Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. IV: Critique of Other Socialisms by Hal Draper.
....in the history of society, anarchy tends to be the complement of despotism—as has been mentioned before 31—so also is this true in patterns of organization. "This transformation into its opposite," wrote Engels in another connection, "this final landing at a point diametrically opposite from the starting point," is the fate of historical movements that are directed toward "merely illusory goals."32
* * *
....The Bakuninist movement time and again exemplified the historical tendency for anarchist revolutionism to turn into a hectic kind of reform.
Behind its terrible phrases about the dangers of "politics" lay extreme naiveté about reformist politics. We have mentioned the anarchist propensity to use the word 'state' to mean a despotic state only. The other side of this misapprehension is the propensity for the abrupt outbreak of the crudest sort of political opportunism.
....Instead of taking advantage of the republican turmoil to bring about the immediate overthrow of the new bourgeois state, as anarchist rhetoric demanded, the Bakuninist leaders
hailed the new state in these terms: "The Republic has been proclaimed; the French people have again become master of their own destiny." They gushed: "The cause of the French Republic is that of the European revolution, and the moment has come to give our blood for the emancipation of the workers and all of humanity." "This is the dawn of the new day.…"
This fulsome frenzy over the new bourgeois republic should be contrasted with the corresponding statement that Marx wrote for the General Council, an appeal to defend republican France against European reaction. In this "Second Address on the War" Marx warned the French workers not to be "deluded" by republican memories: "We hail the advent of the Republic in France, but at the same time we labour under misgivings which we hope will prove groundless." He cautioned against illusions about the new republic. And then Marx, with the General Council, unleashed a whirlwind of activity to mobilize working-class forces to achieve British recognition of the republican regime and to defend republican France against dismemberment.71
The contrast between these two documents illuminates a whole area of socialist politics.
....An even more extreme acting-out of the pattern took place in 1873, when during revolutionary turmoil in Spain the Bakuninists came to power locally here and there in peasant districts. In an article on "The Bakuninists at Work," Engels related how they had junked their anarchist principles about setting up state powers in revolution—in fact, had deserted elementary revolutionary principles by participating in bourgeois -controlled governments as powerless captives of the liberals. (This was history's rehearsal for the similar role of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.)
When the test of experience made nonsense out of the anarchists' rhetoric about the Instant Abolition of the State, they knew nothing to do except behave like the frenzied liberals they basically were.
....The Bakuninist Alliancists, "who here too, contrary to their anarchist principles, formed a revolutionary government, did not know what to do with their power." These enemies of all authority (which is basically evil) introduced passes to prevent people from leaving the city without authorization. In general, they presided over confusion and helplessness. (How can one run a revolutionary state which is not supposed to exist?)
....In Cordova, the same Bakuninists who a few months earlier had been arguing that to establish any revolutionary government was a betrayal of the workers "now sat in all the revolutionary municipal governments of Andalusia, but always in a minority," so that the bourgeois republican majority could do what it wished, sheltered behind the anarchists' responsibility. Instead of forming revolutionary governments that were systematically controlled from below by the workers in action, they joined coalition governments they did not control at all.
....They had no political guide for a situation that was not supposed to happen; they had been "against politics," and they had no politics—other than the crudest parliamentary politics of the liberals. Since the Bakuninist prescription of "decentralization" proscribed any "centralized leadership" of the revolutionary forces of the various towns, each town in the insurrection was defeated one by one by the counterrevolution, picked off separately.
....Engels summed up as follows: 1. As soon as they were faced with a serious revolutionary situation, the Bakuninists had to throw the whole of their old program overboard. First they sacrificed their doctrine of absolute abstention from political, and especially electoral, activities.
....Engels' fifth point was all-inclusive: "In short, the Bakuninists in Spain have given us an unparalleled example of how a revolution should not be made."72
Engels' fifth point was all-inclusive: "In short, the Bakuninists in Spain have given us an unparalleled example of how a revolution should not be made."72
* * *
....The reformist side of Bakuninism showed up most prominently where it gained something like a mass following locally. When it was not putschist, terrorist, or adventurist, it could make contact with reality only by shelving its antistatist rhetoric.
....his hopes of "riding the peasantry," utilizing elements of the lumpen-class (brigands and such), and topping this barricade fodder off with the elite dictatorship of a lumpen-intelligentsia.
....The "anarchist" tendency is no "extreme" wing of the German Social-Democracy … In the latter we have the actual historical movement of the working class; the former is a fantasy-vision of the jeunesse sans issue [youth with no future] who want to make history, and it shows only how the ideas of French socialism are caricatured in the hommes déclassés of the upper classes. Accordingly, anarchism is in fact everywhere defeated, and is only vegetating in those places where no real working-class movement has yet come into existence. This is the fact.75
....A circular written for the International by Engels in August 1872 summed up some facts about the Alliance. Bakunin, it charged, aimed to impose his "personal dictatorship" on the whole movement. It was naturally a startling accusation against the man who presented himself as the very paladin of untrammeled Freedom, especially since Engels did not then have the secret documents, now known to us, in which Bakunin separates members into two classes, the "initiated" who lead in secret and the "profane" who are led by the nose, through "an organization whose very existence is unknown to them" (the International Brothers, in Bakunin's scheme). The Alliance imposes the duty of "mendacity, dissimulation and imposture," in the first place to deceive the profane ranks as to the very existence of the secret organization and leadership.77
....While they demand that the International should be organised from below upwards, they themselves, as members of the Alliance, humbly submit to the word of command which is handed down to them from above.
....hidden control by a "secret society of dupers" who lead their dupes, like a flock of sheep, through "secret instructions emanating from a mysterious personage in Switzerland" (i.e., Bakunin).78
...."The ending of the present social order," the anarchist utopia explained, involved "concentrating all the means of social existence in the hands of Our Committee, and the proclamation of compulsory physical labor for everyone." Anyone who refused to join a work group "will be left without means of subsistence. All the roads, all the means of communication will be closed to him; he will have no other alternative but work or death."80 There are further revolting details.
...."What a beautiful model of barrack-room communism!" exclaimed the International's pamphlet.
Here you have it all: communal eating, communal sleeping, assessors and offices regulating education, production, consumption, in a word, all social activity, and to crown all, Our Committee , anonymous and unknown to anyone, as the supreme director. This is indeed the purest anti-authoritarianism.81
The pamphlet went on to highlight the atrocities: the bosses of "Our Committee"—"Messrs. Bakunin and Nechayev"—have reason to nourish their "competitive hatred of the state and of any centralization of the workers' forces." They have to wipe out every alternative to their own hidden dictatorship, to fragment society so that it is amenable to manipulation by "Our Committee" incognito. They would not be able to succeed "while the working class continues to have any representative bodies of its own," that is, its own democratic political organization.
....theocratic, bureaucratic-collectivist community founded by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century, based on the labor of the Paraguayan Indians: a model, by the way, which found admirers in the socialist movement as well as among anarchists. Bakunin often expressed his admiration for, and desire to emulate the example of, the Jesuit system of infiltrating centers of power with trained adepts.83
* * *
....the opportunity to repeat its triumphant bore-from-within destruction of the First International. When the International Socialist Congress of 1896 voted to exclude them, and they could no longer have a form of existence as a parasitic growth, the anarchists were historically finished as an international working-class current; and even the national exceptions declined one by one.
At the same time that the socialist movement was separating itself from the anarchists, much of the right-wing Social-Democracy began to tend toward an attitude about anarchism that was basically different from Marx's. This attitude was largely taken over from liberalism. It was the view that anarchism was merely a lovely and saintly vision of the Good Society which was admirable but unfortunately impractical.
In part this delightful conception was made possible by one-sidedly seeing anarchism simply as an idea about a future stateless society—that is, by equating anarchism, the ideology, with what Marx and others sometimes called anarchy when they were referring to a future society in which the state had completed its destiny in ultimately dying away. The more the anarchist movement disintegrated as an organized phenomenon counter-posed to the socialist movement, the more the Social-Democrats tended to drop Marx's understanding of anarchism as one of the most antidemocratic currents in the history of society, as and saintly vision of the Good Society which was admirable but unfortunately impractical.
In part this delightful conception was made possible by one-sidedly seeing anarchism simply as an idea about a future stateless society—that is, by equating anarchism, the ideology, with what Marx and others sometimes called anarchy when they were referring to a future society in which the state had completed its destiny in ultimately dying away. The more the anarchist movement disintegrated as an organized phenomenon counter-posed to the socialist movement, the more the Social-Democrats tended to drop Marx's understanding of anarchism as one of the most antidemocratic currents in the history of society, as the mirror image of bureaucratism.
As against Marx's view, the new Social-Democratic opinion often met was that our increasingly bureaucratized society should be balanced out with the injection of a little anarchism, as a sort of antidote. The combination of a lot of state bureaucratism and a little "cultural anarchism" was even put forward by some thinkers as a desirable goal. Anyway, it is nice to have harmless people around talking up a little anarchism (with its frisson of revolutionary bravado) as a counterweight to what is really happening in society. Alice had a bottle labeled "Drink me" to grow smaller, and a little cake labeled "Eat me" to grow bigger: so, too, one should alternately sip from the
bureaucratic bottle and nibble at the anarchist cake in order to keep social "authority" at just the right size. A little later we find in Wonderland that the bureaucratic and anarchist potions are both taken out of opposite sides of the same mushroom; they had turned out to be the same fungal growth.
This common Social-Democratic attitude implied condescending or patronizing smiles at anarchist jesters who had a right to make fools of themselves as long as they supposedly told some home-truths about the bureaucratization of society, which was being nurtured by the Social-Democrats as by the bourgeois rulers. Marx's attitude was quite different.
Marx and Engels had little but scorn for "this clownish caricature" of the real movement,86 and for the "childish minds" of "the so-called anarchists, who in fact are props of the present order."87 Here Marx made an advance comment on the later liberal-Social-Democratic practice of showcasing anarchist sages as saints who were, unfortunately, too good and innocent for this world. (Like Prince Kropotkin, who was no Bakunin, to be sure.)
But socialist militants also knew of the role that the anarchist movement played in country after country—as even Kropotkin had done in France in his militant days before becoming an icon in England—in providing the reactionary governments and their police with ammunition to harass and smash the working-class movement. The governments' "black cabinet" (department of dirty tricks against subversives) had a positive need for something like anarchism to be played up as a "social peril' while remaining quite harmless to the real powers: in short, to be used as a bogy. So Marx remarked in a letter to his daughter Laura. As for the image of the Saintly Innocent, he recalled a parable: when Henry VII asked Pope Julius II to place Henry VI among the saints, the witty pope "answered that an innocens (otherwise known as idiot) is not thereby to be called sanctus." 88
But it was after Marx's death that the movement suffered most from the governments' use of anarchist outrages (indiscriminate bombings, assassination attempts, etc.) to direct blows at labor and socialism. This was why Engels wrote in an 1894 letter, "there is a great gulf between us and the anarchists."89 By the end of the nineteenth century there was literally a line of blood between.
For Marx anarchism was not a beautiful vision of saintly dreamers but a sick social ideology. Rooted in an idealist theory of the state, it oscillated between opportunism in politics and a frenzied flight from political reality to adventures in individual terrorism. Above all, it was an ideology alien to the life of modern working people . In the course of its development it reflected various class elements in a blind alley: artisanal workers fearfully confronting modern industry; recently proletarianized peasants fearfully meeting new societal pressures; lumpen-bourgeois elements fearfully facing an empty future; and alienated intelligentsia fearfully resenting the indignities of a money-obsessed society.
As time went on, the backward-looking labor element tended to fade out of this mixture—finally even in Latin countries—and anarchism as a creed tended to return to its starting point in Godwin and Stirner as an outbreak of bourgeois-idealist desperation, the ideology of a moorless Intelligenz . A year before Engels' death, the aforementioned brochure on anarchism by Plekhanov—immediately translated into English by Eleanor Marx—laid heavy stress on anarchism as a product of decadence in bourgeois society. While the brochure had many faults, it was good in conveying the reek of French fin-de-siècle littérateurs flirting with anarchist phrases to épater la bourgeoisie . "You will remain what you are now… bags emptied by history."90 Plekhanov's characteristic rhetoric this time had a fit target....
* * *
....sum up the basic difference between Marx's views and those of anarchism, at three depths:
(1) For Marx, the "abolition of the state" could come about only at the end of a sufficient period of socialist reconstruction of society. For an anarchist, the decree "abolishing the state" must come, by an irrefragably
fixed principle, on the day of the revolution, with no "transitional" period or state form. It follows that, from the day that a socialist government takes power, all good anarchists must seek its instant destruction as an "authoritarian" menace.
(2) For Marx, the aim of the socialist movement is the democratization of political authority, and indeed of all authority. For an anarchist, any and all authority, however ideally democratic its basis, is the work of the devil, and must be destroyed. Besides, for Marx the abolition (or diminution, etc.) of state power does not yet necessarily entail the elimination of all elements of authority in political and social life, though the latter may become a still-farther goal of societal evolution.
(3) One way of summing up the difference in basic views lies in the definition, or interpretation, of freedom —the much exalted freedom whose abstract glorification is the stock in trade, if not the total content, of all anarchist rhetoric.
• The anarchist view of "freedom" is basically individual-solipsistic: it depends on the absolute inviolability of the sovereign Ego in relation to the outside world—the total impermissibility of any imposition of any authority, authority of any kind or source, upon the unconditional autonomy of that sovereign Ego. Anarchism is basically a solipsism, whether or not anarchists recognize this consciously in their philosophic outlook. It does not mean freedom through democracy, or freedom in society, but, rather, freedom from any democratic authority whatsoever or any social constraint: in short, not a free society but freedom from society.
• Marx's view of "freedom" is basically social in its reference, and depends on the relation of the individual to his membership in the human species, which is historically organized in a society. Briefly, this view of "freedom" makes it a shorthand term for democratic freedom in society ; and the "problem" of freedom is the interpretation and implementation of this approach. "Democratic freedom in society" means that relationship of the individual to the collectivity which involves the maximum extension of control from below (control of the collectivity and all its decisions). This control applies also to the determination through democratic institutions of the extent or degree to which the collectivity of society should exercise any control over its individual components. In Marx's view, this last relationship is not fixed by abstract fiat, but is an evolving thing, which, in the course of a socialist reconstruction, may set a series of farther and still farther goals for realization, in the historical process of maximizing individual autonomy in society. In this sense, socialism raises not only the potentiality of the dying-away of the state but also of the farther goal: the dying-away of the role of authority in society, whether or not this can be conceived as reaching an extreme terminus.
This, then, was what Engels, for one, was thinking of in speaking about the leap into the world of freedom, from the world of necessity....
* * *