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what does anarchism add to marx?

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xslavearcx
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Jan 16 2013 17:38
what does anarchism add to marx?

Ok rather crude scenario but i think it generates an interesting question...

Hypothetically if one was to look into left wing politics for the first time, one would liikely associate leninists, trotyskyite etc groups as being 'marxists' whereas would associate anarchists with bakunin as if there is some kind of irreconcilable difference between 'marxists' (as identified with the aformentioned groupings) and 'anarchism'. The same hypothetical person, id imagine, would be somewhat surprised when going onto an 'anarchist' forum like this and find that there are infinately more threads about marx than any 'anarchist' thinker. So the question following from that standpoint, what is it about anarchist thought that 'completes' as it were, 'marxian' analysis? Also, what makes the anarchist strand of marxism more attractive than the standard standard bearers of marxist tradition?

I

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Jan 16 2013 18:13

I've often wondered about this as well. I like what Angelus Novus wrote on some other thread: (To paraphrase,) as a strand of socialist thought, anarchism is not very interesting and not exactly known for theoretical breakthroughs (and even much less so since WW2), but parts of it are extremely interesting in terms of historical experience and form of practice of the workers movement (personally, I'd emphasize the importance of the historical IWW, as well as the revolutionary minorities in Spain).

So I don't think anarchism has much to add to Marx (and many dissenting marxists) in terms of analysis (even in the case of the state), except when it comes to organizational forms; and what makes it interesting is primarily the historical experience.

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Jan 16 2013 20:20
jura wrote:
So I don't think anarchism has much to add to Marx (and many dissenting marxists) in terms of analysis (even in the case of the state), except when it comes to organizational forms; and what makes it interesting is primarily the historical experience.

Isn't the rest just fluff though? There was workers and proto communist movements long before Marx, and some managed to be ahead of him when he was about, Paris Commune an example. Which would make sense given class struggle is a spontaneous unaware process, like that quote from Strike! about the most militant strikes in America being waged by typically conservative folk.

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Jan 16 2013 22:20

Huh, I'd very much like to respond, but have no idea what the expression "Isn't the rest just fluff" means, sorry smile. I agree with the rest of what you say, though.

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Jan 16 2013 22:34

I'm sorry to say that I find Bakunins critique of Marx in Anarchy and Statism to be amazingly true not only in the 'will turn into totalitarianism' sense but also in the critique of the fundamental way of thinking. If we ignore his anti german ranting the trap of intellectualising still remain. Marxism is a beautiful trap for endless discussions. People of nerdy persuasion will get sucked in and lost forever in minor detail. This forum is an excellent proof of this. Excellent proof is also in the many liberal academics etc that read marx apolitically.

Putting it slightly sharply I'd say that Marxism still has to prove it's of any use. The economic forecasts haven't yet come true and the organisational aspects have been proven damaging.

A good question would be what does Marx add to anarchism - except a lot of books, and books about books, and books about the books about books. And I say this as someone who quite enjoy abstract arguments and all manner of nerdery, I just recognize it as the personality flaw it is.

The fact that anarchism lacks a central figure at that interpretations and projections of old texts are at a minimum is one of the most appealing aspects of the movement.

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Jan 17 2013 08:19
Cooked wrote:
Putting it slightly sharply I'd say that Marxism still has to prove it's of any use. The economic forecasts haven't yet come true and the organisational aspects have been proven damaging.

Which "economic forecasts"?

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Jan 17 2013 09:51

Cooked, do you agree with Marx's analysis of capital? If not, what anarchist alternative would you recommend?

I agree with your comments about endless arguments and liberal academics. But is that worse than the lifestylism and general decomposition of (most of – and no offense intended) anarchism, in both theoretical and practical terms, in the last few decades? I mean, the sort of class struggle anarchism that Libcom posters represent seems to be very different from what most anarchists I see in real life or elsewhere on the internet say. (Just as the marxism that the marxists on Libcom represent is very different from, e.g., the marxism of David Harvey or the SWP.) So marxism has academics and anarchism has hippies or whatever ­– no big deal, for me anyway. The question is what contributions can both strands, as they've historically evolved, make to communist thought and practice today. On the theoretical side, what has anarchism to offer?

And, to put it even more sharply, all revolutionary theories still have to prove they're of any use, because, looking around, they don't seem to have been very successful!

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Jan 17 2013 14:24

So basicly the consensus thus far is that anarchism doesn't really offer something positive in terms of thought, but more through putting marxian ideas into practice? Also surprised to see no one other than Cooked comment on Bakunins take on the statist possibilites on marxist arguments. I take it there is little agreeance on that argument.

Have to say im kinda leaning towards Juras last point about all revolutionary theories thus far having to prove their use due to their lack of historic success. I wonder if maybe what makes anarchism more attractive than leninism is down to the fact that it hasn't really been put to the test of actually having to implment itself in the way that leninism has and is thus easier to romantisise?

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Jan 17 2013 15:26

Well, I think Bakunin's insights on Marxist statism are interesting (and shockingly prescient), but I don't think they can serve as evidence of Bakunin having a particularly penetrating theory of the state. I'm not an expert on Bakunin by any means, but what I've read some years ago struck me as quite vague and often more on the moral than the systematic side of critique. I mean, Catholic bishops were saying similar stuff at that time about how the (Marx-influenced) workers movement will necessarily end in a bloody dictatorship. That does not mean we should look for ideas on the state in encyclicals!

xslavearcx wrote:
I wonder if maybe what makes anarchism more attractive than leninism is down to the fact that it hasn't really been put to the test of actually having to implment itself in the way that leninism has and is thus easier to romantisise?

That and, perhaps, the connection to subcultures.

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Jan 17 2013 15:36

On the favourite thinkers on libcom thread a few months ago the button made the point that anarchists are more important because of what they did practically in revolutionary situations rather than what they said on paper ( Iain McKay said once, somewhere?, that anarchist writings were usually 'simple' because they were aimed at a wide/popular audience. I think this is true of people like Goldman and Berkman). I guess it depends how the question is interpreted roll eyes . Does anarchism add to Marx as a really existing historical actor (I would say yes, I think the beef between Marx and Bakunin is something more than just a clash of personalities), Marxism as a loose umbrella term?** again I would say yes, there are some pretty duff 'marxisms'*** out there as in, political groups that actively engage in social movements etc, etc), or Marx as a Critique of Political Economy (the way I recognize marx), no, I can't think of any anarchist criticisms of Capital that really add up to anything substantial.

xslavearcx wrote:
So basicly the consensus thus far is that anarchism doesn't really offer something positive in terms of thought, but more through putting marxian ideas into practice?

I'm a bit unsure about posing the stark contract theory/practice in this way. But I would say this is roughly it.

xslavearcx wrote:
I wonder if maybe what makes anarchism more attractive than leninism is down to the fact that it hasn't really been put to the test of actually having to implment itself in the way that leninism has and is thus easier to romantisise?

If we are talking about anarchism is a historical experience, then I think it is worth mentioning the anarchism under leninism here. I don't think the anarchist criticism of leninism is only romaticism.

xslavearcx wrote:
Have to say im kinda leaning towards Juras last point about all revolutionary theories thus far having to prove their use due to their lack of historic success.

I agree and disagree here confused . I think in terms of history, anarchism has had a lot to say to the socialist movement (some just call this 'marxist'), neither of them have been a 'success', but they are both still relevant.

** This issue is further compounded if we try and disentangle the different between 'marx' and 'socialism'. I think this is what Cooked was pointing to.

*** I also like jura's point of lifestylism on the one hand and shitty marxist/socialists on the other. Your dead right on this point.

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Jan 17 2013 15:46

look at all the fucking typos in that. sorry guys.

yeksmesh
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Jan 17 2013 17:13

Well I mostly agree with the fact that anarchism should be more conceived of as a practical movement rather than as something with alot of theoretical depth (that is for the period before world war II more or less). On the other hand I think that some of the anarchist theory on organisation more or less from the publication of the platform, and with recent discussions between anarcho-syndicalism and platformism to have way more theoretical depth than many marxist theoretical writings on organisation which generally just move from very simplistic interpretations of Lenin and/or their favorite revolutionary personality (not to mention that Lenin was quite a bad theoretician himself from what I have read of him).

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Jan 17 2013 17:18

Yeah, like I said, organizational forms. But then, in terms of a critique of unions, it seems like most of the good stuff came from the marxist ultra-left.

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Jan 17 2013 17:44

Communism.

Is the one word answer. Marx may have provided a useful (if incomplete) analytical toolkit, but he was no communist. Engels said as much in the 1888 preface to the German re-edition of the Communist Manifesto, saying that the only used the "C"-word to distinguish themselves from the utopian, "ethical", "true", christian and other wing-bat socialists that were associated with the "S"-word at the time, Marx's programme could be summed up as "Lord make me Communist... but not just yet". The famous "transitional period" of exchange by labour notes (ah... dialectical hand waving... form same, content different, honest guv...) was always wrong, and the libertarian communists - the first to take "Marx beyond Marx" added that. The whole "Communisation" thing is particularly bullshit on that one - oh, epochal change, era of full subsumption now makes transitional period redundant/anachronistic... Horseshit. It was never going to work, what ever era/epoch/take your pick.

So, in at number 1, FULL COMMUNISM. Accept no recycled bordigist imitations....

Second, just as importantly in some ways - the means/ends relationship. Aka the "Sonvilier circular" principle. Namely that Marx's rubbish politics - i.e. that the end justifies the means, hence form authoritarian electoral parties and stand in elections to capture state power the demoncratic way - adopted an unanalytically instrumentalist approach to the means/ends question. Of course the utopian reading of taking the ends (that which is to be achieved) to be the means itself, is also stupid, but that doesn't mean, as Marx advocated, that anything less than instrumentalism is automatically utopian in this way - prefiguration lies between these two sterile poles (and is in fact the only dialectical solution to the aporia, as Marx would have found out, had he bothered to apply his dialectical skills to questions of political praxis, rather than just the critique of political economy).

So that's two for starters. Libertarianism and Communism. You know, that would make a great name for a website. Oh no, wait...

edit: apologies for the snarky tone, I must have overdone the caffeine today, but sometimes... sheesh!

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Jan 17 2013 19:11

As regards communism, this is quite startling. The anarchist vision of a post-capitalist society during Marx's life was basically mutualism or collectivism. Marx certainly wasn't the first to envisage communism the way he did, but his reflections on the topic are, in my view, light years ahead of anarchism at that time. (I think this would become apparent if you were asked to describe "FULL COMMUNISM" and we'd then go and compare this to what Marx writes about communism in the E-PM, The German Ideology, or even in the economic manuscripts, and then to Proudhon's or Bakunin's writings. BTW, I'd propose to treat the question of the transition period seperately. Personally, I'd much rather go for a transition period and then full comunism, than for no transition period and a mode of production based on artisanal co-ops and "full value for my labor"!)

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Jan 17 2013 20:27
David Graeber from 'Fragments of an anarchist anthropology wrote:
1. Marxism has tended to be a theoretical or analytical
discourse about revolutionary strategy.
2. Anarchism has tended to be an ethical discourse
about revolutionary practice.

I think this quote sums up the basic difference between anarchism and Marxism most people would agree with. I personally don't know what anarchism has added to Marxism other than generating responses by self-identified Marxists putting cases against anarchism that are full of misconceptions and distortions. For example, the side column of isreview.org (http://www.isreview.org/) or a specific old article I was reading recently from the same site (http://www.isreview.org/issues/72/feat-anarchism.shtml).

Now, it may be true that anarchism isn't known for theoretical breakthroughs, but that doesn't mean that anarchists are eluded to theory in general. Most anarchists, like Libcom, have learned from Marx and embraced the concepts of class and class struggle. Did they have to invent those concepts to use it? No. It just so happens that a fellow named Marx wrote three thousands pages on almost everything one needs to know about capitalism, and his name became a monopoly [i.e. Marxism] on all such knowledge. But even such knowledge does not belong to this or that particular intellectual, but are the ideological expressions of the material conditions that working-class people have confronted upon the rise of industrial capitalism. These expressions, whether anarchism or Marxism, are part of and informed by the broader working-class movement. I feel that they can and should inform each other; ideas should flow freely between the two, after all, they both claim to be fighting for a global communist community. But it seems to me their hasn't been much flow from anarchism to Marxism because Marxism has pretty much locked itself in a box. On the other, there's has been a flow of knowledge from Marx (not "Marxism" per se) to anarchism. Marx didn't identify himself as a "Marxist".

I don't really think "Marxism"has much to offer in the first place because most self-identified Marxists don't even know what socialism or communism is.

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Jan 17 2013 20:27
Angelus Novus wrote:
Which "economic forecasts"?

Das Kapital

Jura wrote:
Cooked, do you agree with Marx's analysis of capital? If not, what anarchist alternative would you recommend?

As pointed out above plenty of revolutions have happened without full grasp of Marx. They have all failed however but it'd argue that it would be insane to suggest they failed because people didn't understand Das Kapital.

The real question is do you need an anarchist alternative to Marx analysis of capital. Or rather do you need an in depth analysis of capital at all? And if so where do you draw the line, do you have to understand recent financial products? This is an honest question and I've not got the answer.

I'm not saying it's wrong to study Marx in detail or try to really get to the bottom of his intentions. But i sincerely doubt that it's an activity critical to the overthrowing of capitalism.

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Jan 17 2013 21:01

Just to add to my post above, I don't think anarchists need an alternative to Marx's analysis of capital. Marx's analysis of capital is by far the best anyone hoping to challenge capitalism can start with. I think too much credit is being given to "Marxism" in terms of theory though. Marx had a lot to offer. Not "Marxism". All it could probably lead to is more state dictatorships in the name of the "proletariat".

I get this impression a lot from Marxists that because Marx provided an analysis of capital, only they (i.e. Marxists) get to use his method of understanding capitalism. Anarchists can not or should not use it because, well, their not Marxists. Even though as I said before Marx didn't consider himself a Marxist. Any anarchist who say we need our own theory of capital would be sharing that same Marxist logic, which is quite false.

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Jan 17 2013 22:17

That's one of the things I've found refreshing about anarchist dialogue on these topics from very early on in my political education, what AotFI said above: unlike many Marxists I've met, from "orthodox" Marxists (whatever that means, aside from trying to distance from authoritarian appropriations of Marx's thinking) to Marxist-Leninists to Maoists, there is a freedom of discourse with anarchists that includes pulling from (and intelligently criticizing) nearly anyone. And anarchists I've met have, on the whole, been much more willing to take the old white men they read down a peg or two than many Marxists I've met have been willing to take their old white men down. Best example of each that I know of is a discussion where someone brought up Proudhon and an anarcha-feminist immediately brought up his sexism and anti-Semitism, which the original speaker hadn't been aware of, which then led to a pretty stellar discussion about sexism and racism in contemporary radical circles that I think everyone left a lot better educated and aware than before, vs. another workshop at the same anarchist bookfair where the topic turned to the piss-poor ideology of "War Communism", and a Trotskyist jumped to Trotsky's defence and then literally stormed out in a rage while people were critiquing the impact that War Communism and Trotsky's leadership had on the repression of the Kronstadt Rebellion. A lot of Marxists have this sort of enshrinement of "great leaders" that really undermines anti-authoritarianism.

That said, I'd rather be side-by-side with a Marxist than a capitalist any day of the week.

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Jan 17 2013 23:13

This is a really interesting thread, cheers.

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Jan 17 2013 23:15
Cooked wrote:
Angelus Novus wrote:
Which "economic forecasts"?

Das Kapital

Do you have an actual answer to that question?

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Jan 17 2013 23:21
Cooked wrote:
Angelus Novus wrote:
Which "economic forecasts"?

Das Kapital

Specifics, please.

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Jan 18 2013 02:03
Angelus Novus wrote:
Cooked wrote:
Angelus Novus wrote:
Which "economic forecasts"?

Das Kapital

Specifics, please.

I think we're all waiting for an answer to this one.

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Jan 18 2013 02:14
Agent of the Fifth International wrote:
Angelus Novus wrote:
Cooked wrote:
Angelus Novus wrote:
Which "economic forecasts"?

Das Kapital

Specifics, please.

I think we're all waiting for an answer to this one.

There arn;t answers. grin .

The only forecast that is made about the end of capitalism in volume one is the death knell of capitalism (we know the bit, I don't have to quote it). He in no way outlines a time period for this and I for one like this forecast.

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Jan 18 2013 02:53

Here's what I like, as a Marxist.. as experienced here on Libcom...

The chance to deal with Marx's critique without having to deal with those who think their party is the party; and the party is the alpha and the omega of all things human.

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Jan 18 2013 19:59

Anarchism is almost extinct, the Spanish version was leftist mutualism, not real anarchism, and now the final wave is re-affiliating with Primitivism, after writing it off as a 90's doom and gloom association, which it was,,,umm,,,for instance, what happened to peak oil? And how can they defeat 2 billion Chinese Maoist/Psuedo-Capitalists and 1 billion hindu positivists. WTF has ideology got to do with feeling good?

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Jan 18 2013 14:06

I think this text by Paul Mattick Senior might be relevant in term of 'marxism' as ideology and as a practical theory of revolution though perhaps a bit too deterministic for some of to-days 'marxists'?

http://www.marxists.org/archive/mattick-paul/1978/marxism.htm

It is included in a collection of material titled: 'Marxism - Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie?'

The approach might also have some relevance in terms of anarchism as well?

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Jan 18 2013 15:05

Very interesting, predicting social movements is like predicting the weather, the oscillations between collective mass wellbeing, or else their deprivations, the domestic ratios that the politicians manipulate to keep the revolution subdued. The social equilibrium has always and will always be realised by the colonialist Empire, aka, the neo-colonialist global corporation run by capitalist politicians, the totalitarian psuedo-democracy run by Marxist politicians, the multitudinous feelgood narcissistic federation run by state education and indoctrination institutions funded by capitalists. And these factions, all vying for domination still plunder the under-developed regions of the world. However by a quirk of unpredicted spontaneity, an ex-colonized country, China, being versed in the deprivations of being colonized, has rocketed to domination because it understood the desires of the oppressed and gave them a tailormade desire, thus obliterating the proletariat. In a way China is the Marxist endplay, its realization. Anarchists loath Maoists because they provided the maximum number of people a better quality of life, whereas they only had untested theoretical propositions, window smashing, newsbox throwing and dumpster diving as an alternative praxis.

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Jan 18 2013 15:12

Uh, ok, now that we've got to this point, can someone tell me what "Isn't the rest just fluff" means?

batswill
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Jan 18 2013 15:27

PS there was only one Marxist, and he was born on the 5 May 1818. wink
I posit that a new ideology has subsumed all previous ones, Facebookism, and I shall rise up against it because it is systematic clonism and conformity,,,,,, embarrassed have I gone too far?

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Jan 18 2013 15:46
batswill wrote:
However by a quirk of unpredicted spontaneity, an ex-colonized country, China, being versed in the deprivations of being colonized, has rocketed to domination because it understood the desires of the oppressed and gave them a tailormade desire, thus obliterating the proletariat. In a way China is the Marxist endplay, its realization. Anarchists loath Maoists because they provided the maximum number of people a better quality of life, whereas they only had untested theoretical propositions, window smashing, newsbox throwing and dumpster diving as an alternative praxis.

There's a fair amount of rural Chinese, in the last century AND this one, that'd disagree with you on the oppressed being given "tailormade desires", not to mention urban dissidents of both Marxist and non-Marxist anti-oppressive strains. That and there's a fair amount of workers, the Foxconn debacle only being the most visible and among the least oppressive, who would disagree with you on the obliterating of the proletariat. If China is the Marxist realization, I'd rather realize I had no arms and legs than realize the endplay of Marxism. I don't loathe Maoists, but I certainly don't support the ends/means inhumanity that Maoist policy has inflicted on human lives in China and the new "Maoism = capitalism" modalities certainly have made many things a fair sight worse. I think "liberal democratic" capitalism's a fuckton worse in a lot of ways (namely unprecedented numbers of humanity in slavery conditions around the globe and easily preventable, treatable and curable conditions going unprevented, untreated and uncured because of upper class capitalist egotistical monstrousness), but I don't want to take a sharp stick in the eye in place of a steel spike.

Edit: I'm with Fanon on this one, essentially. To paraphrase, the place to look for ideas that revitalize colonized locales should not be from the colonizer's homeland, they should be from those locales and the previously colonized peoples themselves. White knighting with any kind of universalist solution is bound to fail. Local solutions are needed that respond to the unique needs of those local situations and problems. Trying to blanket all of China in one off-shoot of a European school of thought's solutions, no matter if that off-shoot is from a Chinese leader (who comes from Shaoshan, which doesn't have a right to cultural hegemony across all of Hunan much less all of China), across such varied geographies and diverse cultural spread as there is across even half of China, is exactly the kind of monocle that needs to pop out of the upper class eye with the force of a bullet. The absolute shit crop rotation ideas that came out of Mao's arrogance and fantasy (and that modern agricultural science know now to be counter-productive) are a good case-in-point for anti-authoritarian modes of socialism/communism to be implemented rather than top-down "Great Leader" style B.S. Those with memories of the starving dead probably wouldn't have cared whether it was a capitalist or a comrade who was ordering idiot crop rotation policies that resulted in the horrors they had to live through, and that's to say nothing of the dead themselves.