By Steve Parr, Libertarian Workers‘ Group
Although it has died down for the‘ present, the debate and discussion on Marxism and the relationship of marxism to anarchism did rage hot and heavy within the North A.rneri-can movement for some time. It ended — or I should say, faded away, without any conclusion being
reached. This implies to me that when it ﬂares up again – and I believe it will do so inevitably, that we would probably be beginning again from square one.
My intent here is to state what I think are a few basic pt-emisses that we — as anarcho-syndicalists and libertarian communists, can agree on, and thus bring the discussion forward. There has been no feeling theses on Marxism so frustrating during my almost 10 years in the movement than watch-ing the theoretical tail-chasing that goes on, with issues and ideas .being rehashed over and over again. So I offer these theses as a summary of our position (as op-posed to that of the anti-theory or red-baiting defenders of the faith who now constitute the rump faction of ACF).
1] Marxism as a theory and a movement is no more monolithic than anarchism. It is simply untrue to brand all Marxists as either Leninists or social-democrats.
2] We must therefore, accept ‘those anti-authoritarian currents of Marxism as a legitimate part of the workers‘ movement. Furthermore, we should engage in debate and discussion with those Leninists and social-democrats who may be mov-ing in an anti-authoritarian direc-tion in order to encourage that development.
3] We need to accept that there is a basic soundness to Marxist economic theory which we must –
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ideas 8- action
whether we agree with it or not, come to terms with. it is easy to dismiss Marxian views out of hand. However, until there is an anarchist alternative to Capital, we should be wary of closing ourselves off from ideas which we have not yet refuted. Like other aspects of Marxism, Marxian economics is far from monolithic.
4] We must keep in mind that a worker who holds Marxist or even Leninist ideas is still a worker, and that at times the conﬂict of ideas must be subordinate to the class struggle. We would not be hesitant (at least, I hope not) to make common cause with those at our workplaces who had little or no political awareness beyond work-place issues. How then, can we in good faith exclude Marxist or Leninist workers from our work-place organizations and groups, provided that they — like anyone else, enter on a basis of good faith and respect for opposing points of view.
5] We must recognize that much of the anti-Marxist rhetoric that is bandied about in the anarchist movement has as its basis anti-intellectualism, which has been a strong current in North American political life over the last two centuries (I recommend Richard Hofstadter’s book on this subject). It is a way that some anarchists have used to appeal to the masses by pandering to their worst im-pulses (the IWW is notorious for this), and comes very close to racism and anti-Semitism at times.
lf we are to avoid the dead end of mindless activism we must then continue the decisive break we have made with this retrograde pseudo-anarchism when we left ACF. They can do nothing but hinder our development, as they themselves are going nowhere fast.
6] Finally, we must continue the discussion. We need to begin grappling not only with the basic
works of Marxism but with the modern day writing as well. For example, it is Marxists — largely of the structuralist school, who have done the best writing in the last few years on the nature of power and authority in modern, bureaucratic society. If we are to get a better understanding of the micro-dynamics of class domination and oppression, we must begin reading and critiquing these writ-ings. Otherwise, we risk being left behind with a few old saws about liberty and autonomy while others assume the place in the theoretical avante-garde that is rightfully ours.
I do not think that I have said anything particularly new or earth-shaking here. I did not mean to.
This is merely a restatement of ideas put forth in the course of the recent debate — ideas which seem-ed to be those we could unite around on this matter. Our watch-word in any future discussion should be: “We reject the label of ‘heretics.’ We are not afraid to investigate anything, no matter what its label, from which we might learn something.” Above all, we can keep in mind the statement of Bakunin. “I cleave to no one system. lam a true seeker.”