Anarchism poses some of the most important and fundamental questions for revolutionaries. These questions are concerned with power: what is it? Is it necessary? Is it legitimate? And does it inevitably corrupt those who wield it?
Marxists fully agree with anarchists that a truly free, socialist society would be one without oppression, abuses of power and a state. We fight for the realisation of just such a society, one that provides genuine human freedom. But Marxism seeks a scientific explanation for the horrors of class society. ‘Power’ is not the source of all evil. Instead, state power arose historically to serve a specific purpose: to protect private property. It is nothing but a tool in the hands of the ruling class to hold down the exploited classes. So long as such classes exist, it will be impossible for these classes to jointly and fairly run society.
The defeat of one class by another can only be accomplished by means of political struggle. To bring about a socialist society, it is the working class that must defeat the capitalist class. To do so, it needs its own political weapons: a workers’ state and structures of leadership. Without these, any socialist revolution is bound to be destroyed by counter-revolution.
Learn the basics
Anti-capitalist demonstrations bring together different groups protesting the destruction of the environment, racism and exploitation. But can ‘Direct Action’ alone change the world?
What distinguishes Marxism from Anarchism? And which of the two theories, or which combination of their ideas, is the best tool for fighting capitalism and the bourgeois state?
“We do not differ with the anarchists on the question of the abolition of the state as the aim. We maintain that, to achieve this aim, we must temporarily make use of the instruments, resources, and methods of state power against the exploiters.”
“The anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution?”
The present period is the most stormy and convulsive period in history. In this crisis, mass movements have developed, which show the limits of spontaneity and the need for a revolutionary party.
“The theoretical weakness of anarchism – which Marx clearly exposed – is precisely that it repeats the mistakes of the utopian socialists.”
It is fashionable to portray Marxism as the source of authoritarianism. This accusation is raised often by anarchists and reformists. Bakunin was one of the more famous exponents of such accusations.
“The problem...consists in defining, on the basis of the objective circumstances, the social and political character of the Kronstadt mutiny and its place in the development of the revolution.”
New material on Kronstadt emerged in the 2000s from the old Soviet archives, which exploded the criticisms of those hostile to the Bolsheviks, and showed that Trotsky's position was justified.
There are many myths about events like the Kronstadt rebellion and the peasant revolts. New material available confirms what Lenin and Trotsky explained about these events.
“The weakness of anarcho-syndicalism was the absence of a correct theoretical foundation, and, as a result, a wrong understanding of the nature of the state and its role in the class struggle.”
The European Union throws up a number of questions for Marxists, not just in terms of our perspectives for the class struggle in Europe, but also theoretical questions on the nature of the EU and the attitude of Marxists to the idea of European integration.
In this talk Alan Woods focuses on the clashes between Marx and Bakunin in the First International, on the role of the Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War, Democratic Centralism and the question of leadership, the class nature of Anarchism, and the use of the internet as a means of organising a revolutionary movement.
[Listen here to the lead-off]
[Listen here to the reply]