Debating how to change the world
Date Written: 2009-09-01
Publisher: International Socialist Review
Year Published: 2009
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX13948
A review of Wobblies and Zapatistas, by Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic.
Ultimately, Lynd sees the division between anarchists and Marxists as almost trivial, wondering if there would have been a struggle in the First International without “some of the personalities involved.” Surely, the momentous struggle over the Spanish Revolution and the future of the Spanish section of the Communist International could not be reduced to personality differences.
Like many other comparisons of Marxism and anarchism, Lynd recognizes some of the “very anarchist in orientation” writings from the Marxist tradition. He cites Marx’s Civil War in France as well as Lenin’s pamphlet,State and Revolution, as examples. The problem with this perspective is that it views the ideas contained in these writings as some sort of departure from the rest of the Marxist canon. This has been written so frequently as to almost be taken for granted in radical circles. Less common is a discussion of the way in which Mikhail Bakunin and others appropriated Marx’s critique of political economy wholesale for their own program. Indeed, most serious anarchist analyses of capitalist economy draw unabashedly from Marx’s works.
While the book does have some useful insights of how Marxism and anarchism have coalesced in social movements throughout history, the central thesis falls quite short of developing the ideas needed to fundamentally challenge society. The existing capitalist states cannot be left in place, and current anarchist ideas (even if infused with the Marxist method) refuse to deal with this essential historical fact, as the crushing of the Paris Commune by the existing bourgeois state demonstrated in 1871.
Social movements require a general level of solidarity across ideological divisions in order to grow and win reforms. Periods of acute social unrest and generalized crises, however, require a radical solution. Either the old institutions will reassert their power in a more repressive fashion, or new social forces will fill the vacuum and offer new ways to organize and run society. These rare moments of revolutionary possibility require an unwavering method that is based on clarity and the concrete possibilities that the situation offers. A potpourri of Marxism and anarchism, ideas which have repeatedly waged combat with one another, can only offer more confusion and hesitation in the midst of these turning points of human history.