marx
As outlined above anarchism and marxism developed together during the mid 19th century and “supporters of Bakunin and Marx shared the same platform space in the First International, until the rupture of 1872 at the Hague” at which Bakunin was expelled and the headquarters moved to New York making it virtually impossible for anarchist delegates to attend. This split led to an increased polarisation between anarchist and “Marxist” currents within the working class movement eventually leading to an irreconcilable break with the advent of Marxist Leninism.

The Russian revolution and its tragic outcome would have a massive effect upon anarchist and marxist philosophies. On a superficial level the Russian revolution had proved the strength of Marxism and the inability of anarchists to intervene meaningfully in the class struggle. However to anarchists the Russian revolution vindicated their opposition to the seizure of state power. Bakunin’s prophecies about a new technical ruling class ring chillingly true, yet the lessons of the Russian revolution were not only negative. The workers, soldiers and peasants Soviets had been real democratic and functioning organs, the working class had shown that it could seize the means of production and go about forming a new society. The working classes had also shown themselves to be far more revolutionary than any vanguard in any central committee, and even Trotsky was forced to admit this. “The masses at the turning point were a hundred times to the left of the extreme left party.” 21

Of course, the Bolsheviks dressed themselves up in anarchist rhetoric, proclaimed their support for All Power to the Soviets! And then set about seizing the reigns of the movement. Bolshevism in its attempt to retain power at all costs would be responsible for the crudest bastardisations of Marx’s thought. Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat” (always a questionable term) would simply become a dictatorship over the proletariat, justified through a suspect reading of Marx’s historical materialism.

Bolshevism and its theoretical exponents in the Third International, set about turning Marx’s vast and often conflicting writings into a holy catechism. This “orthodox” Marxism mutated Marx’s writings from a critical analysis of capitalism and ideology into a total system for “understanding” the world.

The Bolsheviks were largely responsible for creating the determinist, inhuman and authoritarian Marxism that has overshadowed much of Marx’s real theoretical value. Marx was called upon to justify every twist and turn of the Communist Party and the Comintern. The brutal treatment of the working class in the Soviet Union was named “War Communism” and justified as necessary in order to expand the “forces of production”, which to the Bolsheviks was what determined the social relations. Through this selective reading of Marx’s historical materialism, communism is not the product of the working classes autonomous struggle against the alienating effects of wage labour or the state but rather becomes a grand drive to increase the forces of production. Marx of course would have had no time for such garbled nonsense, which makes inanimate objects the real driving force behind human history.

However alongside this “orthodox” Marxism has always been another tradition of Marxism, left communism or council communism, a tradition that has kept alive the critical and open nature of his thought, not just for academic purposes but for forwarding the working classes struggle for self liberation.

The Other Marxism
Rosa Luxemburg is probably the most famous of these Marxists. She opposed socialists supporting national liberationist struggles on the basis that they reinforce nationalism, and stunt the growth of a class analysis and internationalism. In doing so she opposed class collaboration and reaffirmed that “the working classes have no country.”

Luxemburg also upheld that the “action of the masses” would create socialism and not the decrees of any political party.

“In time we see appear on the scene and even more “legitimate” child of history – the Russian labor movement. For the first time, bases for the formation of a real “people’s will” are laid in Russian soil.
But here is the “ego” of the Russian revolutionary again! Pirouetting on its head, it once more proclaims itself to be the all-powerful director of history – this time with the title of His Excellency the Central Committee of the Social Democratic Party of Russia.
The nimble acrobat fails to perceive that the only “subject” which merits today the role of director is the collective “ego” of the working class. The working class demands the right to make its mistakes and learn the dialectic of history.
Let us speak plainly. Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee.”22

She was also scathing about the autocratic and undemocratic path that the Bolshevik leadership was taking the revolution down.

“The remedy which Trotsky and Lenin have found, the elimination of democracy as such, is worse than the disease it is supposed to cure; for it stops up the very living source from which alone can come correction of all the innate shortcomings of social institutions.”23

Whilst Rosa Luxemburg is probably the most famous of the anti-Leninist Marxists, and her criticisms of the limits of political vanguards and the dangers of nationalist contamination of class struggle are of great value and relevance, she did not develop these criticisms into a coherent alternative.

The Council communist and anarcho-syndicalist movements were however putting Rosa Luxemburg’s concerns into action, rejecting outright the role of a revolutionary party, in favour of structures based on immediate working class experiences of the class struggle. Organising on a workplace as well as community basis, these movements sought to radicalise the working class through there own struggles rather than passively following a party line. The organ of resistance was to be the local syndicate or council whereby the workers made their decisions directly without a bureaucracy.

“It has, therefore, a double purpose: 1. As the fighting organisation of the workers against the employers to enforce the demands of the workers for the safeguarding and raising of their standard of living; 2. As the school for the intellectual training of the workers to make them acquainted with the technical management of production and economic life in general so that when a revolutionary situation arises they will be capable of taking the socio-economic organism into their own hands and remarking it according to Socialist principles."24

Council communism and Anarcho-syndicalism come the closest in reconciling anarchism and Marxism in practical class struggle even if they do have slightly varying theoretical roots.

“Anarcho-syndicalists and Council Communists were at this time almost indistinguishable. In fact they co-operated pretty closely; if you look at the literature on the reactions to the Spanish revolution, the anarchist revolution, the Council Communists were, like the anarcho-syndicalists, very positive.”

Whilst both Anarcho-syndicalism and Council Communism as mass movements were destroyed by war and fascism, they remain probably the richest marxist and anarchist currents, in practice and theory.

“It is precisely the more advanced form of capitalism, with its advanced technology, high productivity, and network of communication, which offers a material base for the establishment of a communism based on a system of workers' councils. The council idea is not a thing of the past, but the most realistic proposition for the establishment of a socialist society. Nothing which has evolved during the last decades has robbed it of its feasibility; on the contrary, it has merely substantiated the non-utopian character of the workers’ councils and the probability of the emergence of a truly communist society.”25

The Future
Whilst anarchism and Marxism have had a very rocky relationship it is obvious that it has been one that has had a huge impact on their developments. From the early years of the First International, through the tragedy of the Russian revolution, to the farce of the Communist parties and their ideological gymnastics in service to Soviet foreign policy. However for many anarchists a rejection of official Marxist dogma became a rejection of Marx per se and sometimes the whole concept of class analysis. Anarchism may have gained a short burst of energy following the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the “proclaimed end of history”, but such a boost may really be the kiss of death if it is dependent on anarchism’s rejection of class struggle. Now, over ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, class struggle is firmly back on the agenda, as the new world order has failed to deliver anything but the same militarism, economic crises, and despair to the vast majority of the worlds peoples. The choice for anarchism is clear, either continue as a fashionable life stylist and pseudo post modern philosophy, or embrace its class struggle roots fully and develop a real counter culture, one based on a social opposition to capitalism not a individualistic “dropping out”.

With the Soviet Union gone there is now a massive opening for a rethinking of the class struggle and Marx’s writings in particular. The anti capitalism movement has shown that history has not ended and globalisation is spreading not only neo-liberal economics but resistance and new forms of organising. The global nature of capitalism is more blatant than ever and as such the possibilities of a new international are ripe, a true internationalism, of autonomous working class resistance. The old national trade unions have shown their ineffectiveness not only at resisting local capital but at dealing with the increasingly globalised market, as witnessed in their ineffectual opposition to jobs being moved to cheaper labour markets.

But out of this void there will surely emerge new forms of resistance. Anarchism and Marxism, in the form of Anarcho-syndicalism and Council Communism, have much to offer this resistance, not as final words but as gripping preambles. So, as we start the 21st century it still holds true that the working class “has nothing to lose but its chains”.

2004, Revol68