Uniting the Black and the Red? – Anarchism and Marxism.

Otto von Bismarck remarked, upon hearing of the split at the Hauge congress of the First International and formation of the anti-authoritarian international at St. Imier, “Crowned heads, wealth and privilege may well tremble should ever again the Black and Red unite!”

Tons of ink and kilobytes of memory has been devoted to very important analysis and criticism of authoritarian “socialism”, most notably of Marx and his disciples by anarchists and left communists. Can Marxists and anarchists find some common ground – theoretical and practical – to unite? Is it desirable?

The answer to the latter question I believe is affirmative and for simple reasons that I won’t comment on. I would make a short and simple case for how a unification is possible.

1. The Primacy of Libertarian Marx and Anti-Authoritarianism.
Many Marxist scholars, most notably Bertell Ollman, has pointed out the distinction Marx made between analysis and presentation. The works where Marx analyzed capitalism, state and religion are in his unpublished works where he developed the concept of alienation, commodity fetishism and also his dialectics. These take a secondary place in his Capital and are at time missing for reasons both of presentation and personal.

If we ignore the incidentals of his personality and focus on his analysis of domination – especially by and under capitalistic relations – that is rooted in a universal struggle against all form of domination and restriction on creative, collective activity of humans, anarchists can find an ally and Marxism can become more humanistic.

Marx’s views on the transformational role of the State also changed after the Paris Commune as noted in his Address of 1872. He no longer believed holding state power was necessary for moving to a communistic stage of society – and that a federalist and democratic alternative was possible. A view consistent with early humanistic Marx. He might or might not have given up his determinism of social stages but at least he no longer saw the state apparatus necessary for this transformation.

If we again, ignore the personality and the fact that he was at the same time lying and planning very hard to kick Bakunin and federalists out of the International and; the Marxist realize the correctness and utility of this position we can find a common platform.

2. Revolutionary Practice.
When a monopoly of technical expertise accumulates in a class and they are in power to influence and direct the masses, they themselves kill the collective, creative urge of the individual over her life that was the point of departure for the socialist project and alienate the workers and forms a new form of oppression with new institutions and new myths to numb the misery.

The second point that Marxists need to consider is that when the State is not a means of transformation, the power again falls back in hands of the workers and the masses. Only they alone through autonomous organizations make the revolution and wage the struggles. These organizations will become the seeds of the future society. Autonomous workers and community groups of some and of various sorts, not any Party must be the focus for transformational and revolutionary practice.

If the Marxists can completely detach away from their authoritarianism in analysis and in practice and; embrace the Black, only then can a meaningful synthesis, that looks forward to and participates in a true revolution take place.

This appeal (or maybe just a mere suggestion) is not aimed towards the people who have given up any hope of revolution or see their place in the status quo – as the vanguard of the oppressed – no longer even the vanguard of some “revolution.” They may very well find plenty of useful stuff in Marx’s authoritarianism and a place among the liberal intelligentsia and political elites. They are not revolutionaries. Revolutionary Marxists should no longer waste energies on them.

On the other hand, the anarchists can overcome their anti-organizationalism and other bourgeois tendencies and focus again on class and other oppression with the serious aim of transformation and revolution and; not mere symbolic violence or individualistic isolationism.

Comments are closed.