Commentary on Names

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 23, 2010

(i) Karl Marx drew attention to the economic development of society and the nature of the class struggle; his socialism, although revolutionary, was based upon the State. Most of his followers, during his lifetime, believed the "capture of the State" to be based upon legalism, but after the Paris Commune, he made it clear that he believed in armed revolution. He never explained how the takeover would be effected nor what his conception of socialism was except that he believed in the "inevitability" of socialism (because capitalism was concentrating on larger units and the ever-increasing misery would cause the workers to rebel, take over the State, and nationalise the monopolies), a now exploded theory.

(ii) Michael Bakunin progressed during his lifetime from the concept of democratic revolution, to adopting Proudhon's (xiii) federalism to the idea of socialism. Within the International (vi) he correctly envisaged that Marxian socialism would be "red Bismarckianism" and that state socialism would be a new tyranny. after the Paris Commune, his theories developed into revolutionary anarchism.

(iii) Herbert Read, English art critic and philosopher, adapted anarchist ideas to surrealism, literature and education. Although he remained essentially a liberal in his attitude to present-day society, his conceptions of a free society are a valuable guide to Utopia.

(iv) Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright, was regarded by anarchists such as Emma Goldman to be the dramatic prophet of the libertarian movement, though it is fair to say that Bernard Shaw, taking identical texts, has portrayed him as the dramatic prophet of authoritarian socialism.

(v) Peter Kropotkin, Russian writer and former prince, after living among Swiss workers, adapted the general principles of revolutionary anarchism to the labour movement, and set out to show that it rested upon a scientific basis.

(vi) The First International was a reflection of the views then current in the labour movement, including Marxist socialism-and its parliamentary offshoot, German social democracy; French and Swiss Proudhonism, which Bakunin helped to develop into anarchism; English trade-unionism; the Republicanism of Garibaldi (conquest of democratic power by armed force) and the ideas of Blanqui (conquest of socialism by the same method, which influenced Lenin's later theories and is today seen reflected in the Che Guevara cult).

(vii) Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet, is often thought of as a libertarian revolutionary, which does not bear too much analysis. He was the son-in-law of William Godwin, whose views on the Stateless society make him in one line the predecessor of anarchism, and in another line the predecessor of laissez-faire liberalism.

(viii) Daniel Cohn-Bendit has become the accepted spokesman for the French student rebellion against authoritarian society.

(ix) Herbert Marcuse has been elected by the Press to be the theorist of fashionable radicalism.

(x) Leon Trotsky was a social-democrat who became Minister of War in the Bolshevik government, and as such was responsible for the repression of the Kronstadt sailors and the Ukrainian peasants who tried to make "free soviets" into a reality. Afterwards, he himself was forced into opposition by Joseph Stalin, and he became a fierce critic of "the bureaucracy" without admitting it to be a separate class.

(xi) Vladimir Lenin, although a Marxist, staggered social-democratic theory by his denunciation of the State; although in practice he still followed the Marxian principle of conquest of the State, he claimed it would "wither away". When the State ceased to be the "executive committee of the bourgeoisie", those organs of the State that guarded economic repression "withered away", but since it became the "executive committee" of the bureaucracy, the other repressive institutions became stronger than ever.

(xii) The Bolsheviki (majority) as opposed to the Mensheviki (minority) were part of the Russian social-democratic movement until the split over support for the First World War. In matters of theory there were no differences between German and Russian social-democrats who were split much upon the same lines. Both were Marxist socialists of the authoritarian brand. British social-democracy, however, was diluted by trade unionism and Methodism, and finally fashioned by Fabianism.

(xiii) Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French federalist philosopher, who coined the name "anarchist" in its present sense, presuming that if government were necessary, "anarchy" could be used to mean chaos and confusion, but that if government were not necessary, "anarchy" (the absence of government) meant complete liberty. Only the authoritarian, he held, could believe that complete liberty meant chaos. In this sense he is the "father" of anarchism though not, in the modern sense, an anarchist himself. He pioneered the exposition of French working-class autonomous organisation.

(xiv) A.S. Neill is the modem pioneer of libertarian education and of "hearts not heads in the school". Though he has denied being an anarchist, it would be hard to know how else to describe his philosophy, though he is correct in recognising the difference between revolution in philosophy and pedagogy, and the revolutionary change of society. They are associated but not the same thing.

(xv) The CNT-FAI (National Confederation of Labour, anarcho-syndicalist; Iberian Anarchist Federation) was the driving force in the Spanish Revolution of 1936 which was associated with the social revolutionary changes in the economy, behind the Republican lines, until this was smashed by the Communist Party, aided by Russian arms, a year or so before the Stalin-Hitler Pact.

(xvi) The Chicago Martyrs (referred to in the song of the "Red Flag") were anarchists, framed by the Chicago police on capital charges in 1886, and heralded as martyrs of the class war. They are associated with the first celebrations of May Day as a workers' day.

(xvii) Sacco and Vanzetti were Italo-American anarchists, framed in the 'twenties, again on a capital charge, who also became symbols of the class struggle.

(xviii) Joe Hill, of the Industrial Workers of the World, was yet another martyr of the class struggle, hanged by the State of Utah; his songs have become folklore.

(xix) Rudi Dutschke was the spokesman of the German student left until shot at by a reactionary.

(xx) The Spartacists were the council communists of Germany who, rejecting the Party dogmatism of social-democracy, realised that the workers' councils that were springing up all over the country were the means by which the new society "would grow within the framework of the old".

(xxi) The Fabians took Marxism to its logical conclusion, and visualised a society dominated by do-gooders from the middle classes. They permeated first the Liberal Party, then the Labour Party, and transformed the labour movement into one dominated by the "professional class". With the comparative political success of British "socialism", French socialism followed the same disastrous course, which left the Communist Party the only party in France even pretending to be working-class.

(xxii) Fernand Pelloutier was the pioneer of French syndicalist theory, and the conception that the workers' organisations could control industry. He is in direct contrast to the British trade union leaders who felt it was necessary to have political connections.

(xxiii) The Industrial Workers of the World was American syndicalism. It threw off the early De Leonist conception of "political power", seeing this as a method by which the middle class would retain dominance. It saw no purpose in political action, and insisted on direct action for industrial power. It grew in extent and militancy until the reactionary period following the First World War and if "dead", it has obstinately refused "to lie down".

(xxiv) Daniel De Leon gave Marxism an understanding of how socialism could be achieved, relating it more directly to the class struggle. His conception was of political power as well as economic power; the Party to seize the State, the workers to seize industry. Lenin owed a great deal to De Leon.

(xxv) Ferdinand Lassalle made a melange of Marxism, legalism and demagogy into the first German workers' movement. He might be said to be equally the father of present-day social democracy and of nazism, with his mixture of patriotism and socialism, mass labour movements and small concentrated leadership. His theory of the Iron Law of Wages became the subject of general derision after its demolition by socialists. It held that all increases in wages and benefits under capitalism must mean increases in prices, and therefore ultimately increases in poverty. This fallacy has now become fashionable once again under the Labour government.

(xxvi) Rosa Luxemburg tried to reconcile revolutionary social democracy with council communism. Her death at the hands of German reactionaries came too soon for the inconsistencies in her thought to be made plain.

(xxvii) The Social Revolutionary Movement of Russia was not (as is sometimes supposed) either nihilist or anarchist, nor were the latter two synonymous. The social-revolutionaries looked on the peasantry as the class of the revolution in the same way that the social democrats looked on the industrial worker. The social-revolutionaries were dedicated opponents of the czarists, and in particular their womenfolk (like the English Suffragettes, in many ways) were courageous and active. The nihilists were simply democrats who wished to end czarism. Unlike social-revolutionaries and anarchists they did not use "terrorism".

(xxviii) Errico Malatesta was one of the best-known popularisers of anarchist theory (cf. "Malatesta: His Life and Thought", V. Richards: Freedom Press).

(xxix) Nestor Makhnow organised a peasant army in the Ukraine which established free communes. At one time Lenin was prepared to "let the anarchists try out their theories" in the Ukraine but the territory was too valuable (and the example too contagious) for this to be done. The Makhnowists fought both Red troops and Whites. Trotsky made peace with them so that the Red Army could join with them in driving out the czarists, but afterwards turned on them to establish state communism. Makhnow has subsequently been the most maligned of all Russian revolutionaries, a process set in motion by Trotsky who later found it used against himself by Stalin.

(xxx) William Morris is the visionary of Utopia in the English labour tradition.

(xxxi) CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and its offshoot the non-violent direct-actionist Committee of Hundred, began as a protest against the Destruction State that unexpectedly drew wide support and became the focal point of protest for a new generation. The belief of some of its founders that "they did it all", and the pretentious claims associated with it, may be ignored.

(xxxii) James Connolly was a socialist of the De Leon school and an Irish patriot.

(xxxiii) Henry David Thoreau, American individualist, has often been regarded as an anarchist of an idyllic school ("a gentle anarchist", in journalistic cant). His attitudes are probably the most typical of what would be advanced liberalism and non-involvement in the present society.