A reader contacts me about his dichotomy between communism and anarchism. I think his PoV deserves some more publicity as it points, I believe, to a common question most outside the scene have.
Recently someone sent me an email letting me know that he likes the content of the Division by Zer0 (Thanks!). Along with his email, he sent some of his own musings which I found interesting enough to deserve some extra publicity. So I got his permission to post them on the blog. Enjoy.
Why I’m divided between “communism” and “anarchism”
I have been, for the last few years of my life, moving radically leftward, from my rather innocuous beginnings as a “Trotskyist” to simply a “Marxist” to being labeled a “Left-Communist” to where I am now, which is on the fence between “communist” and “anarchist”. Both sides have their influences; the “communist” side has given me a strong respect for Marx’s historical analyses, as well as his critiques of the Capitalist system, among other things, while the “anarchist” side has given me the example to live by, for many anarchists are “lifestyle” anarchists, living their lives as withdrawn from the capitalist system as possible. Their world-wide actions (notably the recent “unrest” in Greece, along with the French riots a few years ago) have made world powers shake with fear, governments almost collapse, and the entire world watched as cars burned and the streets were controlled by police no more.
So what am I to do?
I believe that the best solution is simply to ignore these labels and be reminded of what is important: ending capitalism’s reign of terror. All who oppose the horrors of capitalism must work together under that banner, not as “communists”, not as “anarchists”, but as people who believe in the survival of humanity, and who believe that humanity cannot survive under the conditions of imperialism, oppression and slavery. What you want to add to that (from environmentalism to animal rights to “power to the people” to whatever else) is up to you. But we who oppose capitalism must not be divided by these ideological differences. Even the most dogmatic of communists from the same party cannot agree on everything, so why should we try? Instead, we should act. An action carries only the message that is put behind it, and a Leninist and an anarchist can both protest against imperialism in the 3rd world. They can both protest against the treatment of workers in many workplaces. They can both agree that community activism is a good thing. So why can’t they work together? We’ll sort out our differences (in a comradely fashion) when capitalism is no longer our enemy. Until that time, though, we must focus on our common struggles.
Truth is that I’ve had similar thought myself but the more I read and interact with Marxist-Leninists, the more stark the differences become between us. While theoretically what Scott says seems reasonable, the problem appear very soon once one tries to actually cooperate as it’s all a matter of how each movement tries to go about bringing down Capitalism.
The biggest difference imho is how one side (M-L) wants a vanguard party to lead the struggle while the other wants the revolution to occur through spontaneous and decentralized actions of the workers. There can be no agreement on this point. Anarchists cannot commit to promoting a vanguard party and M-L very often refuse to support and occasionally oppose struggle which is not led by them.
It is exactly because the methods by which we try to achieve the future society will make or break the revolution that there can be no cooperation when there’s a fundamental difference in tactics. It is exactly because the difference in tactics between Anarchists is not fundamental that they generally cooperate while on the other hand distance themselves from Marxist-Leninists and Rothbardians.
So as nice it would be for all of us to cooperate to bring about a better world, there’s also a reason why this doesn’t generally happen. The best we can do instead is patiently explain and convince people that our tactics are the ones that can work.