A N A R C H I S M
M A R X I S M
PART 6 6 6
A while ago, tofu-loving blogger Toaf drew my attention to a new-ish book: Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History by Andrej Grubačić and Staughton Lynd (with an Introduction by Denis O’Hearn; PM Press, 2008). I ain’t read it — tho’ one day I’m sure I will — but in any case, courtesy of David the Buddhist anarcho-syndicalist carpenter, I have managed to view a really interesting panel discussion examining its contents and, moreover, the broader question of the relationship between anarchism and Marxism.
- Anarchism & Marxism Part 1 [Grubačić]
Anarchism & Marxism Part 2 [Grubačić]
Anarchism & Marxism Part 3 [O’Hearn]
Anarchism & Marxism Part 4 [O’Hearn]
Anarchism & Marxism Part 5 [Milstein]
Anarchism & Marxism Part 6 [Milstein]
Anarchism & Marxism Part 7 [Vodovnik]
Anarchism & Marxism Part 8 [Vodovnik]
Anarchism & Marxism Part 9
Anarchism & Marxism Part 10
Anarchism & Marxism Part 11
Anarchism & Marxism Part 12
On the history of the Wobblies (IWW) in Australia, see Verity Burgmann’s Revolutionary Industrial Unionism: The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia, Cambridge University Press, 1995 and Frank Cain’s The Wobblies At War: A History of the IWW and the Great War in Australia, Spectrum, Melbourne, 1993. The contemporary IWW has a website here.
Denis O’Hearn makes reference to the continuing relevance of the ideas of The Anarchist Formerly Known as Prince Peter Kropotkin, in particular those contained in his classic 1902 text Mutual Aid. Harry Cleaver, author of Reading Capital Politically, has written an interesting essay on Kropotkin and autonomist Marxism, ‘Kropotkin, Self-valorization and the Crisis of Marxism’. Also of note in this context is Andrew Giles-Peters‘ translation of ‘Ten Theses on Marxism Today’ by Karl Korsch, originally published in Telos, Winter 1975/6, and ‘Karl Korsch: A Marxist Friend of Anarchism’, originally published in Red & Black, No.5, 1973. On Karl Korsch, see Douglas Kellner, editor, Karl Korsch: Revolutionary Theory, University of Texas Press, Austin & London, 1974 (PDF). On Ireland, prisons and anarchism, see John McGuffin (1942 – 2002).
Cindy Milstein (see : Cindy Milstein on Anarchism, Planes For Baskets, April 20, 2009) rejects what she regards as being the false divide between anarchism on the one hand and Marxism on the other, and prefers to locate herself (and anarchism) within a broader left-libertarian tradition — one which is opposed to ‘authoritarian socialism’. In this context, she cites Gustav Landauer’s (1870–1919) essay ‘For Socialism’ (Aufruf zum Sozialismus, 1911; English translation by David J. Parent, Telos Press, 1978) and recommends the overview of these currents provided by Richard Gombin in The Origins of Modern Leftism (first published as Les Origines du gauchisme (Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1971); English translation by Michael K. Perl, published by Penguin (London, 1975): “…having consigned Marxism-Leninism to the ideological dustbin of history, the modern leftism theory claims to be the expression of current struggle. In this sense, it no longer represents one radical utopia among others, but the theory of a revolutionary movement in full flood.”)
Ziga Vodovnik takes note of the craptastic London conference On the Idea of Communism, at which
cryptoneo-Leninist and philosophical superstar Slavoj Žižek was a keynote speaker. (On Žižek, see : Don’t know what i want, But i know how to get it, March 6, 2008 | Resistance is Utile: Critchley responds to Zizek (Harper’s Review, May 2008), May 16, 2008 | Uncle Hugo & the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, February 12, 2009.) Further, that while academic conferences such as the Left Forum may continue to be dominated by ‘Marxist’ and (other) ‘social democratic’ discourses, there is — at least in Europe — a backlash by the authoritarian Left, spearheaded by professional chatterers such as Žižek, with the potential to seriously damage radical social movements. On the relationship between anarchism and Marxism, Ziga also quotes from a letter of Proudhon’s to Mister Marx (1846):
“By all means let us work together to discover the laws of society, the ways in which these laws are realised and the process by which we are able to discover them; but, for God´s sake! (sic!), when we have demolished all a priori dogmas, do not let us think of indoctrinating the people in our turn”; Proudhon points out that he does not want to act like Luther, who replaced the catholic theology by a “protestant theology”. Proudhon “wholeheartedly” consents to presenting all opinions, “let us have a good and honest polemic; let us set the world an example of wise and far-sighted tolerance, but, simply because we are the avant-garde of a movement, let us not instigate a new intolerance, let us not set ourselves up as the apostles of a new religion, even if it be the religion of logic, or of reason. Let us welcome and encourage all protests, let us get rid of all exclusiveness and all mysticism. Let us never consider any question exhausted, and when we have used our very last argument, let us begin again, if necessary, with eloquence and irony. On this condition I will join your association with pleasure, otherwise I will not!” ~ ‘Marx-Proudhon: Their Exchange of Letters in 1846; On an episode of world-historical importance’, Lutz Roemheld, Democracy & Nature, Vol.6, No.1, March 2000.
Ziga also draws attention to Maurice Brinton’s For Workers’ Power (Edited by David Goodway, AK Press, 2004) and David Goodway (editor), For Anarchism: history, theory, and practice, Routledge, 1989. Brinton (aka Chris Pallis: 1923–2005) was an excellent libertarian writer; the other volume is equally interesting.
Note that all of the members of the audience who responded to the panel are male; one of whom makes the point that, in addition to anarchism, other liberatory ideas and movements — including but obviously not limited to feminism and the women’s movement(s); queer theory; ecological re-visionings, indigenous struggles and critical race theory — have embraced some form of ‘prefigurative politics’, antagonism to social hierarchies, and made important contributions to the articulation of a ‘revolutionary praxis’. The latest volume of Robert Graham’s anthology of anarchism further extends anarchist writing beyond European borders and, like many more recent treatments, also locates ‘The Anarchist Current’ among a diversity of movements, and in an array of different social contexts. (See : David Graeber, ‘The New Anarchists’, New Left Review 13, January-February 2002: “Is the ‘anti-globalization movement’ anything of the kind? Active resistance is true globalization, David Graeber maintains, and its repertoire of forms is currently coming from the arsenal of a reinvented anarchism.”)
Authoritarian Marxism is beaten to a pulp in An Anarchist FAQ; as for a synthesis of anarchism and Marxism, French writer Daniel Guérin (1904-1988) had a good honest crack. Also worth examining are Karl Marx and the Anarchists by Paul Thomas (Routledge, 1980) and Change the World Without Taking Power by John Holloway; which, despite basically dismissing anarchism, as indicated by its title, has a very strong libertarian flavour (Pluto Press, 2002) — see also ‘A critique of John Holloway’s Change the World Without Taking Power‘ by Colm McNaughton (originally published in Capital & Class, June 2008 but subsequently liberated).
Finally, libcom.org has a wonderful library of writings on anarchism, Marxism, and a whole lot more besides; for communism is also ace; there are an abundance of other materials available for free online, links to some of which may be found in the sidebar.
Do note that reading too many books can be seriously injurious to your health, both mental and physical — just ask French authorities. Also that anarchism is an ideology for fuckwits, bums & lowlifes and anarchy is a fag.
ezln military base occupation 2001 (chiapas mexico)
…[Socialism] has roots. Coming back to the United States, it has very strong roots in the American working class movements. So if you go back to, say, the 1850s, the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, right around the area where I live, in Eastern Massachusetts, in the textile plants and so on, the people working on those plants were, in part, young women coming off the farm. They were called “factory girls,” the women from the farms who worked in the textile plants. Some of them were Irish, immigrants in Boston and that group of people. They had an extremely rich and interesting culture. They’re kind of like my uncle who never went past fourth grade — very educated, reading modern literature. They didn’t bother with European radicalism, that had no effect on them, but the general literary culture, they were very much a part of. And they developed their own conceptions of how the world ought to be organized.
They had their own newspapers. In fact, the period of the freest press in the United States was probably around the 1850s. In the 1850s, the scale of the popular press, meaning run by the factory girls in Lowell and so on, was on the scale of the commercial press or even greater. These were independent newspapers — a lot of interesting scholarship on them, if you can read them now. They [arose] spontaneously, without any background. [The writers had] never heard of Marx or Bakunin or anyone else; they developed the same ideas. From their point of view, what they called “wage slavery,” renting yourself to an owner, was not very different from the chattel slavery that they were fighting a civil war about. You have to recall that in the mid-nineteenth century, that was a common view in the United States — for example, the position of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln’s position. It’s not an odd view, that there isn’t much difference between selling yourself and renting yourself. So the idea of renting yourself, meaning working for wages, was degrading. It was an attack on your personal integrity. They despised the industrial system that was developing, that was destroying their culture, destroying their independence, their individuality, constraining them to be subordinate to masters.
There was a tradition of what was called Republicanism in the United States. We’re free people, you know, the first free people in the world. This was destroying and undermining that freedom. This was the core of the labor movement all over, and included in it was the assumption, just taken for granted, that “those who work in the mills should own them.” In fact, one of the their main slogans, I’ll just quote it, was they condemned what they called the “new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self.” That new spirit, that you should only be interested in gaining wealth and forgetting about your relations to other people, they regarded it as a violation of fundamental human nature, and a degrading idea.
That was a strong, rich American culture, which was crushed by violence. The United States has a very violent labor history, much more so than Europe. It was wiped out over a long period, with extreme violence. By the time it picked up again in the 1930s, that’s when I personally came into the tail end of it. After the Second World War it was crushed. By now, it’s forgotten. But it’s very real. I don’t really think it’s forgotten, I think it’s just below the surface in people’s consciousness…