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(DIARIST'S NOTE: This diary was originally written in the 1990's as part of a book manuscript. But it remains as relevant today as it was back then.)

The longest-running and, perhaps, the most bitter debate within the radical leftist  movement has been that between the Marxists and the anarchists. In the early history of the radical labor movement, anarchism and its variants were the single greatest competitor to Marxian socialism and, in Spain, Italy and France, anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism rose to domination over the Marxist “workers’ parties”. The two most famous proponents, Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin, carried on an interminable series of ideological debates that, while they often devolved into petty personal attacks and bureaucratic intrigues, were never resolved, and which still find their modern echo in current ideological debate within the radical Left (it was a fundamental feature of the Occupy Movement): do radical movements work best when they are centralized and directed from the top, or do they work best when they are decentralized and run from the bottom?

The conflict between the Marxists and the anarchists centers around the role of authority and centralized control, particularly as it applies to the institution of the state. In the traditional Marxian view, the capitalist republic is a mere tool of the ruling class, and is used by the capitalists to safeguard their position of economic and social privilege. Marx writes that the modern state is “nothing more than the form of organization which the bourgeoisie necessarily adopt for the mutual guarantee of their property and interests.”

Since the political state is the tool of the ruling class, Marx concluded, the way to overthrow the capitalists was to organize the working class and take over the state machinery, denying its use to the bourgeoisie and converting the state into an instrument of worker control over the economy. “We want the abolition of classes,” Engels writes. “How can this be achieved? By the political domination of the proletariat.” Marx echoes, “The conquest of political power is the first task of the proletariat.” In an address to the Communist League in 1850, Marx declared that the revolutionary movement must strive towards “the most decisive centralization of power in the hands of the state authority.”

Marx, as a revolutionary, firmly believed that, in most cases, the working class would never be able to capture the state except through violent rebellion. However, he always held out the possibility that the state could be captured through electoral politics in some countries, and was a tireless fighter for universal suffrage, concluding that the working class might be able to win at the ballot box if it could not win in the streets. “We do not deny,” he told a gathering of Dutch radicals, “that there are countries such as America, England, and I would add Holland if I knew your institutions better, where the working people may achieve their goal by peaceful means.” In any case, Marx concluded, the goal of the proletariat was, using whatever method was practical, to capture the machinery of government and turn it against the capitalists, placing it in the hands of a working-class dominated state.

Once the capitalist state was captured, the working class would be able to use this position of power to dismantle the old capitalist economic structures and install a new communist system in its place. Marx referred to this period of transition as “the dictatorship of the proletariat”:

Between capitalist and communist society lies a period of revolutionary transformation from one form to the other. There is a corresponding period of transition in the political sphere, and in this period the state can only take the form of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
To the anarchists, this was complete heresy. In contrast to Marx, who argued that the domination of the state by the capitalists was a direct result of their economic domination of the working class, Mikhail Bakunin, a Russian radical, countered that it was the political domination of the bourgeoisie, through its state apparatus, that enabled it to exert economic control. Instead of wresting control of the state from the bourgeoisie and using it to dismantle capitalist economics, as Marx proposed, Bakunin advocated dismantling the entire state apparatus, and thus remove the bourgeoisie’s ability to use coercion and authority to dominate economic relationships. “We believe,” Bakunin countered, “that the policy of the proletariat, necessarily revolutionary, should have the destruction of the state for its immediate and only goal.”

Bakunin bitterly attacked the Marxian program of state control of the economy (under the domination of the working class), arguing that such an authority structure would, even if formed with the best of intentions, inevitably lead to a new form of economic domination. In a prescient passage, Bakunin predicted:

The leaders of the Communist Party, namely Mr. Marx and his followers, will proceed to liberate humanity in their own way. They will concentrate the reins of government in a strong hand . . . under the direct command of state engineers, who will constitute a new privileged scientific and political class.
To Bakunin, the existence of any state, even a “proletarian” one, was intolerable: “The trouble lies not in any particular form of government, but in the very existence of government itself.”

The conflict between the Marxists and the Bakuninists began to boil over in 1864, when Bakunin, while visiting Marx in Paris, was invited to join Marx’s International Workingmen’s Association (the First International). Bakunin viewed the International as a small, poorly organized group, and instead formed his own organization, the Alliance of Revolutionary Socialists. While the International continued to advocate worker control of government as the first step towards communism, Bakunin’s Alliance followed an anarchist program of opposition to all state power.

In 1867, Bakunin became a member of the Central Committee of the Pacifist League for Peace and Freedom, and tried to take over the group by packing it with Alliance supporters. The attempt failed just as the militant strikes of 1867-1868 broke out. Bakunin turned to the International.

The first tiff to occur between Marx and Bakunin concerned the affiliation of the Alliance of Revolutionary Socialists with the International. Bakunin wanted the entire Alliance to be admitted as a bloc, but Marx and the International, fearing another takeover attempt, instead demanded that the Alliance dissolve itself and join the International’s various national sections. Reluctantly, Bakunin agreed to this.

Instead of disbanding, however, the Alliance continued to function as a caucus, and began to take steps to dominate the International and change it over to a Bakuninist program. First, Bakunin attempted to pack the International’s Central Council with his supporters. When he discovered that he would not be able to obtain a majority on the Council, he then argued for its disbandment, and concentrated his efforts on winning over the various national sections. In 1872, Bakunin was formally expelled from the International on the grounds that he had not disbanded the Alliance of Revolutionary Socialists as he had agreed.

Much of the debate between Marx and Bakunin centered around such pedantic nonsense as the definition of “authority”, or whether political actions by the workers should be avoided because it legitimizes the state. Much of the argument degenerated into petty name-calling and bureaucratic intrigue—Bakunin referred to Marx as “vain, perfidious and cunning”, described Engels as “adept at calumny, lying and intrigue”, and accused both of them of “boasting in theory and cowardice in practice”. Marx, for his part, referred to Bakunin as a “nonentity as a theoretician”, ridiculed his “papal authority”, and labeled his anarchist outlooks “petty bourgeois”. On several occasions, Marx repeated some old rumors that Bakunin was a Tsarist agent who had been sent to disrupt the radical movement.

Amidst all the invective, however, some important points managed to be raised and discussed. Bakunin pointed out that, in nearly every country, the industrial working class was far outnumbered by the peasantry and the agrarian workers. He vehemently rejected Marx’s claim that the industrial working class had to be the agents of communist revolution, and instead argued that revolution could come only from the countryside.

Marx, in turn, pointed out that Bakunin had not resolved the question of precisely how any organization, much less the loose, anti-authoritarian one proposed by the anarchists, could ever bring about a revolution. As a part of his revolutionary program, Bakunin had written:

The constructive tasks of the social revolution, the new forms of social life, can emerge only from the living experience of the grass- roots organizations which will themselves build the new society according to their manifold needs and desires.
Noble sentiments, Marx admitted, but, he asked, how was a loose organization going to defeat the highly centralized and militarized capitalist state?

Bakunin himself grappled repeatedly with this question, and never fully answered it. The only solution he ever reached was, in light of his professed libertarianism, surprising:

For revolution to triumph over reaction, the unity of revolutionary thought and action must have an organ in the midst of the popular anarchy which will be the way of life and source of all the energy of the revolution. . . Our aim is the creation of a powerful but always invisible revolutionary association which will prepare and direct the revolution.
Ten, twenty, or thirty men, with a clear understanding and good organization, knowing what they want and where they are going, can easily carry with them a hundred, two hundred, three hundred or even more.
Bakunin’s proposal for a small revolutionary elite that would direct the revolution sounds suspiciously like Lenin’s argument for the “vanguard party” which would carry out the revolution in behalf of the workers. Despite all of his libertarian and anti-authoritarian talk, in the end Bakunin was unable to move beyond the notion that the revolutionary elite would make the revolution, with the masses or without them.

The Paris Commune

The question was first put to a practical test in 1870, when the city of Paris rose in revolt and established the Paris Commune. Both Marx and Bakunin studied the Commune intently, and both were heavily influenced by it.

In 1871, the working class of Paris succeeded in creating a revolutionary government that held power for a short time before being brutally and bloodily suppressed. And the very first act it carried out, much to Marx’s surprise, was to abandon the old governmental apparatus and build an entirely new political system. Marx writes:

From the outset, the Commune was compelled to recognize that the working class, once come to power, could not manage with the old state machine; that in order not to lose again its only just-conquered supremacy, the working class must, on the one hand, do away with all the old repressive machinery, previously used against itself, and on the other hand, safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment.
Engels viewed the Commune as a “shattering of the former state power and its replacement by a new and really democratic state”, and concluded that it was “no longer a state in the proper sense of the word.” Bakunin, elated, viewed the Commune as a confirmation of his anti-state outlooks, and declared the Commune to be “a bold, clearly-formulated negation of the state”.

Not all governmental functions, however, disappeared under the Commune. There was still a need for such things as record-keeping and the enforcement of common criminal laws. These functions were, however, stripped of their political and class functions. Marx writes admiringly:

While the merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society.
Against the transformation of the state and the agents of the state from the servants of society into the masters of society—an inevitable transformation in all previous states—the Commune made use of two infallible expedients. In the first place, it filled all posts—administrative, judicial and educational—by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, with the right of these same electors to recall their delegates at any time. And in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers.
The Commune was an important event for Marx and Engels. Until 1871, they had assumed that the working class would be able to seize the existing institutions of the bourgeois republic and use them as the basis for a socialist government after the revolution.

The Commune, however, completely changed Marx’s thinking on this point, and made such a profound impact on him that he added an amendment to the Communist Manifesto on the matter. Marx also wrote an entire manuscript on the Commune, entitled The Civil War in France. The Commune was, he concluded, “the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labor.”

Apparently, the Commune didn’t influence Engels as much as it did Marx. After Marx’s death, Engels went back to his criticisms of anarchism and instead advocated capturing the state through the election of a social democratic party.

The anarchist movement, meanwhile, began to turn away from organization and towards individual actions which defied the authority of the state, including the assassination of political figures. The motto of this movement of “propaganda of the deed” was put most succinctly by the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin: “Anything suits us that is alien to legality”. For the most part, these individual actions accomplished nothing more than killing a few government officials and landing many anarchists in jail.

Within a few years, Kropotkin realized that the anarchist assassins were merely isolating themselves from the working class and accomplishing nothing. It was an “illusion”, he concluded, to believe that “one can defeat the coalition of exploiters with a few pounds of explosives”. Instead, Kropotkin now argued, “One must be with the people, who no longer want isolated acts, but want men of action inside their ranks.” The individualist “propaganda of the deed” began to fade away, to be replaced by the collective anarchists or “anarcho-communists”. In Europe, the most militant of the collective anarchists were the council communists.

The Council Communists

The framework of the worker’s council was born in the turbulent upheavals in Europe between 1917 and 1920. In the wake of the Russian Revolution in 1917, a wave of radicalism swept over Europe. In February 1919, the Italian Federation of Metal Workers (FIOM) won a contractual right to form “Internal Commissions” of worker delegates in the factories. The militant metal workers then used a series of strikes and shutdowns to turn the Commissions into de facto managers, with the workers themselves running the plant through their elected representatives. Within a period of two years, the industrial workers of Turin and Genoa had seized a number of factories and paralyzed the authorities with a general strike.

In Germany, at the same time, the German Communist Party (KPD) split away from the German Communist Workers Party (KAPD) and began advocating Rate Kommunismus, or “council communism”. The KPD allied itself with a similar group in Holland, centered around the Dutch astronomer Anton Pannekoek. Pannekoek praised the worker’s councils, saying:

The goal of the working class is liberation from exploitation. This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie. It is only realized by the workers themselves being master over production.
In Germany, the government tottered on the brink of collapse, as strikes and worker uprisings came within a hair’s breadth of seizing power. In Hungary, the government actually fell, and a “Soviet Government” held power for a short time. In all of these militant movements,the instrument of organization was the worker’s council, an elected body of workers from each plant who organized and carried out the rebellions. In many ways, the worker’s councils echoed the organizational structures of the Paris Commune.

The council communists realized that the power of the bourgeoisie could not be broken as long as they controlled the state apparatus. However, they also realized that the workers would have to develop their own organizational methods to carry out the process of economic production and re-distribution. The Social Democrats, echoing Marx and Engels, still advocated capturing the existing state through electoral campaigns and then legislating for government ownership of industries—their definition of “socialism”.

This strategy was attacked by the council communists. “‘Statifying’ companies,” Pannekoek declared, “is not socialism; socialism is the power of the proletariat.” The Italian council communist Antonio Gramsci wrote that the worker’s councils were “organs suited to future communist management of both the individual factory and the whole society”.

Similar ideas were being tried in Russia. In 1917, the Russians had deposed the Tsar and the Provisional Government by organizing into soviets (from the Russian word for “council”). Throughout the new Soviet Union, anarchist and syndicalist workers were deposing their bosses and running the industries themselves, through elected worker Soviets. In Georgia, the anarchist Nestor Makhno set up a government of elected councils over a huge area.

The European council communists at first praised Lenin’s Bolsheviks and their Soviet form of government, believing it to be based on the direct democratic control of the workplace by worker’s councils. The Dutch communist Hermann Gorter pronounced, “This supple and flexible organism is the world’s first socialist regime.” The Italian anarchist Camillo Berneri declared the Soviets to be “the most practical experiment in integral democracy on the largest scale yet attempted.”

Lenin’s centralized Bolsheviks, however, did not tolerate the libertarian syndicalists for very long. Within a few years, it had become apparent that the Bolsheviks would carry the old Marxian dictum of “dictatorship of the proletariat” to its extreme. Rather than allowing the factories to continue to be run by elected worker’s councils, Lenin deposed the Soviets and centralized all political and economic control in the hands of his central state. Lenin turned the entire state apparatus to the single-minded goal of expanding industrial output, and regimented the working class for this task far more ruthlessly than the capitalists ever could have. Lenin declared:

A condition for economic revival is the raising of the working people’s discipline, their skills, their effectiveness, the intensity of labor and its better organization. . . We must raise the question of piecework and apply and test it in practice; we must raise the question of applying much of what is scientific and progressive in the Taylor system.
In an incredibly frank assessment, Lenin declared that communism consisted of “nothing but state capitalist monopoly made to benefit the whole people. . . For a certain time, the workers’ state cannot be other than a bourgeois state without the bourgeoisie.” To the anarchists and the council communists, Lenin’s intentions were brutally clear; workplace democracy would have to wait. In the meantime, get back to work.

Word began to filter back to Europe about the Bolshevik brand of “democratic centralism”. In 1920, when Otto Rühle toured the Soviet Union as a delegate to the Second Congress of the Communist International, he reported that the Soviets were mere tools of the ruling Bolshevik Party, and were “not councils in a revolutionary sense”. Instead, he pointed out, the Leninists were ruling through “bureaucracy, the deadly enemy of the council system.”

The Italian anarchist Malatesta condemned the Bolsheviks as a “new government which has set itself up above the Revolution in order to bridle it and subject it to the purposes of a particular party.” Pannekoek wrote:

If the most important element of the revolution consists in the masses taking their own affairs—the management of society and production—in hand themselves, then any form of organization which does not permit control and direction by the masses themselves is counter-revolutionary and harmful.
When the Bolsheviks, through the Third International, began to mold the other Communist Parties to their own image, the council movement responded with calls for internal democracy and rank-and-file control of the Party. Antonio Gramsci, from his prison cell in Italy, criticized the Italian Communists, calling for “a greater intervention of the proletarian elements in the life of the party and a diminution of the powers of the bureaucracy.”

Hermann Gorter bluntly declared, “The Russian tactics of dictatorship by party and leadership cannot possibly be correct here.” Berneri labeled the Leninists as “a new state, inevitably centralized and authoritarian”. Lenin responded to all of these criticisms with a work entitled Left-Wing Communism; An Infantile Disorder, which attacked Pannekoek and the council communists as “anarchist” and “undisciplined”.

In 1921, when the sailors at the Kronstadt Fortress mutinied and workers in Petrograd struck in an attempt to overthrow the Bolsheviks and re-institute the Soviets and direct worker control, the council communists cheered them on. Alexander Berkman declared, “Kronstadt blew sky high the myth of the proletarian state; it proved that the dictatorship of the Communist Party and the Revolution were really incompatible.” “Now that the proletariat has risen up against you, the communist party,” Gorter wrote, “now that you have had to declare a state of emergency in Petrograd against the proletariat . . . has the thought still not occurred to you, even now, that dictatorship by the proletariat is really preferable to dictatorship by the party?” Gorter bitterly concluded:

Your real fault, which neither we nor history can forgive, is to have foisted a counter-revolutionary program and tactics upon the world proletariat, and to have rejected the really revolutionary ones which could have saved us.
The protests of the council movement were in vain, however. The Bolsheviks succeeded in imposing a program of “21 Points” upon the Communist International parties, which effectively reduced them to instruments of Stalin’s Central Committee. The “left-wing” council communists were expelled from the party, and most went into exile and obscurity. The ruling Bolsheviks removed the last vestiges of the Soviet government, crushed rank-and-file rebellions led by the Kronstadt sailors and by the Ukrainian councilist Makhno, and expelled and purged the councilist “Worker’s Opposition” within the Communist Government. By 1925, the council communist movement had all but ceased to exist.

Marxism, Leninism, and Syndicalism

Modern anarchists and syndicalists have applied the same criticisms to the Leninist reliance on state control as Bakunin had applied to Marx. The Spanish anarchist Angel Pestana bluntly concluded, “The revolution is not, and cannot be, the work of a party. The most a party can do is foment a coup d’etat. But a coup d’etat is not a revolution.” Eco-anarchist Murray Bookchin echoed:

The party is structured along hierarchical lines that reflect the very society it professes to oppose. Despite its theoretical pretensions, it is a bourgeois organism, a miniature state, with an apparatus and a cadre whose function is to seize power, not dissolve power.
Anarchists point with alarm at the hierarchical structure of the Leninist parties, and at the rampant thought control and repression that permeates Leninist states. Bakunin, we might conclude, may have exaggerated the authoritarian aspect of Marx’s strategy, but his fears came completely to life in Leninism.

It is not correct to say, however, that the authoritarian and repressive aspects of Leninism resulted solely from its Marxian theoretical base. There are pressing economic reasons why the Leninist state was inexorably drawn into rigid centralized control. In every instance, Leninist parties came to power in nations with underdeveloped economies, and the first task of the Leninist state had to be to develop an industrial base as rapidly as possible. This could only have been done by a central state authority that monopolized all economic resources, and that rigorously planned their development to produce the swiftest growth possible. In a very real sense, it was the lack of economic resources, rather than any political or ideological causes, that compelled the Leninists to resort to central state authority.

The conflict between the Marxists and the Bakuninists can be seen, then, at its most basic level, to center around the problem of economic scarcity. The assumed “scarcity of resources” lies at the very heart of capitalism. If there are not enough economic resources to go around, some method must be found to decide who gets access to them and who must go without. Under capitalism, ownership of property decides this—wealthy people have unlimited access to resources, while poor people have severely limited access.

To be successful, socialism must have at its disposal sufficient economic resources to insure that every member of society can be provided for, and this can only take place in an economy where productivity and economic ability are extremely high. Marx, however, was writing at a time when the productive forces of capitalism were just beginning to develop, and no one could be sure how quickly or how far this productive capacity would be able to expand. Marx was able to see the potentially rapid expansion of resources under capitalism, but he never saw the actual immense productive ability which developed under monopoly corporatism.

Marx, based on the studies he made at the time, expected that capitalism would never be able to fully develop its productive abilities on its own. This was not because he doubted capitalism’s capacity to continually expand its economic resources, but because he believed he was witnessing the contradictions and stresses that would soon tear capitalism apart. Until the end of his life, Marx expected that the socialist revolution would come very soon, and thus remove capitalism before it had a chance to fully develop its productive forces on its own.

Since, he assumed, capitalism would die before it was able to produce an economy of super-abundance, Marx expected that it would fall upon the socialist revolution to accomplish this task. After the revolution, Marx thought, the working class would have to carry out this task of expanding productive ability on its own. It would also have to carry out the process of fully integrating political and economic functions into one administrative apparatus, and developing these various structures into the communist mode of production.

This process of economic development, if it was to be done under the guidance of the working class, had to be accomplished through economic planning, and this necessitated a central authority which controlled and allocated all economic resources. This socialist system, Marx concluded, would have to remain until the planning apparatus was able to accomplish its task and produce the highly developed productive forces which were necessary for a communist system. Marx thus argued in favor of a period of “socialism”—a government of the proletariat—which would carry out the process of economic expansion before dying off and allowing “communism” to take over.

After the Paris Commune, Marx decided that the old bourgeois state apparatus was not suitable for the working class’s purposes, and that the workers would have to introduce their own transitional governmental structure; one which would be able to take control of the nation’s economic resources and expand them to the necessary levels.

Marx’s conflict with Bakunin centered around the structure of this “dictatorship of the proletariat”. In essence, Marx wanted to use a working class government to develop the productive forces which would be left by capitalism until they were strong enough for the super-abundance necessary for communist economic relationships. Bakunin, on the other hand, wanted to develop productive forces using independent communes, not a central planning apparatus administered by a socialist state.

The Leninists, who took power in a country that was economically weak and undeveloped, found the Marxian idea of the central “proletarian state” to be perfectly suited for their need for rapid industrialization. They were thus able to use Marxist phraseology to justify their centrally-planned industrialization program, which developed high productive levels in the economy, but did it in the class interests of the bureaucrats rather than the working class.

In retrospect, we can see that Marx was wrong, as modern capitalist development has made much of his reasoning irrelevant. Today, capitalism itself has already developed extraordinarily high levels of productivity, and has increased economic capacity far beyond anything which Marx could have imagined.

Given the incredible output that could result from the full utilization of our current productive capacity, it seems possible for an industrialized society to produce all of its needs while utilizing only a fraction of its present work force. Farming and food production has already undergone such an explosion of productivity under capitalism. While, under feudalism, nearly every member of society was engaged in producing food, under capitalism the impact of machinery has produced a society where more than enough food can be produced using only 5% of the population.

Similarly, manufacturing ability has expanded to the point where most people simply do not need to produce anything. The rise in employment in such non-manufacturing areas as service, advertising, sales and entertainment makes it clear that it is no longer necessary for a majority of the population to work in order to produce the economic necessities of life. In addition, the capitalist trend towards greater use of computer and robot technology introduces a means of reducing the working population still further, by replacing the human worker with machinery, automation and robot factories.

The Leninists and their modern apologists are still rooted in the past. By advocating a society of “full employment”, they demonstrate that they, too, are still caught in the illusions of scarcity. Instead of fighting for full employment, revolutionaries can begin to fight for a leisure society of full un-employment, without sacrificing any of our material standard of living.

There is, then, no need anymore to postulate a “socialist” state which replaces the capitalist state with a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. It is not necessary to plan for a rapid expansion of productive ability after the revolution, because modern monopoly corporate capitalism has already produced it, and has already brought about the development of an economy of super-abundance.

Today, the tasks of a socialist revolution consist of replacing bourgeois institutions and structures with social-ist ones, with new relationships of social hegemony that can carry on communist production and distribution from the start. The social relationships which carry out these tasks must be rooted in the institutions which were used by the working class to carry out the revolution; in other words, the revolutionary bodies must be capable of serving as the nucleus of the communist system.

In this manner, Marxism and anarcho-syndicalism can both be seen to be merely differing approaches to solving the same problem—that of building and running a social-ist society.

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Comment Preferences

  •  the most ironic thing . . . . (4+ / 0-)

    . . . about the 21st century mega-corporations is that they have accomplished nearly everything that the radical Socialist Party of the 1910’s wanted to do.
    The Socialist Party wanted to eliminate the private ownership of capital and replace it with collective ownership; today the corporations are not owned by individual proprietors, but by a collective body of shareholders. The Socialist Party wanted to remove ownership from management and introduce managers who held their position by election, rather than by ownership; today the corporations are run by professional managers who are hired by a board of directors that is elected by the shareholders. The Socialist Party wanted to eliminate economic competition and replace it with economic cooperation; today the corporations have become vast interconnected networks who own parts of each other through cooperative joint projects and multilateral ventures. The Socialist Party wanted to replace what they called the “anarchy of the marketplace” with planned economic production over long-term goals; today corporations try in every way to eliminate the shocks of market uncertainty by long-term planning. The Socialist Party wanted to eliminate national borders and replace them with internationalism; today the corporations have become multinational, have built up a global economic framework, and have made national boundaries economically irrelevant.

    In essence, the corporations have already socialized the entire process of production.

    Another utopian goal of the Socialist Party was “world government”, and once again, the corporations are today moving along the same path. The corporations have already built international economic structures—the WTO, IMF and the various free trade agreements--and these already have control over national economic policies and legal veto power over national laws.

    Along with the buildup of international economic power must inevitably follow the buildup of international political power. Just as the “nation” has become irrelevant economically and has been replaced by international economic structures, so too has the   “nation-state” become irrelevant politically, and will inevitably be replaced by international political structures—and the corporations have already begun that process.

    I am happy to just sit back, let the corporados finish the process, let them make all the mistakes and work out all the practical solutions--and then, after they have built up a system that socializes both production and distribution, take it from them, remove them from control and replace them with democratically-elected public servants.

    •  That particular irony is a sterling example of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      erratic, mahakali overdrive

      what "a fresh perspective" really means. You got me thinking about a whole lot of stuff. Five stars for you, and a headache or two for me.

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 07:36:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Outstanding diary. (4+ / 0-)

    Really, genuinely outstanding.  I know you said it was part of an old book manuscript, but I'm glad you posted it here.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 05:36:55 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the history lesson! (3+ / 0-)

    Fascinating. Although I tend to lost track of who's arguing what. "Quiet Flows the Don" is one of my favorite books, and it was interesting to run into some of the events and conflicts in that book described in your diary.

    And an interesting vision for the future...

  •  Not sure I entirely agree with your conclusions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pico, serendipityisabitch, petral

    in two capacities, but the background and excellent writing about this particular ideological schism is compelling. I keep drawing attention to the classic Anarchist/Marxist "split," but have been ignored, largely, by people I suppose to mainly just be self-styled radicals.

    My contention is that corporate capitalism has not created enough resources globally to implement this kind of vision in spaces outside of local areas where the nexus of capitalist control have created enough support for this. Meaning that this seems like it would work best where there was infrastructure and technology to make it work, which means largely in developed nations and, as per the ideals of many syndicalists, in smaller geopolitically designated zones. That's good and fine and well to then discuss in the U.S., where we even, I would argue, have the transportation systems in place to move around much of these sorts of goods to distribute them better. But in many parts of the world, as is widely discussed, a sudden "drop" of capitalism would lead to what essentially amounts to human deprivation of all sorts because of the way that nations have grown dependent upon non-local resources to sustain their own provisions.

    So what does that look like on paper? I know you mention just an industrialized society being able to convert, but I wonder how we indice the degree of industrialization a particular nation has? And whether we could be assured that this would work given their resources?

    I like the idea of syndicalism, mind you.

    I also think that we can see that class is always created in all societies, even very tribal ones or early ones had some class system stemming from some ownership or value. Here, Arjun Appadurai's work is excellent. So how can we attain a post-classed state when that would revert to something unstable all over again due to the way that when you wipe the slate clean with class, class nonetheless still arises as part of how humans construct value?

    Not trying to be contentious. You provide a lot of food for thought, and this is an excellent piece of writing. I'm obviously still pretty wed to earlier Marxist views, but there are some places I decidedly part ways with him. And I'm hesitant to want to place too much faith in one overriding and centralized power structure, but in my case, mainly because then it's more corruptible.

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 11:29:41 AM PDT

  •  Interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pico, mahakali overdrive

    Unfortunately it leaves very little left to discuss, and thus won't gain much traction here.

     I am interested in learning more about the early conflicts between the marxists and anarchists.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 11:54:15 AM PDT

    •  If you want a fun, fictionalized version (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mahakali overdrive, petral

      I highly recommend Tom Stoppard's three-play cycle, The Coast of Utopia, which is mostly about the Herzen/Bakunin relationship, placing them in the swirl of these debates with Marx et al.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 12:35:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  At a really simplified level (0+ / 0-)

      Marxists believe in centralized state power with ownership from collective groups, whereas Anarchists believe in decentralized state power with ownership by individuals.

      That split in the issue of what degree of power, if any, a state should have, whether it should or should not BE a state or HAVE a governmental structure, and a focus on the good of the collective vs. the rights of the individual is often where clashes happen. Especially the second part, in my experience.

      Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

      by mahakali overdrive on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 12:59:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's an impossible division (0+ / 0-)

        Marxists are more realistic and more likely to be successful.

        OTOH, what is the point of the struggle if by winning you give up your soul? (i.e. give up on the dream of the proletariat bettering their lives)

         What a lot of people forget is that political science is not a "complete" thing. It is still being developed and is far from perfect.
         Just because Marx and Proudhon didn't have all the answers doesn't mean they didn't have some of them.

          Nor does it mean that capitalism is the ultimate peak in economic systems. There is nothing wrong with the idea that we can't develop a better system, and eventually will.

        None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

        by gjohnsit on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 01:10:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Right? I agree with most of this (0+ / 0-)

          especially about capitalism.

          Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

          by mahakali overdrive on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 01:30:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I characterize myself as a "syndico-Marxist" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gjohnsit, mahakali overdrive

          Marx's economic analysis of capitalism was spot-on, and is still just as relevant today, even in the age of multinational corporations.

          But politically and socially, I've always sided with the anarchist syndicalists. All of the experiences I've had with the Leninist/Maoist/Trot groupuscules have been bad, bad, bad.

        •  Most anarchists would disagree with this: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Marxists are more realistic and more likely to be successful.
          They would state this in reverse, that anarchism is the more realistic of the two, since true communism is stateless. They would cite the many failures of Marxist states to live up to promises to relinquish power to the citizenry. State socialism still has hierarchy, still has elite central government, and thus disempowers the people it purports to serve. At best it would be representational democracy, rather than the direct, horizontal democracy of anarchist society. As we have seen, representational democracy is barely a form of democracy, since it concentrates authority in the few at the top.

          Most people don't bother to examine closely the highly developed social organization that would be employed in anarchist society, which would replace the state quite successfully.

          As to Proudhon, while he was more popular than Marx in his day, the influence of other anarchists like Bakunin and Kropotkin can't be ignored.

          Anarchist society would be mutable, and ever changing according to the needs of the community. It isn't fixed, or written in stone. The beauty of anarchism is this ability to adapt, rather quickly, to the demands and desires of the participatory communities who self-manage. Rather than petition a central government for changes, the community can make changes according to its ever-evolving requirements. Thus, this is true socialism, because not only is the economy socialized, but also power relationships. Authority becomes the possession of the communities, rather than under the shadow of a central, elite, state.  

          Anarchism, by its very foundational premises, is against patriarchy, hierarchy, theocratic hierarchy, homophobia, and all other forms of unequal power relations.

          But I don't want to get in a protracted argument. Tired of that...

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 03:19:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  To qualify "successful" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I meant as in ability to "gain power".
               I didn't mean more than that.

            None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

            by gjohnsit on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 03:25:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And that... (0+ / 0-)

              is hotly debated, as well. I really don't want to start a fight with Marxists. I consider Marxists comrades, but there are many areas of disagreement, depending on the views held. There are many kinds of Marxism. Some, like council communism, are more libertarian than others, and some come close to being somewhat anarchic.

              And there are a variety of views about how to go about creating a new social organization. It gets pretty thick with theory and disagreement.

              "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

              by ZhenRen on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 03:30:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Actually (0+ / 0-)

        Anarchists do not support ownership by individuals, unless you're referring to "individualist anarchism", which is a type of anarchism which is anti-capitalist, but emphasizes markets, with either small individually owned businesses which do not employ outside labor (a family owned business, for example) or collectives whose members own the capital.

        The majority of anarchists, however, are social anarchists, and are either collectivists like Bakunin, or communists like Kropotkin. The differences are minor between these two.

        Social anarchists support the Proudhon concept of possession, rather than ownership. Private ownership of the means of production would be eliminated. Individuals would not own, but they may have rights to possession (defined as occupying and using the property). If not actually using the property, they would not be considered in possession. Thus "ownership" of property becomes publicly possessed by the communities in social anarchism. Small enterprises, without hired labor, would likely be allowed to continue, but this isn't ownership, but rather possession. If not actually using the property personally, they relinquish any right. Thus, no rents, or interest, would be earned from possession of property. It isn't ownership.

        It is not owned by a centralized state government, as in state socialism.

        Anarchists don't believe the goal of a stateless society can be accomplished through the instrument of the state. Anarchists believe that once elites have power and control in a top down, hierarchical power structure they become unwilling to relinquish their authority, and the system ends up inhibiting democratic access to the citizenry. So anarchists don't view state socialism as true socialism.

        Thus, anarchism supports federations of participatory communities and worker associations based on free association, horizontal in organization, with community associations electing delegates (not representatives) who are mandated and recallable, thus preserving the horizontal nature of anarchist society. The federations would be local, regional, "national" and international in scope. The entire organization would flow upward from the worker and community associations which comprise the basic unit of society. This organization replaces the central state government.

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 03:00:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not sure I need a lesson though (0+ / 0-)

          I dated an Anarchist organizer for a couple of years, so, I know what Anarchism is very, very, very well. We had all manner of groups in our home. I remain a Marxist-leaner nonetheless. But I do value the notion of something like a guild system and smaller scale trade. I do not believe in stateless society, however. It doesn't even seem to work on a communal level (and having lived in a bunch, I feel that I can easily speak to that!)

          I'm sure you can imagine the things that came up in the relationship. So I married a Socialist.

          Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

          by mahakali overdrive on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 06:15:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, I'm sorry, but this is incorrect (0+ / 0-)

            ... and despite your assurance that you're "very, very, very informed" about anarchism, one of the most basic concepts of social anarchism (by far the most widely advocated form) is that it doesn't support individual "ownership" of property, but rather emphasizes the principle of possession.

            Maybe your partner was an individualist, and that's the form of anarchism you learned about. If so, its worth pointing out it is not a major strain of the international movement.

            The concept of possession, rather than ownership, is about as basic as it gets in understanding anarchism.

            And it isn't at all true that a  "focus on the good of the collective vs. the rights of the individual is often where clashes happen" between Marxism and anarchism. In fact, that would be a good description of the differences between individualist anarchists and social anarchists. I'm guessing your relationship with the anarchist was some time ago, and you're remembering his descriptions of the controversies between individualist and social forms of anarchism.

            While anarchists do value highly the rights of the individual, and do not treat individual's needs as secondary, in all cases, to the rights of the collective, the collective is important, as well. Anarchism respects both.

            Here's an excerpt from the Anarchist Faq  (a useful reference) that explains this better than I have:

            Rather than subject the individual to the community, social anarchists argue that communal ownership would provide the necessary framework to protect individual liberty in all aspects of life by abolishing the power of the property owner, in whatever form it takes. In addition, rather than abolish all individual "property," communist anarchism acknowledges the importance of individual possessions and individual space. Thus we find Kropotkin arguing against forms of communism that "desire to manage the community after the model of a family . . . [to live] all in the same house and . . . thus forced to continuously meet the same 'brethren and sisters' . . . [it is] a fundamental error to impose on all the 'great family' instead of trying, on the contrary, to guarantee as much freedom and home life to each individual." [Small Communal Experiments and Why They Fail, pp. 8-9] The aim of anarchist-communism is, to again quote Kropotkin, to place "the product reaped or manufactured at the disposal of all, leaving to each the liberty to consume them as he pleases in his own home." [The Place of Anarchism in the Evolution of Socialist Thought, p. 7] This ensures individual expression of tastes and desires and so individuality -- both in consumption and in production, as social anarchists are firm supporters of workers' self-management.
            The clashes between Marxism and anarchism are more centered around authoritarianism vs libertarianism (not the right wing form, libertarian has been a synonym for anarchism dating back to the 1800s). Anarchists support a society without hierarchy, while Marxists permit hierarchy. The state ruling over the workers is said by anarchists to be simply switching from a capitalist master to the socialist master, and that state socialism is basically state capitalism.

            And this basic controversy extends into a plethora of issues and differences in approaches.

            As to anarchism working, this diary explains an anarchic city (the Paris commune) that worked well (despite some glitches) for its short duration. I like the example of Anarchist Spain during the revolution, which lasted nearly three years until the Francoist fascists prevailed (whom the anarchists died fighting against). And the Makhnovists are another example. And there are many more.

            In fact, the well-adjusted family unit (without patriarchy) is an example of a well functioning anarchist social unit. Yes, anarchism works, and has worked over eons, dating back to some hunter gatherer tribes.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 08:08:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Do you vote? (0+ / 0-)

              Or rather, did you, in the last election? And if so, why on earth did you? That seems like a dichotomy to me. But maybe I'm missing something.

              He was, by the way, an Anarchist in his mid 40's with several groups in our home; we ran a Food Not Bombs thing, and I'm sure he was with Occupy SF (I saw footage). Please do read precisely what I wrote and let me know if you have any questions; I'm glad to answer them provided that they are relatively on topic and civilly (enough) stated.

              Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

              by mahakali overdrive on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 10:08:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I've read quite precisely what you wrote (0+ / 0-)

                I'm sorry, but your comments about anarchism really aren't well informed.

                You might want to broaden your sources. Read the Anarchist Faq at the link I provided. It's very comprehensive, and quite good.

                I have no quarrel with you, but I don't like to see misinformation about this topic on dkos. My comments aren't for you, necessarily, but for other people who may read here.

                And what does this have to do with whether I vote or not, in your mind? How is that relative to this discussion?

                Well, anyway, I'm  bit like Noam Chomsky (an anarchist), in that I take a few minutes of my time to vote, and that's about it.

                "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                by ZhenRen on Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 11:15:45 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  some friendly advice, Zhen . . . (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mahakali overdrive, WB Reeves

                  When you sound like a combination of an ideological "pope" and a "schoolmarm", people are unlikely to listen to you.

                  Alas, that is a lesson that the Leninist groupuscules never learned, either. It's why nobody listens to them, either.

                  I expect you will listen to my advice just as well (heh) as they do.  (shrug)

                  •  Well, that's one opinion. (0+ / 0-)

                    No, what I'm doing is what people do on dkos all day long, all week long, every day of the year.

                    Someone makes a comment, another comes along and makes a comment in agreement or disagreement, and that's rather normal.

                    No matter. I'm an anarchist, and when someone asserts something completely false and inaccurate about anarchism, and won't take a gentle correction, and then doubles down by implying I misread, and you come in trying to make a case that it's me whose out of line, that I'm being an ideological pope to simply offer my opinion, well, I know exactly which bin to toss this into.

                    I didn't simply correct arcane, out-in-the-weeds subtlety, but rather basic anarchist theory.

                    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                    by ZhenRen on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 10:51:13 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  ok. have fun storming the castle (0+ / 0-)

                      Looks to me like all you do is drive people away.  But hey, maybe you have a different definition of "being effective" than I do.


                      Carry on, then.

                      •  Perhaps, sir (0+ / 0-)

                        You should consider your own words when you have a quiet moment. You're addressing me with an extremely superior tone, as is your tendency toward anyone you don't agree with, as if you've appointed yourself to be some Lord. You're in effect trying to invalidate my voice, while validating someone else who couldn't tolerate a difference of opinion. Sorry, you don't have that authority.

                        Oh, so respectful of egalitarian equality.

                        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

                        by ZhenRen on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 11:04:59 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

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