A classic criticism of classical anarchism

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alb
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Mar 4 2020 21:12

Actually the offending article from 1911 did not say that Stirner was the “founder” of anarchism. The word used was “pioneer”; in other words that he was the first in a chronological sense to express the idea of a stateless society in some sort of coherent form — though this is open to challenge as Marx had argued for a society without a state in 1843 (in ‘On the Jewish Question’).

Things went bonkers when a couple of anarchists refused to accept that Stirner’s ideas were popular at the time in some anarchists circles to the extent that the sources you quote acknowledge. It was them who changed the word “pioneer” to “founder” and led the debate off in that direction.

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Rob Ray
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Mar 4 2020 21:48
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The pioneer of Anarchism was Max Stirner, who, in “The Individual .and his Property” (published in 1845), expounded the “philosophy” that lies at the root of all Anarchist teaching.

Don't be disingenuous. "The" pioneer "at the root of all Anarchist teaching" is in no way ambiguous.

Honestly though it baffles me you thought something that poorly-wrought would fly. The man's dropping sneer quotes in every chance he gets like some sort of drunk A-level student for goodness' sake, woffling on about Proudhon's attitude to trade unionism as though anarchists weren't directly involved in organising the largest Europe-wide syndicalist revolt to date at the very moment of writing.

And then there's you talking about "anarchism being all over the place" as though the left as a whole wasn't veering between utter bollocks and epic successes throughout the period. It's a puerile attack piece sacrificing clarity for snark and your supporting comments have been no better.

alb
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Mar 4 2020 21:51

That depends on what you think is at the root of anarchist thinking — the idea of a stateless society or the principle of anti-authoritarianism.

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Rob Ray
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Mar 4 2020 21:51

Either/or in coherent linear pattern. You fucking child.

alb
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Mar 4 2020 21:55

So you are saying it is both? Fair enough.

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Rob Ray
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Mar 4 2020 22:07

I'm saying Kings and Queens is the child's way of approaching history. You want a nice clean historic theoretical enemy to pit your nice clean theoretical framework against, but it doesn't work like that.

You can say Godwin or you can say Proudhon, or maybe you can say Sam Mainwaring or Ambrose Cuddon, or whatever face from whatever era you think will serve your case, but they're all just picks from among the mass who you've decided should represent Anarchism. It's simplistic, self-serving and ultimately cheapens learning on the subject.

alb
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Mar 5 2020 01:13

I have nothing against the idea of a stateless society ie a society in which the administrative centre or centres do not have armed force at their disposal. In fact I am all for it, in the context of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life. I have no affinity with those who want a stateless society without this.

It’s general “anti-authoritarianism” that I’m dubious about and I don’t agree with the rejection of any use whatsoever of the ballot box. That’s why I am not an anarchist even though I want to see established a stateless society now — without some lengthy “transition period” during which the state would continue to exist, I hasten to add.

alb
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Mar 5 2020 10:45
Anarcho wrote:
[Stirner] had far more influence on Marx -- although that did not stop him proclaiming Bakunin as advocating Stirnerised-Proudhonism (if I recall correctly).

Maybe Stirner did have some influence on the development of Marx’s philosophical ideas though not of course about a society without a state since that was already Marx’s view before Stirner criticised Feuerbach. And, incidentally, could be said to have influenced Bakunin in the same sort of sense since he too moved in the same intellectual circle at the time (1840s). But can you recall more clearly where Marx would have referred to Bakunin as advocating “Stirnerised-Proudhonism”?

This would have had to have been in a private letter rather than being “proclaimed” publicly as who in the IWMA in the 1870s would have heard of Stirner except Marx, Bakunin, Engels and Max Hess? Everybody would have heard of Proudhon of course but Stirner?

Anyway can you be more precise?

Black Badger
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Mar 5 2020 14:18
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Max Hess

?
i hope this is merely a careless carryover from Stirner rather than your sincere invocation. surely you mean Moses Hess.

alb
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Mar 5 2020 14:53

Well spotted. Moses (ex Moritz) Hess was a member of the IWMA. Good bloke before he went all Zionist. Introduced Engels and Marx to communism in the 1840s. Opposed Bakunin’s bid to take over the IWMA. Bakunin didn’t like him for well-known reasons.

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Mar 5 2020 17:01
alb wrote:
It’s general “anti-authoritarianism” that I’m dubious about and I don’t agree with the rejection of any use whatsoever of the ballot box. That’s why I am not an anarchist even though I want to see established a stateless society now — without some lengthy “transition period” during which the state would continue to exist, I hasten to add.

Your ballot box serves the same function as that pesky 'transitional period', emblematic of an antiquated way of thinking about social transformation.

alb
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Mar 5 2020 17:58

It wouldn’t just be the ballot box on its own of course but that in addition to democratic self-organisation outside parliament, the icing on the cake as it were. But I don’t want to derail this thread in that direction. I was just explaining why I wanted a stateless society but wasn’t an anarchist.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 6 2020 01:43

"Your ballot box serves the same function as that pesky 'transitional period', emblematic of an antiquated way of thinking about social transformation."

Those who are privileged enough to possess the ability to use the ballot box seem to forget those who do not.

Recently there has been two differing experiences.

In Hong Kong where local community elections provided the means of expressing and organising discontent.

Then there was the Iranian elections where boycott and abstentions reflected the distrust of the way the ballot box was controlled by the State.

Workers will not turn their back on the electoral system as such if it can be used constructively. However, when it cannot be, other strategies will be chosen.

I tend to agree with James Connolly during the 1908 IWW dispute that making "rules" to discourage workers from using the vote will stop them from using it.

He later spelt it out clearer that it should not be an either/or choice

Quote:
"I am inclined to ask all and sundry amongst our comrades if there is any necessity for this presumption of antagonism between the industrialist and the political advocate of socialism. I cannot see any. I believe that such supposed necessity only exists in the minds of the mere theorists or doctrinaires. The practical fighter in the work-a-day world makes no such distinction. He fights, and he votes; he votes and he fights. He may not always, he does not always, vote right; nor yet does he always fight when and as he should. But I do not see that his failure to vote right is to be construed into a reason for advising him not to vote at all; nor yet why a failure to strike properly should be used as a gibe at the strike weapon, and a reason for advising him to place his whole reliance upon votes."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1914/05/changes.htm

It has always been the consciousness of the voters behind the vote that is decisive. To exclude, a priori, one means of resistance is a sign of a dogmatist.

The SPGB has never argued that social change will ever be only through parliamentarianism without starting first in the minds and actions of working people.

I make no apologies for what many cannot accept here that we can speculate and offer our own predictions on the future with a view to workers' organisation and action, but the way we unite the diversity of multiple movements and work together in solidarity is by a common vision.

Revolutionary activity is to provide a catalyst, to increase and spur on understanding through sharing our acquired knowledge for the self-emancipation of our class. Without a core acceptance of a libertarian socialist consciousness there always exists the threat of a movement being hijacked by reformist and gradualist leaders and diverted into a variety of pro-capitalist directions.

The SPGB role is a limited one. It will exercise hard-won electoral rights along with the right to protest and resist outside Parliament.

Unlike others who present and project socialism as a long-drawn out transitional period, the SPGB and those of the Thin Red Line aspire socialism as an immediacy.

But, before Spikeymike reminds us with the various links, we have been through this difference of views many times before on Libcom.

BigFluffyTail
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Mar 6 2020 02:14

I believe Hess is one of the authors of The German Ideology too.

alb
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Mar 6 2020 06:25

Yes, I think a few pages are attributed to him. Also from this time (1845) this published article arguing for a moneyless, communist society.

Spikymike
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Mar 6 2020 11:57

Just in relation to ajj's post#104 it's true of course that in present circumstances we can't stop workers voting in capitalist elections but genuine communists can analyse, criticise and intervene in such 'democracy movements' relating to their positive and negative aspects as we see them, as here for example:
http://libcom.org/library/hong-kong-struggle-struggle-bourgeois-freedoms...
Not quite the same assessment as the spgb of course!

alb
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Mar 6 2020 14:36

Since we are now discussing elections, the famous (now notorious) 1911 article makes the claim about the anarchists who then controlled the CGT:

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They condemn political action but vote for the politicians who promise Government subsidies for union premises !

I have been trying to find confirmation of this claim but all I have been able to find so far is this article in French. But it doesn't seem implausible. The "Bourses de Travail", which were union premises, were subsidised by the local municipalities (rather than the national Government) and, according to the French article, in the period after the failure of the 1906 general strike (to get the 8 hour day) some municipalities withdrew the subsidy to the local Bourse de Travail. In these circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising (and would even make some sense from a trade union point of view) if the local CGT urged voters to vote for candidates who promised to restore the subsidy.

French trade unions at the time were so weak that they had to rely on the support of Bourse de Travail premises to operate. Which brings up something Rob Ray claimed, in regard to criticism of Proudhon's anti-trade unionism:

Quote:
as though anarchists weren't directly involved in organising the largest Europe-wide syndicalist revolt to date at the very moment of writing

Of course the anarchists who controlled the CGT were involved in trade-union action in France in face of the rising cost of living (reflecting a fall in the valueof gold) that sparked off industrial unrest throughout Europe at this time, but they didn't organise the strike actions in Britain or Germany or Belgium.

For a contemporary account by someone living and working in France at the time of the 1910 French rsilwayworkers strike, there is this:

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2018/1910s/no-75-november-1910/french-strike-impressions-man-spot-2/

ajjohnstone
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Mar 6 2020 16:24

Indeed we do find our assessments differing, Spikeymike, just as we would have when the Russian Revolution had a choice of Bolshevism or support for the Constituent Assembly - party rule or democracy (even if it meant the government of the SRs for the time being.)

In regards to Hong Kong rather than advocating a suicidal street rebellion against the overwhelming power of the totalitarian State, taking advantage of whatever democracy existed as a means of expressing the desire for greater and more meaningful democracy surely was common-sense. Do we neglect or ignore the other actions and strategies of the Hong Kong people - the protests and general strikes - of course not. Mass demonstrations plus the vote.

When a mass movement gets off the ground and the opportunity to vote exists, the movement will use the ballot box. The same can be expected to apply to the movement for socialism, leaving anarchists, left-communists and other anti-parliamentarianists on the side-lines as working people go to the polling stations. Self-emancipation of the workers means not imposing ones own ideological baggage.

Is their struggle for socialism, the non-market economy, that we aspire towards, no, not yet. Are they struggling for the ways and means that socialism can be established, yes, they are. It means accepting the limitations imposed by social conditions and circumstances as Marx explains when he talks about that we make our own history.

"We do not only need a revolution of our government, a revolution of our institutions, a revolution of our society, a revolution of our relationships, a revolution of our culture: our first step must be a revolution of ourselves."
https://lausan.hk/2019/revolutionizing-our-times/

Spikymike
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Mar 6 2020 17:03

Perhaps ajj hasn't read the text I linked to? or otherwise failed to understand it. Either way their response above demonstrates the usual inability to distinguish the practice of working class power for class interests from cross class campaigns of capitalist political reform. They may cross over sometimes but they are not the same. ajj now thinks he knows ''what the movement'' WILL DO! He used to be more circumspect.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 6 2020 23:18

Yes, Spikeymike, I read it, and probably I did not understand it fully as it was a very long article that tried to encompass everything so perhaps I did get lost in the detail but I noticed where it approvingly cites another Libcom article by a small workers' group, it then ignores that article's other comments when it did not go along with its own narrative. I'm referring to the role of foreign powers and associating parts of the democracy movement appeals with them.) Nor did the participation in those local elections was perceived as benefitting or legitimising the State, as accused of in the article.

I thought the quote I used served as the link to my chain of thought (and the SPGB's)....that it is consciousness of those involved and participating in the class struggle that is paramount. Once more I repeat that our role is to ensure that the socialist goal is clearly defined and that we try to coalesce the movement around it.

If my words have been badly chosen that it gives the impression that I pre-determine the actions of fellow-workers in resistance to capitalism rather than leave the choice of tactics to them as their situation see fit then mea culpa.

But I do imagine that workers will use each and every instrument in their political toolbox to meet the need when it arises. If, however, they pick what may well be the wrong tool to use, then, of course, it is right to criticise. For yourself, you hold the ballot box is an inappropriate one. I, on the other hand, felt choosing the electoral option can be inspired, under particular circumstances.

Anarcho
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Mar 7 2020 20:57
alb wrote:
Maybe Stirner did have some influence on the development of Marx’s philosophical ideas though not of course about a society without a state since that was already Marx’s view before Stirner criticised Feuerbach.

I do think you are underestimating the impact of Stirner on Marx.

alb wrote:
And, incidentally, could be said to have influenced Bakunin in the same sort of sense since he too moved in the same intellectual circle at the time (1840s).

Yet Bakunin did not produce a massive and somewhat unreadable book about Stirner... so I would say that the influence was far more. As Mark Leier notes, "there is no evidence of this . . . Bakunin mentions Stirner precisely once in his collected works, and then only in passing . . . as far as can be determined, Bakunin had no interest, even a negative one, in Stirner's ideas." (Bakunin: The Creative Passion, 97)

alb wrote:
But can you recall more clearly where Marx would have referred to Bakunin as advocating “Stirnerised-Proudhonism”?

This would have had to have been in a private letter rather than being “proclaimed” publicly as who in the IWMA in the 1870s would have heard of Stirner except Marx, Bakunin, Engels and Max Hess? Everybody would have heard of Proudhon of course but Stirner?

Anyway can you be more precise?

Luckily An Anarchist FAQ comes to my aid:

Quote:
Thus we find Engels talking about "Stirner, the great prophet of contemporary anarchism - Bakunin has taken a great deal from him . . . Bakunin blended [Stirner] with Proudhon and labelled the blend 'anarchism'" For Marx, "Bakunin has merely translated Proudhon's and Stirner's anarchy into the crude language of the Tartars." [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 175 and p. 153] In reality, of course, Stirner was essentially unknown to the anarchist movement until his book was rediscovered in the late nineteenth century and even then his impact was limited. In terms of Bakunin, while his debt to Proudhon is well known and obvious, the link with Stirner seems to have existed only in the heads of Marx and Engels.

These are from private letters, if I recall correctly. Anyway, I've read a lot of Bakunin and he I think he mentions Stirner about twice and, if I recall correctly, only in the context of rememberances of his time amongst the Left-Hegelians in the 1840s. There is no discussion of Stirner's ideas directly but lots of criticism of bourgeois individualism (Marx considered Stirner as an exaggerated form of this so you could say these comments are also directed against Stirner, but I would not as they are obviously directed towards mainstream bourgeois individualism).

There is no evidence that Stirner influenced anyone beyond Marx until the 1890s -- Bakunin included (and I doubt Proudhon even had heard his name never mind knew of his works).

alb
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Mar 8 2020 09:43

Thanks. That's helped track down the references. That Moscow publication on Marx, Engels and (oh dear) Lenin on "Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism" is actually in the library on this site.

The Marx quote is from some notes he wrote for himself in 1874/5 on Bakunin's Statism and Anarchism and that was not published until 1926 as Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy. It's actually a very good reply to Bakunin's attack on elections and universal suffrage even in socialism. It's also the only place where Marx used the term "workers' state" but without really accepting it, only using it because Bakunin had used it in his criticism. Marx himself critised the term "People's State" as "nonsense", though recognising that it was used, mistakenly, by his supporters in Germany.

The version on the link above is only an extract which, for some unexplained reason, omits the passage about Bakunin translating "Proudhon and Stirner's anarchy" into Tartar). In any event, this was in a private note meant only for himself. Presumably, he was recalling the days thirty years previously when he had crossed swords with Stirner who had also criticised the State on anti-authoritarian grounds.

The one from Engels is from his Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy that was published in 1886. Besides the quote given about Bakunin blending Stirner with Proudhon, there's another where he calls Stirner "the prophet of contemporary anarchism" adding "Bakunin has taken a great deal from him". Apparently, Engels couldn't resist a couple of digs at his old adversary. If he was suggesting that Bakunin literally consciously took some of his ideas from Stirner, as opposed to holding ideas that were in some respects similar, then he was being unfair.

As to the extent to which Marx was "influenced" by Stirner, it is true that he wrote a long polemic criticising Stirner's individualism but just because you criticise someone doesn't mean you have been influenced by them. What they had in common -- and Bakunin too -- was that in the mid-1840s there were both "left" Hegelians. Personally, I don't think that either Marx or Bakunin were influenced by Stirner's ideas.

BigFluffyTail
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Mar 9 2020 08:10

It's less that Marx was influenced by Stirner and more that his thorough criticism of Stirner helped him clarify his own ideas. While we're add it should we address Max Adler's love for Stirner?

Anarcho
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Mar 10 2020 20:23
alb wrote:
Thanks. That's helped track down the references. That Moscow publication on Marx, Engels and (oh dear) Lenin on "Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism" is actually in the library on this site.

Yes, well, there is a lot of rubbish on this site -- not least the ICC and the authoritarian "left-communist" nonsense which some people take seriously.... and seem to think is somehow libertarian.

alb wrote:
The Marx quote is from some notes he wrote for himself in 1874/5 on Bakunin's Statism and Anarchism and that was not published until 1926 as Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy. It's actually a very good reply to Bakunin's attack on elections and universal suffrage even in socialism. It's also the only place where Marx used the term "workers' state" but without really accepting it, only using it because Bakunin had used it in his criticism.

It actually is not. Marx completely misses the point time and time again -- for example, "A fine idea, that the rule of labour involves the subjugation of land labour!" Someone should have mentioned that to the Bolsheviks -- but the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in the nineteenth century meant the rule of a minority class (the proletariat) over the majority (the peasants) as Marx admits in this very work: "the peasant . . . even forms a more or less considerable majority, as in all states of the west European continent" -- I guess we had to wait for decades after Marx's death before even thinking about socialism?

But, then, the working class would not be ruling -- it would be party leaders -- ah, but Marx says "in a trade union, for example, does the whole union form its executive committee?". This was echoed by Trotsky when he was in power -- there could "be no antagonism between the government and the mass of the workers, just as there is no antagonism between the administration of the union and the general assembly of its members, and, therefore, there cannot be any grounds for fearing the appointment of members of the commanding staff by the organs of the Soviet Power." ["Work, Discipline, Order", How the Revolution Armed, vol. 1, p. 47] Yes, actually, there can be a lot of antagonism between the union leadership and the members... arming these people with the full forces of the State is hardly a good idea, as Bakunin predicted...

So, all in all, Bakunin was right -- Marx was clearly wrong. As shown by his followers, whether social democratic or bolshevik.

alb wrote:
Marx himself critised the term "People's State" as "nonsense", though recognising that it was used, mistakenly, by his supporters in Germany.

In private letters -- his and Engels articles were published in the journal "The People's State," were they not? As far as his comments on Bakunin go, Marx seems to confuse any form of social organisation with "a State" (as shown by "this workers' state, if [Bakunin] wants to call it that"). But, then, Marx's like of centralisation is well known (see his 1850 statement)

alb wrote:
Besides the quote given about Bakunin blending Stirner with Proudhon, there's another where he calls Stirner "the prophet of contemporary anarchism" adding "Bakunin has taken a great deal from him". Apparently, Engels couldn't resist a couple of digs at his old adversary. If he was suggesting that Bakunin literally consciously took some of his ideas from Stirner, as opposed to holding ideas that were in some respects similar, then he was being unfair.

Yes, Engels was being unfair -- he was literally suggesting that Bakunin held similar ideas to Stirner...

alb wrote:
As to the extent to which Marx was "influenced" by Stirner, it is true that he wrote a long polemic criticising Stirner's individualism but just because you criticise someone doesn't mean you have been influenced by them. What they had in common -- and Bakunin too -- was that in the mid-1840s there were both "left" Hegelians. Personally, I don't think that either Marx or Bakunin were influenced by Stirner's ideas.

Most commentators note that Marx was never the same after Stirner -- he had to completely rethink his ideas to refute Stirner (assuming he did, which is a big assumption). I would call that influenced by -- but, of course, he did not embrace all of Stirner's ideas (or what he took to be Stirner's ideas). Given the distortions Marx inflicted on Proudhon, I don't really trust him on Stirner -- I don't have the time or energy to compare and contrast Marx on Stirner to what Stirner actually wrote but given "The Poverty of Philosophy" I would not be that surprised to discover he was less than honest.

So, all in all, Stirner had most impact of Marx and Engels -- Bakunin mentioned him twice. For Engels -- or anyone else -- to suggest Bakunin was influenced by Striner even slightly is unfair.

alb
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Mar 12 2020 08:06

I stand by my opinion of those notes. It is in fact the one place where the theoretical (rather than personality or factional) differences between "Marxists" and "Bakuninists" are set out clearly by each of them. I remember reading it set out as a dialogue between the two but can't track it down (it was before the internet age).

The difference comes out clearly. For Marx, the main problem is the capitalist economic system. For Bakunin, it's the state; so, though while the both of them want to abolish both capitalism and the state, Marx gives priority to abolishing capitalism while Bakunin gives priority to abolishing the state. For Marx, socialism and the abolition of the state can only happen after capitalism has reached a certain stage of development. For Bakunin the state can be abolished at any time and in any place irrespective of the degree of economic development. Marx favours political action by socialists to win political power, democratise it and use it to abolish capitalist class ownership of the means of life; this done a classless society has been established and the state disappears. Bakunin favours an insurrection to immediately abolish the state.

Ignoring your cheap jibes about what Stalin did to the peasants and what Trotsky wanted to do to the unions, here’s how the dialogue goes.

Bakunin asks:

Quote:
if the proletariat becomes the ruling class, over whom will it rule? It means that there will still remain another proletariat, which will be subject to this new domination, this new state.

To which Marx replies: it will be ruling over the capitalist class as long as this latter class exists. Once the capitalist class has been abolished through the means of life becoming the common heritage of all, there will be no classes. Both the capitalist class and the “proletariat” will have disappeared. There'll be a classless, stateless society. For Marx a classless society is necessarily a stateless society, otherwise it’s not classless.

Anarcho wrote:
Marx completely misses the point time and time again -- for example, "A fine idea, that the rule of labour involves the subjugation of land labour!" Someone should have mentioned that to the Bolsheviks

Some did, including Marxists. But you miss Marx's dig at Bakunin who had called for the abolition of the right of inheritance as an immediate measure. Whatever measures are taken, wrote Marx,

Quote:
It must not hit the peasant over the head, as it would e.g. by proclaiming the abolition of the right of inheritance or the abolition of his property.

Ok, it's a debating point but well made.

Anarcho wrote:
But, then, the working class would not be ruling -- it would be party leaders -- ah, but Marx says "in a trade union, for example, does the whole union form its executive committee?"

In Marx's day, the unions were more democratic than today and, as someone has pointed out on another thread, the opponents of Marx in the IWMA were also in favour of encouraging the formation of unions. So, we could rephrase Marx's reply as: "in a syndicalist union, does the whole union form its executive committee?". Marx in fact made this actual point in relation to the communes when he went on to ask:

Quote:
Will all members of the commune simultaneously manage the interests of its territory?

Good question. Would they? Obviously not, so they would have to delegate some of the decisions to a committee, but how would these be chosen? Marx favours election by universal suffrage but in a non-state context:

Quote:
Election is a political form present in the smallest Russian commune and artel. The character of the election does not depend on this name, but on the economic foundation, the economic situation of the voters, and as soon as the functions have ceased to be political ones, there exists 1) no government function, 2) the distribution of the general functions has become a business matter, that gives no one domination, 3) election has nothing of its present political character.

What was Bakunin's position on elections in a stateless society? I don't know. Perhaps some Bakuninist can help out.

Anarcho wrote:
Marx's like of centralisation is well known

You seem to have missed Marx’s reply to this question of Bakunin's:

Quote:
The Germans number around forty million. Will for example all forty million be member of the government?
Certainly! Since the whole thing begins with the self-government of the commune.

Not that there is anything wrong with centralisation as such. The state is not simply a central administration but a central administration, armed with coercive power, controlled and used in the interests of a ruling class. Every society needs some central administration but, once capitalism, the last class society in history, has been abolished this won’t have armed forces at its disposal. It won’t be a state.

Yes, Marx and Engels did publish articles in a paper called Volkstaat ("People's State") but that doesn't mean that they agree with either the term or the concept. Right from when he became a communist in 1843/4 Marx was always clear that the state was a social organ standing above society and dominating it on behalf of a ruling class and that it would have no place in the classless, moneyless society that communism (socialism) would be. That's why he criticised German Social Democrats who talked about a "people's" or a "free" state.

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Mar 12 2020 21:40
alb wrote:
I stand by my opinion of those notes. It is in fact the one place where the theoretical (rather than personality or factional) differences between "Marxists" and "Bakuninists" are set out clearly by each of them.

Do you think history has been kind to this bit?

Quote:
So the result is: guidance of the great majority of the people by a privileged minority. But this minority, say the Marxists...

Where?

... will consist of workers. Certainly, with your permission, of former workers, who however, as soon as they have become representatives or governors of the people, cease to be workers...

As little as a factory owner today ceases to be a capitalist if he becomes a municipal councillor...

and look down on the whole common workers' world from the height of the state. They will no longer represent the people, but themselves and their pretensions to people's government. Anyone who can doubt this knows nothing of the nature of men.

If Mr Bakunin only knew something about the position of a manager in a workers' cooperative factory, all his dreams of domination would go to the devil.

Like, surely you have to admit that, in retrospect, Marx sounds a tiny bit naive there?

alb
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Mar 13 2020 07:46

Bakunin thought he was arguing against Marx but in fact was arguing against the German Social Democrats of the time who he dubbed “Marxists” and who did in fact support Marx in the dispute in the IWMA (in relation to some of whom Marx made his famous quip that “I am not a Marxist”).

In so far as these German Social Democrats were in favour of electing workers to pass laws favourable to the working class, Bakunin’s criticism did have some truth. But they failed not because they were sell-outs but because the workings of the capitalist system placed limits on what they could do (as, incidentally, it did and does on what “direct action” too can achieve). And of course Bakunin’s criticism has proved even more pertinent with regard to regimes like the Bolsheviks whose leaders started off from the basic assumption that they were better than most workers.

There is, however, one thing he says that is open to challenge and is worrying. It’s where he offers as an explanation:

Quote:
Anyone who can doubt this knows nothing of the nature of men.

Which would seem to be saying that it is “human nature” for people elected to do things on behalf of others to be self-serving and betray those who elected them. An anticipation of the so-called iron law of oligarchy. If true this would rule out any democratic, cooperative society. It would rule out a syndicalist society as well as a socialist one.

Fortunately it is not true.

BigFluffyTail
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Mar 13 2020 10:13
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Which would seem to be saying that it is “human nature” for people elected to do things on behalf of others to be self-serving and betray those who elected them.

Bakunin was okay with his friends running for parliament on the basis that they, contrary to others, were truly principled and therefore would not be corrupted by power (in a letter to Gambuzzi in 1870). Not the best reasoning but it does show that Bakunin didn't believe in such a fixed human nature. So I think Bakunin above means the nature of most men. Which marries well with his idea of an "invisible dictatorship". In any case, workers found ways to counter the danger of representatives acting against the interest of workers. Like revocable delegates, which Marx mentions in relation to the Commune in The Civil War in France.

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R Totale
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Mar 14 2020 09:36
alb wrote:
Bakunin thought he was arguing against Marx but in fact was arguing against the German Social Democrats of the time who he dubbed “Marxists” and who did in fact support Marx in the dispute in the IWMA (in relation to some of whom Marx made his famous quip that “I am not a Marxist”).

I mean, whoever Bakunin was arguing against, surely Marx was replying to him as Marx? Like, if he wanted to say "the German social democrats are silly and Bakunin is right to point that out" he could have just said that?

Quote:
There is, however, one thing he says that is open to challenge and is worrying. It’s where he offers as an explanation:

Quote:
Anyone who can doubt this knows nothing of the nature of men.

Which would seem to be saying that it is “human nature” for people elected to do things on behalf of others to be self-serving and betray those who elected them. An anticipation of the so-called iron law of oligarchy. If true this would rule out any democratic, cooperative society. It would rule out a syndicalist society as well as a socialist one.

Fortunately it is not true.

I wouldn't have said "nature of men" or anything similar myself, but this does touch on a fairly interesting question, and one that also came up in the "contemporary critiques" thread, which is whether anarchism is based on a liberal/individualist idea of human nature, or whether it's what you get if you apply Marxist principles in a logical and consistent fashion (spoiler: I think it's the latter). Like, I can't give you an exact quote for this, but I think Marxists would agree as a pretty basic starting point that people tend to pursue their material interests, and social groups pursue their collective material interests, so I suppose the big question is whether, as Marx says, workers who stop being workers and become professional political representatives still have the same material interests as when they were workers, or whether their new social position leads them to have a new set of interests?

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darren p
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Mar 14 2020 15:56
R Totale wrote:
I think Marxists would agree as a pretty basic starting point that people tend to pursue their material interests, and social groups pursue their collective material interests

Certainly, you will find plenty of adherents to crude "Marxism" who will go with this but really this is an oversimplification of what Marx wrote to the point of being false (Marx wasn't an economic determinist). On the economic level, people are compelled to act in certain ways in order to survive and maintain their position (in capitalism workers have to sell their labour-power, capitalists have to invest and reinvest their capital), but this doesn't mean on the political level that all workers automatically turn into socialists or all capitalists are free-marketeers.

Quote:
workers who stop being workers and become professional political representatives

But do "political representatives" really form an independent economic class in capitalism? Does a hairdresser turned politician face the same relation to capital as a billionaire property developer president?