Final thoughts on Anarchism and the Workers State

Disclaimer: This is a response to a article and not a article itself and will not be posted in the article tab, everything stated in this is the opinion of the submitter and not of the magazine itself. Sincerely Chief Editor Robert Biester

By Valentine Seebart

A few days ago I was exhilarated to discover that an article of mine had garnered a critical response, the criticisms themselves were compelling and I thought it would be useful to both respond in kind and utilize the opportunity to further contemplate the original ideas. 

The principle and igniting criticism is that within my original article I do not properly clarify the role of the state as intrinsic to class domination, that meaning it is not something exterior to society but rather a product of social contradiction itself; a product of class struggle. The author argues that in positioning the state as the mediator of class conflict I am assuming it to be a foreign imposition upon society. In response to this I must re-emphasize the second half of Engels famous quote relating to the subject:

“But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.”

While it is true that the state necessarily arises from the conditions of the society which it overlook, it nonetheless functions as a system of superior authority within that context. Furthermore, I completely agree that the state is actively directing its power on the behest of one class against another. Simply because the state seeks to maintain order does not imply that it is neutral, after all when in a position of capitalist dominance in society the maintenance of general order is precisely a reinforcement of the capitalist class. This is stated well in the criticism at hand:

“Having that in mind, the bourgeois state may present itself as a mediator but is, in its essence, protecting the capitalist mode of production and private property, which by itself makes it the protector of the capitalist class. So the state is, in a way, the main representative of power, which a single class may possess.”

The state’s role as mediator and the states role as a class weapon are not at all incompatible subjects, a system of organization is never neutral and the state within a capitalist society is no exception. 

The second criticism which develops is that of analysis of my “two struggle thesis”, that being the assertion that both anarchism and Leninism each express essentially inverse reinterpretations of the same conflict. Upon the discussion of ‘the general public’ and its struggle against the state in contrast to the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. They write:

“That being said, the supposed contradiction between “the state and the general public” ought not to be understood as a separate conflict, but merely a representation of the class antagonisms in different forms. The repressive role a bourgeois state undoubtedly plays towards the “general public” (which is, by itself, an abstract term) is a logical extension of its raising itself above society and maintaining an alienated bureaucratized form. But the source of its repressive role is not the interests of the “state as an institution” but the interests of the capitalist class, mediated by the state. From this, we could conclude that the notion of equating and separating the “two contradictions” is somewhat nonsensical.”

In similar tune to the last criticism the author is correct in their statement but seemingly unaware that this was the conclusion of the work they are criticizing. It is not simply that I believe anarchist and Leninists are fighting two alternative struggles, ones which nonetheless could be united, but rather that they are (and by extension all other revolutionary movements) essentially fighting mirrored visions of the same struggle, and that seeming incompatibilities within the movements come from idiosyncrasies which do not necessarily invalidate each other as much as they are born from alternative perspectives of the bourgeois-state. From this point the author further criticizes an equation of anarchist and Leninist postrevolutionary organization, laying out the principles of Leninist ideology and furthermore insinuating that I myself present a faulty understanding of communisms shortcomings, saying: 

“The notion of reconciliation obviously stands on the prejudice of communist theory lacking the necessary knowledge to “struggle against the State” and anarchist theory having the correct theoretical standpoint of it. As I tried to point out before, this is very much not so. Clearly, the whole polemic leads up to this conclusion.”

I find this framing oddly territorial, in that it emphasizes exactly every downside which I afford communist theory while ignoring my clear criticism of its anarchist peer; through this framing it appears as though my general ideological criticism has been recontextualized as a directed assault upon Leninism. I should clarify that my criticism of Leninism (that its postrevolutionary fever was incapable of addressing the antagonism of the state) and my criticism of anarchism (that its oblique fixation with the destruction of the state was incapable of addressing class conflict) were not an attempt to invalidate either ideology, but rather to showcase that the downsides of each were expressly an overreliance upon a single perspective of the revolutionary struggle; and thus a simultaneity of perspectives were necessary. In criticizing an ideology one is simultaneous refining within it exactly what is useful. The author concludes by saying:

“Marxism has no shortcomings, and is, in fact, proven to be superior to the utopian imagination of abolishing the state “at one stroke”. Thus, if we wish for our struggles to have a lasting impact, we are obliged to be Marxists.”

As an ardent Marxist myself I am almost insulted by the premise that “Marxism has not shortcomings”. The entire premise of dialectical philosophy is the capacity to criticize ones own proposition (in that sense to empathize with the polemic), to implicate the philosophy of criticism is itself uncriticizable is an admission of ideological confusion, failing to criticize Marxism is un-Marxist. Furthermore it should be acknowledged that my propositions were not simply the supplementation of anarchist viewpoints where Leninist ones were absent, as has been implied, but rather that neither invalidate each other within the confines of their own analysis and are thus fully compatible withing revolutionary struggle. While the author positions that such is anarchism corroding the methodology of Leninist revolution, it is rather a symbiosis of equally viable however mutually narrow revolutionary strategy. 

Overall I can sympathize with much of the criticism as there is (within my original work) a vast conflation of narrowness with dysfunctionality. That is to say, equating the alleged specialization of each perspective to its inability to preform the tasks of it inverse; anarchists being incapable of addressing class antagonisms and Leninists incapable of abolishing state antagonisms. If I am to provide some reassurance I would say that one should not assume that simply because an individual component is incapable of assuming the task of the whole it is of less value, as while I might demote both forms of struggle to secondary, their alleged specification makes them altogether more valuable within the context of their own struggle. 

While my original article served primarily as an olive branch between anarchist and Leninist theory (in this sense creating a unified narrative between supposedly incompatible variations of socialism) the more broad ideological goal is to suggest that all truly revolutionary ideology, regardless of nomenclature, is simply specified investigations into the same larger conflict; and thus true revolutionary politics emerge not from the struggle for perfection between these ideologies but their simultaneous yet distinct practice. 

In short, not simply syncretism, but simultaneity.

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