Alexander Hope

The Metacriticism of Anarchism

In this essay we shall criticize the various critiques done against anarchism and also develop our theory from these critiques.

The Marxists critique Anarchism mainly on these grounds:

  1. Failure to understand the development of society–the role of large-scale production–the development of capitalism into socialism.

Let us analyze this critique of the supposed failure to understand the development of society as the role of large-scale production, and its development from capitalism into socialism. First and foremost, the major anarchists and their followers mostly agreed with Marx’s Capital and accepted much of his analysis regarding the role of large scale production and the development of capitalism into socialism, furthermore, they went a step ahead when Kropotkin proposed his Mutual aid, the idea that society could develop from capitalism into socialism, not only through class struggle, but also through mutual aid. Mutual aid is not to be confused for charity, instead it is to be explained as a factor of human and species evolution, that allows humanity to evolve, grow, become intellectually capable enough to allow civilizations to develop and change with time. There seems to be this confusion between both marxists and even modern day baby lefties anarchists who rely on youtube for their political information that anarchists do not believe in ‘‘a transitionary peroid’’ between capitalism and communism, but simply deny socialism and jump straight to communism. There is also a misconception that anarchists simply abolish the state immediately and simply achieve communism overnight. This is also another misconception. First and foremost, no anarchist theorist has ever talked about this so-called idea that anarchists plan to achieve communism overnight, and no theorist whatsoever ever claimed that anarchism has no transitionary peroid. Firstly, mutual aid as a factor of evolution is a gradual process, a transitionary process therefore between capitalism and communism is necessary. The process progresses from capitalism, then to socialism, finally to anarcho-communism, this ‘‘socialism’’ we speak about is not the dictatorship of the proletariat which the marxists speak about. Rather the ‘‘socialism’’ we speak about takes place after the anarchists abolish the state. When anarchists abolish the bourgeois state, it is simply the first step towards achieving communism, in order to achieve communism, the enemies of communism have to be defeated such as counter-revolutionaries, imperialists, the bourgeoisie and the like. The contradictions within the masses also have to be reconciled.

The anarchists rely on their social organization of federalized groups between united platformist groups and with unity of action they help in the reconcilations of contradictions within the masses and also protect everyone against counter-revolutionary attacks. Furthermore, everything that obstructs mutual aid such as private property, the state and the like have to be destroyed, and likewise there has to be creation, this ‘‘creation’’ is basically ‘‘Anarchist Construction’’ such as Democratization of the work place, collectivization, communalisation, emancipation of culture, waging the cultural revolution — All these things aid mutual aid. Since Anarchism is developing a very sociable society, it will evolve, while the unsociable society will decay. Marxism-Leninism and capitalism both of which are unsociable socities will decay. Although Marxism-Leninism is more sociable than capitalism, it still replaces mutual aid with hierarchy. It replaces sociability with coercive hierarchy. We do not fail to understand the development of society via the role of large scale production, but simply notice that large scale production has its origins in sociability and mutual aid — therefore if mutual aid and sociability are developed, so will large scale production — Even Engels agrees with this sentiment that large scale production developed out of sociability, and I quote,

‘‘ Mediaeval Society — Individual production on a small scale. Means of production adapted for individual use; hence primitive, ungainly, petty, dwarfed in action. Production for immediate consumption, either of the producer himself or his feudal lord. Only where an excess of production over this consumption occurs is such excess offered for sale, enters into exchange. Production of commodities, therefore, only in its infancy. But already it contains within itself, in embryo, anarchy in the production of society at large. II. Capitalist Revolution — transformation of industry, at first be means of simple cooperation and manufacture. Concentration of the means of production, hitherto scattered, into great workshops. As a consequence, their transformation from individual to social means of production — a transformation which does not, on the whole, affect the form of exchange. The old forms of appropriation remain in force. The capitalist appears. In his capacity as owner of the means of production, he also appropriates the products and turns them into commodities. Production has become a social act. Exchange and appropriation continue to be individual acts, the acts of individuals. The social product is appropriated by the individual capitalist. Fundamental contradiction, whence arise all the contradictions in which our present-day society moves, and which modern industry brings to light.’’ — Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels

Here Engels shows us that as a consequence of the concentration of the means of production, there is a transformation from the individual way of production that took place under medieval society, into a social means of production. Production indeed has become a social act, while exchange and appropriation continue to be individual acts. In medeivalism each farmer labors in one small plot of land, and his individual labor serves to sustain his family, meanwhile as we approach capitalism, labor becomes a social act, no longer is the farmer laboring alone in his farm, but he has to move to the metrapolitan industrial city with the other workers, he has to unite with them and labor with them, collaborate with them in unity of action when it comes to making the product.

Hence Mankind who felt the need to improve itself, could only improve itself by getting closer together. Society did not simply develop because ‘‘there was a concentration of the means of production’’ as Engels tells us, but rather there was a concentration of sociability, of social beings, human beings all flocking together. Engels seems to give much importance to the means of production to the ‘‘Machine’’ — rather than the workers themselves. All of Marxist analysis depends on the concentration of the means of production, perhaps Engels could also realize how it is not just the means of production that are being concetrated into one industrial area, but the workers themselves. The fact that workers are centralized under one industrial area is an indication of mutual aid and sociability, making an anarchist analysis of this economic situation possible.

The mode of production can be viewed as a combination of the productive forces of society together with the social relations of production. Once the ever-advancing and developing productive forces become restrained or fettered by the existing relations of production, the current mode of production begins to break down. An era of socio-economic revolution then begins which leads to a new mode of production more in tune with the advancing productive forces. However, it is not merely leading us to a new era of a ‘‘new mode of production’’ that is in tune with productive forces, but the anarchists believes that the anarchist revolution is leading us towards new workers, with a new consciousness, workers who rely on mutual aid, rather than on their bosses or the party that oppresses them.

2. (Anarchism is a product of despair. The psychology of the unsettled intellectual or the vagabond and not of the proletarian.)

This is mostly an accusation against Anarchism, rather than a fair critique, Marx used this argument against anarchism, that it’s nothing but the ideology of vagabonds, and he refers to Stirner in the German ideology of being representative of such. Of course, for some reason the marxist-leninists took this petty meta-comment, and simply used it as a tactful weapon against the anarchists. What once was a reference to Stirnerite egoism was now being used against anarcho-communists. The forerunner of this idea was Rosa Luxemburg, and I quote,

‘‘But apart from these few “revolutionary” groups, what is the actual role of anarchism in the Russian Revolution? It has become the sign of the common thief and plunderer; a large proportion of the innumerable thefts and acts of plunder of private persons are carried out under the name of “anarchist-communism” — acts which rise up like a troubled wave against the revolution in every period of depression and in every period of temporary defensive. Anarchism has become in the Russian Revolution, not the theory of the struggling proletariat, but the ideological signboard of the counter-revolutionary lumpenproletariat, who, like a school of sharks, swarm in the wake of the battleship of the revolution. And therewith the historical career of anarchism is well-nigh ended.’’ — Rosa Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, The Russian Revolution, Anarchism and the General Strike

The sheep in wolf’s clothng makes the assumption that anarchism is not the ideology of the industrial proletariat, but rather the ideology of the vagabonds, the thief, the prostitute, the intellectually challenged, the lumpen proletariat. Anarchism, for her, comes up like a wave in a moment of peroidical distress and then quite simply dies down. This of course is very incorrect. One can look immediately at the founders of anarchism, William Godwin and Proudhon, surely they where not vagabonds or thieves, if anything the dear Proudhon was the first among the first to be against ‘‘theft’’. Surely these two figures were not vagabonds or lumpen proletariat, but they were upstanding citizens and very high up in society, this is not to say they were ‘‘bourgeois’’, but even if they were in a high position in society, they were class traitors to their own class and flocked together with the industrial proletariat. For such an example one can simply look towards Bakunin, born in a russian noble family, abandoned his class status, and joined the proletariat in their struggle, we can set our eyes towards the aristocratic Prince Kropotkin, who betrayed his elevated class status and joined the proletariat in their struggle. Are these the vagabonds whom Rosa Luxemburg and Marx are speaking about?

This shows, that anarchism influences people from every class, whether lumpen proletariat, industrial proletariat, peasant or even class traitors that were once petit bourgeois or the bourgeoisie themselves. The Marxists of course have a negative view of the lumpen proletariat, and count them as a counter-revolutionary class. Marx and Engels also didn’t think it possible that the peasants in Russia were capable of Russia, but Marxism-Leninism showed that the union of peasants and industrial proletariat would lead towards social revolution. Anarchism believes that all classes, whether proletariat or peasant are capable of revolution, and this also extends to the lumpen-proletariat. The Marxist-Leninist-Maoists adore to speak about their ‘‘universality’’ and that their theory can be applicable to every country, but it seems the only thing it cannot be applied to is the lumpen proletariat whom they consider reactionary. If this is the case, then MLM is not universal, but anarchism who accepts every oppressed class as capable towards revolution can rightfully boasts about its universality in application.

Anarchism was not only theorized by anarchists coming from different class backrounds, but it was also applied in both feudal conditions under the leadership of the peasantry and was applied in industrial first worldist countries under the leadership of the industrial proletariat. So far, Marxism-Leninism and even MLM have only manifested themselves in practice in feudal countries such as Russia, China, Vietnam, Korea, Cuba etc — meanwhile Anarchism has had it’s roots in feudal countries like Russia, China and even Manchuria in Korea, but it also has had it’s roots in America as well. Generally speaking, much success of revolutionary struggle in the first world is indebted to anarchists, in America, there was the civil rights movement and Emma Goldman’s activism along with her followers of anarchism. The labour movement which influnced the struggle in Europe, during the Paris commune, and elsewhere. Numerous Labor movements were also cropped up in very early days in America from 1700s and continued to expand ever since, taking the labor movement through the days of the great depression in America and beyond. In America, the anarchists are also remembered by the ‘‘Haymarket affair’’ — at which the anarchists were at the center of this struggle in May 4, 1886.

Trade unionism also found much success in Europe in fighting for better working conditions, and today anarcho-syndicalism finds much success in the eastern world such as in India. Anarcho-syndicalism has had it’s success in both industrial countries and feudal countries such as in the countries of Africa, one could mention a few: ‘‘The South African Labor Movement, The Nigerian Labor Union Movement’’ and also an informal study group which although not syndicalist by nature still shows that anarchism spread its doctrine far and wide through ‘‘The Awareness League: an African Anarchist Movement’’

Meanwhile, Italy was at the center of Anarchist growth and also at the center of Europe. Anarchism has grown much in popularity over the years in Italy, much more than Marxism-Leninism that indeed some anarchists organization of the past still lives to this day. This includes the synthesis anarchist group ‘‘The Italian anarchist federation’’ and the platformist anarchist group, ‘‘Federation of Anarchists communists’’ — much success in Italy and the height of anarcho-syndicalism was in the ‘‘biennio rosso’’ event, when the anarcho-syndicalist trade union grew to 800,000 members and influenced the Italian Anarchist Union. Anarchism is like the road leading to Rome, Marxism-Leninism the road to no man’s land.

Furthermore there where two revolutions in Europe that were both anarchists, one of them happened in Ukraine under feudal conditions, while another one happened in a major European industrial first worldist power, that was spain. While the republicans in spain were ‘‘socialists’’ — they were not marxist-leninists, they were not bolsheviks, — therefore Marxism-Leninism-Maoism has showed us no proof of its ‘‘universality of application throughout all the world’’ — rather it was anarchism that was applied in every conditions possible, both in industrial powers and feudal countries. Unlike Marxism, we also have an inclusivity of different classes.

So Rosa Luxemburg is lying when she says anarchism is the ideology of thieves and not proletariat — because all the evidence illustrates that anarchism has been applied to feudal countries with the peasantry and even applied to industrial powers with industrial proletariat, and the theory of anarchism was developed by every oppressed class — industrial proletariat, peasantry, lumpen proletariat and bourgeois class traitors that joined the proletariat in their cause. It was the wish of Marx, that the marxist revolution would take place in Europe, preferably in Germany — but this has yet to happen, and when indeed Germany became communist, it was only because it was conquered in a war by the soviets, not because there was a revolution, and to put the cherry on the cake, it was only eastern germany that became communist, the west remained capitalist. Marxism has to yet give us prove of it’s so-called universal applicability within European powers and industrial world powers. Anarchism to this day still stands strong both within the western and eastern world, surely if anarchism was merely the ideology of the lumpen proletariat, it would not have sticked around to this day. The lumpen proletariat today are few in number, there are more industrial proletariat who are anarchists today, rather than lumpen prol anarchists. The Marxists don’t know what they are talking about when they say things about anarchism, this much is clear.

3. – No doctrine, revolutionary teaching, or theory. — Fragmentation of the working-class movement. — Complete fiasco in the experiments of the revolutionary movement (Proudhonism, 1871; Bakuninism, 1873). — Subordination of the working class to bourgeois politics in the guise of negation of politics.

The argument that anarchists succumb to bourgeois politics is somewhat not much of a great argument, as marxist-leninists have been found much more guilty to succumb to bourgeois politics and electoralism in general, especially due to the revisionist era. While there are some anarchists today that uphold a form of electoralism, these are not ‘‘anarchists’’ — but simply confused leftists, even I, at one point was in favour of harm reductionism, electoralism, but time develops and radicalized a person beyond electoralism until eventually it is abandoned for revolutionary struggle.

Perhaps this critique is the most honest of the critiques. The anarchists mostly busied themselves with answering simple questions regarding anarchism, such as morality, whether it was possible, trying to debunk the myth that anarchism was chaos. While this was essential, it is very preliminary and primitive theory to say the least. Kropotkin was the first that gave us something one could really use as a replacement of the class struggle as told by Marx, and we could instead focus on this principle of mutual aid as a factor of evolution. There is no one solid doctrines, but fragments of theory displaced from one another. Since there is no solid doctrine, therefore the movements of anarchism will by nature become fragmeneted. By the 1920–30’s Anarchists for the first time were proposing drafts, especially the introduction to platformism, by The DIELO TROUDA GROUP in Paris, 20th June1926. At first Malatesta was in disagreement with platformism, and since this notable anarchist figure was initially in disagreement, it lead to more fragmentation, however Malatesta finally agreed with the ideas of platformism when convinced by Makhno, but it was already too late. With this theory left behind, unionism took over in spain, and the anarchists abandoned this project and flocked together in trade unions instead. They grasped upon the first thing they saw could potentially help them, in other words, being slightly opportunistic, why? — Because they didn’t have a solid doctrine. Of course some anarchist theorists developed the anarcho-syndicalist theory, and this was good news, so now anarchism has two doctrines, the anarcho-syndicalist doctrine and the platformist doctrine. While the syndicalist doctrine has been built on strong foundations and worked well for the latter part of the 20th century, in the 21st century we find that unionism has been somewhat weakened, on the other hand since the platformist doctrine was left behind, it was not built on the strongest foundation, today anarchists need to revisist this old idea created by Bakunin and Kropotkin, developed in 1926 by the anarchists and it needs to be re-analyzed and re-visisted. While the anarchists in the west were struggling, the anarchists in Manchuria were met with much more success, as they seemed to have followed a solid anarchist doctrine, although because of the heavy repression from China and Japan, the korean anarchists met their end, and not much information has been gathered regarding the project. This shows us that the Korean anarchists had a better handle of reality and a better anarchist doctrine than the western anarchists did in general. We should as anarchists today, study anarchism in the Korea, China and other places in the east and learn from them.

This isn’t to say that anarchists have no theory, or that anarchists theorists left us with nothing, it is merely good enough to acknowledge that these writers were sometimes vague, but they provided us with enough tools in order to revisit their work, and update their work. Anarchism is in need of new theorists, that revise the old and come up with the new, so that a common doctrine may be developed that unites all anarchists together in unity of action and orthodox poltical thought. That which has been left behind by the old theorist of anarchism have established the basic foundation built as an unshackable rock, now it is only a matter of building and laying the stacks of progress unto the strong foundation.