Marxist-Anarchist Dialogue: Partial Transcript

  • Posted on: 20 March 2017
  • By: thecollective

From Black Rose Anarchist Federation

Please find below the partial transcript of the “Marxist-Anarchist Dialogue” that took place on February 12, 2017, at the Sepulveda Peace Center in Los Angeles. This event featured a Black Rose/Rosa Negra member presenting on anarchism in dialogue with a member of the International Marxist Humanist Organization (IMHO) who preferred for his comments not to be reproduced publicly.


I’d just like to begin with a quote from Bakunin in Statism and Anarchy (1873):

“To contend successfully with a military force which now respects nothing, is armed with the most terrible weapons of destruction, and is always ready to use them to wipe out not just houses and streets but entire cities with all their inhabitants—to contend with such a wild beast, one needs another beast, no less wild but more just: an organized uprising of the people, a social revolution […] which spares nothing and stops at nothing.”

As Ukrainian revolutionary Nester Mahkno and his comrades point out in their “Organizational Platform for a General Union of Anarchists,” written in exile in Paris in 1926, it was in the life of the toiling masses, particularly the Russian practices of mir, obshchina, and artel, or the agrarian commune and cooperative labor, that Alexander Herzen and Mikhail Bakunin discovered anarchism. Yet, as Paul McLaughlin (2002) observes, Bakunin’s anarchism is also one with his atheism and anti-theologism, or atheistic materialism. Bakunin (1814-1876) extends Ludwig Feuerbach’s exposé of the mystification of religious authority by illuminating the reification of political and scientific authority while summoning the negative Hegelian dialectic to sweep away feudalism, capitalism, despotism, and the State. Bakunin famously expounds on this view in “The Reaction in Germany” (1842), where he stipulates the existence of an “either-or” dialectic demanding the victory of either the Negative (Revolution) or the Positive (the State or the status quo). Yet instead of a battle between two opposing forces leading to a synthesis, as Hegel imagined, Bakunin envisions a dyadic conflict leading to the full victory of the Negative, yielding “democracy” in 1842, or “anarchy” 25 years later. Bakunin views history as a gradual evolutionary progression that contains episodes of revolutionary acceleration—hence his famous conclusion to “The Reaction,” where he professes his faith in the “eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life. The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.”

For Bakunin, history progresses through the principle of revolt, which together with the principles of human animality and reason for him express the human essence; reason is the emancipatory force of history, as it illuminates freedom. Besides Herzen, the anarcho-Populist “father of Russian socialism” with whom Bakunin worked closely in favor of Polish independence from tsarism, developing the slogan “Zemlya i Volya” (“Land and Freedom”) as a summary of their visionary program that would resonate around the world (perhaps most famously, indeed, as Tierra y Libertad in the Mexican Revolution), his philosophical and political influences are many: there is Hegel; Feuerbach; Konstantin Aksakov, a notable anti-Statist figure within the Stankevich Circle in Moscow; Johann Fichte, from whom Bakunin took the emphasis on action and the vision of a conscious, collective movement striving to institute reason, freedom, and equality in history; Bruno Bauer, who sees in Hegel a radical critique of the State and religion; and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, from whom Bakunin took anarchism and atheism. In stark contrast to Proudhon the sexist, however, Bakunin is a militant feminist who was called “Hermaphrodite man” by Marx in 1868 for demanding the “equalization of classes and individuals of both sexes” in the Program of the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy, or “the Alliance.” The roots linking Bakunin’s atheism or anti-theologism with anarchism were established by 1842, though Bakunin wasn’t explicitly anarchist until 1866, when he declared the goal of the International Brotherhood, forerunner of the Alliance, as being the “overthrow of all States and at the same time all […] official Churches, standing armies, centralized ministries, bureaucracy, governments, unitary parliaments and State universities and banks, as well as aristocratic and bourgeois monopolies.”

Now I’d like to come to some of the differences between Bakunin’s thought, or anarchism, and Marx and Marxism, and illuminate this through a few issues. For one, there is the matter of Prometheanism and productivism. Marxism has been accused for a very long time of being both: that is to say, that Marx and Marxism are obsessed with progress and the development of productive forces, equating human liberation with the domination of nature—despite the considerable efforts that have been made in recent decades by eco-Marxist to rescue Marx on these two grounds. So the question arises: is anarchism any better?

Bakunin adheres to naturalism, a post-Enlightenment philosophical movement associated with materialism and atheism, which lay the foundations for modern science while criticizing its excesses and abuses. As such, Bakunin takes aim at René Descartes and Immanuel Kant for their anthropocentrism. Therefore, Bakunin’s naturalism can be said to be associated with ecology. Indeed, it was through anarchism that Murray Bookchin developed the philosophy of social ecology decades before John Bellamy Foster and others “discovered” Marx’s questionable environmentalism. Bakunin considers Cartesian anthropocentrism to be anti-naturalist. For these reasons, naturalism arguably holds greater ecological potential than historical materialism.

Now, coming to the question of history, racism and imperialism, anarchists disagree, as McLaughlin notes, principally with Marxists over the usefulness of historical materialism and the stages theory of history, whereby history inevitably progresses from primitive communism to the slave societies of antiquity, feudalism, capitalism and then communism in the end.

Instead of the determinism set forth by Marx as early as 1847 in The Poverty of Philosophy, a volume that presents a devastating (if opportunistic) critique of Proudhon, where Marx argues that socialism can only be achieved after the full development of the productive forces, Bakunin and the anarchists believe in spontaneity. Plus, anarchists do not consider the industrial proletariat necessarily to have more revolutionary potential than the peasantry, as Marxism does; instead, anarchists seek to unite both proletariat and peasantry against capitalism and the State.

To illustrate the difference between the two approaches, consider how Engels responded to Bakunin’s “Appeal to the Slavs,” which sought to mobilize the concepts of justice and humanity to unite the Slavs in a federated struggle against Russian and Austro-Hungarian imperialism in the wake of the failed 1848 Revolutions. In “Democratic Pan-Slavism,” Engels declares that, other than for the Poles and Russians, “no Slav people has a future” outside of subordination to centralizing Prussian and Austrian imperialist “civilization.” In addition, reflecting on the recent Mexican-American War, which had just ended that year, Engels trolls Bakunin, asking, “will [he] accuse the Americans of a ‘war of conquest,’ which […] was […] waged wholly and solely in the interest of civilization? Or is it perhaps unfortunate that splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexicans, who could not do anything with it?”

Bakunin was not dominated by the questionable reasoning that leads Marx and Engels to express uncritical opinions about capitalism and colonialism (per the stages theory). Instead, he espouses a decolonizing perspective that initially supported national-liberation struggles but then came to understand the need for coordinated global revolution—hence his popularity in the more agrarian Mediterranean and eastern European countries (Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Russia) within the International, as well as in India, Mexico, and much of the rest of Latin America after the First International. This is not to overlook Marx’s late revisions of his deterministic, callous reasoning, especially after his study of the Russian mir, nor is it to ignore the fact—as Kevin Anderson reminds us—that Marx was among the first Europeans to call for India’s independence from British domination!

There is also the issue of Marx’s own anti-Semitic comments against Ferdinand Lasalle and himself and his family, as in On the Jewish Question (1844), which nonetheless cannot compare to Bakunin’s far more wretched Jew-hatred, based on conspiracy and the “anti-Semitism of fools.”

Politically, Marxism and anarchism diverge principally on the questions of the State, religion, tactics, and strategy.

Robert Graham, author of We Do Not Fear Anarchy; We Invoke It, has identified 6 principles by which Bakunin distinguished anarchism from other approaches: anti-authoritarianism, anti-Statism, anti-parliamentarianism, federalism, libertarianism (that is to say, the consistency of means and ends), and social revolution as means to emancipation.

We see conflict with Marxism on all of these questions. But the primary contradiction is really between statism and centralism, which is on the Marxist side, and the anti-state or federalist position, which accords with anarchist principles.

So to illustrate the distinction, I just want to quote a couple of things by Marx and Engels. In their 1850 address of the Communist League, they argue that the German workers’ movement must strive for the “most determined centralization of power in the hands of the state authority. They must not allow themselves to be misguided by the democratic talk of freedom for the communities, of self-government, etc.” There’s also a letter that Engels sent to Carlo Cafiero, who was an Italian Alliance member, in 1872: “Bismarck and Victor Emmanuel had both rendered enormous service to the revolution by bringing about political centralization in their respective countries.”

And so, as an alternative, the International Alliance for Socialist Democracy (“the Alliance”) was a specifically anarchist organization through which Bakunin sought to deepen the revolutionary struggle of the International. The Alliance “stands for atheism, the abolition of cults and the replacement of faith by science, and divine by human justice.” In addition, it sought to collectivize means of production via the agricultural-industrial associations rather than through the State.

To conclude here, I want to illustrate this conflict very practically in a historical way by analyzing the conflict between Marx, Bakunin, and their followers in the First International, or the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA), which was founded in 1864. Their conflict really happened between 1868 and 1872. This conflict really revolves around the incompatibility of the anarchist and protosyndicalist emphasis on direct action with the Marxist electoralist or statist strategy.

And just as a background to this conflict, it bears mentioning that Marx and Engels slanderously accused Bakunin of being a tsarist agent, first in 1848. These charges were resurrected by Marx’s allies in Spain and Germany in the runs-up to the Basel (1869) and Hague (1872) Congresses of the International. In fact, curiously, this echoes the World Socialist’s Web Site’s denunciation of the Antifa protesters against Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley, condemning them as agents provocateurs.

So, just to go briefly around some of the highlights of the International and its Congresses: at the Brussels Congress of 1868, the Belgian federalists introduced a principle whereby European workers would launch a general strike in order to either prevent or respond to the declaration of war in Europe, whereas at the Basel Congress of 1869, the IWMA’s “most representative congress” (Graham), the IWMA’s majority voted in favor of revolutionary syndicalism as the preferred strategy for the International. In Basel, the Belgian internationalists argued for each local of IWMA to become a commune or “society of resistance” (a union), whereas Bakunin and other federalists were hailing collectivism in the form of cooperatives, mutual aid societies, credit unions, and the tactic of the general strike.

Then, of course, the Paris Commune of 1871 showed the brutality of counter-insurgent suppression and demonstrated Proudhon’s error, in fact, in believing that the transition to socialism or anarchism could come about peacefully. And during this time, Marx and Bakunin more or less did converge for a short time in their analysis of the Commune. Karl Marx believed that the experience of the Commune demonstrated that the workers cannot “simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for their own purposes.” However, at the London Conference of 1871, Marx tried to reverse the Basel Conference consensus by imposing an electoral strategy through the General Council, despite the fact that the majority of the International did not agree. Marx was actually prepared to ally with the Blanquists to do this. And thereafter, at the next Congress in the Hague (1872), Bakunin and his Swiss assistant James Guillaume were expelled from the International so as to uphold the London precedent on parliamentarianism, and the General Council was transferred to New York—leading the Blanquists who in fact had allied with Marx to have this done to resign from the International.

In this way, the First International was reduced from being a multi-tendency platform to an exclusively statist one, and then reconstituted as the Second International in 1889. From 1896 on, the Second International excluded anarchists altogether for not agreeing with the same electoral strategy.

However, the anarchists did go off in 1872 right after the expulsion of Bakunin and Guillaume and founded their own Congress in St. Imier, Switzerland, where they had a series of different conferences that led to the creation of a rather significant anti-authoritarian, anarchist international movement that reaffirmed syndicalism and the social revolution. This gave way to the dominance of anarcho-syndicalism within the international labor movement from the time of the Second International up to World War I.

And so I just want to conclude here, because we are talking about the time now being under Trump, and I want to share some of the continuities between the history and theory that I’ve been telling you about and what Black Rose/Rosa Negra tries to glean from that in the current moment. While we haven’t discussed this very profoundly, we can glean some points from the statements that we have published:

We must actively shut down fascists as we saw happen at UC Berkeley with Milo and in opposition to people like Richard Spencer and so on.

We should also be engaging with people who are becoming increasingly mobilized recently. Rather than be dismissive of them, we should be building popular power, and we should be coordinating with other revolutionary groups.

We also reaffirm Bakunin’s idea of anti-electoralism. We believe that the struggle against Trump and Trumpism should not bring us closer to the Democrats but rather to the social revolution, and we think specifically that we should be organizing and participating in revolutionary social movements, such as the asambleas populares or popular assemblies that have been sprouting up around the city and around the country. In fact, some of our comrades are involved in these asambleas, which are trying to bring together resistance to the deportations with building popular power through the theory of libertarian municipalism or communalism, which are more or less anarchist ideas.

Then there’s also of course the Standing Rock struggle, which is a great challenge to Indigenous autonomy and also ecology.

And we also have the question of feminism as our comrades have written recently in an analysis of the current moment with regard to feminism: in fact, they are saying that the Women’s March represents an opening for revolutionary materialist class struggle feminism to gain some ground.

There’s also the antimilitarist and syndicalist struggle for workplace autonomy as well as the general strike. There’s a very recent piece by the Shutdown Collective published on Truthout about the general strike which I recommend highly.

Furthermore and lastly, we are trying to expand our presence geographically and engage with the white working class, which we understand as having been a very clear contributing factor to the current situation we have with Donald Trump as our president. Thank you very much for listening.


Internal Panel Discussion

Thank you, [anonymous Marxist]. I think you began by saying that anarchism is seen on the streets but not on the home or workplace. And I mean, as I was mentioning in my presentation, with regard to the Basel Conference and protosyndicalism, the entire opposition between the Marxists and anarchists in the original break within the First International is very much about that question—anarchism being in the workplace—and Marx and Engels’s centralist opposition to this due to their interest in presenting a statist or electoral strategy.

Also, I don’t think it’s true that anarchism isn’t found in the home, either. Bakunin had a very militant feminist critique of the Russian Commune and of society in general; it wasn’t just his opposition to capitalism and the State. I push back on that.

I think I understand what you mean by the Marxist critique of anarchists—that they have an abstract conception of liberty—but I don’t think it’s very abstract at all. I mean, if you look again at the history I was just retelling about the struggles that anarchists have been involved with, both at the individual and collective level, there’s nothing abstract about it. So I’m a little puzzled what you meant by that. I would just comment to say that it did remind me a bit of Engels’s critique of utopian socialism, saying that only scientific socialism has the correct insight, and that all the other schools that are revolutionary and socialist in fact are nothing.

And then your comments about Antifa are interesting. I completely disagree that Antifa has “empty content”! I think that that was completely contradicted by what we saw at UC Berkeley. This was a neo-Nazi agitator and a Trump agitator who was planning on publicly outing trans* and undocumented students at UC Berkeley, and that was shut down by the coordinated action of anarchists and Antifa. I don’t think there is anything empty about that at all.

Nor do I think that anarchists lack future vision. As I was saying of Bakunin, anarchism is all about the liberation of humanity. There is nothing… It’s not a present-oriented type of thing; it’s not lacking a future vision in any sense.

You know, there is a lot of debate among anarchists about what is the meaning of anarchism, with regard to the variety or heterogeneity which you pointed to in terms of the development within anarchism. You cited “anti-civilizational” anarchism as an example. There is some debate regarding the question of whether that can even be considered a form of anarchism. I personally would say that it’s not a form of anarchism: it’s actually not interested in abolishing hierarchies, but more simply interested in abolishing technology, agriculture, and things like that. That’s not very much consistent with the anti-statist and anti-hierarchical critique that anarchism brings about. In fact, I think it’s very important not to reduce the anarchist or green or eco-anarchist position to that; that’s very reductive. There is Murray Bookchin’s philosophy of social ecology, which is a very profound, rich, Hegelian tradition that develops the critique of the destruction and domination of nature with the critique of social domination as well.

And the last thing: toward the end of your comments, you suggested that anarchists deny that humans are dependent on each other, but that is completely false. If you look at Peter Kropotkin, he theorized the idea of mutual aid being a major factor of evolution, both within the animal world as well as in social evolution. His entire volume is dedicated to that. He studied biology in Siberia for a great number of years. […]

I think to some degree within the socialist tradition, with its anarchist, Marxist, and other wings, there is a lot of miscommunication and so on. So I think that what you are suggesting about the science of society being before the revolution is actually very consistent with the naturalistic approach that I was mentioning to you about Bakunin and the way you have to certainly analyze society first, and nature first—nature first, then society—and from there you progress to critique and action. […]

Actually, within the debate or the conflict between Marx and Bakunin or Marxism and anarchism within the First International, there was a back-and-forth about this very same question [Marxism as a statist form of capitalism]. And you know, I did mean to get to a discussion of the Russian Revolution, but there was no time. There is certainly an anarchist tradition from the time of the conflict in the First International as well as during and after the Russian Revolution that did identify the Bolsheviks, even before Stalin, as State capitalists, according to what Lenin was writing—advocating for the creation of State capitalism as a transitional strategy in Russia. Bakunin very clearly identified that even if you had a statist power that was proclaiming itself as anti-capitalist, it would be composed of a small elite, as all States are, and would necessarily be reproducing these systems of domination of hierarchical authority. Bakunin was very visionary in this sense; he very much anticipated what happened in Russia.




Bakunin defeated Marx politically, Proudhon defeated him economically and Stirner defeats him philosophically. The above anarchists are low on the curve.

Proudhon really?

Proudhon unlike Marx actually has a workable economic system. Regardless of how you feel about economic production as such Marx failed on both counts of rejecting systems as such(Stirner) and creating a workable economic system(Proudhon).

proudhon says;

"I AFFIRM the REALITY of an economic science"......."The labor of man continues the work of God, who, in creating all beings, did but externally realize the eternal laws of reason. Economic science is, then, necessarily and at once a theory of ideas, a natural theology, and a psychology."-- Proudhon, 'System of Economical Contradictions: or, The Philosophy of Poverty'

By affirming 'the reality of an economic science' and claiming that man, like God, is a reasoning machine that jumpstart authors causal actions and results (labour-attributed 'production'), Proudhon creates another unrealistic anthropocentric monstrosity split off from nature, an idealized human-driven closed system which fails to acknowledge man's inclusion within a relational suprasystem greater than himself.

'workable'? ... is it not the case that 'capitalism' and 'socialism' fall into the same class of 'workability'?

Kropotkin's understanding of interdependencies/connectedness and mutual aid was not constrained to humans, therefore he would not, like Proudhon, AFFIRM the REALITY of a human-reason-driven economic science since a science that ignores the relational suprasystem it is included in can only deal with 'pragmatic idealizations' that are disconnected from the physical reality of our actual relational experience. We 'are' the foodnet we are included in (we are exposed to interdependencies and sustained by mutual support).

"Kropotkin was the first person to mould proto-ecological concepts within the then fledgling fields of economics, agricultural science, conservation- ism, ethology, criminology, city planning, geography, geology and biology into a coherent new scientific outlook combined with a radical political or social ecological program for rejuvenating society and our relationship with the Earth." --Graham Purchase, 'Green Flame: Kropotkin and the Birth of Ecology'


Quoth Charles in his excellent introduction of Markets Not Capitalism:

They argue that economic privilege is a real and pervasive social problem, but that the problem is not a problem of private property, competition, or profits per se. It is not a problem of the market form but of markets deformed — deformed by the long shadow of historical injustices and the ongoing, continuous exercise of legal privilege on behalf of capital.

Everybody knows this.

Clearly this was me.
-- Second Generation Anarchist.

here we go again, ... "man taking over God's work" in a disconnected-from-reality 'rescue' of an 'inherently good' 'anthropocentric market' from its abuse and deformation by 'capitalism'.

"Markets Not Capitalism ... explains how liberating market exchange from state capitalist privilege can abolish structural poverty, help working people take control over the conditions of their labor, and redistribute wealth and social power. "

let's see now, let's fix things up by assuming that the problem is a dogfight between a group of abstract nouns we have invented and unleashed in our binary debating halls. 'capitalism', get the fuck off the back of our 'market', coz that spooky invisible-hand bitch is our ticket to socio-political-economic nirvana.

Proudhon beats Marx in the sense that he at least has a correspondable system unlike all those Marxist failures. I'm not a Proudhonian so I don't share his vision for an economic system. That being said a Proudhonian economic system would be vastly preferable this and would at least not turn out like the Marxist hellholes of the 20th century. I would see it as a starting point to taper off from seeing that how much the the cancer of homo economicus has metastasized.

All three contributed to the advancement of workable aspects that press forward our
desire for alliance, productivity, and singularity. Exemplars
that have inspired us with the least dogma in the Western World. Three takes on our opportunities,
And three pioneers for freedom.
They created a lot of ideas, to benefit us all as to The Idea. We have gratitude and admiration for their historic contribution. Hegel and Marx aren't even in the same league as them. Now, where were we… Let's Play Ball!.( By the way, whose up?.)

If Emile has a beef with markets I suggest he might be happier hanging out with Marxists. Some of them might also enjoy his Nitzchean ramblings.

'supply' and 'demand' is a classic instance of linear dualist thinking [the flatspace reduction of nature's source-and-sink non-dualism].

letting supply and demand find their own balance is driving wealth acquisition toward extreme imbalance.

letting supply and demand find their own balance is letting the market supplant 'earned income' with 'unearned income'.

how stupid is this?, to trust a word, "market", which takes its meaning from a binary dualism. Monbiot tags this trust as neoliberal nonsense;

"The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with [concealed] power relations."

what's in YOUR wallet? ... the invisible hand?

Nonsense. The market and the assignment of property titles within it is a garden we grow. A tool. Like a penis or a lightsaber. Just like consensus process or breaking out into working groups. Like any means of organization we should not fetishize it. It is an extraordinarily useful and necessary tool, but just like any procedure we might adopt it is not a god. And its precise happenstance structure is surely not foundational to our ethics.

Everybody knows this. I am a Second Generation Anarchist (SGA) after all.

I produce high-density blocks of repetitive anarchy-spew. If you find it is nonsense it is obviously because you are incapable of understanding me, not that I am incomprehensible.

Blip Blip M'ree Blip

Nonsense! I'm an incompatibilist, but not a hard-determinist because I'm a physicist. Like I read piles of neuro lit back as an undergrad when I was trying to make quantum shit justify free will. Did I ever tell you about the time I single-handedly, famously tore apart the PDX Student Activist Alliance after folks turned to organizing a "radical prom" for ourselves? Let me tell you. People understood.

click here for a comment on Market Fundamentalism

mutual support is NOT a 'tool'.

'responsible market' and 'responsible capitalism' are nonsense

a tool is something that you manipulate, as in the tale of the man from Nantucket

everybody knows this.

Nonsense. We must retain our critical faculties and agency, our capacity to both immediately and smoothly respond the moment our tool stops working. If some post-revolution market does in fact develop cancers of severe capital or wealth accumulation that runaway faster than the myriad diseconomies of scale and centrifugal forces within freed markets can suppress… then we can always just stop respecting some of the property titles of those in danger of becoming new rulers.

Stop trying to take our market anarchist property.

Context matters! Everybody knows this.

The tools stopped working about 200 years ago.

Stop trying to defend the indefensible.

all life forms share the same living space. property is an illusion.

the ancap speaks of this illusion property as if it were a ruler, to be taken as more real than reality.

and that is the corpse in their mouths.

Nonsense. The most persuasive justifications for property (and markets) is that they improve the lives of all — that they’re the most pragmatic ways to navigate concerns of bodily autonomy, subjective desires, and scarcity of resources.

Everybody knows this.

Lol...yes property and markets improve the lives of all, except for the propertyless, and the losers in the marketplace.

Everybody knows this.

What alternative do you suggest?

Dylan, a 10-year-old communist in Quebec, explains (sort of) why we need communism.

what ism do the oceans need to believe in? the birds? pollen?

relations are all there are, and all we have is now.

the isms flatten our view, and abstract relations. the model of reality isn't reality.

isms don't make sense.

Yes models of things are spooks. It seems that 2017 is going to be the year of the spooks?

Naw. It is the year people give up on Stirner self help painted as anarchist nonsense and focus on destroying what destroys you, which is more interesting than spookbusting, which is just Jerry Seinfield nonsense. "You ever notice...blah blah blah?" Yeah Jerry, I fucking noticed that. You going to destroy it? No? Then why the fuck should I care about your smarmy dumb pointing out obvious shit approach to life. Worse than vegans. They "bust" spooks about as often as a vegan "helps the animals" by eating cow food.

Old 20th century binary warfare is recuperation in action.

word salad tastes like bullshit
but you feel clever and isn't that the only point to any of what you do?

It is nice that your imagination exists, but there is no basis for your bio-regional anarch world as any force I should consider in any light. You are not a danger, yet in most cases I can see why Hitler wiped out people like you before going after the left.

The people who've completely merged their sense of reality with social media hate you but I could kiss you!

"When I was sent to a "school" to be "educated," that meant I was to be hypnotized into the tunnel-reality of my tribe. . . . Every politician knows how to induce hypnosis, and very damned few people on the whole planet know how to dehypnotize themselves. The world is not governed by facts or logic. It is governed by BS (belief systems)."
-Robert Anton Wilson

'no beliefs' in much of Western thinking, associates with darkness and despair, in Eastern thinking, infinite possibility.

"Reality, he said, is an opinion. That was his opinion.
BELIEF is a crutch, I said, but lame people need crutches, and we are still babies trying to walk. That was my belief."

A dialog of the deaf? -- sorry, not trying to be ablility-ist phrasing it that way...

As far as contemporary non-Leninist Marxism in the U.S. is concerned:

I myself moved away from anarchism and began calling myself a left communist in the early 1980’s -- that's a long time now. And the people behind the U.S. ostensibly ultra-left Marxist web site 'Insurgent Notes' recently hosted a public conference in New York City. I did not attend the ‘Insurgent Notes’ conference. Based on past experience I didn’t have to put fresh batteries in my crystal ball to get that this conference would be as disappointing as a number of its participants have subsequently described it being. Discussions by U.S. ultra-left Marxists of real world efforts to assert what they claim to be about outside of their ideological echo chamber must always be brief ones.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 2001 attacks, one of the main people currently behind ‘Insurgent Notes’ initiated an ongoing series of meetings of ultra-lefts in Berkeley. I took part. My understanding was that we would move fast, come up with an analysis of the Sept. 11 events, and attempt to get this analysis out in some highly visible way. Sept. 11, 2001 was the first major battle of the 21st century, it was the first time that U.S. government-style mass civilian casualty attacks were perpetrated against civilians in the U.S., and it was blowback from Carter and Reagan’s foreign policy antics in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was a unique historical moment. A provocative perspective on this, presented in an aggressive highly public matter, could have been a foot in the door for making a sophisticated anti-capitalist perspective widely known.

The group met and talked. We met and talked. In compulsively inadequate ultra-left Marxist style we met and talked some more. Nothing happened. Grad student pedantry and incapacity were in a neck and neck race here. There was vague talk of forming a ‘Capital’ reading group by the time I stopped attending the meetings; apparently those who can, do, and those who can’t form ‘Capital’ reading groups. Even this insular and inwardly-directed proposal went nowhere and soon the group folded. This is consistent with all experiences I have ever had with people who call themselves ultra-left Marxists in the U.S. going back to the beginning of the Reagan eighties.

The person who initiated this group is sometimes described as “the leading left communist in the United States.” In my encounter with him I was struck less by his voluminous extremely abstract erudition than I was by his total lack of any hint of the practical political smarts that we develop if we repeatedly assert unusual ideas in the larger world outside of our comfort zone. He has been an ostensible left communist for almost 40 years and all he has to show for this is a collection of documents he’s written that are equally unreadable in seven languages on a web page. In the decade and a half since our 9/11 group’s belly-button fingering sessions he has continued dabbling in his hobby in the form of ‘Insurgent Notes,’ whose identity with a chimerical “revolutionary left,” clarion call for "Building a Radical Left in the Age of Trump" -- ugh! -- and paucity of accounts of sustained, credible, real world action add up to a politics of lite rock Trotskyism.

Revolutionary extremism is what it does; if it does nothing, it is nothing. It is a real world phenomena or it doesn’t exist. It has to be credible; it has to be visible in the larger society around us and be taken seriously by friend and foe alike. A few fiery ultra-left “positions” on unions, nationalism and the Bolsheviks after Brest-Litovsk don’t elevate ‘Insurgent Notes’ in its current form out of and away from the historically harmless left fringe of academia. These putative ultra-leftists don’t even appear to be decisively opposed to electoral politics, in the country that leads the industrialized world in the rate of mass abstention from voting and where mass abstention was in effect the number one vote-getter in the 2016 Presidential election.

In the U.S., ultra-left Marxism is a hobby for self-important and easily intimidated individuals whose ability to relate to the world has been terminally deformed by their university experience and who like to talk about Marx a lot. Ultra-left Marxism is supposed to an uncompromising form of revolutionary analysis — and action — focused on class conflict in capitalist societies. Outside of the United States it often is this; the efforts of the ultra-left Marxist-influenced groups Wildcat and Kolinko in Germany and people associated with them in China, India and elsewhere are particularly admirable. In the US ultra-left Marxism only attracts college professors without a college who project their long-term paralytic inability to act onto the world at large.

The consistent uselessness of ultra-left Marxists in the U.S. unintentionally highlights the superior qualities of many Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist militants I have known, in particular the Trotskyists. Their politics are no good, but the long term personal commitment they demonstrate in fighting for their convictions is superb. Members of the ‘smash-ist-and-fascist,’ Stalinist group Progressive Labor and of various Trot organizations often get jobs in strategic sectors, as transit system operators, longshore or hospital employees, and spend years asserting their perspectives among co-workers. They often structure their lives around the fight for what they believe in — I do not know of a single ultra-left Marxist in the U.S. who does this. Far from being “alienated” this “militant attitude” is a wholly admirable and necessary thing.

Ultra-left Marxism in the United States is a form of supposed revolutionary Marxism with no public existence — no public existence whatsoever in the thirty-plus-years that I have to some degree identified with ultra-left Marxism. The people — overwhelmingly middle aged and elderly males — who are attracted to ultra-left Marxism in the contemporary United States are inadequate to the task of asserting what they claim to be about in the larger world outside of their safe spaces. Many years of inaction and relentless pedantic self-indulgent junk shows this. They will hold a meeting, at which they will valiantly decide to hold another meeting, and if by that point they haven’t completely run out of energy they might mightily rise to the occasion and decide to hold another meeting. They and their passively held opinions add up to nothing.

This caustic commentary about ultra-left Marxists as I’ve experienced them in the United States does not apply in any way to the dedicated and energetic ultra-left comrades I’ve met in Europe and Argentina — people who are 100% for real about their politics and who fight to assert their perspectives in contemporary working people’s real world social struggles.

This is also not a concession to any form of Second International social democratic Marxism.

Alexander Selkirk
Medellin, Colombia

What is ultra-left Marxism, it sounds like super-size Marxism from fast food slang, with all of the multi-faceted types of either neo- or post- Marxism, its like the expression Post-Anarchy,,,,another nuanced term for positive nihilism? What would you call Cuban socialism, post-Marxist libertarianism or positive Stalinism? All these little incremental variations between Trots and Maoists, the Vietnamese are ironically more post -Marxist and not Maoists though they are just across the border. And the French Italian and Scandinavian Marxists are less syndicalist than the German and Russian Marxists. Why don't you just admit that all Marxists can be put in the same basket, the type they are is irrelevant because it is formed and moulded from the cultural input of the particular regional politics and the quality of life. In affluent countries, all Marxism transforms itself into democratic liberalism without failure, you don't need a crystal ball to see how that develops.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Enter the code without spaces.