Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Marxist Critique of Anarchism Doesn't Hold Up

(From Bryan Caplan’s Anarchist Theory FAQ website)

The Marxist Critique of Left-Anarchist

“[The] most famous attacks on anarchism was launched by Karl Marx during his battles with Proudhon and Bakunin. The ultimate result of this protracted battle of words was to split the 19th-century workers' movement into two distinct factions. In the 20th century, the war of words ended in blows: while Marxist-Leninists sometimes cooperated with anarchists during the early stages of the Russian and Spanish revolutions, violent struggle between them was the rule rather than the exception.”

Boy howdy! Was Marx ever wrong about that aspect of things. The authoritarian-left suppressed and killed off the anarcho-syndicalists in both the Russian Revolution (1917-1919) and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) just soon as they possibly could. The intoxication of having power is just too much for some people. All people really, so why bother with fighting the urge? Suppress the state and statism and you need not worry (as much) about tyrannies and ruling classes forming. Drain the swamp and you don’t need to worry about mosquitoes and the other pestilence that breed there.

Marx criticized the anarchists on three major points. From Caplan’s FAQ.

1.) “The development of socialism had to follow a particular historical course, whereas the anarchists mistakenly believed that it could be created by force of will alone. ‘A radical social revolution’ said Marx, “is connected with certain historical conditions of economic development; the latter are its presupposition. Therefore it is possible only where the industrial proletariat, together with capitalist production, occupies at least a substantial place in the mass of the people.’ Marx continues: ‘He [Mikhail Bakunin] understands absolutely nothing about social revolution ... For him economic requisites do not exist...He wants a European social revolution, resting on the economic foundation of capitalist production, to take place on the level of the Russian or Slavic agricultural and pastoral peoples ... Will power and not economic conditions is the basis for his social revolution.’ Proudhon, according to Marx, suffered from the same ignorance of history and its laws: 'M. Proudhon, incapable of following the real movement of history, produces a phantasmagoria which presumptuously claims to be dialectical ... From his point of view man is only the instrument of which the idea or the eternal reason makes use in order to unfold itself.’ “

Yeah, whatever Dr. Marx. When the communists finally did succeed in gaining a position of “dictatorship of the proletariat”, the state didn’t cease to exist or begin to wither away (as Engels predicted). Instead, a new ruling class of bureaucrats and party apparatchiks took up exactly where the previous ruling class left off. As as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and the rest have shown, Proudhon's and Bukunin's predictions were spot on.

2.) “Marx ridiculed Bakunin's claim that a socialist government would become a new despotism by socialist intellectuals. In light of the prophetic accuracy of Bakunin's prediction in this area, Marx's reply is almost ironic: 'Under collective ownership the so-called people's will disappears to make way for the real will of the cooperative.' It is on this point that most left-anarchists reasonably claim complete vindication; just as Bakunin predicted, the Marxist "dictatorship of the proletariat" swiftly became a ruthless 'dictatorship over the proletariat.'

Yep. See above.

3.) “Marx stated that the anarchists erroneously believed that the government supported the capitalist system rather than the other way around. In consequence, they were attacking the wrong target and diverting the workers' movement from its proper course. Engels delineated the Marxist and left-anarchist positions quite well: ‘Bakunin maintains that it is the state which has created capital, that the capitalist has his capital only by the grace of the state. As, therefore, the state is the chief evil, it is above all the state which must be done away with and then capitalism will go to blazes of itself. We, on the contrary, say: Do away with capital, the concentration of the means of production in the hands of the few, and the state will fall of itself.’ “

Too bad it didn’t work out that way, as history has shown that it doesn’t and hasn’t. Kill the state off and the privileged position of the (“state capitalist”) ruling class dies right along with it. This isn’t faith on our part; it’s a logical necessity. Given the historical evidence this line argumentation from the Marxists even to this day is just amazing, no?


Zac in CA said...

I was looking for Marxist critiques of anarchism because a Marxist friend of mine wants to help me through Das Kapital, and he has a real bone to pick with anarchists.

I think that Engels's assertion, "We, on the contrary, say: Do away with capital, the concentration of the means of production in the hands of the few, and the state will fall of itself'" is as bizarre as it gets - there's this assumption in there that the State is an evil unto itself, rather than being the source of *particular* evils.

I thoroughly agree with the mutualist assertion that capitalism is the outgrowth of the state's imperious efforts, but I have to admit, I'm not sold on the notion that exploitation will wither away if we dismantle the state - call it a Hobbesian impulse of mine ^_^ But I do believe that states (and hierarchies in general, for that matter) tend towards exploitation and violent repression by nature, the only exceptions to this being ones that are so small-scale that they function in terms of personal relationships, rather than proper systems, per se.

Still gonna read Das Kapital, though; I'm very intrigued!

LeftPolitiko said...

I realize that this is over 3 years old, but this post is just another example of silly left-wing factionalism of the anarchist variety. By implying that Marx's ideas necessarily lead to Stalinism and the like, you only serve bourgeois critics.

The state isn't the only source exploitation. "Drain the swamp?" As if exploitation didn't exist before a central state. The modern state arose out of the social antagonisms of primitive accumulation.

You said that Marx believed that governments support capitalists and not the other way around. When did he say this. Marx viewed these entities dialectically. The notion that Marx believed the capitalist class thought with one mind is absurd. Sometimes capitalists support the state, some times they don't. Sometimes the state supports capitalists, sometimes it doesn't.

And what about some of the idiotic things Proudhon and Bakunin said? Like Bakunin's idea of an "invisible dictatorship?" How libertarian! You act like Marxists started the split with the Anarchists, but it was Bakunin who broke up the First International.