Marxism and Anarchism

In times of collapse and crisis it is natural that more attention be given to the philosophies of working class struggle. Marxism and anarchism have been beacons of proletarian struggle in the last two centuries, owing to this a great confusion has surrounded both, muddying the differences and diluting these struggles to organisational issues, doing a great disservice to both. These elements become trivialities and end up rejecting both their fundamentals, only by knowing the basis of these tendencies can we understand their place in working class emancipation.

A clarification on Marxism

Marxism is understood as the analysis based on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for the working class to bring about the abolition of private property, i.e. the real movement which abolishes the present state of things, and consequently class, money and state. Marxism has often corrected and expanded itself to a multitude of tendencies.

A clarification on Anarchism

Anarchism is understood as the theory and praxis to bring about complete self-governance, i.e. the absence of a master, of a sovereign. Its organisation beyond this is a matter of analysis and preference, whether mutualism, communism or any other tendency.

Marxism and Anarchism

Does class struggle and organisation define Marxism and anarchism?
No. That Marxists and anarchists use different means is a tendency derived from their division, not the cause.

Class struggle does not belong to any sect, although any tendency may reject or approve of these struggles. The proletariat’s struggle is one and its means are a matter of opportunity and strategy, not ideology. Marxist and anarchist tendencies have analysed many vehicles of class struggle to determine their effectiveness and future organisation, but in no way does this make them Marxist or anarchist means. It has been argued parliamentary struggle is strictly a Marxist fight, while Proudhon was a member of French parliament, or that the mass strike is strictly an anarchist fight, while Luxemburg advocated them. This also gave rise to the myth that Rosa Luxemburg and later council communists were anarchists who could not move past their ideological constraints; they were no more than theorists who, through the real communist movement, applied a Marxist analysis to these new conditions of struggle.

The same argument has been attempted against organisation. It has often been said that anarchists reject any form of organisation, this is clearly false. It has also been said that anarchist organisation is fundamentally different; although they’re driven towards different tendencies, there is no inherent Marxist or anarchist organisation. It is true that Marxist organisations tend to give greater importance to discipline and class action while anarchist organisations tend to give greater importance to individualist autonomy, after all anarchism is the ideal of freedom while Marxism by necessity combines both freedom and organisation, but as many anarchists have organised into trade unions as Marxists have organised for direct action. Their structures when differing are a consequence of their bases of analysis, not the cause of their division.

Does the state define Marxism and anarchism?
No. Marxists and anarchists use the same power structures to topple the capitalist order.

A common saying is that Marxists advocate for a ‘transitional state’ while anarchists advocate abolishing it. While a ‘transitional state’ is vaguely correct, it is scientifically inaccurate and anarchism does not do without it. The Marxist analysis of the class state is defined with a twofold character: one of parasites, bureaucracy (presidents, parliament, political administration) and enforcement (military, police); and one of historical necessity, class rule and dictatorship. The proletarian dictatorship is too a state of class rule and dictatorship, but not of bureaucracy and enforcement. The Marxist proletarian state is transitional the same way as capitalism is transitional, it is inherently contradictory. This ‘state’, more accurately called commune or polity, that is the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot continue, for who are to exploit the proletariat once capital no longer circulates? It loses all its historical necessity and it is reduced to the administration of things. Its contradictions lead it to socialism and communism. We can note that early Marx allowed the possibility of seizing the existing bureaucracy by the proletariat, but by the formation of his proper thought this idea has turned into revisionism.

Anarchism generally defines the state as the organisation with a monopoly on violence and advocates the abolition of the state, some out of hand, some out of a constant fight against it and towards anarchism. This abolition of the state is followed by nothing else than the Marxist ‘transitional state’: the proletariat takes power against the ruling bourgeoisie, abolishes the bureaucracy and institutions of enforcement (with it, the monopoly on violence) and establishes a dictatorship of the proletariat, who must govern itself by force until there is no state, the proletariat no longer exists as proletariat and all that remains is a free association of producers.

Marxists and anarchists advocate for the exact same power to supplant the capitalist state, the Marxist and anarchist class dictatorships, i.e. states, are no more or less advanced. Of course, neither of these can be called anarchist or communist societies yet; the demand of anarchists for a further developed society does not make it happen sooner.

Does anti-authoritarianism define Marxism and anarchism?
No. Both Marxists and anarchists use authoritarianism against the capitalist order and seek to abolish political authority under socialism.

Some anarchists may be against the principle of any and all authority, but there is no inherent reason to see authority as opposed to self-governance. The authority of a train conductor can be voluntarily accepted with no surrender to a master.

It is true anarchism is based on the opposition to all political authority and Marxism will lead to the abolition of political authority, yet both tendencies advocate for political authority over the existing state and ruling class, not out of any belief in authoritarianism but for the emancipation from it, hence its abolition once this organisation comes to an end. The bureaucratic authoritarianism of institutions of class dictatorship have been criticised by both Marxists (barracks communism) and anarchists, however here, in the justification of these criticisms, we can differentiate anarchism from Marxism: the former’s anti-authoritarianism is not on a principle of liberty, an ideal of individual autonomy and self-governance, but self-governance as a necessity to abolish the present state of things.

The Utopian Ideal

What does define Marxism from anarchism then?
The anarchist social ideal of freedom as born under early capitalism.

Anarchism is based on the social ideal of freedom, the absence of a master. The ideal is conceived, as naturally as it may come under any system of exploitation, and relies on the propaganda of a better social system. Although many anarchists have scientifically justified this (Kropotkin used mutual aid in nature to justify a society based on it) we cannot speak of Scientific Anarchism, the force of anarchism is the miracle of human will, by struggle to the utopia.

Marxism begins by an analysis of society not only under capitalism but throughout history, it is an acknowledgement of proletarianization and its effects throughout all capitalist societies building off our social consciousness. Human will, of course, plays its part, but human will exists only in the context of our society and societies are enslaved to their tools. Our mindsets are constantly adapting and changing as our societies progress, our ideals under socialism will undoubtedly paint a different picture of freedom than what we can imagine today, and don’t capitalists claim to have achieved true freedom as well? Historical materialism proves freedom an illusion for its time, there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ social systems, all social systems are necessary and perfect in birth for their time and place, yet all systems must come to an end and contain their next order within them. With proletarianization historical materialism proves, save for any apocalyptic disasters, the inevitability of emancipation for the working class from within capitalism: society is concentrated into the working class and the working class has the means to rebel while the exploiting bourgeois class is cyclically put to the test. Out of this a truly Scientific Socialism is born, the objective tendency of society to empower the proletariat and the historical currents of revolutions of an empowered exploited class overthrowing the contradictory ruling class. Marxists are socialists only insofar as the immediate needs of the proletariat will create a socialist society, and communists insofar as the contradictions of socialism can only progress to communism, but neither socialism nor communism will create an immutable and perfect society, they are not goals but the result of the abolition of our present misery, the abolition of slavery, not only to the rule of man over man, bourgeois masters and political sovereigns, but the slavery of man to its productive means and abilities.

The critique of anarchism is simply the critique of utopianism, we cannot free ourselves from capitalist ideology, even when speaking of freedom and utopia, until we free ourselves from capitalism. Only once we analyse our society in its historical whole can we leave the cave and open our eyes to the sun.

Are Marxist communism and anarchist communism describing the same society?
Anarchist communism can inaccurately describe a stage of Marxist communism, but this is historically insufficient.

The anarchist communist utopia may describe a more or less advanced stage of society, and this society can theoretically match a stage of the future communist society that will be, but the presupposition of an ideal as fought under capitalism, the propaganda of liberty, works against it. The anarchist communist society is equal to the Marxist communist society to the extent that realistically the anarchist ideal will be overcome and adapted to this society, but the present day vision, however accurate, will be a microcosm and inevitably contradictory to the realities which it finds itself in.

What is the Marxist attitude to anarchism?
To critique unsuitable modes of proletarian struggle.

Anarchism as an ideology of proletarian emancipation will naturally attract a set of any society, especially under empires of excruciating oppression, but these principles of freedom are unsuitable to the working class struggle, whether it be liberalism or its most extreme extension into anarchism. As proletarians through struggle we will slowly realise our real needs and in retrospect it will look obvious and trivial, the ideals of today’s utopianism will work against it and any movement that calls itself anarchist will find itself at odds with the society in the making. It is not a matter of ideological purity or ‘radical’ belief in these goals but their historical insufficiency, which Marxism whether in name or defacto practice will inevitably fulfil.

The proletariat may organise for any reason and in any way, but these inadequacies will come to the forefront and Marxist self-criticism in the proletarian struggle will bring us forward to the creation of a new society.




Council Communist

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