Anarchism VS Marxism: what’s Difference ?

In the first place, the assessment of anarchism about past and future society is imaginary and unscientific.

The noted scholar on anarchism, Woodcock, makes the following observation in this respect:

“In its (anarchism) attitude towards social development anarchism often seems to float like Mohammed’s coffin suspended between the lodestones of an idealized future and an idealized past. The peasant communism of the Russian mir…the free cities of the European Middle Ages…the sharing of goods implied in customs of certain primitive tribes…all these attract anarchist theoretician as examples of what can be done without the apparatus of the state”.

Marx studied history with the help of dialectical materialism and framed the conclusion that in the primitive society there was communism. With the passing away of time the economic, political, social and other aspects of society underwent radical changes. The study of the evolution of society convinced Marx and Engels to form such conclusion.

The materialist interpretation of history convinced Marx that the changes or evolution of society will continue until there was communism. This conclusion of Marx is not imaginary or wishful thinking but based on scientific analysis. But anarchist’s analysis of social develop­ment is not scientific.

The picture of future society depicted by the anarchists is not based on any scientific foundation. It is guided by sentiment. It is very often alleged (and of course correctly) that anarchism is reactionary whereas Marxism is progressive.

Let us explain:

Anarchism has stressed upon the customs, habit etc. of past society, which were conservative in nature, as well as guiding forces; It is strange that these conservative forces have been highly appreciated by the anarchists.

Marxism does not recognize any conservative element because they inhibit the progress of society. In other words, conservativeness is enemy to progress of society.

Though both anarchism and Marxism hold the view that the revolution is the only way of changing the society along with the emancipation of working class there spectacular differences between the two regarding the techniques, management and other aspects of revolution.

Anarchism says that common people will be at the helm of leadership of the revolution and among the masses peasants will the foremost section. In other words, anarchist’s confidence was concentrated upon peasants.

On the other hand, Marxism has said that redundant proletariat will take the leading part in revolution. Anarchism rules out party and its importance in revolutionary process. Marxism believes that revolution can be successful only through the party.

Anarchist’s apathy to party is based on the conception that it is an authoritarian organization. Schwarzmantel says, “A libertarian society cannot be produced by an authoritarian organization.”

Hence follows the rejection by anarchists of the Marxist emphasis on political parties as necessary elements in the revolutionary process.

Anarchists exalt spontaneous mass action. They are critical of what they regard as an elitist and authoritarian organisation. They are hostile to political parties, whether they are of the Leninist vanguard type or social democratic mass parties.

Here lies the basic difference between anarchism and Marxism. Though Marx and Engels did not give special emphasis upon party as a potential weapon for realizing revolution, in this respect Lenin did not fail.

Anarchists’ viewpoint that people en masse will participate at all the stages of revolutionary process and that participation shall be spontaneous. No vanguard organization shall be there to guide and motivate them.

There is another difference between anarchism and Marxism. The former refused to accept any form of participation in state institution including electoral process. “Anarchists called for “abstentionism” which meant rejection of the vote and party politics. Participation… would seem to legitimize the system and help to perpetuate it”. But these arguments of the anarchists have been strongly opposed by the Marxists.

They point out that mass participation in political activities and party organization are essential parts of revolutionary process. The working class gets ample opportunity to ventilate their views through this partici­pation.

Both Marxists and anarchists had different views about capital and state. This difference was so prominent that there was polar difference between the two. Engels pointed out this difference in his letter to Cuno which was written on 24 January 1872.

A portion of the letter is quoted here: “Bakunin has a peculiar theory of his own, a medley of Proudhonism and communism. The chief point of which is that he does not regard capital and therefore the class antagonism between capitalists and wage workers which has arisen through social development but the state as the main evil to be abolished”. Engels has further observed that Bakunin has failed to realize that the state is nothing more than the organization of the ruling classes and they utilized it for harvesting their own privileges and benefits. Bakunin maintains that the state has created capital and capital has all the evils.

If state is destroyed capitalism will go to blazes of itself. On the contrary, Engels says that if capitalism is done away with and the concentration of wealth in the hands of few is stopped the state will collapse. So we see that there is a basic difference between anarchism and Marxism as to the role of state and capitalism.

There is another difference. The abolition of capital will not lead to the abolition of state as had been imagined by the anarchists. Engels has maintained that without a previous social revolution the abolition of state is nonsense. Only a social revolution can help the abolition of capital and the abolition of state will follow.

This difference in approach is due to the fact that Marxism believes that the state is the product of capitalism. On the other hand, anarchism says that the state has created capital. We think that the Marxian analysis is more scientific because before the creation of capital practically there was no existence of modern state apparatus.

Moreover, Marx and Engels have come to this conclusion from an in-depth analysis of social development. Their conclusion is not a priori.

The anarchists vehemently opposed the state because the state means authority and it again means loss of freedom of individuals. So the individuals can have full freedom in the absence of state. But in his letter to Cuno Engels has raised a very pertinent and practical question.

If there is no authority how a factory or railway or any organisation will be managed? There shall be one authority to take a decision or utter a final word in regard to management. Engels’s argument is perfectly right.

In every human society there must exist a type of organisation which will be empowered to take a decision for the settlement of all disputes. By criticizing anarchists’ standpoint of the abolition of state the Marxists have shown a good deal of intelligence and reason.

There is a very important difference between anarchism and Marxism as regards the abolition of state.

Lenin in his famous work State and Revolution has elaborated this aspect. The anarchists have advocated the abolition of state. But Marxism is of opinion that the state is not destroyed or abolished, it withers away.

Marx and Engels have emphasized that a revolution abolishes a bourgeois state, and, after this revolution, the proletarian state is established.

Let us put the matter in the words of Lenin:

“As a matter of fact, Engels speaks of the proletarian revolution abolishing the bourgeois state while the words about the state withering away refer to the remnants of the proletarian state after the socialist state revolution. According to Engels, the bourgeois state does not wither away, but is abolished by the proletariat in the course of the revolution. What withers away after this revolution is the proletarian state or semi-state”.

Lenin’s interpretation of state and Engels’s theory of withering away of state has created a lot of heat and controversy and these have not yet died down. It is, however, held that the state has neither been destroyed nor abolished nor withered away. It still exists and will continue to exist.

Lenin says Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognizes the need for a state and for state power in the period of revolution in general, and in the period of transition from capitalism to socialism in particular Anarchism does not recognize the importance of state at all, whereas Marxism recognizes its importance.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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