07
May
10

Anarchism and Communsim

Communism is often depicted as a political system in which a faceless, oppressive state exerts almost unlimited control over the lives of the impoverished citizens. This of course isn’t even remotely close the society Marx (and other founders of Communism) called for or the sociopolitical-economic system Communists strive for. Such depictions are a result of generalizing Communism as a whole based on the actions of a certain group (imagine claiming Christianity calls for the ruthless extermination of those of differing religious views based on the participants of the Spanish Inquisition or crusades).

In much the same way Anarchism is commonly considered to be a political system (or lack thereof) in which riots take place in the streets, looters run free, and so forth. In reality Anarchy is a sociopolitical-economic system that attempts to do away with the concept of rulers and the state as a whole. The vilification of Anarchy is a result of propaganda that depicted Anarchists as dangerous maniacs. In reality, both Communism and Anarchism call for similar goals, the creation of a classless, stateless society based around the concepts of public property and community organization. In fact, during the mid 1800s, the terms “Communist” and “Anarchist” were interchangeable! Until 1872 Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin (the leading figures of Communism and Anarchism respectively) worked together.

So what went wrong?

The Communist/Anarchist split occurred as a result of differences in the opinion of which was the greater enemy, Capitalism or the state. The Anarchists argued that the primary goal of the revolution ought to be the abolition of the state, as opposed to the Communist argument that Capitalism was the true oppressor. Now these points of view were (and remain to be) by no means mutually exclusive. Anarchism, like Communism, calls for the institution of private property and community organization- just look at Russian Anarchist Peter Kropotkin who, in essay Economic Views of Anarchism wrote “…The Capitalist exploitation of labor, we must work for its abolition.” Communism, like Anarchism, calls for the abolition of the state- just look at Marx’s essay The Origin of Family, Private Property, and the State in which he claims “…The state… becomes also the politically dominant class, and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class.”

So what’s the big difference?

Well the problem that Baukin and his followers saw with Marx’s theory was that focusing on the abolition of Capitalism may lead to the establishment of a new state in which the leaders of the revolution simply replace the overthrown state. Marx and the communists took issue with the fact that focusing on the abolition of the state would simply allow the wealthy and ruling classes to fill the void the state had left.

So who’s right, the Anarchists or the Communists?

Interestingly enough both sides’ concerns have been proven to have equal merit. Without abolishing the state, the Russian revolution quickly devolved into state-capitalism (what we would today call “Socialism”). Without abolishing private property, Capitalism, and the class system, abolishing the state is pointless- Capitalist oppression remains and may even be strengthened by the lack of a regulatory system.

So what it really comes down to isn’t a question of who’s right and who’s wrong. The Communist/Anarchist split shouldn’t be an either/or choice. Both sides are struggling for the same goal and both sides agree that both Capitalism and the state should be wiped out (though there different opinions about which to target first). Should this be something worth bickering over? Absolutely not. This is an opportunity to ensure that the mistakes of early Communist and Anarchist revolutions are not repeated. We worked together at the Paris Commune, we can work together today.

Long live the revolution.

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2 Responses to “Anarchism and Communsim”


  1. 1 Madman Defarge
    September 17, 2013 at 1:51 am

    While I admire the brotherly spirit of this post, it somewhat pains me to point out that it is factually incorrect.

    You have totally mischaracterized the Anarchist position. Bakunin & co did not argue that the state could be abolished without the abolition of capitalism. Marx (for all of his brilliance) babbled nonsense about some supposed spontaneous ‘withering away’ of the state at some conveniently undefined point after the revolution. Judging from your post, it seems that you are working under the delusion that Bakunin had similar ideas about capitalism. This is not the case however. Quite to the contrary: while Marx argued that capitalism ought to be abolished first, Bakunin argued that if both were not brought down in one fell swoop, a new and terrible mode of social slavery would inevitably arise. Only one side of this old debate actually prioritizes one face of the bosses’ system over the other, and that is the Marxist side.

    In the end, you seem to endorse the actual anarchist position- but label it as some sort of a synthesis. Perhaps you are really an anarchist and simply don’t know it because most of what you know about anarchist ideas and the history of the movement comes from the writings of Marxists who have either filled your head with malicious slander, or have perhaps simply passed on their well-meaning misapprehensions.

    • 2 trotskyite
      September 17, 2013 at 7:38 am

      I wrote this piece nearly four years ago- my understanding of Marxism, Anarchism, and Socialism in general has evolved a bit.


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