The End of Anarchism?

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And it is very often the case that those becoming radicalised are sympathetic to both theories for this reason. We believe that, although Marxist and Anarchist theory are united in their struggle to liberate humanity, whereas Anarchism paradoxically rejects theory as an accomplice of intellectual elitism or armchair inaction, Marxism is distinguished by utilising all the developments of scientific method and historical analysis so that the working class may understand society in order to change it.

Marxist theory is chiefly concerned with understanding inequality and oppression, why they exist, where they come from, what role they play, and under what conditions they may be overcome. And to understand them means not only to describe them, or to assert that the division of society into classes is unjust, and that the state apparatus is fundamentally repressive, but to explain them materially and historically. Everywhere we look we see examples of extreme inequality, suffering and state oppression, so much so that we take them for granted, seeming like a natural state of affairs.

As Rousseau said, everywhere man is in chains, and yet we are all born free, that is to say, the bonds we suffer are manmade, and what is more, they are the constructions of people fundamentally equal to ourselves — the capitalist class have no magic powers or superhuman strengths. So why do we suffer at all? Why do and when did the vast majority of people allow themselves to become powerless in the face of the apparently artificial power of a minority of people?

There must be some condition we have to thank for being exploited by only a few. What is it? As Marxists and materialists, we understand that the class struggle does not arise of itself, but is conditioned by the more general struggle for existence; it is an expression of the unavoidable struggle with nature, to use a rather crude expression. For before we are enslaved by our fellow man, we are at the whim of the all powerful laws of nature.

Yes, each person is born into the world free, i. As Marx said, mankind is a suffering, limited being; we feel our dependence on nature every second that we breathe, every time the involuntary muscles in our stomach compel us to look for a meal, every time our puny composition makes our bodies shudder with cold. If we did not have such pressing material needs, we would not need to go to the capitalist begging for work. So before we can understand the lack of freedom in our society, we must recognise this most fundamental of social laws — material conditions determine consciousness. History knows all kind of strange transformations.

For much of our history there was no oppressive state authority or class exploitation to speak of, and yet somehow out of such a situation exploitation and coercion have arisen. Furthermore, the forms of exploitation and state authority have transformed themselves many times, and with them the relative level of culture has changed also. For Marxists, it is the struggle for the economisation of labour, the development of the forces of production or useful technology to be wielded by one or another class as part of the struggle with nature.

The End of Anarchism?

For when we develop useful technology, the immediate aim is always that someone may live better, may secure themselves in the struggle with nature. But such technology, developed and used socially, has unplanned social consequences, changing the structure of society, giving some power over others. Those who control the productive forces control society. Productivity would have been so low that society could not have afforded any privileged stratum.

But this harmony finished at the geographical threshold of the tribe, outside of which we find other tribes. And, as the geographically dispersed communities developed their productive forces, so would they have expanded, and, ultimately, come into contact with other similar communities.

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Trade between them would have developed based on the different goods they were able to produce, such trade being used by each community to enrich themselves. Although within each community there may have been enormous unity and cooperation in production, between the communities there must have been little or none. The respective communities would not be interested in producing for the sake of the other, but to get something in return.

And so not only would competition and antagonism develop between the communities, but more and more the internal life of each community would be determined by the need to produce more for exchange outside the community. We may surmise that those with more involvement in the process, e. In addition, the struggle for resources and control of land must emerge from such a situation of geographical dispersion and antagonisms. War between communities for conquest of land and to use the labour power of other communities flows from such a situation.

In this way, the communal struggle to develop the productive forces led to the dissolution of the community in favour of class divisions. This is the material, economic basis for class and the state. There is a debate between Marxists and Anarchists as to whether class division arises first, followed by a coercive state apparatus tasked with protecting the ruling class the Marxist position , or whether state power with its instruments of oppression developed first and gave rise to class division, which some Anarchists argue.

But the question is not so much a chronological one, i.

'Anarchism', in the Encyclopaedia Britannica

For the question then arises: how did Crusoe come to enslave Friday? Just for the fun of it? By no means. Crusoe enslaved Friday only in order that Friday should work for Crusoe's benefit. And how can he derive any benefit for himself from Friday's labour? Only through Friday producing by his labour more of the necessaries of life than Crusoe has to give him to keep him fit to work But in order to manage this, Crusoe needs something else besides his sword. Not everyone can make use of a slave. Therefore, before slavery becomes possible, a certain level of production must already have been reached and a certain inequality of distribution must already have appeared.

Engels, Anti-Duhring. State authority, then, is not some arbitrary evil, existing for its own sake, and it does not gain its negative properties of oppression and inequality purely from itself, rather it arises out of developing economic inequality and plays a role dependent upon the latter. And the state does not oppress all in society equally, indeed, in our society there are many capitalists who have no direct involvement with the state, and yet feel themselves very well represented by it. This is because, in the final analysis, the state gets its power from the ruling economic class, whom it serves by protecting their property and generally maintaining the social order.

Two things of interest to us follow from this. If a class can wield economic power, then it can in principle control its own state apparatus, rather than being the victim of it, since the state power is in the final analysis dependent on economic relations. If the state apparatus is a tool with which to repress other classes, and if Marxists and Anarchists can agree that a working class led revolution will face active, organised opposition from the bourgeoisie a fact many Anarchists recognise , then the working class can and must wield this state power, i.

For many anarchists representation itself as a political form contains the seeds of, or is, the problem. They say one cannot be genuinely represented, and that the representative will always abuse their position. But it is not the form that is the problem.

As we said, if that were the case the bourgeoisie would always be oppressed by their own state representatives. The same applies to the workers own organisations. But there is no remedy for this other than the mass movement of the working class and the struggle for revolutionary ideas within these organisations. That is how we remove a betraying leadership and replace it with a revolutionary one. That can exist only when the objective conditions that require a state apparatus class struggle have disappeared.

In other words, when the working class has dissolved itself as a class by dissolving all classes, by uniting humanity in a global plan of production that leaves no lasting material antagonisms between classes or nations, and when production has attained such a level that the working week is sufficiently shortened so that all may participate in education and running society, then coercion and subjugation will have no objective role, and become worthless.

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