Letters to The Red Menace #4
What Bakunin said
Your issue discussing the Marx-Bakunin
dispute complains that anarchists merely talk around
Marxism, rather than getting down to Marx's actual words and intent.
But you then violate this stricture yourselves by not actually facing
what Bakunin himself said. I am hoping that you'll print these following
quotes, so as to provide your readers with at least a slice of Bakunin's
critique and social vision.
The leaders of the Communist Party, namely Mr. Marx and his
followers, will concentrate the reins of government in a strong
hand. They will centralize all commercial, industrial, agricultural,
and even scientific production, and then divide the masses into
two armies industrial and agricultural under the direct
command of state engineers, who will constitute a new privileged
scientific and political class. 1873.
The Dictatorship of the Proletariat... In reality it would
be for the proletariat a barrack regime where the standardized mass
of men and women workers would wake, sleep, work and live to the
beat of a drum; for the clever and learned a privilege, of governing:
and for the mercenary minded, attracted by the State Bank, a vast
field of lucrative jobbery. 1869.
The programe of the International is very happily explicit:
the emancipation of the workers can only be gained by the workers
themselves. Is it not astonishing that Marx has believed it
possible to graft on this never-the-less so precise declaration,
which he publically drafted himself, his scientific socialism?
That is to say, the organization of the government of the new society
by socialistic scientists and professors - the worst of all, despotic
No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation
and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom
can be created only by freedom. 1872.
We who are Materialists and Determinists, just as much as
Marx himself, we also recognize the inevitable linking of economic
and political facts in history. We recognize, indeed, the necessity,
the inevitable character of all events, but we do not bow before
them indifferently and above all we are careful about praising them
when, by their nature, they show themselves in flagrant opposition
to the supreme end of history... the triumph of humanity... by the
absolute free and spontaneous organization of economic and social
solidarity as completely as possible between all human beings living
... The Marxists do not reject our program absolutely. They only
reproach us with wanting to hasten, to outstrip, the slow march
of history and to ignore the scientific law of successive evolutions.
Having had the thoroughly German nerve to proclaim in their works
consecrated to the philisophical analysis of the past that the bloody
defeat of the insurgent peasants of Germany and the triumph of the
despotic states in the sixteenth century constituted a great revolutionary
progress, they today have the nerve to satisfy themselves with establishing
a new despotism to the so-called profit of the urban workers and
to the detriment of the toilers of the countryside...
... Mr. Engels, driven on by the same logic, in a letter addressed
to one of our friends, Carlo Cafiera, was able to say, without the
least irony, but on the contrary, very seriously, that Bismark as
well as King Victor Emmanuel II had rendered immense services to
the revolution, both of them having created political centralization
in their respective countries. I urge the French allies and sympathizers
of Mr. Marx to carefully examine how this Marxist concept is being
applied in the International. 1872.
To support his programme of the conquest of political power,
Marx has a very special theory which is, moreover, only a logical
consequence of his whole system. The poitical condition of each
country, says he, is always the faithful expression of its economic
situation; to change the former it is only necessary to transform
the latter. According to Marx, all the secret of historic evolution
is there. He takes no account of other elements of history, such
as the quite obvious reaction of political., juridicial and religious
institutions on the economic situation. He says: 'Poverty produces
political slavery, the State.' But he does not allow this expression
to be turned around to say, 'Political slavery, the State, reproduces
in its turn, and maintains poverty as a condition of its own existence,
so that, in order to destroy poverty, it is necessary to destroy
the State!' 1872.
Either one destroys the State or one must accept the vilest
and most fearful lie of our century: the red bureaucracy.
Freedom without socialism is privilege and justice, and socialism
without freedom is slavery and brutality.
In a subsequent letter I'd like to go into Bakunin's actual words
on his programme for federative communalism and a world-wide federation
and industrial parliament based on revolutionary industrial unions.
Delegate, IWW Defense Local 2
by Ulli Diemer were excellent and I wholeheartedly concur with his
position on the relationship between Marxism
and anarchism. (The same old tired rhetoric in Murtaugh's
provided a nice foil for his analysis) Further, his characterization
of the uncritical editorial policy of THE OPEN ROAD was right on
It appears from the quality of Diemer's articles that libertarian
Marxism has established a critical distance between itself and the
Marxist tradition and in particular, the dark Leninist side of that
tradition. Now it's up to Murtaugh and the anarchist movement of
which he is a part to establish their critical distance from the
Bakunist tradition and, in particular, the dark Nechaevist side
of that tradition, best represented in our own day by the Red Brigade
terrorists, the Baader-Meinhoff gang, and the Symbionese Liberation
Anarchists must make a choice between their real libertarian impulses
and their tendency towards anti-intellectualism, romanticism, terrorism,
and conspiracy. For starters, they might do well to read Murray
Bookchin's Challenge the Icons of Anarchism in THE OPEN
ROAD, No. 5, Winter, 1977-78. But, as Diemer points out, the anti-intellectualism
of most anarchists is the major stumbling block preventing them
from overcoming their uncritical past.
One can only hope that many anarchists will break with their uncritical
past and join with libertarian Marxists to become free and equal
partners in a new left libertarian movement.
Point of order
Just two points now. In your first [actually second -ed.]
issue you publish an article
on 'dialectical materialism', attempting one of the eternal neo-Marxist
tries at redefining it. In the next issue you attempt to counter
an attack on it by saying that it is not part of your politics.
At least this is I assume the obscure reference to Plekenov meant.
Ten to one as soon as the issue is forgotten you will start using
the term again.
Second, as a point of order, you nowhere answer the charge that
I put forward. I did not state that Bakunin was a saint and
Marx was a devil. I did not say that some anarchists do not have
some pretty stupid ideas (as do some Marxists). I am not
a Bakunist and neither is the anarchist movement. This was most
definitely stated as far back as the Congress of St. Imier in the
1800's. I would like to put the charge of ignorance back in your
lap. You obviously know little about how widespread the opposition
to much of Bakunin's politics was amongst the anarchist movement.
You also do now know (or you deliberately disguise). the fact that
many non-anarchists walked out on the International because
of Marx's conspiracies against the anarchists. One thing I have
got to hand to Marx: he was smart enough not to try and make a principle
of conspiracy as Bakunin did. If anything, I agree with Malatesta
that I am not a Bakuninist because Bakunin was too much of a Marxist.
What I did state was that the adoption of 'dialectical materialism'
(or any 'correct interpretation' of Marx's philosophy, whatever
you might like to call it) will have a certain effect on the socialist
movement. To answer what I said you have to answer this charge,
and answer it on some other basis than name-calling (ie., "anti
Anyway, to get off the argument I really enjoyed the article
on the use of 'lefty language'. I hereby cross my heart and hope
to die if I ever use the word 'concrete' again (as I have in the
past). This one especially struck me as I have to work with a trotskyist
who is on the executive of the local union of the unemployed (as
I am.) This fellow cannot open his mouth without spouting off rhetoric,
and 'concrete' is one of his favourite words. Usually he doesn't
even use this word right, as trots, in my experience, attempt to
reduce the program of every organization they enter down to holding
a demonstration and supporting the NDP. Therefore all the analysis
of an organization has to be reduced down to "concrete demandsie
slogans for the demonstration. It doesn't matter how abstract these
slogans are as long as they can fit onto a placard. Concrete
becomes a synonym for short.
Read before attacking
Congratulations on a great issue. 'Especially appreciated were
the articles by Ulli Diemer on anarchism
and Marxism. They shed quite a bit of light on the differences
between the two, as well as clarified the actual theories of Marxism
and the truth about the Marx-Bakunin
split. I wonder if any anarchists will take the article
seriously and read Marx before attacking him.
P. Murtaugh, it seems, contents himself with little knowledge of
the writings of Marx, yet proceeds to attack him regardless. He
charges that Marxism is bifocal having separate ideologies
for the masses and the leaders. If Murtaugh had read Marx and not
accepted the claims of the Marxist-Leninists so gullibly,
he would have realized that the Marxism for the leaders
is not Marxism at all. The leaders have abandoned nearly all of
Marxism except the name, as has been documented amply. He would
also realize that Libertarian Marxism is not a
rather recent development, but the Marxism of today, a logical
conclusion of the Marxism of yesterday.