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H.1 les anarchistes se sont-ils toujours opposés au socialisme d'état ?

Sommaire

Oui. Les anarchistes ont toujours dit que le vrai socialisme ne peut pas être créé en utilisant un État. Le noyau de base de l'argument est simple. Le socialisme implique l'égalité, pourtant l'État signifie l'inégalité -- inégalité en termes de pouvoir. Comme nous l'avons discuté dans la section B.2, les anarchistes considèrent qu'un des aspects définissant l'état est sa nature hiérarchique. En d'autres termes, la délégation de pouvoir aux mains de quelques-uns. En tant que tel, il est en contradiction avec l'idée de base du socialisme, à savoir l'égalité sociale.

Ceux qui font partie du corps dirigeant dans un État ont plus de pouvoir que ceux qui les ont élus.

C'est ce raisonnement que suivent Malatesta et Hamon :

« Il y a beaucoup plus de raisons faisant que nous sommes les socialistes les plus logiques et les plus complets, puisque nous exigeons pour chaque personne non pas simplement sa part entière de la richesse de la société mais également de sa part entière de pouvoir »[1].

C'est avec cette perspective que les anarchistes ont combattu l'idée du socialisme et du marxisme d'État (bien que nous devrions souligner que les formes libertaires du marxisme, telles que le communisme de conseil, ont des fortes similitudes avec l'anarchisme). Cette opposition au socialisme autoritaire est un aspect central de l'anarchisme, une opposition qui a été forte et consistante. Tandis qu'il est parfois dit par certains droitistes que les socialistes libertaires et les anarchistes ont seulement commencé à exprimer leur opposition au marxisme et au léninisme après que l'Union Soviétique se soit effondrée, la vérité est totalement différente. Des anarchistes, nous devons le souligner, ont été opposés à toutes les formes de socialisme d'état dès le début (dans le cas de la révolution russe, les anarchistes étaient, du côté gauche, parmi les premières victimes des Bolcheviques).

En effet, l'histoire du marxisme est, en partie, une histoire de ses luttes contre les anarchistes, comme l'histoire de l'anarchisme est également, en partie, une histoire de sa lutte contre les diverses formes de marxisme et ses ramifications. Enoncer, ou dire implicetement, que les anarchistes se sont seulement récemment opposés au marxisme est faux -- nous nous y sommes opposés depuis le début.

Tandis que Stirner et Proudhon écrivaient beaucoup de pages sur les maux et les contradictions du socialisme d'état, les anarchistes combattaient vraiment la forme marxiste du socialisme d'état, et ceci depuis Bakounine. C'est parce que, jusqu'à la Première Internationale, Marx et Engels étaient des penseurs socialistes relativement inconnus. Proudhon connaissait Marx (ils s'étaient rencontré en France dans les années 1840s et avaient correspondu) mais le marxisme était inconnu en France durant l'existence de Proudhon, qui n'a donc pas pu critiquer directement le marxisme (Cependant, il a critiqué Louis Blanc et d'autres socialistes d'état français). De même, quand Stirner écrit L'unique et sa propriété, le marxisme n'existait pas, à part quelques travaux de Marx et Engels. En effet, on pourrait estimer que le marxisme a finalement pris forme après que Marx ait lu le classique de Stirner et ait produit son diatribe notoirement imprécis L'idéologie Allemande en réponse. Cependant, comme Proudhon, Stirner a attaqué les socialistes d'état et les communistes.

Avant de discuter de l'opposition et de la critique du marxisme de Bakounine dans la prochaine section, nous devrions considĂ©rer les pensĂ©es de Stirner et de Proudhon sur le socialisme d'Etat. Ces critiques contiennent des idĂ©es importantes et ainsi valent la peine d'ĂŞtre rĂ©capitulĂ©es. Cependant, il vaut la peine de noter qu'au moment oĂą Stirner et Proudhon Ă©crivaient, les idĂ©es communistes Ă©taient toutes autoritaires par nature. Le communisme libertaire s'est seulement dĂ©veloppĂ© après la mort de Bakounine en 1876. Ceci signifie que quand Proudhon et Stirner critiquaient le « communisme Â», ils s'attaquaient Ă  une forme spĂ©cifique de communisme, la forme qui a subordonnĂ© l'individu Ă  la communautĂ©. Les communistes anarchistes comme Kropotkine et Malatesta se sont Ă©galement opposĂ©s Ă  de tels genres de « communisme Â» (comme Kropotkine le soulignait, le communisme d'« avant et pendant l'annĂ©e 1848 » "a Ă©tĂ© proposĂ© sous une telle forme que cette dernière suffit entièrement Ă  expliquer la mĂ©fiance de Proudhon quant Ă  son effet sur la libertĂ©. La vieille idĂ©e du communisme Ă©tait l'idĂ©e des communautĂ©s monastiques ... Les derniers vestiges de la libertĂ© et de l'Ă©nergie individuelle seraient dĂ©truits, si l'humanitĂ© devait jamais passer par un tel communisme"[2].). Naturellement, il se peut que Stirner et Proudhon auraient rejetĂ© le communisme libertaire de la mĂŞme façon, mais souvenez-vous que toutes les formes de « communisme Â» ne sont pas identiques.

Pour Stirner, la question clĂ© Ă©tait que le communisme (ou le socialisme), comme le libĂ©ralisme, considère l'« humain Â» plutĂ´t que l'individu. « ĂŞtre considĂ©rĂ© comme juste une pièce, une partie de la sociĂ©tĂ© Â» a affirmĂ© Striner, "l'individu ne peut pas le supporter -- parce qu'il est plus que cela ; son unicitĂ© rejete cette conception"[3]. En tant que tel, sa protestation contre le communisme Ă©tait semblable Ă  sa protestation contre le libĂ©ralisme (en effet, il a attirĂ© l'attention sur leur similitude en appelant le socialisme et le communisme comme du « libĂ©ralisme social Â» ).

Stirner se rendait compte que le capitalisme n'Ă©tait pas le grand dĂ©fenseur de la libertĂ© qu'il prĂ©tendait ĂŞtre. « L'acquisition agitĂ©e », a-t-il dit, « ne nous laisse pas reprendre notre souffle, prendre le plaisir d'aprĂ©cier ce que nous avons : nous n'obtenons pas de rĂ©confort de nos possessions ». Le communisme, par l'« organisation du travail Â», peut « porter ses fruits Â» de telle manière que « nous venons Ă  un accord au sujet du travail humain, qu'ils ne peuvent pas, comme sous la concurrence, rĂ©clamer Ă  toute heure et toute notre vie Â». Cependant, le communisme « passe sous silence ceux sur qui le temps sera gagnĂ© Â». Lui, en revanche, souligne qu'il est pour l'individu, « pour se rĂ©jouir en lui-mĂŞme, en tant qu'individu Â»[4].

Ainsi le socialisme d'Etat n'identifie pas le but de l'association comme Ă©tant de libĂ©rer l'individu et de le soumettre, au contraire, Ă  une nouvelle tyrannie : "Ce n'est pas un autre Ă©tat (tel que l'Ă©tat du peuple) que les hommes veulent, mais leur union, cette union fluide de tout qui est libre -- un Ă©tat existe mĂŞme sans ma coopĂ©ration . . . l'Ă©tablissement indĂ©pendant de l'Ă©tat fonde mon manque d'indĂ©pendance ; son Ă©tat comme 'croissance normale', son organisation, exige que ma nature ne se dĂ©veloppe pas librement, mais doivent s'y adapter"[5].

De mĂŞme, Stirner a notĂ© le fait que le « communisme, par l'abolition de toute la propriĂ©tĂ© personnelle, me rend seulement encore plus dĂ©pendant Ă  l'Ă©gard des autres, de la collectivitĂ© ... [ce qui est] une condition gĂŞnant ma libre circulation, une puissance souveraine au-dessus de moi. Le communisme se rĂ©volte Ă  raison contre la pression que j'Ă©prouve de la part de diffĂ©rents propriĂ©taires ; mais combien est plus horrible cette force qu'il met dans les mains de la collectivitĂ© »[6].

L'histoire a confirmĂ© ceci irrĂ©futablement. En nationalisant la propriĂ©tĂ©, les rĂ©gimes socialistes des divers Ă©tat ont transformĂ©s l'ouvrier domestique du capitaliste en serf de l'Ă©tat. En revanche, les communiste-anarchistes plaident pour l'association libre et l'auto-gestion des ouvriers comme moyens de s'assurer que la propriĂ©tĂ© ne se transforme pas en dĂ©ni de libertĂ© plutĂ´t que de laisser l'Ă©tat diriger. En tant que telle, l'attaque de Stirner sur ce que Marx a nommĂ© le « communisme vulgaire Â» est encore importante et trouve des Ă©chos dans des Ă©critures des communistes-anarchistes aussi bien que dans les meilleurs travaux de Marx et de ses hĂ©ritiers libertaires.

Pour montrer la diffĂ©rence entre le « communisme Â» que Stirner a attaquĂ© et l'anarchisme-communisme, nous pouvons prouver que Kropotkine n'Ă©tait pas « Ă©vasif Â» au sujet de l'importance de l'organisation de la production. Comme Stirner, il a pensĂ© que sous le communisme libertaire l'individu "dĂ©verserait son travail dans les champs, les usines, etc., comme un dĂ» Ă  la sociĂ©tĂ© en tant que contribution Ă  la production gĂ©nĂ©rale. Et il utilisera la deuxième moitiĂ© de son jour, sa semaine, ou son annĂ©e, pour satisfaire ses besoins artistiques ou scientifiques, ou ses loisirs"[7]. En d'autres termes, il a considĂ©rĂ© l'objectif entier de l'organisation du travail comme un moyen de fournir Ă  l'individu le temps et les ressources requises pour exprimer leur individualitĂ©. En tant que tels, l'anarcho-communisme incorpore les soucis et les arguments lĂ©gitimes de Stirner.

Des arguments semblables à ceux de Stirner peuvent être trouvés dans les travaux de Proudhon contre les divers arrangements du socialisme d'état qui existait en France au milieu du dix-neuvième siècle. Il a en particulier attaqué les idées de Louis Blanc. Blanc, dont le plus célèbre livre était l'Organisation du Travail (édité en 1840) a noté le fait que des défectuosités sociales pourraient être résolues au moyen de réformes lancées et financées par le gouvernement. Plus spécifiquement, il a noté le fait qu'il était « nécessaire d'employer la puissance entière de l'état » pour assurer la création et le succès des associations des ouvriers (ou « des ateliers sociaux »). Puisque « ce dont les prolétaires manquent pour se libérer eux-mêmes sont les outils du travail », le gouvernement « doit leur en fournir ». « L'état », en bref, « devrait se placer résolument à la tête de l'industrie ». Les capitalistes seraient encouragés à investir l'argent dans ces ateliers, pour lesquels il y aurait un intérêt garanti. De tels ateliers lancés par l'état forceraient bientôt l'industrie privé à se changer en ateliers sociaux, pour éliminer la concurrence[8].

Proudhon s'est opposĂ© Ă  ce schĂ©ma Ă  beaucoup de niveaux. Premièrement, il a notĂ© le fait que l'arrangement de Blanc faisait « appel Ă  l'Ă©tat pour une association silencieuse ; c'est-Ă -dire, qu'il se met Ă  genoux devant les capitalistes et reconnait la toute-puissance du monopole ». Etant donnĂ© que Proudhon a vu l'Ă©tat comme l'instrument de la classe capitaliste, demander que l'Ă©tat supprime le capitalisme Ă©tait illogique et impossible. D'ailleurs, en obtenant les fonds pour « l'atelier social » de la part des capitalistes, l'arrangement de Blanc minait Ă  peine leur pouvoir. Le « capital et le pouvoir », Proudhon a Ă©noncĂ©, « les organes secondaires de la sociĂ©tĂ©, sont toujours les dieux que le socialisme adore ; si le capital et le pouvoir n'existaient pas, elle les inventerait »[9]. Il a soulignĂ© la nature autoritaire de l'arrangement de Blanc :

" M. Blanc n'est jamais fatiguĂ© de faire appel Ă  l'autoritĂ©, alors que le socialisme se dĂ©clare nettement anarchiste ; M. Blanc place le pouvoir au-dessus de la sociĂ©tĂ©, et le socialisme tend Ă  le subordonner Ă  la sociĂ©tĂ© ; M. Blanc considère la vie sociale comme une consĂ©quence, et le socialisme estime qu'elle prend naissance et se dĂ©veloppe ; M. Blanc court après la politique, et le socialisme est Ă  la recherche de la science. Plus d'hypocrisie, veux-je dire Ă  M. Blanc : vous ne dĂ©sirez ni catholicisme ni monarchie ni noblesse, mais vous devez avoir un Dieu, une religion, une dictature, une censure, une hiĂ©rarchie, des distinctions, et des rangs. Pour ma part, je nie votre Dieu, votre autoritĂ©, votre souverainetĂ©, votre Ă©tat juridique, et toutes vos reprĂ©sentations mystificatrices"[10].

Proudhon s'est Ă©galement opposĂ© Ă  la nature « descendantes Â» des idĂ©es de Blanc . Au lieu de rĂ©former d'en haut, Proudhon a soulignĂ© le besoin pour les personnes de la classe ouvrière de s'organiser pour leur propre libĂ©ration. Comme il a dit, le « problème se posant Ă  la classe ouvrière ... [ n'est ] pas la destruction, mais le dĂ©passement du pouvoir et du monopole, -- c'est-Ă -dire, produire, grace aux gens, des profondeurs de la classe ouvrière, une plus grande autoritĂ©, un fait plus efficace, qui enveloppera le capital et l'Ă©tat et les subjuguera ». Parce que, « pour combattre et rĂ©duire le pouvoir, le remettre Ă  sa place dans la sociĂ©tĂ©, il est inutile de changer les gardiens de ce pouvoir ou d'initier certaines variations dans ses fonctionnements : on doit trouver une combinaison agricole et industrielle au moyen de laquelle le pouvoir, aujourd'hui maĂ®tre de la sociĂ©tĂ©, deviendra son esclave »[11]. Proudhon a soulignĂ©, en 1848, que « le prolĂ©tariat doit s'Ă©manciper lui-mĂŞme sans l'aide du gouvernment »[12]. C'Ă©tait parce que l'Etat « se trouve enchainĂ© inĂ©vitablement au capital et dirigĂ© contre le proletariat »[13]. En outre, en garantissant le paiement des intĂ©rĂŞts, le shĂ©ma de Blanc assurerait l'exploitation perpetuelle du travail par le capital.

Proudhon, en revanche, a plaidĂ© pour une approche bi-directionnelle pour saper les bases du capitalisme : la crĂ©ation d'associations d'ouvriers et l'organisation du crĂ©dit. En crĂ©ant les banques mutuelles, qui ont fourni le crĂ©dit Ă  son vrai coĂ»t, les ouvriers pourraient crĂ©er des associations pour concurrencer des sociĂ©tĂ©s capitalistes, les conduisant vers la faillite et ainsi Ă©liminant l'exploitation une fois pour toutes par l'auto-gestion des ouvriers. De cette façon, la classe ouvrière s'Ă©mancipe elle-mĂŞme du capitalisme et Ă©tablit une sociĂ©tĂ© socialiste grace Ă  une lame de fond, grace Ă  leurs propres efforts et activitĂ©s. Proudhon, comme le note le marxiste Paul Thomas, « a cru ardemment ... dans le salut des ouvriers, par leurs propres efforts, par l'action Ă©conomique et sociale ... Proudhon prĂ©conisait, et dans une large mesure a inspirĂ©, que l'Ă©tat libère le terrain pour laisser la place Ă  des associations de classe ouvrière autonomes »[14].

Rejetant la révolution violente (et, en fait, les grèves, comme contre productives) il a plaidé pour que des moyens économiques mettent fin à l'exploitation économique et, en tant que tels, il voyait l'anarchisme survenir par la réforme, par l'intermédiaire de la concurrence des associations d'ouvriers prenant la place de l'industrie capitaliste (à la différence des anarchistes qui vont lui succéder, qui étaient des révolutionnaires, et qui ont notés le fait que le capitalisme ne peut pas être reformé et ont ainsi soutenu des grèves et d'autres formes de lutte collective de la classe ouvrière, etc.). Étant donné que la majeure partie de la classe ouvrière française était constituée d'artisans et de paysans, une telle approche reflétait le contexte social dans lequel elle a été proposée.

C'Ă©tait ce contexte social, cette prĂ©dominance des paysans et des artisans dans la sociĂ©tĂ© française qui a formĂ© les idĂ©es de Proudhon. Il n'a jamais manquĂ© de souligner que l'association serait tyrannique si elle s'imposait aux paysans et aux artisans (plutĂ´t, il a pensĂ© que des associations seraient librement rejointes par des ouvriers si ceux-ci pensaient que cela Ă©tait dans leur intĂ©rĂŞt). Il a Ă©galement soulignĂ© que la propriĂ©tĂ© d'Ă©tat des moyens de production Ă©tait un danger Ă  la libertĂ© de l'ouvrier industriel et, d'ailleurs, par la suite un capitalisme de l'Ă©tat comme nouveau patron. Comme il l'a dit en 1848, il « n'a pas voulu voir l'Ă©tat confisquer les mines, les canaux et les chemins de fer ; cela s'ajouterait Ă  la monarchie, et Ă  plus d'esclavage salariĂ©. Nous voulons que les mines, les canaux, les chemins de fer soient remis aux associations d'ouvriers dĂ©mocratiquement organisĂ©s ... ces associations seront des modèles pour l'agriculture, l'industrie et le commerce, le noyau pilote de cette vaste fĂ©dĂ©ration de compagnies et de sociĂ©tĂ©s formant le socle de la rĂ©publique sociale dĂ©mocratique »[15]. Les associations d'ouvriers auraient leur places dans les industries qui en ont objectivement besoin (c.-Ă -d. l'industrie capitaliste) et lĂ  oĂą elles sont dĂ©sirĂ©es.

Marx, naturellement, a rĂ©pondu au travail de Proudhon Système des contradictions Ă©conomiques sous-titrĂ© Philosopie de la Misère, par un ouvrage nommĂ© MisĂ©re de la Philosophie. Le travail de Marx a Ă©veillĂ© peu d'intĂ©rĂŞt une fois Ă©ditĂ©, bien que Proudhon ait soigneusement lu et ait annotĂ© le travail de Marx, et disait que c'Ă©tait de la « diffamation Â» et un « tissu de mensonges, de calomnies, de falsifications et du plagiat Â» (Il a mĂŞme traitĂ© Marx de « tĂ©nia du socialisme. Â»)[16]. Malheureusement, Proudhon n'a pas rĂ©pondu au travail de Marx, Ă  cause d'une crise familliale aiguĂ« et du dĂ©but de la rĂ©volution de 1848 en France. Cependant, Ă©tant donnĂ© ses avis sur Louis Blanc et sur d'autres socialistes qui voyait le socialisme se rĂ©aliser par le pouvoir de l'Etat, nous pouvons penser qu'il n'aurait par supporter les idĂ©es de Marx.

Ainsi, tandis qu'aucun des arguments de Proudhon et de Stirner n'est directement dirigé vers le marxisme, leurs idées sont applicables à une large part du marxisme traditionnel, en tant que celui-ci a hérité des idées du socialisme d'Etat, qu'ils ont attaqués. Ainsi ils ont fait la critique des idées socialistes et communistes qui ont existé pendant leurs vies. Beaucoup de leur analyse ont étés incorporés dans le collectivisme et les idées communistes des anarchistes qui les ont suivis (certains directement, comme avec Proudhon, certains par coïncidence comme avec le travail de Stirner qui a été rapidement oublié, et qui a eu seulement un impact sur le mouvement anarchiste quand George Henry "MacKay" l'a redécouvert dans les années 1890). Ceci peut être vu dans le fait que les idées de Proudhon sur la gestion de la production par les associations ouvrieres, l'opposition à la nationalisation comme étant du capitalisme d'Etat, et le besoin d'action venant de la base, de la part des personnes de la classe ouvrière elles-mêmes, toutes ont trouvé leurs places dans le communisme-anarchisme et l'anarcho-syndicalisme et dans leurs critiques du marxisme traditionnel (tel que la social-démocratie) et du léninisme.

Les Ă©chos de ces critiques peuvent ĂŞtre trouvĂ©s dans les commentaires de Bakounine en 1868 :

« Je déteste le communisme parce que c'est la négation de la liberté et parce que pour moi l'humanité est impensable sans la liberté. Je ne suis pas un communiste, parce que le communisme concentre et engloutit en soi au profit de l'état toutes les forces de la société, parce qu'il mène inévitablement à la concentration de la propriété dans les mains de l'état ... Je veux voir la société et la propriété collective ou sociale organisées de la base vers le haut, par des associations libres, pas des dirigeants vers le bas, au moyen de n'importe quel genre d'autorité que ce soit ... C'est le sens dans lequel je suis un collectiviste et pas un communiste »[17].

C'est avec Bakounine que le marxisme et l'anarchisme sont entrés en conflit direct. C'était Bakounine qui mènait la lutte contre Marx dans l'Association Internationale des Ouvriers entre 1868 et 1872. C'était dans ces échanges que les deux écoles du socialisme (la libertaire et l'autoritaire) se sont clarifiés elles-mêmes. Avec Bakounine, la critique anarchiste du marxisme (et du socialisme d'état en général) commence à atteindre sa forme finale. Inutile de dire que cette critique a continué à se développer après la mort de Bakounine (en particulier après les expériences des mouvements et des révolutions marxistes réelles). Cependant, beaucoup de celles ci se sont basées sur plusieurs des prévisions originales et des analyses de Bakounine.

Nous discuterons la critique de Bakounine dans la prochaine section.

Notes et references

  1. ? Ni Dieux, Ni Maitres**, vol. 2, p. 20
  2. ? Agis pour toi-mĂŞme, p. 98
  3. ? L'unique et sa propriété, p. 265
  4. ? Op. Cit., pp. 268-9
  5. ? Op. Cit., p. 224
  6. ? L'unique et sa propriété, p. 257
  7. ? La conquéte du pain, p. 111
  8. ? cité par K. Steven Vincent, **Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism**, p. 139
  9. ? cité par Vincent, Op. Cit., p. 157
  10. ? Systéme des contradictions économiques
  11. ? Systéme des contradictions économiques, p. 398 et p. 397
  12. ? citĂ© par George Woodcock, **Pierre-Joseph Proudhon : Une Biographie**, p. 125
  13. ? Proudhon, **Systéme des contradictions économiques**, p. 399
  14. ? Karl Marx et les Anarchistes, pp. 177-8
  15. ? Ni Dieux, Ni Maitres**, vol. 1, p. 62
  16. ? cité par George Woodcock, **Proudhon**, p. 102
  17. ? cité par K.J. Kenafick, **Michael Bakounine et Karl Marx**, pp. 67-8

H.1.1 What was Bakunin's critique of Marxism?

Bakunin and Marx famously clashed in the first International Working Men's Association between 1868 and 1872. This conflict helped clarify the anarchist opposition to the ideas of Marxism and can be considered as the first major theoretical analysis and critique of Marxism by anarchists. Later critiques followed, of course, particularly after the degeneration of Social Democracy into reformism and the failure of the Russian Revolution (both of which allowed the theoretical critiques to be enriched by empirical evidence) but the Bakunin/Marx conflict laid the ground for what came after. As such, an overview of Bakunin's critique is essential.

First, however, we must stress that Marx and Bakunin had many similar ideas. They both stressed the need for working people to organise themselves to overthrow capitalism. They both argued for a socialist revolution from below. They argued for collective ownership of the means of production. They both constantly stressed that the emancipation of the workers must be the task of the workers themselves. They differed, of course, in exactly how these common points should be implemented in practice. Both, moreover, had a tendency to misrepresent the opinions of the other on certain issues (particularly as the struggle reached its climax). Anarchists, unsurprisingly, argue Bakunin has been proved right by history, so confirming the key aspects of his critique of Marx.

So what was Bakunin's critique of Marxism? There are five main areas. Firstly, there is the question of current activity (i.e. whether the workers' movement should participate in "politics" and the nature of revolutionary working class organisation). Secondly, there is the issue of the form of the revolution (i.e. whether it should be a political then an economic one, or whether it should be both at the same time). Thirdly, there is the issue of the "dictatorship of the proletariat." Fourthly, there is the question of whether political power can be seized by the working class as a whole or whether it can only be exercised by a small minority. Fifthly, there was the issue of whether the revolution be centralised or decentralised in nature. We shall discuss each in turn.

On the issue of current struggle, the differences between Marx and Bakunin were clear. For Marx, the proletariat had to take part in bourgeois elections as an organised political party. As the resolution of the (gerrymandered) Hague Congress of First International put it, "[i]n its struggle against the collective power of the possessing classes the proletariat can act as a class only by constituting itself a distinct political party, opposed to all the old parties formed by the possessing classes . . . the conquest of political power becomes the great duty of the proletariat." [Marx, Engels, Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 85]

This political party must stand for elections and win votes. As Marx argued in the preamble of the French Workers' Party, the workers must turn the franchise "from a means of deception . . . into an instrument of emancipation." This can be considered as part of the process outlined in the Communist Manifesto, where it was argued that the "immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties," namely the "conquest of political power by the proletariat," the "first step in the revolution by the working class" being "to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy." Engels latter stressed (in 1895) that the "Communist Manifesto had already proclaimed the winning of universal suffrage, of democracy, as one of the first and most important tasks of the militant proletariat" and that German Social Democracy had showed workers of all countries "how to make use of universal suffrage." [Marx and Engels Reader, p. 566, p. 484, p. 490 and p. 565]

With this analysis in mind, Marxist influenced political parties have consistently argued for and taken part in election campaigns, seeking office as a means of spreading socialist ideas and as a means of pursuing the socialist revolution. The Social Democratic parties which were the first Marxist parties (and which developed under Marx and Engels watchful eyes) saw revolution in terms of winning a majority within Parliamentary elections and using this political power to abolish capitalism (once this was done, the state would "wither away" as classes would no longer exist). In effect, these parties aimed to reproduce Marx's account of the forming of the Paris Commune on the level of the national Parliament. Marx in his justly famous work The Civil War in France reported how the Commune "was formed of the municipal councillors" who had been "chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town" in the municipal elections held on March 26th, 1871. This new Commune then issued a series of decrees which reformed the existing state (for example, by suppressing the standing army and replacing it with the armed people, and so on). This Marx summarised by stating that "the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposed." [Marx and Engels, Selected Works, p. 287 and p. 285]

As Engels put it in a latter letter, it was "simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administratively centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes." [quoted by David P. Perrin, The Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 64] He repeated this elsewhere, arguing that "after the victory of the Proletariat, the only organisation the victorious working class finds ready-made for use is that of the State. It may require adaptation to the new functions. But to destroy that at such a moment would mean to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious working class can exert its newly conquered power, keep down its capitalist enemies and carry out . . . economic revolution." [our emphasis, Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 173]

Bakunin, in contrast, argued that while the communists "imagine they can attain their goal by the development and organisation of the political power of the working classes . . . aided by bourgeois radicalism" anarchists "believe they can succeed only through the development and organisation of the non-political or anti-political power of the working classes." The Communists "believe it necessary to organise the workers' forces in order to seize the political power of the State," while anarchists "organise for the purpose of destroying it." Bakunin saw this in terms of creating new organs of working class power in opposition to the state, organised "from the bottom up, by the free association or federation of workers, starting with the associations, then going on to the communes, the region, the nations, and, finally, culminating in a great international and universal federation." [Bakunin on Anarchism, pp. 262-3 and p. 270] In other words, a system of workers' councils. As such, he constantly argued for workers, peasants and artisans to organise into unions and join the International Workingmen's Association, so becoming "a real force . . . which knows what to do and is therefore capable of guiding the revolution in the direction marked out by the aspirations of the people: a serious international organisation of workers' associations of all lands capable of replacing this departing world of states." [Op. Cit., p. 174]

To Marx's argument that workers should organise politically, and send their representations to Parliament, Bakunin argued that when "the workers . . . send common workers . . . to Legislative Assemblies . . . The worker-deputies, transplanted into a bourgeois environment, into an atmosphere of purely bourgeois ideas, will in fact cease to be workers and, becoming Statesmen, they will become bourgeois . . . For men do not make their situations; on the contrary, men are made by them." [The Basic Bakunin, p. 108]

As far as history goes, the experience of Social Democracy confirmed Bakunin's analysis. A few years after Engels death in 1895, German Social Democracy was racked by the "revisionism" debate. This debate did not spring from the minds of a few leaders, isolated from the movement, but rather expressed developments within the movement itself. In effect, the revisionists wanted to adjust the party rhetoric to what the party was actually doing and so the battle against the revisionists basically represented a battle between what the party said it was doing and its actual practice. As one of the most distinguished historians of this period put it, the "distinction between the contenders remained largely a subjective one, a difference of ideas in the evaluation of reality rather than a difference in the realm of action." [C. Schorske, German Social Democracy, p. 38] Even Rosa Luxemburg (one of the fiercest critics of revisionism) acknowledged in Reform or Revolution that it was "the final goal of socialism [that] constitutes the only decisive factor distinguishing the social democratic movement from bourgeois democracy and bourgeois radicalism." [Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, p. 36] As such, the Marxist critics of "revisionism" failed to place the growth in revisionist ideas in the tactics being used, instead seeing it in terms of a problem in ideas. By the start of the First World War, the Social Democrats had become so corrupted by its activities in bourgeois institutions it supported its state (and ruling class) and voted for war credits rather than denounce the war as Imperialist slaughter for profits (see also section J.2.6 for more discussion on the effect of electioneering on radical parties). Clearly, Bakunin was proved right.

However, we must stress that because Bakunin rejected participating in bourgeois politics, it did not mean that he rejected "politics" or "political struggle" in general (also see section J.2.10). As he put it, "it is absolutely impossible to ignore political and philosophical questions" and "the proletariat itself will pose them" in the International. He argued that political struggle will come from the class struggle, as "[w]ho can deny that out of this ever-growing organisation of the militant solidarity of the proletariat against bourgeois exploitation there will issue forth the political struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie?" Anarchists simply thought that the "policy of the proletariat" should be "the destruction of the State" rather than working within it. [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 301, p. 302 and p. 276] As such, the people "must organise their powers apart from and against the State." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 376]

As should be obvious by now, the difference between Marx and Bakunin on the nature of working class organisation in the struggle reflected these differences on political struggle. Bakunin clearly advocated what would later by termed a syndicalist strategy based on direct action (in particular strikes) and workers' unions which would "bear in themselves the living seeds of the new society which is to replace the old world. They are creating not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself." [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 255] This union movement would be complemented by a specific anarchist organisation which would work within it to influence it towards anarchist aims by the "natural influence" of its members (see section J.3.7 for a fuller discussion of this). Marx argued for political parties, utilising elections, which, as the history of Social Democracy indicates, did not have quite the outcome Marx would have liked. Section J.2 discusses direct action, electioneering and whether anarchist abstentionism implies disinterest in politics in more detail.

Which brings us to the second issue, namely the nature of the revolution itself. For Bakunin, a revolution meant a social revolution from below. This involved both the abolition of the state and the expropriation of capital. In his words, "the revolution must set out from the first [to] radically and totally to destroy the State." The "natural and necessary consequences" of which will be the "confiscation of all productive capital and means of production on behalf of workers' associations, who are to put them to collective use . . . the federative Alliance of all working men's associations . . . will constitute the Commune." There "can no longer be any successful political . . . revolution unless the political revolution is transformed into social revolution." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 170 and p. 171]

Which, incidentally, disproves Engels' claims that Bakunin considered "the state as the main evil to be abolished." [Marx and Engels Reader, p. 728] Clearly, Engels assertions misrepresent Bakunin's position, as Bakunin always stressed that economic and political transformation should occur at the same time during the revolutionary process. Given that Bakunin thought the state was the protector of capitalism, no economic change could be achieved until such time as it was abolished. This also meant that Bakunin considered a political revolution before an economic one to mean the continued slavery of the workers. As he argued, "[t]o win political freedom first can signify no other thing but to win this freedom only, leaving for the first days at least economic and social relations in the same old state, -- that is, leaving the proprietors and capitalists with their insolent wealth, and the workers with their poverty." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 294] With capitalists' economic power intact, could the workers' political power remain strong? As such, "every political revolution taking place prior to and consequently without a social revolution must necessarily be a bourgeois revolution, and a bourgeois revolution can only be instrumental in bringing about bourgeois Socialism -- that is, it is bound to end in a new, more hypocritical and more skilful, but no less oppressive, exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeois." [Op. Cit., p. 289]

Did Marx and Engels hold this position? Apparently so. Discussing the Paris Commune, Marx noted that it was "the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour," and as the "political rule of the producer cannot coexist with the perpetuation of his social slavery" the Commune was to "serve as a lever for uprooting the economic foundations upon which rests the existence of classes." [Marx and Engels, Selected Writings, p. 290] Engels argued that the "proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the . . . means of production . . . into public property." [The Marx-Engels Reader, p. 717] In the Communist Manifesto they argued that "the first step in the revolution by the working class" is the "rais[ing] the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy." The proletariat "will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeois, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e. of the proletariat organised as the ruling class." [Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 52]

Similarly, when Marx discussed what the "dictatorship of the proletariat" meant, he argued (in reply to Bakunin's question of "over whom will the proletariat rule") that it simply meant "that so long as other classes continue to exist, the capitalist class in particular, the proletariat fights it (for with the coming of the proletariat to power, its enemies will not yet have disappeared), it must use measures of force, hence governmental measures; if it itself still remains a class and the economic conditions on which the class struggle and the existence of classes have not yet disappeared, they must be forcibly removed or transformed, and the process of their transformation must be forcibly accelerated." [The Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 542-3] Note, "capitalists," not "former capitalists," so implying that the members of the proletariat are, in fact, still proletariats after the "socialist" revolution and so still subject to wage slavery by capitalists.

Clearly, then, Marx and Engels considered the seizing of state power as the key event and, later, the expropriation of the expropriators would occur. Thus the economic power of the capitalists would remain, with the proletariat utilising political power to combat and reduce it. Anarchists argue that if the proletariat did not hold economic power, its political power would at best be insecure and would in fact degenerate. Would the capitalists just sit and wait while their economic power was gradually eliminated by political action? And what of the proletariat during this period? Will they patiently obey their bosses, continue to be oppressed and exploited by them until such time as the end of their "social slavery" has been worked out (and by whom)? As the experience of the Russian Revolution showed, Marx and Engels position proved to be untenable.

As we discuss in more detail in section H.4, the Russian workers initially followed Bakunin's path. After the February revolution, they organised factory committees and raised the idea and practice of workers self-management of production. The Russian anarchists supported this movement whole-heartedly, arguing that it should be pushed as far as it would go. In contrast, Lenin argued for "workers' control over the capitalists." [Will the Bolsheviks Maintain Power?, p. 52] This was, unsurprisingly, the policy applied immediately after the Bolshevik seizure of power. However, as one Leninist writer admits, "[t]wo overwhelmingly powerful forces obliged the Bolsheviks to abandon this 'reformist' course." One was the start of the civil war, the other "was the fact that the capitalists used their remaining power to make the system unworkable. At the end of 1917 the All Russian Congress of employers declared that those 'factories in which the control is exercised by means of active interference in the administration will be closed.' The workers' natural response to the wave of lockouts which followed was to demand that their [sic!] state nationalise the factories." [John Rees, "In Defence of October", pp. 3-82, International Socialism, no. 52, p. 42] By July 1918, only one-fifth of nationalised firms had been nationalised by the central government (which, incidentally, shows the unresponsiveness of centralised power). Clearly, the idea that a social revolution can come after a political was shown to be a failure -- the capitalist class used its powers to disrupt the economic life of Russia.

Faced with the predictable opposition by capitalists to their system of "control" the Bolsheviks nationalised the means of production. Sadly, within the nationalised workplace the situation of the worker remained essentially unchanged. Lenin had been arguing for one-man management (appointed from above and armed with "dictatorial" powers) since late April 1918. This aimed at replacing the capitalist managers with state managers, not workers self-management:

"On three occasions in the first months of Soviet power, the [factory] committees leaders sought to bring their model [of workers' self-management of the economy] into being. At each point the party leadership overruled them. The Bolshevik alternative was to vest both managerial and control powers in organs of the state which were subordinate to the central authorities, and formed by them." [Thomas F. Remington, Building Socialism in Bolshevik Russia, p. 38]

Bakunin's fear of what would happen if a political revolution preceded a social one came true. The working class continued to be exploited and oppressed as before, first by the bourgeoisie and then by the new bourgeoisie of state appointed managers armed with all the powers of the old ones (plus a few more). Russia confirmed Bakunin's analysis that a revolution must immediately combine political and economic goals in order for it to be successful.

Which brings us to the "dictatorship of the proletariat." While many Marxists basically use this term to describe the defence of the revolution and so argue that anarchists do not see the need to defend a revolution, this is incorrect. Anarchists from Bakunin onwards have argued that a revolution would have to defend itself from counter revolution and yet we reject the term totally (see sections H.2.1, I.5.14 and J.7.6 for a refutation of claims that anarchists think a revolution does not need defending). So why did Bakunin reject the concept? To understand why, we must provide some historical context -- namely the fact that at the time he was writing the proletariat was a minority of the working masses.

Simply put, anarchists in the nineteenth century rejected the idea of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" simply because the proletariat was a minority of working people at the time. As such, to argue for a dictatorship of the proletariat meant to argue for the dictatorship of a minority class, a class which excluded the majority of toiling people. When Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, for example, over 80% of the population of France and Germany were peasants or artisans -- what Marx termed the "petit-bourgeois" and his followers termed the "petty-bourgeois." This fact meant that the comment in the Communist Manifesto that the "proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority" was simply not true. Rather, for Marx's life-time (and for many decades afterwards) the proletarian movement was like "[a]ll previous movements," namely "movements of minorities, or in the interests of minorities." [The Marx-Engels Reader, p. 482]

Not that Marx and Engels were unaware of this. In the Manifesto they note that "[i]n countries like France" the peasants "constitute far more than half of the population." In his famous 1875 work "Critique of the Gotha Program," Marx noted that "the majority of the 'toiling people' in Germany consists of peasants, and not of proletarians." He stressed elsewhere around the same time that "the peasant . . . forms a more of less considerable majority . . . in the countries of the West European continent." [Op. Cit., p. 493, p. 536 and p. 543]

Clearly, then, Marx and Engels vision of proletarian revolution was one which involved a minority dictating to the majority. As such, Bakunin rejected the concept. He was simply pointing out the fact that a "dictatorship of the proletariat," at the time, actually meant a dictatorship by a minority of working people and so a "revolution" which excluded the majority of working people (i.e. artisans and peasants). As he argued in 1873:

"If the proletariat is to be the ruling class . . . then whom will it rule? There must be yet another proletariat which will be subject to this new rule, this new state. It may be the peasant rabble . . . which, finding itself on a lower cultural level, will probably be governed by the urban and factory proletariat." [Statism and Anarchy, pp. 177-8]

Bakunin continually stressed that the peasants "will join cause with the city workers as soon as they become convinced that the latter do not pretend to impose their will or some political or social order invented by the cities for the greater happiness of the villages; they will join cause as soon as they are assured that the industrial workers will not take their lands away." As such, as noted above, while the Marxists aimed for the "development and organisation of the political power of the working classes, and chiefly of the city proletariat," anarchists aimed for "the social (and therefore anti-political) organisation and power of the working masses of the cities and villages." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 401 and p. 300]

For Bakunin, to advocate the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in an environment where the vast majority of working people were peasants would be a disaster. It is only when we understand this social context that we can understand Bakunin's opposition to Marx's "dictatorship of the proletariat" -- it would be a dictatorship of a minority class over the rest of the working population (he took it as a truism that the capitalist and landlord classes should be expropriated and stopped from destroying the revolution!). For Bakunin, when the industrial working class was a minority, it was essential to "[o]rganise the city proletariat in the name of revolutionary Socialism, and in doing this, unite it into one preparatory organisation together with the peasantry. An uprising by the proletariat alone would not be enough; with that we would have only a political revolution which would necessarily produce a natural and legitimate reaction on the part of the peasants, and that reaction, or merely the indifference of the peasants, would strangle the revolution of the cities." [Op. Cit., p. 378]

This explains why the anarchists at the St. Imier Congress argued that "every political state can be nothing but organised domination for the benefit of one class, to the detriment of the masses, and that should the proletariat itself seize power, it would in turn become a new dominating and exploiting class." As the proletariat was a minority class at the time, their concerns can be understood. For anarchists then, and now, a social revolution has to be truly popular and involve the majority of the population in order to succeed. Unsurprisingly, the congress stressed the role of the proletariat in the struggle for socialism, arguing that "the proletariat of all lands . . . must create the solidarity of revolutionary action . . . independently of and in opposition to all forms of bourgeois politics." Moreover, the aim of the workers' movement was "free organisations and federations . . . created by the spontaneous action of the proletariat itself, [that is, by] the trade bodies and the autonomous communes." [as cited in Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 438, p. 439 and p. 438]

Hence Bakunin's comment that "the designation of the proletariat, the world of the workers, as class rather than as mass" was "deeply antipathetic to us revolutionary anarchists who unconditionally advocate full popular emancipation." To do so, he argued, meant "[n]othing more or less than a new aristocracy, that of the urban and industrial workers, to the exclusion of the millions who make up the rural proletariat and who . . . will in effect become subjects of this great so-called popular State." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, pp. 253-4]

Again, the experiences of the Russian Revolution tend to confirm Bakunin's worries. The Bolsheviks implemented the dictatorship of the city over the countryside, with disastrous results (see section H.4 for more details).

One last point on this subject. While anarchists reject the "dictatorship of the proletariat" we clearly do not reject the key role the proletariat must play in any social revolution (see section H.2.2 on why the Marxist assertion anarchists reject class struggle is false). We only reject the idea that the proletariat must dictate over other working people like peasants and artisans. We do not reject the need for working class people to defend a revolution, nor the need for them to expropriate the capitalist class nor for them to manage their own activities and so society.

Then there is the issue of whether, even if the proletariat does seize political power, whether the whole proletariat can actually exercise it. Bakunin raising the obvious questions:

"For, even from the standpoint of that urban proletariat who are supposed to reap the sole reward of the seizure of political power, surely it is obvious that this power will never be anything but a sham? It is bound to be impossible for a few thousand, let alone tens or hundreds of thousands of men to wield that power effectively. It will have to be exercised by proxy, which means entrusting it to a group of men elected to represent and govern them, which in turn will unfailingly return them to all the deceit and subservience of representative or bourgeois rule. After a brief flash of liberty or orgiastic revolution, the citizens of the new State will wake up slaves, puppets and victims of a new group of ambitious men." [Op. Cit., pp. 254-5]

He repeated this argument in Statism and Anarchy, where he asked "[w]hat does it mean, 'the proletariat raised to a governing class?' Will the entire proletariat head the government? The Germans number about 40 million. Will all 40 millions be members of the government? The entire nation will rule, but no one will be ruled. Then there will be no government, no state; but if there is a state, there will also be those who are ruled, there will be slaves." Bakunin argued that Marxism resolves this dilemma "in a simple fashion. By popular government they mean government of the people by a small number of representatives elected by the people. So-called popular representatives and rulers of the state elected by the entire nation on the basis of universal suffrage -- the last word of the Marxists, as well as the democratic school -- is a lie behind which lies the despotism of a ruling minority is concealed, a lie all the more dangerous in that it represents itself as the expression of a sham popular will." [Statism and Anarchy, p. 178]

So where does Marx stand on this question. Clearly, the self-proclaimed followers of Marx support the idea of "socialist" governments (indeed, many, including Lenin and Trotsky, went so far as to argue that party dictatorship was essential for the success of a revolution -- see next section). Marx, however, is less clear. He argued, in reply to Bakunin's question if all Germans would be members of the government, that "[c]ertainly, because the thing starts with the self-government of the township." However, he also commented that "[c]an it really be that in a trade union, for example, the entire union forms its executive committee," suggesting that there will be a division of labour between those who govern and those who obey in the Marxist system of socialism. [The Marx-Engels Reader, p. 545 and p. 544] Elsewhere he talks about "a socialist government . . . com[ing] into power in a country." ["Letter to F. Domela-Nieuwenhuis," Eugene Schulkind (ed.), The Paris Commune of 1871: The View from the Left, p. 244]

As such, Bakunin's critique holds, as Marx and Engels clearly saw the "dictatorship of the proletariat" involving a socialist government having power. For Bakunin, like all anarchists, if a political party is the government, then clearly they are in power, not the mass of working people they claim to represent. Anarchists have, from the beginning, argued that Marx made a grave mistake confusing workers' power with the state. This is because the state is the means by which the management of people's affairs is taken from them and placed into the hands of a few. It signifies delegated power. As such, the so-called "workers' state" or "dictatorship of the proletariat" is a contradiction in terms. Instead of signifying the power of the working class to manage society it, in fact, signifies the opposite, namely the handing over of that power to a few party leaders at the top of a centralised structure. This is because "all State rule, all governments being by their very nature placed outside the people, must necessarily seek to subject it to customs and purposes entirely foreign to it. We therefore declare ourselves to be foes . . . of all State organisations as such, and believe that the people can be happy and free, when, organised from below upwards by means of its own autonomous and completely free associations, without the supervision of any guardians, it will create its own life." [Marxism, Freedom and the State, p. 63] Hence Bakunin's constant arguments for decentralised, federal system of workers councils organised from the bottom-up. Again, the transformation of the Bolshevik government into a dictatorship over the proletariat during the early stages of the Russian Revolution supports Bakunin's critique of Marxism.

Which brings us to the last issue, namely whether the revolution will be decentralised or centralised. For Marx, the issue is somewhat confused by his support for the Paris Commune and its federalist programme (written, we must note, by a follower of Proudhon). However, in 1850, Marx stood for extreme centralisation of power. As he put it, the workers "must not only strive for a single and indivisible German republic, but also within this republic for the most determined centralisation of power in the hands of the state authority." He argued that in a nation like Germany "where there is so many relics of the Middle Ages to be abolished" it "must under no circumstances be permitted that every village, every town and every province should put a new obstacle in the path of revolutionary activity, which can proceed with full force from the centre." He stressed that "[a]s in France in 1793 so today in Germany it is the task of the really revolutionary party to carry through the strictest centralisation." [The Marx-Engels Reader, p. 509-10] Lenin followed this aspect of Marx's ideas, arguing that "Marx was a centralist" and applying this perspective both in the party and once in power [The Essential Works of Lenin, p. 310]

Ironically, it is Engels note to the 1885 edition of Marx's work which shows the fallacy of this position. As he put it, "this passage is based on a misunderstanding" and it "is now . . . [a] well known fact that throughout the whole revolution . . . the whole administration of the departments, arrondissements and communes consisted of authorities elected by the respective constituents themselves, and that these authorities acted with complete freedom . . . that precisely this provincial and local self-government . . . became the most powerful lever of the revolution." [The Marx-Engels Reader, p. 510f] Marx's original comments imply the imposition of freedom by the centre on a population not desiring it (and in such a case, how could the centre be representative of the majority in such a case?). Moreover, how could a revolution be truly social if it was not occurring in the grassroots across a country? Unsurprisingly, local autonomy has played a key role in every real revolution.

As such, Bakunin has been proved right. Centralism has always killed a revolution and, as he always argued, real socialism can only be worked from below, by the people of every village, town, and city. The problems facing the world or a revolution cannot be solved by a few people at the top issuing decrees. They can only be solved by the active participation of the mass of working class people, the kind of participation centralism and government by their nature exclude. As such, this dove-tails into the question of whether the whole class exercises power under the "dictatorship of the proletariat." In a centralised system, obviously, power has to be exercised by a few (as Marx's argument in 1850 showed). Centralism, by its very nature excludes the possibility of extensive participation in the decision making process. Moreover, the decisions reached by such a body could not reflect the real needs of society. In the words of Bakunin:

"What man, what group of individuals, no matter how great their genius, would dare to think themselves able to embrace and understand the plethora of interests, attitudes and activities so various in every country, every province, locality and profession." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 240]

He stressed that "the revolution should be and should everywhere remain independent of the central point, which must be its expression and product -- not its source, guide and cause . . . the awakening of all local passions and the awakening of spontaneous life at all points, must be well developed in order for the revolution to remain alive, real and powerful." [Op. Cit., pp. 179-80] This, we must stress, does not imply isolation. Bakunin always stressed the importance of federal organisation to co-ordinate struggle and defence of the revolution. As he put it, all revolutionary communes would need to federate in order "to organise the necessary common services and arrangements for production and exchange, to establish the charter of equality, the basis of all liberty -- a charter utterly negative in character, defining what has to be abolished for ever rather than the positive forms of local life which can be created only by the living practice of each locality -- and to organise common defence against the enemies of the Revolution." [Op. Cit., p. 179]

In short, anarchists should "not accept, even in the process of revolutionary transition, either constituent assemblies, provisional governments or so-called revolutionary dictatorships; because we are convinced that revolution is only sincere, honest and real in the hands of the masses, and that when it is concentrated in those of a few ruling individuals it inevitably and immediately becomes reaction." Rather, the revolution "everywhere must be created by the people, and supreme control must always belong to the people organised into a free federation of agricultural and industrial associations . . . organised from the bottom upwards by means of revolutionary delegation." [Op. Cit., p. 237 and p. 172]

Given Marx's support for the federal ideas of the Paris Commune, it can be argued that Marxism is not committed to a policy of strict centralisation (although Lenin, of course, argued that Marx was a firm supporter of centralisation). What is true is, to quote Daniel Guerin, that Marx's comments on the Commune differ "noticeably from Marx's writings of before and after 1871" while Bakunin's were "in fact quite consistent with the lines he adopted in his earlier writings." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 167] Indeed, as Bakunin himself noted, while the Marxists "saw all their ideas upset by the uprising" of the Commune, they "found themselves compelled to take their hats off to it." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 261] This modification of ideas by Marx was not limited just to federalism. Marx also praised the commune's system of mandating recallable delegates, a position which Bakunin had been arguing for a number of years previously. In 1868, for example, he was talked about a "Revolutionary Communal Council" composed of "delegates . . . vested with plenary but accountable and removable mandates." [Op. Cit., pp. 170-1] As such, the Paris Commune was a striking confirmation of Bakunin's ideas on many levels, not Marx's (who adjusted his ideas to bring them in line with Bakunin's!).

In summary, Bakunin argued that decentralisation of power was essential for a real revolution that achieves more than changing who the boss it. A free society could only be created and run from below, by the active participation of the bulk of the population. Centralisation would kill this participation and so kill the revolution. Marx and Engels, on the other hand, while sometimes supporting federalism and local self-government, had a centralist streak in their politics which Bakunin thought undermined the success of any revolution.

Since Bakunin, anarchists have deepen this critique of Marxism and, with the experience of Bolshevism, argue that he predicted key failures in Marx's ideas. Given that his followers, particularly Lenin and Trotsky, have emphasised (although, in many ways, changed them) the centralisation and "socialist government" aspects of Marx's thoughts, anarchists argue that Bakunin's critique is as relevant as ever. Real socialism can only come from below.

H.1.2 What are the key differences between Anarchists and Marxists?

There are, of course, important similarities between anarchism and Marxism. Both are socialists, oppose capitalism and the current state, support and encourage working class organisation and action and see class struggle as the means of creating a social revolution which will transform society into a new one. However, the differences between these socialist theories are equally important. In the words of Errico Malatesta:

"The important, fundamental dissension [between anarchists and Marxists] is [that] . . . [Marxist] socialists are authoritarians, anarchists are libertarians.

"Socialists want power . . . and once in power wish to impose their programme on the people. . . Anarchists instead maintain, that government cannot be other than harmful, and by its very nature it defends either an existing privileged class or creates a new one; and instead of inspiring to take the place of the existing government anarchists seek to destroy every organism which empowers some to impose their own ideas and interests on others, for they want to free the way for development towards better forms of human fellowship which will emerge from experience, by everyone being free and, having, of course, the economic means to make freedom possible as well as a reality." [Life and Ideas, p. 142]

The other differences derive from this fundamental one. So while there are numerous ways in which anarchists and Marxists differ, their root lies in the question of power. Socialists seek power (in the name of the working class and usually hidden under rhetoric arguing that party and class power are the same). Anarchists seek to destroy hierarchical power in all its forms and ensure that everyone is free to manage their own affairs (both individually and collectively). From this comes the differences on the nature of a revolution, the way the working class movement such organise and the tactics it should apply and so on. A short list of these differences would include the question of the "dictatorship of the proletariat", the standing of revolutionaries in elections, centralisation versus federalism, the role and organisation of revolutionaries, whether socialism can only come "from below" or whether it is possible for it come "from below" and "from above" and a host of others (i.e. some of the differences we indicated in the last section during our discussion of Bakunin's critique of Marxism). Indeed, there are so many it is difficult to address them all here. As such, we can only concentrate on a few in this and the following sections.

One of the key issues is on the issue of confusing party power with popular power. The logic of the anarchist case is simple. In any system of hierarchical and centralised power (for example, in a state or governmental structure) then those at the top are in charge (i.e. are in positions of power). It is not "the people," nor "the proletariat," nor "the masses," it is those who make up the government who have and exercise real power. As Malatesta argued, government means "the delegation of power, that is the abdication of initiative and sovereignty of all into the hands of a few" and "if . . . , as do the authoritarians, one means government action when one talks of social action, then this is still the resultant of individual forces, but only of those individuals who form the government." [Anarchy, p. 40 and p. 36] Therefore, anarchists argue, the replacement of party power for working class power is inevitable because of the nature of the state. In the words of Murray Bookchin:

"Anarchist critics of Marx pointed out with considerable effect that any system of representation would become a statist interest in its own right, one that at best would work against the interests of the working classes (including the peasantry), and that at worst would be a dictatorial power as vicious as the worst bourgeois state machines. Indeed, with political power reinforced by economic power in the form of a nationalised economy, a 'workers' republic' might well prove to be a despotism (to use one of Bakunin's more favourite terms) of unparalleled oppression."

He continues:

"Republican institutions, however much they are intended to express the interests of the workers, necessarily place policy-making in the hands of deputies and categorically do not constitute a 'proletariat organised as a ruling class.' If public policy, as distinguished from administrative activities, is not made by the people mobilised into assemblies and confederally co-ordinated by agents on a local, regional, and national basis, then a democracy in the precise sense of the term does not exist. The powers that people enjoy under such circumstances can be usurped without difficulty. . . [I]f the people are to acquire real power over their lives and society, they must establish -- and in the past they have, for brief periods of time established -- well-ordered institutions in which they themselves directly formulate the policies of their communities and, in the case of their regions, elect confederal functionaries, revocable and strictly controllable, who will execute them. Only in this sense can a class, especially one committed to the abolition of classes, be mobilised as a class to manage society." [The Communist Manifesto: Insights and Problems]

This is why anarchists stress direct democracy (self-management) in free federations of free associations. It is the only way to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people and is not turned into an alien power above them. Thus Marxist support for statist forms of organisation will inevitably undermine the liberatory nature of the revolution.

Thus the real meaning of a workers state is simply that the party has the real power, not the workers. After all, that is nature of a state. Marxist rhetoric tends to hide this reality. As an example, we can point to Lenin's comments in October, 1921. In an essay marking the fourth anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution, Lenin stated that the Soviet system "provides the maximum of democracy for the workers and peasants; at the same time, it marks a break with bourgeois democracy and the rise of a new, epoch-making type of democracy, namely, proletarian democracy, or the dictatorship of the proletariat." ["Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution," Collected Works, vol. 33, p. 55] Yet this was written years after Lenin had argued that "[w]hen we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party . . . we say, 'Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position . . .'" [Op. Cit., vol. 29, p. 535] And, of course, they did not shift from that position! Indeed, Lenin's comments came just a few months after all opposition parties and factions within the Communist Party had been banned and after the Kronstadt rebellion and a wave of strikes calling for free soviet elections had been repressed. Clearly, the term "proletarian democracy" had a drastically different meaning to Lenin than to most people!

Indeed, the identification of party power and working class power reaches its height (or, more correctly, depth) in the works of Lenin and Trotsky. Lenin, for example, argued that "the correct understanding of a Communist of his tasks" lies in "correctly gauging the conditions and the moment when the vanguard of the proletariat can successfully seize power, when it will be able during and after this seizure of power to obtain support from sufficiently broad strata of the working class and of the non-proletarian toiling masses, and when, thereafter, it will be able to maintain, consolidate, and extend its rule, educating, training and attracting ever broader masses of the toilers." Note, the vanguard (the party) seizes power, not the masses. Indeed, he stressed that the "very presentation of the question -- 'dictatorship of the Party or dictatorship of the class, dictatorship (Party) of the leaders or dictatorship (Party) of the masses?' is evidence of the most incredible and hopeless confusion of mind" and "[t]o go so far . . . as to draw a contrast in general between the dictatorship of the masses and the dictatorship of the leaders, is ridiculously absurd and stupid." [Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, p. 35, p. 27 and p. 25]

Lenin stressed this idea numerous times. For example, in 1920 he argued that "the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of the class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts . . . that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot direct exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard . . . Such is the basic mechanism of the dictatorship of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the essentials of transitions from capitalism to communism . . . for the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised by a mass proletarian organisation." [Collected Works, vol. 32, p. 21]

Trotsky agreed with this lesson and argued it to the end of his life:

"The revolutionary dictatorship of a proletarian party is for me not a thing that one can freely accept or reject: It is an objective necessity imposed upon us by the social realities -- the class struggle, the heterogeneity of the revolutionary class, the necessity for a selected vanguard in order to assure the victory. The dictatorship of a party belongs to the barbarian prehistory as does the state itself, but we can not jump over this chapter, which can open (not at one stroke) genuine human history. . . The revolutionary party (vanguard) which renounces its own dictatorship surrenders the masses to the counter-revolution . . . Abstractly speaking, it would be very well if the party dictatorship could be replaced by the 'dictatorship' of the whole toiling people without any party, but this presupposes such a high level of political development among the masses that it can never be achieved under capitalist conditions. The reason for the revolution comes from the circumstance that capitalism does not permit the material and the moral development of the masses." [Writings 1936-37, pp. 513-4]

This point is reiterated in his essay, "Stalinism and Bolshevism" (again, written in 1937) when he argued that:

"Those who propose the abstraction of Soviets to the party dictatorship should understand that only thanks to the party dictatorship were the Soviets able to lift themselves out of the mud of reformism and attain the state form of the proletariat." [Socialist Review, no. 146, p. 18]

How soviet democracy can exist within the context of a party dictatorship is left to the imagination of the reader! Rather than the working class as a whole seizing power, it is the "vanguard" which takes power -- "a revolutionary party, even after seizing power . . . is still by no means the sovereign ruler of society." [Op. Cit., p. 16] Needless to say, he was just repeating the same arguments he had made while in power during the Russian Revolution (see section H.4 for details). Nor was he the only one. Zinoviev, another leading Bolshevik, argued in 1920 along the same lines:

"soviet rule in Russia could not have been maintained for three years -- not even three weeks -- without the iron dictatorship of the Communist Party. Any class conscious worker must understand that the dictatorship of the working class can by achieved only by the dictatorship of its vanguard, i.e., by the Communist Party . . . All questions of economic reconstruction, military organisation, education, food supply -- all these questions, on which the fate if the proletarian revolution depends absolutely, are decided in Russia before all other matters and mostly in the framework of the party organisations . . . Control by the party over soviet organs, over the trade unions, is the single durable guarantee that any measures taken will serve not special interests, but the interests of the entire proletariat." [quoted by Oskar Anweiler, The Soviets, pp. 239-40]

How these positions, clearly argued as inevitable for any revolution, can be reconciled with workers' democracy, power or freedom is not explained. As such, the idea that Leninism (usually considered as mainstream Marxism) is inherently democratic or a supporter of power to the people is clearly flawed. The leading lights of Bolshevism argued that the dictatorship of the proletariat could only be achieved by the dictatorship of the party. Indeed, the whole rationale for party dictatorship came from the fundamental rationale for democracy, namely that any government should reflect the changing opinions of the masses. In the words of Trotsky:

"The very same masses are at different times inspired by different moods and objectives. It is just for this reason that a centralised organisation of the vanguard is indispensable. Only a party, wielding the authority it has won, is capable of overcoming the vacillation of the masses themselves." [The Moralists and Sycophants, p. 59]

This position has its roots in the uneven political development within the working class (i.e. that the working class contains numerous political perspectives within it). As the party (according to Leninist theory) contains the most advanced ideas (and, again according to Leninist theory, the working class cannot reach beyond a trade union consciousness by its own efforts), the party must take power to ensure that the masses do not make "mistakes" or "waver" ("vacillation") during a revolution. From such a perspective to the position of party dictatorship is not far (and a journey that all the leading Bolsheviks, including Lenin and Trotsky, we must note, did in fact take).

In contrast, anarchists argue that precisely because of political differences we need the fullest possible democracy and freedom to discuss issues and reach agreements. Only by discussion and self-activity can the political perspectives of those in struggle develop and change. In other words, the fact Bolshevism uses to justify its support for party power is the strongest argument against it. For anarchists, the idea of a revolutionary government is a contradiction. As Italian anarchist Malatesta put it, "if you consider these worthy electors as unable to look after their own interests themselves, how is it that they will know how to choose for themselves the shepherds who must guide them? And how will they be able to solve this problem of social alchemy, of producing a genius from the votes of a mass of fools?" [Anarchy, p. 53]

As such, anarchists think that power should be in the hands of the masses themselves. Only freedom or the struggle for freedom can be the school of freedom. That means that, to quote Bakunin, "since it is the people which must make the revolution everywhere . . . the ultimate direction of it must at all times be vested in the people organised into a free federation of agricultural and industrial organisations . . . organised from the bottom up through revolutionary delegation." [No God, No Masters, vol. 1, pp. 155-6]

Clearly, then, the question of state/party power is one dividing anarchists and most Marxists. These arguments by leading Bolsheviks confirm Bakunin's fear that the Marxists aimed for "a tyranny of the minority over a majority in the name of the people -- in the name of the stupidity of the many and the superior wisdom of the few." [Marxism, Freedom and the State, p. 63] Again, though, we must stress that libertarian Marxists like the council communists agree with anarchists on this subject and reject the whole idea that dictatorship of a party equals the dictatorship of the working class. As such, the Marxist tradition as a whole does not confuse this issue, although the majority of it does. We must stress that not all Marxists are Leninists. A few (council communists, situationists, autonomists, and so on) are far closer to anarchism. They also reject the idea of party power/dictatorship, the use of elections, for direct action, argue for the abolition of wage slavery by workers' self-management of production and so on. They represent the best in Marx's work and should not be lumped with the followers of Bolshevism. Sadly, they are in the minority.

Finally, we should indicate other important areas of difference. Some are summarised by Lenin in his work The State and Revolution:

"The difference between the Marxists and the anarchists is this: 1) the former, while aiming at the complete abolition of the state, recognise that this aim can only be achieved after classes have been abolished by the socialist revolution, as the result of the establishment of socialism which leads to the withering away of the state. The latter want to abolish the state completely overnight, failing to understand the conditions under which the state can be abolished 2) the former recognise that after the proletariat has conquered political power it must utterly destroy the old state machine and substitute it for it a new one consisting of the organisation of armed workers, after the type of the Commune. The latter, while advocating the destruction of the state machine, have absolutely no idea of what the proletariat will put in its place and how it will use its revolutionary power; the anarchists even deny that the revolutionary proletariat should utilise its state power, its revolutionary dictatorship; 3) the former demand that the proletariat be prepared for revolution by utilising the present state; the latter reject this." [Essential Works of Lenin, p. 358]

We will discuss each of these points in the next three sections. Point one will be discussed in section H.1.3, the second in section H.1.4 and the third and final one in section H.1.5.

H.1.3 Why do anarchists wish to abolish the state "overnight"?

As indicated at the end of the last section, Lenin argued that while Marxists aimed "at the complete abolition of the state" they "recognise that this aim can only be achieved after classes have been abolished by the socialist revolution" while anarchists "want to abolish the state completely overnight." This issue is usually summarised by Marxists arguing that a new state is required to replace the destroyed bourgeois one. This new state is called by Marxists "the dictatorship of the proletariat" or a workers' state. Anarchists reject this transitional state while Marxists embrace it. Indeed, according to Lenin "a Marxist is one who extends the acceptance of the class struggle to the acceptance of the dictatorship of the proletariat." [Essential Works of Lenin, p. 358 and p. 294]

So what does the "dictatorship of the proletariat" actually mean? Generally, Marxists seem to imply that this term simply means the defence of the revolution and so the anarchist rejection of the dictatorship of the proletariat means the rejection of the defence of a revolution. Anarchists, they argue, differ from Marxist-communists in that we reject the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, where the formerly oppressed use coercion to ensure that remnants of the oppressing classes do not resurrect the old society. This particular straw man was used by Lenin in State and Revolution when he quoted Marx to suggest that anarchists would "lay down their arms" after a successful revolution. Such a "laying down of arms" would mean the "abolition of the state" while defending the revolution by violence would mean "giv[ing] the state a revolutionary and transitory form." [Op. Cit., p. 315]

That such an argument can be made, never mind repeated, suggests a lack of honesty. It assumes that the Marxist and Anarchist definitions of "the state" are identical. They are not. As such, it is pretty meaningless to argue, as Lenin did, that when anarchists talk about abolishing the state they mean that they will not defend a revolution. As Malatesta put it, some "seem almost to believe that after having brought down government and private property we would allow both to be quietly built up again, because of respect for the freedom of those who might feel the need to be rulers and property owners. A truly curious way of interpreting our ideas." [Anarchy, p. 41]

For anarchists the state, government, means "the delegation of power, that is the abdication of initiative and sovereignty of all into the hands of a few." [Malatesta, Op. Cit., p. 40] For Marxists, the state is "an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another." [Lenin, Op. Cit., p. 274] That these definitions are in conflict is clear and unless this difference is made explicit, anarchist opposition to the "dictatorship of the proletariat" cannot be clearly understood.

Anarchists, of course, agree that the current state is the means by which the bourgeois class enforces its rule over society. In Bakunin's words, "the political state has no other mission but to protect the exploitation of the people by the economically privileged classes." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 221] Under capitalism, as Malatesta succulently put, the state is "the bourgeoisie's servant and gendarme." [Op. Cit., p. 20] The reason why the state is marked by centralised power is due to its role as the protector of (minority) class rule. As such, a state cannot be anything but a defender of minority power as its centralised and hierarchical structure is designed for that purpose. If the working class really was running society, as Marxists claim they would be in the "dictatorship of the proletariat," then it would not be a state. As Bakunin argued, "[w]here all rule, there are no more ruled, and there is no State." [Op. Cit., p. 223]

As such, the idea that anarchists, by rejecting the "dictatorship of the proletariat," also reject defending a revolution is false. We do not equate the "dictatorship of the proletariat" with the need to defend a revolution or expropriating the capitalist class, ending capitalism and building socialism. Anarchists from Bakunin onwards have taken both of these necessities for granted (also see sections H.2.1, I.5.14 and J.7.6). As he stressed, "the sole means of opposing the reactionary forces of the state" was the "organising of the revolutionary force of the people." This revolution involve "the free construction of popular life in accordance with popular needs . . . from below upward, by the people themselves . . . [in] a voluntary alliance of agricultural and factory worker associations, communes, provinces, and nations." [Statism and Anarchy, p. 156 and p. 33]

As we discuss this particular Marxist straw man in section H.2.1, we will leave our comments at this. Clearly, then, anarchists do not reject defending a revolution. We argue that the state must be abolished "overnight" as any state is marked by hierarchical power and can only empower the few at the expense of the many. The state will not "wither away" as Marxists claim simply because it excludes, by its very nature, the active participation of the bulk of the population and ensures a new class division in society: those in power (the party) and those subject to it (the working class).

Georges Fontenis sums up anarchist concerns on this issue:

"The formula 'dictatorship of the proletariat' has been used to mean many different things. If for no other reason it should be condemned as a cause of confusion. With Marx it can just as easily mean the centralised dictatorship of the party which claims to represent the proletariat as it can the federalist conception of the Commune.

"Can it mean the exercise of political power by the victorious working class? No, because the exercise of political power in the recognised sense of the term can only take place through the agency of an exclusive group practising a monopoly of power, separating itself from the class and oppressing it. And this is how the attempt to use a State apparatus can reduce the dictatorship of the proletariat to the dictatorship of the party over the masses.

"But if by dictatorship of the proletariat is understood collective and direct exercise of 'political power', this would mean the disappearance of 'political power' since its distinctive characteristics are supremacy, exclusivity and monopoly. It is no longer a question of exercising or seizing political power, it is about doing away with it all together!

"If by dictatorship is meant the domination of the majority by a minority, then it is not a question of giving power to the proletariat but to a party, a distinct political group. If by dictatorship is meant the domination of a minority by the majority (domination by the victorious proletariat of the remnants of a bourgeoisie that has been defeated as a class) then the setting up of dictatorship means nothing but the need for the majority to efficiently arrange for its defence its own social Organisation.

[...]

"The terms 'domination', 'dictatorship' and 'state' are as little appropriate as the expression 'taking power' for the revolutionary act of the seizure of the factories by the workers.

We reject then as inaccurate and causes of confusion the expressions 'dictatorship of the proletariat', 'taking political power', 'workers state', 'socialist state' and 'proletarian state'." [Manifesto of Libertarian Communism, pp. 22-3]

In summary, anarchists argue that the state has to be abolished "overnight" simply because a state is marked by hierarchical power and the exclusion of the bulk of the population from the decision making process. It cannot be used to implement socialism simply because it is not designed that way. To extend and defend a revolution a state is not required. Indeed, it is a hindrance:

"The mistake of authoritarian communists in this connection is the belief that fighting and organising are impossible without submission to a government; and thus they regard anarchists . . . as the foes of all organisation and all co-ordinated struggle. We, on the other hand, maintain that not only are revolutionary struggle and revolutionary organisation possible outside and in spite of government interference but that, indeed, that is the only effective way to struggle and organise, for it has the active participation of all members of the collective unit, instead of their passively entrusting themselves to the authority of the supreme leaders.

"Any governing body is an impediment to the real organisation of the broad masses, the majority. Where a government exists, then the only really organised people are the minority who make up the government; and . . . if the masses do organise, they do so against it, outside it, or at the very least, independently of it. In ossifying into a government, the revolution as such would fall apart, on account of its awarding that government the monopoly of organisation and of the means of struggle." [Luigi Fabbri, "Anarchy and 'Scientific' Communism", in The Poverty of Statism, pp. 13-49, Albert Meltzer (ed.), p. 27]

For anarchists, the abolition of the state does not mean rejecting the need to extend or defend a revolution (quite the reverse!). It means rejecting a system of organisation designed by and for minorities to ensure their rule. To create a state (even a "workers' state") means to delegate power away from the working class and eliminate their power in favour of party power. In place of a state anarchists' argue for a free federation of workers' organisations as the means of conducting a revolution (and the framework for its defence).

As we discuss in the next section, anarchists see this federation of workers' associations and communes (the framework of a free society) as being based on the organisations working class people create in their struggle against capitalism. These self-managed organisations, by refusing to become part of a centralised state, will ensure the success of a revolution.

H.1.4 Do anarchists have "absolutely no idea" of what the proletariat will put in place of the state?

Lenin's second claim is that anarchists, "while advocating the destruction of the state machine, have absolutely no idea of what the proletariat will put in its place" and compares this to the Marxists who argue for a new state machine "consisting of armed workers, after the type of the Commune." [Essential Works of Lenin, p. 358] For anarchists, Lenin's assertion simply shows his unfamiliarity with anarchist literature and need not be taken seriously -- anyone familiar will anarchist theory would simply laugh at such comments. Sadly, most Marxists are not familiar with that theory, so we need to explain two things. Firstly, anarchists have very clear ideas on what to "replace" the state with (namely a federation of communes based on working class associations). Secondly, that this idea is based on the idea of armed workers, inspired by the Paris Commune (although predicted by Bakunin).

Moreover, for anarchists Lenin's comment seems somewhat incredulous. As George Barrett puts it, in reply to the question "if you abolish government, what will you put it its place," this "seems to an Anarchist very much as if a patient asked the doctor, 'If you take away my illness, what will you give me in its place?' The Anarchist's argument is that government fulfils no useful purpose . . . It is the headquarters of the profit-makers, the rent-takers, and of all those who take from but who do not give to society. When this class is abolished by the people so organising themselves to run the factories and use the land for the benefit of their free communities, i.e. for their own benefit, then the Government must also be swept away, since its purpose will be gone. The only thing then that will be put in the place of government will be the free organisation of the workers. When Tyranny is abolished, Liberty remains, just as when disease is eradicated health remains." [Objections to Anarchism]

However, Barrett's answer does contain the standard anarchist position on what will be the basis of a revolutionary society, namely that the "only thing then that will be put in the place of government will be the free organisation of the workers." This is a concise summary of anarchist theory and cannot be bettered. This vision, as we discussed in section I.2.3 in some detail, can be found in the work of Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta and a host of other anarchist thinkers. Since anarchists from Bakunin onwards have stressed that a federation of workers' associations would constitute the framework of a free society, to assert otherwise is little more than a joke or a slander. To quote Bakunin:

"the federative alliance of all working men's associations . . . [will] constitute the Commune . . . [the] Communal Council [will be] composed of . . . delegates . . . vested with plenary but accountable and removable mandates. . . all provinces, communes and associations . . . by first reorganising on revolutionary lines . . . [will] constitute the federation of insurgent associations, communes and provinces . . . [and] organise a revolutionary force capable defeating reaction . . . [and for] self-defence . . . [The] revolution everywhere must be created by the people, and supreme control must always belong to the people organised into a free federation of agricultural and industrial associations . . . organised from the bottom upwards by means of revolutionary delegation. . ." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, pp. 170-2]

And:

"The future social organisation must be made solely from the bottom up, by the free association or federation of workers, firstly in their unions, then in the communes, regions, nations and finally in a great federation, international and universal." [Op. Cit., p. 206]

Similar ideas can easily be found in the works of other anarchists. While the actual names and specific details of these federations of workers' associations may change (for example, the factory committees and soviets in the Russian Revolution, the collectives in Spain, the section assemblies in the French Revolution are a few of them) the basic ideas are the same. Bakunin also pointed to the means of defence, a workers' militia (the people armed, as per the Paris Commune):

"While it [the revolution] will be carried out locally everywhere, the revolution will of necessity take a federalist format. Immediately after established government has been overthrown, communes will have to reorganise themselves along revolutionary lines . . . In order to defend the revolution, their volunteers will at the same time form a communal militia. But no commune can defend itself in isolation. So it will be necessary for each of them to radiate outwards, to raise all its neighbouring communes in revolt . . . and to federate with them for common defence." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 142]

A major difference between anarchism and Marxism which Lenin points to is, clearly, false. Anarchists are well aware of what should "replace" the bourgeois state and have always been so. The real difference is simply that anarchists say what they mean while Lenin's "new" state did not, in fact, mean working class power but rather party power. We discussed this issue in more detail in section H.1.2, so we will not do so here.

As for Lenin's comment that we have "absolutely no ideas" of how the working class "will use its revolutionary power" suggests more ignorance, as we have urged working people to expropriate the expropriators, reorganise production under workers' self-management and start to construct society from the bottom upwards (a quick glance at Kropotkin's Conquest of Bread, for example, would soon convince any reader of the inaccuracy of Lenin's comment). This summary by the anarchist Jura Federation (written in 1880) gives a flavour of anarchist ideas on this subject:

"The bourgeoisie's power over the popular masses springs from economic privileges, political domination and the enshrining of such privileges in the laws. So we must strike at the wellsprings of bourgeois power, as well as its various manifestations.

"The following measures strike us as essential to the welfare of the revolution, every bit as much as armed struggle against its enemies:

"The insurgents must confiscate social capital, landed estates, mines, housing, religious and public buildings, instruments of labour, raw materials, gems and precious stones and manufactured products:

"All political, administrative and judicial authorities are to be abolished.

". . . What should the organisational measures of the revolution be?

"Immediate and spontaneous establishment of trade bodies: provisional assumption by those of . . . social capital . . .: local federation of a trades bodies and labour organisation:

"Establishment of neighbourhood groups and federations of same . . .

[. . .]

"[T]he federation of all the revolutionary forces of the insurgent Communes . . . Federation of Communes and organisation of the masses, with an eye to the revolution's enduring until such time as all reactionary activity has been completely eradicated.

[. . .]

"Once trade bodies have been have been established, the next step is to organise local life. The organ of this life is to be the federation of trades bodies and it is this local federation which is to constitute the future Commune." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, pp. 246-7]

Clearly, anarchists do have some ideas on what the working class will "replace" the state with and how it will use its "revolutionary power"!

Similarly, Lenin's statement that "the anarchists even deny that the revolutionary proletariat should utilise its state power, its revolutionary dictatorship" again distorts the anarchist position. As we argued in section H.1.2, our objection to the "state power" of the proletariat is precisely because it cannot, by its very nature as a state, actually allow the working class to manage society directly (and, of course, it automatically excludes other sections of the working masses, such as the peasantry and artisans). We argued that, in practice, it would simply mean the dictatorship of a few party leaders. This position, we must stress, was one Lenin himself was arguing in the year after completing State and Revolution. Ironically, the leading Bolsheviks (as we have seen in section H.1.2) confirmed the anarchist argument that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" would, in fact, become a dictatorship over the proletariat by the party.

Italian anarchist Camillo Berneri sums up the differences well:

"The Marxists . . . foresee the natural disappearance of the State as a consequence of the destruction of classes by the means of 'the dictatorship of the proletariat,' that is to say State Socialism, whereas the Anarchists desire the destruction of the classes by means of a social revolution which eliminates, with the classes, the State. The Marxists, moreover, do not propose the armed conquest of the Commune by the whole proletariat, but the propose the conquest of the State by the party which imagines that it represents the proletariat. The Anarchists allow the use of direct power by the proletariat, but they understand by the organ of this power to be formed by the entire corpus of systems of communist administration-corporate organisations [i.e. industrial unions], communal institutions, both regional and national-freely constituted outside and in opposition to all political monopoly by parties and endeavouring to a minimum administrational centralisation." ["Dictatorship of the Proletariat and State Socialism", Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, no. 4, p. 52]

Clearly, Lenin's assertions are little more than straw men.

H.1.5 Why do anarchists reject "utilising the present state"?

Lastly, there is the question of Marxists demanding (in the words of Lenin) "that the proletariat be prepared for revolution by utilising the present state" while anarchists "reject this." Today, of course, this has changed. Libertarian Marxists, such as council communists, also reject "utilising the present state" to train the proletariat for revolution (i.e. for socialists to stand for elections). For anarchists, the use of elections does not "prepare" the working class for revolution (i.e. managing their own affairs and society). Rather, it prepares them to follow leaders and let others act for them. In the words of Rudolf Rocker:

"Participation in the politics of the bourgeois States has not brought the labour movement a hair's-breadth nearer to Socialism, but thanks to this method, Socialism has almost been completely crushed and condemned to insignificance. . . Participation in parliamentary politics has affected the Socialist Labour movement like an insidious poison. It destroyed the belief in the necessity of constructive Socialist activity, and, worse of all, the impulse to self-help, by inoculating people with the ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above." [Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 49]

While electoral ("political") activity ensures that the masses become accustomed to following leaders and letting them act on their behalf, anarchists' support direct action as "the best available means for preparing the masses to manage their own personal and collective interests; and besides, anarchists feel that even now the working people are fully capable of handling their own political and administrative interests." [Luigi Galleani, The End of Anarchism?, pp. 13-4]

Anarchists, therefore, argue that we need to reclaim the power which has been concentrated into the hands of the state. That is why we stress direct action. Direct action means action by the people themselves, that is action directly taken by those directly affected. Through direct action, the people dominate their own struggles, it is they who conduct it, organise it, manage it. They do not hand over to others their own acts and task of self-liberation. That way, we become accustomed to managing our own affairs, creating alternative, libertarian, forms of social organisation which can become a force to resist the state, win reforms and, ultimately, become the framework of a free society. In other words, direct action creates organs of self-activity (such as community assemblies, factory committees, workers' councils, and so on) which, to use Bakunin's words, are "creating not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself."

In other words, the idea that socialists standing for elections somehow prepares working class people for revolution is simply wrong. Utilising the state, standing in elections, only prepares people for following leaders -- it does not encourage the self-activity, self-organisation, direct action and mass struggle required for a social revolution. Moreover, as we noted in the section H.1.1, use of elections has a corrupting effect on those who use it. The history of radicals using elections has been a long one of betrayal and the transformation of revolutionary parties into reformist ones (see section J.2.6 for more discussion). Thus using the existing state ensures that the division at the heart of existing society (namely a few who govern and the many who obey) is reproduced in the movements trying to abolish it. It boils down to handing effective leadership to special people, to "leaders," just when the situation requires working people to solve their own problems and take matters into their own hands. Only the struggle for freedom (or freedom itself) can be the school for freedom, and by placing power into the hands of leaders, utilising the existing state ensures that socialism is postponed rather than prepared for.

Moreover, Marxist support for electioneering is somewhat at odds with their claims of being in favour of collective, mass action. There is nothing more isolated, atomised and individualistic than voting. It is the act of one person in a box by themselves. It is the total opposite of collective struggle. The individual is alone before, during and after the act of voting. Indeed, unlike direct action, which, by its very nature, throws up new forms of organisation in order to manage and co-ordinate the struggle, voting creates no alternative organs of working class self-management. Nor can it as it is not based on nor does it create collective action or organisation. It simply empowers an individual (the elected representative) to act on behalf of a collection of other individuals (the voters). Such delegation will hinder collective organisation and action as the voters expect their representative to act and fight for them -- if they did not, they would not vote for them in the first place!

Given that Marxists usually slander anarchists as "individualists" the irony is delicious!

If we look at the Poll-Tax campaign in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we can see what would happen to a mass movement which utilised electioneering. The various left-wing parties, particularly Militant (now the Socialist Party) spent a lot of time and effort lobbying Labour Councillors not to implement the tax (with no success). Let us assume they had succeeded and the Labour Councillors had refused to implement the tax (or "socialist" candidates had been elected to stop it). What would have happened? Simply that there would not have been a mass movement or mass organisation based on non-payment, nor self-organised direct action to resist warrant sales, nor community activism of any form. Rather, the campaign would have consisted to supporting the councillors in their actions, mass rallies in which the leaders would have informed us of their activities on our behalf and, perhaps, rallies and marches to protest any action the government had inflicted on them. The leaders may have called for some form of mass action but this action would not have come from below and so not a product of working class self-organisation, self-activity and self-reliance. Rather, it would have been purely re-active and a case of follow the leader, without the empowering and liberating aspects of taking action by yourself, as a conscious and organised group. It would have replaced the struggle of millions with the actions of a handful of leaders.

Of course, even discussing this possibility indicates how remote it is from reality. The Labour Councillors were not going to act -- they were far too "practical" for that. Years of working within the system, of using elections, had taken their toll decades ago. Anarchists, of course, saw the usefulness of picketing the council meetings, of protesting against the Councillors and showing them a small example of the power that existed to resist them if they implemented the tax. As such, the picket would have been an expression of direct action, as it was based on showing the power of our direct action and class organisations. Lobbying, however, was building illusions in "leaders" acting for us to and based on pleading rather than defiance. But, then again, Militant desired to replace the current leaders with themselves and so would not object to such tactics.

Unfortunately, the Socialists never really questioned why they had to lobby the councillors in the first place -- if utilising the existing state was a valid radical or revolutionary tactic, why has it always resulted in a de-radicalising of those who use it? This would be the inevitable results of any movement which "complements" direct action with electioneering. The focus of the movement will change from the base to the top, from self-organisation and direct action from below to passively supporting the leaders. This may not happen instantly, but over time, just as the party degenerates by working within the system, the mass movement will be turned into an electoral machine for the party -- even arguing against direct action in case it harms the election chances of the leaders. Just as the trade union leaders have done again and again.

All in all, the history of socialists actually using elections has been a dismal failure. Rather than prepare the masses for revolution, it has done the opposite. As we argue in section J.2, this is to be expected. That Lenin could still argue along these lines even after the betrayal of social democracy indicates a lack of desire to learn the lessons of history.

H.1.6 Why do anarchists try to "build the new world in the shell of the old"?

Another key difference between anarchists and Marxists is on how the movement against capitalism should organise in the here and now. Anarchists argue that it should prefigure the society we desire -- namely it should be self-managed, decentralised, built and organised from the bottom-up in a federal structure. This perspective can be seen from the justly famous "Circular of the Sixteen":

"The future society should be nothing but a universalisation of the organisation which the International will establish for itself. We must therefore take care to bring this organisation as near as possible to our ideal . . . How could one expect an egalitarian and free society to grow out of an authoritarian organisation? That is impossible. The International, embryo of the future human society, must be, from now on, the faithful image of our principles of liberty and federation." [quoted by Marx, Fictitious Splits in the International]

This simply echoes Bakunin's argument that the "organisation of the trade sections, their federation in the International, and their representation by the Chambers of Labour, not only create a great academy, in which the workers of the International, combining theory and practice, can and must study economic science, they also bear in themselves the living germs of the new social order, which is to replace the bourgeois world. They are creating not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself." [quoted by Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 45] Anarchists apply this insight to all organisations they take part in, stressing that the only way we can create a self-managed society is by self-managing our own struggles and organisations today. In this way we turn our class organisations (indeed, the class struggle itself) into practical and effective "schools of anarchism" in which we learn to manage our own affairs without hierarchy and bosses.

Marxists reject this argument. Instead they stress the importance of centralisation and consider the anarchist argument as utopian. For effective struggle, strict centralisation is required as the capitalist class and state is also centralised. In other words, to fight for socialism there is a need to organise in a way which the capitalists have utilised -- to fight fire with fire. Unfortunately they forget to extinguish a fire you have to use water. Adding more flame will only increase the combustion, not put it out!

Of course, Marx misrepresented the anarchist position. He argued that the Paris Communards "would not have failed if they had understood that the Commune was 'the embryo of the future human society' and had cast away all discipline and all arms -- that is, the things which must disappear when there are no more wars!" [Ibid.] Needless to say this is simply a slander on the anarchist position. Anarchists, as the Circular makes clear, recognise that we cannot totally reflect the future and so the current movement can only be "as near as possible to our ideal." Thus we have to do things, such as fighting the bosses, rising in insurrection, smashing the state or defending a revolution, which we would not have to do in a socialist society. Such common sense, unfortunately, is lacking in Marx who instead decides to utter nonsense for a cheap polemical point. He never answered the basic point -- how do people become able to manage society if they do not directly manage their own organisations and struggles? How can a self-managed society come about unless people practice it in the here and now? Can people create a socialist society if they do not implement its basic ideas in their current struggles and organisations?

Ironically enough, given his own and his followers claims of his theory's proletarian core, it is Marx who was at odds with the early labour movement, not Bakunin and the anarchists. Historian Gwyn A. Williams notes in the early British labour movement there were "to be no leaders" and the organisations were "consciously modelled on the civil society they wished to create." [Artisans and Sans-Culottes, p. 72] Lenin, unsurprisingly, dismissed the fact that the British workers "thought it was an indispensable sign of democracy for all the members to do all the work of managing the unions" as "primitive democracy" and "absurd." He also complained about "how widespread is the 'primitive' conception of democracy among the masses of the students and workers" in Russia. [Essential Works of Lenin, pp. 162-3] Clearly, the anarchist perspective reflects the ideas the workers' movement before it degenerates into reformism and bureaucracy while Marxism reflects it during this process of degeneration. Needless to say, the revolutionary nature of the early union movement compared to the reformism and bureaucratic control of the ones with "full-time professional officers" clearly shows who was correct!

Related to this is the fact that Marxists (particularly Leninists) favour centralisation while anarchists favour decentralisation within a federal organisation. As such, anarchists do not think that decentralisation implies isolation or narrow localism. We have always stressed the importance of federalism to co-ordinate decisions. Power would be decentralised, but federalism ensures collective decisions and action. Under centralised systems, anarchists argue, power is placed into the hands of a few leaders. Rather than the real interests and needs of the people being co-ordinated, centralism simply means the imposition of the will of a handful of leaders, who claim to "represent" the masses. Co-ordination, in other words, is replaced by coercion in the centralised system and the needs and interests of all are replaced by those of a few leaders at the centre.

Similarly, anarchists and Marxists disagree on the nature of the future economic and social system of socialism. While it is a commonplace assumption that anarchists and Marxists seek the same sort of society but disagree on the means, in actuality there are substantial differences in their vision of a socialist society. While both aim for a stateless communist society, the actual structure of that society is different. Anarchists see it as fundamentally decentralised and federal while Marxists tend to envision it as fundamentally centralised. Moreover, Marxists such as Lenin saw "socialism" as being compatible with one-man management of production by state appointed "directors," armed with "dictatorial" powers (see section H.4 for further discussion). As such, anarchists argue that the Bolshevik vision of "socialism" is little more than state capitalism -- with the state replacing the boss as exploiter and oppressor of the working class. As we discuss this issue in sections H.3.8 and H.4, we will not do so here.

By failing to understand the importance of applying a vision of a free society to the current class struggle, Marxists help ensure that society never is created. By copying bourgeois methods within their "revolutionary" organisations (parties and unions) they ensure bourgeois ends (inequality and oppression).

H.1.7 Haven't you read Lenin's "State and Revolution"?

This question is often asked of people who critique Marxism, particularly its Leninist form. Lenin's State and Revolution is often considered his most democratic work and Leninists are quick to point to it as proof that Lenin and those who follow his ideas are not authoritarian. As such, its an important question. So how do anarchists reply when people point them to Lenin's work as evidence of the democratic (even libertarian) nature of Marxism? Anarchists reply in two ways.

Firstly, we argue many of the essential features of Lenin's ideas are to be found in anarchist theory. These features had been aspects of anarchism for decades before Lenin put pen to paper. Bakunin, for example, talked about mandated delegates from workplaces federating into workers' councils as the framework of a (libertarian) socialist society in the 1860s. In the same period he also argued for popular militias to defend a revolution. Hence Murray Bookchin:

"much that passes for 'Marxism' in State and Revolution is pure anarchism -- for example, the substitution of revolutionary militias for professional armed bodies and the substitution of organs of self-management for parliamentary bodies. What is authentically Marxist in Lenin's pamphlet is the demand for 'strict centralism,' the acceptance of a 'new' bureaucracy, and the identification of soviets with a state." [Post-Scarcity Anarchism, p. 213]

That this is the case is hidden in Lenin's work as he deliberately distorts anarchist ideas in it (see sections H.1.3 and H.1.4 for examples). Therefore, when Marxists ask whether anarchist have read Lenin's State and Revolution we reply by arguing that most of Lenin's ideas were first expressed by anarchists (while Lenin hide this fact). All in all, Lenin's work just strikes anarchists as little more than a re-hash of many their own ideas but placed in a statist context which totally and utterly undermines them in favour of party rule.

Secondly, anarchists argue that regardless of what Lenin argued for in State and Revolution, he did not apply those ideas in practice (indeed, he did the exact opposite). Therefore, the question of whether we have read Lenin's work simply drives how the ideological nature and theoretical bankruptcy of Leninism in all its many forms. This is because the person asking this kind of question is asking you to evaluate their politics based on what they say rather than on what they do, like any politician.

To use an analogy, what would you say to a politician who has cut welfare spending by 50% and increased spending on the military and who argues that this act is irrelevant and that you should look at their manifesto which states that they were going to do the opposite? Simply put, you would consider this argument as laughable and them as liars as you would evaluate them by their actions, not by what they say. Yet supporters of Leninism cannot do this (and, ironically enough, often quote Marx's words that it is impossible to judge either parties or peoples by what they say or think about themselves, you have to look at what they do). Leninists, by urging you to read Lenin's "State and Revolution" are asking you to evaluate them by what their manifesto says and ignore what they did. Anarchists, on the other hand, ask you to evaluate the Leninist manifesto by comparing it to what they actually did in power. Such an evaluation is the only means by which we can judge the validity of Leninist claims and politics.

As we discuss the Russian Revolution in more depth in section H.4, we will not provide a summary of Lenin's claims in his famous work State and Revolution and what he did in practice here. However, we will say here that the difference between reality and rhetoric was extremely large and, therefore, it is a damning indictment of Bolshevism. Simply put, if the State and Revolution is the manifesto of Bolshevism, then not a single promise in that work was kept by the Bolsheviks when they got into power. As such, Lenin's work cannot be used to evaluate Bolshevism ideology as Bolshevism paid no attention to it once it had taken state power. While Lenin and his followers chant rhapsodies about the Soviet State (this 'highest and most perfect system of democracy") they quickly turned its democratic ideas into a fairy-tale, and an ugly fairy-tale at that, by simply ignoring it in favour of party power (and party dictatorship).

To state the obvious, to quote theory and not relate it to the practice of those who claim to follow it is a joke. It is little more than sophistry. If you look at the actions of the Bolsheviks after the October Russian Revolution you cannot help draw the conclusion that Lenin's State and Revolution has nothing to do with Bolshevik policy and presents a false image of what Leninists desire. As such, we must present a comparison between rhetoric and realty.

It will be objected in defence of Leninism that it is unfair to hold Lenin responsible for the failure to apply his ideas in practice. The terrible Civil War, in which Soviet Russia was attacked by numerous armies, and the resulting economic chaos meant that the objective circumstances made it impossible to implement his democratic ideas. This argument contains three flaws. Firstly, as we indicate in section H.4, the undemocratic policies of the Bolsheviks started before the start of the Civil War (so suggesting that the hardships of the Civil War were not to blame). Secondly, Lenin at no time indicated in State and Revolution that it was impossible or inapplicable to apply those ideas during a revolution in Russia (quite the reverse!). Given that Marxists, including Lenin, argue that a "dictatorship of the proletariat" is required to defend the revolution against capitalist resistance it seems incredulous to argue that Lenin's major theoretical work on that regime was impossible to apply in precisely the circumstances it was designed for. Lastly, of course, Lenin himself in 1917 mocked those who argued that revolution was out of the question because "the circumstances are exceptionally complicated." He noting that any revolution, "in its development, would give rise to exceptionally complicated circumstances" and that it was "the sharpest, most furious, desperate class war and civil war. Not a single great revolution in history has escaped civil war. No one who does not live in a shell could imagine that civil war is conceivable without exceptionally complicated circumstances. If there were no exceptionally complicated circumstances there would be no revolution." [Will the Bolsheviks Maintain Power?, p. 80 and p. 81] As such, to blame difficult objective circumstances for the failure of Bolshevism to apply the ideas in State and Revolution means to argue that those ideas are inappropriate for a revolution (which, we must stress, is what the leading Bolsheviks actually did end up arguing by their support for party dictatorship).

All in all, discussing Lenin's State and Revolution without indicating that the Bolsheviks failed to implement its ideas (indeed, did the exact opposite) suggests a lack of honesty. It also suggests that the libertarian ideas Lenin appropriated in that work could not survive being grafted onto the statist ideas of mainstream Marxism. As such, The State and Revolution laid out the foundations and sketched out the essential features of an alternative to Leninist ideas -- namely anarchism. Only the pro-Leninist tradition has used Lenin's work, almost to quiet their conscience, because Lenin, once in power, ignored it totally. The Russian Revolution shows that a workers state, as anarchists have long argued, means minority power, not working class self-management of society. As such, Lenin's work indicates the contradictory nature of Marxism -- while claiming to support democratic/libertarian ideals they promote structures (such as centralised states) which undermine those values in favour of party rule. The lesson is clear, only libertarian means can ensure libertarian ends and they have to be applied consistently within libertarian structures to work. To apply them to statist ones will simply fail.

H.1.8 Didn't Engels refute anarchism in his essay "On Authority"?

No, far from it. Engels (in)famous essay "On Authority" is often pointed to by Marxists of various schools as refuting anarchism. Indeed, it is often considered the essential Marxist work for this and is often trotted out (pun intended) when anarchist influence is on the rise. However this is not the case. In fact, his essay is both politically flawed and misrepresentative of his foes opinions. As such, anarchists do not think that Engels refuted anarchism in his essay. Indeed, rather than refute anarchism, Engels' essay just shows his ignorance of the ideas he was critiquing. This ignorance essentially rests on the fact that the whole concept of authority was defined and understood differently by Bakunin and Engels meant that the latter's critique was flawed. While Engels may have thought that they both were speaking of the same thing, in fact they were not.

For Engels, all forms of group activity meant the subjection of the individuals that make it up. As he puts it, "whoever mentions combined action speaks of organisation" and so it is not possible "to have organisation without authority," as authority means "the imposition of the will of another upon ours . . . authority presupposes subordination." [Marx-Engels Reader, p. 731 and p. 730] As such, he considers the ideas of Bakunin to fly in the face of common sense and so show that he does not know what he is talking about. However, it is Engels who shows that he does not know what he is talking about.

The first fallacy in Engels account is that anarchists do not oppose all forms of authority. Bakunin was extremely clear on this issue and differentiated between types of authority, of which only certain kinds did he oppose. For example, he asked the question "[d]oes it follow that I reject all authority?" and answered quite clearly: "No, far be it from me to entertain such a thought." He acknowledged the difference between being an authority -- an expert -- and being in authority, for example. This meant that "[i]f I bow before the authority of the specialists and declare myself ready to follow, to a certain extent and so long as it may seem to me to be necessary, their general indications and even their directions, it is because their authority is imposed upon me by no one . . . I bow before the authority of specialists because it is imposed upon me by my own reason." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 253]

Similarly, he argued that anarchists "recognise all natural authority, and all influence of fact upon us, but none of right; for all authority and all influence of right, officially imposed upon us, immediately becomes a falsehood and an oppression." He stressed that the "only great and omnipotent authority, at once natural and rational, the only one we respect, will be that of the collective and public spirit of a society founded on equality and solidarity and the mutual respect of all its members." [Op. Cit., p. 241 and p. 255]

So while Bakunin and other anarchists, on occasion, did argue that anarchists reject "all authority" they, as Carole Pateman correctly notes, "tended to treat 'authority' as a synonym for 'authoritarian,' and so have identified 'authority' with hierarchical power structures, especially those of the state. Nevertheless, their practical proposals and some of their theoretical discussions present a different picture." [The Problem of Political Obligation, p. 141] This can be seen when Bakunin noted that "the principle of authority" was the "eminently theological, metaphysical and political idea that the masses, always incapable of governing themselves, must submit at all times to the benevolent yoke of a wisdom and a justice, which in one way or another, is imposed from above." [Marxism, Freedom and the State, p. 33] Clearly, by the term "principle of authority" Bakunin meant hierarchy rather than organisation and the need to make agreements (what is now called self-management).

Therefore Bakunin did not oppose all authority but rather a specific kind of authority, namely hierarchical authority. This kind of authority placed power into the hands of a few. For example, wage labour produced this kind of authority, with a "meeting . . . between master and slave . . . the worker sells his person and his liberty for a given time." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 187] The state is also based hierarchical authority, with "those who govern" (i.e. "those who frame the laws of the country as well as those who exercise the executive power") are in an "exceptional position diametrically opposed to . . . popular aspirations" towards liberty. They end up "viewing society from the high position in which they find themselves" and so "[w]hoever says political power says domination" over "a more or less considerable section of the population." [Op. Cit., p. 218]

Thus hierarchical authority is top-down, centralised and imposed. It is this kind of authority Bakunin had in mind when he argued that anarchists "are in fact enemies of all authority" and it will "corrupt those who exercise [it] as much as those who are compelled to submit to [it]." [Op. Cit., p. 249] In other words, "authority" was used as shorthand for "hierarchy" (or "hierarchical authority"), the imposition of decisions rather than agreement to abide by the collective decisions you make with others when you freely associate with them. In place of this kind of authority, Bakunin proposed a "natural authority" based on the masses "governing themselves." He did not object to the need for individuals associating themselves into groups and managing their own affairs, rather he opposed the idea that co-operation necessitated hierarchy:

"Hence there results, for science as well as for industry, the necessity of division and association of labour. I take and I give -- such is human life. Each is an authoritative leader and in turn is led by others. Accordingly there is no fixed and constant authority, but continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subordination." [Op. Cit., pp. 353-4]

This kind of free association would be the expression of liberty rather than (as in hierarchical structures) its denial. Anarchists reject the idea of giving a minority (a government) the power to make our decisions for us. Rather, power should rest in the hands of all, not concentrated in the hands of a few. Anarchism is based on rejecting what Bakunin called "the authoritarian conception of discipline" which "always signifies despotism on the one hand and blind automatic submission to authority on the other." In an anarchist organisation "hierarchic order and advancement do not exist" and there would be "voluntary and thoughtful discipline" for "collective work or action." This would be a new kind of discipline, one which is "voluntary and intelligently understood" and "necessary whenever a greater number of individuals undertake any kind of collective work or action." This is "simply the voluntary and considered co-ordination of all individual efforts for a common purpose . . In such a system, power, properly speaking, no longer exists. Power is diffused to the collectivity and becomes the true expression of the liberty of everyone, the faithful and sincere realisation of the will of all . . . this is the only true discipline, the discipline necessary for the organisation of freedom." [Op. Cit., pp. 259-60]

Clearly Engels misunderstands the anarchist conception of liberty. Rather than seeing it as essentially negative, anarchists argue that liberty is expressed in two different, but integrated, ways. Firstly, there is rebellion, the expression of autonomy in the face of authority. This is the negative aspect of it. Secondly, there is association, the expression of autonomy by working with equals. This is the positive aspect of it. As such, Engels concentrates on the negative aspect of anarchist ideas, ignoring the positive, and so paints a false picture of anarchism. Freedom, as Bakunin argued, is a product of connection, not of isolation. How a group organises itself determines whether it is authoritarian or libertarian. If the individuals who take part in a group manage the affairs of that group (including what kinds of decisions can be delegated) then that group is based on liberty. If that power is left to a few individuals (whether elected or not) then that group is structured in an authoritarian manner. This can be seen from Bakunin's argument that power must be "diffused" into the collective in an anarchist society. Clearly, anarchists do not reject the need for organisation nor the need to make and abide by collective decisions. Rather, the question is how these decisions are to be made -- are they to be made from below, by those affected by them, or from above, imposed by a few people in authority.

Only a sophist would confuse hierarchical power with the power of people managing their own affairs. It is an improper use of words to denote equally as "authority" two such opposed concepts as individuals subjected to the autocratic power of a boss and the voluntary co-operation of conscious individuals working together as equals. The lifeless obedience of a governed mass cannot be compared to the organised co-operation of free individuals, yet this is what Engels does. The former is marked by hierarchical power and the turning of the subjected into automations performing mechanical movements without will and thought. The latter is marked by participation, discussion and agreement. Both are, of course, based on co-operation but to argue that latter restricts liberty as much as the former simply confuses co-operation with coercion. It also indicates a distinctly liberal conception of liberty, seeing it restricted by association with others rather than seeing association as an expression of liberty. As Malatesta argued:

"The basic error . . . is in believing that organisation is not possible without authority.

"Now, it seems to us that organisation, that is to say, association for a specific purpose and with the structure and means required to attain it, is a necessary aspect of social life. A man in isolation cannot even live the life of a beast . . . Having therefore to join with other humans . . . he must submit to the will of others (be enslaved) or subject others to his will (be in authority) or live with others in fraternal agreement in the interests of the greatest good of all (be an associate). Nobody can escape from this necessity." [Life and Ideas, pp. 84-5]

Therefore, organisation is "only the practice of co-operation and solidarity" and is a "natural and necessary condition of social life." [Malatesta, Op. Cit., p. 83] Clearly, the question is not whether we organise, but how do we do so. This means that, for anarchists, Engels confused vastly different concepts: "Co-ordination is dutifully confused with command, organisation with hierarchy, agreement with domination -- indeed, 'imperious' domination." [Murray Bookchin, Towards an Ecological Society, pp. 126-7]

Socialism will only exist when the discipline currently enforced by the stick in the hand of the boss is replaced by the conscious self-discipline of free individuals. It is not by changing who holds the stick (from a capitalist to a "socialist" boss) that socialism will be created. It is only by the breaking up and uprooting of this slavish spirit of discipline, and its replacement by self-management, that working people will create a new discipline what will be the basis of socialism (the voluntary self-discipline Bakunin talked about).

Clearly, then, Engels did not refute anarchism by his essay. Rather, he refuted a straw man of his own creation. The question was never one of whether certain tasks need co-operation, co-ordination, joint activity and agreement. It was, in fact, a question of how that is achieved. As such, Engels diatribe misses the point. Instead of addressing the actual politics of anarchism or their actual use of the word "authority," he rather addresses a series of logical deductions he draws from a false assumption regarding those politics. Engels essay shows the bedlam that can be created when a remorseless logician deduces away from an incorrect starting assumption.

For collective activity anarchists recognise the need to make and stick by agreements. Collective activity of course needs collective decision making and organisation. In so far as Engels had a point to his diatribe (namely that group efforts meant co-operating with others), Bakunin (like any anarchist) would have agreed. The question was how are these decisions to be made, not whether they should be or not. Ultimately, Engels confused agreement with hierarchy. Anarchists do not.

H.1.9 L’organisation implique-t-elle la fin de la liberté ?

LÂ’argument dÂ’Engels dans son ouvrage "On Authority" (Sur lÂ’AutoritĂ©) peut se rĂ©sumer Ă  cela : Toute forme dÂ’activitĂ© collective signifie la coopĂ©ration avec dÂ’autres et ceci implique que certains se soumettre Ă  dÂ’autres, ou au moins au groupe. En tant que telle, lÂ’autoritĂ© ne peut pas ĂŞtre supprimĂ©e, car lÂ’organisation signifie que la « volontĂ© dÂ’un individu devra toujours se soumettre, ce qui signifie que les problèmes seront rĂ©glĂ©es de façon autoritaire Â». [Op. Cit., p. 731]

En tant que tel, lÂ’argument dÂ’Engels est trop puissant. Comme chaque forme dÂ’activitĂ© commune comporte lÂ’accord et la « subordination Â», alors la vie elle-mĂŞme est « autoritaire Â». La seule personne libre, selon la logique dÂ’Engels, serait lÂ’hermite. Comme George Barrett le disait :

« Pour donner Ă  la vie tout son sens, nous devons coopĂ©rer, et pour coopĂ©rer nous devons passer des accords avec nos camarades. Mais supposer que de tels accords signifient une limitation de la libertĂ© est sĂ»rement une absurditĂ© ; au contraire, ils sont lÂ’exercice mĂŞme de notre libertĂ©. Â»

« Si nous inventions un dogme selon lequel faire des accords est dommageable pour la libertĂ©, alors immĂ©diatement la libertĂ© devient tyrannique, parce que elle empĂŞche des hommes [ et des femmes ] de prendre les plaisirs quoitidiens les plus ordinaires. Par exemple, je ne puis pas faire une promenade avec mon ami parce que cÂ’est contre le principe de la libertĂ© que de devoir accepter dÂ’ĂŞtre Ă  un certain endroit Ă  un certain moment pour le rencontrer. Je ne puis pas Ă©tendre mon pouvoir au-delĂ  de ma propre personne, parce que faire ainsi implique de coopĂ©rer avec quelquÂ’un dÂ’autre, et la coopĂ©ration implique un accord, et cÂ’est contre la libertĂ©. On voit immĂ©diatement que cet argument est absurde. Je ne limite pas ma libertĂ©, mais lÂ’exerce simplement, quand je suis dÂ’accord avec mon ami pour faire une promenade. Â»

« Si, dÂ’autre part, je dĂ©cide du haut de ma connaissance supĂ©rieure quÂ’il est bon que mon ami fasse de lÂ’exercice, et donc que jÂ’essaye de le contraindre Ă  faire une promenade, je commence Ă  limiter sa libertĂ©. CÂ’est la diffĂ©rence entre lÂ’accord libre et le gouvernement. Â» [Objections to Anarchism]

Ainsi, si nous prenions lÂ’argument dÂ’Engels sĂ©rieusement, alors nous devrions conclure que la vie rend la libertĂ© impossible ! Après tout, en faisant nÂ’importe quelle activitĂ© commune vous vous « subordonnez Â» vous-mĂŞme Ă  dÂ’autres et, ironiquement, exercer votre libertĂ© en prenant des dĂ©cisions et en sÂ’associant Ă  dÂ’autres deviendrait un dĂ©ni de la libertĂ©. Il est clairement que lÂ’argument dÂ’Engels oublie quelque chose !

Peut-ĂŞtre ce paradoxe peut-il ĂŞtre expliquĂ© une fois que nous comprenons quÂ’Engels emploie une vue prĂ©cisĂ©ment libĂ©rale de la libertĂ© — c.-Ă -d. absence de contraintes. Les anarchistes rejettent cette dĂ©finition. Nous voyons la libertĂ© en tant quÂ’holistique — absence de contraintes et libertĂ© de faire. Cela signifie que la libertĂ© est maintenue par le genre de rapports que nous formons avec les autres, et non par lÂ’isolement. La libertĂ© est niĂ©e quand nous formons des rapports hiĂ©rarchiques avec dÂ’autres, pas nĂ©cessairement quand nous nous associons Ă  dÂ’autres. Combiner avec dÂ’autres individus est une expression de la libertĂ© individuelle, et pas le contraire ! Nous nous rendons compte que la libertĂ© soit impossible Ă  lÂ’extĂ©rieur des associations. Dans une association, l’« autonomie Â» absolue ne peut pas exister, mais un tel concept d’« autonomie Â» limiterait la libertĂ© Ă  un tel degrĂ© quÂ’elle serait ainsi en situation de sÂ’auto-dĂ©truire au point de ridiculiser le concept de lÂ’autonomie et aucune personne raisonnable ne la chercherait.

Clairement, la « critique Â» dÂ’Engels cache plus quÂ’elle nÂ’explique. Oui, la coopĂ©ration et la coercition toutes les deux font partie des rapports entre les personnes travaillant conjointement ensemble, mais elles ne sont pas Ă©quivalentes. Tandis que Bakunin identifiait cette diffĂ©rence fondamentale et essayait, peut-ĂŞtre incomplètement, de les diffĂ©rencier (en rĂ©futant « le principe de lÂ’autoritĂ© Â») et de baser sa politique sur la diffĂ©rence, Engels obscurcit les diffĂ©rences et assombrit une eau claire en confondant les deux concepts, radicalement diffĂ©rents, dans le mot « autoritĂ© Â».

NÂ’importe quelle organisation ou groupe est basĂ©e sur la coopĂ©ration et la coordination (le principe de l’« autoritĂ© Â» dÂ’Engels). Comment cette coopĂ©ration est rĂ©alisĂ©e dĂ©pend du type de lÂ’organisation en question et cela, Ă  son tour, dĂ©pend des relations sociales internes Ă  cette organisation. Ce sont ces rapports sociaux qui dĂ©terminent si une organisation est autoritaire ou libertaire, et non la nĂ©cessitĂ© universelle de faire et accepter des accords. Engels confond simplement obĂ©issance et accord, coercition avec coopĂ©ration, organisation avec lÂ’autoritĂ©, rĂ©alitĂ© objective avec despotisme.

En tant que tel, plutôt que de voir l’organisation en tant que limitrice de liberté, les anarchistes prétendent que c’est le genre d’association que nous faisons qui est important. Nous pouvons former des rapports avec d’autres qui sont basés sur l’égalité, pas sur la subordination. Comme exemple, nous nous verrons les différences entre le mariage et l’amour libre (voir la prochaine section). Une fois qu’on l’identifie que des décisions peuvent être prises sur la base des accords entre personnes égales, l’essai d’Engels peut être vu pour ce qu’est il est — une diatribe gratuite, imprécise, et gravement entachée de nullité.

H.1.10 How does free love versus marriage indicate the weakness of Engels' argument?

Engels, let us not forget, argues, in effect, any activities which "replace isolated action by combined action of individuals" means "the imposition of the will of another upon ours" and so "the will of the single individual will have to subordinate itself, which means that questions are settled in an authoritarian manner." This, for Engels, means that "authority" has not "disappeared" under anarchism but rather it has only "changed its form." [Op. Cit., pp. 730-1]

However, to say that authority just changes its form misses the qualitative differences between authoritarian and libertarian organisation. Precisely the differences which Bakunin and other anarchists tried to stress by calling themselves anti-authoritarians and being against the "principle of authority." By arguing that all forms of association are necessarily "authoritarian," Engels is impoverishing the liberatory potential of socialism. He ensures that the key question of liberty within our associations is hidden behind a mass of sophistry.

As an example, look at the difference between marriage and free love. Both forms necessitate two individuals living together, sharing the same home, organising their lives together. The same situation and the same commitments. But do both imply the same social relationships? Are they both "authoritarian"?

Traditionally, the marriage vow is based on the wife promising to obey the husband. Her role is simply that of obedience (in theory, at least). As Carole Pateman argues, "[u]ntil late into the nineteenth century the legal and civil position of a wife resembled that of a slave" and, in theory, "became the property of her husband and stood to him as a slave/servant to a master." [The Sexual Contract, p. 119 and pp. 130-1] As such, an obvious social relationship exists -- an authoritarian one in which the man has power over the woman. We have a relationship based on domination and subordination.

In free love, the couple are equals. They decide their own affairs, together. The decisions they reach are agreed between them and no domination takes place (unless you think making an agreement equals domination or subordination). They both agree to the decisions they reach, based on mutual respect and give and take. Subordination to individuals does not meaningfully exist (at best, it could be argued that both parties are "dominated" by their decisions, hardly a meaningful use of the word). Instead of subordination, there is free agreement.

Both types of organisation apply to the same activities -- a couple living together. Has "authority" just changed its form as Engels argued? Of course not. There is a substantial difference between the two. The former is authoritarian. One part of the organisation dictates to the other. The latter is libertarian as neither dominates (or they, as a couple, "dominate" each other as individuals -- surely an abuse of the language, we hope you agree!). Each part of the organisation agrees to the decision. Do all these differences just mean that we have changed name of "authority" or has authority been abolished and liberty created? This was the aim of Bakunin's terminology, namely to draw attention to the qualitative change that has occurred in the social relationships generated by the association of individuals when organised in an anarchist way.

As such, Engels is confusing two radically different means of decision making by arguing both involve subordination and authority. The difference is clear: the former involves the domination of an individual over another while the second involves the "subordination" of individuals to the decisions and agreements they make. The first is authority, the second is liberty.

Therefore, the example of free love indicates that, for anarchists, Engels arguments are simply pedantic sophistry. It goes without saying that organisation involves co-operation and that, by necessity, means that individuals come to agreements between themselves to work together. The question is how do they do that, not whether they do so or not. As such, Engels' arguments confuse agreement with hierarchy, co-operation with coercion. Simply put, the way people conduct joint activity determines whether an organisation is libertarian or authoritarian. That was why anarchists called themselves anti-authoritarians, to draw attention to the different ways of organising collective work.

H.1.11 Comment les anarchistes proposent-ils de diriger une usine ?

Dans sa campagne contre les idĂ©es anti-autoritaires lors de la première Internationale, Engels demande dans une lettre Ă©crite en janvier 1872 « Comment feraient ces personnes [les anarchistes] pour diriger une usine, mettre en oeuvre un service de chemin de fer ou piloter un bateau sans avoir en fin de compte quelquÂ’un qui prendra la dĂ©cision, sans organisme de direction. Â» [The Marx-Engels, p. 729 ]

On peut, naturellement, se demander si Engels Ă©tait totalement ignorant des idĂ©es de Bakunin et de ses nombreux commentaires soutenant les cooperatives et les associations dÂ’ouvriers comme des moyens par lesquels les ouvriers « sÂ’organiseraient et conduiraient lÂ’Ă©conomie sans anges gardien, sans lÂ’Ă©tat ou leurs anciens employeurs. Â» Bien sur, Bakunin « Ă©tait convaincu que le mouvement coopĂ©ratif sÂ’Ă©panouirait et atteindrait sa pleine capacitĂ© seulement dans une sociĂ©tĂ© oĂą la terre, les instruments de la production, et la propriĂ©tĂ© hĂ©rĂ©ditaire seront possĂ©dĂ©s et Ă  disposition des ouvriers eux-mĂŞmes : par leurs fĂ©dĂ©rations librement organisĂ©es dÂ’ouvriers agricoles et industriels. Â» [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 399 and p. 400] Ce qui signifie que Bakunin, comme tous les anarchistes, se rendait bien compte de la façon dont une usine ou tout autre lieu de travail serait organisĂ©e :

« Seul le travail dÂ’associĂ©s, c.-Ă -d., de travailleurs organisĂ©s sur les principes de la rĂ©ciprocitĂ© et de la coopĂ©ration, est adaptĂ© Ă  la tâche du maintien ... de la sociĂ©tĂ© civilisĂ©e. Â» [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 341]

En octobre de la mĂŞme annĂ©e, Engels a finalement « soumis des arguments comme ceux-ci aux plus fanatiques des anti-authoritaires Â» (selon ses propres termes) qui ont rĂ©pondu que pour diriger une usine, un service de chemin de fer ou un bateau, cela exigeait de lÂ’organisation « ... mais ici ce nÂ’Ă©tait pas de lÂ’autoritĂ© que nous confĂ©rons aux dĂ©lĂ©guĂ©s, mais une mission de confiance Â» Engels commenta la chose en disant que les anarchistes « pensent que quand ils ont changĂ© les noms des choses ils ont changĂ© les choses elles-mĂŞme. Â» Il pense, donc, que lÂ’autoritĂ© « ... aurait seulement changĂ© de forme Â» plutĂ´t que dÂ’ĂŞtre supprimĂ©e sous lÂ’anarchisme car « celui qui mentionne lÂ’action combinĂ©e parle dÂ’organisation Â» et quÂ’il nÂ’est pas possible « dÂ’avoir lÂ’organisation sans lÂ’autoritĂ©. Â» [Op. Cit., p. 732 and p. 731]

Cependant, Engels confond simplement deux choses diffĂ©rentes, lÂ’autoritĂ© et lÂ’accord. Faire un accord avec une autre personne est un exercice de votre libertĂ©, et non sa restriction. Comme Malatesta lÂ’a expliquĂ©, « les avantages que lÂ’association et la division du travail consĂ©quente offrent Â» signifient que lÂ’humanitĂ© « a Ă©voluĂ© vers plus de solidaritĂ©. Â» Cependant, dans une sociĂ©tĂ© organisĂ©e en classes « les avantages de lÂ’association, le bien que lÂ’homme pouvait retirer de lÂ’appui de ses compagnons Â» a Ă©tĂ© dĂ©tournĂ© au profit de quelques uns, qui ont profitĂ© des « avantages de la coopĂ©ration en soumettant dÂ’autres hommes [ Ă  leur autoritĂ© ] au lieu de se joindre Ă  eux. Â» Cette opression se faisait toujours sur la base « dÂ’association et de coopĂ©ration, sans lesquelles aucune vie humaine nÂ’est possible ; mais cÂ’Ă©tait une manière de coopĂ©rer imposĂ©e et commandĂ©e par quelques uns pour leur seul interĂŞt. Â» [Anarchy, p. 28] Les anarchistes cherchent Ă  organiser des associations pour Ă©liminer la domination. Ceci serait fait par des ouvriers sÂ’organisant collectivement pour prendre leurs propres dĂ©cisions au sujet de leur travail (lÂ’auto-gestion des ouvriers, pour reprendre la terminologie moderne).

En tant que tels, les ouvriers organiseraient leurs tâches mais ceci ne rendrai pas nĂ©cessaires les mĂŞmes rapports sociaux autoritaires qui existent sous le capitalisme :

« Naturellement dans chaque grande entreprise collective, une division de travail, gestion technique, administration, etc., est nĂ©cessaire. Mais les autoritaires jouent maladroitement sur les mots pour produire une justification Ă  un gouvernement hors du besoin très rĂ©el dÂ’organisation du travail. Le gouvernement ... est lÂ’ensemble des individus qui ont le droit et les moyens, ou sÂ’en sont emparĂ©, de faire des lois et dÂ’obliger les gens Ă  obĂ©ir ; lÂ’administrateur, lÂ’ingĂ©nieur, etc., sont des gens, au contraire, qui sont nommĂ©s ou assument la responsabilitĂ© de mener Ă  bien un travail particulier et qui agissent ainsi. Le gouvernement signifie la dĂ©lĂ©gation de compĂ©tences, cÂ’est lÂ’abdication de lÂ’initiative et de la souverainetĂ© de tous dans les mains de quelques-uns ; lÂ’administration signifie la dĂ©lĂ©gation du travail, cÂ’est-Ă -dire des tâches donnĂ©es et reçues, des Ă©changes libres de services basĂ©s sur lÂ’accord libre ... Ne laissez pas faire la confusion entre la fonction du gouvernement et celle de lÂ’administration, parce quÂ’elles sont essentiellement diffĂ©rentes, et si aujourdÂ’hui les deux sont souvent confondus, cÂ’est seulement en raison de privilèges Ă©conomiques et politique. Â» [Anarchy, pp. 39-40]

Pour une tâche donnée, coopération et activité commune peuvent être exigés de par sa nature. Prenons, par exemple, un réseau ferroviaire. L’activité commune de nombreux ouvriers est exigée pour s’assurer qu’il fonctionne avec succès. Le conducteur dépend du travail des opérateurs de signaux et des gardes, par exemple, pour leur donner l’information nécessaire et essentielle pour le fonctionnement continu du réseau. Les passagers dépendent du conducteur et des autres ouvriers pour s’assurer leur voyage sera rapide et sur. En tant que tel, il y a un besoin objectif de coopérer mais ce besoin est compris et convenu par les personnes impliquées.

Si une activité spécifique a besoin de la coopération d’un certain nombre de personnes et peut seulement être réalisée si ces personnes travaillent ensemble en équipe et doivent, en conséquence, passer par des accords, alors c’est assurément un fait normal que l’individu peut seulement se rebeller en quittant l’association. De même, si une association considère sage d’élire un délégué dont les tâches ont été assignées par ce groupe alors, encore, c’est un fait normal sur lequel les individus en question ont été d’accord et ainsi n’a pas été imposé à l’individu par une volonté externe — l’individu a été convaincu de la nécessité de coopérer et agit ainsi.

Engels confond, donc, lÂ’autoritĂ© du système actuel, organisĂ©e et imposĂ©e du haut vers le bas, avec lÂ’auto-gestion exigĂ©e par une sociĂ©tĂ© libre. Il a essayĂ© dÂ’appliquer le mĂŞme mot « autoritĂ© Â» Ă  deux concepts fondamentalement diffĂ©rents. Cependant, nous dĂ©tournons des mots et rĂ©coltons la dĂ©ception quand nous nous appliquons le mĂŞme terme Ă  deux concepts totalement diffĂ©rents. Comme si lÂ’organisation hiĂ©rarchique et autoritaire du travail sous le capitalisme, imposĂ©e par quelques-uns aux autres et basĂ©e sur lÂ’absence de pensĂ©e et de volontĂ© des subordonnĂ©s, pourrait ĂŞtre comparĂ©e Ă  la coordination des activitĂ©s communes par les individus libres ! QuÂ’y a-t-il en commun avec la structure autoritaire de lÂ’usine capitaliste ou de lÂ’armĂ©e et lÂ’organisation libertaire exigĂ©e par des ouvriers pour contrĂ´ler leur lutte pour la libertĂ© et, finalement, pour contrĂ´ler leur propre travail ? Engels dĂ©tourne le langage en employant le mĂŞme mot ("autoritĂ©") pour dĂ©crire deux choses aussi radicalement diffĂ©rentes que lÂ’organisation hiĂ©rarchique du travail salariĂ© et lÂ’association et la coopĂ©ration libre dÂ’Ă©gaux de lÂ’auto-gestion. Si une activitĂ© exige la coopĂ©ration de nombreux individus alors, clairement, cÂ’est un fait normal et il nÂ’y a pas beaucoup que les individus impliquĂ©s puisse faire Ă  ce sujet. Les anarchistes nÂ’ont pas pour habitude de nier le bon sens. La question est simplement comment ces individus coordonnent leurs activitĂ©s. Est-ce au moyen dÂ’auto-gestion ou par la hiĂ©rarchie (autoritĂ©) ?

En tant que tels, les anarchistes ont toujours été clairs sur la façon dont l’industrie serait dirigée — par les ouvriers eux-mêmes dans leurs propres associations libres. De cette façon la domination du patron serait remplacée par des accords entre des gens égaux (voyez les sections I.3.1 et I.3.2 Comment les anarchistes pensent que les usines seraient dirigées dans une société libre).

H.1.12 How does the class struggle refute Engels' arguments that industry required leaving "all autonomy behind"?

Engels argued that large-scale industry (or, indeed, any form of organisation) meant that "authority" was required. He stated that factories should have "Lasciate ogni autonomia, voi che entrate" ("Leave, ye that enter in, all autonomy behind") written above their doors. Indeed, that is the basis of capitalism, with the wage worker being paid to obey. This obedience, Engels argued, was necessary even under socialism, as applying the "forces of nature" meant "a veritable despotism independent of all social organisation." This meant that "[w]anting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself." [Op. Cit., p. 731]

The best answer to Engels claims can be found in the class struggle. Given that Engels was a capitalist (i.e. an owner of a factory), he may have not been aware of the effectiveness of "working to rule" when practised by workers. This basically involves doing exactly what the boss tells you to do, regardless of the consequences as regards efficiency, production and so on. Quite simply, workers' refusing to practice autonomy can be an extremely effective and powerful weapon in the class struggle.

This weapon has long been used by workers and advocated by anarchists, syndicalists and wobblies. For example, the IWW booklet How to fire your boss argues that "[w]orkers often violate orders, resort to their own techniques of doing things, and disregard lines of authority simply to meet the goals of the company. There is often a tacit understanding, even by the managers whose job it is to enforce the rules, that these shortcuts must be taken in order to meet production quotas on time." They argue, correctly, that "if each of these rules and regulations were followed to the letter" then "[c]onfusion would result -- production and morale would plummet. And best of all, the workers can't get in trouble with the tactic because they are, after all, 'just following the rules.'"

The British anarcho-syndicalists of the Direct Action Movement agree and even quote an industrial expert on the situation:

"If managers' orders were completely obeyed, confusion would result and production and morale would be lowered. In order to achieve the goals of the organisation workers must often violate orders, resort to their own techniques of doing things, and disregard lines of authority. Without this kind of systematic sabotage much work could not be done. This unsolicited sabotage in the form of disobedience and subterfuge is especially necessary to enable large bureaucracies to function effectively." [Social Psychology of Industry by J.A.C. Brown, quoted in Direct Action in Industry]

Another weapon of workers' resistance is what has been called "Working without enthusiasm" and is related to the "work to rule." This tactic aims at "slowing production" in order to win gains from management:

"Even the simplest repetitive job demands a certain minimum of initiative and in this case it is failing to show any non-obligatory initiative . . . [This] leads to a fall in production -- above all in quality. The worker carries out every operation minimally; the moment there is a hitch of any kind he [or she] abandons all responsibility and hands over to the next man [or woman] above him [or her] in the hierarchy; he works mechanically, not checking the finished object, not troubling to regulate his machine. In short he gets away with as much as he can, but never actually does anything positively illegal." [Pierre Dubois, Sabotage in Industry, p. 51]

The practice of "working to rule" and "working without enthusiasm" shows how out of touch Engels (like any capitalist) is with the realities of shop floor life. These forms of direct action is extremely effective because the workers refuse to act autonomously in industry, to work out the problems they face during the working day themselves, and instead place all the decisions on the authority required, according to Engels, to run the factory. The factory itself quickly grinds to a halt. What keeps it going is not the "imperious" will of authority, but rather the autonomous activity of workers thinking and acting for themselves to solve the numerous problems they face during the working day.

As Cornelius Castoriadis argues:

"Resistance to exploitation expresses itself in a drop in productivity as well as exertion on the workers' part . . . At the same time it is expressed in the disappearance of the minimum collective and spontaneous management and organisation of work that the workers normally and of necessity puts out. No modern factory could function for twenty-four hours without this spontaneous organisation of work that groups of workers, independent of the official business management, carry out by filling in the gaps of official production directives, by preparing for the unforeseen and for regular breakdowns of equipment, by compensating for management's mistakes, etc.

"Under 'normal' conditions of exploitation, workers are torn between the need to organise themselves in this way in order to carry out their work -- otherwise there are repercussions for them -- and their natural desire to do their work, on the one hand, and, on the other, the awareness that by doing so they only are serving the boss's interests. Added to those conflicting concerns are the continual efforts of factory's management apparatus to 'direct' all aspects of the workers' activity, which often results only in preventing them from organising themselves." [Political and Social Writings, vol. 2, p. 68]

Needless to say, co-operation and co-ordination is required in any collective activity. Anarchists do not deny this fact of nature, but the example Engels considered as irrefutable simply shows the fallacy of his argument. If large-scale industry was run along the lines argued by Engels, it would quickly grind to halt.

Ironically, the example of Russia under Lenin and Trotsky reinforces this fact. "Administrative centralisation" was enforced on the railway workers which, in turn, "led more to ignorance of distance and the inability to respond properly to local circumstances . . . 'I have no instructions' became all the more effective as a defensive and self-protective rationalisation as party officials vested with unilateral power insisted all their orders be strictly obeyed. Cheka ruthlessness instilled fear, but repression . . . only impaired the exercise of initiative that daily operations required." [William G. Rosenberg, "The Social Background to Tsektran," Party, State, and Society in the Russian Civil War, Diane P. Koenker, William G. Rosenberg and Ronald Grigor Suny (eds.), p. 369] Without the autonomy required to manage local problems, the operation of the railways was seriously harmed and, unsurprisingly, a few months after Trotsky subjected to railway workers to the "militarisation of labour" in September 1920, there was a "disastrous collapse of the railway network in the winter of 1920-1." [Jonathan Aves, Workers against Lenin, p. 102]

As the experience of workers' in struggle shows, it is the abolition of autonomy which means the abolition of large-scale industry, not its exercise. This can be seen from various forms of direct action such as "working to rule" as well as Trotsky's attempts to impose the "militarisation of labour" on the Russian workers. The conscious decision by workers to not exercise their autonomy brings industry grinding to a halt and are effective tools in the class struggle. As any worker know, it is only their ability to make decisions autonomously that keeps industry going.

Rather than abolishing authority making large-scale industry impossible, it is the abolishing of autonomy which quickly achieves this. The issue is how do we organise industry so that this essential autonomy is respected and co-operation between workers achieved based on it. For anarchists, this is done by self-managed workers associations in which hierarchical authority is replaced by collective self-discipline (as discussed in section H.1.8).

H.1.13 Is the way industry operates "independent of all social organisation"?

As noted in the last section, Engels argued that applying the "forces of nature" meant "a veritable despotism independent of all social organisation." This meant that "[w]anting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself." [Op. Cit., p. 731]

For anarchists, Engels' comments ignore the reality of class society in an important way. Modern ("large-scale") industry has not developed neutrally or naturally, independently of all social organisation as Engels claimed. Rather it has been shaped by the class struggle. As we argued in section D.10, technology is a weapon in the class struggle. As Castoriadis argues:

"Management organises production with a view of achieving 'maximum efficiency.' But the first result of this sort of organisation is to stir up the workers' revolt against production itself . . . To combat the resistance of the workers, the management institutes an ever more minute division of labour and tasks . . . Machines are invented, or selected, according to one fundamental criterion: Do they assist in the struggle of management against workers, do they reduce yet further the worker's margin of autonomy, do they assist in eventually replacing him [or her] altogether? In this sense, the organisation of production today . . . is class organisation. Technology is predominantly class technology. No . . . manager would ever introduce into his plant a machine which would increase the freedom of a particular worker or of a group of workers to run the job themselves, even if such a machine increased production.

"The workers are by no means helpless in this struggle. They constantly invent methods of self-defence. They break the rules, while 'officially' keeping them. They organise informally, maintain a collective solidarity and discipline." [The Meaning of Socialism, pp. 9-10]

As such, one of the key aspects of the class struggle is the conflict of workers against attempts by management to eliminate their autonomy within the production process. This struggle generates the machines which Engels claims produce a "veritable despotism independent of all social organisation." Regardless of what Engels implies, the way industry has developed is not independent of class society and its "despotism" has been engineered that way. For example, it may be a fact of nature that ten people may be required to operate a machine, but that machine is not such a fact, it is a human invention and so can be changed. Nor is it a fact of nature that work organisation should be based on a manager dictating to the workers what to do -- rather it could be organised by the workers themselves, using collective self-discipline to co-ordinate their joint effort.

As one shop steward put it, workers are "not automatons. We have eyes to see with, ears to hear with, and mouths to talk." As David Noble comments, "[f]or management . . . that was precisely the problem. Workers controlled the machines, and through their unions had real authority over the division of labour and job content." [Forces of Production, p. 37] This autonomy was what managers constantly struggled against and introduced technology to combat. As such, Engels' notion that machinery was "despotic" hide the nature of class society and the fact that authority is a social relationship, a relationship between people and not people and things. And, equally, that different kinds of authority meant different kinds of organisation and different social relationships to do the collective tasks. It was precisely to draw attention to this that anarchists called themselves anti-authoritarians.

Clearly, Engels is simply ignoring the actual relations of authority within capitalist industry and, like the capitalism he claims to oppose, is raising the needs of the bosses to the plane of "natural fact." Indeed, is this not the refrain of every boss or supporter of capitalism? Right-libertarian guru Ludwig von Mises spouted this kind of refrain when he argued that "[t]he root of the syndicalist idea is to be seen in the belief that entrepreneurs and capitalists are irresponsible autocrats who are free to conduct their affairs arbitrarily. Such a dictatorship must not be tolerated . . . The fundamental error of this argument is obvious [sic!]. The entrepreneurs and capitalists are not irresponsible autocrats. They are unconditionally subject to the sovereignty of the consumers. The market is a consumers' democracy." [Human Action, p. 814] In other words, it is not the bosses fault work is so hard or that they dictate to the worker. No, of course not, it is the despotism of the machine, of nature, of the market, of the customer, anyone and anything but the person with authority who is actually giving the orders and punishing those who do not obey!

Needless to say, like Engels essay, von Mises' argument is fundamentally flawed simply because the boss is not just repeating the instructions of the market (assuming that it is a "consumers' democracy," which it is not). Rather, they give their own instructions based on their own sovereignty over the workers. The workers could, of course, manage their own affairs and meet the demands of consumers directly. The "sovereignty" of the market (just like the "despotism" of machines and joint action) is independent of the social relationships which exist within the workplace, but the social relationships themselves are not predetermined by them. Thus the same workshop can be organised in different ways. As such, the way industry operates is dependent on social organisation. The workers can manage their own affairs or be subjected to the rule of a boss. To say that "authority" still exists simply means to confuse agreement with obedience.

The importance of differentiating between types of organisation and ways of making decisions can be seen from the experience of the class struggle. During the Spanish Revolution anarchists organised militias to fight the fascists. One was lead by anarchist militant Durruti. His military adviser, PĂ©rez Farras, a professional soldier, was concerned about the application of libertarian principles to military organisation. Durruti replied:

"I have already said and I repeat; during all my life, I have acted as an anarchist. The fact of having been given political responsibility for a human collective cannot change my convictions. It is under these conditions that I agreed to play the role given to me by the Central Committee of the Militias.

"I thought -- and what has happened confirms my belief -- that a workingmen's militia cannot be led according to the same rules as an army. I think that discipline, co-ordination and the fulfilment of a plan are indispensable. But this idea can no longer be understood in the terms of the world we have just destroyed. We have new ideas. We think that solidarity among men must awaken personal responsibility, which knows how to accept discipline as an autonomous act.

"Necessity imposes a war on us, a struggle that differs from many of those that we have carried on before. But the goal of our struggle is always the triumph of the revolution. This means not only victory over the enemy, but also a radical change in man. For this change to occur, man must learn to live in freedom and develop in himself his potentialities as a responsible individual. The worker in the factory, using his tools and directing production, is bringing about a change in himself. The fighter, like the worker, uses his gun as a tool and his acts must lead to the same goals as those of the worker.

"In the struggle he cannot act like a soldier under orders but like a man who is conscious of what he is doing. I know it is not easy to get such a result, but what one cannot get by reason, one can never get through force. If our revolutionary army must be maintained through fear, we will have changed nothing but the colour of fear. It is only by freeing itself from fear that a free society can be built." [quoted by Abel Paz, Durruti: The People Armed, p. 225]

Is it really convincing to argue that the individuals who made up the militia are subject to the same social relationships as those in a capitalist or Leninist army? The same, surely, goes for workers associations and wage labour. Ultimately, the flaw in Engels' argument can be best seen simply because he thinks that the "automatic machinery of a big factory is much more despotic than the small capitalist who employ workers ever have been." [Op. Cit., p. 731] Authority and liberty become detached from human beings, as if authoritarian social relationships can exist independently of individuals! It is a social relationship anarchists oppose, not an abstraction.

As such, Engels' argument is applicable to any society and to any task which requires joint effort. If, for example, a table needs four people to move it then those four people are subject to the "despotism" of gravity! Under such "despotism" can we say its irrelevant whether these four people are slaves to a master who wants the table moved or whether they agree between themselves to move the table and on the best way to do it? In both cases the table movers are subject to the same "despotism" of gravity, yet in the latter example they are not subject to the despotism of other human beings they are subject to in the former. Clearly, Engels is playing with words!

The fallacy of Engels' basic argument can be seen from this simple example. He essentially uses a liberal concept of freedom (i.e. freedom exists prior to society and is reduced within it) when attacking anarchism. Rather than see freedom as a product of interaction, as Bakunin did, Engels sees it as a product of isolation. Collective activity is seen as a realm of necessity (to use Marx's phrase) and not one of freedom. Indeed, machines and the forces of nature are considered by Engels' as "despots"! As if despotism was not a specific set of relationships between humans. As Bookchin argues:

"To Engels, the factory is a natural fact of technics, not a specifically bourgeois mode of rationalising labour; hence it will exist under communism as well as capitalism. It will persist 'independently of all social organisation.' To co-ordinate a factory's operations requires 'imperious obedience,' in which factory hands lack all 'autonomy.' Class society or classless, the realm of necessity is also a realm of command and obedience, of ruler and ruled. In a fashion totally congruent with all class ideologists from the inception of class society, Engels weds Socialism to command and rule as a natural fact. Domination is reworked from a social attribute into a precondition for self-preservation in a technically advanced society." [Towards an Ecological Society, p. 206]

Given this, it can be argued that Engels' "On Authority" had a significant impact in the degeneration of the Russian Revolution into state capitalism. By deliberately obscuring the differences between self-managed and authoritarian organisation, he helped provide Bolshevism with ideological justification for eliminating workers self-management in production. After all, if self-management and hierarchical management both involve the same "principle of authority," then it does not really matter how production is organised and whether industry is managed by the workers or by appointed managers (as Engels stressed, authority in industry was independent of the social system and all forms of organisation meant subordination). Murray Bookchin draws the obvious conclusion from Engels' (and Marx's) position: "Obviously, the factory conceived of as a 'realm of necessity' [as opposed to a 'realm of freedom'] requires no need for self-management." [Op. Cit., p. 126]

Hence the Bolsheviks need not to consider whether replacing factory committees with appointed managers armed with "dictatorial powers" would have any effect on the position of workers in socialism (after all, the were subject to subordination either way). Engels had used the modern factory system of mass production as a direct analogy to argue against the anarchist call for workers' councils, for autonomy, for participation, for self-management. Authority, hierarchy, and the need for submission and domination is inevitable given the current mode of production, both Engels and Lenin argued. Little wonder, then, the worker become the serf of the state (see section H.4 for more details). In his own way, Engels contributed to the degeneration of the Russian Revolution by providing the rationale for the Bolsheviks disregard for workers' self-management of production.

Simply put, Engels was wrong. The need to co-operate and co-ordinate activity may be independent of social development, but the nature of a society does impact on how this co-operation is achieved. If it is achieved by hierarchical means, then it is a class society. If it is achieved by agreements between equals, then it is a socialist one. As such, how industry operates is dependent on society it is part of. An anarchist society would run industry based on the free agreement of workers united in free associations (see section H.1.11). This would necessitate making and sticking to joint decisions but this co-ordination would be between equals, not master and servant. By not recognising this fact, Engels fatally undermined the cause of socialism.

H.1.14 Why does Engel's "On Authority" harm Marxism?

Ironically, Engels' essay "On Authority" also strikes at the heart of Marxism and its critique of anarchism. Forgetting what he had written in 1873, Engels argued in 1894 that for him and Marx the "ultimate political aim is to overcome the whole state and therefore democracy as well." [quoted by Lenin, "State and Revolution", Essential Works of Lenin, p. 331] Lenin argued that "the abolition of the state means also the abolition of democracy." [Op. Cit., p. 332]

However, Lenin quoted Engels' "On Authority" which stated that any form of collective activity meant "authority" and so the subjection of the minority to the majority ("if possible") and "the imposition of the will of another upon ours." [Engels, Marx-Engels Reader, p. 731 and p. 730]

Aware of the contradiction, Lenin stresses that "someone may even begin to fear we are expecting the advent of an order of society in which the subordination of the minority to the majority will not be respected." That was not the case, however. He simply rejected the idea that democracy was "the recognition of this principle" arguing that "democracy is a state which recognises the subordination of the minority to the majority, i.e. an organisation for the systematic use of violence by one class against the other, by one section of the population against another." He argued that "the need for violence against people in general, the need for the subjection of one man to another, will vanish, since people will become accustomed to observing the elementary conditions of social life without force and without subordination." [Lenin, Op. Cit., pp. 332-3]

Talk about playing with words! Earlier in his work Lenin summarised Engels "On Authority" by stating that "is it not clear that . . . complex technical units, based on the employment of machinery and the ordered co-operation of many people, could function without a certain amount of subordination, without some authority or power." [Op. Cit., p. 316] Now, however, he argues that communism would involve no "subordination" while, at the same time, be based on the "the principle of the subordination of the minority to the majority"! A contradiction? Perhaps no, as he argues that the minority would "become accustomed" to the conditions of "social life" -- in other words the recognition that sticking to your agreements you make with others does not involve "subordination." This, ironically, would confirm anarchist ideas as we argue that making agreements with others, as equals, does not involve domination or subordination but rather is an expression of autonomy, of liberty.

Similarly, we find Engels arguing in Anti-Duhring that socialism would "puts an end to the former subjection of men to their own means of production" and that "productive labour, instead of being a means of subjugating men, will become a means of their emancipation." [Marx-Engels Reader, p. 720 and p. 721] This work was written in 1878, six years after "On Authority" when he stressed that "the automatic machinery of a big factory is much more despotic than the small capitalists who employ workers ever have been" and "subdu[ing] the forces of nature . . . avenge themselves" upon "man" by "subjecting him . . . to a veritable despotism independent of all social organisation." [Op. Cit., p. 731] Engels is clearly contradicting himself. When attacking the anarchists, he argues that the "subjection" of people to the means of production was inevitable and utterly "independent of all social organisation." Six years later he argues that socialism will abolish this inescapable subjection to the "veritable despotism" of modern industry!

As can be seen from both Engels and Lenin, we have a contradiction within Marxism. On the one hand, they argue that authority ("subjection") will always be with us, no matter what, as "subordination" and "authority" is independent of the specific social society we live in. On the other, they argue that Marxist socialism will be without a state, "without subordination," "without force" and will end the "subjection of men to their own means of production." The two positions cannot be reconciled.

Simply put, if Engels "On Authority" is correct then, logically, it means that not only is anarchism impossible but also Marxist socialism. Lenin and Engels are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, arguing that anarchism is impossible as any collective activity means subjection and subordination, on the other, that socialism will end that inevitable subjection. And, of course, arguing that democracy will be "overcome" while, at the same time, arguing that it can never be. Ultimately, it shows that Engels essay is little more than a cheap polemic without much merit.

Even worse for Marxism is Engels' comment that authority and autonomy "are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of society" and that "the material conditions of production and circulation inevitably develop with large-scale industry and large-scale agriculture, and increasingly tend to enlarge the scope of this authority." [Op. Cit., p. 732] Given that this is "a veritable despotism" and Marxism aims at "one single vast plan" in modern industry, then the scope for autonomy, for freedom, is continually reduced during the working day. [Op. Cit., p. 723 and p. 731] The only possible solution is reducing the working day to a minimum and so the time spent as a slave to the machine is reduced. The idea that work should be transformed into creative, empowering and liberating experience is automatically destroyed by Engels argument. Like capitalism, Marxist-Socialism is based on "work is hell" and the domination of the producer. Hardly an inspiring vision of the future.

H.1.15 Why does Engels' argument that revolution is "the most authoritarian thing there is" totally miss the point?

As well as the argument that "authority" is essential for every collective activity, Engels raises another argument against anarchism. This second argument is that revolutions are by nature authoritarian. In his words, a "revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon -- authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror its arms inspire in the reactionaries." [Marx-Engels Reader, p. 733]

However, such an analysis is without class analysis and so will, by necessity, mislead the writer and the reader. Engels argues that revolution is the imposition by "one part of the population" on another. Very true -- but Engels fails to indicate the nature of class society and, therefore, of a social revolution. In a class society "one part of the population" constantly "imposes its will upon the other part" -- those with power imposes its decisions to those beneath them in the social hierarchy. In other words, the ruling class imposes its will on the working class everyday in work by the hierarchical structure of the workplace and in society by the state. Discussing the "population" as if it was not divided by classes and so subject to specific forms of authoritarian social relationships is liberal nonsense.

Once we recognise that the "population" in question is divided into classes we can easily see the fallacy of Engels argument. In a social revolution, the act of revolution is the overthrow of the power and authority of an oppressing and exploiting class by those subject to that oppression and exploitation. In other words, it is an act of liberation in which the hierarchical power of the few over the many is eliminated and replaced by the freedom of the many to control their own lives. It is hardly authoritarian to destroy authority! Thus a social revolution is, fundamentally, an act of liberation for the oppressed who act in their own interests to end the system in which "one part of population imposes its will upon the other" everyday.

Malatesta states the obvious:

"To fight our enemies effectively, we do not need to deny the principle of freedom, not even for one moment: it is sufficient for us to want real freedom and to want it for all, for ourselves as well as for others.

"We want to expropriate the property-owning class, and with violence, since it is with violence that they hold on to social wealth and use it to exploit the working class. Not because freedom is a good thing for the future, but because it is a good thing, today as well as tomorrow, and the property owners, be denying us the means of exercising our freedom, in effect, take it away from us.

"We want to overthrow the government, all governments -- and overthrow them with violence since it is by the use of violence that they force us into obeying -- and once again, not because we sneer at freedom when it does not serve our interests but because governments are the negation of freedom and it is not possible to be free without getting rid of them . . .

"The freedom to oppress, to exploit, to oblige people to take up arms [i.e. conscription], to pay taxes, etc., is the denial of freedom: and the fact that our enemies make irrelevant and hypocritical use of the word freedom is not enough to make us deny the principle of freedom which is the outstanding characteristic of our movement and a permanent, constant and necessary factor in the life and progress of humanity." [Life and Ideas, p. 51]

It seems strange that Engels, in effect, is arguing that the abolition of tyranny is tyranny against the tyrants! As Malatesta so clearly argued, anarchists "recognise violence only as a means of legitimate self-defence; and if today they are in favour of violence it is because they maintain that slaves are always in a state of legitimate defence." [Op. Cit., p. 59] As such, Engels fails to understand the revolution from a working class perspective (perhaps unsurprisingly, as he was a capitalist). The "authority" of the "armed workers" over the bourgeois is, simply, the defence of the workers' freedom against those who seek to end it by exercising/recreating the very authoritarian social relationships the revolution sought to end in the first place. Ultimately, Engels is like the liberal who equates the violence of the oppressed to end oppression with that the oppressors!

Needless to say, this applies to the class struggle as well. Is, for example, a picket line really authoritarian because it tries to impose its will on the boss, police or scabs? Rather, is it not defending the workers' freedom against the authoritarian power of the boss and their lackeys (the police and scabs)? Is it "authoritarian" to resist authority and create a structure -- a strike assembly and picket line -- which allows the formally subordinated workers to manage their own affairs directly and without bosses? Is it "authoritarian" to combat the authority of the boss, to proclaim your freedom and exercise it? Of course not. Little wonder Bakunin talked about "the development and organisation" of the "social (and, by consequence, anti-political) power of the working masses" and "the revolutionary organisation of the natural power of the masses"!

Structurally, a strikers' assembly and picket line -- which are forms of self-managed association -- cannot be compared to an "authority" (such as a state). To try and do so fails to recognise the fundamental difference. In the strikers' assembly and picket line the strikers themselves decide policy and do not delegate power away into the hands of an authority (any strike committees execute the strikers decisions or is replaced). In a state, power is delegated into the hands of a few who then use that power as they see fit. This by necessity disempowers those at the base, who are turned into mere electors and order takers (i.e. an authoritarian relationship is created). Such a situation can only spell death of a social revolution, which requires the active participation of all if it is to succeed. It also, incidentally, exposes a central fallacy of Marxism, namely that it claims to desire a society based on the participation of everyone yet favours a form of organisation -- centralisation -- that excludes that participation.

Georges Fontenis summarises anarchist ideas on this subject when he writes:

"And so against the idea of State, where power is exercised by a specialised group isolated from the masses, we put the idea of direct workers power, where accountable and controlled elected delegates (who can be recalled at any time and are remunerated at the same rate as other workers) replace hierarchical, specialised and privileged bureaucracy; where militias, controlled by administrative bodies such as soviets, unions and communes, with no special privileges for military technicians, realising the idea of the armed people, replace an army cut off from the body of Society and subordinated to the arbitrary power of a State or government." [Manifesto of Libertarian Communism, p. 24]

Anarchists, therefore, are no more impressed with this aspect of Engels critique than his "organisation equals authority" argument. In summary, his argument is simply a liberal analysis of revolution, totally without a class basis or analysis and so fails to understand the anarchist case nor answer it. To argue that a revolution is made up of two groups of people, one of which "imposes its will upon the other" fails to indicate the social relations that exist between these groups (classes) and the relations of authority between them which the revolution is seeking to overthrow. As such, Engels critique totally misses the point.


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