Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

How do anarchists respond to the claim that Marxist goals are compatible with those of anarchists?

+4 votes
In what ways are Marxism and anarchism incompatible?
asked Aug 25, 2013 by anonymous

1 Answer

+5 votes
Broken down to the absolute endgame, Marxists want a stateless, classless society. Anarchists want that too, so ostensibly the goals are the same.

However, the areas of contention usually come down to these:
1. Anarchists do not believe the ends justify the means; rather, we understand that anti-authoritarian goals require anti-authoritarian means;
2. Anarchists do not believe that taking control of a state mechanism/government is compatible with anarchist goals and methods (see #1);
3. Anarchists do not believe that any coercive mechanisms (law, police, courts, prisons) are compatible with anarchist goals;
4. Anarchists do not necessarily believe that expropriating the means of production from the owning/ruling class will make other forms of exploitation and oppression disappear;
5. Anarchists do not necessarily believe that economic relations are the primary location of class tension;
6. Anarchists do not believe that centralizing decision-making and organizations is a good strategy for achieving our goals;
7. Anarchists do not believe that some kind of new consciousness is required for working class, poor, and otherwise oppressed people to take control over their own lives.

That's on the theoretical/philosophical level. In the actual history of the interactions between Marxists and anarchists, the initial split during the First International created a schism that was never resolved. Those issues helped to create the conditions for the physical (armed and lethal) confrontations throughout history: Marxists fighting anarchists in the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the Russian Revolution (1917-1921), and most infamously, the Spanish Revolution (1936-1937).

Marxists have also been involved in suppressing non-anarchist revolutionary moments: China (1921-1927), Russia (1919-1924), Germany (1918-1919), Vietnam (1945-1968), Spain (1936-1939), France (1945-1947), East Germany (1953), Hungary (1956), Poland (1971), Czechoslovakia (1968), Nepal (2011).

One of the most basic problems is that Marxists have one plan and one formula for their kind of revolution, and any action that is not controlled by them or that doesn't fit inside those plans and formulas are objectively counter-revolutionary - and therefore to be liquidated. Anarchists are supposed to be more flexible.
answered Aug 25, 2013 by lawrence (19,560 points)
At this stage of the game, I get the feeling that hard & fast lines, if not walls, between non-doctrinaire marxists & like minded anarchists is unhelpful.  There are more points in common.  I hope I'm not being entirely naive here.  In fact, an open & honest discussion about the history and methods used by both groups would go far in strengthening the movement towards the Social Revolution.  Over the past few decades, with both the implosion of the Stalinist-Leninist "experiment", the imposition of neo-liberalism, and the growth of left populism in Latin America & elsewhere, it seems a good time to reassess just about everything revolutionary.  I agree with lawrence that the Leninist model is treacherous.  However, I see among some Marxist partisans a willingness to reconsider and move toward a more open sensibility.  If we continue to fight among ourselves (and not analyze the roots of our conflict with the hope of overcoming it & moving forward), the reactionaries & al. can rest easy, because we'll all be so busy watching our backs that we won't pose any kind of threat.  I'd just like to add that I've just stumbled into this site, & this is my first attempt to articulate a problem that has been on my mind for some time.  I live in an area that might as well be "tea party central" where all the news is fox'd.  I'm very pleased to find you folks.
glad you find this site interesting GD.
let me just point out though, that the reasoning you give for working with marxists are the same that anarchists have always given (so obviously they're compelling reasons) but that those reasons haven't saved anarchists from being used, manipulated, and killed by commies historically. lawrence's final paragraph speaks to the issue, which is that the theories are actually directly counter to each other. obviously, people aren't theories, and can be making up their minds through action and hanging out with different thinkers, so having friends who are marxists is one thing.
but to think that--to the extent they honor their own beliefs--they will have one's back (when it comes to autonomy vs central planning) is counter-indicated.