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H.3 What are the myths of state socialism?

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Ask most people what socialism means and they will point to the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba and a host of other authoritarian, centralised and oppressive party dictatorships. These regimes have in common two things. Firstly, the claim that their rulers are Marxists or socialists. Secondly, that they have successfully alienated millions of working class people from the very idea of socialism. Indeed, the supporters of capitalism simply had to describe the "socialist paradises" as they really were in order to put people off socialism. Moreover, the Stalinist regimes (and their various apologists and even "opponents", like the Trotskyists, who defended them as "degenerated workers' states") let the bourgeoisie have an easy time in dismissing all working-class demands and struggles as so many attempts to set up similar party dictatorships.

The association of "socialism" or "communism" with these dictatorships has often made anarchists wary of calling themselves socialists or communists in case our ideas are associated with them. As Errico Malatesta argued in 1924:

"I foresee the possibility that the communist anarchists will gradually abandon the term 'communist': it is growing in ambivalence and falling into disrepute as a result of Russian 'communist' despotism. If the term is eventually abandoned this will be a repetition of what happened with the word 'socialist.' We who, in Italy at least, were the first champions of socialism and maintained and still maintain that we are the true socialists in the broad and human sense of the word, ended by abandoning the term to avoid confusion with the many and various authoritarian and bourgeois deviations of socialism. Thus too we may have to abandon the term 'communist' for fear that our ideal of free human solidarity will be confused with the avaricious despotism which has for some time triumphed in Russia and which one party, inspired by the Russian example, seeks to impose worldwide." [The Anarchist Revolution, p. 20]

That, to a large degree happened, with anarchists simply calling themselves by that name, without adjectives, to avoid confusion. This, sadly, resulted in two problems. Firstly, it gave Marxists even more potential to portray anarchism as being primarily against the state and not as equally opposed to capitalism, hierarchy and inequality (as we argue in section H.2.4, anarchists have opposed the state as just one aspect of class society). Secondly, extreme right-wingers tried to appropriate the names "libertarian" and "anarchist" to describe their vision of extreme capitalism as "anarchism," they claimed, was simply "anti-government" (see section F for discussion on why "anarcho"-capitalism is not anarchist). To counter these distortions of anarchist ideas, many anarchists have recently re-appropriated the use of the words "socialist" and "communist," although always in combination with the words "anarchist" and "libertarian."

Such combination of words is essential as the problem Malatesta predicted still remains. If one thing can be claimed for the 20th century, it is that it has seen the word "socialism" become narrowed and restricted into what anarchists call "state socialism" -- socialism created and run from above, by the state (i.e. by the state bureaucracy). This restriction of "socialism" has been supported by both Stalinist and Capitalist ruling elites, for their own reasons (the former to secure their own power and gain support by associating themselves with socialist ideals, the latter by discrediting those ideas by associating them with the horror of Stalinism).

This means that anarchists and other libertarian socialists have a major task on their hands -- to reclaim the promise of socialism from the distortions inflicted upon it by both its enemies (Stalinists and capitalists) and its erstwhile and self-proclaimed supporters (Social Democracy and its various offspring like the Bolsheviks and its progeny like the Trotskyists). A key aspect of this process is a critique of both the practice and ideology of Marxism and its various offshoots. Only by doing this can anarchists prove, to quote Rocker, that "Socialism will be free, or it will not be at all." [Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 20]

Such a critique raises the problem of which forms of "Marxism" to discuss. There is an extremely diverse range of Marxist viewpoints and groups in existence. Indeed, the different groups spend a lot of time indicating why all the others are not "real" Marxists (or Marxist-Leninists, or Trotskyists, and so on) and are just "sects" without "real" Marxist theory or ideas. This "diversity" is, of course, a major problem (and somewhat ironic, given that some Marxists like to insult anarchists by stating there are as many forms of anarchism as anarchists!). Equally, many Marxists go further than dismissing specific groups. Some even totally reject other branches of their movement as being non-Marxist (for example, some Marxists dismiss Leninism as having little, or nothing, to do with what they consider the "real" Marxist tradition to be). This means that discussing Marxism can be difficult as Marxists can argue that our FAQ does not address the arguments of this or that Marxist thinker, group or tendency.

With this in mind, this section of the FAQ will concentrate on the works of Marx and Engels (and so the movement they generated, namely Social Democracy) as well as the Bolshevik tradition started by Lenin and continued (by and large) by Trotsky. These are the core ideas (and the recognised authorities) of most Marxists and so latter derivations of these tendencies can be ignored (for example Maoism, Castroism and so on). It should also be noted that even this grouping will produce dissent as some Marxists argue that the Bolshevik tradition is not part of Marxism. This perspective can be seen in the "impossiblist" tradition of Marxism (e.g. the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its sister parties) as well as in the left/council communist tradition (e.g. in the work of such Marxists as Anton Pannekoek and Paul Mattick). The arguments for their positions are strong and well worth reading (indeed, any honest analysis of Marxism and Leninism cannot help but show important differences between the two). However, as the vast majority of Marxists today are also Leninists, we have to reflect this in our FAQ (and, in general, we do so by referring to "mainstream Marxists" as opposed to the small minority of libertarian Marxists).

Another problem arises when we consider the differences not only between Marxist tendencies, but also within a specific tendency before and after its representatives seize power. For example, "there are . . . very different strains of Leninism . . . there's the Lenin of 1917, the Lenin of the 'April Theses' and State and Revolution. That's one Lenin. And then there's the Lenin who took power and acted in ways that are unrecognisable . . . compared with, say, the doctrines of 'State and Revolution.' . . . this [is] not very hard to explain. There's a big difference between the libertarian doctrines of a person who is trying to associate himself with a mass popular movement to acquire power and the authoritarian power of somebody who's taken power and is trying to consolidate it. . . that is true of Marx also. There are competing strains in Marx." [Noam Chomsky, Language and Politics, p. 177]

As such, this section of our FAQ will try and draw out the contradictions within Marxism and indicate what aspects of the doctrine aided the development of the "second" Lenin. The seeds from which authoritarianism grew post-October 1917 existed from the start. Anarchists agree with Noam Chomsky when he stated that he considered it "characteristic and unfortunate that the lesson that was drawn from Marx and Lenin for the later period was the authoritarian lesson. That is, it's the authoritarian power of the vanguard party and destruction of all popular forums in the interests of the masses. That's the Lenin who became know to later generations. Again, not very surprisingly, because that's what Leninism really was in practice." [Ibid.]

Ironically, given Marx's own comments on the subject, a key hindrance to such an evaluation is the whole idea and history of Marxism itself. While, as Murray Bookchin noted "to his lasting credit," Marx tried (to some degree) "to create a movement that looks to the future instead of to the past," his followers have not done so. "Once again," Bookchin argues, "the dead are walking in our midst -- ironically, draped in the name of Marx, the man who tried to bury the dead of the nineteenth century. So the revolution of our own day can do nothing better than parody, in turn, the October Revolution of 1918 and the civil war of 1918-1920 . . . The complete, all-sided revolution of our own day . . . follows the partial, the incomplete, the one-sided revolutions of the past, which merely changed the form of the 'social question,' replacing one system of domination and hierarchy by another." [Post-Scarcity Anarchism, p. 174 and p. 175] In Marx's words, the "tradition of all the dead generations weighs down like a nightmare on the brain of the living." Marx's own work, and the movements it inspired, now add to this dead-weight. In order to ensure, as Marx put it, the social revolution draws is poetry from the future rather than the past, Marxism itself must be transcended.

Which, of course, means evaluating both the theory and practice of Marxism. For anarchists, it seems strange that for a body of work whose followers stress is revolutionary and liberating, its results have been so bad. If Marxism is so obviously revolutionary and democratic, then why have so few of the people who read it drawn those conclusions? How could it be transmuted so easily into Stalinism? Why are there so few libertarian Marxists, if it was Lenin (or Social Democracy) which "misinterpreted" Marx and Engels? So when Marxists argue that the problem is in the interpretation of the message not in the message itself, anarchists reply that the reason these numerous, allegedly false, interpretations exist at all simply suggests that there are limitations within Marxism as such rather than the readings it has been subjected to. When something repeatedly fails (and produces such terrible results), then there has to be a fundamental flaw somewhere.

Thus Cornelius Castoriadis:

"Marx was, in fact, the first to stress that the significance of a theory cannot be grasped independently of the historical and social practice it inspires and initiates, to which it gives rise, in which it prolongs itself and under cover of which a given practice seeks to justify itself.

"Who, today, would dare proclaim that the only significance of Christianity for history is to be found in reading unaltered versions of the Gospels or that the historical practice of various Churches over a period of some 2,000 years can teach us nothing fundamental about the significance of this religious movement? A 'faithfulness to Marx' which would see the historical fate of Marxism as something unimportant would be just as laughable. It would in fact be quite ridiculous. Whereas for the Christian the revelations of the Gospels have a transcendental kernel and an intemporal validity, no theory could ever have such qualities in the eyes of a Marxist. To seek to discover the meaning of Marxism only in what Marx wrote (while keeping quiet about what the doctrine has become in history) is to pretend -- in flagrant contradiction with the central ideas of that doctrine -- that real history doesn't count and that the truth of a theory is always and exclusively to be found 'further on.' It finally comes to replacing revolution by revelation and the understanding of events by the exegesis of texts." ["The Fate of Marxism," pp. 75-84 The Anarchist Papers, Dimitrios Roussopoulos (ed.), p. 77]

This does not mean forsaking the work of Marx and Engels. It means rejecting once and for all the idea that two people, writing over a period of decades over a hundred years ago have all the answers. As should be obvious! Ultimately, anarchists think we have to build upon the legacy of the past, not squeeze current events into it. We should stand on the shoulders of giants, not at their feet.

Thus this section of our FAQ will attempt to explain the various myths of Marxism and provide an anarchist critique of Marxism and its offshoots. Of course, the ultimate myth of Marxism is what Alexander Berkman called "The Bolshevik Myth," namely the idea that the Russian Revolution was a success. However, as we discuss this revolution in section H.4 we will not do so here except when it provides useful empirical evidence for our critique. Our discussion here will concentrate for the most part on Marxist theory, showing its inadequacies, its problems, where it appropriated anarchist ideas and how anarchism and Marxism differ. This is a big task and this section of the FAQ can only be a small contribution to it.

As noted above, there are minority trends in Marxism which are libertarian in nature (i.e. close to anarchism). As such, it would be simplistic to say that anarchists are "anti-Marxist" and we generally do differentiate between the (minority) libertarian element and the authoritarian mainstream of Marxism (i.e. Social-Democracy and Leninism in its many forms). Without doubt, Marx contributed immensely to the enrichment of socialist ideas and analysis (as acknowledged by Bakunin, for example). His influence, as to be expected, was both positive and negative. For this reason he must be read and discussed critically. This FAQ is a contribution to this task of transcending the work of Marx. As with anarchist thinkers, we must take what is useful from Marx and reject the rubbish. But never forget that anarchists are anarchists precisely because we think that anarchist thinkers have got more right than wrong and we reject the idea of tying our politics to the name of a long dead thinker.

H.3.1 Do Anarchists and Marxists want the same thing?

Ultimately, the greatest myth of Marxism is the idea that anarchists and most Marxists want the same thing. Indeed, it could be argued that it is anarchist criticism of Marxism which has made them stress the similarity of long term goals with anarchism. "Our polemics against them [the Marxists]," Bakunin argued, "have forced them to recognise that freedom, or anarchy -- that is, the voluntary organisation of the workers from below upward -- is the ultimate goal of social development." He continued by stressing that the means to this apparently similar end were different. The Marxists, he argues, "say that [a] state yoke, [a] dictatorship, is a necessary transitional device for achieving the total liberation of the people: anarchy, or freedom, is the goal, and the state, or dictatorship, is the means . . . We reply that no dictatorship can have any other objective than to perpetuate itself, and that it can engender and nurture only slavery in the people who endure it. Liberty can be created only by liberty, by an insurrection of all the people and the voluntary organisation of the workers from below upwards." [Statism and Anarchy, p. 179]

As such, it is commonly taken for granted that the ends of both Marxists and Anarchists are the same, we just disagree over the means. However, within this general agreement over the ultimate end (a classless and stateless society), the details of such a society are somewhat different. This, perhaps, is to be expected given the differences in means. As is obvious from Bakunin's argument, anarchists stress the unity of means and goals, that the means which are used affect the goal reached. This unity between means and ends is expressed well by Martin Buber's observation that "[o]ne cannot in the nature of things expect a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forth leaves." [Paths in Utopia, p. 127] In summary, we cannot expect to reach our end destination if we take a path going in the opposite direction. As such, the agreement on ends may not be as close as often imagined.

So when it is stated that anarchists and state socialists want the same thing, the following should be borne in mind. Firstly, there are key differences on the question of current tactics. Secondly, there is the question of the immediate aims of a revolution. Thirdly, there is the long term goals of such a revolution. These three aspects form a coherent whole, with each one logically following on from the last. As we will show, the anarchist and Marxist vision of each aspect are distinctly different, so suggesting that the short, medium and long term goals of each theory are, in fact, different. We will discuss each aspect in turn.

Firstly, the question of the nature of the revolutionary movement. Here anarchists and most Marxists have distinctly opposing ideas. The former argue that both the revolutionary organisation (i.e. an anarchist federation) and the wider labour movement should be organised in line with the vision of society which inspires us. This means that it should be a federation of self-managed groups based on the direct participation of its membership in the decision making process. Power, therefore, is decentralised and there is no division between those who make the decisions and those who execute them. We reject the idea of others acting on our behalf or on behalf of the people and so urge the use of direct action and solidarity, based upon working class self-organisation, self-management and autonomy. Thus, anarchists apply their ideas in the struggle against the current system, arguing what is "efficient" from a hierarchical or class position is deeply inefficient from a revolutionary perspective.

Marxists disagree. Most Marxists are also Leninists. They argue that we must form "vanguard" parties based on the principles of "democratic centralism" complete with institutionalised leaderships. They argue that how we organise today is independent of the kind of society we seek and that the party should aim to become the recognised leadership of the working class. Every thing they do is subordinated to this end, meaning that no struggle is seen as an end in itself but rather as a means to gaining membership and influence for the party until such time as it gather enough support to seize power. As this is a key point of contention between anarchists and Leninists, we discuss this in some detail in section H.8 and its related sections and so not do so here.

Obviously, in the short term anarchists and Leninists cannot be said to want the same thing. While we seek a revolutionary movement based on libertarian (i.e. revolutionary) principles, the Leninists seek a party based on distinctly bourgeois principles of centralisation, delegation of power and representative over direct democracy. Both, of course, argue that only their system of organisation is effective and efficient (see section H.8.8 on a discussion why anarchists argue that the Leninist model is not effective from a revolutionary perspective). The anarchist perspective is to see the revolutionary organisation as part of the working class, encouraging and helping those in struggle to clarify the ideas they draw from their own experiences and its role is to provide a lead rather than a new set of leaders to be followed (see section J.3.6 for more on this). The Leninist perspective is to see the revolutionary party as the leadership of the working class, introducing socialist consciousness into a class which cannot generate itself (see section H.8.1).

Given the Leninist preference for centralisation and a leadership role by hierarchical organisation, it will come as no surprise that their ideas on the nature of post-revolutionary society are distinctly different from anarchists. While there is a tendency for Leninists to deny that anarchists have a clear idea of what will immediately be created by a revolution (see section H.1.4), we do have concrete ideas on the kind of society a revolution will immediately create. This vision is in almost every way different from that proposed by most Marxists.

Firstly, there is the question of the state. Anarchists, unsurprisingly enough, seek to destroy it. Simply put, while anarchists want a stateless and classless society and advocate the means appropriate to those ends, most Marxists argue that in order to reach a stateless society we need a new "workers'" state, a state, moreover, in which their party will be in charge. Trotsky, writing in 1906, made this clear when he argued that "[e]very political party deserving of the name aims at seizing governmental power and thus putting the state at the service of the class whose interests it represents." [quoted by Israel Getzler, "Marxist Revolutionaries and the Dilemma of Power", pp. 88-112, Revolution and Politics in Russia, Alexander and Janet Rabinowitch and Ladis K.D. Kristof (eds,), p. 105] This fits in with Marx's 1852 comments that "Universal Suffrage is the equivalent of political power for the working class of England, where the proletariat forms the large majority of the population . . . Its inevitable result, here, is the political supremacy of the working class." [Collected Works, vol. 11, pp. 335-6] In other words, "political power" simply means the ability to nominate a government. Thus Engels:

"In every struggle of class against class, the next end fought for is political power; the ruling class defends its political supremacy, that is to say its safe majority in the Legislature; the inferior class fights for, first a share, then the whole of that power, in order to become enabled to change existing laws in conformity with their own interests and requirements. Thus the working class of Great Britain for years fought ardently and even violently for the People's Charter [which demanded universal suffrage and yearly general elections], which was to give it that political power." [Collected Works, vol. 24, p. 386]

While Marxists like to portray this new government as "the dictatorship of the proletariat," anarchist argue that, in fact, it will be the dictatorship over the proletariat. This is because if the working class is the ruling class (as Marxists claim) then, anarchists argue, how can they delegate their power to a government and remain so? Either the working class directly manages its own affairs (and so society) or the government does. We discuss this issue in section H.3.7 any state is simply rule by a few and so is incompatible with socialism. The obvious implication of this is that Marxism seeks party rule, not working class direct management of society (as we discuss in section H.3.8, the Leninist tradition is extremely clear on this matter).

Then there is the question of the building blocks of socialism. Yet again, there is a clear difference between anarchism and Marxism. Anarchists have always argued that the basis of socialism is working class organisations, created in the struggle against capitalism and the state (see section H.1.4 for details). This applies to both the social and economic structure of a post-revolutionary society. For most forms of Marxism, a radically different picture has been the dominant one. As we discuss in section H.3.10, Marxists only reached a similar vision for the political structure of socialism in 1917 when Lenin supported the soviets as he framework of his workers' state. However, as we prove in section H.3.11, he did so for instrumental purposes only, namely as the best means of assuring Bolshevik power. If the soviets clashed with the party, it was the latter which took precedence. Unsurprisingly, the Bolshevik mainstream moved from "All Power to the Soviets" to "dictatorship of the party" rather quickly. Thus, unlike anarchism, most forms of Marxism aim for party power, a "revolutionary" government above the organs of working class self-management.

Economically, there are also clear differences. Anarchists have consistently argued that the workers "ought to be the real managers of industries." [Peter Kropotkin, Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow, p. 157] To achieve this, we have pointed to various organisations over time, such as factory committees and labour unions as the "medium which Socialist forms of life could find . . . realisation." Thus they would "not only [be] an instrument for the improvement of the conditions of labour, but also of [were capable of] becoming an organisation which might . . . take into its hands the management of production." [Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread, pp. 22-3]

As we discuss in more detail in section H.3.12, Lenin, in contrast, saw socialism as being constructed on the basis of structures and techniques (including management ones) developed under capitalism. Rather than see socialism as being built around new, working class organisations, Lenin saw it being constructed on the basis of developments in capitalist organisation. "The Leninist road to socialism," notes one expert on Lenin, "emphatically ran through the terrain of monopoly capitalism. It would, according to Lenin, abolish neither its advanced technological base nor its institutionalised means for allocating resources or structuring industry. . . The institutionalised framework of advanced capitalism could, to put it shortly, be utilised for realisation of specifically socialist goals. They were to become, indeed, the principal (almost exclusive) instruments of socialist transformation." [Neil Harding, Leninism, p.145] As Lenin explained, socialism is "nothing but the next step forward from state capitalist monopoly. In other words, Socialism is nothing but state capitalist monopoly made to benefit the whole people; by this token it ceases to be capitalist monopoly." [The Threatening Catastrophe and how to avoid it, p. 37]

The role of workers' in this vision was basically unchanged. Rather than demand, like anarchists, workers' self-management of production in 1917, Lenin raised the demand for "universal, all-embracing workers' control over the capitalists." [Will the Bolsheviks Maintain Power, p. 52] Once the Bolsheviks were in power, the workers' own organs (the factory committees) were integrated into a system of state control, losing whatever power they once held at the point of production. Lenin then modified this vision by raising "one-man management" over the workers (see section H.3.14). In other words, a form of state capitalism in which workers would still be wage slaves under bosses appointed by the state. Unsurprisingly, the "control" workers exercised over their bosses (i.e. those with real power in production) proved to be as elusive in production as it was in the state. In this, Lenin undoubtedly followed the lead of the Communist Manifesto which stressed state ownership of the means of production without a word about workers' self-management of production. As we discuss in section H.3.13, state "socialism" cannot help being "state capitalism" by its very nature.

Needless to say, as far as means go, few anarchists and syndicalists are complete pacifists. As syndicalist Emile Pouget argued, "[h]istory teaches that the privileged have never surrendered their privileges without having been compelled so to do and forced into it by their rebellious victims. It is unlikely that the bourgeoisie is blessed with an exceptional greatness of soul and will abdicate voluntarily." This meant that "[r]ecourse to force . . . will be required." [The Party Of Labour] This does not mean that libertarians glorify violence or argue that all forms of violence are acceptable (quite the reverse!), it simply means that for self-defence against violent opponents violence is, unfortunately, sometimes required.

The way an anarchist revolution would defend itself also shows a key difference between anarchism and Marxism. As we discussed in section H.2.1, anarchists (regardless of Marxist claims) have always argued that a revolution needs to defend itself. This would be organised in a federal, bottom-up way as the social structure of a free society. It would be based on voluntary working class militias. As Bakunin put it, "the peasants, like the industrial city workers, should unite by federating the fighting battalions, district by district, this assuring a common co-ordinated defence against internal and external enemies." [Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 190] This model of working class self-defence was applied successfully in both the Spanish and Ukrainian revolutions (by the CNT-FAI and the Makhnovists, respectively). In contrast, the Bolshevik method of defending a revolution was the top-down, hierarchical and centralised "Red Army" (see section H.4 for details). As the example of the Makhnovists (see section H.6) showed, the "Red Army" was not the only way the Russian Revolution could have been defended although it was the only way Bolshevik power could be.

So while Anarchists have consistently argued that socialism must be based on working class self-management of production and society based on working class organisations, the Leninist tradition has not supported this vision (although it has appropriated some of its imagery to gain popular support). Clearly, in terms of the immediate aftermath of a revolution, anarchists and Leninists do not seek the same thing. The former want a free society organised and run from below-upwards by the working class based on workers self-management of production while the latter seek party power in a new state structure which would preside over an essentially state capitalist economy.

Lastly, there is the question of the long term goal. Even in this vision of a classless and stateless society there is very little in common between anarchist communism and Marxist communism, beyond the similar terminology used to describe it. This is blurred by the differences in terminology used by both theories. Marx and Engels had raised in the 1840s the (long term) goal of "an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" replacing "the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms," in the Communist Manifesto. Before this "vast association of the whole nation" was possible, the proletariat would be "raise[d] . . . to the position of ruling class" and "all capital" would be "centralise[d] . . . in the hands of the State, i.e. of the proletariat organised as the ruling class." As economic classes would no longer exist, "the public power would lose its political character" as political power "is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another." [Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 53]

It was this, the means to the end, which was the focus of much debate (see section H.1.1 for details). However, it cannot be assumed that the ends desired by Marxists and anarchists are identical. The argument that the "public power" could stop being "political" (i.e. a state) is a tautology, and a particularly unconvincing one at that. After all, if "political power" is defined as being an instrument of class rule it automatically follows that a classless society would have a non-political "public power" and so be without a state! This does not imply that a "public power" would no longer exist as a structure within (or, more correctly, over) society, it just implies that its role would no longer be "political" (i.e. an instrument of class rule). Given that, according to the Manifesto, the state would centralise the means of production, credit and transportation and then organise it "in accordance with a common plan" using "industrial armies, especially for agriculture" this would suggest that the state structure would remain even after its "political" aspects had, to use Engels term, "withered away." [Marx and Engels, Op. Cit., pp. 52-3]

From this perspective, the difference between anarchist communism and Marxist-communism is clear. "While both," notes John Clark, "foresee the disappearance of the state, the achievement of social management of the economy, the end of class rule, and the attainment of human equality, to mention a few common goals, significant differences in ends still remain. Marxist thought has inherited a vision which looks to high development of technology with a corresponding degree of centralisation of social institutions which will continue even after the coming of the social revolution. . . . The anarchist vision sees the human scale as essential, both in the techniques which are used for production, and for the institutions which arise from the new modes of association . . . In addition, the anarchist ideal has a strong hedonistic element which has seen Germanic socialism as ascetic and Puritanical." [The Anarchist Moment, p. 68]

Moreover, it is unlikely that such a centralised system could become stateless and classless in actuality. As Bakunin argued, in the Marxist state "there will be no privileged class. Everybody will be equal, not only from the judicial and political but also from the economic standpoint. This is the promise at any rate . . . So there will be no more class, but a government, and, please note, an extremely complicated government which, not content with governing and administering the masses politically . . . will also administer them economically, by taking over the production and fair sharing of wealth, agriculture, the establishment and development of factories, the organisation and control of trade, and lastly the injection of capital into production by a single banker, the State." Such a system would be, in fact, "the reign of the scientific mind, the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant and contemptuous of all regimes" base on "a new class, a new hierarchy of real or bogus learning, and the world will be divided into a dominant, science-based minority and a vast, ignorant majority." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 266]

George Barrett's words also seem appropriate:

"The modern Socialist . . . have steadily worked for centralisation, and complete and perfect organisation and control by those in authority above the people. The anarchist, on the other hand, believes in the abolition of that central power, and expects the free society to grow into existence from below, starting with those organisations and free agreements among the people themselves. It is difficult to see how, by making a central power control everything, we can be making a step towards the abolition of that power." [Objections to Anarchism]

As Brain Morris notes, "Bakunin's fears that under Marx's kind of socialism the workers would continue to labour under a regimented, mechanised, hierarchical system of production, without direct control over their labour, has been more than confirmed by the realities of the Bolshevik system. Thus, Bakunin's critique of Marxism has taken on an increasing relevance in the age of bureaucratic State capitalism." [Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom, p. 132]

Therefore, anarchists are not convinced that a highly centralised structure (as a state is) managing the economic life of society can be part of a truly classless society. While economic class as defined in terms of property may not exist, social classes (defined in terms of inequality of power and wealth) will continue simply because the state is designed to create and protect minority rule (see section H.3.7). As Bolshevik and Stalinist Russia showed, nationalising the means of production does not end class society. As Malatesta argued:

"When F. Engels, perhaps to counter anarchist criticisms, said that once classes disappear the State as such has no raison d'etre and transforms itself from a government of men into an administration of thing, he was merely playing with words. Whoever has power over things has power over men; whoever governs production also governs the producers; who determines consumption is master over the consumer.

"This is the question; either things are administered on the basis of free agreement of the interested parties, and this is anarchy; or they are administered according to laws made by administrators and this is government, it is the State, and inevitably it turns out to be tyrannical.

"It is not a question of the good intentions or the good will of this or that man, but of the inevitability of the situation, and of the tendencies which man generally develops in given circumstances." [Life and Ideas, p. 145]

The anarchist vision of the future society, therefore, does not exactly match the state communist vision, as much as the latter would like to suggest it does. The difference between the two is authority, which cannot be anything but the largest difference possible. Anarchist economic and organisational theories are built around an anti-authoritarian core and this informs both our means and aims. For anarchists, the Leninist vision of socialism is unattractive. Lenin continually stressed that his conception of socialism and "state capitalism" were basically identical. Even in State and Revolution, allegedly Lenin's most libertarian work, we discover this particularly unvisionary and uninspiring vision of "socialism":

"All citizens are transformed into the salaried employees of the state . . . All citizens become employees and workers of a single national state 'syndicate' . . . The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with equality of work and equality of pay." [Essential Works of Lenin, p. 348]

To which, anarchists point to Engels and his comments on the tyrannical and authoritarian character of the modern factory (as we discuss in section H.1.12). Engels, let us not forget, had argued against the anarchists that large-scale industry (or, indeed, any form of organisation) meant that "authority" was required (organisation meant that "the will of a single individual will always have to subordinate itself, which means that questions are settled in an authoritarian way."). He (like the factory owner he was) stated that factories should have "Lasciate ogni autonomia, voi che entrate" ("Leave, ye that enter in, all autonomy behind") written above their doors. 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." [Marx-Engels Reader, p. 731] Clearly, Lenin's idea of turning the world into one big factory takes on an extremely frightening nature given Engels lovely vision of the lack of freedom in industry.

For these reasons anarchists reject the simplistic Marxist analysis of inequality being rooted simply in economic class. Such an analysis, as the comments of Lenin and Engels prove, show that social inequality can be smuggled in by the backdoor of a proposed classless and stateless society. Thus Bookchin:

"Basic to anti-authoritarian Socialism ---specifically, to Anarchist Communism -- is the notion that hierarchy and domination cannot be subsumed by class rule and economic exploitation, indeed, that they are more fundamental to an understanding of the modern revolutionary project. Before 'man' began to exploit 'man,' he began to dominate woman . . . Power of human over human long antedates the very formation of classes and economic modes of social oppression. . . . This much is clear: it will no longer do to insist that a classless society, freed from material exploitation, will necessarily be a liberated society. There is nothing in the social future to suggest that bureaucracy is incompatible with a classless society, the domination of women, the young, ethnic groups or even professional strata." [Toward an Ecological Society, pp. 208-9]

Ultimately, anarchists see that "there is a realm of domination that is broader than the realm of material exploitation. The tragedy of the socialist movement is that, steeped in the past, it uses the methods of domination to try to 'liberate' us from material exploitation." Needless to say, this is doomed to failure. Socialism "will simply mire us in a world we are trying to overcome. A non-hierarchical society, self-managed and free of domination in all its forms, stands on the agenda today, not a hierarchical system draped in a red flag." [Murray Bookchin, Op. Cit., p. 272 and pp. 273-4]

In summary, it cannot be said that anarchists and most Marxists want the same thing. While they often use the same terms, these terms often hide radically different concepts. Just because, say, anarchists and mainstream Marxists talk about "social revolution," "socialism," "all power to the soviets" and so on, it does not mean that we mean the same thing by them. For example, the phrase "all power to the soviets" for anarchists means exactly that (i.e. that the revolution must be directly managed by working class organs). Leninists mean "all power to a central government elected by a national soviet congress." Similarly with other similar phrases (which shows the importance of looking at the details of any political theory and its history).

We have shown that discussion over ends is as important as discussion over means as they are related. As Kropotkin once pointed out, those who downplay the importance of discussing the "order of things which . . . should emerge from the coming revolution" in favour of concentrating on "practical things" are being less than honest as "far from making light of such theories, they propagate them, and all that they do now is a logical extension of their ideas. In the end those words 'Let us not discuss theoretical questions' really mean: 'Do not subject our theory to discussion, but help us to put it into execution.'" [Words of a Rebel, p. 200]

Hence the need to critically evaluate both ends and means. This shows the weakness of the common argument that anarchists and Leftists share some common visions and so we should work with them to achieve those common things. Who knows what happens after that? As can be seen, this is not the case. Many aspects of anarchism and Marxism are in opposition and cannot be considered similar (for example, what a Leninist considers as socialism is extremely different to what an anarchist thinks it is). If you consider "socialism" as being a "workers' state" presided over by a "revolutionary" government, then how can this be reconciled with the anarchist vision of a federation of self-managed communes and workers' associations? As the Russian Revolution shows, only by the armed might of the "revolutionary" government crushing the anarchist vision.

The only thing we truly share with these groups is a mutual opposition to existing capitalism. Having a common enemy does not make someone friends. Hence anarchists, while willing to work on certain mutual struggles, are well aware there is substantial differences in both terms of means and goals. The lessons of revolution in the 20th Century is that once in power, Leninists will repress anarchists, their current allies against the capitalist system. This is does not occur by accident, it flows from the differences in vision between the two movements, both in terms of means and goals.

H.3.2 Is Marxism "socialism from below"?

Some Marxists, such as the International Socialist Tendency, like to portray their tradition as being "socialism from below." Under "socialism from below," they place the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, arguing that they and they alone have continued this, the true, ideal of socialism (Hal Draper's essay "The Two Souls of Socialism" seems to have been the first to argue along these lines). They contrast this idea of "democratic" socialism "from below" with "socialism from above," in which they place reformist socialism (social democracy, Labourism, etc.), elitist socialism (Lassalle and others who wanted educated and liberal members of the middle classes to liberate the working class) and Stalinism (bureaucratic dictatorship over the working class).

For those who uphold this idea, "Socialism from below" is simply the self-emancipation of the working class by its own efforts. To anarchist ears, the claim that Marxism (and in particular Leninism) is socialism "from below" sounds paradoxical, indeed laughable. This is because anarchists from Proudhon onwards have used the imagery of socialism being created and run from below upwards. They have been doing so for far longer than Marxists have. As such, "socialism from below" simply sums up the anarchist ideal!

Thus we find Proudhon in 1848 talking about being a "revolutionary from below" and that every "serious and lasting Revolution" was "made from below, by the people." A "Revolution from above" was "pure governmentalism," "the negation of collective activity, of popular spontaneity" and is "the oppression of the wills of those below." [quoted by George Woodcock, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 143] For Proudhon, the means of this revolution "from below" would be working class associations for both credit (mutual banks) and production (workers' associations or co-operatives). The workers, "organised among themselves, without the assistance of the capitalist" would march by "Work to the conquest of the world" by the "force of principle." Thus capitalism would be reformed away by the actions of the workers themselves. The "problem of association," Proudhon argues, "consists in organising . . . the producers, and by this subjecting capital subordinating power. Such is the war of liberty against authority, a war of the producer against the non-producer; a war of equality against privilege . . . An agricultural and industrial combination must be found by means of which power, today the ruler of society, shall become its slave." [quoted by K. Steven Vincent, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism, p. 148 and p. 157]

Similarly, Bakunin saw an anarchist revolution as coming "from below." As he put it, "liberty can be created only by liberty, by an insurrection of all the people and the voluntary organisation of the workers from below upward." [Statism and Anarchy, p. 179] Elsewhere he writes that "popular revolution" would "create its own organisation from the bottom upwards and from the circumference inwards, in accordance with the principle of liberty, and not from the top downwards and from the centre outwards, as in the way of authority." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 170] His vision of revolution and revolutionary self-organisation and construction from below was a core aspect of his anarchist ideas, arguing repeatedly for "the free organisation of the people's lives in accordance with their needs -- not from the top down, as we have it in the State, but from the bottom up, an organisation formed by the people themselves . . . a free union of associations of agricultural and factory workers, of communes, regions, and nations." He stressed that "the politics of the Social Revolution" was "the abolition of the State" and "the economic, altogether free organisation of the people, an organisation from below upward, by means of federation." [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, pp. 297-8]

While Proudhon wanted to revolutionise society, he rejected revolutionary means to do so (i.e. collective struggle, strikes, insurrection, etc.). Bakunin, however, was a revolutionary in this, the popular, sense of the word. Yet he shared with Proudhon the idea of socialism being created by the working class itself. As he put it, in "a social revolution, which in everything is diametrically opposed to a political revolution, the actions of individuals hardly count at all, whereas the spontaneous action of the masses is everything. All that individuals can do is clarify, propagate and work out the ideas corresponding to the popular instinct, and, what is more, to contribute their incessant efforts to revolutionary organisation of the natural power of the masses -- but nothing else beyond that; the rest can and should be done by the people themselves . . . revolution can be waged and brought to its full development only through the spontaneous and continued mass action of groups and associations of the people." [Op. Cit., pp. 298-9]

Therefore, the idea of "socialism from below" is a distinctly anarchist notion, one found in the works of Proudhon and Bakunin and repeated by anarchists ever since. As such, to hear Marxists appropriate this obviously anarchist terminology and imagery appears to many anarchists as opportunistic and attempt to cover the authoritarian reality of mainstream Marxism with anarchist rhetoric. However, there are "libertarian" strains of Marxism which are close to anarchism. Does this mean that there are no elements of a "socialism from below" to be found in Marx and Engels?

If we look at Marx, we get contradictory impressions. On the one hand, he argued that freedom "consists in converting the state from an organ superimposed upon society into one completely subordinate to it." Combine this with his comments on the Paris Commune (see his "The Civil War in France"), we can say that there are clearly elements of "socialism from below" in Marx's work. On the other hand, he often stresses the need for strict centralisation of power. In 1850, for example, he argued that 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." This was because "the path of revolutionary activity" can "proceed only from the centre." This meant that the workers must be opposed to the "federative republic" planned by the democrats and "must not allow themselves to be misguided by the democratic talk of freedom for the communities, of self-government, etc." This centralisation of power was essential to overcome local autonomy, which would allow "every village, every town and every province" to put "a new obstacle in the path" the revolution due to "local and provincial obstinacy." Decades later, Marx dismisses Bakunin's vision of "the free organisation of the worker masses from bottom to top" as "nonsense." [Marx-Engels Reader, p. 537, p. 509 and p. 547]

Thus we have a contradiction. While arguing that the state must become subordinate to society, we have a central power imposing its will on "local and provincial obstinacy." This implies a vision of revolution in which the centre (indeed, "the state authority") forces its will on the population, which (by necessity) means that the centre power is "superimposed upon society" rather than "subordinate" to it. Given his dismissal of the idea of organisation from bottom to top, we cannot argue that by this he meant simply the co-ordination of local initiatives. Rather, we are struck by the "top-down" picture of revolution Marx presents. Indeed, his argument from 1850 suggests that Marx favoured centralism not only in order to prevent the masses from creating obstacles to the revolutionary activity of the "centre," but also to prevent them from interfering with their own liberation.

Looking at Engels, we discover him writing that "[a]s soon as our Party is in possession of political power it has simply to expropriate the big landed proprietors just like the manufacturers in industry . . . thus restored to the community [they] are to be turned over by us to the rural workers who are already cultivating them and are to be organised into co-operatives." He even states that this expropriation may "be compensated," depending on "the circumstances which we obtain power, and particularly by the attitude adopted by these gentry." [Marx-Engels Selected Writings, pp. 638-9] Thus we have the party taking power, then expropriating the means of life for the workers and, lastly, "turning over" these to them. While this fits into the general scheme of the Communist Manifesto, it cannot be said to be "socialism from below" which can only signify the direct expropriation of the means of production by the workers themselves, organising themselves into free producer associations to do so.

This vision of revolution as the party coming to power can be seen from Engels' warning that the "worse thing that can befall the leader of an extreme party is to be compelled to assume power at a time when the movement is not yet ripe for the domination of the class he represents and for the measures this domination implies." [Collected Works, vol. 10, p. 469] Needless to say, such a vision is hard to equate with "socialism from below" which implies the active participation of the working class in the direct management of society from the bottom-up. If the leaders "assume power" then they have the real power, not the class they claim to "represent." Equally, it seems strange that socialism can be equated with a vision which equates "domination" of a class being achieved by the fact a leader "represents" it. Can the working class really be said to be the ruling class if its role in society is to select those who exercise power on its behalf (i.e. to select representatives)? Bakunin quite rightly answered in the negative. While representative democracy may be acceptable to ensure bourgeois rule, it cannot be assumed that it be utilised to create a socialist society. It was designed to defend class society and its centralised and top-down nature reflects this role.

Moreover, Marx and Engels had argued in The Holy Family that the "question is not what this or that proletarian, or even the whole of the proletariat at the moment considers as its aim. The question is what the proletariat is, and what, consequent on that being, it will be compelled to do." [quoted by Murray Bookchin, The Spanish Anarchists, p. 280] As Murray Bookchin argues:

"These lines and others like them in Marx's writings were to provide the rationale for asserting the authority of Marxist parties and their armed detachments over and even against the proletariat. Claiming a deeper and more informed comprehension of the situation then 'even the whole of the proletariat at the given moment,' Marxist parties went on to dissolve such revolutionary forms of proletarian organisation as factory committees and ultimately to totally regiment the proletariat according to lines established by the party leadership." [Op. Cit., p. 289]

Thus the ideological underpinning of a "socialism from above" is expounded, one which dismisses what the members of the working class actually want or desire at a given point (a position which Trotsky, for one, explicitly argued). A few years later, they argued in The Communist Manifesto that "a portion of the bourgeois goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole." They also noted that the Communists are "the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties . . . [and] they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the general results of the proletarian movement." [Selected Works, p. 44 and p. 46] This gives a privileged place to the party (particularly the "bourgeois ideologists" who join it), a privileged place which their followers had no problem abusing in favour of party power and hierarchical leadership from above. As we discuss in section H.8, Lenin was just expressing orthodox Social-Democratic (i.e. Marxist) policy when he argued that socialist consciousness was created by bourgeois intellectuals and introduced into the working class from outside. Against this, we have to note that the Manifesto states that the proletarian movement was "the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority" (although, as discussed in section H.1.1, when they wrote this the proletariat was a minority in all countries bar Britain). [Op. Cit., p. 45]

Looking at the tactics advocated by Marx and Engels, we see a strong support for "political action" in the sense of participating in elections. This support undoubtedly flows from Engel's comments that universal suffrage "in an England two-thirds of whose inhabitants are industrial proletarians means the exclusive political rule of the working class with all the revolutionary changes in social conditions which are inseparable from it." [Collected Works, vol. 10, p. 298 Marx argued along identical lines. [Op. Cit., vol. 11, pp. 335-6] However, how could an entire class, the proletariat organised as a "movement" exercise its power under such a system? While the atomised voting to nominate representatives (who, in reality, held the real power in society) may be more than adequate to ensure bourgeois, i.e. minority, power, could it be used for proletarian, i.e. majority, power?

This is because such institutions are designed to place policy-making in the hands of representatives and do not (indeed, cannot) constitute a "proletariat organised as a ruling class." If public policy, as distinguished from administrative activities, is not made by the people themselves, in federations of self-managed assemblies, then a movement of the vast majority in the precise sense of the term cannot exist. For people to acquire real power over their lives and society, they must establish institutions organised and run, as Bakunin constantly stressed, from below. This would necessitate that they themselves directly manage their own affairs, communities and workplaces and, for co-ordination, mandate federal assemblies of revocable and strictly controllable delegates, who will execute their decisions. Only in this sense can a majority class, especially one committed to the abolition of all classes, organise as a class to manage society.

As such, Marx and Engels tactics are at odds with any idea of "socialism from below." While, correctly, supporting strikes and other forms of working class direct action (although, significantly, Engels dismissed the general strike) they placed that support within a general political strategy which emphasised electioneering and representative forms. This, however, is a form of struggle which can only really be carried out by means of leaders. The role of the masses is minor, that of voters. The focus of the struggle is at the top, in parliament, where the duly elected leaders are. As Luigi Galleani argued, this form of action involved the "ceding of power by all to someone, the delegate, the representative, individual or group." This meant that rather than the anarchist tactic of "direct pressure put against the ruling classes by the masses," the Socialist Party "substituted representation and the rigid discipline of the parliamentary socialists," the inevitably resulted in it "adopt[ing] class collaboration in the legislative arena, without which all reforms would remain a vain hope." It also resulted in the socialists needing "authoritarian organisations", i.e. ones which are centralised and disciplined from above down. [The End of Anarchism?, p. 14, p. 12 and p. 14] The end result was the encouragement of a viewpoint that reforms (indeed, the revolution) would be the work of leaders acting on behalf of the masses whose role would be that of voters and followers, not active participants in the struggle (see section J.2 for a ddiscussion on direct action and why anarchists reject electioneering).

By the 1890s, the top-down and essentially reformist nature of these tactics had made their mark in both Engels politics and the practical activities of the Social-Democratic parties. Engels "introduction" to Marx's The Class Struggles in France indicated how far Marxism had progressed. Engels, undoubtedly influenced by the rise of Social-Democracy as an electoral power, stressed the use of the ballot box as the ideal way, if not the only way, for the party to take power. He notes that "[w]e, the 'revolutionists', the 'overthrowers'" were "thriving far better on legal methods than on illegal methods and overthrow" and the bourgeoisie "cry despairingly . . . legality is the death of us" and were "much more afraid of the legal than of the illegal action of the workers' party, of the results of elections than of those of rebellion." He argued that it was essential "not to fitter away this daily increasing shock force [of party voters] in vanguard skirmishes, but to keep it intact until the decisive day." [Selected Writings, p. 656, p. 650 and p. 655]

The net effect of this would simply be keeping the class struggle within the bounds decided upon by the party leaders, so placing the emphasis on the activities and decisions of those at the top rather than the struggle and decisions of the mass of working class people themselves. As we noted in section H.1.1, when the party was racked by the "revisionism" controversy after Engels death, it was fundamentally a conflict between those who wanted the party's rhetoric to reflect its reformist tactics and those who sought the illusion of radical words to cover the reformist practice. The decision of the Party to support their state in the First World War simply proved that radical words cannot defeat reformist tactics.

Needless to say, from this contradictory inheritance, Marxists had two ways of proceeding. Either they become explicitly anti-state (and so approach anarchism) or become explicitly in favour of party and state power and so, by necessity, "revolution from above." The council communists and other libertarian Marxists followed the first path, the Bolsheviks and their followers the second. As we discuss in the next section, Lenin explicitly dismissed the idea that Marxism proceeded "only from below," stating that this was an anarchist principle. Nor was he shy in equating party power with working class power. Indeed, this vision of socialism as involving party power was not alien to the mainstream social-democracy Leninism split from. The leading left-wing Menshevik Martov argued as follows:

"In a class struggle which has entered the phase of civil war, there are bound to be times when the advance guard of the revolutionary class, representing the interests of the broad masses but ahead of them in political consciousness, is obliged to exercise state power by means of a dictatorship of the revolutionary minority. Only a short-sighted and doctrinaire viewpoint would reject this prospect as such. The real question at stake is whether this dictatorship, which is unavoidable at a certain stage of any revolution, is exercised in such a way as to consolidate itself and create a system of institutions enabling it to become a permanent feature, or whether, on the contrary, it is replaced as soon as possible by the organised initiative and autonomy of the revolutionary class or classes as a whole. The second of these methods is that of the revolutionary Marxists who, for this reason, style themselves Social Democrats; the first is that of the Communists." [The Mensheviks in the Russian Revolution, Abraham Ascher (Ed.), p. 119]

All this is to be expected, given the weakness of the Marxist theory of the state. As we discuss in section H.3.7, Marxists have always had an a-historic perspective on the state, considering it as purely an instrument of class rule rather than what it is, an instrument of minority class rule. For anarchists, the "State is the minority government, from the top downward, of a vast quantity of men." This automatically means that a socialism, like Marx's, which aims for a socialist government and a workers' state automatically becomes, against the wishes of its best activists, "socialism from above." As Bakunin argued, Marxists are "worshippers of State power, and necessarily also prophets of political and social discipline and champions of order established from the top downwards, always in the name of universal suffrage and the sovereignty of the masses, for whom they save the honour and privilege of obeying leaders, elected masters." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 265 and pp. 237-8]

For this reason anarchists from Bakunin onwards have argued for a bottom-up federation of workers' councils as the basis of revolution and the means of managing society after capitalism and the state have been abolished. If these organs of workers' self-management are co-opted into a state structure (as happened in Russia) then their power will be handed over to the real power in any state -- the government and its bureaucracy. The state is the delegation of power -- as such, it means that the idea of a "workers' state" expressing "workers' power" is a logical impossibility. If workers are running society then power rests in their hands. If a state exists then power rests in the hands of the handful of people at the top, not in the hands of all. The state was designed for minority rule. No state can be an organ of working class (i.e. majority) self-management due to its basic nature, structure and design.

So, while there are elements of "socialism from below" in the works of Marx and Engels they are placed within a distinctly centralised and authoritarian context which undermines them. As John Clark summarises, "in the context of Marx's consistent advocacy of centralist programmes, and the part these programmes play in his theory of social development, the attempt to construct a libertarian Marxism by citing Marx's own proposals for social change would seem to present insuperable difficulties." [Op. Cit., p. 93]

H.3.3 Is Leninism "socialism from below"?

As discussed in the last section, Marx and Engels left their followers with an ambiguous legacy. On the one hand, there are elements of "socialism from below" in their politics (most explicitly in Marx's comments on the libertarian influenced Paris Commune). On the other, there are distinctly centralist and statist themes in their work.

From this legacy, Leninism took the statist themes. Which explains why anarchists think the idea of Leninism being "socialism from below" is incredible. Simply put, the actual comments and actions of Lenin and his followers show that they had no commitment to a "socialism from below." As we will indicate, Lenin disassociated himself repeatedly from the idea of politics "from below," considering it (quite rightly) an anarchist idea. In contrast, he stressed the importance of a politics which somehow combined action "from above" and "from below." For those Leninists who maintain that their tradition is "socialism from below" (indeed, the only "real" socialism "from below"), this is a major problem and, unsurprisingly, they generally fail to mention it.

So what was Lenin's position on "from below"? In 1904, during the debate over the party split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, Lenin stated that the argument "[b]ureaucracy versus democracy is in fact centralism versus autonomism; it is the organisational principle of revolutionary Social-Democracy as opposed to the organisational principle of opportunist Social-Democracy. The latter strives to proceed from the bottom upward, and, therefore, wherever possible . . . upholds autonomism and 'democracy,' carried (by the overzealous) to the point of anarchism. The former strives to proceed from the top downward. . ." [Collected Works, vol. 7, pp. 396-7] Thus it is the non-Bolshevik ("opportunist") wing of Marxism which bases itself on the "organisational principle" of "from the bottom upward," not the Bolshevik tradition (as we note in section H.8.5, Lenin also rejected the "primitive democracy" of mass assemblies as the basis of the labour and revolutionary movements). Moreover, this vision of a party run from the top down was enshrined in the Bolshevik ideal of "democratic centralism" (see section H.8.5). How you can have "socialism from below" when your "organisational principle" is "from the top downward" is not explained by Leninist exponents of "socialism from below."

Lenin repeated this argument in his discussion on the right tactics to apply during the near revolution of 1905. He mocked the Mensheviks for only wanting "pressure from below" which was "pressure by the citizens on the revolutionary government." Instead, he argued for "pressure . . . from above as well as from below," where "pressure from above" was "pressure by the revolutionary government on the citizens." He notes that Engels "appreciated the importance of action from above" and that he saw the need for "the utilisation of the revolutionary governmental power." Lenin summarised his position (which he considered as being in line with that of orthodox Marxism) by stating that "[l]imitation, in principle, of revolutionary action to pressure from below and renunciation of pressure also from above is anarchism." [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, pp. 189-90, p. 193, p. 195 and p. 196] This seems to have been a common Bolshevik position at the time, with Stalin stressing in the same year that "action only from 'below'" was "an anarchist principle, which does, indeed, fundamentally contradict Social-Democratic tactics." [Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 149]

It is in this context of "above and below" in which we must place Lenin's comments in 1917 that socialism was "democracy from below, without a police, without a standing army, voluntary social duty by a militia formed from a universally armed people." [Collected Works, vol. 24, p. 170] Given that Lenin had rejected the idea of "only from below" as an anarchist principle (which it is), we need to bear in mind that this "democracy from below" was always placed in the context of a Bolshevik government. Lenin always stressed that the Bolsheviks would "take over full state power," that they "can and must take state power into their own hands." His "democracy from below" always meant representative government, not popular power or self-management. The role of the working class was that of voters and so the Bolsheviks' first task was "to convince the majority of the people that its programme and tactics are correct." The second task "that confronted our Party was to capture political power." The third task was for "the Bolshevik Party" to "administer Russia." [Selected Works, vol. 2, p. 352, p. 328 and p. 589] Thus Bolshevik power was equated with working class power.

Towards the end of 1917, he stressed this vision of a Bolshevik run "democracy from below" by arguing that "[a]fter the 1905 revolution Russia was ruled by 130,000 landowners . . . yet they tell us that Russia will not be able to be governed by the 240,000 members of the Bolshevik party." He even equated rule by the party with rule by the class -- "the power of the Bolsheviks -- that is, the power of the proletariat," while admitting that the proletariat could not actually govern itself. As he put it, "[w]e know that just any labourer or any cook would be incapable of taking over immediately the administration of the State . . . We demand that the teaching of the business of government be conducted by the class-conscious workers and soldiers." The "conscious workers must be in control, but they can attract to the actual work of management the real labouring and oppressed masses." Ironically, he calls this system "real popular self-administration" and "teaching the people to manage their own affairs." He also indicated that once in power, the Bolsheviks "shall be fully and unreservedly for a strong government and centralism." [Will the Bolsheviks Maintain Power, pp. 61-2, p. 66, p. 69 and p. 75]

Clearly, Lenin's position had not changed. The goal of the revolution was simply a Bolshevik government, which, if it was to be effective, had to have the real power in society. Thus, socialism would be implemented from above, by the "strong" government of the "conscious workers" who would be "in control." While, eventually, the "labouring" masses would take part in the administration of state decisions, the initial role of the workers could be the same as under capitalism. And, we must note, there is a difference between making policy and taking part in administration (i.e. between the "work of management" and management itself), a difference Lenin obscures.

All of which, perhaps, explains the famous leaflet addressed to the workers of Petrograd immediately after the October Revolution, informing that "the revolution has won." The workers were called upon to "show . . . the greatest firmness and endurance, in order to facilitate the execution of all the aims of the new People's Government." They were asked to "cease immediately all economic and political strikes, to take up your work, and do it in perfect order . . . All to your places." It stated that the "best way to support the new Government of Soviets in these days" was "by doing your job." [cited by John Read, Ten Days that Shook the World, pp. 341-2] Which smacks far more of "socialism from above" than "socialism from below"!

The implications of Lenin's position became clearer after the Bolsheviks had taken power in 1917. In that situation, it was not a case of "dealing with the general question of principle, whether in the epoch of the democratic revolution it is admissible to pass from pressure from below to pressure from above." [Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 24, p. 190] Rather, it was the concrete situation of a "revolutionary" government exercising power "from above" onto the very class it claimed to represent. Thus we have a power over the working class which was quite happy to exercise coercion to ensure its position. As Lenin explained to his political police, the Cheka, in 1920:

"Without revolutionary coercion directed against the avowed enemies of the workers and peasants, it is impossible to break down the resistance of these exploiters. On the other hand, revolutionary coercion is bound to be employed towards the wavering and unstable elements among the masses themselves." [Collected Works, vol. 42, p. 170]

It could be argued that this position was forced on Lenin by the problems facing the Bolsheviks in the Civil War, but such an argument is flawed. This is for two reasons. Firstly, according to Lenin himself civil war was inevitable and so, unsurprisingly, Lenin considered his comments as universally applicable. Secondly, this position fits in well with the idea of pressure "from above" exercised by the "revolutionary" government against the masses (and nothing to do with any sort of "socialism from below"). Indeed, "wavering" and "unstable" elements is just another way of saying "pressure from below," the attempts by those subject to the "revolutionary" government to influence its policies. As we noted in section H.1.2, it was in this period (1919 and 1920) that the Bolsheviks openly argued that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was, in fact, the "dictatorship of the party" (see section H.3.8 on how the Bolsheviks modified the Marxist theory of the state in line with this). Rather than the result of the problems facing Russia at the time, Lenin's comments simply reflect the unfolding of certain aspects of his ideology when his party held power (as we make clear in section H.4, the ideology of the ruling party and the ideas held by the masses are also factors in history).

To show that Lenin's comments were not caused by circumstantial factors, we can turn to his infamous work Left-Wing Communism. In this 1920 tract, written for the Second Congress of the Communist International, Lenin lambasted those Marxists who argued for direct working class power against the idea of party rule (i.e. the various council communists around Europe). We have already noted in section H.1.2 that Lenin had argued in that work that it was "ridiculously absurd and stupid" to "a contrast in general between the dictatorship of the masses and the dictatorship of the leaders." [p. 25] Here we provide his description of the "top-down" nature of Bolshevik rule:

"The interrelations between leaders-Party-class-masses . . . now present themselves concretely in Russia in the following form. The dictatorship is exercised by the proletariat which is organised in the Soviets and is led by the Communist Party . . . The Party, which holds annual congresses . . . is directed by a Central Committee of nineteen elected at the congress, while the current work in Moscow [the capital] had to be carried on by [two] still smaller bodies . . . which are elected at the plenary sessions of the Central Committee, five members of the Central Committee in each bureau. This, then, looks like a real 'oligarchy.' Not a single important political or organisational question is decided by any State institution in our republic [sic!] without the guiding instructions of the Central Committee of the Party.

"In its work the Party relies directly on the trade unions . . . In reality, all the controlling bodies of the overwhelming majority of the unions . . . consists of Communists, who secure the carrying out of all the instructions of the Party. Thus . . . we have a . . . very powerful proletarian apparatus, by means of which the Party is closely linked up with the class and with the masses, and by means of which, under the leadership of the Party, the class dictatorship of the class is realised." [Left-Wing Communism, pp. 31-2]

Combined with "non-Party workers' and peasants' conferences" and Soviet Congresses, this was "the general mechanism of the proletarian state power viewed 'from above,' from the standpoint of the practical realisation of the dictatorship" and so "all talk about 'from above' or 'from below,' about 'the dictatorship of leaders' or 'the dictatorship of the masses,' cannot but appear to be ridiculous, childish nonsense." [Op. Cit., p. 33] Perhaps this explains why he did not bother to view "proletarian" state power "from below," from the viewpoint of the proletariat? If he did, perhaps he would have recounted the numerous strikes and protests broken by the Cheka under martial law, the gerrymandering and disbanding of soviets, the imposition of "one-man management" onto the workers in production, the turning of the unions into agents of the state/party and the elimination of working class freedom by party power? After all, if the congresses of soviets were "more democratic" than anything in the "best democratic republics of the bourgeois world," the Bolsheviks would have no need for non-Party conferences "to be able to watch the mood of the masses, to come closer to them, to respond to their demands." [Op. Cit., p. 33 and p. 32] How the Bolsheviks "responded" to these conferences and their demands is extremely significant. They disbanded them. This was because "[d]uring the disturbances" of late 1920, "they provided an effective platform for criticism of Bolshevik policies." Their frequency was decreased and they "were discontinued soon afterward." [Richard Sakwa, Soviet Communists in Power, p. 203]

At the Comintern congress itself, Zinoviev announced that "the dictatorship of the proletariat is at the same time the dictatorship of the Communist Party." [Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress 1920, vol. 1, p. 152] Trotsky, for his part, also universalised Lenin's argument when he pondered the important decisions of the revolution and who would make them in his reply to the anarchist delegate from the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist union the CNT:

"Who decides this question [and others like it]? We have the Council of People's Commissars but it has to be subject to some supervision. Whose supervision? That of the working class as an amorphous, chaotic mass? No. The Central Committee of the party is convened to discuss . . . and to decide . . . Who will solve these questions in Spain? The Communist Party of Spain." [Op. Cit., p. 174]

As is obvious, Trotsky was drawing general lessons for the international revolutionary movement. Needless to say, he still argued that the "working class, represented and led by the Communist Party, [was] in power here" in spite of it being "an amorphous, chaotic mass" which did not make any decisions on important questions affecting the revolution!

Incidentally, his and Lenin's comments of 1920 disprove Trotsky's later assertion that it was "[o]nly after the conquest of power, the end of the civil war, and the establishment of a stable regime" when "the Central Committee little by little begin to concentrate the leadership of Soviet activity in its hands. Then would come Stalin's turn." [Stalin, vol. 1, p. 328] While it was definitely the "conquest of power" by the Bolsheviks which lead to the marginalisation of the soviets, this event cannot be shunted to after the civil war as Trotsky would like (particularly as Trotsky admitted that "[a]fter eight months of inertia and of democratic chaos, came the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks." [Op. Cit., vol. 2, p. 242]). We must note (see sections H.1.2 or H.3.8) Trotsky argued for the "objective necessity" of the "revolutionary dictatorship of a proletarian party" until his death.

Clearly, the claim that Leninism (and its various off-shoots like Trotskyism) is "socialism from below" is hard to take seriously. As proven above, the Leninist tradition is explicitly against the idea of "only from below," with Lenin explicitly stating that it was an "anarchist stand" to be for "'action only from below', not 'from below and from above'" which was the position of Marxism. [Collected Works, vol. 9, p. 77] Once in power, Lenin and the Bolsheviks implemented this vision of "from below and from above," with the highly unsurprising result that "from above" quickly repressed "from below" (which was dismissed as "wavering" by the masses). This was to be expected, for a government to enforce its laws, it has to have power over its citizens and so socialism "from above" is a necessary side-effect of Leninist theory.

Ironically, Lenin's argument in State and Revolution comes back to haunt him. In that work he had argued that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" meant "democracy for the people" which "imposes a series of restrictions on the freedom of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists." These must be crushed "in order to free humanity from wage-slavery; their resistance must be broken by force; it is clear that where there is suppression there is also violence, there is no freedom, no democracy." [Essential Works of Lenin, pp. 337-8] If the working class itself is being subject to "suppression" then, clearly, there is "no freedom, no democracy" for that class -- and the people "will feel no better if the stick with which they are being beaten is labelled 'the people's stick'." [Bakunin, Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 338]

Thus, when Leninists argue that they stand for the "principles of socialism from below" and state that this means the direct and democratic control of society by the working class then, clearly, they are being less than honest. Looking at the tradition they place themselves, the obvious conclusion which must be reached is that Leninism is not based on "socialism from below" in the sense of working class self-management of society (i.e. the only condition when the majority can "rule" and decisions truly flow from below upwards). At best, they subscribe to the distinctly bourgeois vision of "democracy" as being simply the majority designating (and trying to control) its rulers. At worse, they defend politics which have eliminated even this form of democracy in favour of party dictatorship and "one-man management" armed with "dictatorial" powers in industry (most members of such parties do not know how the Bolsheviks gerrymandered and disbanded soviets to maintain power, raised the dictatorship of the party to an ideological truism and wholeheartedly advocated "one-man management" rather than workers' self-management of production). As we discuss in section H.8, this latter position flows easily from the underlying assumptions of vanguardism which Leninism is based on.

So, Lenin, Trotsky and so on simply cannot be considered as exponents of "socialism from below." Any one who makes such a claim is either ignorant of the actual ideas and practice of Bolshevism or they seek to deceive. For anarchists, "socialism from below" can only be another name, like libertarian socialism, for anarchism (as Lenin, ironically enough, acknowledged). This does not mean that "socialism from below," like "libertarian socialism," is identical to anarchism, it simply means that libertarian Marxists and other socialists are far closer to anarchism than mainstream Marxism.

H.3.4 Don't anarchists just quote Marxists selectively?

No, far from it. While it is impossible to quote everything a person or an ideology says, it is possible to summarise those aspects of a theory which influenced the way it developed in practice. As such, any account is "selective" in some sense, the question is whether this results in a critiqued rooted in the ideology and its practice or whether it presents a picture at odds with both. As Maurice Brinton puts it in the introduction to his classic account of workers' control in the Russian Revolution:

"Other charges will also be made. The quotations from Lenin and Trotsky will not be denied but it will be stated that they are 'selective' and that 'other things, too' were said. Again, we plead guilty. But we would stress that there are hagiographers enough in the trade whose 'objectivity' . . . is but a cloak for sophisticated apologetics . . . It therefore seems more relevant to quote those statements of the Bolsheviks leaders of 1917 which helped determine Russia's evolution [towards Stalinism] rather those other statements which, like the May Day speeches of Labour leaders, were for ever to remain of rhetoric." [The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control, p. xv]

Hence the need to discuss all aspects of Marxism rather than take what its adherents like to claim for it as granted. In this, we agree with Marx himself who argued that we cannot judge people by what they say about themselves but rather what they do. Unfortunately while many self-proclaimed Marxists (like Trotsky) may quote these comments, fewer apply them to their own ideology or actions (again, like Trotsky).

This can be seen from the almost ritualistic way many Marxists response to anarchist (or other) criticisms of their ideas. When they complain that anarchists "selectively" quote from the leading proponents of Marxism, they are usually at pains to point people to some document which they have selected as being more "representative" of their tradition. Leninists usually point to Lenin's State and Revolution, for example, for a vision of what Lenin "really" wanted. To this anarchists reply by, as we discussed in section H.1.7 (Haven't you read Lenin's "State and Revolution"?), pointing out that much of that passes for 'Marxism' in State and Revolution is anarchist and, equally important, it was not applied in practice. This explains an apparent contradiction. Leninists point to the Russian Revolution as evidence for the democratic nature of their politics. Anarchists point to it as evidence of Leninism's authoritarian nature. Both can do this because there is a substantial difference between Bolshevism before it took power and afterwards. While the Leninists ask you to judge them by their manifesto, anarchists say judge them by their record!

Simply put, Marxists quote selectively from their own tradition, ignoring those aspects of it which would be unappealing to potential recruits. While the leaders may know their tradition has skeletons in its closet, they try their best to ensure no one else gets to know. Which, of course, explains their hostility to anarchists doing so! That there is a deep divide between aspects of Marxist rhetoric and its practice and that even its rhetoric is not consistent we will now prove. By so doing, we can show that anarchists do not, in fact, quote Marxist's "selectively."

As an example, we can point to the leading Bolshevik Grigorii Zinoviev. In 1920, as head of the Communist International he wrote a letter to the Industrial Workers of the World, a revolutionary labour union, which stated that the "Russian Soviet Republic. . . is the most highly centralised government that exists. It is also the most democratic government in history. For all the organs of government are in constant touch with the working masses, and constantly sensitive to their will." [Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress 1920, vol. 2, p. 928] The same year, he explained in a Communist journal that "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 . . ., on which the fate of the proletarian revolution depends absolutely, are decided . . . in the framework of the party organisations." [quoted by Oskar Anweiler, The Soviets, pp. 239-40] It seems redundant to note that the second quote is the accurate one, the one which matches the reality of Bolshevik Russia. Therefore it is hardly "selective" to quote the latter and not the former, rather it expresses what was actually happening.

This duality and the divergence between practice and rhetoric comes to the fore when Trotskyists discuss Stalinism and try to counter pose the Leninist tradition to it. For example, we find the British SWP's Chris Harman arguing that the "whole experience of the workers' movement internationally teaches that only by regular elections, combined with the right of recall by shop-floor meetings can rank-and-file delegates be made really responsible to those who elect them." [Bureaucracy and Revolution in Eastern Europe, pp. 238-9] Significantly, Harman does not mention that both Lenin and Trotsky rejected this experience (see section H.3.8 for a full discussion on how Leninism argues for state power explicitly to eliminate such control from below). How can Trotsky's comment that the "revolutionary dictatorship of a proletarian party is . . . an objective necessity" be reconciled with it? And what of the claim that the "revolutionary party (vanguard) which renounces its own dictatorship surrenders the masses to the counter-revolution"? [Writings 1936-37, pp. 513-4] Or his similar argument sixteen years earlier that the Party was "entitled to assert its dictatorship even if that dictatorship clashed with the passing moods of the workers' democracy"? [quoted by Maurice Brinton, Op. Cit., p. 78]

The ironies do not stop there, of course. Harman correctly notes that under Stalinism, the "bureaucracy is characterised, like the private capitalist class in the West, by its control over the means of production." [Op. Cit., p. 147] However, he fails to note that it was Lenin, in early 1918, who had raised and then implemented such "control" in the form of "one-man management." As he put it: "Obedience, and unquestioning obedience at that, during work to the one-man decisions of Soviet directors, of the dictators elected or appointed by Soviet institutions, vested with dictatorial powers." [Six Theses on the Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, p. 44] To fail to note this link between Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy on this issue is quoting "selectively."

The contradictions pile up. He argues that "people who seriously believe that workers at the height of revolution need a police guard to stop them handing their factories over to capitalists certainly have no real faith in the possibilities of a socialist future." [Op. Cit., p. 144] Yet this does not stop him praising the regime of Lenin and Trotsky and contrasting it with Stalinism, in spite of the fact that this was precisely what the Bolsheviks did from 1918 onwards! Indeed this tyrannical practice played a role in provoking the strikes in Petrograd which preceded the Kronstadt revolt in 1921, when "the workers wanted the special squads of armed Bolsheviks, who carried out a purely police function, withdrawn from the factories." Paul Avrich, Kronstadt 1921, p. 42] It seems equally strange that Harman denounces the Stalinist suppression of the Hungarian revolution for workers' democracy and socialism while he defends the Bolshevik suppression of the Kronstadt revolt for the same goals (and as we discuss in section H.5, the rationales both regimes used to justify their actions were akin).

Similarly, when Harman argues that if by "political party" it is "meant a party of the usual sort, in which a few leaders give orders and the masses merely obey . . . then certainly such organisations added nothing to the Hungarian revolution." However, as we discuss in section H.8, such a party was precisely what Leninism argued for and applied in practice. Simply put, the Bolsheviks were never a party "that stood for the councils taking power." [Op. Cit., p. 186 and p. 187] As Lenin repeatedly stressed, its aim was for the Bolshevik party to take power through the councils (see section H.3.11).

This confusion between what was promised and what was done is a common feature of Leninism. Felix Morrow, for example, wrote what is usually considered the definitive Trotskyist work on the Spanish Revolution (in spite of it being, as we discuss in the appendix "Marxists and Spanish Anarchism," deeply flawed). In that work he states that the "essential points of a revolutionary program [are] all power to the working class, and democratic organs of the workers, peasants and combatants, as the expression of the workers' power." [Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain, p. 133] How this can be reconciled with Trotsky's comment, written in the same year, that "a revolutionary party, even after seizing power . . . is still by no means the sovereign ruler of society."? Or the opinion that it was "only thanks to the party dictatorship [that] were the Soviets able to lift themselves out of the mud of reformism and attain the state form of the proletariat"? ["Stalinism and Bolshevism", Socialist Review, no. 146, p. 16 and p. 18] Or Lenin's opinion that "an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot direct exercise proletarian dictatorship" and that it "can be exercised only by a vanguard"? [Collected Works, vol. 32, p. 21] How can the working class "have all power" if power is held by a vanguard party? Particularly when this party has power specifically to enable it "overcom[e] the vacillation of the masses themselves." [Trotsky, The Moralists and Sycophants, p. 59]

Given all this, who is quoting who "selectively"? The Marxists who ignore what the Bolsheviks did when in power and repeatedly point to Lenin's State and Revolution or the anarchists who link what they did with what they said outside of that holy text? Considering this absolutely contradictory inheritance, anarchists feel entitled to ask the question "Will the real Leninist please stand up?" What is it to be, popular democracy or party rule? If we look at Bolshevik practice, the answer is the latter. As we discuss in section H.3.8, the likes of Lenin and Trotsky concur, incorporating the necessity of party power into their ideology as a lesson of the revolution. As such, anarchists do not feel they are quoting Leninism "selectively" when they argue that it is based on party power, not working class self-management. That Leninists often publicly deny this aspect of their own ideology or, at best, try to rationalise and justify it, suggests that when push comes to shove (as it does in every revolution) they will make the same decisions and act in the same way!

In addition there is the question of what could be called the "social context." Marxists often accuse anarchists of failing to place the quotations and actions of, say, the Bolsheviks into the circumstances which generated them. By this they mean that Bolshevik authoritarianism can be explained purely in terms of the massive problems facing them (i.e. the rigours of the Civil War, the economic collapse and chaos in Russia and so on). As we discuss this question in section H.7, we will simply summarise the anarchist reply by noting that this argument has three major problems with it. Firstly, there is the problem that Bolshevik authoritarianism started before the start of the Civil War (as we discuss in section H.4) and, moreover, continued after its ends. As such, the Civil War cannot be blamed. The second problem is simply that Lenin continually stressed that civil war and economic chaos was inevitable during a revolution. If Leninist politics cannot handle the inevitable then they are to be avoided. Equally, if Leninists blame what they should know is inevitable for the degeneration of the Bolshevik revolution it would suggest their understanding of what revolution entails is deeply flawed. The last problem is simply that the Bolsheviks did not care. As Samuel Farber notes, "there is no evidence indicating that Lenin or any of the mainstream Bolshevik leaders lamented the loss of workers' control or of democracy in the soviets, or at least referred to these losses as a retreat, as Lenin declared with the replacement of War Communism by NEP in 1921." [Before Stalinism, p. 44] Hence the continuation (indeed, intensification) of Bolshevik authoritarianism after their victory in the civil war. Given this, it is significant that many of the quotes from Trotsky given above date from the late 1930s. To argue, therefore, that "social context" explains the politics and actions of the Bolsheviks seems incredulous.

Lastly, it seems ironic that Marxists accuse anarchists of quoting "selectively." After all, as proven in section H.2, this is exactly what Marxists do to anarchism! Indeed, anarchists often make good propaganda out of such activity by showing how selective their accounts are and how at odds they are with want anarchism actually stands for and what anarchists actually do (see the appendix of our FAQ on "Anarchism and Marxism").

In summary, rather than quote "selectively" from the works and practice of Marxism, anarchists summarise those tendencies of both which, we argue, contribute to its continual failure in practice as a revolutionary theory. Moreover, Marxists themselves are equally as "selective" as anarchists in this respect. Firstly, as regards anarchist theory and practice and, secondly, as regards their own.

H.3.5 Has Marxist appropriation of anarchist ideas changed it?

As is obvious in any account of the history of socialism, Marxists (of various schools) have appropriated key anarchist ideas and (often) present them as if Marxists thought of them first.

For example, as we discuss in section H.3.10, it was anarchists who first raised the idea of smashing the bourgeois state and replacing it with the fighting organisations of the working class (such as unions, workers' councils, etc.). It was only in 1917, decades after anarchists had first raised the idea, that Marxists started to argue these ideas but, of course, with a twist. While anarchists meant that working class organisations would be the basis of a free society, Lenin saw these organs as the best means of achieving Bolshevik party power.

Similarly with the libertarian idea of the "militant minority." By this, anarchists and syndicalists meant groups of workers who gave an example by their direct action which their fellow workers could imitate (for example by leading wildcat strikes which would use flying pickets to get other workers to join in). This "militant minority" would be at the forefront of social struggle and would show, by example, practice and discussion, that their ideas and tactics were the correct ones. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Bolsheviks argued that this idea was similar to their idea of a vanguard party. This ignored two key differences. Firstly that the libertarian "militant minority" did not aim to take power on behalf of the working class but rather to encourage it, by example, to manage its own struggles and affairs (and, ultimately, society). Secondly, that "vanguard parties" are organised in hierarchical ways alien to the spirit of anarchism. While both the "militant minority" and "vanguard party" approaches are based on an appreciation of the uneven development of ideas within the working class, vanguardism transforms this into a justification for party rule over the working class by a so-called "advanced" minority (see section H.8 for a full discussion). Other concepts, such as "workers' control," direct action, and so on have suffered a similar fate.

As such, while Marxists have appropriated certain anarchist concepts, it does not mean that they mean exactly the same thing by them. Rather, as history shows, radically different concepts can be hidden behind similar sounding rhetoric. As Murray Bookchin argued, many Marxist tendencies "attach basically alien ideas to the withering conceptual framework of Marxism -- not to say anything new but to preserve something old with ideological formaldehyde -- to the detriment of any intellectual growth that the distinctions are designed to foster. This is mystification at its worst, for it not only corrupts ideas but the very capacity of the mind to deal with them. If Marx's work can be rescued for our time, it will be by dealing with it as an invaluable part of the development of ideas, not as pastiche that is legitimated as a 'method' or continually 'updated' by concepts that come from an alien zone of ideas." [Toward an Ecological Society, p. 242f]

This is not some academic point. The ramifications of Marxists appropriating such "alien ideas" (or, more correctly, the rhetoric associated with those ideas) has had negative impacts on actual revolutionary movements. For example, Lenin's definition of "workers' control" was radically different than that current in the factory committee movement during the Russian Revolution (which had more in common with anarchist and syndicalist use of the term). The similarities in rhetoric, allowed the factory committee movement to put its weight behind the Bolsheviks. Once in power, Lenin's position was implemented while that of the factory committees was ignored. Ultimately, Lenin's position was a key factor in creating state capitalism rather than socialism in Russia (see section H.3.14 for more details).

This, of course, does not stop modern day Leninists appropriating the term workers' control "without bating an eyelid. Seeking to capitalise on the confusion of now rampant in the movement, these people talk of 'workers' control' as if a) they meant by those words what the politically unsophisticated mean (i.e. that working people should themselves decide about the fundamental matters relating to production) and b) as if they -- and the Leninist doctrine to which they claim to adhere -- had always supported demands of this kind, or as if Leninism had always seen in workers' control the universally valid foundation of a new social order, rather than just a slogan to be used for manipulatory purposes in specific and very limited historical contexts." [Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control, p. iv] Section H.3.14 discusses this further.

Thus the fact that Leninists have appropriated libertarian (and working class) ideas and demands does not, in fact, mean that we aim for the same thing (as we discuss in section H.3.1, this is far from the case). The use of anarchist/popular rhetoric and slogans means little and we need to look at the content of the ideas proposed. Given the legacy of the appropriation of libertarian terminology to popularise authoritarian parties and its subsequent jettison in favour of authoritarian policies once the party is in power, anarchists have strong grounds to take Leninist claims with a large pinch of salt!

Equally with examples of actual revolutions. As Martin Buber notes, while "Lenin praises Marx for having 'not yet, in 1852, put the concrete question as to what should be set up in place of the State machinery after it had been abolished,'" Lenin argued that "it was only the Paris Commune that taught Marx this." However, as Buber correctly points out, the Paris Commune "was the realisation of the thoughts of people who had put this question very concretely indeed . . . the historical experience of the Commune became possible only because in the hearts of passionate revolutionaries there lived the picture of a decentralised, very much 'de-Stated' society, which picture they undertook to translate into reality. The spiritual fathers of the Commune had such that ideal aiming at decentralisation which Marx and Engels did not have, and the leaders of the Revolution of 1871 tried, albeit with inadequate powers, to begin the realisation of that idea in the midst of revolution." [Paths in Utopia, pp. 103-4] Thus, while the Paris Commune and other working class revolts are praised, their obvious anarchistic elements (as predicted by anarchist thinkers) are not mentioned. This results in some strange dichotomies. For example, Bakunin's vision of revolution is based on a federation of workers' councils, predating Marxist support for such bodies by decades, yet Marxists argue that Bakunin's ideas have nothing to teach us. Or, the Paris Commune being praised by Marxists as the first "dictatorship of the proletariat" when it implements federalism, delegates being subjected to mandates and recall and raises the vision of a socialism of associations while anarchism is labelled "petit-bourgeois" in spite of the fact that these ideas can be found in works of Proudhon and Bakunin which predate the 1871 revolt!

From this, we can draw two facts. Firstly, anarchism has successfully predicted certain aspects of working class revolution. Anarchist K.J. Kenafick stated the obvious when he argues that any "comparison will show that the programme set out [by the Paris Commune] is . . . the system of Federalism, which Bakunin had been advocating for years, and which had first been enunciated by Proudhon. The Proudhonists . . . exercised considerable influence in the Commune. This 'political form' was therefore not 'at last' discovered; it had been discovered years ago; and now it was proven to be correct by the very fact that in the crisis the Paris workers adopted it almost automatically, under the pressure of circumstance, rather than as the result of theory, as being the form most suitable to express working class aspirations." [Michael Bakunin and Karl Marx, pp. 212-3] Thus, rather than being somehow alien to the working class and its struggle for freedom, anarchism in fact bases itself on the class struggle. This means that it should come as no surprise when the ideas of anarchism are developed and applied by those in struggle, for those ideas are just generalisations derived from past working class struggles! If anarchism ideas are applied spontaneously by those in struggle, it is because those involved are themselves drawing similar conclusions from their own experiences.

The other fact is that while mainstream Marxism often appropriated certain aspects of libertarian theory and practice, it does so selectively and places them into an authoritarian context which undermines their libertarian nature. Hence anarchist support for workers councils becomes transformed into a means to ensure party power (i.e. state authority) rather than working class power or self-management (i.e. no authority). Similarly, anarchist support for leading by example becomes transformed into support for party rule (and often dictatorship). Ultimately, the practice of mainstream Marxism shows that libertarian ideas cannot be transplanted selectively into an authoritarian ideology and be expected to blossom. Significantly, those Marxists who do apply anarchist ideas honestly are usually labelled by their orthodox comrades as "anarchists."

As an example of Marxists appropriating libertarian ideas honestly, we can point to the council communist and currents within autonomist Marxism. The council communists broke with the Bolsheviks over the question of whether the party would exercise power or whether the workers' councils would. Needless to say, Lenin labelled them an "anarchist deviation." Currents within Autonomist Marxism have built upon the council communist tradition, stressing the importance of focusing analysis on working class struggle as the key dynamic in capitalist society.

In this they go against the mainstream Marxist orthodoxy and embrace a libertarian perspective. As libertarian socialist Cornelius Castoriadis argued, "the economic theory expounded [by Marx] in Capital is based on the postulate that capitalism has managed completely and effectively to transform the worker -- who only appears there only as labour power -- into a commodity; therefore the use value of labour power -- the use the capitalist makes of it -- is, as for any commodity, completely determined by the use, since its exchange value -- wages -- is determined solely by the laws of the market . . . This postulate is necessary for there to be a 'science of economics' along the physico-mathematical model Marx followed . . . But he contradicts the most essential fact of capitalism, namely, that the use value and exchange value of labour power are objectively indeterminate; they are determined rather by the struggle between labour and capital both in production and in society. Here is the ultimate root of the 'objective' contradictions of capitalism . . . The paradox is that Marx, the 'inventor' of class struggle, wrote a monumental work on phenomena determined by this struggle in which the struggle itself was entirely absent." [Political and Social Writings, vol. 2, p. 203] Castoriadis explained the limitations of Marx's vision most famously in his "Modern Capitalism and Revolution." [Op. Cit., pp. 226-343]

By rejecting this heritage which mainstream Marxism bases itself on and stressing the role of class struggle, Autonomist Marxism breaks decisively with the Marxist mainstream and embraces a position previously associated with anarchists and other libertarian socialists. The key role of class struggle in invalidating all deterministic economic "laws" was expressed by French syndicalists at the start of the twentieth century. This insight predated the work of Castoriadis and the development of Autonomist Marxism by over 50 years and is worth quoting at length:

"the keystone of socialism [. . .] proclaimed that 'as a general rule, the average wage would be no more than what the worker strictly required for survival'. And it was said: 'That figure is governed by capitalist pressure alone and this can even push it below the minimum necessary for the working man's subsistence . . . The only rule with regard to wage levels is the plentiful or scarce supply of man-power . . .'

"By way of evidence of the relentless operation of this law of wages, comparisons were made between the worker and a commodity: if there is a glut of potatoes on the market, they are cheap; if they are scarce, the price rises . . . It is the same with the working man, it was said: his wages fluctuate in accordance with the plentiful supply or dearth of labour!

"No voice was raised against the relentless arguments of this absurd reasoning: so the law of wages may be taken as right . . . for as long as the working man [or woman] is content to be a commodity! For as long as, like a sack of potatoes, she remains passive and inert and endures the fluctuations of the market . . . For as long as he bends his back and puts up with all of the bosses' snubs, . . . the law of wages obtains.

"But things take a different turn the moment that a glimmer of consciousness stirs this worker-potato into life. When, instead off dooming himself to inertia, spinelessness, resignation and passivity, the worker wakes up to his worth as a human being and the spirit of revolt washes over him: when he bestirs himself, energetic, wilful and active . . . [and] once the labour bloc comes to life and bestirs itself . . . then, the laughable equilibrium of the law of wages is undone." [Emile Pouget, Direct Action]

And Marx, indeed, had compared the worker to a commodity, stating that labour power "is a commodity, neither more nor less than sugar. The former is measured by the clock, the latter by the scale." [Marx-Engels Selected Works, p. 72] However, as Castoridas argued, unlike sugar the extraction of the use value of labour power "is not a technical operation; it is a process of bitter struggle in which half the time, so to speak, the capitalists turn out to be losers." [Op. Cit., p. 248] A fact which Pouget stressed in his critique of the mainstream socialist position:

"A novel factor has appeared on the labour market: the will of the worker! And this factor, not pertinent when it comes to setting the price of a bushel of potatoes, has a bearing upon the setting of wages; its impact may be large or small, according to the degree of tension of the labour force which is a product of the accord of individual wills beating in unison -- but, whether it be strong or weak, there is no denying it.

"Thus, worker cohesion conjures up against capitalist might a might capable of standing up to it. The inequality between the two adversaries -- which cannot be denied when the exploiter is confronted only by the working man on his own -- is redressed in proportion with the degree of cohesion achieved by the labour bloc. From then on, proletarian resistance, be it latent or acute, is an everyday phenomenon: disputes between labour and capital quicken and become more acute. Labour does not always emerge victorious from these partial struggles: however, even when defeated, the struggle workers still reap some benefit: resistance from them has obstructed pressure from the employers and often forced the employer to grant some of the demands put." [Op. Cit.]

The best currents of autonomist Marxism share this anarchist stress on the power of working people to transform society and to impact on how capitalism operates. Unsurprisingly, most autonomist Marxists reject the idea of the vanguard party and instead, like the council communists, stress the need for autonomist working class self-organisation and self-activity (hence the name!). They agree with Pouget when he argued that "Direct action spells liberation for the masses of humanity . . . [It] puts paid to the age of miracles -- miracles from Heaven, miracles from the State -- and, in contraposition to hopes vested in 'providence' (no matter what they may be) it announces that it will act upon the maxim: salvation lies within ourselves!" [Op. Cit.] As such, they draw upon anarchistic ideas and rhetoric (for many, undoubtedly unknowingly) and draw anarchistic conclusions. This can be seen from the works of the leading US Autonomist Marxist Harry Cleaver. His excellent essay "Kropotkin, Self-Valorisation and the Crisis of Marxism" is by far the best Marxist account of Kropotkin's ideas and shows the similarities between communist-anarchism and autonomist Marxism. [Anarchist Studies, vol.2 , no. 2, pp. 119-36] Both, he points out, share a "common perception and sympathy for the power of workers to act autonomously" regardless of the "substantial differences" on other issues. [Reading Capital Politically, p. 15]

As such, the links between the best Marxists and anarchism can be substantial. This means that some Marxists have taken on board many anarchist ideas and have forged a version of Marxism which is basically libertarian in nature. Unfortunately, such forms of Marxism have always been a minority current within it. Most cases have seen the appropriation of anarchist ideas by Marxists simply as part of an attempt to make mainstream, authoritarian Marxism more appealing and such borrowings have been quickly forgotten once power has been seized.

Therefore appropriation of rhetoric and labels should not be confused with similarity of goals and ideas. The list of groupings which have used inappropriate labels to associate their ideas with other, more appealing, ones is lengthy. Content is what counts. If libertarian sounding ideas are being raised, the question becomes one of whether they are being used simply to gain influence or whether they signify a change of heart. As Bookchin argues:

"Ultimately, a line will have to be drawn that, by definition, excludes any project that can tip decentralisation to the side of centralisation, direct democracy to the side of delegated power, libertarian institutions to the side of bureaucracy, and spontaneity to the side of authority. Such a line, like a physical barrier, must irrevocably separate a libertarian zone of theory and practice from the hybridised socialisms that tend to denature it. This zone must build its anti-authoritarian, utopian, and revolutionary commitments into the very recognition it has of itself, in short, into the very way it defines itself. . . . to admit of domination is to cross the line that separates the libertarian zone from the [state] socialist." [Op. Cit., pp. 223-4]

Unless we know exactly what we aim for, how to get there and who our real allies are we will get a nasty surprise once our self-proclaimed "allies" take power. As such, any attempt to appropriate anarchist rhetoric into an authoritarian ideology will simply fail and become little more than a mask obscuring the real aims of the party in question. As history shows.

H.3.6 Is Marxism the only revolutionary politics which have worked?

Some Marxists will dismiss our arguments, and anarchism, out of hand. This is because anarchism has not lead a "successful" revolution while Marxism has. The fact, they assert, that there has never been a serious anarchist revolutionary movement, let alone an anarchist revolution, in the whole of history proves that Marxism works. For some Marxists, practice determines validity. Whether something is true or not is not decided intellectually in wordy publications and debates, but in reality.

For Anarchists, such arguments simply show the ideological nature of most forms of Marxism. The fact is, of course, that there has been many anarchistic revolutions which, while ultimately defeated, show the validity of anarchist theory (the ones in Spain and in the Ukraine being the most significant). Moreover, there have been serious revolutionary anarchist movements across the world, the majority of them crushed by state repression (usually fascist or communist based). However, this is not the most important issue, which is the fate of these "successful" Marxist movements and revolution. The fact that there has never been a "Marxist" revolution which has not become a party dictatorship proves the need to critique Marxism.

So, given that Marxists argue that Marxism is the revolutionary working class political theory, its actual track record has been appalling. After all, while many Marxist parties have taken part in revolutions and even seized power, the net effect of their "success" have been societies bearing little or no relationship to socialism. Rather, the net effect of these revolutions has been to discredit socialism by associating it with one-party states presiding over state capitalist economies.

Equally, the role of Marxism in the labour movement has also been less than successful. Looking at the first Marxist movement, social democracy, it ended by becoming reformist, betraying socialist ideas by (almost always) supporting their own state during the First World War and going so far as crushing the German revolution and betraying the Italian factory occupations in 1920. Indeed, Trotsky stated that the Bolshevik party was "the only revolutionary" section of the Second International, which is a damning indictment of Marxism. [Stalin, vol. 1, p. 248] Just as damning is the fact that neither Lenin or Trotsky noticed it! Indeed, Lenin praised the "fundamentals of parliamentary tactics" of German and International Social Democracy, expressing the opinion that they were "at the same time implacable on questions of principle and always directed to the accomplishment of the final aim" in his obituary of August Bebel in 1913! [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 248] For those that way inclined, some amusement can be gathered comparing Engels glowing predictions for these parties and their actual performance (in the case of Spain and Italy, his comments seem particularly ironic).

As regards Bolshevism itself, the one "revolutionary" party in the world, it avoided the fate of its sister parties simply because there no question of applying social democratic tactics within bourgeois institutions as these did not exist. Moreover, the net result of its seizure of power was, first, a party dictatorship and state capitalism under Lenin, then the creation of Stalinism and a host of Trotskyist sects who spend a considerable amount of time justifying and rationalising the ideology and actions of the Bolsheviks which helped create the Stalinism (see section H.4 for a discussion of the Russian revolution).

Clearly, a key myth of Marxism is the idea that it has been a successful movement. In reality, its failures have been consistent and devastating so suggesting its time to re-evaluate the whole ideology and embrace a revolutionary theory like anarchism. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to argue that every "success" of Marxism has, in fact, proved that the anarchist critique of Marxism was correct. Thus, as Bakunin predicted, the Social-Democratic parties became reformist and the "dictatorship of the proletariat" became the "dictatorship over the proletariat." With "victories" like these, Marxism does not need failures! Thus Murray Bookchin:

"A theory which is so readily 'vulgarised,' 'betrayed,' or, more sinisterly, institutionalised into bureaucratic power by nearly all its adherents may well be one that lends itself to such 'vulgarisations,' 'betrayals,' and bureaucratic forms as a normal condition of its existence. What may seem to be 'vulgarisations, 'betrayals,' and bureaucratic manifestations of its tenets in the heated light of doctrinal disputes may prove to be the fulfilment of its tenets in the cold light of historical development." [Toward an Ecological Society, p. 196]

Hence the overwhelming need to critically evaluate Marxist ideas and history (such as the Russian Revolution -- see sections H.4, H.5 and H.6). Unless we honestly discuss and evaluate all aspects of revolutionary ideas, we will never be able to build a positive and constructive revolutionary movement. By seeking the roots of Marxism's problems, we can enrich anarchism by avoiding possible pitfalls and recognising and building upon its strengths (i.e. where anarchists have identified, however incompletely, problems in Marxism which bear on revolutionary ideas, practice and transformation).

If this is done, anarchists are sure that Marxist claims that Marxism is the revolutionary theory will be exposed for the baseless rhetoric they are.

H.3.7 What is wrong with the Marxist theory of the state?

For anarchists, the idea that a state (any state) can be used for socialist ends is simply ridiculous. This is because of the nature of the state as an instrument of minority class rule. As such, it precludes the mass participation required for socialism and would create a new form of class society.

As we discussed in section B.2, the state is defined by certain characteristics (most importantly, the centralisation of power into the hands of a few). Thus, for anarchists, "the word 'State' . . . should be reserved for those societies with the hierarchical system and centralisation." [Peter Kropotkin, Ethics, p. 317f] This defining feature of the state has not come about by chance. As Kropotkin argued in his classic history of the state, "a social institution cannot lend itself to all the desired goals, since, as with every organ, [the state] developed according to the function it performed, in a definite direction and not in all possible directions." This means, by "seeing the State as it has been in history, and as it is in essence today" the conclusion anarchists "arrive at is for the abolition of the State." Thus the state has "developed in the history of human societies to prevent the direct association among men [and women] to shackle the development of local and individual initiative, to crush existing liberties, to prevent their new blossoming -- all this in order to subject the masses to the will of minorities." [The State: Its Historic Role, p. 56]

So if the state, as Kropotkin stresses, is defined by "the existence of a power situated above society, but also of a territorial concentration as well as the concentration in the hands of a few of many functions in the life of societies" then such a structure has not evolved by chance. Therefore "the pyramidal organisation which is the essence of the State" simply "cannot lend itself to a function opposed to the one for which it was developed in the course of history," such as the popular participation from below required by social revolution and socialism. [Op. Cit., p. 10, p. 59 and p. 56] Based on this evolutionary analysis of the state, Kropotkin, like all anarchists, drew the conclusion "that the State organisation, having been the force to which the minorities resorted for establishing and organising their power over the masses, cannot be the force which will serve to destroy these privileges." [Evolution and Environment, p. 82]

This does not mean that anarchists dismiss differences between types of state, think the state has not changed over time or refuse to see that different states exist to defend different ruling minorities. Far from it. Anarchists argue that "[e]very economic phase has a political phase corresponding to it, and it would be impossible to touch private property unless a new mode of political life be found at the same time." "A society founded on serfdom," Kropotkin explained, "is in keeping with absolute monarchy; a society based on the wage system, and the exploitation of the masses by the capitalists finds it political expression in parliamentarianism." As such, the state form changes and evolves, but its basic function (defender of minority rule) and structure (delegated power into the hands of a few) remains. Which means that "a free society regaining possession of the common inheritance must seek, in free groups and free federations of groups, a new organisation, in harmony with the new economic phase of history." [The Conquest of Bread, p. 54]

So, as with any social structure, the state has evolved to ensure that it carries out its function. In other words, the state is centralised because it is an instrument of minority domination and oppression. Insofar as a social system is based on decentralisation of power, popular self-management and participation and free federation from below upwards, it is not a state. If a social system is, however, marked by delegated power and centralisation it is a state and cannot be, therefore, a instrument of social liberation. Rather it will become, slowly but surely, "whatever title it adopts and whatever its origin and organisation may be" what the state has always been, a instrument for "oppressing and exploiting the masses, of defending the oppressors and the exploiters." [Anarchy, p. 20] Which, for obvious reasons, is why anarchists argue for the destruction of the state by a free federation of self-managed communes and workers' councils (see sections I.5 and H.1.4 for further discussion).

This explains why anarchists reject the Marxist definition and theory of the state. For Marxists, "the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another." While it has been true that, historically, it is "the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class, which, through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class, and this acquires the means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class," this need not always be the case. The state is "at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy," although it "cannot avoid having to lop off at once as much as possible" of it "until such time as a generation reared in new, free social conditions is able to throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap heap." This new state, often called the "dictatorship of the proletariat," would slowly "wither away" (or "dies out") as classes disappear and the state "at last . . . becomes the real representative of the whole of society" and so "renders itself unnecessary." Engels is at pains to differentiate this position from that of the anarchists, who demand "the abolition of the state out of hand." [Engels, Marx-Engels Selected Works, p. 258, pp. 577-8, p. 528 and p. 424]

For anarchists, this argument has deep flaws. Simply put, unlike the anarchist one, this is not an empirically based theory of the state. Rather, we find such a theory mixed up with a metaphysical, non-empirical, a-historic definition which is based not on what the state is but rather what is could be. Thus the argument that the state "is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another" is trying to draw out an abstract "essence" of the state rather than ground what the state is on empirical evidence and analysis. This perspective, anarchists argue, simply confuses two very different things, namely the state and popular social organisation, with potentially disastrous results. By calling the popular self-organisation required by a social revolution the same name as a hierarchical and centralised body constructed for, and evolved to ensure, minority rule, the door is wide open to confuse popular power with party power, to confuse rule by the representatives of the working class with working class self-management of the revolution and society.

As we discussed in section H.2.1, anarchist opposition to the idea of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" should not be confused with idea that anarchists do not think that a social revolution needs to be defended. Rather, our opposition to the concept rests on the confusion which inevitably occurs when you mix up scientific analysis with metaphysical concepts. By drawing out an a-historic definition of the state, Engels helped ensure that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" became the "dictatorship over the proletariat" by implying that centralisation and delegated power into the hands of the few can be considered as an expression of popular power.

To explain why, we need only to study the works of Engels himself. Engels, in his famous account of the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, defined the state as follows:

"The state is . . . by no means a power forced on society from without . . . Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is an admission . . . that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms . . . in order that these antagonisms and classes with conflicting economic interests might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have power seemingly standing above society that would alleviate the conflict . . . this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state." [Marx-Engels: Selected Writings, p. 576]

The state has two distinguishing features, firstly (and least importantly) it "divides its subjects according to territory." The second "is the establishment of a public power which no longer directly coincides with the population organising itself as an armed force. This special public power is necessary because a self-acting armed organisation of the population has become impossible since the split into classes . . . This public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons and institutions of coercion of all kinds." Thus "an essential feature of the state is a public power distinct from the mass of the people." [Op. Cit., pp. 576-7 and pp. 535-6]

In this, as can be seen, the Marxist position concurs with the anarchist. He discusses the development of numerous ancient societies to prove his point. Talking of Greek society, he argues that it was based on a popular assembly which was "sovereign" plus a council. This social system was not a state because "when every adult male member of the tribe was a warrior, there was as yet no public authority separated from the people that could have been set up against it. Primitive democracy was still in full bloom, and this must remain the point of departure in judging power and the status of the council." [Op. Cit., pp. 525-6]

Discussing the descent of this society into classes, he argues that this required "an institution that would perpetuate, not only the newly-rising class division of society, but the right of the possessing class to exploit the non-possessing class and the rule of the former over the latter." Unsurprisingly, "this institution arrived. The state was invented." The original communal organs of society were "superseded by real governmental authorities" and the defence of society ("the actual 'people in arms'") was "taken by an armed 'public power' at the service of these authorities and, therefore, also available against the people." With the rise of the state, the communal council was "transformed into a senate." [Op. Cit., p. 528 and p. 525] Thus the state arises specifically to exclude popular self-government, replacing it with minority rule conducted via a centralised, hierarchical top-down structure ("government . . . is the natural protector of capitalism and other exploiters of popular labour." [Bakunin, Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 239]).

This account of the rise of the state is at direct odds with Engels argument that the state is simply an instrument of class rule. For the "dictatorship of the proletariat" to be a state, it would have to constitute a power above society, be different from the people armed, and so be "a public power distinct from the mass of the people." However, Marx and Engels are at pains to stress that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" will not be such a regime. However, how can you have something (namely "a public power distinct from the mass of the people") you consider as "an essential feature" of a state missing in an institution you call the same name? It is a bit like calling a mammal a "new kind of reptile" in spite of the former not being cold-blooded, something you consider as "an essential feature" of the latter!

This contradiction helps explains Engels comments that "[w]e would therefore propose to replace state everywhere by Gemeinwesen, a good old German word which can very well convey the meaning of the French word 'commune'" He even states that the Paris Commune "was no longer a state in the proper sense of the word." However, this comment does not mean that Engels sought to remove any possible confusion on the matter, for he still talked of "the state" as "only a transitional institution which is used in the struggle, in the revolution, to hold down's one's adversaries by force . . . so long as the proletariat still uses the state, it does not use it the interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries, and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such ceases to exist." [Op. Cit., p. 335] Thus the state would still exist and, furthermore, is not identified with the working class as a whole ("a self-acting armed organisation of the population"), rather it is an institution standing apart from the "people armed" which is used, by the proletariat, to crush its enemies.

(As an aside, we must stress that to state that it only becomes possible to "speak of freedom" after the state and classes cease to exist is a serious theoretical error. Firstly, it means to talk about "freedom" in the abstract, ignoring the reality of class and hierarchical society. To state the obvious, in class society working class people have their freedom restricted by the state, wage labour and other forms of social hierarchy. The aim of social revolution is the conquest of liberty by the working class by overthrowing hierarchical rule. Freedom for the working class, by definition, means stopping any attempts to restrict that freedom by its adversaries. To state the obvious, it is not a "restriction" of the freedom of would-be bosses to resist their attempts to impose their rule! As such, Engels, yet again, fails to consider revolution from a working class perspective -- see section H.1.15 for another example of this flaw. Moreover his comments have been used to justify restrictions on working class freedom, power and political rights by Marxist parties once they have seized power. "Whatever power the State gains," correctly argues Bookchin, "it always does so at the expense of popular power. Conversely, whatever power the people gain, they always acquire at the expense of the State. To legitimate State power, in effect, is to delegitimate popular power." [Remaking Society, p. 160])

Elsewhere, we have Engels arguing that "the characteristic attribute of the former state" is that while society "had created its own organs to look after its own special interests" in the course of time "these organs, at whose head was the state power, transformed themselves from the servants of society into the masters of society." [Op. Cit., p. 257] Ignoring the obvious contradiction with his earlier claims that the state and communal organs were different, with the former destroying the latter, we are struck yet again by the idea of the state as being defined as an institution above society. Thus, if the post revolutionary society is marked by "the state" being dissolved into society, placed under its control, then it is not a state. To call it a "new and truly democratic" form of "state power" makes as little sense as calling a motorcar a "new" form of bicycle. As such, when Engels argues that the Paris Commune "was no longer a state in the proper sense of the word" or that when the proletariat seizes political power it "abolishes the state as state" we may be entitled to ask what it is, a state or not a state. [Op. Cit., p. 335 and p. 424] It cannot be both, it cannot be a "public power distinct from the mass of the people" and "a self-acting armed organisation of the population." If it is the latter, then it does not have what Engels considered as "an essential feature of the state" and cannot be considered one. If it is the former, then any claim that such a regime is the rule of the working class is automatically invalidated. That Engels mocked the anarchists for seeking a revolution "without a provisional government and in the total absence of any state or state-like institution, which are to be destroyed" we can safely say that it is the former. [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 156] Given that "primitive democracy," as Engels noted, defended itself against its adversaries without such an institution shows that to equate the defence of working class freedom with the state is not only unnecessary, it simply leads to confusion. For this reason anarchists do not confuse the necessary task of defending and organising a social revolution with creating a state.

Thus, the problem for Marxism is that the empirical definition of the state collides with the metaphysical, the actual state with its Marxist essence. As Italian Anarchist Camillo Berneri argued, "'The Proletariat' which seizes the state, bestowing on it the complete ownership of the means of production and destroying itself as proletariat and the state 'as the state' is a metaphysical fantasy, a political hypotasis of social abstractions." ["The Abolition and Extinction of the State," Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, no. 4, p. 50]

This is no academic point, as we explain in the next section this confusion has been exploited to justify party power over the proletariat. Thus, as Berneri argues, Marxists "do not propose the armed conquest of the commune by the whole proletariat, but they propose the conquest of the State by the party which imagines 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." Thus "the Anarchists desire the destruction of the classes by means of a social revolution which eliminates, with the classes, the State." ["Dictatorship of the Proletariat and State Socialism", Op. Cit., p. 52] Anarchists are opposed to the state because it is not neutral, it cannot be made to serve our interests. The structures of the state are only necessary when a minority seeks to rule over the majority. We argue that the working class can create our own structures, organised and run from below upwards, to ensure the efficient running of everyday life.

By confusing two radically different things, Marxism ensures that popular power is consumed and destroyed by the state, by a new ruling elite. In the words Murray Bookchin:

"Marx, in his analysis of the Paris Commune of 1871, has done radical social theory a considerable disservice. The Commune's combination of delegated policy-making with the execution of policy by its own administrators, a feature of the Commune which Marx celebrated, is a major failing of that body. Rousseau quite rightly emphasised that popular power cannot be delegated without being destroyed. One either has a fully empowered popular assembly or power belongs to the State." ["Theses on Libertarian Municipalism", pp. 9-22, The Anarchist Papers, Dimitrios Roussopoulos (ed.), p. 14]

If power belongs to the state, then the state is a public body distinct from the population and, therefore, not an instrument of working class power. Rather, as an institution designed to ensure minority rule, it would ensure its position within society and become either the ruling class itself or create a new class which instrument it would be. As we discuss in section H.3.12 ( "Is the state simply an agent of economic power?") the state cannot be considered as a neutral instrument of class rule, it has specific interests in itself which can and does mean it can play an oppressive and exploitative role in society independently of a ruling class.

Which brings us to the crux of the issue whether this "new" state will, in fact, be unlike any other state that has ever existed. Insofar as this "new" state is based on popular self-management and self-organisation, anarchists argue that such an organisation cannot be called a state as it is not based on delegated power. "As long as," as Bookchin stresses, "the institutions of power consisted of armed workers and peasants as distinguished from a professional bureaucracy, police force, army, and cabal of politicians and judges, they were no[t] a State . . . These institutions, in fact comprised a revolutionary people in arms . . . not a professional apparatus that could be regarded as a State in any meaningful sense of the term." ["Looking Back at Spain," pp. 53-96, The Radical Papers, p. 86]

This was why Bakunin was at pains to emphasis that a "federal organisation, from below upward, of workers' associations, groups, communes, districts, and ultimately, regions and nations" could not be considered as the same as "centralised states" and "contrary to their essence." [Statism and Anarchy, p. 13] So when Lenin argues in State and Revolution that in the "dictatorship of the proletariat" the "organ of suppression is now the majority of the population, and not the minority" and that "since the majority of the people itself suppresses its oppressors, a 'special force' for the suppression [of the bourgeoisie] is no longer necessary" he is confusing two fundamentally different things. As Engels made clear, such a social system of "primitive democracy" is not a state. However, when Lenin argues that "the more the functions of state power devolve upon the people generally, the less need is there for the existence of this power," he is implicitly arguing that there would be, in fact, a "public power distinct from mass of the people" and so a state in the normal sense of the word based on delegated power, "special forces" separate from the armed people and so on. [Essential Works of Lenin, p. 301]

That such a regime would not "wither away" has been proven by history. The state machine does not (indeed, cannot) represent the interests of the working classes due to its centralised, hierarchical and elitist nature -- all it can do is represent the interests of the party in power, its own bureaucratic needs and privileges and slowly, but surely, remove itself from popular control. This, as anarchists have constantly stressed, is why the state is based on the delegation of power, on hierarchy and centralisation. The state is organised in this way to facilitate minority rule by excluding the mass of people from taking part in the decision making processes within society. If the masses actually did manage society directly, it would be impossible for a minority class to dominate it. Hence the need for a state. Which shows the central fallacy of the Marxist theory of the state, namely it argues that the rule of the proletariat will be conducted by a structure, the state, which is designed to exclude the popular participation such a concept demands!

Considered another way, "political power" (the state) is simply the power of minorities to enforce their wills. This means that a social revolution which aims to create socialism cannot use it to further its aims. After all, if the state (i.e. "political power") has been created to further minority class rule (as Marxists and anarchists agree) then, surely, this function has determined how the organ which exercises it has developed. Therefore, we would expect organ and function to be related and impossible to separate.

So when Marx argued that the "conquest of political power becomes the great duty of the proletariat" because "the lords of the land and of capital always make use of their political privileges to defend and perpetuate their economic monopolies and enslave labour," he drew the wrong conclusion. [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 85] Building on a historically based (and so evolutionary) understanding of the state, anarchists concluded that it was necessary not to seize political power (which could only be exercised by a minority within any state) but rather to destroy it, to dissipate power into the hands of the working class, the majority. By ending the regime of the powerful by destroying their instrument of rule, the power which was concentrated into their hands automatically falls back into the hands of society. Thus, working class power can only be concrete once "political power" is shattered and replaced by the social power of the working class based on its own class organisations (such as factory committees, workers' councils, unions, neighbourhood assemblies and so on). As Murray Bookchin put it:

"the slogan 'Power to the people' can only be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into the people. Each individual can then take control of his [or her] daily life. If 'Power to the people' means nothing more than power to the 'leaders' of the people, then the people remain an undifferentiated, manipulated mass, as powerless after the revolution as they were before." [Post-Scarcity Anarchism, p. 20f]

In practice, this means that any valid social revolution needs to break the new state and not replace it with another one. This is because, in order to be a state, any state structure must be based on delegated power, hierarchy and centralisation ("every State, even the most Republican and the most democratic . . . . are in essence only machine governing the masses from above" and "[i]f there is a State, there must necessarily be domination, and therefore slavery; a State without slavery, overt or concealed, is unthinkable -- and that is why we are enemies of the State." [Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 211 and p. 287]). This means that if power is devolved to the working class then the state no longer exists as its "essential feature" (of delegated power) is absent. What you have is a new form of the "primitive democracy" which existed before the rise of the state. While this new, modern, form of self-management will have to defend itself against those seeking to recreate minority power, this does not mean that it becomes a state. After all, "primitive democracy" had to defend itself against its adversaries and so that, in itself, does not (as Engels acknowledges) means it is a state. Thus defence of a revolution, as anarchists have constantly stressed, does not equate to a state as it fails to address the key issue, namely who has power in the system -- the masses or their leaders.

This issue is fudged by Marx. In his comments on Bakunin's question in "Statism and Anarchy" about "Will the entire proletariat head the government?", Marx argues in response:

"Does in a trade union, for instance, the whole union constitute the executive committee? Will all division of labour in a factory disappear and also the various functions arising from it? And will everybody be at the top in Bakunin's construction built from the bottom upwards? There will in fact be no below then. Will all members of the commune also administer the common affairs of the region? In that case there will be no difference between commune and region. 'The Germans [says Bakunin] number nearly 40 million. Will, for example, all 40 million be members of the government?' Certainly, for the thing begins with the self-government of the commune." [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, pp. 150-1]

As Alan Carter argues, "this might have seemed to Marx [over] a century ago to be satisfactory rejoinder, but it can hardly do today. In the infancy of the trade unions, which is all Marx knew, the possibility of the executives of a trade union becoming divorced from the ordinary members may not have seemed to him to be a likely outcome, We, however, have behind us a long history of union leaders 'selling out' and being out of touch with their members. Time has ably demonstrated that to reject Bakunin's fears on the basis of the practice of trade union officials constitutes a woeful complacency with regard to power and privilege -- a complacency that was born ample fruit in the form of present Marxist parties and 'communist' societies . . . [His] dispute with Bakunin shows quite clearly that Marx did not stress the continued control of the revolution by the mass of the people as a prerequisite for the transcendence of all significant social antagonisms." [Marx: A Radical Critique, pp. 217-8]

As we discussed in section H.3.1, Marx's "Address to the Communist League," with its stress on "the most determined centralisation of power in the hands of the state authority" and that "the path of revolutionary activity . . . can only proceed with full force from the centre," suggests that Bakunin's fears were valid and Marx's answer simply inadequate. [Marx-Engels Reader, p. 509] Simply put, if, as Engels argues, the "an essential feature of the state is a public power distinct from the mass of the people," then, clearly Marx's argument of 1850 (and others like it) signifies a state in the usual sense of the word, one which has to be "distinct" from the mass of the population in order to ensure that the masses are prevented from interfering with their own revolution.

Ultimately, the question, of course, is one of power. Does the "executive committee" have the fundamental decision making power in society, or does that power lie in the mass assemblies upon which a federal socialist society is built? If the former, we have rule by a few party leaders and the inevitable bureaucratisation of the society and a state in the accepted sense of the word. If the latter, we have a basic structure of a free and equal society and a new organisation of popular self-management which eliminates, by self-management, the existence of a public power above society. This is not playing with words. It signifies the key issue of social transformation, an issue which Marxism tends to ignore or confuse matters about when discussing. Bookchin clarifies what is at stake:

"To some neo-Marxists who see centralisation and decentralisation merely as difference of degree, the word 'centralisation' may merely be an awkward way of denoting means for co-ordinating the decisions made by decentralised bodies. Marx, it is worth noting, greatly confused this distinction when he praised the Paris Commune as a 'working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time.' In point of fact, the consolidation of 'executive and legislative' functions in a single body was regressive. It simply identified the process of policy-making, a function that rightly should belong to the people in assembly, with the technical execution of these policies, a function that should be left to strictly administrative bodies subject to rotation, recall, limitations of tenure . . . Accordingly, the melding of policy formation with administration placed the institutional emphasis of classical [Marxist] socialism on centralised bodies, indeed, by an ironical twist of historical events, bestowing the privilege of formulating policy on the 'higher bodies' of socialist hierarchies and their execution precisely on the more popular 'revolutionary committees' below." [Toward an Ecological Society, pp. 215-6]

By confusing co-ordination with the state (i.e. with delegation of power), Marxism opens the door wide open to the "dictatorship of the proletariat" being a state "in the proper sense." Not only does Marxism open that door, it even invites the state "in the proper sense" of the word in! This can be seen from Engels comment that just as "each political party sets out to establish its rule in the state, so the German Social-Democratic Workers' Party is striving to establish its rule, the rule of the working class." [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-syndicalism, p. 94] By confusing rule by the party "in the state" with "rule of the working class," Engels is confusing party power and popular power. For the party to "establish its rule," the state in the normal sense (i.e. a structure based on the delegation of power) has to be maintained. As such, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" signifies the delegation of power by the proletariat into the hands of the party and that implies a "public power distinct from the mass of the people" and so minority rule. This aspect of Marxism, as we argue in the next section, was developed under the Bolsheviks and became "the dictatorship of the party" (i.e. the dictatorship over the proletariat).

It is for this reason why anarchists are extremely critical of Marxist ideas of social revolution. As Alan Carter argues:

"It is to argue not against revolution, but against 'revolutionary' praxis employing central authority. It is to argue that any revolution must remain in the hands of the mass of people and that they must be aware of the dangers of allowing power to fall into the hands of a minority in the course of the revolution. Latent within Marxist theory . . . is the tacit condoning of political inequality in the course and aftermath of revolutionary praxis. Only when such inequality is openly and widely rejected can there be any hope of a libertarian communist revolution. The lesson to learn is that we must oppose not revolutionary practice, but authoritarian 'revolutionary' practice. Such authoritarian practice will continue to prevail in revolutionary circles as long as the Marxist theory of the state and the corresponding theory of power remain above criticism within them." [Marx: A Radical Critique, p. 231]

In summary, the Marxist theory of the state is simply a-historic and postulates some kind of state "essence" which exists independently of actual states and their role in society. To confuse the organ required by a minority class to execute and maintain its rule and that required by a majority class to manage society is to make a theoretical error of great magnitude. It opens the door to the idea of party power and even party dictatorship. As such, the Marxism of Marx and Engels is confused on the issue of the state. Their comments fluctuate between the anarchist definition of the state (based, as it is, on generalisations from historical examples) and the a-historic definition (based not on historical example but rather derived from a supra-historical analysis). Trying to combine the metaphysical with the scientific, the authoritarian with the libertarian, can only leave their followers with a confused legacy and that is what we find.

Since the death of the founding fathers of Marxism, their followers have diverged into two camps. The majority have embraced the metaphysical and authoritarian concept of the state and proclaimed their support for a "workers' state." This is represented by social-democracy and it radical offshoot, Leninism. As we discuss in the next section, this school has used the Marxist conception of the state to allow for rule over the working class by the "revolutionary" party. The minority has become increasingly and explicitly anti-state, recognising that the Marxist legacy is contradictory and that for the proletarian to directly manage society then there can be no power above them. To this camp belongs the libertarian Marxists of the council communist, Situationist and other schools of thought which are close to anarchism.

H.3.8 What is wrong with the Leninist theory of the state?

As discussed in the last section, there is a contradiction at the heart of the Marxist theory of the state. On the one hand, it acknowledges that the state, historically, has always been an instrument of minority rule and is structured to ensure this. On the other, it argues that you can have a state (the "dictatorship of the proletariat") which transcends this historical reality to express an abstract essence of the state as an "instrument of class rule." This means that Marxism usually confuses two very different concepts, namely the state (a structure based on centralisation and delegated power) and the popular self-management and self-organisation required to create and defend a socialist society.

This confusion between two fundamentally different concepts proved to be disastrous when the Russian Revolution broke out. Confusing party power with working class power, the Bolsheviks aimed to create a "workers' state" in which their party would be in power (see section H.4). As the state was an instrument of class rule, it did not matter if the new "workers' state" was centralised, hierarchical and top-down like the old state as the structure of the state was considered irrelevant in evaluating its role in society. Thus, while Lenin seemed to promise a radical democracy in which the working class would directly manage its own affairs in his State and Revolution, in practice implemented a "dictatorship of the proletariat" which was, in fact, "the organisation of the vanguard of the oppressed as the ruling class." [Essential Works of Lenin, p. 337] In other words, the vanguard party in the position of head of the state, governing on behalf of the working class which, as we argued in the last section, meant that the new "workers' state" was fundamentally a state in the usual sense of the word. This quickly lead to a dictatorship over, not of, the proletariat (as Bakunin had predicted).

This development did not come as a surprise to anarchists, who long argued that a state is an instrument of minority rule and cannot change its nature. To use the state to affect socialist change is impossible, simply because it is not designed for such a task. As we argued in section B.2, the state is based on centralisation of power explicitly to ensure minority rule and for this reason has to be abolished during a social revolution.

Ironically, the theoretical lessons Leninists gained from the experience of the Russian Revolution confirm the anarchist analysis that the state structure exists to facilitate minority rule and marginalise and disempower the majority to achieve that rule. This can be seen from the significant revision of the Marxist position which occurred once the Bolshevik party become the ruling party. Simply put, after 1917 leading representatives of Leninism stressed that the idea that state power was not required to repress resistance by the ex-ruling class as such, but, in fact, was necessitated by the divisions within the working class. In other words, state power was required because the working class was not able to govern itself and so required a grouping (the party) above it to ensure the success of the revolution and overcome any "wavering" within the masses themselves.

While we have discussed this position in section H.1.2 and so will be repeating ourselves to some degree, it is worth summarising again the arguments put forward to justify this revision. This is because they confirm what anarchists have always argued, namely that the state is an instrument of minority rule and not one by which working class people can manage their own affairs directly. As the quotations from leading Leninists make clear, it is precisely this feature of the state which recommends it for party (i.e. minority) power. In other words, the contradiction at the heart of the Marxist theory of the state we pointed out in the last section has been resolved in Leninism. It supports the state precisely because it is "a public power distinct from the mass of the people," rather than an instrument of working class self-management of society.

Needless to say, latter day followers of Leninism point to Lenin's apparently democratic, even libertarian sounding, 1917 work, The State and Revolution when asked about the Leninist theory of the state. As our discussion of the Russian revolution in section H.4 proves, the ideas expounded in his pamphlet were rarely, if at all, applied in practice by the Bolsheviks. Moreover, it was written before the seizure of power. In order to see the validity of his argument we must compare it to his and his fellow Bolshevik leaders opinions once the revolution had "succeeded." What lessons did they generalise from their experiences and how did these lessons relate to State and Revolution?

This change can be seen from Trotsky, who argued quite explicitly that "the proletariat can take power only through its vanguard" and that "the necessity for state power arises from an insufficient cultural level of the masses and their heterogeneity." Only with "support of the vanguard by the class" can there be the "conquest of power" and it was in "this sense the proletarian revolution and dictatorship are the work of the whole class, but only under the leadership of the vanguard." Thus, 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." ["Stalinism and Bolshevism", Socialist Review, no. 146, p. 16]

Thus state power is required to govern the masses, who cannot exercise power themselves. As Trotsky put it, "[t]hose 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." [Trotsky, Op. Cit., p. 18] Clearly, the state is envisioned as an instrument existing above society, above the working class, and its "necessity" is not driven by the need to defend the revolution, but rather in the "insufficient cultural level of the masses." Indeed, "party dictatorship" is required to create "the state form of the proletariat."

This idea that state power was required due to the limitations within the working class is reiterated a few years later in 1939:

"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 . . . if the dictatorship of the proletariat means anything at all, then it means that the vanguard of the proletariat is armed with the resources of the state in order to repel dangers, including those emanating from the backward layers of the proletariat itself." [The Moralists and Sycophants, p. 59]

Needless to say, by definition everyone is "backward" when compared to the "vanguard of the proletariat." Moreover, as it is this "vanguard" which is "armed with the resources of the state" and not the proletariat as a whole we are left with one obvious conclusion, namely party dictatorship rather than working class democracy. How Trotsky's position is compatible with the idea of the working class as the "ruling class" is not explained. However, it fits in well with the anarchist analysis of the state as an instrument designed to ensure minority rule. Other, equally elitist arguments were expressed by Trotsky twenty years earlier when he held the reins of power.

In 1920, he argued that while the Bolsheviks have "more than once been accused of having substituted for the dictatorship of the Soviets the dictatorship of the party," in fact "it can be said with complete justice that the dictatorship of the Soviets became possible only by means of the dictatorship of the party." This, just to state the obvious, was his argument seventeen years later. "In this 'substitution' of the power of the party for the power of the working class," Trotsky added, "there is nothing accidental, and in reality there is no substitution at all. The Communists express the fundamental interests of the working class." [Terrorism and Communism, p. 109] In early 1921, he argued again for Party dictatorship at the Tenth Party Congress. His comments made there against the Workers' Opposition within the Communist Party make his position clear:

"The Workers' Opposition has come out with dangerous slogans, making a fetish of democratic principles! They place the workers' right to elect representatives above the Party, as if the party were not entitled to assert its dictatorship even if that dictatorship temporarily clashed with the passing moods of the workers' democracy. It is necessary to create amongst us the awareness of the revolutionary birthright of the party, which is obliged to maintain its dictatorship, regardless of temporary wavering even in the working classes. This awareness is for us the indispensable element. The dictatorship does not base itself at every given moment on the formal principle of a workers' democracy." [quoted by Samuel Farber, Before Stalinism, p. 209]

The similarities with his arguments of 1939 are obvious. Unsurprisingly, he maintained this position in the intervening years. He stated in 1922 that "we main the dictatorship of our party!" [The First Five Years of the Communist International, vol. 2, p. 255] The next year saw him arguing that "[i]f there is one question which basically not only does not require revision but does not so much as admit the thought of revision, it is the question of the dictatorship of the Party." He stressed that "[o]ur party is the ruling party" and that "[t]o allow any changes whatever in this field" meant "bring[ing] into question all the achievements of the revolution and its future." He indicated the fate of those who did question the party's "leading role": "Whoever makes an attempt on the party's leading role will, I hope, be unanimously dumped by all of us on the other side of the barricade." [Leon Trotsky Speaks, p. 158 and p. 160]

By 1927, when Trotsky was in the process of being "dumped" on the "other side of the barricade" by the ruling bureaucracy, he still argued for Party dictatorship. The Platform of the Opposition includes "the Leninist principle, inviolable for every Bolshevik, that the dictatorship of the proletariat is and can be realised only through the dictatorship of the party." The document stresses the "dictatorship of the proletariat [sic!] demands as its very core a single proletarian party," that "the dictatorship of the proletariat demands a single and united proletarian party as the leader of the working masses and the poor peasantry."

Ten years later, he explicitly argued that the "revolutionary dictatorship of a proletarian party" was "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." This "dictatorship of a party" was essential and "we can not jump over this chapter" of human history. He stressed that the "revolutionary party (vanguard) which renounces its own dictatorship surrenders the masses to the counter-revolution" and argued that "the party dictatorship" could not be replaced by "the 'dictatorship' of the whole toiling people without any party." This was because the "level of political development among the masses" was not "high" enough as "capitalism does not permit the material and the moral development of the masses." [Trotsky, Writings 1936-37, pp. 513-4]

Thus, for Trotsky over a twenty year period, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was fundamentally a "dictatorship of the party." While the working class may be allowed some level of democracy, the rule of the party was repeatedly given precedence. While the party may be placed into power by a mass revolution, once there the party would maintain its position of power and dismiss attempts by the working class to replace it as "wavering" or "vacillation" due to the "insufficient cultural level of the masses and their heterogeneity." In other words, the party dictatorship was required to protect working class people from themselves, their tendency to change their minds based on debates between difference political ideas and positions, make their own decisions, reject what is in their best interests (as determined by the party), and so on. Thus the underlying rationale for democracy (namely that it reflects the changing will of the voters, their "passing moods" so to speak) is used to justify party dictatorship!

As noted in section H.1.2, Trotsky on this matter was simply following Lenin's led, who had admitted at the end of 1920 that while "the dictatorship of the proletariat" was "inevitable" in the "transition of socialism," it is "not exercised by an organisation which takes in all industrial workers." The reason, he states, "is given in the theses of the Second Congress of the Communist International on the role of political parties" (more on which later). This means that "the Party, shall we say, absorbs the vanguard of the proletariat, and this vanguard exercises the dictatorship of the proletariat." This was required because "in all capitalist countries . . . the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts." Therefore, it "can be exercised only by a vanguard." [Collected Works, vol. 32, p. 20 and p. 21] As we pointed out in section H.3.3, Lenin argued that "revolutionary coercion is bound to be employed towards the wavering and unstable elements among the masses themselves." [Op. Cit., vol. 42, p. 170] Needless to say, Lenin failed to mention this aspect of his system in The State and Revolution (a failure usually repeated by his followers). It is, however, a striking confirmation of Bakunin's comments "the State cannot be sure of its own self-preservation within an armed force to defend it against its own internal enemies, against the discontent of its own people." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 265]

Looking at the lessons leading leaders of Leninism gained from the experience of the Russian Revolution, we have to admit that the Leninist "workers' state" will not be, in fact, a "new" kind of state, a "semi-state," or, to quote Lenin, a "new state" which "is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word." If, as Lenin argued in early 1917, the state "in the proper sense of the term is domination over the people by contingents of armed men divorced from the people," then Bolshevism in power quickly saw the need for a state "in the proper sense." [Selected Works, vol. 2, p. 60] While this state "in the proper sense" had existed from the start of Bolshevik rule (see section H.4), it was only from 1919 onwards (at the latest) that the leaders of Bolshevism had openly brought what they said into line with what they did. It was only by being a "state in the proper sense" could the Bolshevik party rule and exercise "the dictatorship of the party" over the "wavering" working class.

So when Lenin states that "Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognises the need for a state for the purpose of the transition to socialism," anarchists agree. Insofar as "Marxism" aims for, to quote Lenin, the party to "take state power into [its] own hands," to become "the governing party" and considers one of its key tasks for "our Party to capture political power" and to "administer" a country, then we can safely say that the state needed is a state "in the proper sense," based on the centralisation and delegation of power into the hands of a few. [Op. Cit., p. 60, p. 589, p. 328 and p. 589]

This recreation of the state "in the proper sense" did not come about by chance or simply because of the "will to power" of the leaders of Bolshevism. Rather, there are strong institutional pressures at work within any state structure (even a "semi-state") to turn it back into a "proper" state. We discuss this in more detail in section H.3.9. However, we should not ignore that many of the roots of Bolshevik tyranny can be found in the contradictions of the Marxist theory of the state. As noted in the last section, for Engels, the seizure of power by the party meant that the working class was in power. The Leninist tradition builds on this confusion between party and class power. It is clear that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is, in fact, rule by the party. In Lenin's words:

"Engels speaks of a government that is required for the domination of a class . . . Applied to the proletariat, it consequently means a government that is required for the domination of the proletariat, i.e. the dictatorship of the proletariat for the effectuation of the socialist revolution." [Collected Works, vol. 8, p. 279]

The role of the working class in this state was also indicated, as "only a revolutionary dictatorship supported by the vast majority of the people can be at all durable." [Op. Cit., p. 291] In other words the "revolutionary government" has the power, not the working class in whose name it governs. In 1921 he made this explicit: "To govern you need an army of steeled revolutionary Communists. We have it, and it is called the Party." The "Party is the leader, the vanguard of the proletariat, which rules directly." For Lenin, as "long as we, the Party's Central Committee and the whole Party, continue to run things, that is govern we shall never -- we cannot -- dispense with . . . removals, transfers, appointments, dismissals, etc." [Op. Cit., vol. 32, p. 62, p. 98 and p. 99] So much for "workers' power," "socialism from below" and other such rhetoric.

This vision of "socialism" being rooted in party power over the working class was the basis of the Communist International's resolution of the role of the party. This resolution is, therefore, important and worth discussing.

It argues that the Communist Party "is part of the working class," namely its "most advanced, most class-conscious, and therefore most revolutionary part." It is "distinguished from the working class as a whole in that it grasps the whole historic path of the working class in its entirety and at every bend in that road endeavours to defend not the interests of individual groups or occupations but the interests of the working class as a whole." [Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress 1920, vol. 1, p. 191] However, in response it can be argued that this simply means the "interests of the party" as only it can understand what "the interests of the working class as a whole" actually are. Thus we have the possibility of the party substituting its will for that of the working class simply because of what Leninists term the "uneven development" of the working class. As Alan Carter argues, these "conceptions of revolutionary organisation maintain political and ideological domination by retaining supervisory roles and notions of privileged access to knowledge . . . the term 'class consciousness' is employed to facilitate such domination over the workers. It is not what the workers think, but what the party leaders think they ought to think that constitutes the revolutionary consciousness imputed to the workers." The ideological basis for a new class structure is created as the "Leninist revolutionary praxis . . . is carried forward to post-revolutionary institutions," [Marx: A Radical Critique, p. 175]

The resolution stresses that before the revolution, the party "will encompass . . . only a minority of the workers." Even after the "seizure of power," it will still "not be able to unite them all into its ranks organisationally." It is only after the "final defeat of the bourgeois order" will "all or almost all workers begin to join" it. Thus the party is a minority of the working class. The resolution then goes on to state that "[e]very class struggle is a political struggle. This struggle, which inevitably becomes transformed into civil war, has as its goal the conquest of political power. Political power cannot be seized, organised, and directed other than by some kind of political party." [Op. Cit., p. 192, p. 193] And as the party is a "part" of the working class which cannot "unite" all workers "into its ranks," this means that political power can only be "seized, organised, and directed" by a minority.

Thus we have minority rule, with the party (or more correctly its leaders) exercising political power. The idea that the party "must dissolve into the councils, that the councils can replace the Communist Party" is "fundamentally wrong and reactionary." This is because, to "enable the soviets to fulfil their historic tasks, there must . . . be a strong Communist Party, one that does not simply 'adapt' to the soviets but is able to make them renounce 'adaptation' to the bourgeoisie." [Op. Cit., p. 196] Thus rather than the workers' councils exercising power, their role is simply that of allowing the Communist Party to seize political party.

The underlying assumptions behind this resolution and its implications were clear by Zinoviev during his introductory speech to the congress meeting on the role of the party which finally agreed the resolution:

"Today, people like Kautsky come along and say that in Russia you do not have the dictatorship of the working class but the dictatorship of the party. They think this is a reproach against us. Not in the least! We have a dictatorship of the working class and that is precisely why we also have a dictatorship of the Communist Party. The dictatorship of the Communist Party is only a function, an attribute, an expression of the dictatorship of the working class . . . [T]he dictatorship of the proletariat is at the same time the dictatorship of the Communist Party." [Op. Cit., pp. 151-2]

Little wonder that Bertrand Russell, on his return from Lenin's Russia in 1920, wrote that "[f]riends of Russia here [in Britain] think of the dictatorship of the proletariat as merely a new form of representative government, in which only working men and women have votes, and the constituencies are partly occupational, not geographical. They think that 'proletariat' means 'proletariat,' but 'dictatorship' does not quote mean 'dictatorship.' This is the opposite of the truth. When a Russian Communist speak of a dictatorship, he means the word literally, but when he speaks of the proletariat, he means the word in a Pickwickian sense. He means the 'class-conscious' part of the proletariat, i.e. the Communist Party. He includes people by no means proletarian (such as Lenin and Tchicherin) who have the right opinions, and he excludes such wage-earners as have not the right opinions, whim he classifies as lackeys of the bourgeoisie." Significantly, Russell pointed, like Lenin, to the Comintern resolution on the role of the Communist Party. In addition, Russell notes the reason why this party dictatorship was required: "No conceivable system of free elections would give majorities to the Communists, either in the town or country." [The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism, pp. 26-27 and pp. 40-1]

Nor are followers of Bolshevism shy in repeating its elitist conclusions. Tony Cliff, for example, showed his lack of commitment to working class democracy when he opined that the "actual level of democracy, as well as centralism, [during a revolution] depends on three basic factors: 1. the strength of the proletariat; 2. the material and cultural legacy left to it by the old regime; and 3. the strength of capitalist resistance. The level of democracy feasible must be indirect proportion to the first two factors, and in inverse proportion to the third. The captain of an ocean liner can allow football to be played on his vessel; on a tiny raft in a stormy sea the level of tolerance is far lower." [Lenin, vol. 3, p. 179] That Cliff compares working class democracy to "football" says it all. Rather than seeing it as the core gain of a revolution, he relegates it to the level of a game, which may or may not be "tolerated"!

And need we speculate who the paternalistic "captain" in charge of the ship of the state would be would be? Replacing Cliff's revealing analogies we get the following: "The party in charge of a workers' state can allow democracy when the capitalist class is not resisting; when it is resisting strongly, the level of tolerance is far lower." So, democracy will be "tolerated" in the extremely unlikely situation that the capitalist class will not resist a revolution! That the party has no right to "tolerate" democracy or not is not even entertained by Cliff, its right to negate the basic rights of the working class is taken as a given. Clearly the key factor is that the party is in power. It may "tolerate" democracy, but ultimately his analogy shows that Bolshevism considers it as an added extra whose (lack of) existence in no way determines the nature of the "workers' state." Perhaps, therefore, we may add another "basic factor" to Cliff's three; namely "4. the strength of working class support for the party." The level of democracy feasible must be in direct proportion to this factor, as the Bolsheviks made clear. As long as the workers vote the party, then democracy is wonderful. If they do not, then their "wavering" and "passing moods" cannot be "tolerated" and democracy is replaced by the dictatorship of the party. Which is no democracy at all.

Obviously, then, if, as Engels argued, "an essential feature of the state is a public power distinct from the mass of the people" then the regime advocated by Bolshevism is not a "semi-state" but, in fact, a normal state. Trotsky and Lenin are equally clear that said state exists to ensure that the "mass of the people" do not participate in public power, which is exercised by a minority, the party (or, more correctly, the rulers of the party). One of the key aims of this new state is to repress the "backward" or "wavering" sections of the working class (although, by definition, all sections of the working class are "backward" in relation to the "vanguard"). Hence the need for a "public power distinct from the people" (as the suppression of the strike wave and Kronstadt in 1921 shows, elite troops are always needed to stop the army siding with their fellow workers). And as proven by Trotsky's comments after he was squeezed out of power, this perspective was not considered as a product of "exceptional circumstances." Rather it was considered a basic lesson of the revolution, a position which was applicable to all future revolutions. In this, Lenin and other leading Bolsheviks concurred.

The irony (and tragedy) of all this should not be lost. In his 1905 diatribe against anarchism, Stalin had denied that Marxists aimed for party dictatorship. He stressed that there was "a dictatorship of the minority, the dictatorship of a small group . . . which is directed against the people . . . Marxists are the enemies of such a dictatorship, and they fight such a dictatorship far more stubbornly and self-sacrificingly than do our noisy Anarchists." The practice of Bolshevism and the ideological revisions it generated easily refutes Stalin's claims. The practice of Bolshevism shows that his claims that "[a]t the head" of the "dictatorship of the proletarian majority . . . stand the masses" stand in sharp contradiction with Bolshevik support for "revolutionary" governments. Either you have (to use Stalin's expression) "the dictatorship of the streets, of the masses, a dictatorship directed against all oppressors" or you have party power in the name of the street, of the masses. The fundamental flaw in Leninism is that it confuses the two and so lays the group for the very result anarchists predicted and Stalin denied. [Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 371-2]

While anarchists are well aware of the need to defend a revolution (see section H.2.1), we do not make the mistake of equating this with a state. Ultimately, the state cannot be used as an instrument of liberation -- it is not designed for it. Which, incidentally, is why we have not discussed the impact of the Russian Civil War on the development of Bolshevik ideology. Simply put, the "workers' state" is proposed, by Leninists, as the means to defend a revolution. As such, you cannot blame what it is meant to be designed to withstand (counter-revolution and civil war) for its "degeneration." If the "workers' state" cannot handle what its advocates claim it exists for, then its time to look for an alternative and dump the concept in the dustbin of history. We discuss this further in sections H.4 and H.7.

In summary, Bolshevism is based on a substantial revision of the Marxist theory of the state. While Marx and Engels were at pains to stress the accountability of their new state to the population under it, Leninism has made a virtue of the fact that the state has evolved to exclude that mass participation in order to ensure minority rule. Leninism has done so explicitly to allow the party to overcome the "wavering" of the working class, the very class it claims is the "ruling class" under socialism! In doing this, the Leninist tradition exploited the confused nature of the state theory of traditional Marxism (see last section). The Leninist theory of the state is flawed simply because it is based on creating a "state in the proper sense of the word," with a public power distinct from the mass of the people. This was the major lesson gained by the leading Bolsheviks (including Lenin and Trotsky) and has its roots in the common Marxist error of confusing party power with working class power. So when Leninists point to Lenin's State and Revolution as the definitive Leninist theory of the state, anarchists simply point to the lessons Lenin himself gained from actually conducting a revolution. Once we do, the slippery slope to the Leninist solution to the contradictions inherit in the Marxist theory of the state can be seen, understood and combated.

H.3.9 Is the state simply an agent of economic power?

As we discussed in section H.3.7, the Marxist theory of the state confuses an empirical analysis of the state with a metaphysical one. While Engels is aware that the state developed to ensure minority class rule and, as befits its task, evolved specific characteristics to execute that role, he also raised the idea that the state ("as a rule") is "the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class" and "through the medium of the state, becomes also the politically dominant class." Thus the state can be considered, in essence, as "nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another." [Marx-Engels Selected Works, pp. 577-8 and p. 258]

The clear implication is that the state is simply an instrument, without special interests of its own. If this is the case, the use of a state by the proletariat is, therefore, unproblematic (and so the confusion between working class self-organisation and the state we have discussed in various sections above is irrelevant). This argument can lead to simplistic conclusions, such as once a "revolutionary" government is in power in a "workers state" we need not worry about abuses of power or even civil liberties (this position was commonplace in Bolshevik ranks during the Russian Civil War, for example). It also is at the heart of Trotsky's contortions with regards to Stalinism, refusing to see the state bureaucracy as a new ruling class simply because the state, by definition, could not play such a role.

For anarchists, this position is a fundamental weakness of Marxism, a sign that the mainstream Marxist position significantly misunderstands the nature of society and the needs of social revolution. However, we must stress that anarchists would agree that state generally does serve the interests of the economically dominant classes. Bakunin, for example, argued that the State "is authority, domination, and forced, organised by the property-owning and so-called enlightened classes against the masses." He saw the social revolution as destroying capitalism and the state at the same time, that is "to overturn the State's domination, and that of the privileged classes whom it solely represents." [The Basic Bakunin, p. 140]

However, anarchists do not reduce our analysis and understanding of the state to this simplistic Marxist level. While being well aware that the state is the means of ensuring the domination of an economic elite, anarchists recognise that the state machine also has interests of its own. The state, for anarchists, is the delegation of power into the hands of a few. This creates, by its very nature, a privileged position for those at the top of the hierarchy:

"A government [or state], that is a group of people entrusted with making the laws and empowered to use the collective force to oblige each individual to obey them, is already a privileged class and cut off from the people. As any constituted body would do, it will instinctively seek to extend its powers, to be beyond public control, to impose its own policies and to give priority to its special interests. Having been put in a privileged position, the government is already at odds with the people whose strength it disposes of." [Malatesta, Anarchy, p. 34]

Thus, while Malatesta was under no doubts that under capitalism the state was essentially "the bourgeoisie's servant and gendarme," it did not mean that it did not have interests of its own. As he put it, "the government, though springing from the bourgeoisie and its servant and protector, tends, as with every servant and protector, to achieve its own emancipation and to dominate whoever it protects." [Op. Cit., p. 20 and p. 22]

Why this would happen is not hard to discover. Given that the state is a highly centralised, top-down structure it is unsurprising that it develops around itself a privileged class, a bureaucracy, around it. The inequality in power implied by the state is a source of privilege and oppression independent of property and economic class. Those in charge of the state's institutions would aim to protect (and expand) their area of operation, ensuring that they select individuals who share their perspectives and who they can pass on their positions. By controlling the flow of information, of personnel and resources, the members of the state's higher circles can ensure its, and their own, survival and prosperity. As such, politicians who are elected are at a disadvantage. The state is the permanent collection of institutions that have entrenched power structures and interests. The politicians come and go while the power in the state lies in its institutions due to their permanence. It is to be expected that such institutions would have their own interests and would pursue them whenever they can.

This would not fundamentally change in a new "workers' state" if it is, like all states, based on the delegation and centralisation of power into a few hands. Any "workers' government" would need a new apparatus to enforce its laws and decrees. It would need effective means of gathering and collating information. It would thus create "an entirely new ladder of administration to extend it rule and make itself obeyed." While a social revolution needs mass participation, the state limits initiative to the few who are in power and "it will be impossible for one or even a number of individuals to elaborate the social forms" required, which "can only be the collective work of the masses . . . Any kind of external authority will merely be an obstacle, a hindrance to the organic work that has to be accomplished; it will be no better than a source of discord and of hatreds." [Kropotkin, Words of a Rebel, p. 169 and pp. 176-7]

Rather than "withering away," any "workers' state" would tend to grow in terms of administration and so the government creates around itself a class of bureaucrats whose position is different from the rest of society. This would apply to production as well. Being unable to manage everything, the state would have to re-introduce hierarchical management in order to ensure its orders are met and that a suitable surplus is extracted from the workers to feed the needs of the state machine. By creating an economically powerful class which it can rely on to discipline the workforce, it would simply recreate capitalism anew in the form of "state capitalism" (this is precisely what happened during the Russian Revolution). To enforce its will onto the people it claims to represent, specialised bodies of armed people (police, army) would be required and soon created. All of which is to be expected, as state socialism "entrusts to a few the management of social life and [so] leads to the exploitation and oppression of the masses by the few." [Malatesta, Op. Cit., p. 46]

This process does not happen instantly, it takes time. However, the tendency for government to escape from popular control and to generate privileged and powerful institutions around it can be seen in all revolutions, including the Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution. In the former, the Communal Council was "largely ignored . . . after it was installed. The insurrection, the actual management of the city's affairs and finally the fighting against the Versaillese, were undertaken mainly by popular clubs, the neighbourhood vigilance committees, and the battalions of the National Guard. Had the Paris Commune (the Municipal Council) survived, it is extremely doubtful that it could have avoided conflict with these loosely formed street and militia formations. Indeed, by the end of April, some six weeks after the insurrection, the Commune constituted an 'all-powerful' Committee of Public Safety, a body redolent with memories of the Jacobin dictatorship and the Terror , which suppressed not only the right in the Great [French] Revolution of a century earlier, but also the left." [Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism, pp. 148-9] A minority of council members (essentially those active in the International) stated that "the Paris Commune has surrendered its authority to a dictatorship" and it was "hiding behind a dictatorship that the electorate have not authorised us to accept or to recognise." [The Paris Commune of 1871: The View from the Left, Eugene Schulkind (ed.), p. 187] The Commune was crushed before this process could fully unfold, but the omens were there (although it would have undoubtedly been hindered by small-scale of the institutions involved). As we discuss in section H.4, a similar process of a "revolutionary" government escaping from popular control occurred right from the start of the Russian Revolution. The fact the Bolshevik regime lasted longer and was more centralised (and covered a larger area) ensured that this process developed fully, with the "revolutionary" government creating around itself the institutions (the bureaucracy) which finally subjected the politicians and party leaders to its influence and then domination.

Simply put, the vision of the state as merely an instrument of class rule blinds its supporters to the dangers of political inequality in terms of power, the dangers inherent in giving a small group of people power over everyone else. The state has certain properties because it is a state and one of these is that it creates a bureaucratic class around it due to its centralised, hierarchical nature. Within capitalism, the state bureaucracy is (generally) under the control of the capitalist class. However, to generalise from this specific case is wrong as the state bureaucracy is a class in itself -- and so trying to abolish classes without abolishing the state is doomed to failure:

"The State has always been the patrimony of some privileged class: the sacerdotal class, the nobility, the bourgeoisie -- and finally, when all the other classes have exhausted themselves, the class of the bureaucracy enters upon the stage and then the State falls, or rises, if you please to the position of a machine." [Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 208]

Thus the state cannot simply be considered as an instrument of rule by economic classes. It can be quite an effective parasitical force in its own right, as both anthropological and historical evidence suggest. The former raises the possibility that the state arose before the classes and that its roots are in inequalities in power (i.e. hierarchy) within society, not inequalities of wealth. The latter points to examples of societies in which the state was not, in fact, an instrument of (economic) class rule but rather pursued an interest of its own.

As regards anthropology, Michael Taylor summarises that the "evidence does not give [the Marxist] proposition [that the rise in classes caused the creation of the state] a great deal of support. Much of the evidence which has been offered in support of it shows only that the primary states, not long after their emergence, were economically stratified. But this is of course consistent also with the simultaneous rise . . . of political and economic stratification, or with the prior development of the state -- i.e. of political stratification -- and the creation of economic stratification by the ruling class." [Community, Anarchy and Liberty, p. 132] He quotes Elman Service on this:

"In all of the archaic civilisations and historically known chiefdoms and primitive states the 'stratification' was . . . mainly of two classes, the governors and the governed -- political strata, not strata of ownership groups." [quoted by Taylor, Op. Cit., p. 133]

Talyor argues that it the "weakening of community and the development of gross inequalities are the concomitants and consequences of state formation." He points to the "germ of state formation" being in the informal social hierarchies which exist in tribal societies. [Op. Cit., p. 133 and p. 134] Thus the state is not, initially, a product of economic classes but rather an independent development based on inequalities of social power. Harold Barclay, an anarchist who has studied anthropological evidence on this matter, concurs:

"In Marxist theory power derives primarily, if not exclusively, from control of the means of production and distribution of wealth, that is, from economic factors. Yet, it is evident that power derived from knowledge -- and usually 'religious' style knowledge -- is often highly significant, at least in the social dynamics of small societies. . . Economic factors are hardly the only source of power. Indeed, we see this in modern society as well, where the capitalist owner does not wield total power. Rather technicians and other specialists command it as well, not because of their economic wealth, but because of their knowledge." [quoted by Alan Carter, Marx: A Radical Critique, p. 191]

If, as Bookchin summarises, "hierarchies precede classes" then trying to use a hierarchical structure like the state to abolish them is simply wishful thinking.

As regards more recent human history, there have been numerous examples of the state existing without being an instrument of class rule. Rather, the state was the "ruling class." While the most obvious example is the Stalinist regimes where the state bureaucracy ruled over a state capitalist regime, there have been plenty of others, as Murray Bookchin points out:

"Each State is not necessarily an institutionalised system of violence in the interests of a specific ruling class, as Marxism would have us believe. There are many examples of States that were the 'ruling class' and whose own interests existed quite apart from -- even in antagonism to -- privileged, presumably 'ruling' classes in a given society. The ancient world bears witness to distinctly capitalistic classes, often highly privileged and exploitative, that were bilked by the State, circumscribed by it, and ultimately devoured by it -- which is in part why a capitalist society never emerged out of the ancient world. Nor did the State 'represent' other class interests, such as landed nobles, merchants, craftsmen, and the like. The Ptolemaic State in Hellenistic Egypt was an interest in its own right and 'represented' no other interest than its own. The same is true of the Aztec and the Inca States until they were replaced by Spanish invaders. Under the Emperor Domitian, the Roman State became the principal 'interest' in the empire, superseding the interests of even the landed aristocracy which held such primacy in Mediterranean society. . .

"Near-Eastern State, like the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian, were virtually extended households of individual monarchs . . . Pharaohs, kings, and emperors nominally held the land (often co-jointly with the priesthood) in the trust of the deities, who were either embodied in the monarch or were represented by him. The empires of Asian and North African kings were 'households' and the population was seen as 'servants of the palace' . . .

"These 'states,' in effect, were not simply engines of exploitation or control in the interests of a privileged 'class.' . . . The Egyptian State was very real but it 'represented' nothing other than itself." [Remaking Society, pp. 67-8]

Bakunin pointed to Turkish Serbia, where economically dominant classes "do not even exist -- there is only a bureaucratic class. Thus, the Serbian state will crush the Serbian people for the sole purpose of enabling Serbian bureaucrats to live a fatter life." [Statism and Anarchy, p. 54] Leninist Tony Cliff, in his attempt to prove that Stalinist Russia was state capitalist and its bureaucracy a ruling class, pointed to various societies in which "had deep class differentiation, based not on private property but on state property. Such systems existed in Pharaonic Egypt, Moslem Egypt, Iraq, Persia and India." He discusses the example of Arab feudalism in more detail, where "the feudal lord had no permanent domain of his own, but a member of a class which collectively controlled the land and had the right to appropriate rent." This was "ownership of the land by the state" rather than by individuals. [State Capitalism in Russia, pp. 316-8] As such, the idea that the state is simply an instrument of class rule seems unsupportable. As Gaston Leval argued, "the State, by its nature, tends to have a life of its own." [quoted by Sam Dolgoff, A Critique of Marxism, p. 10]

Alan Carter summarises the obvious conclusion:

"By focusing too much attention on the economic structure of society and insufficient attention on the problems of political power, Marx has left a legacy we would done better not to inherit. The perceived need for authoritarian and centralised revolutionary organisation is sanctioned by Marx's theory because his theoretical subordination of political power to economic classes apparently renders post-revolutionary political power unproblematic." [Marx: A Radical Critique, p. 231]

Given this blindness of orthodox Marxism to this issue, it seems ironic that one of the people responsible for it also provides anarchists with evidence to back up our argument that the state is not simply an instrument of class role but rather has interests of its own. Thus we find Engels arguing that proletariat, "in order not to lose again its only just conquered supremacy," would have "to safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment." [Marx-Engels Selected Works, p. 257] Yet, if the state was simply an instrument of class rule such precautions would not be necessary. As such, this shows an awareness that the state can have interests of its own, that it is not simply an machine of class rule.

Aware of the obvious contradiction, he argues that the state "is, as a rule, the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class which, through the medium of the state, becomes the politically dominant class . . . By way of exception, however, periods occur in which the warring classes balance each other, so nearly that the state power, as ostensible mediator, acquires, for the moment, a certain degree of independence of both." And points to "the Bonapartism of the First, and still more of the Second French Empire." [Op. Cit., pp. 577-8] But if the state can become "independent" of economic classes, then that implies that it is no mere machine, no mere "instrument" of class rule. It implies the anarchist argument that the state has interests of its own, generated by its essential features and so, therefore, cannot be used by a majority class as part of its struggle for liberation is correct. Simply put, Anarchists have long "realised -- feared -- that any State structure, whether or not socialist or based on universal suffrage, has a certain independence from society, and so may serve the interests of those within State institutions rather than the people as a whole or the proletariat." [Brian Morris, Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom, p. 134]

Ironically, arguments and warnings about the "independence" of the state by Marxists imply that the state has interests of its own and cannot be considered simply as an instrument of class rule. Rather, it suggests that the anarchist analysis of the state is correct, namely that any structure based on delegated power, centralisation and hierarchy must, inevitably, have a privileged class in charge of it, a class whose position enables it to not only exploit and oppress the rest of society but also to effectively escape from popular control and accountability. This is no accident. The state is structured to enforce minority rule and exclude the majority.

H.3.10 Has Marxism always supported the idea of workers' councils?

One of the most widespread myths associated with Marxism is the idea that Marxism has consistently aimed to smash the current (bourgeois) state and replace it by a "workers' state" based on working class organisations created during a revolution.

This myth is sometimes expressed by those who should know better (i.e. Marxists). According to John Rees (of the British Socialist Workers Party) it has been a "cornerstone of revolutionary theory" that "the soviet is a superior form of democracy because it unifies political and economic power." This "cornerstone" has, apparently, existed "since Marx's writings on the Paris Commune." ["In Defence of October," International Socialism, no. 52, p. 25] In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, as Marx's writings on the Paris Commune prove beyond doubt.

The Paris Commune, as Marx himself noted, was "formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town." ["The Civil War in France", Selected Works, p. 287] As Marx made clear, it was definitely not based on delegates from workplaces and so could not unify political and economic power. Indeed, to state that the Paris Commune was a soviet is simply a joke, as is the claim that Marxists supported soviets as revolutionary organs to smash and replace the state from 1871. In fact Marxists did not subscribe to this "cornerstone of revolutionary theory" until 1917 when Lenin argued that the Soviets would be the best means of ensuring a Bolshevik government. Which explains why Lenin's use of the slogan "All Power to the Soviets" and call for the destruction of the bourgeois state came as such a shock to his fellow Marxists. Unsurprisingly, given the long legacy of anarchist calls to smash the state and their vision of a socialist society built from below by workers councils, many Marxists called Lenin an anarchist! Therefore, the idea that Marxists have always supported workers councils' is untrue and any attempt to push this support back to 1871 simply a farcical.

Before 1917, when Lenin claimed to have discovered what had eluded all the previous followers of Marx and Engels (including himself!), it was only anarchists (or those close to them such as the Russian SR-Maximalists) who argued that the future socialist society would be structurally based around the organs working class people themselves created in the process of the class struggle and revolution (see sections H.1.4 and I.2.3). To re-quote Bakunin:

"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." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, pp. 170-2]

So, ironically, the idea of the superiority of workers' councils has existed from around the time of the Paris Commune, but in only in Bakunin's writings and others in the libertarian wing of the First International!

Not all Marxists are as ignorant of their political tradition as Rees. As his fellow party member Chris Harman recognised, "[e]ven the 1905 [Russian] revolution gave only the most embryonic expression of how a workers' state would in fact be organised. The fundamental forms of workers' power -- the soviets (workers' councils) -- were not recognised." It was "[n]ot until the February revolution [of 1917 that] soviets became central in Lenin's writings and thought." [Party and Class, p. 18 and p. 19]

Before continuing it should be noted that Harman's summary is correct only if we are talking about the Marxist movement. Looking at the wider revolutionary movement, two groups definitely "recognised" the importance of the soviets as a form of working class power. These were the anarchists and the Social-Revolutionary Maximalists, both of whom "espoused views that corresponded almost word for word with Lenin's April 1917 program of 'All power to the soviets.'" The "aims of the revolutionary far left in 1905 . . . Lenin combined in his call for soviet power [in 1917], when he apparently assimilated the anarchist program to secure the support of the masses for the Bolsheviks." [Oskar Anweiler, The Soviets, p. 94 and p. 96] Unsurprisingly, both the anarchists and Maximalists were extremely influential in that paradigm of soviet power and democracy, the Kronstadt commune (see section H.5 for more details).

Thus, in anarchist circles, the soviets were must definitely "recognised" as the practical confirmation of anarchist ideas of working class self-organisation as being the framework of a socialist society. For example, the syndicalists "regarded the soviets . . . as admirable versions of the bourses du travail, but with a revolutionary function added to suit Russian conditions. Open to all leftist workers regardless of specific political affiliation, the soviets were to act as nonpartisan labour councils improvised 'from below' . . . with the aim of bringing down the old regime." The anarchists of Khleb i Volia "also likened the 1905 Petersburg Soviet -- as a nonparty mass organisation -- to the central committee of the Paris Commune of 1871." [Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, pp. 80-1] Kropotkin argued that anarchists should take part in the soviets as long as they "are organs of the struggle against the bourgeoisie and the state, and not organs of authority." [quoted by Graham Purchase, Evolution and Revolution, p. 30]

So, if Marxists did not support workers' councils until 1917, what did Marxists argue should be the framework of a socialist society before this date? To discover this, we must look to Marx and Engels. Once we do, we discover that their works suggest that their vision of socialist transformation was fundamentally based on the bourgeois state, suitably modified and democratised to achieve this task. As such, rather than present the true account of the Marxist theory of the state Lenin interpreted various inexact and ambiguous statements by Marx and Engels (particularly from Marx's defence of the Paris Commune) to justify his own actions in 1917. Whether his 1917 revision of Marxism in favour of workers' councils as the framework of socialism is in keeping with the spirit of Marx is another matter of course. Given that libertarian Marxists (like the council communists) embraced the idea of workers' councils and broke with the Bolsheviks over the issue of whether the councils or the party had power, we can say that perhaps it is not. In this, they express the best in Marx. When faced with the Paris Commune and its libertarian influences he embraced it, distancing himself (for a while at least) with many of his previous ideas.

So what was the original (orthodox) Marxist position? It can be seen from Lenin who, as late December 1916 argued that "Socialists are in favour of utilising the present state and its institutions in the struggle for the emancipation of the working class, maintaining also that the state should be used for a specific form of transition from capitalism to socialism." Lenin attacked Bukharin for "erroneously ascribing this [the anarchist] view to the socialist" when he had stated socialists wanted to "abolish" the state or "blow it up." He called this "transitional form" the dictatorship of the proletariat, "which is also a state." [Collected Works, vol. 23, p. 165] In other words, the socialist party would aim to seize power within the existing state and, after making suitable modifications to it, use it to create socialism. This conquest of state power would be achieved either by insurrection or by the ballot box, the latter being used for political education and struggle under capitalism.

That this position was the orthodox one is hardly surprising, given the actual comments of both Marx and Engels. For example, Engels argued in 1886 while he and Marx saw "the gradual dissolution and ultimate disappearance of that political organisation called the State" as "one of the final results of the future revolution," they "at the same time . . . have always held that . . . the proletarian class will first have to possess itself of the organised political force of the State and with its aid stamp out the resistance of the Capitalist class and re-organise society." The idea that the proletariat needs to "possess" the existing state is made clear when he argues while the anarchists "reverse the matter" by arguing that the revolution "has to begin by abolishing the political organisation of the State," for Marxists "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 be to destroy the only organism by means of which the working class can exert its newly conquered power." [Collected Works, vol. 47, p. 10]

Obviously the only institution which the working class "finds ready-made for use" is the bourgeois state, although, as Engels stresses, it "may require adaptation." This schema is repeated five years later, in Engels introduction to Marx's "The Civil War in France." Arguing that the state "is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another" he notes that it is "at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the victorious proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at once as much as possible." [Marx-Engels Selected Works, p. 258] Simply put, if the proletariat creates a new state system to replace the bourgeois one, then how can it be "an evil inherited" by it? If, as Lenin argued, Marx and Engels thought that the working class had to smash the bourgeois state and replace it with a new one, why would it have "to lop off at once as much as possible" from the state it had just "inherited"?

In the same year, Engels repeats this argument in his critique of the draft of the Erfurt program of the German Social Democrats:

"If one thing is certain it is that our Party and the working class can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic. This is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat, as the Great French Revolution has already shown." [quoted by David W. Lovell, From Marx to Lenin, p. 81]

Clearly Engels does not speak of a "commune-republic" or anything close to a soviet republic, as expressed in Bakunin's work or the libertarian wing of the First International with their ideas of a "trade-union republic" or a free federation of workers' associations. Clearly and explicitly he speaks of the democratic republic, the current state ("an evil inherited by the proletariat") which is to be seized and transformed as in the Paris Commune. Unsurprisingly, when Lenin comes to quote this passage in State and Revolution he immediately tries to obscure its meaning. "Engels," he says, "repeats here in a particularly striking manner the fundamental idea which runs like a red thread through all of Marx's work, namely, that the democratic republic is the nearest approach to the dictatorship of the proletariat." [Essential Works of Lenin, p. 324] However, clearly Engels does not speak of the political form which "is the nearest approach" to the dictatorship, rather he speaks only of "the specific form" of the dictatorship, the "only" form in which "our Party" can come to power.

This explains Engels 1887 comments that in the USA the workers "next step towards their deliverance" was "the formation of a political workingmen's party, with a platform of its own, and the conquest of the Capitol and the White House for its goal." This new party "like all political parties everywhere . . . aspires to the conquest of political power." Engels then discusses the "electoral battle" going on in America. [Marx & Engels, Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, pp. 527-8 and p. 529] Six years previously he had argued along the same lines as regards England, "where the industrial and agricultural working class forms the immense majority of the people, democracy means the dominion of the working class, neither more nor less. Let, then, that working class prepare itself for the task in store for it -- the ruling of this great Empire . . . And the best way to do this is to use the power already in their hands, the actual majority they possess . . . to send to Parliament men of their own order." In case this was not clear enough, he lamented that "[e]verywhere the labourer struggles for political power, for direct representation of his class in the legislature -- everywhere but in Great Britain." [Collected Works, vol. 24, p. 405]

All of which, of course, fits into Marx's account of the Paris Commune. In that work he stresses that the Commune was formed by elections, by universal suffrage in a democratic republic. Once voted into office, the Commune then smashes the state machine inherited by it from the old state, recognising that "the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes." The "first decree of the Commune . . . was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people." Thus the Commune lops off one of the "ubiquitous organs" associated with the "centralised State power" once it had inherited the state via elections. [Marx-Engels Selected Works, p. 285, p. 287 and p. 285]

It is, of course true, that Marx expresses in his defence of the Commune the opinion that new "Communal Constitution" was to become a "reality by the destruction of the State power" yet he immediately argues that "the merely repressive organs of the old government power were to be amputated" and "its legitimate functions were to be wrestles from" it and "restored to the responsible agents of society." [Op. Cit., pp. 288-9] This corresponds to Engels arguments about removing aspects from the state inherited by the proletariat and signifies the "destruction" of the state machinery (its bureaucratic-military aspects) rather than the state itself.

The source of Lenin's restatement of the Marxist theory of the state which came as such a shock to so many Marxists can be found in the nature of the Paris Commune. After all, the major influence in terms of "political vision" of the Commune was anarchism. The "rough sketch of national organisation which the Commune had no time to develop" which Marx praises but does not quote was written by a follower of Proudhon. [Marx, Op. Cit., p. 288] It expounded a clearly federalist and "bottom-up" organisational structure. It clearly implied "the destruction of the State power" rather than seeking to "inherit" it. Based on this libertarian revolt, it is unsurprising that Marx's defence of it took on a libertarian twist. As noted by Bakunin, who argues that its "general effect was so striking that the Marxists themselves, who saw their ideas upset by the uprising, found themselves compelled to take their hats off to it. They went further, and proclaimed that its programme and purpose where their own, in face of the simplest logic . . . This was a truly farcical change of costume, but they were bound to make it, for fear of being overtaken and left behind in the wave of feeling which the rising produced throughout the world." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. 261]

This opinion was shared by almost all Marxists before 1917 (including Lenin). As Franz Mehring (considered by many as the best student and commentator of Marx in pre-world war social democracy and a extreme left-winger) argued, the "opinions of The Communist Manifesto could not be reconciled with the praise lavished . . . on the Paris Commune for the vigorous fashion in which it had begun to exterminate the parasitic State." He notes that "both Marx and Engels were well aware of the contradiction" and in the June 1872 preface to their work "they revised their opinions . . . declaring that the workers could not simply lay hold of the ready-made State machinery and wield it for their own purposes. At a later date, and after the death of Marx, Engels was compelled to engage in a struggle against the anarchist tendencies in the working-class movement, and he let this proviso drop and once again took his stand on the basis of the Manifesto." [Karl Marx, p. 453]

The fact that Marx did not mention anything about abolishing the existing state and replacing it with a new one in his contribution to the "Program of the French Workers Party" in 1880 is significant. It said that the that "collective appropriation" of the means of production "can only proceed from a revolutionary action of the class of producers -- the proletariat -- organised in an independent political party." This would be "pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal including universal suffrage which will thus be transformed from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation." [Collected Works, vol. 24, p. 340] There is nothing about overthrowing the existing state and replacing it with a new state, rather the obvious conclusion which is to be drawn is that universal suffrage was the tool by which the workers would achieve socialism. It does fit in, however, with Marx's comments in 1852 that "Universal Suffrage is the equivalent of political power for the working class of England, where the proletariat forms the large majority of the population . . . Its inevitable result, here, is the political supremacy of the working class." [Op. Cit., vol. 11, pp. 335-6] Or, indeed, Engels similar comments from 1881 quoted above.

It is for this reason that orthodox Marxism up until 1917 held the position that the socialist revolution would be commenced by seizing the existing state (usually by the ballot box, or by insurrection if that was impossible). Martov, the leading left-Menshevik, in his discussion of Lenin's "discovery" of the "real" Marxist theory on the state (in State and Revolution) stresses that the idea that the state should be smashed by the workers who would then "transplant into the structure of society the forms of their own combat organisations" was a libertarian idea, alien to Marx and Engels. While acknowledging that "in our time, working people take to 'the idea of the soviets' after knowing them as combat organisations formed in the process of the class struggle at a sharp revolutionary stage," he distances Marx and Engels quite successfully from such a position. As such, he makes a valid contribution to Marxism and presents a necessary counter-argument to Lenin's claims in State and Revolution (at which point, we are sure, nine out of ten Leninists will dismiss our argument!). [The State and Socialist Revolution, p. 42]

All this may seem a bit academic to many. Does it matter? After all, most Marxists today subscribe to some variation of Lenin's position and so, in some aspects, what Marx and Engels really thought is irrelevant. Indeed, it is likely that Marx, faced with workers' councils as he was with the Commune, would have embraced them (perhaps not, as he was dismissive of similar ideas expressed in the libertarian wing of the First International). What is important is that the idea that Marxists have always subscribed to the idea that a social revolution would be based on the workers' own combat organisations (be they unions, soviets or whatever) is a relatively new one to the ideology. While Bakunin and other anarchists argued for such a revolution, Marx and Engels did not. Given this, the shock which met Lenin's arguments in 1917 can be easily understood.

Rather than being rooted in the Marxist vision of revolution, as it has been in anarchism since the 1860s, workers councils have played, rhetoric aside, the role of fig-leaf for party power (libertarian Marxism being a notable exception). They have been embraced by its Leninist wing purely as a means of ensuring party power. Rather than being seen as the most important gain of a revolution as they allow mass participation, workers' councils have been seen, and used, simply as a means by which the party can seize power. Once this is achieved, the soviets can be marginalised and ignored without affecting the "proletarian" nature of the revolution in the eyes of the party:

"while it is true that Lenin recognised the different functions and democratic raison d'etre for both the soviets and his party, in the last analysis it was the party that was more important than the soviets. In other words, the party was the final repository of working-class sovereignty. Thus, Lenin did not seem to have been reflected on or have been particularly perturbed by the decline of the soviets after 1918." [Samuel Farber, Before Stalinism, p. 212]

This perspective can be traced back to the lack of interest Marx and Engels expressed in the forms which a proletarian revolution would take, as exemplified by Engels comments on having to "lop off" aspects of the state "inherited" by the working class. The idea that the organisations people create in their struggle for freedom may help determine the outcome of the revolution is missing. Rather, the idea that any structure can be appropriated and (after suitable modification) used to rebuild society is clear. This perspective cannot help take emphasis away from the mass working class organisations required to rebuild society in a socialist manner and place it on the group who will "inherit" the state and "lop off" its negative aspects, namely the party and the leaders in charge of both it and the new "workers' state."

This focus towards the party became, under Lenin (and the Bolsheviks in general) a purely instrumental perspective on workers' councils and other organisations. They were of use purely in so far as they allowed the Bolshevik party to take power (indeed Lenin constantly identified workers' power and soviet power with Bolshevik power and as Martin Buber noted, for Lenin "All power to the Soviets!" meant, at bottom, "All power to the Party through the Soviets!"). It can, therefore, be argued that his book State and Revolution was a means to use Marx and Engels to support his new found idea of the soviets as being the basis of creating a Bolshevik government rather than a principled defence of workers' councils as the framework of a socialist revolution. We discuss this issue in the next section.

H.3.11 Does Marxism aim to place power into the hands of workers organisations?

The short answer depends on which branch of Marxism you mean.

If you are talking about libertarian Marxists such as council communists, Situationists and so on, then the answer is a resounding "yes." Like anarchists, these Marxists see a social revolution as being based on working class self-management and, indeed, criticised (and broke with) Bolshevism precisely on this question (as can be seen from Lenin's comments in Left-wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder on the question of class or party dictatorship). However, if we look at the mainstream Marxist tradition (namely Bolshevism), the answer has to be an empathic "no."

As we noted in section H.1.4, anarchists have long argued that the organisations created by the working class in struggle would be the initial framework of a free society. These organs, created to resist capitalism and the state, would be the means to overthrow both as well as extending and defending the revolution (such bodies have included the "soviets" and "factory committees" of the Russian Revolution, the collectives in the Spanish revolution, popular assemblies as in the current Argentine revolt and the French Revolution, revolutionary unions and so on). Thus working class self-management is at the core of the anarchist vision and so we stress the importance (and autonomy) of working class organisations in the revolutionary movement and the revolution itself. Anarchists work within such bodies at the base, in the mass assemblies, and do not seek to replace their power with that of their own organisation (see section J.3.6).

Leninists, in contrast, have a different perspective on such bodies. Rather than placing them at the heart of the revolution, Leninism views them purely in instrumental terms -- namely, as a means of achieving party power. Writing in 1907, Lenin argued that "Social-Democratic Party organisations may, in case of necessity, participate in inter-party Soviets of Workers' Delegates . . . and in congresses . . . of these organisations, and may organise such institutions, provided this is done on strict Party lines for the purpose of developing and strengthening the Social-Democratic Labour Party." The party would "utilise" such organs "for the purpose of developing the Social-Democratic movement." Significantly, given the fate of the soviets post-1917, Lenin notes that the party "must bear in mind that if Social-Democratic activities among the proletarian masses are properly, effectively and widely organised, such institutions may actually become superfluous." [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 210] Thus the means by which working class can manage their own affairs would become "superfluous" once the party was in power. How the working class could be considered the "ruling class" in such a society is hard to understand.

As Oscar Anweiler summarises in his account of the soviets during the two Russian Revolutions:

"The drawback of the new 'soviet democracy' hailed by Lenin in 1906 is that he could envisage the soviets only as controlled organisations; for him they were instruments by which the party controlled the working masses, rather than true forms of a workers democracy. The basic contradiction of the Bolshevik soviet system -- which purports to be a democracy of all working people but in reality recognises only the rule of one party -- is already contained in Lenin's interpretation of the soviets during the first Russian revolution." [The Soviets, p. 85]

Thirteen years later, Lenin repeated this same vision of party power as the goal of revolution. In his infamous diatribe against "Left-wing" Communism (i.e. those Marxists close to anarchism), Lenin 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." He stressed that "to 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 and p. 27] As we noted in section H.1.2, the Bolsheviks had this stage explicitly argued for party dictatorship and considered it a truism that (to re-quote Lenin) "an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot direct exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard . . . the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised by a mass proletarian organisation." [Collected Works, vol. 32, p. 21]

Therefore, rather than seeing revolution being based upon the empowerment of working class organisation and the socialist society being based on this, Leninists see workers oorganisations in purely instrumental terms as the means of achieving a Leninist government:

"With all the idealised glorification of the soviets as a new, higher, and more democratic type of state, Lenin's principal aim was revolutionary-strategic rather than social-structural . . . The slogan of the soviets was primarily tactical in nature; the soviets were in theory organs of mass democracy, but in practice tools for the Bolshevik Party. In 1917 Lenin outlined his transitional utopia without naming the definitive factor: the party. To understand the soviets' true place in Bolshevism, it is not enough, therefore, to accept the idealised picture in Lenin's state theory. Only an examination of the actual give-and-take between Bolsheviks and soviets during the revolution allows a correct understanding of their relationship." [Oscar Anweiler, Op. Cit., pp. 160-1]

Simply out, Leninism confuses the party power and workers' power. An example of this "confusion" can be found in most Leninist works. For example, John Rees argues that "the essence of the Bolsheviks' strategy . . . was to take power from the Provisional government and put it in the hands of popular organs of working class power -- a point later made explicit by Trotsky in his Lessons of October." ["In Defence of October," International Socialism, no. 52, p. 73] However, in reality, as noted in section H.3.3, Lenin had always been clear that the essence of the Bolsheviks' strategy was the taking of power by the Bolshevik party itself. He explicitly argued for Bolshevik power during 1917, considering the soviets as the best means of achieving this. He constantly equated Bolshevik rule with working class rule. Once in power, this identification did not change. As such, rather than argue for power to be placed into "the hands of popular organs of working class power" Lenin argued this only insofar as he was sure that these organs would then immediately pass that power into the hands of a Bolshevik government.

This explains his turn against the soviets after July 1917 when he considered it impossible for the Bolsheviks to gain a majority in them. It can be seen when the Bolshevik party's Central Committee opposed the idea of a coalition government immediately after the overthrow of the Provisional Government in October 1917. As it explained, "a purely Bolshevik government" was "impossible to refuse" since "a majority at the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets . . . handed power over to this government." [quoted by Robert V. Daniels, A Documentary History of Communism, pp. 127-8] A mere ten days after the October Revolution the Left Social Revolutionaries charged that the Bolshevik government was ignoring the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, established by the second Congress of Soviets as the supreme organ in society. Lenin dismissed their charges, stating that "the new power could not take into account, in its activity, all the rigmarole which would set it on the road of the meticulous observation of all the formalities." [quoted by Frederick I. Kaplan, Bolshevik Ideology and the Ethics of Soviet Labour, p. 124] Clearly, the soviets did not have "All Power," they promptly handed it over to a Bolshevik government (and Lenin implies that he was not bound in any way to the supreme organ of the soviets in whose name he ruled). All of which places Rees' assertions into the proper context and shows that the slogan "All Power to the Soviets" is used by Leninists in a radically different way than most people would understand by it! It also explains why soviets were disbanded if the opposition won majorities in them in early 1918:

"Menshevik newspapers and activists in the trade unions, the Soviets, and the factories had made a considerable impact on a working class which was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Bolshevik regime, so much so that in many places the Bolsheviks felt constrained to dissolve Soviets or prevent re-elections where Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries had gained majorities." [Israel Getzler, Martov, p. 179]

Thus the Bolsheviks expelled the Mensheviks in the context of political loses before the Civil War. The Civil War gave the Bolsheviks an excuse and they "drove them underground, just on the eve of the elections to the Fifth Congress of Soviets in which the Mensheviks were expected to make significant gains" and while the Bolsheviks "offered some formidable fictions to justify the expulsions" there was "of course no substance in the charge that the Mensheviks had been mixed in counter-revolutionary activities on the Don, in the Urals, in Siberia, with the Czechoslovaks, or that they had joined the worst Black Hundreds." [Getzler, Op. Cit., p. 181]

While we will discuss this in more detail in section H.4, we can state here that the facts are that the Bolsheviks only supported "Soviet power" when the soviets were Bolshevik. As recognised by Martov, who argued that the Bolsheviks loved Soviets only when they were "in the hands of the Bolshevik party." [quoted by Getzler, Op. Cit., p. 174] Which, perhaps, explains Lenin's comment that "[o]nly the development of this [the First World] war can bring us to power but we must speak of this as little as possible in our agitation (remembering very well that even tomorrow events may put us in power and then we will not let it go)." [quoted by Neil Harding, Leninism, p. 253]

All this can be confirmed, unsurprisingly enough, by looking at the essay Rees references. When studying Trotsky's Lessons of October we find the same instrumentalist approach to the question of the "popular organs of working class power." This is stated quite clearly by Trotsky in his essay when he argued that the "essential aspect" of Bolshevism was the "training, tempering, and organisation of the proletarian vanguard as enables the latter to seize power, arms in hand." As such, the vanguard seizes power, not "popular organs of working class power." Indeed, the idea that the working class can seize power itself is raised and dismissed:

"But the events have proved that without a party capable of directing the proletarian revolution, the revolution itself is rendered impossible. The proletariat cannot seize power by a spontaneous uprising . . . there is nothing else that can serve the proletariat as a substitute for its own party."

Hence "popular organs of working class power" are not considered as the "essence" of Bolshevism, rather the "fundamental instrument of proletarian revolution is the party." Popular organs are seen purely in instrumental terms, always discussing such organs of "workers' power" in terms of the strategy and program of the party, not in terms of the value that such organs have as forms of working class self-management of society.

This can be clearly seen from Trotsky's discussion of the "October Revolution" of 1917 in Lessons of October. Commenting on the Bolshevik Party conference of April 1917, he states that the "whole of . . . [the] Conference was devoted to the following fundamental question: Are we heading toward the conquest of power in the name of the socialist revolution or are we helping (anybody and everybody) to complete the democratic revolution? . . . Lenin's position was this: . . . the capture of the soviet majority; the overthrow of the Provisional Government; the seizure of power through the soviets." Note, through the soviets not by the soviets, thus indicating the fact the Party would hold the real power, not the soviets of workers' delegates. This is confirmed when Trotsky states that "to prepare the insurrection and to carry it out under cover of preparing for the Second Soviet Congress and under the slogan of defending it, was of inestimable advantage to us" and that it was "one thing to prepare an armed insurrection under the naked slogan of the seizure of power by the party, and quite another thing to prepare and then carry out an insurrection under the slogan of defending the rights of the Congress of Soviets." The Soviet Congress just provided "the legal cover" for the Bolshevik plans rather than a desire to see the Soviets actually start managing society. [The Lessons of October]

Thus we have the "seizure of power through the soviets" with "an armed insurrection under the naked slogan of the seizure of power by the party" being hidden by "the slogan" ("the legal cover") of defending the Soviets! Hardly a case of placing power in the hands of working class organisations. Trotsky does note that in 1917 the "soviets had to either disappear entirely or take real power into their hands." However, he immediately adds that "they could take power . . . only as the dictatorship of the proletariat directed by a single party." Clearly, the "single party" has the real power, not the soviets. Unsurprisingly, in practice, the rule of "a single party" also amounted to the soviets effectively disappearing as they quickly became mere ciphers for party rule. Soon the "direction" by "a single party" became the dictatorship of that party over the soviets, which (it should be noted) Trotsky defended wholeheartedly until his death (see section H.3.8).

This cannot be considered as a one-off. Trotsky repeated this analysis in his History of the Russian Revolution, when he stated that the "question, what mass organisations were to serve the party for leadership in the insurrection, did not permit an a priori, much less a categorical, answer." Thus the "mass organisations" serve the party, not vice versa. This instrumentalist perspective can be seen when Trotsky notes that when "the Bolsheviks got a majority in the Petrograd Soviet, and afterward a number of others," the "phrase 'Power to the Soviets' was not, therefore, again removed from the order of the day, but received a new meaning: All power to the Bolshevik soviets." This meant that the "party was launched on the road of armed insurrection through the soviets and in the name of the soviets." As he put it in his discussion of the July days in 1917, the army "was far from ready to raise an insurrection in order to give power to the Bolshevik Party." Ultimately, "the state of popular consciousness . . . made impossible the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in July." [vol. 2, p. 303, p. 307, p. 78 and p. 81] So much for "all power to the Soviets"! He even quotes Lenin: "The Bolsheviks have no right to await the Congress of Soviets. They ought to seize the power right now." Ultimately, the "Central Committee adopted the motion of Lenin as the only thinkable one: to form a government of the Bolsheviks only." [vol. 3, pp. 131-2 and p. 299]

In case anyone is in doubt what Trotsky meant, he clarified it in the book he was writing when he was assassinated: "After eight months of inertia and of democratic chaos, came the dictatorship of the Bolsheviks." [Stalin, vol. 2, p. 242] This is confirmed by other sources:

"Within six weeks of the October revolution, Gorky's newspaper Novaya Zhizn lamented the rapidity with which life had run out of the Soviet movement: 'The slogan "All power to the Soviets,"' it concluded, 'had actually been transformed into the slogan "All power to the few Bolsheviks" . . . The Soviets decay, become enervated, and from day to day lose more of their prestige in the ranks of democracy.' The initial heroic stage -- the stage of mass involvement and unsullied dreams -- was already over." [Neil Harding, Leninism, p. 253]

So where does this leave Rees' assertion that the Bolsheviks aimed to put power into the hands of working class organisations? Clearly, Rees' summary of both Trotsky's essay and the "essence" of Bolshevism leave a lot to be desired. As can be seen, the "essence" of Trotsky's essay and of Bolshevism is the importance of party power, not workers' power (as recognised by other members of the SWP: "The masses needed to be profoundly convinced that there was no alternative to Bolshevik power." [Tony Cliff, Lenin, vol. 2, p. 265]). Trotsky even provides us with an analogy which effectively and simply refutes Rees' claims. "Just as the blacksmith cannot seize the red hot iron in his naked hand," Trotsky asserts, "so the proletariat cannot directly seize power; it has to have an organisation accommodated to this task." While paying lip service to the soviets as the organisation "by means of which the proletariat can both overthrow the old power and replace it," he adds that "the soviets by themselves do not settle the question" as they may "serve different goals according to the programme and leadership. The soviets receive their programme from the party . . . the revolutionary party represents the brain of the class. The problem of conquering the power can be solved only by a definite combination of party with soviets." [The History of the Russian Revolution, vol. 3, pp. 160-1 and p. 163]

Thus the key organisation was the party, not the mass organisations of the working class. Indeed, as we discussed in section H.3.8, Trotsky was quite explicit that such organisations could only become the state form of the proletariat under the party dictatorship. Significantly, Trotsky fails to indicate what would happen when these two powers clash. Certainly Trotsky's role in the Russian revolution tells us that the power of the party was more important to him than democratic control by workers through mass bodies (see section H.4 and section H.5 on the Kronstadt revolt). Indeed, as we have shown in section H.3.8, Trotsky explicitly argued that a state was required to overcome the "wavering" in the working class which could be expressed by democratic decision making.

Given this legacy of viewing workers' organisations in purely instrumental terms, the opinion of Martov (the leading left-Menshevik during the Russian Revolution) seems appropriate. He argued that "[a]t the moment when the revolutionary masses expressed their emancipation from the centuries old yoke of the old State by forming 'autonomous republics of Kronstadt' and trying Anarchist experiments such as 'workers' control,' etc. -- at that moment, the 'dictatorship of the proletariat and the poorest peasantry' (said to be incarnated in the real dictatorship of the opposed 'true' interpreters of the proletariat and the poorest peasantry: the chosen of Bolshevist Communism) could only consolidate itself by first dressing itself in such Anarchist and anti-State ideology." [The State and Socialist Revolution, p. 47] As can be seen, Martov has a point. As the text used as evidence that the Bolsheviks aimed to give power to workers organisations shows, this was not an aim of the Bolshevik party. Rather, such workers organs were seen purely as a means to the end of party power.

It is for this reason that anarchists argue for direct working class self-management of society. When we argue that working class organisations must be the framework of a free society they mean it. We do not equate party power with working class power or think that "All power to the Soviets" is possible if they immediately delegate that power to the leaders of the party. This is for obvious reasons:

"If the revolutionary means are out of their hands, if they are in the hands of a techno-bureaucratic elite, then such an elite will be in a position to direct to their own benefit not only the course of the revolution, but the future society as well. If the proletariat are to ensure that an elite will not control the future society, they must prevent them from controlling the course of the revolution." [Alan Carter, Marx: A Radical Critique, p. 165]

Thus the slogan "All power to the Soviets" for anarchists means exactly that -- organs for the working class to run society directly, based on mandated, recallable delegates. As such, this slogan fitted perfectly with our ideas, as anarchists had been arguing since the 1860's that such workers' councils were both a weapon of class struggle against capitalism and the framework of the future libertarian society. For the Bolshevik tradition, that slogan simply means that a Bolshevik government will be formed over and above the soviets. The difference is important, "for the Anarchists declared, if 'power' really should belong to the soviets, it could not belong to the Bolshevik party, and if it should belong to that Party, as the Bolsheviks envisaged, it could not belong to the soviets." [Voline, The Unknown Revolution, p. 213] Reducing the soviets to simply executing the decrees of the central (Bolshevik) government and having their All-Russian Congress be able to recall the government (i.e. those with real power) does not equal "all power," quite the reverse -- the soviets will simply be a fig-leaf for party power.

In summary, rather than aim to place power into the hands of workers' organisations, most Marxists do not. Their aim is to place power into the hands of the party. Workers' organisations are simply means to this end and, as the Bolshevik regime showed, if they clash with that goal, they will be simply be disbanded. However, we must stress that not all Marxist tendencies subscribe to this. The council communists, for example, broke with the Bolsheviks precisely over this issue, the difference between party and class power.

H.3.12 Is big business the precondition for socialism?

A key idea in most forms of Marxism is that the evolution of capitalism itself will create the preconditions for socialism. This is because capitalism tends to result in big business and, correspondingly, increased numbers of workers subject to the "socialised" production process within the workplace. The conflict between the socialised means of production and their private ownership is at the heart of the Marxist case for socialism. Engels writes:

"Then came the concentration of the means of production and of the producers in large workshops and manufacturies, their transformation into actual socialised means of production and socialised producers. But the socialised producers and means of production and their products were still treated, after this change, just as they had been before . . . the owner of the instruments of labour . . . appropriated to himself . . . exclusively the product of the labour of others. Thus, the product now produced socially were not appropriated by those who actually set in motion the means of production and actually produced the commodities, but by the capitalists. . . . The mode of production is subjected to this [individual or private] form of appropriation, although it abolishes the conditions upon which the latter rests.

"This contradiction, which gives to the new mode of production its capitalistic character, contains the germ of the whole of the social antagonisms of today." [Marx-Engels Reader, p. 704]

It is the economic crises of capitalism which show this contradiction between socialised production and capitalist appropriation the best. Indeed, the "fact that the socialised organisation of production within the factory has developed so far that it has become incompatible with the anarchy of production in society, which exists side by side with and dominates it, is brought home to the capitalists themselves by the violent concentration of capital that occurs during crises." The pressures of socialised production results in capitalists merging their properties "in a particular branch of industry in a particular country" into "a trust, a union for the purpose of regulating production." In this way, "the production of capitalistic society capitulates to the production upon a definite plan of the invading socialistic society." This "transformation" can take the form of "joint-stock companies and trusts, or into state ownership." Even state ownership does not change the "capitalist relation" although this does have "concealed within it" the "technical conditions that form the elements of that solution." This "shows itself the way to accomplishing this revolution. The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into state property." [Op. Cit., p. 709, p. 710, p. 711, p. 712 and p. 713]

Thus the centralisation and concentration of production into bigger and bigger units, into big business, is seen as the evidence of the need for socialism. It provides the objective grounding for socialism, and, in fact, this analysis is what makes Marxism "scientific socialism." This process explains how human society develops through time:

"In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. . . At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces come in conflict with the existing relations of production or -- what is but a legal expression for the same thing -- with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed." [Marx, Op. Cit., pp. 4-5]

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that socialism will come about due to tendencies inherent within the development of capitalism. The "socialisation" of labour implied by collective labour within a firm grows steadily as capitalist companies grow larger and larger. The objective need for socialism is therefore created and so, for most Marxists, "big is beautiful." Indeed, some Leninists have invented terminology to describe these aspects of the "invading socialistic society" associated with the rise of big business. They contrast the "law of planning" associated with the conscious planning of economic activity on a wider and wider scale by large companies to the "law of value" which operates in the market. In other words, that the increased size of capital means that more and more of the economy is subject to the despotism of the owners and managers of capital and so the "anarchy" of the market is slowly replaced with the conscious planning of resources. Marxists sometimes call this the "objective socialisation of labour" (to use Mandel's term).

Therefore, there is a tendency for Marxists to see the increased size and power of big business as providing objective evidence for socialism, which will bring these socialistic tendencies within capitalism to full light and full development. Needless to say, most will argue that socialism, while developing planning fully, will replace the autocratic and hierarchical planning of big business with democratic, society-wide planning.

This position, for anarchists, has certain problems associated with it. One key drawback, as we discuss in the next section, is it focuses attention away from the internal organisation within the workplace and industry onto ownership and links between economic units. It ends up confusing capitalism with the market relations between firms rather than identifying it with its essence, the labour market and the wage slavery this generates. This meant that many Marxists considered that the basis of a socialist economy was guaranteed once property was nationalised. The anarchist critique that this simply replaced a multitude of bosses with one, the state, was (and is) ignored.

The other key problem is that such a perspective tends to dismiss as irrelevant the way production is managed. Rather than seeing socialism as being dependent on workers' management of production, this position ends up seeing socialism as being dependent on organisational links between workplaces, as exemplified by big business under capitalism. Thus the "relations of production" which matter are not those associated with wage labour but rather those associated with the market. This can be seen from the famous comment in The Manifesto of the Communist Party. The bourgeoisie, it argues "cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society." [Marx-Engels Reader, p. 476] But the one relation of production it cannot revolutionise is the one generated by the wage labour at the heart of capitalism, the hierarchical relations at the point of production. As such, it is clear that by "relations of production" Marx and Engels meant something else than wage slavery, the internal organisation of what they term "socialised production."

Capitalism is, in general, as dynamic as Marx and Engels stressed. It transforms the means of production, the structure of industry and the links between workplaces constantly. Yet it only modifies the form of the organisation of labour, not its content. No matter how it transforms machinery and the internal structure of companies, the workers are still wage slaves. At best, it simply transforms much of the hierarchy which governs the workforce into hired managers. This does not transform the fundamental social relationship of capitalism, however. Thus the "relations of production" which prefigure socialism is, precisely, those associated with the "socialisation of the labour process" which occurs within capitalism and are no way antagonistic to it.

This is confirmed when Marx, in his polemic against Proudhon, argues that social relations "are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist." [Collected Works, vol. 6, p. 166] On the face of it, this had better not be true. After all, the aim of socialism is to expropriate the property of the industrial capitalist. If the social relationships are dependent on the productive forces then, clearly, socialism is impossible as it will have to be based, initially, on the legacy of capitalism. Fortunately, the way a workplace is managed is not predetermined by the technological base of society. As is obvious, a steam-mill can be operated by a co-operative, so making the industrial capitalist redundant. The claim that a given technological-level implies a specific social structure is, therefore, wrong. However, it does suggest that our comments that, for Marx and Engels, the new "social relationships" which develop under capitalism which imply socialism are relations between workplaces, not those between individuals and classes are correct. The implications of this position because clear during the Russian revolution.

Later Marxists built upon this "scientific" groundwork. Lenin, for example, argued that "the difference between a socialist revolution and a bourgeois revolution is that in the latter case there are ready made forms of capitalist relationships; Soviet power [in Russia] does not inherit such ready made relationships, if we leave out of account the most developed forms of capitalism, which, strictly speaking, extended to a small top layer of industry and hardly touched agriculture." [Collected Works, vol. 27, p. 90] Thus, for Lenin, "socialist" relationships are generated within big business, relationships "socialism" would "inherit" and universalise. As such, his comments fit in with the analysis of Marx and Engels we have presented above. However, his comments also reveal that Lenin had no idea that socialism meant the transformation of the relations of production, i.e. workers managing their own activity. This, undoubtedly, explains the systematic undermining of the factory committee movement by the Bolsheviks in favour of state control we discuss in section H.4.

The idea that socialism involved simply taking over the state and nationalising the "objectively socialised" means of production can be seen in both mainstream social-democracy and its Leninist child. Hilferding, for example, wrote Finance Capital which argued that capitalism was evolving into a highly centralised economy, run by big banks and big firms. All what was required to turn this into socialism would be its nationalisation:

"Once finance capital has brought the most important branches of production under its control, it is enough for society, through its conscious executive organ -- the state conquered by the working class -- to seize finance capital in order to gain immediate control of these branches of production. . . taking possession of six large Berlin banks would . . . greatly facilitate the initial phases of socialist policy during the transition period, when capitalist accounting might still prove useful." [pp. 367-8]

Lenin basically disagreed with this only in-so-far as the party of the proletariat would take power via revolution rather than by election ("the state conquered by the working class" equals the election of a socialist party). Lenin took it for granted that the difference between Marxists and anarchists is that "the former stand for centralised, large-scale communist production, while the latter stand for disconnected small production." The obvious implication of this is that anarchist views "express, not the future of bourgeois society, which is striving with irresistible force towards the socialisation of labour, but the present and even the past of that society, the domination of blind chance over the scattered and isolated small producer." [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 261 and p. 205]

As we discuss in more detail in section H.4, Lenin applied this perspective during the Russian Revolution. For example, he argued in 1917 that his immediate aim was for a "state capitalist" economy, this being a necessary stage to socialism. As he put it, "socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly . . . socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly." [Selected Works, vol. 2, p. 211]

The Bolshevik road to "socialism" ran through the terrain of state capitalism and, in fact, simply built upon its institutionalised means of allocating recourses and structuring industry. As Lenin put it, "the modern state possesses an apparatus which has extremely close connections with the banks and syndicates, an apparatus which performs an enormous amount of accounting and registration work . . . This apparatus must not, and should not, be smashed. It must be wrestled from the control of the capitalists," it "must be subordinated to the proletarian Soviets" and "it must be expanded, made more comprehensive, and nation-wide." This meant that the Bolsheviks would "not invent the organisational form of work, but take it ready-made from capitalism" and "borrow the best models furnished by the advanced countries." [Op. Cit., p. 365 and p. 369]

The institutional framework of capitalism would be utilised as the principal (almost exclusive) instruments of "socialist" transformation. "Without big banks Socialism would be impossible," argued Lenin, as they "are the 'state apparatus' which we need to bring about socialism, and which we take ready-made from capitalism; our task here is merely to lop off what capitalistically mutilates this excellent apparatus, to make it even bigger, even more democratic, even more comprehensive. A single State Bank, the biggest of the big . . . will constitute as much as nine-tenths of the socialist apparatus. This will be country-wide book-keeping, country-wide accounting of the production and distribution of goods." While this is "not fully a state apparatus under capitalism," it "will be so with us, under socialism." For Lenin, building socialism was easy. This "nine-tenths of the socialist apparatus" would be created "at one stroke, by a single decree." [Op. Cit., p. 365]

Once in power, the Bolsheviks implemented this vision of socialism being built upon the institutions created by monopoly capitalism. Moreover, Lenin quickly started to advocate and implement the most sophisticated capitalist methods of organising labour, including "one-man management" of production, piece-rates and Taylorism ("scientific management"). This was not done accidentally or because no alternative existed (as we discuss in section H.4). As Gustav Landuer commented, when mainstream Marxists "call the capitalist factory system a social production . . . we know the real implications of their socialist forms of labour." [For Socialism, p. 70] As can be seen, this glorification of large-scale, state-capitalist structures can be traced back to Marx and Engels, while Lenin's support for capitalist production techniques can be explained by mainstream Marxism's lack of focus on the social relationships at the point of production.

For anarchists, the idea that socialism can be built on the framework provided to us by capitalism is simply ridiculous. Capitalism has developed industry and technology to further the ends of those with power, namely capitalists and managers. Why should they use that power to develop technology and industrial structures which leads to workers' self-management and power rather than technologies and structures which enhance their own position vis-à-vis their workers and society as a whole? As such, technological and industrial development is not "neutral" or just the "application of science." They are shaped by class struggle and class interest and cannot be used for different ends. Simply put, socialism will need to develop new forms of economic organisation based on socialist principles. As such, the concept that monopoly capitalism paves the way for socialist society is rooted in the false assumption that the forms of social organisation accompanying capital concentration are identical with the socialisation of production, that the structures associated with collective labour under capitalism are the same as those required under socialism is achieve genuine socialisation. This false assumption, as can be seen, goes back to Engels and was shared by both Social-Democracy and Leninism despite their other differences.

While anarchists are inspired by a vision of a non-capitalist, decentralised, diverse society based on appropriate technology and appropriate scale, mainstream Marxism is not. Rather, it sees the problem with capitalism is that its institutions are not centralised and big enough. As Alexander Berkman correctly argues:

"The role of industrial decentralisation in the revolution is unfortunately too little appreciated. . . Most people are still in the thraldom of the Marxian dogma that centralisation is 'more efficient and economical.' They close their eyes to the fact that the alleged 'economy' is achieved at the cost of the workers' limb and life, that the 'efficiency' degrades him to a mere industrial cog, deadens his soul, kills his body. Furthermore, in a system of centralisation the administration of industry becomes constantly merged in fewer hands, producing a powerful bureaucracy of industrial overlords. It would indeed be the sheerest irony if the revolution were to aim at such a result. It would mean the creation of a new master class." [The ABC of Anarchism, pp. 80-1]

That mainstream Marxism is soaked in capitalist ideology can be seen from Lenin's comments that when "the separate establishments are amalgamated into a single syndicate, this economy [of production] can attain tremendous proportions, as economic science teaches us." [Op. Cit., p. 200] Yes, capitalist economic science, based on capitalist definitions of efficiency and economy and on capitalist criteria! That Bolshevism bases itself on centralised, large scale industry because it is more "efficient" and "economic" suggests nothing less than that its "socialism" will be based on the same priorities of capitalism. This can be seen from Lenin's idea that Russia had to learn from the advanced capitalist countries, that there was only one way to develop production and that was by adopting capitalist methods of "rationalisation" and management. In the words of Luigi Fabbri:

"Marxist communists, especially Russian ones, are beguiled by the distant mirage of big industry in the West or America and mistake for a system of production what is only a typically capitalist means of speculation, a means of exercising oppression all the more securely; and they do not appreciate that that sort of centralisation, far from fulfilling the real needs of production, is, on the contrary, precisely what restricts it, obstructs it and applies a brake to it in the interests of capital.

"Whenever [they] talk about 'necessity of production' they make no distinction between those necessities upon which hinge the procurement of a greater quantity and higher quality of products -- this being all that matters from the social and communist point of view -- and the necessities inherent in the bourgeois regime, the capitalists' necessity to make more profit even should it mean producing less to do so. If capitalism tends to centralise its operations, it does so not for the sake of production, but only for the sake of making and accumulating more money." ["Anarchy and 'Scientific' Communism", in The Poverty of Statism, pp. 13-49, Albert Meltzer (ed.), pp. 21-22]

Efficiency, in other words, does not exist independently of a given society or economy. What is considered "efficient" under capitalism may be the worse form of inefficiency in a free society. The idea that socialism may have different priorities, need different methods of organising production, have different visions of how an economy was structured than capitalism, is absent in mainstream Marxism. Lenin thought that the institutions of bourgeois economic power, industrial structure and capitalist technology and techniques could be "captured" and used for other ends. Ultimately, though, capitalist means and organisations can only generate capitalist ends. It is significant that the "one-man management," piece-work, Taylorism, etc. advocated and implemented under Lenin are usually listed by his followers as evils of Stalinism and as proof of its anti-socialist nature.

Equally, it can be argued that part of the reason why large capitalist firms can "plan" production on a large scale is because they reduce the decision making criteria to a few variables, the most significant being profit and loss. That such simplification of input data may result in decisions which harm people and the environment goes without a saying. "The lack of context and particularity," James C. Scott correctly notes, "is not an oversight; it is the necessary first premise of any large-scale planning exercise. To the degree that the subjects can be treated as standardised units, the power of resolution in the planning exercise is enhanced. Questions posed within these strict confines can have definitive, quantitative answers. The same logic applies to the transformation of the natural world. Questions about the volume of commercial wood or the yield of wheat in bushels permit more precise calculations than questions about, say, the quality of the soil, the versatility and taste of the grain, or the well-being of the community. The discipline of economics achieves its formidable resolving power by transforming what might otherwise be considered qualitative matters into quantitative issues with a single metric and, as it were, a bottom line: profit or loss." [Seeing like a State, p. 346] Whether a socialist society could factor in all the important inputs which capitalism ignores within an even more centralised planning structure is an important question. This does not mean that anarchists argue for "small-scale" production as many Marxists, like Lenin, assert (as we prove in section I.3.8, anarchists have always argued for appropriate levels of production and scale). It is simply to raise the possibility of what works under capitalism make be undesirable from a perspective which values people and planet instead of power and profit.

As should be obvious, anarchism is based on critical evaluation of technology and industrial structure, rejecting the whole capitalist notion of "progress" which has always been part of justifying the inhumanities of the status quo. Just because something is rewarded by capitalism it does not mean that it makes sense from a human or ecological perspective. This informs our vision of a free society and the current struggle. We have long argued that that capitalist methods cannot be used for socialist ends. In our battle to democratise and socialise the workplace, in our awareness of the importance of collective initiatives by the direct producers in transforming their work situation, we show that factories are not merely sites of production, but also of reproduction -- the reproduction of a certain structure of social relations based on the division between those who give orders and those who take them, between those who direct and those who execute.

It goes without saying that anarchists recognise that a social revolution will have to start with the industry and technology which is left to it by capitalism and that this will have to be expropriated by the working class (this expropriation will, of course, involve transforming it and, in all likelihood, rejecting of numerous technologies, techniques and practices considered as "efficient" under capitalism). This is not the issue. The issue is who expropriates it and what happens to it next. For anarchists, the means of life are expropriated directly by society, for most Marxists they are expropriated by the state. For anarchists, such expropriation is based workers' self-management and so the fundamental capitalist "relation of production" (wage labour) is abolished. For most Marxists, state ownership of production is considered sufficient to ensure the end of capitalism (with, if we are lucky, some form of "workers' control" over those state officials who do management production -- see section H.3.14).

In contrast to the mainstream Marxist vision of socialism being based around the institutions inherited from capitalism, anarchists have raised the idea that the "free commune" would be the "medium in which the ideas of modern Socialism may come to realisation." These "communes would federate" into wider groupings. Labour unions (or other working class organs created in the class struggle such as factory committees) were "not only an instrument for the improvement of the conditions of labour, but also of becoming an organisation which might . . . take into its hands the management of production." Large labour associations would "come into existence for the inter-communal service[s]." Such communes and workers' organisations as the basis of "Socialist forms of life could find a much easier realisation" than the "seizure of all industrial property by the State, and the State organisation of agriculture and industry." Thus railway network "could be much better handled by a Federated Union of railway employees, than by a State organisation." Combined with co-operation "both for production and for distribution, both in industry and agriculture," workers' self-management of production would create "samples of the bricks" of the future society ("even samples of some of its rooms"). [Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread, pp. 21-23]

This means that anarchists also root our arguments for socialism in a scientific analysis of tendencies within capitalism. However, in opposition to the analysis of mainstream Marxism which focuses on the objective tendencies within capitalist development, anarchists emphasis the oppositional nature of socialism to capitalism. Both the "law of value" and the "law of planning" are tendencies within capitalism, that is aspects of capitalism. Anarchists encourage class struggle, the direct conflict of working class people against the workings of all capitalism's "laws". This struggle produces mutual aid and the awareness that we can care best for our own welfare if we unite with others -- what we can loosely term the "law of co-operation". This law, in contrast to the Marxian "law of planning" is based on working class subjectively and develops within society only in opposition to capitalism. As such, it provides the necessary understanding of where socialism will come from, from below, in the spontaneous self-activity of the oppressed fighting for their freedom.

This means that the basic structures of socialism will be the organs created by working class people in their struggles against exploitation and oppress (see sections H.1.4 and I.2.3 for more details). Gustav Landauer's basic insight is correct (if his means were not totally so) when he wrote that "Socialism will not grow out of capitalism but away from it" [Op. Cit., p. 140] In other words, tendencies opposed to capitalism rather than ones which are part and parcel of it.

Anarchism's recognition of the importance of these tendencies towards mutual aid within capitalism is a key to understanding what anarchists do in the here and now, as will be discussed in section J. In addition, it also laid the foundation of understanding the nature of an anarchist society and what creates the framework of such a society in the here and now. Anarchists do not abstractly place a better society (anarchy) against the current, oppressive one. Instead, we analysis what tendencies exist within current society and encourage those which empower and liberate people. Based on these tendencies, anarchists propose a society which develops them to their logical conclusion. Therefore an anarchist society is created not through the developments within capitalism, but in social activity against it. Section I indicates what such a society would be like and where its framework comes from.

H.3.13 Pourquoi le socialisme d'état n'est-il juste que du capitalisme d'état?

Pour les anarchistes, l'idée que le socialisme puisse être atteint de par la propriété d'État est tout simplement ridicule. Pour des raisons qui deviennent très clair, les anarchistes affirment que de tels systémes "socialistes" serait tout simplement une forme de « capitalisme d'État ». Un tel régime ne ferait pas fondamentalement changer la position de la classe ouvrière, dont les membres seraient tout simplement des esclaves salariés à la bureaucratie étatique plutôt qu'à la classe capitaliste.

Toutefois, avant de commencer le débat sur la raison pour laquelle les anarchistes pensent cela, nous avons besoin de clarifier notre terminologie. La raison en est que l'expression "capitalisme d'État" a trois significations distinctes, liés, dans la pensée socialiste (en particulier marxiste). Tout d'abord, le "capitalisme d'État" était / est utilisé pour décrire le système actuel des grandes entreprises soumises à des contrôle de l'Etat (en particulier si, comme dans la guerre, l'Etat capitaliste obtient des pouvoirs étendus sur l'industrie). Deuxièmement, elle a été utilisée par Lénine pour décrire ses objectifs immédiats après la Révolution d'Octobre, à savoir un régime dans lequel les capitalistes resteraient, mais seraient soumis à un système de contrôle de l'Etat hérité par le nouvel état "prolétaire" de l'ancien état capitaliste ( voir l'article 10 de l'annexe sur "Qu'est-il arrivé au cours de la Révolution Russe?" pour plus de détails). La troisième utilisation du terme est de signifier un régime dans lequel l'état remplace totalement la classe capitaliste par la nationalisation des moyens de production. Dans un tel régime, l'État serait propriétaire, gérant et accumulant du capital à la place des capitalistes.

Les anarchistes sont opposés à tous les trois systèmes décrits par le terme de "capitalisme d'État". Ici, nous nous concentrons sur la troisième définition, en faisant valoir que le socialisme d'État serait mieux décrit comme du "capitalisme d'État" comme une propriété d'Etat des moyens d'existence qui ne sont pas au coeur du capitalisme, à savoir le travail salarié. Au contraire, il remplace tout simplement les patrons privés par l'État et change la forme de propriété (de privé à l'État) plutôt que de se débarrasser de celle-ci.

L'idée que le socialisme est simplement égal à la propriété d'Etat (nationalisation) est facile à trouver dans les œuvres du marxisme. Le Manifeste communiste, par exemple, stipule que le "''prolétariat utilisera sa suprématie politique pour arracher, par degrés, tous les capitaux de la bourgeoisie, et centraliser tous les instruments de production entre les mains de l'Etat''". Cela signifie que la "''centralisation du crédit entre les mains de l'Etat, par le biais d'une banque nationale avec le capital d'État et un monopole exclusif''", plus la "''centralisation des moyens de communication et de transport dans les mains de l'État''", l'"''extension des usines et des instruments de production appartenant à l'État''" et l'"''etablissement d'armées industrielles, en particulier dans l'agriculture''"[Sélection d'extraits de Marx-Engels, pp. 52-3].

Engels reprend cette formule trente-deux ans plus tard, dans "socialisme: utopique et scientifique" en affirmant que le capitalisme lui-même "''force de plus en plus la transformation de vaste moyens de production, déjà socialisés, dans l'État. Le prolétariat s'empare du pouvoir politique et transforme la moyens de production en biens de l'État''". Le socialisme n'est pas assimilée à la propriété d'Etat des forces productives par un Etat capitaliste, "''mais caché en son sein elles sont les conditions techniques qui forment les éléments de cette solution''" au problème social. Il se borne à "montrer lui-meme la voie à l'accomplissement de cette révolution. Le prolétariat s'empare du pouvoir politique et transforme les moyens de production en propriété de l'État''". Ainsi, la propriété d'État après que le prolétariat ait pris le pouvoir est la base du socialisme, lorsque par ce "premier acte" de la révolution l'état "''se constitue vraiment lui-même comme le représentant de l'ensemble de la société''"[Marx-Engels Reader, p. 713, p. Et p. 712 713].

Quelle est l'importance de ces programmes sur les premières étapes du socialisme est un complet non-débat de ce qui se passe sur le lieu de production, le non-débat sur les relations sociales sur le lieu de travail. Au contraire, nous sommes soumis à l'examen de "la contradiction entre la production socialisé et l'appropriation capitaliste" et affirme que depuis qu'il y a une "organisation socialisé de la production dans l'usine," cela est devenu "incompatible avec l'anarchie de la production dans la société". La conclusion évidente à tirer est que "le socialisme" héritera, sans changement, le lieu de travail "socialisé" du capitalisme et que le changement fondamental est celui de la propriété : "''Le prolétariat se saisit du pouvoir publique, et par le biais de cela transforme les moyens de production socialisé... en biens publics. Par cet acte, le prolétariat libère les moyens de production du caractère de capital qu'ils avaient jusqu'ici la charge''"[Op. Cit., P. Et p. 709 717].

Que le mouvement marxiste est venu a voir la propriété d'État plutôt que la gestion de la production par les travailleurs comme la question clé n'est guère surprenant. Ainsi, nous trouvons le leader social-démocrate faisant valoir que le socialisme signifie fondamentalement l'État, en vertu du contrôle social-démocrate bien sur, acquérant les moyens de production et les nationalisant. Hilferding présentait ce qui était l'orthodoxie marxiste du moment où il a fait valoir que dans "une société communiste" la production "est consciemment déterminé par l'organe social central", qui déciderait "ce qui doit être produit et combien, où et par qui". Bien que cette information est déterminée par les forces du marché sous le capitalisme, dans le socialisme, il est attribué aux membres de la société socialiste par leurs autorités... Nous devons tirer la progression invariable de l'économie socialiste a partir des lois, des ordonnances et des règlements des autorités socialistes"[cité par Nikolaï Boukharine, Economie Theory of the Leisure Class, p. 157]. Alors que nous discutons dans l'annexe sur «Qu'est-il arrivé au cours de la Révolution Russe?", Les bolcheviks ont hérité de ce concept de "socialisme" et ils l'ont implantés.

Cette vision de la société dans laquelle la vie de la population est contrôlé par des "autorités" dans un "organe central social" qui raconte aux travailleurs ce qu'ils ont à faire, en droite ligne avec le Manifeste communiste, semble moins attrayant. Il montre aussi pourquoi le socialisme d'État n'est pas du socialisme du tout. Ainsi, George Barrett :

"''Si au lieu de la classe capitaliste actuelle, il y avait un ensemble de fonctionnaires nommés par le gouvernement et mis en mesure de contrôler nos usines, ca ne permettrait pas de changement révolutionnaire. Les fonctionnaires devraient être payés, et nous pouvons imaginer que, dans leur position privilégiée, ils s'attendraient à une bonne rémunération. Les hommes politiques auraient à etre payé, et nous connaissons déjà leurs goûts. Vous auriez, en fait, une classe non productive dictant aux producteurs les conditions dans lesquelles elles ont été autorisés à utiliser les moyens de production. Étant donné que c'est exactement ce qui ne va pas avec le système actuel de la société, nous pouvons voir que le contrôle par l'Etat ne serait pas un remede, alors qu'il apporterait avec lui une foule de nouveaux problèmes... dans le cadre d'un système de gouvernement de la société, qu'il s'agisse du capitalisme d'aujourd'hui ou en plus d'un controle gouvernemental perfectionn'e de l'Etat socialiste, la relation essentielle entre les gouvernants et les gouvernés, le travailleur et le contrôleur, sera la même, et cette relation tant qu'elle dure peut être maintenue que par la sanglante brutalité de la police de masse et des gendarmes''"[The Anarchist Révolution, pp. 8-9].

La clé pour voir pourquoi le socialisme d'État est du capitalisme d'État peut tout simplement être trouvé dans l'absence de changement dans les relations sociales dans le lieu de production. Les travailleurs sont encore des esclaves salariés, engagés par l'État et soumis à ses ordres. Lénine a souligné dans "l'État et la révolution", que sous le socialisme marxiste "''tous les citoyens sont transformés en employés de l'État... Tous les citoyens deviennent des employés et des travailleurs d'un seul ensemble de l'état syndiqué... L'ensemble de la société devra devenir un guichet unique et une seule usine, avec l'égalité de travail et de rémunération''"[Lénine, Selected Works, vol. 2, p. 312]. Étant donné que Engels avait fait valoir, contre l'anarchisme, qu'une usine exige de la subordination, de l'autorité, de l'absence de liberté et "''un véritable despotisme indépendant de toutes les organisations sociales''" l'idée de Lénine de transformer le monde en une grande usine revêt un caractère extrêmement effrayant[Marx-Engels Reader, p. 731]. Une réalité que décrit un anarchiste en 1923 comme étant le cas dans la Russie de Lénine :

"''La nationalisation de l'industrie, en retirant les travailleurs des mains des capitalistes, les ont livrès aux mains encore plus rapaces d'un seul, au patron capitaliste toujours présent, l'État. Les relations entre les travailleurs et ce nouveau patron sont les mêmes que plus tôt dans les relations entre travail et capital, avec la seule différence que le chef communiste, l'État, non seulement exploite les travailleurs, mais aussi les punit lui-même... le travail salarié est restée ce qu'il était avant, sauf qu'il a pris le caractère d'une obligation à l'État... Il est clair que, dans tout cela, nous sommes face à une simple substitution du capitalisme d'État pour le capitalisme privé''"[Piotr Archinov, Histoire du Mouvement Makhnovist, p. 71].
Tous les commentaires qu'a fait Bakounine semblent justifiés (ainsi aussi incroyablement précis) :

"Le travail financé par l'État - tel est le principe fondamental du communisme autoritaire, du socialisme d'État. L'Etat, étant devenu le seul propriétaire... sera devenu seul capitaliste, banquier, prêteur d'argent, organisateur, directeur de tout le travail national, et le distributeur de ses bénéfices. " [The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, p. 293]

Un tel système, basé sur ces pays "où le développement capitaliste moderne a atteint son niveau le plus élevé de développement" verra "l'expropriation progressive ou violente des proprietaires et des capitalistes présents, ou de l'appropriation des terres et des capitaux par l'État. Afin de pouvoir mener à bien sa grande mission économique et social, cet État devra être très ambitieux, très puissant et très centralisée. Il sera chargé d'administrer et de superviser l'agriculture par le biais de ses gestionnaires nommés, qui commanderont des armées de travailleurs du monde rural organisés et disciplinés à cet effet. Dans le même temps, il mettra en place une seule banque sur les ruines de toutes les banques." Un tel système, Bakounine l'a correctement prédit, serait "un régime de casernes pour le prolétariat, dans lequel une masse standardisée d'hommes et de femmes travailleurs se leveraient, sommeilleraient, travailleraient et vivraient au cœur d'un régime de privilège pour les compétents et les intelligents. " [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, p. P. 258 et 259]

Proudhon, de même est bien conscient du fait que la propriété d'État ne signifie pas la fin de la propriété privée, mais il signifie un changement de qui commande la classe ouvrière. "Nous ne voulons pas", a-t-il déclaré, "voir l'État confisquer les mines, les canaux et les chemins de fer, ce qui serait ajouter de la monarchie, plus de salaire et d'esclavage. Nous voulons que les mines, les canaux, les chemins de fer remettent aux associations de travailleurs organisés démocratiquement" qui serait le début d'une "grande fédération d'entreprises et de sociétés tissé dans le tissu commun de la République démocratique sociale." Il opposait des associations de travailleurs gérés par et pour leurs membres à ces "subventions, commandé et dirigé par l'État", qui écraserait "toute liberté et toutes les richesses, précisément comme les grandes sociétés anonymes sont en train de le faire." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 62 et p. 105]

Autrement dit, si les travailleurs n'ont pas directement la gestion de leurs propres travaux, il importe peu de savoir qui possède officiellement les lieux de travail dans lesquels ils font le labeur. Comme le fait valoir Maurice Brinton, les socialistes libertaires "tiennent que les « rapports de production »- les relations des individus ou des groupes à conclure avec un autre pour produire des richesses - sont les fondements essentiels de toute société. Un certain type de relations de production est le dénominateur commun de toutes les sociétés de classe. Ce modèle est celui où le producteur ne domine pas les moyens de production, mais au contraire les deux sont "séparés d'eux" (NDT: traduction à revoir) et du produit de son [ou ses] propre travail. Dans toutes les sociétés de classe, le producteur est dans une position de subordination vis à vis de ceux qui gèrent le processus de production. La gestion de la production par les Travailleurs - qui implique qu'il y ait une totale domination du producteur sur le processus de production - n'est pas pour nous une question marginale. C'est le cœur de notre politique. C'est le seul moyen par lequel les relations autoritaires (donneurs et preneurs d'ordres) de la production puissent être transcendés et qu'une libre société, communiste ou anarchiste, soit introduite." Il note que «les moyens de production peuvent changer de mains (en passant par exemple du secteur privé dans les mains d'une bureaucratie, collectivement propriétaires) sans que cela révolutionne les rapports de production. Dans de telles circonstances - et quel que soit le statut officiel de la propriété - la société est encore pour une société de classes, la production est encore géré par un organisme autre que les producteurs eux-mêmes. Les relations de propriété, en d'autres termes, ne reflètent pas nécessairement les rapports de production. Ils peuvent servir à les masquer - et en fait, ce qu'ils ont souvent fait". [The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control, pp. vii-vii]

À ce titre, pour les anarchistes (...) l'idée que la propriété d'Etat des moyens d'existence (la terre, les lieux de travail, usines, etc) soit la base du socialisme est tout simplement faux. Par conséquent, l'"anarchisme ne peut se pencher sur la révolution à venir comme une simple substitution... de l'État en tant que capitaliste universel pour les capitalistes actuels." [Kropotkin, Evolution and environment, p. 106] Étant donné que l'"organisation de l'État ayant toujours été... L'instrument pour l'établissement de monopoles en faveur des minorités au pouvoir, [il] ne peut être fait pour travailler à la destruction de ces monopoles. Les anarchistes considèrent, donc, que donner à l'État toutes les principales sources de la vie économique - la terre, les mines, les chemins de fer, de la banque, l'assurance, et ainsi de suite - ainsi que la gestion de toutes les principales branches de l'industrie... reviendrait à créer une nouvel instrument de tyrannie. Le capitalisme d'État ne ferait qu'accroître les pouvoirs de la bureaucratie et du capitalisme." [Kropotkin's Revolutionary Pamphlets, p. 286]. Il va sans dire, qu'une société qui n'était pas démocratique sur le lieu de travail ne resterait pas non plus politiquement démocratique. Soit la démocratie deviendrait formelle comme ça l'est au sein d'une république capitaliste ou il serait remplacé par la dictature. Ainsi, sans une base solide dans la gestion directe de la production, les sociétés "socialistes" verraient le pouvoir social de la classe ouvrière ( "pouvoir politique") et de la liberté dépérir et mourir, tout comme une fleur arraché du sol.

Sans surprise, compte tenu de tout cela, nous découvrons à travers l'histoire la co-existence de la propriété privée et la propriété d'État. En effet, la nationalisation des principaux services et des industries a été mis en œuvre dans tous les types de gouvernements capitalistes et dans toutes sortes d'États capitalistes (ce qui prouve la nature non-socialiste de l'État). En outre, les anarchistes peuvent pointer des événements où la classe capitaliste a utilisé la nationalisation de saper les gains révolutionnaire de la classe ouvrière. Le meilleur exemple est, de loin, dans la révolution espagnole, lorsque le gouvernement catalan a utilisé la nationalisation contre la vague spontanée de collectivisation, d'inspiration anarchiste, qui a placé la plupart de l'industrie directement dans les mains des travailleurs (voir la <a href="secI8.html">section I.8</a>). Le gouvernement, sous le couvert de légaliser les acquis des travailleurs, les a placé sous la propriété d'État pour arrêter leur développement, assurer le contrôle hiérarchique et une société de classe.

Un processus similaire a eu lieu au cours de la Révolution Russe sous le pouvoir bolchevik. De manière significative, "de nombreux gestionnaires, du moins ceux qui sont restés, semblent avoir préféré la nationalisation (contrôle par l'Etat) que le contrôle des travailleurs et ont coopérés avec les commissaires bolcheviques pour l'introduire. Leurs motivations ne sont pas trop difficile à comprendre... La question de qui gère les usines - qui prend des décisions - est, et probablement il en sera toujours ainsi, la question cruciale pour les gestionnaires dans tout système de relations professionnelles. " [Jay B. Sorenson, The Life and Death of Soviet Trade Unionism, pp. 67-8]. Comme nous en discutons dans la section suivante, les gestionnaires et les capitalistes ne sont pas les seuls qui n'aimaient pas le contrôle des "travailleurs", les bolcheviks l'ont fait ainsi, qui ont veillé à ce que ce soit marginalisé dans un système centralisé de contrôle de l'Etat fondé sur la nationalisation.

À ce titre, les anarchistes pensent qu'en fait une fausse dichotomie a été mise en place dans les discussions sur le socialisme, celle qui a servi les intérêts des capitalistes et des bureaucrates de l'état. Cette dichotomie est tout simplement que les choix économiques à la disposition de l'humanité sont la propriété "privée" des moyens de production (le capitalisme), ou de la propriété d'État des moyens de production (généralement défini comme «socialisme»). De cette manière, les nations capitalistes utilisent l'Union soviétique, et continuent à utiliser les autocraties comme la Corée du Nord, la Chine, et Cuba à titre d'exemples des maux de la propriété «publique» des actifs productifs.

Les anarchistes ne voient guère de distinction entre la propriété "privé" des moyens d'existence et la propriété d'"état" . C'est parce que l'État est une structure fortement centralisé spécifiquement conçue pour exclure une participation massive et, donc, nécessairement composé d'un corps décisionnaire administratif. À ce titre, le «public» ne peut effectivement pas "posseder" la propriété que l'état prétend détenir en son nom. La propriété et, par conséquent, le contrôle des moyens de production sont alors entre les mains d'une élite au pouvoir, l'administration publique (c'est-à-dire la bureaucratie). Ainsi, les moyens de production et la terre d'un Etat d'un régime "socialiste" ne sont pas détenues par le public - plutôt, elles sont détenues par une élite bureaucratique, au nom du peuple, une subtile mais importante distinction.

De cette manière, les décisions concernant l'allocation et l'utilisation des actifs productifs n'est pas faite par les gens eux-mêmes, mais par l'administration, par une planification économique. De même, dans les économies capitalistes "privé", les décisions économiques sont prises par une coterie de gestionnaires. Dans les deux cas, les gestionnaires prennent des décisions qui reflètent leurs propres intérêts et les intérêts des propriétaires (que ce soit les actionnaires ou la bureaucratie étatique) et non les travailleurs concernés ou de la société dans son ensemble. Dans les deux cas, la prise de décision économique vient par nature du haut vers le bas, faite par une élite d'administrateurs - bureaucrates dans l'économie socialiste d'état, les capitalistes ou les gestionnaires dans l'économie capitaliste "privé". Le grande distinction du capitalisme est que, contrairement à la monolithique et centralisée bureaucratie socialiste d'État, il y a le choix des patrons (et choisir un maitre n'est pas de la liberté). Et compte tenu des similitudes dans les relations de production entre le capitalisme et le "socialisme" d'Etat, l'évidence des inégalités de richesse dans les soi-disant Etats "socialistes" est facilement expliqué. Les relations de production et les relations de distribution sont étroitement liées et l'inégalité en termes de pouvoir dans la production signifie l'inégalité dans le contrôle de la production sociale, ce qui comptera dans les inégalités en termes de richesse.

En d'autres termes, la propriété privée existe si certains individus (ou groupes) contrôlent / possédent des choses qui sont utilisés par d'autres personnes. Cela signifie, sans surprise, que l'État est seulement une forme de propriété plutôt que la négation de celle-ci. Si vous avez une structure très centralisée (comme l'État) qui planifie et décide de tout dans la production, cette administration centrale serait le véritable propriétaire parce qu'il a le droit exclusif de décider comment les choses sont utilisés, pas ceux qui les utilisent. L'existence de cette strate administrative centrale exclut l'abolition de la propriété, remplacant le socialisme ou le communisme par l'état possédant la "propriété", c'est-à-dire le capitalisme d'État. À ce titre, l'État ne met pas fin au travail salarié et, par conséquent, les inégalités sociales en termes de richesse et d'accès aux ressources. Les travailleurs sont tout de même des preneurs d'ordre sous la possession d'État (dont les bureaucrates contrôlent le produit de leur travail et déterminent qui reçoit quoi). La seule différence entre les travailleurs sous la propriété privée et sous la propriété d'État est la personne leur disant quoi faire. Autrement dit, le capitalisme ou le gestionnaire nommé par une société est remplacé par un état nommé un (NDT: traduction à la fin à revoir).

Comme l'anarcho-syndicaliste Tom Brown le souligne, quand «de nombreux contrôlent les moyens par lesquels ils vivent, ils le feront en supprimant la propriété privée et l'établissement de la propriété commune des moyens de production, avec le contrôle des travailleurs de l'industrie." Toutefois, ce ne doit pas «être confondu avec la nationalisation et le contrôle de l'État» comme «la propriété, en théorie, dit-on, appartient au peuple", mais en fait "le contrôle est entre les mains d'une petite classe de bureaucrates." Ensuite, "la propriété commune n'existe pas, mais le marché du travail et le travail salarié oui, le travailleur reste un esclave salarié du capitalisme d'État». En d'autres termes, la propriété commune "exige un contrôle commun. Ce n'est possible que dans une condition de démocratie industrielle par le controle des travailleurs". " [Syndicalisme, P. 94] En résumé :

"La nationalisation n'est pas la socialisation, mais du capitalisme d'État... la socialisation... N'est pas la propriété d'État, mais la propriété commun, sociale des moyens de production, et la propriété sociale implique un contrôle par les producteurs, et non par de nouveaux patrons. Il implique Le contrôle de l'industrie par les travailleurs - et c'est du Syndicalisme. " [Op. Cit., P. 111]

Toutefois, de nombreux marxistes (léninistes en particulier) indiquent qu'ils sont en faveur de la propriété d'Etat et du "controle des travailleurs". Comme nous l'examinerons plus en profondeur dans la <a href="secH3.html#sech314">section suivante</a>, alors qu'ils ont la même signification que les anarchistes pour le premier terme, ils ont un sens radicalement différent pour le deuxième (c'est pour cette raison qu'actuellement les anarchistes utilisent généralement le terme d'«auto-gestion des travailleurs»). Pour les oreilles anarchistes, la combinaison de la nationalisation (l'État) et du "contrôle des travailleurs" (et plus encore, l'auto-gestion) exprime tout simplement une confusion politique, un mélange d'idées contradictoires qui cache tout simplement le fait que l'État, de par sa nature, s'oppose au contrôle des travailleurs. À ce titre, les anarchistes rejettent ces discours contradictoires en faveur de la "socialisation" et "l'auto-gestion de la production par les travailleurs" . L'histoire montre que la nationalisation sera toujours préjudiciable au contrôle des travailleurs sur le lieu de production et une telle rétorique ouvre toujours la voie au capitalisme d'État.

Par conséquent, les anarchistes sont à la fois contre la nationalisation et la privatisation, les reconnaissant aussi bien comme des formes de capitalisme, d'esclavage salarié. Nous croyons en une véritable propriété publique des moyens de production, plutôt que de controle corporatif/privé ou d'État/bureaucratique. Ce n'est que de cette manière que le public peut répondre à ses propres besoins économiques. Ainsi, nous voyons une troisième voie qui se distingue des populaires "soit / ou" options transmises par les capitalistes et socialistes d'état, une voie qui est plus entièrement démocratique. Il s'agit de l'auto-gestion de la production par les travailleurs, basé sur la propriété sociale des moyens d'existence par les fédérations de commune et de syndicats auto-gérés.

Pour une discussion plus approfondie, voir la discussion "Le salariat collectiviste" de Kropotkine dans la conquête du Pain et des sélections du "British Anarchist Journal Freedom" au sujet des nationalisations à grande échelle qui ont eu lieu après la fin de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale intitulé "Ni nationalisation Ni Privatisation: Une approche anarchiste".

H.3.14 Don't Marxists believe in workers' control?

As we discussed in the last section, anarchists consider the usual association of state ownership with socialism to be false. We argue that it is just another form of the wages system, of capitalism, albeit with the state replacing the capitalist. As such, state ownership, for anarchists, is simply state capitalism. Instead we urge socialisation based on workers' self-management of production. Libertarian Marxists concur.

Some mainstream Marxists, however, say they seek to combine state ownership with "workers' control." This can be seen from Trotsky, for example, who argued in 1938 for "workers' control . . . the penetration of the workers' eye into all open and concealed springs of capitalist economy . . . workers' control becomes a school for planned economy. On the basis of the experience of control, the proletariat will prepare itself for direct management of nationalised industry when the hour for that eventuality strikes." Modern day Leninists are often heard voicing support for what anarchists consider an oxymoron, namely "nationalisation under worker' control." This, it will be argued, proves that nationalisation (state control) is not "state capitalism" as we argued in the last section, rather "control is the first step along the road to the socialist guidance of economy." [The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International, p. 73 and p. 74]

Anarchists are not convinced. This is because of two reasons. Firstly, because by "workers' control" anarchists and Leninists mean two radically different things. Secondly, when in power Trotsky advocated radically different ideas. Based on these reasons, anarchists view Leninist calls for "workers' control" simply as a means of gaining popular support, calls which will be ignored once the real aim, party power, has been achieved: it is an example of Trotsky's comment that "[s]logans as well as organisational forms should be subordinated to the indices of the movement." [Op. Cit., p. 72] In other words, rather than express a commitment to the ideas of worker's control of production, mainstream Marxist use of the term "workers' control" is simply an opportunistic technique aiming at securing support for the party's seizure of power and once this is achieved it will be cast aside in favour of the first part of the demands, namely state ownership and so control. In making this claim anarchists feel they have more than enough evidence, evidence which many members of Leninist parties simply know nothing about.

We will look first at the question of terminology. Anarchists traditionally used the term "workers' control" to mean workers' full and direct control over their workplaces, and their work. However, after the Russian Revolution a certain ambiguity arose in using that term. This is because specific demands which were raised during that revolution were translated into English as "workers' control" when, in fact, the Russian meaning of the word (kontrolia) was far closer to "supervision" or "steering." Thus the term "workers' control" is used to describe two radically different concepts.

This can be seen from Trotsky when he argued that the workers should "demand resumption, as public utilities, of work in private businesses closed as a result of the crisis. Workers' control in such case would be replaced by direct workers' management." [Op. Cit., p. 73] Why workers' employed in open capitalist firms were not considered suitable for "direct workers' management" is not explained, but the fact remains Trotsky clearly differentiated between management and control. For him, "workers' control" meant "workers supervision" over the capitalist who retained power. In other words, a system of "dual power" at the point of production (and, like all forms of dual power, essentially and inevitably unstable).

This vision of "workers' control" as simply supervision of the capitalist managers can be found in Lenin. Rather than seeing "workers' control" as workers managing production directly, he always saw it in terms of workers' "controlling" those who did. It simply meant "the country-wide, all-embracing, omnipresent, most precise and most conscientious accounting of the production and distribution of goods." He clarified what he meant, arguing for "country-wide, all-embracing workers' control over the capitalists" who would still manage production. Significantly, he considered that "as much as nine-tenths of the socialist apparatus" required for this "country-wide book-keeping, country-wide accounting of the production and distribution of goods" would be achieved by nationalising the "big banks," which "are the 'state apparatus' which we need to bring about socialism" (indeed, this was considered "something in the nature of the skeleton of socialist society"). Over time, this system would move towards full socialism. [Selected Works, vol. 2, pp. 364-5, p. 366 and p. 365]

Thus, what Leninists mean by "workers' control" is radically different than what anarchists traditionally meant by that term (indeed, it was radically different from the workers' definition, as can be seen from a resolution of the Bolshevik dominated First Trade Union Congress which complained that "the workers misunderstand and falsely interpret workers' control." [quoted by M. Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control, p. 32]). It is for this reason that from the 1960s English speaking anarchists and other libertarian socialists have been explicit and have used the term "workers' self-management" rather than "workers' control" to describe their aims. Mainstream Marxists, however have continued to use the latter slogan, undoubtedly, as we note in section H.3.5, to gain members from the confusion in meanings.

Secondly, there is the example of the Russian Revolution itself. Indeed, Trotsky is simply repeating the slogans used by the Bolsheviks in 1917. As historian S.A. Smith correctly summarises, the "factory committees launched the slogan of workers' control of production quite independently of the Bolshevik party. It was not until May that the party began to take it up." However, Lenin used "the term ['workers' control'] in a very different sense from that of the factory committees." In fact Lenin's "proposals . . . [were] thoroughly statist and centralist in character, whereas the practice of the factory committees was essentially local and autonomous." [Red Petrograd, p. 154]

This is not all, this "workers' control" was always placed in a statist context and it would be exercised not by workers' organisations but rather by state capitalist institutions. In May 1917, Lenin was arguing for the "establishment of state control over all banks, and their amalgamation into a single central bank; also control over the insurance agencies and big capitalist syndicates." He reiterated this framework later that year, arguing that "the new means of control have been created not by us, but by capitalism in its military-imperialist stage" and so "the proletariat takes its weapons from capitalism and does not 'invent' or 'create them out of nothing.'" [Op. Cit., p. 112, p. 367 and p. 599] The factory committees were added to this "state capitalist" system but they played only a very minor role in it. Indeed, this system of state control was designed to limit the power of the factory committees:

"One of the first decrees issues by the Bolshevik Government was the Decree on Workers' Control of 27 November 1917. By this decree workers' control was institutionalised . . . Workers' control implied the persistence of private ownership of the means of production, though with a 'diminished' right of disposal. The organs of workers' control, the factory committees, were not supposed to evolve into workers' management organs after the nationalisation of the factories. The hierarchical structure of factory work was not questioned by Lenin . . . To the Bolshevik leadership the transfer of power to the working class meant power to its leadership, i.e. to the party. Central control was the main goal of the Bolshevik leadership. The hasty creation of the VSNKh (the Supreme Council of the National Economy) on 1 December 1917, with precise tasks in the economic field, was a significant indication of fact that decentralised management was not among the projects of the party, and that the Bolsheviks intended to counterpose central direction of the economy to the possible evolution of workers' control toward self-management." [Silvana Malle, The Economic Organisation of War Communism, 1918-1921, p. 47]

Once in power, the Bolsheviks soon turned away from even this limited vision of workers' control and in favour of "one-man management." Lenin raised this idea in late April 1918 and it involved granting state appointed "individual executives dictatorial powers (or 'unlimited' powers)." Large-scale industry required "thousands subordinating their will to the will of one," and so the revolution "demands" that "the people unquestioningly obey the single will of the leaders of labour." Lenin's "superior forms of labour discipline" were simply hyper-developed capitalist forms. The role of workers in production was the same, but with a novel twist, namely "unquestioning obedience to the orders of individual representatives of the Soviet government during the work." This support for wage slavery was combined with support for capitalist management techniques. "We must raise the question of piece-work and apply and test it in practice," argued Lenin, "we must raise the question of applying much of what is scientific and progressive in the Taylor system; we must make wages correspond to the total amount of goods turned out." [Lenin, Op. Cit., p. 610, p. 611, p. 612 and pp. 602-3]

This vision had already been applied in practice, with the "first decree on the management of nationalised enterprises in March 1918" which had "established two directors at the head of each enterprise . . . Both directors were appointed by the central administrators." An "economic and administrative council" was also created in the workplace, but this "did not reflect a syndicalist concept of management." Rather it included represents of the employees, employers, engineers, trade unions, the local soviets, co-operatives, the local economic councils and peasants. This composition "weakened the impact of the factory workers on decision-making . . . The workers' control organs [the factory committees] remained in a subordinate position with respect to the council." Once the Civil War broke out in May 1918, this process was accelerated. By 1920, most workplaces were under one-man management and the Communist Party at its Ninth Congress had "promoted one-man management as the most suitable form of management." [Silvana Malle, Op. Cit., p. 111, p. 112, p. 141 and p. 128] In other words, the manner in which Lenin organised industry had handed it over entirely into the hands of the bureaucracy.

Trotsky, as to be expected, did not disagree with all this. In fact, quite the reverse. He wholeheartedly defended the imposing of "one-man management" in his justly infamous book Terrorism and Communism. As he put it, "our Party Congress . . . expressed itself in favour of the principle of one-man management in the administration of industry . . . It would be the greatest possible mistake, however, to consider this decision as a blow to the independence of the working class. The independence of the workers is determined and measured not by whether three workers or one are placed at the head of a factory." As such, it "would consequently be a most crying error to confuse the question as to the supremacy of the proletariat with the question of boards of workers at the head of factories. The dictatorship of the proletariat is expressed in the abolition of private property in the means of production, in the supremacy over the whole Soviet mechanism of the collective will of the workers, and not at all in the form in which individual economic enterprises are administered." [Terrorism and Communism, p. 162] The term "collective will of the workers" is simply a euphemism for the Party which Trotsky had admitted had "substituted" its dictatorship for that of the Soviets (indeed, "there is nothing accidental" in this "'substitution' of the power of the party for the power of the working class" and "in reality there is no substitution at all." The "dictatorship of the Soviets became possible only by means of the dictatorship of the party." [Op. Cit., p. 109]). The unions "should discipline the workers and teach them to place the interests of production above their own needs and demands." He even argued that "the only solution to economic difficulties from the point of view of both principle and of practice is to treat the population of the whole country as the reservoir of the necessary labour power . . . and to introduce strict order into the work of its registration, mobilisation and utilisation." [Op. Cit., p. 143 and p. 135]

Trotsky did not consider this a result of the Civil War. Again, the opposite was the case: "I consider if the civil war had not plundered our economic organs of all that was strongest, most independent, most endowed with initiative, we should undoubtedly have entered the path of one-man management in the sphere of economic administration much sooner and much less painfully." [Op. Cit., pp. 162-3]

Significantly, discussing developments in Russia since the N.E.P, Trotsky argued that it was "necessary for each state-owned factory, with its technical director and with its commercial director, to be subjected not only to control from the top -- by the state organs -- but also from below, by the market which will remain the regulator of the state economy for a long time to come." Workers' control, as can be seen, was not even mentioned, nor considered as an essential aspect of control "from below." As Trotsky also stated that "[u]nder socialism economic life will be directed in a centralised manner," our discussion of the state capitalist nature of mainstream Marxism we presented in the last section is confirmed. [The First Five Years of the Communist International, vol. 2, p. 237 and p. 229]

The contrast between what Trotsky did when he was in power and what he argued for after he had been expelled is obvious. Indeed, the arguments of 1938 and 1920 are in direct contradiction to each other. Needless to say, Leninists and Trotskyists today are fonder of quoting Trotsky and Lenin when they did not have state power rather than when they did. Rather than compare what they said to what they did, they simply repeat ambiguous slogans which meant radically different things to Lenin and Trotsky than to the workers' who thrust them into power. For obvious reasons, we feel. Given the opportunity for latter day Leninists to exercise power, we wonder if a similar process would occur again? Who would be willing to take that chance?

As such, the claim that Marxists stand for "workers' control" can be refuted on two counts. Firstly, by that term they simply mean workers' supervision of those who do have real power in production (either the capitalists or state appointed managers). It does not mean workers' self-management of production. Secondly, when they had the chance they did not implement it. In fact, they imposed capitalist style hierarchical management and did not consider this as anything to be worried about. And as this policy was advocated before the start of the Civil War, it cannot be said to have been forced upon them by necessity. As such, any claim that mainstream Marxism considers "workers' control" as an essential feature of its politics is simply nonsense.

For a comprehensive discussion of "workers' control" during the Russian Revolution Maurice Brinton's The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control cannot be bettered.

The roots of this confusion can be found in Marx and Engels. In the struggle between authentic socialism (i.e. workers' self-management) and state capitalism (i.e. state ownership) there are elements of the correct solution to be found in their ideas. This is their support for co-operatives. For example, Marx praised the efforts made within the Paris Commune to create co-operatives, so "transforming the means of production, land and capital . . . into mere instruments of free and associated labour." He argued that "[i]f co-operative production is not to remain a shame and a snare; if it is to supersede the Capitalist system; if united co-operative societies are to regulate national production upon a common plan, thus taking it under their own control, and putting an end to the constant anarchy and periodical convulsions which are the fatality of Capitalist production -- what else . . . would it be but Communism, 'possible' Communism?" [Op. Cit., pp. 290-1] Engels, continuing this theme, argued for "the transfer -- initially on lease -- of large estates to autonomous co-operatives under state management and effected in such a way that the State retains ownership of the land." He stated that neither he nor Marx "ever doubted that, in the course of transition to a wholly communist economy, widespread use would have to be made of co-operative management as an intermediate stage. Only it will mean so organising things that society, i.e. initially the State, retains ownership of the means of production and thus prevents the particular interests of the co-operatives from taking precedence over those of society as a whole." [Marx-Engels Collected Works, vol. 47, p. 389]

However, Engels comments simply bring home the impossibilities of trying to reconcile state ownership and workers' self-management. While the advocacy of co-operatives is a positive step forward from the statist arguments of the Communist Manifesto, Engels squeezes these libertarian forms of organising production into typically statist structures. How "autonomous co-operatives" can co-exist with (and under!) "state management" and "ownership" is not explained, plus the fatal confusion of socialisation with nationalisation.

In addition, the differences between the comments of Marx and Engels are obvious. While Marx talks of "united co-operative societies," Engels talks of "the State." The former implies a free federation of co-operatives, the latter a centralised structure which the co-operatives are squeezed into and under. The former is socialism, the latter is state capitalist. From Engels argument, it is obvious that the stress is on state ownership and management rather than self-management. This confusion became a source of tragedy during the Russian Revolution when the workers, like their comrades during the Commune, started to form a federation of factory committees while the Bolsheviks squeezed these bodies into a system of state control which was designed to marginalise them (see section H.4 for full details).

Moreover, the aims of the Paris workers were at odds with the vision of the Communist Manifesto and in line with anarchism. Proudhon, for example, had argued in 1848 against state ownership and for "democratically organised workers' associations" which would be "models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies" which would make up "the democratic social Republic." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 62] In his Principle of Federation he called this idea an "agro-industrial federation." Thus the idea of co-operative production is a clear expression of what Proudhon explicitly called "industrial democracy," a "reorganisation of industry, under the jurisdiction of all those who compose it." [quoted by K. Steven Vincent, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism, p. 225] Bakunin and later anarchists simply developed these ideas to their logical conclusion (see section I.3 for example).

Marx, to his credit, supported these libertarian visions when applied in practice by the Paris workers during the Commune and promptly revised his ideas. This fact has been obscured somewhat by Engels historical revisionism in this matter. He argued, for example, that the "economic measures" of the Commune were driven not by "principles" but by "simple, practical needs." This meant that "the confiscation of shut-down factories and workshops and handing them over to workers' associations" were "not at all in accordance with the spirit of Proudhonism but certainly in accordance with the spirit of German scientific socialism." [Marx, Engels, Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 92] This distortion of Proudhon's ideas is also present in Engels' 1891 introduction to Marx's "The Civil War in France." He painted a picture of Proudhon being opposed to association (except for large-scale industry). He stresses that "to combine all these associations in one great union" was "the direct opposite of the Proudhon doctrine" and so "the Commune was the grave of the Proudhon doctrine." [Marx-Engels Selected Works, p. 256]

However, as noted, this is nonsense. The forming of workers' associations was a key aspect of Proudhon's ideas and so the Communards were obviously acting in his spirit. Given that the Communist Manifesto stressed state ownership and failed to mention co-operatives at all, the claim that the Commune acted in its spirit seems a tad optimistic. Particularly since Marx had commented in 1866 that in France the workers ("particularly those of Paris"!) "are strongly attached, without knowing it [!], to the old rubbish" and that the "Parisian gentlemen had their heads full of the emptiest Proudhonist phrases." [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Op. Cit., p. 46 and p. 45]

What did this "old rubbish" consist of? Well, in 1869 the delegate of the Parisian Construction Workers' Trade Union argued that "[a]ssociation of the different corporations [labour unions/associations] on the basis of town or country . . . leads to the commune of the future . . . Government is replaced by the assembled councils of the trade bodies, and by a committee of their respective delegates." In addition, "a local grouping which allows the workers in the same area to liase on a day to day basis" and "a linking up of the various localities, fields, regions, etc." (i.e. international trade or industrial union federations) would ensure that "labour organises for present and future by doing away with wage slavery." This "mode of organisation leads to the labour representation of the future." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 184]

To state the obvious, this had clear links with both Proudhon's ideas and what the Commune did in practice. Rather than being the "grave" of Proudhon's ideas on workers' associations, the Commune saw their birth, i.e. their application. Rather than the Parisian workers becoming Marxists "without knowing it," Marx had become a follower of Proudhon! Thus the idea of socialism being based on a federation of workers' associations was not buried with the Paris Commune. It was integrated into all forms of social anarchism (including communist-anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism) and recreated every time there is a social revolution.

In ending when must note that anarchists are well aware that individual workplaces could pursue aims at odds with the rest of society (to use Engels expression, their "particular interests"). This is often termed "localism." Anarchists, however, argue that the mainstream Marxist solution is worse than the problem. By placing self-managed workplaces under state control (or ownership) they become subject to even worse "particular interests," namely those of the state bureaucracy who will use their power to further their own interests. In contrast, anarchists advocate federations of self-managed workplaces to solve this problem (see section I.3 for more).

In summary, the problem of "localism" and any other problems faced by a social revolution will be solved in the interests of the working class only if working class people solve them themselves. For this to happen it requires working class people to manage their own affairs directly and that implies self-managed organising from the bottom up (i.e. anarchism) rather than delegating power to a minority at the top, to a "revolutionary" party or state. This applies economically, socially and politically. As Bakunin argued, the "revolution should not only be made for the people's sake; it should also be made by the people." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 141]


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