Marxism and anarchism: Radical ideologies today
Matthew Crossin, Tom Griffiths, Lachlan Marshall, Benjamin Smith
Platypus Review 154 | March 2023
On July 30, 2022, the Melbourne chapter of the Platypus Affiliated Society hosted a panel at the Victorian Trades Hall in Carlton, Victoria, Australia. The panelists were Matthew Crossin (Melbourne Anarchist-Communist Group), Tom Griffiths (“unreconstructed Maoist” of the Red Eureka Movement), Lachlan Marshall (Solidarity [International Socialist Tendency]), and Benjamin Smith (Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation). A video of the event is available online at <https://youtu.be/xhqG3vsJYv4>. An edited transcript follows.
It seems that there are still only two radical ideologies: anarchism and Marxism. They emerged out of the same crucible — the Industrial Revolution, the unsuccessful revolutions of 1848 and 1871, a weak liberalism, the centralization of state power, the rise of the workers’ movement, and the promise of socialism. They are the revolutionary heritage, and all significant radical upsurges of the last 150 years have returned to mine their meaning for the current situation. In this respect, our moment seems no different.
To act today we seek to draw up the balance sheet of the 20th century. The historical experience concentrated in these two radical ideologies must be unfurled if they are to serve as compass points. To see in what ways their return in our current moment represents an authentic engagement and in what ways it is the return of a ghost. Where have the battles left us? What forms do we have for meeting, theoretically and practically, the problems of our present?
Matthew Crossin: I’ve been asked to speak about the relevance of anarchism and Marxism to struggles today and the ways in which they differ. This is an interesting time for revolutionary politics. Many activists have become disillusioned with movements like Occupy, with electoral politics, and have become frustrated by the limits of riots. It's important to note that in finding themselves in this position they join the masses of working people who are mostly anti-political in this sense of politics. How anarchism or Marxism can be relevant to them, and not just the self-consciously political, is the most important thing for us to consider. Before I go on I need to clarify that the anarchism that I am referring to is specifically the historically dominant current of “mass anarchism,” sometimes known as “social anarchism” or “class-struggle anarchism.” It is the libertarian wing of revolutionary socialism, which puts at the center of its practice the self-managed direct struggle of workers against bosses, with a revolutionary horizon consisting of the expropriation of property and the forceful defense of that transformation.
In respect to Marxism, I also need to clarify that I’ll be using a narrow definition. To outline the main historic splits with anarchism, I’ll be referring only to the political strategy advocated by Marx and Engels during their lifetimes. Marx’s critique of political economy was uncontroversially praised by anarchists like Bakunin and Cafiero at the time, and countless other anarchists have since done the same.
In fact, it’s not difficult to find Marxists who reject far more of Marx's analysis than Bakunin ever did. The fact that no one would argue that this made Bakunin a Marxist eliminates the critique of political economy from our consideration of Marxism’s relevance.
Another thing to consider is how we should talk about the various post-Marx Marxisms. The question of their relevance is simple to answer: to the degree that their practice converges with anarchism, as parts of the council-communist tradition and ultra-Left have, the label becomes somewhat irrelevant. Such Marxisms can offer a theoretical framework and organizational practice which people should take seriously and engage with. For example, the Angry Workers of the World collective in London is undertaking one of the most interesting and admirable approaches to organizing currently going on. Though they have shown themselves to be open to anarchist ideas, their background is clearly in Marxism. Despite this, their approach of encouraging workplace action by taking jobs in strategically interesting sectors of the economy, circulating news of struggles relevant to their co-workers, and coordinating their activity through an explicitly communist collective essentially mimics the anarchist strategy of dual organization: the parallel construction of a specifically revolutionary organization of militants and an intervention in existing struggles through the organizational forms which make rank-and-file direct action possible. Still, I contend that anarchism in particular is of relevance today, and so I want to touch on two key contributions before turning to how they relate to the failures of the Marxist political program.
Firstly, anarchism offers an understanding of how we can achieve desperately needed reforms without being a reformist movement. This aspect of anarchist theory is rooted in a materialist analysis of the state and its historic function, as well as a detailed historical analysis of how social change has occurred. The insight provided is that the advancement of our class interests isn’t, and has never been, driven by good or bad politicians, ideas, or legislation, but is instead the result of shifts in the balance of class forces, i.e., the level of capacity held by an independent countervailing force to disrupt production and threaten the realization of profit. It follows that the more essential an industry is to overall capital accumulation, the more potential leverage held by workers of that industry, not only within the specific enterprise, but over governments, which exist to serve the long-term interests of capitalism as a system and in turn reproduce their own privileged position of power.
Secondly, anarchism offers a libertarian theory of social revolution. It offers the crucial insight that a real transformation of production to a system of communist self-management requires that there be self-management within the struggle itself, and the destruction, rather than the capture, of governmental power, which is to be replaced by a federation of committees, councils, and whatever other organizational form workers’ power happens to take. Both of these contributions by anarchist theory continue to be of enormous importance and are distinct from the Marxist alternative, the many failures of which have vindicated the anarchist critique.
But what did Marx and Engels advocate? Certainly, both were in favor of class struggle, just like anarchists, but there are some key points of divergence in terms of tactics employed in day-to-day struggle and the strategy proposed as a means for achieving social revolution. For instance, though it is downplayed by more radical Marxists, Marx and Engels insisted that workers associations form political parties committed, where possible, to campaigning in elections and taking seats in parliament. Primarily, Marx indicated that this should be done so that communist parties could put forward the communist position and side with workers’ interests as a means of propaganda. There is some ambiguity here though, given comments by Marx, which suggest the potential for peaceful transitions to communism, particularly in advanced democratic republics. Notably, Engels described the democratic republic as the form necessary for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx also described it as being the form of government in which it is possible to eliminate bureaucracy, which should make anyone question his understanding of that concept.
Marx and Engels also advocated centralized structure within the organizations of class struggle. Despite some comments within The Civil War in France (1871) which seem to suggest otherwise, the reality is that the two of them favored representation over delegation, with the capacity for leadership bodies such as democratically elected executive committees or central councils to break with the position of their constituents, determine policy, and impose those policies on the rank-and-file. This was a major fight within the First International that led to the split with the proto-anarchist faction and ultimately the death of the organization. Although a close reading is necessary to cut through conflicting Marxist definitions of the state — Marx obfuscates whether the state refers to an act of revolution or a centralized apparatus of government which maintains class rule — what Marx advocated in terms of revolutionary struggle was the need for a transitional workers’ government composed of representatives of revolutionary parties. The state apparatus was seen as necessary for the victory of the revolution and that it would vanish with the end of class conflict, giving way to the same kind of society envisioned by anarchist communists.
Turning to the record of implementation we find that Marx and Engels’ program failed in precisely the ways that were predicted by anarchists. Even the seemingly benign policy of using parliaments as a platform for communist propaganda gradually produced social-democratic parties of an ordinary kind, leading them to become appendages of the capitalist state.
This is not a question of corruption or betrayal but rather systemic imperatives and institutional logics which cannot be overcome by even the most radical of politicians. As for the formation of so-called workers’ states, here we don’t need to turn to the USSR or China as some might suspect. It suffices to look at Marx’s favored example of the Paris Commune, which, despite some confusion around this, maintained a government in the traditional sense, and so was, by definition, incapable of carrying out the necessary socialization of property required in any real revolution. In fact, the Communal Council stifled the revolutionary activity of the Parisian masses with its increasing centralisation and bureaucratic model of revolution by decree.
The real revolutionary movement in Paris was in the burgeoning workers’ associations, the proliferation of popular clubs, and in the workers arming themselves. However, these workers sacrificed their revolutionary project the more that, like Marx, they saw the Communal Council as a real lever of socialist transformation. Workers flooded their supposed delegates — which were, in reality, autonomous authorities — with petitions to legalize their proposals. The Council became overwhelmed by this legalistic process, and little by little, became removed from the stalling struggles over the question of property.
The final days of the Commune saw any hope of further rupture vanish with the consolidation of power in a Committee of Public Safety. This is the nature of all states, whether they have smashed the old state machinery or not. The recognition of this by anarchists is still of supreme relevance to anyone who still considers a real social revolution possible and necessary
To wrap up, I want to reiterate that these important contributions by anarchist theory can only be made relevant if we, as militants, are actively organizing amongst ourselves, developing a shared understanding of the existing conditions, amplifying our efforts, coordinating activity, and involving ourselves in the concrete struggles of the working class as they emerge. We should be encouraging their best elements of instinctive radicalism, pushing the struggles as far as they will go, sharing news of actions across workplaces, all with an eye towards propagating our revolutionary analysis and horizon.
Lachlan Marshall: I'll start by acknowledging that we're meeting on Aboriginal land, paying my respects to elders, past, present, and emerging. This always was and always will be Aboriginal land.
That’s a good starting point for a discussion like this. Before 1788 there was no state on this continent, there were no class divisions or exploitation. There were no bosses, basically indigenous people exercised collective control over their work and their relationship with the world around them. Probably all of us agree on the need to create a society that shares some of those principles, which is both necessary and possible. We’re not going to have a planet to live on if capitalism continues the way it’s going: escalating imperialist war with the permanent threat of nuclear war; climate chaos; ecological collapse; and the pandemics which are associated with the environmental crisis. All of those things convinced me that we need revolutionary change that takes control away from the capitalist class and brings out society under the control of workers and other oppressed people.
Marxism is a viable tool in this process because if we boil down Marxism to a single principle, it’s that the “emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class itself.” That’s what Marx himself said. I.e., socialism from below through revolution where workers smash the capitalist state and build their own form of class power based on institutions of grassroots democracy.
What it doesn’t mean is socialists winning elections to parliament and introducing socialism that way, or small groups of revolutionaries conquering state power and implementing socialism on behalf of the working class or the masses as we saw in China in 1949, or in Cuba ten years later.
There’s probably agreement here on the need for revolution. As Matt outlined, what we probably disagree on is the role of revolutionaries in revolutions, amongst other things, principally around our attitude to the state, and the need for organization or a revolutionary party.
What’s the Marxist theory of the state? The state appears in history with the emergence of class divisions and the need of a ruling class to preserve its interests and protect itself against the classes that it exploits.
The state isn’t a neutral instrument that can be taken over by workers and used to implement socialist measures; that was a conclusion Marx came to after the Paris Commune. The state we live under today is a capitalist state, and it exists to shore up the rule of the capitalist class. This understanding comes from the historical experience of the workers’ movement. On the Paris Commune, I have a different interpretation, compared to Matt: the Paris Commune was the first example of how the working class can create an alternative to the capitalist state. Before the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels didn’t know what would replace the capitalist state. They had vague comments about the working class organizing itself as the ruling class, but it was the Parisian workers who really gave that concrete expression.
After the Paris Commune, The Communist Manifesto (1848) was revised and the new preface said “one thing especially was proved by the commune, that the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.” Unlike later Marxists, who believed that capitalism could be gradually reformed through parliament and the institutions of the state, Marx was clear that the working class needed to create an alternative form of class rule.
What was this first workers’ state? What did it look like? It was thoroughly democratic. All public officials were elected and subject to immediate recall so they were accountable to the people who elected them. Workers’ representatives were paid an average skilled worker’s wage to discourage careerism and prevent the formation of a privileged layer of bureaucrats. Most importantly is the way that the Commune didn’t have a separate standing army that was against the population. Rather, the state, in a way, was the whole population because the working class was armed. There were workers’ militias, there wasn’t an external coercive force, and so workers were integrally involved in running the state.
During its brief time in power, it did things like hand over to workers the workplaces that had been shut by the employers, banned night work in the bakeries, provided pensions for widows, handed over hotels to homeless people, etc. It wasn’t a top-down exercise. There were daily mass meetings of thousands of workers that representatives of the Commune had to face up to and account for themselves. The banning of night work in the bakeries wasn't an idea that came from the intellectuals in the Commune: it was because thousands of bakers actually marched on the headquarters of the Commune to demand it, and the council had to do that. It’s important to point out that while the Commune was thoroughly democratic in its structure, a workers’ state is only as democratic as the mass of the population is mobilized, participating in all of the activities of running that society, and is putting demands on the state.
That was true as well of the Russian Revolution and its ultimate degeneration into dictatorship, because in Russia the workers took power through workers’ councils, or Soviets, and they were able to win over the peasant majority and defeat the counterrevolutionary armies of the old order and over a dozen imperialist armies.
What made the Russian Revolution different to any other revolution since the Paris Commune or in the 20th century was that a revolutionary party that had a mass base was able to gain a majority of support in the most important institutions of working-class power, the Soviets, smash the capitalist state, and win over the majority of people to build an alternative form of power: a government based on workers’ councils.
It's a long story, but because the Revolution didn’t spread beyond Russia, especially to Germany above all — which was always what the success of the Russian Revolution was based on — ultimately the workers’ state was isolated and terribly weakened by the Civil War that decimated the working class through war, famine, starvation. The working class halved in size in Petrograd: only a third of its 1917 number existed at the end of the Civil War. Without the working class to maintain that democratic nature of the state as was the case in the Paris Commune, in 1917 it was inevitable that the workers’ state in Russia was going to degenerate into what we saw: a Stalinistic dictatorship.
Revolutionary organization isn’t only necessary during a revolution. It’s of immediate relevance in places like Sudan and Sri Lanka where the need to build an alternative to the capitalist state confronts activists everyday. But also here in Australia we need to bring revolutionaries and activists from different struggles together to learn from each other, be more effective in spreading our ideas, and relate our different struggles to the fight for socialism.
Benjamin Smith: It’s good to be here, but also strange, given the sometimes cooperative, often antagonistic and occasionally murderous relationship between anarchism and Marxism. I'm from the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation (ASF), which was founded in 1986 and became the Australian section of the International Workers Association (IWA) in 1989. We are, however, not the first IWA section to have a presence in Australia: in 1956, an exile section of the Bulgarian CNT was established in Sydney, the members of which fought a guerrilla campaign against the occupying German forces in WWII. They had to flee Bulgaria in 1945, because the Red Army, as it pushed westwards, was actively hunting down and executing any anarchists they caught. The Bulgarians were joined in Australia by other members of the IWA in 1965. This group of 21 families comprised members of the Spanish CNT, who had been living in North Africa since the end of the Spanish Civil War. You’ll all be familiar with the tensions between anarchists and Marxists, as they fought alongside each other during that conflict. Both of these groups contributed members to the founding of the ASF in 1986, and it is what we’ve learned from them that makes us what we are today. That’s who we are and where we’re from.
I mention this for two reasons: firstly, because the tension between anarchists and Marxists has a direct bearing on our own organization and its origin, and secondly, to sound a counternote to the way that this event has been framed. Where our Platypus hosts have described the present situation in terms of discontinuity, rebirth, and resurgence, our perspective is one of continuity, long struggle, and depth of institutional memory. Before I go into detail about how we see the difference between anarchism and Marxism, I'd like to add to the picture that Matt has already sketched out.
Anarchism, like Marxism, is a revolutionary movement with roots in the mid-19th century socialist project. As an idea, anarchism originated and started to develop in the 1840 writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Regarding the particular character that the revolutionary socialist movement should adopt, Proudhon’s belief was that to create a society that united both individual and collective liberty within egalitarian social order, the authoritarian and centralizing strategy adopted by the Jacobins during the 1792–93 period of the French Revolution should not be used as a model by the revolutionary socialists of the 1840s. Proudhon’s belief, and one we share, was that a libertarian society, yet alone libertarian socialism, cannot be produced by authoritarian means, and rather than the ends justifying the means used to achieve it, it is the means that determine and condition what the end will be.
Marx and Engels took precisely the opposite attitude. For them, the Jacobin seizure of the French state’s highly centralized bureaucracy ensured the means of defending and driving the Revolution forward. This is a view, passed down from Marx to Lenin, Trotsky, and the Bolsheviks of 1917, and they were all very keen students of the history of the French Revolution, and I don't think Marx's backsliding, in his 1871 analysis of the Paris Commune, qualifies this strategy in any deep way. It is this difference in attitudes to the authoritarian centralizing example of the Jacobin Party that is the kernel from which arises everything that differentiates anarchist and Marxist perspectives. As we heard, it would later lead to the split of the First International and the constitution of Marxism and anarchism as separate movements.
The Marxist model of revolution is nothing more than a coup d’état. The Revolution of October 1917 was not a revolution, but simply a coup, resulting in the self-imposition of a new oligarchy and the institution of state capitalism. It is the anarchist view, expressed admirably by Emma Goldman, who happened to be present in Russia for the whole show, that due to the actions of the Bolshevik Party, the Revolution that started in February 1917 had by 1921 clearly failed. No doubt, some of the Marxists in the room may be tempted to object and ask, failed by whose criteria? The criteria on which that judgment is based are our criteria, that is to say anarchist criteria. Which leads me to another difference in our perspectives.
It has long been argued, by Lenin principally but by others too, that Marxists and the anarchists want the same thing, but the anarchists don’t know how to get there. This isn’t true. We don’t want the same thing. We might use the same words to describe what we want, but the Marxist vision of post-revolutionary society in which the state withers away is a fairy tale, and results in a situation very different from the anarchist vision. This is not simply because the state has never shown any propensity to wither and fade of its own accord. But let's take that fairy tale at face value. Let's imagine that the state gradually does wither away, after the means of production are duly expanded to become a material base for a new socialist world. What does this represent if not the fading into nothing of politics as the sphere of social action? I understand that before Marxism, politics was an epiphenomenon and a reflection of a class-based society, founded on the material conditions of capitalist production.
If you want to make sense of it in that way, be my guest. But you have to admit that behind all the verbiage, that view of politics is utterly reductive. Couple to this reductivism Marx’s image of the worker as the standard bearer of the universal humanity, and you have the recipe for the Marxist totalitarianism that we all know, if not love. This recipe for totalitarianism is not the result of the material conditions of society; it is a product of ideas, and stunted ideas at that: historical materialism is not an alternative to philosophical idealism, but a perspective within idealism that is sensitive to the social, historical conditions in which the social act of thinking about our world takes place.
In contrast to Marxism, anarchism sees the revolution not as the event that ushers in the end of politics, but as the event that introduces the possibility of its full flourishing. That is because anarchism asserts the primacy of politics as the sphere of value, contest, and meaning creation, over and above the economic, or technical-scientific spheres. Collective and individual autonomy can only be achieved if we assert the primacy of politics over and above the five other value spheres of art, religion, law, economy, and the sphere of science and technology. Anarchism does this, which is why it is, in contrast to other ideologies, committed to democracy in its direct participatory form. Our idea of the revolution is to create democracy where there is none and to extend it to every institution of society. To pursue this program is to destroy both capitalism and the state. This is because, for us, democracy is either direct or not at all. Anarchism is founded on the insight that electoral representationalism is not a species of democracy, but a form of oligarchy, and the fact that it selects leaders through the act of plebiscite changes this not one bit.
It’s true that anarchists have not always articulated this insight in these terms, and it's worth asking why. It's my contention that Proudhon first described himself as an anarchist in 1840, because the way in which the term “democracy” was used and popularly understood, in both the French and English languages, underwent a profound change in the half century between the start of the French Revolution in 1789 and the time Proudhon wrote What is Property? (1840). The result was that democracy, in its original direct participatory sense, was no longer available as a linguistic and conceptual tool in the way it had been prior to 1790. For Marx and Engels, this linguistic change, if they even noticed it, was never a problem. For them, the capture of state power was to win the battle of democracy. But for Proudhon, it was a problem. Another word had to be found, as he started to sketch out an alternative social vision: a vision that Bakunin and the collectivist sections of the First International would champion and continue to develop. It is that word which gives our movement its name.
Tom Griffiths: I'm going to take a slightly different take. Although, before I begin, I’d like to thank Lachlan for reminding me about a disappointment I have about the ritual of Welcome to Country: what’s missing in Welcome to Country is an acknowledgment of the armed struggle that occurred across the continent. This should be a source of pride amongst indigenous people. The idea that the armed struggle was going to win was always not on. That’s not the point. The point is they defended their patch of turf, and that needs to be acknowledged, because pride comes from that acknowledgement. It’s similar to the Irish situation, and they've had more experience of British colonialism than anyone else I know.
Let me start my gig with a poem by Robert Gray:
Karl Marx was playing a parlor game
with his daughters. To their question
What is the quality one should most abhor?
he wrote: Servility.
This was found on a scrap of paper
amongst the family albums and letters;
it is the most essential of
the Complete Works.
This is so Marx. It is an essential part of our heritage, inheritance, by the way, where our role is that of a troublemaker, and not to be good, staid, or boring. The heritage left by Marx and Engels is not confined to political economy. We've heard a little bit about that. I want to point out this spirit of rebelliousness that is not confined to group or class sensibility in action, but individuals. Standing up against suppression, swimming against the tide of dominant ideological belief and practice. You can call it what you will. Marx didn't invent rebelliousness, but through enjoining workers worldwide to identify the commonality of their interests, he took it to a higher level. The baton I see him inheriting is one passed on by Gerrard Winstanley, the most radical voice of the English Revolution. Winstanley wrote, “Freedom is the man who turns the world upside down, and he therefore maketh many enemies.” Winstanley knew what he was talking about. Also, Shelley:
Men of England, heirs of Glory,
Writers of unwritten story,
Shake to earth your chains like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.
By the late 19th century, Marx’s abhorrence of servility was joined and given expression by, oddly enough, Nietzsche: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” That comment at the end of the 19th century assumes the liberation of the self, of the individual from feudal and pre-feudal constraints.
This comment is remarkably similar to those uttered by Wang Hongwen, at the Chinese Communist Party’s 10th Congress. He was elaborating on Mao’s view that “swimming against the tide” is a revolutionary principle, and he pointed out that such a stance can risk imprisonment, expulsion from the Party (or you can expel yourself), or even death. He, too, knew what he was talking about. Revolutionary parties and movements have been much better off “swimming against” the external “tide” of the class enemy. It’s part of the job description. Although it needs pointing out that identifying ideological currents, especially those that label themselves Left or even revolutionary, and figuring out whether they are fair dinkum or rather manifestations of bourgeois ideology, is another important matter.
What Mao and Wang were getting at is that the “tide” that must be “swam against” is often internal. Marx would have agreed, having swum these waters himself many times. This is also part of our heritage, finding ourselves in the midst of currents, often presenting ourselves as false prophets, or as the proper way to go. This aspect is too easily swept under the carpet, or insufficiently understood, and it is a cultural question (in the broadest sense of the term). I will give some examples.
The first and the most trivial example is my experience in the CPAML. The fact that a young man in his twenties was part of the Central Committee is itself a joke. The Central Committee never met, at least not that I'm aware of. The fact that we expelled ourselves because the CPAML, after the death of Mao and the arrests of the Gang of Four, did a 180° pivot without any discussion, is telling. We started to raise questions: “what in the fuck is going on?” For this reason, we expelled ourselves. Now, forget the politics of the issue around the Cultural Revolution or whatever, that kind of internal polity is appalling.
Another example is that of Richard Wright, and his experience in the Communist Party USA. Wright was a black writer, and an extraordinarily good writer. He wrote a memoir Black Boy (1945), the second part of which is titled “American Hunger.” Wright wrote these in the early 1940s, describing his experience growing up in the Jim Crow South, and then in Chicago. He fled the Jim Crow South when he was 19 and went to Chicago, like many of his friends, colleagues, associates. He describes himself there as being “lifted by the burning arms of the city.” It's an astute and important comment, because modernity is both liberating and burning. What Wright did, and why he became brassed off with the Communist Party, or they with him, was that on understanding that in Russia, the government or government figures have shown genuine interest and encouragement in the back block areas of Russia, and were assisting people in these areas to become literate, to understand their culture and development. Wright thought, “this sounds like the perfect segue into what black people in the South need.” And what kind of reception did he get? A lot of cold water. He was told he didn’t understand. What Wright was not understanding was the need to be obedient, and Wright was not an obedient man Good on him for that.
The third example comes from China and Liu Shaoqi, who was one of the leaders of the Communist Party and wrote the pamphlet How to be a Good Communist (1939), and it’s worth a read, which I find myself saying somewhat surprisingly. He was saying that being a good communist man was to be obedient, to cultivate self in a way similar to the feudal aristocracy, to the bureaucracy in the feudal system in China, that had been marching on for centuries. What he was talking about, therefore, was elitism mixed with cultural drag, and fraudulently presenting itself as modern and revolutionary.
The last example I want to give is that of Roque Dalton, who was a fantastic El Salvadorian communist poet. One of Dalton’s poems is called “Dialectic of Genesis, Crisis and Rebirth”:
For you we will not put the Party on an altar
Because you taught us that the Party
is an organization that lives in the real world
and its sickness is the same as bankruptcy
Because of you we know, Lenin
That the best crib for the Party
It's an important point. For making comments like this, Dalton was murdered by members of his own party, who wanted to put out the fire. Dalton was arguing for the establishment of a mass base. Before you can justify being a revolutionary party, to make a revolution, you need a mass base. It would seem obvious. Not to some. So this crib is, as Wright would describe it, a nurturing environment that we need to value and rediscover.
Moderator: Several of you touched on the nature of the state, and one of the things that both anarchists and Marxists were writing about in the 19th century was the nature of the state and how that is tied into the project of overcoming the state in its capitalist form. Can you revisit the question of the state and how your politics are formed around an understanding of the state?
MC: Both Marxist speakers didn’t really address anarchism. Lachlan raised that he suspects there are differences between us about the role of revolutionaries, and specifically brought up the role of the party, but I’d be interested to know why you think there are differences there, what you think they are. There’s some confusion around the idea of anarchism and also some confusion in Marxism about what a party is. Sometimes you’ll hear a party described as like-minded militants cooperating together with a shared analysis, a shared strategy, trying to network struggles, to give them a coherence. There’s no disagreement there with anarchist politics. Anarchists used to call those kinds of organizations things like parties — they would sometimes even use the word “vanguard.” Those were dropped because of the associations they came to take with Marxism. The distinction is that anarchists oppose a substitutionist party, which thinks that it should take over struggles or that it is some kind of a government structure in waiting, regarding the specific institutional role of managing the state. I also want to know where Lachlan is getting his history on the Paris Commune from, because it sounds like he’s describing what Marx wrote in The Civil War in France, which is incorrect about what happened in Paris. Scholarship since then has shown that to be true. Some books I would recommend: Communards of Paris, 1871 (1973), which is a volume of original documents edited by Stewart Edwards, and Martin Johnson’s The Paradise of Association (1997). The Paris Commune did not function as mandated delegates. There were ideas talked about how there should have been mandates, but this was only taken seriously by the Proudhonian delegates; there were Blanquists within that organization who did not take that seriously. They functioned effectively as representative authorities within a typical kind of democratic government. The police were not abolished within the Paris Commune. There was a police force that was heavily controlled by the Blanquist elements. There’s a difficulty in talking about the Paris Commune. People will tend to go towards documents that were written at the time with incomplete information — political interventions that people were making — not the actual history of what happened in Paris.
Lachlan talked about the Communal Council “handing over workplaces.” This is a strange thing to hear from someone who says that they believe in socialism from below. This is inherently something that has been ordered or approved from above. A politics of socializing property would be one of a direct act by the workers seizing property and taking control of it. Lachlan talks about the bakers marching on the Commune, and this shows that the Communal Council was responsive. But sure, that’s struggle. That happens in all kinds of states. People struggle against their state and it responds because of the pressure from below.
On Benjamin’s comments, I don’t entirely agree about Marx’s underlying politics. He did have a radically libertarian conception of what communism should be, that it was a radically individualist and libertarian idea that converged with anarchism significantly. I also don’t think that the Revolution in Russia can be reduced to a coup. It was a complex process in which the Bolsheviks gradually supplanted the organs of popular power, the factory committees, peasant cooperatives, the Soviets themselves, with party dictatorship. Many anarchists were involved in that struggle, in acts like dissolving the Constituent Assembly.
LM: The reason I didn’t talk about anarchism is that I didn’t want to set up a strawman and put words in anybody’s mouth. Happy to talk about it now. There is often a lot of confusion around organization, and I suspect we agree more than disagree on what an organization looks like. Maybe we do disagree, I don’t know. A revolutionary organization groups together the most class-conscious workers and active militants in any campaign. It comes from recognition that in the working class there is unevenness of consciousness. There are people who accept the dominant ideas; there are those who are absolutely fed up with the world we live in and want to create something different. It’s about bringing those people together and having some unity in action. Democratic centralism is often a bit of a bogeyman. My understanding of democratic centralism is the need for democratic discussion and debate, basically at all times, but also the need for unity in action. For democracy to mean anything, the majority has to be able to enforce its decisions on the other members who voluntarily are part of this democratic centralist organization. That often comes up in disagreements with anarchists and Marxists. With the Paris Commune, when you say the police still existed, do you mean like the National Guard?
MC: No, there was an actual police force.
LM: Right. I’m not sure of the details, but under any revolutionary situation there is a need for security, because there is counterrevolution and sabotage that can happen.
MC: Anarchists would agree, and you can look to the case of the Spanish Revolution in which there were armed Patrol Committees, which served what you could call police functions, but under popular control, responsible to mass organizations. The Paris Commune had a police force, controlled by the Blanquist elements within what was a representative democratic government. Marx simply had incorrect information. He was also making a political intervention within the First International at a time when its politics were being disputed between him and the faction that was growing around Bakunin. Many Marxists have since — for example, Karl Korsch, a famous Marxist, said that what Marx says immediately after the Paris Commune is a total rejection of everything he has been saying, and that Bakunin had “justice on his side” when he said, “you’re taking the best elements of what the Proudhonian mutualists were claiming.” The highest aspirations of this small group of collectivist anarchists within the Commune were being claimed, despite them not having any connection with Marx’s politics, before or after the Commune. It was based on bad information; people didn’t know what was going on, and they took the highest aspirations of the Commune, by those more libertarian elements, and took them as the reality, but they don’t reflect what happened.
TG: Lachlan, I broadly agree with your comment around democratic centralism. I don’t have a fundamental problem with democratic centralism, unless one treats democracy as a frozen antithesis. They’re in relation to one another. Dalton’s comment around fire is important to hold on to. With fire, democracy doesn’t die, and centralism, where it gets out of control, will be tackled and burnt. But one of the things about the state, or power, is that if we are to really be serious about promoting revolution, about being revolutionary, we need to understand what we are talking about, i.e., movements that aim for, work toward, a qualitative leap in development. If we don’t do that, and if we don’t take responsibility for doing that ourselves, we are leaving that job to somebody else, which invariably tends to be social democracy, etc. Doesn’t matter what you call it; it’s somebody else, who will tend to support the capitalist system. If we are going to take this issue of revolution seriously, we need to take the issue of power seriously, very seriously, including the possibility that we might fuck it up, that we may distort it. Coming back to Roque Dalton, the crib is one of fire, and I cannot stress the importance of that enough, which is what was missing back in the mid-1970s, in the CPAML: there was no fire, there was only fucking ice.
BS: I’d like to return to what you asked, which is to address the concept of the state. I’ve never found a definition of the state in Marx’s writings, which is one of the reasons why we can find representatives of Marxist groups today talking about smashing the state, which is funny. Any time I’ve ever spoken to a Marxist and asked them what they think the state is, they say the monopoly on the means of violence, which is a characterization, it’s not a definition. It’s a characterisation of the state derived from the works of Max Weber. I thought that in terms of the different attitudes to sociology that Marx and Weber practiced, this would be problematic. It’s important to offer a definition of the state, so that we are all clear about it: the state is a hierarchical and bureaucratic apparatus of power that sits separate to and above the people it governs. It’s important to hold onto that definition, because we need to relate it to a definition of democracy, which is when people come together, on the basis of equality, to deliberate on that which is common. If you reflect on these two definitions, you will come to the same conclusion I have, which is that they are antithetical. Where democracy is, the state is not. The creation of democracy, in its original, direct, participatory sense, is the destruction of the state.
This has all sorts of implications, one of them being the way we look back upon and analyze different societies and histories and draw lessons from them. If you want to go and study democracy, one of the key places to reflect upon is Ancient Greece, which you’ll find described as a place constituted by city-states. But in fundamental ways, those that were characterized by democracy — Athens, Plataea, Chios, etc — to the extent that they were democratic, they weren’t states. The Greek word for those cities was “polis,” which is much closer to our word “community.”
[Arthur Dent, from the audience:] They were slave states! They owned slaves!
BS: Please remind me to respond to that; I’m happy to respond.
TG: What is often missing from conversations like this is an appreciation of culture, i.e., the broad understandings, beliefs, and practices that dominate a society. The reason this is relevant is that we will talk about, with good reason, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, etc. In those countries, the bourgeois revolution hadn’t even bloody well begun. Both had been remarkably successful in completing the bourgeois revolution. They sure fell on promoting the proletarian revolution. My hunch here is that for a proletarian revolution to be successful, modernity, the bourgeois revolution, the bourgeoisification of a society needs to be utterly complete — which doesn’t mean finished, because things tend to develop. But the feudal ideas, or traditional ideas, can be pre-feudal, they can be tribal, they can dress themselves up or be interpreted as necessary, almost modern and almost revolutionary. No thanks. The confusion that has affected revolutionaries and revolutionary movements — speaking in particular of Russia and China, but it can go elsewhere — has been profound, and it’s a problem. I don’t have an easy answer to it, but the problem is real.
Moderator: Benjamin was talking about the distinctly modern character of the state and certainly the bourgeois state and the capitalist state more recently. We were talking a lot about the Paris Commune and its factual basis. A central question of the prompt was, how does the Paris Commune tell us anything about the present? We’ve been noticing around the world a resurgence in both Marxism and anarchism. There are new anarchist organizations and new Marxist organizations appearing. What is it about the present that invokes the memory of the Paris Commune? Why are anarchism and Marxism grasped for to help us understand the current form of the state, and what continuity is there between the state of 1871, or the state of 1848, and our present understanding of the state?
MC: I think that history is relevant to the degree that we’re dealing with the same institutional structure, or you could talk about the state in terms of the state form. I agree with what Benjamin said, just in his definition of what the state is: a specific apparatus of government, which is very confused in Marxism.I wouldn’t agree as far as I understand what he was talking about in terms of Greece. It’s not particularly relevant. But insofar as we’re dealing with the problem of the state as a model of social organization which emerged in tandem with class society — these are mutually reinforcing and reproducing sets of social relations — it’s important to understand that it can’t be a vehicle for overthrowing capitalism, a necessary part of overthrowing capitalism is in doing away with the state, and that the state is either directly reproducing class relations through control over production and the producers, or it’s indirectly reproducing a distinct class which it needs to exist for it to have any power as a government. That’s the only way it’s relevant today. We need to think about these things as institutional forms that are opposed to a project of human emancipation and constructing a socialist society, which we as the working class have a direct role in producing by the fact that we’re workers, and that we need to develop technical knowledge of production across supply chains. We need to understand how production works, to repurpose the economic life of society to meet human needs.
LM: The Marxist definition of the state is the armed forces, the military, the police, prisons, but beyond that it’s the whole unelected bureaucracy, the courts, etc. The state exists because there are class antagonisms in society, and states will exist until there is a classless society. That’s why classes aren’t abolished in a revolution. In a revolution, if we’re talking about workers’ revolutions, it’s about the working class imposing its will on society, defeating counterrevolution, and expropriating the capitalist class. Now, they are going to resist that, as they do in every revolution, and they have their capitalist state, their armies which they regroup when they are temporarily pushed back. The solution is a centralized counter-force, which isn’t recreating a capitalist state. My understanding of the state is not an ahistorical one where all states are the same through different societies. States are generated by specific social relations. The capitalist state is bound up with defending the needs of the capitalist class. When you have a working class seizing power as you saw in Russia in October, the Bolsheviks’ power was unopposed, because the entire working class supported the Bolsheviks, and they were the only party willing to push the Provisional Government aside and bring in a government based on the workers’ councils. A workers’ state is one based on workers’ power, workers running the factories, workers running the offices, workers being armed, and there not being a separate armed force that’s against the working class. That’s what makes a workers’ state different: it doesn’t have an armed force that’s against the workers. It’s about the mass of the population being armed, as you saw in Spain and Russia. The problem with Spain was that the anarchist leadership refused to set up any alternative power and joined the bourgeois state.
MC: The description of the workers’ state given there is entirely in line with the anarchist conception of revolution. There is no distinction whatsoever; anarchists don’t oppose any of that. In regards to Russia, the problem anarchists have there was precisely that workers were disempowered at the point of production. There was a gradual dissolution of power within the organs of struggle that had developed, such as the factory committees, and a centralization of economic decision making in institutions like the trade unions, where the Bolsheviks had more sway as a party, and gradually to higher executive committees of power which were above the workers.
In regards to Spain, there’s complete agreement about what half of the anarchist movement did in Spain, which was “in the name of the Popular Front, the struggle against fascism, we put aside principles, we reconstitute the Republican government.” There was a wing of the anarchist movement,which sadly failed and had support actually from dissident elements of the Marxist movement. The small ultra-Left of the POUM shared the anarchist position, the radical anti-collaborationist anarchist position, which was articulated by groups like the Friends of Durruti. It was endorsed by the Barcelona FAI and the Libertarian Youth. That’s what the struggle in the May Days (1937) was about — an attempt to renew the revolution by smashing the state, with which the CNT leadership were collaborating, and into which they were integrating the movement, and they failed. It’s a complex story. I recommend reading Danny Evans’s Revolution and the State (2018). It goes through this whole story. But I completely agree, there needed to be a form of real workers’ power based in the defence committees, in the self-management of the factories, etc. It wasn’t done, it was a violation of anarchist principles, and a lesson in why the anarchist critique is correct: the anarchists didn’t, as an entire movement, abide by their principles, and they failed precisely for that reason.
BS: I don’t want to give the impression I’m against everything in Marxism. As a sociologist he’s interesting, and his analysis of capitalism and the commodity form are relevant and worth reading.
I just want to return to the concept of the state, and relate it to the concept of capitalism, and offer an explanation about why anarchists are against both capitalism and the state. The state is a hierarchical bureaucratic apparatus of power, separate to and above the people it governs. Capitalist management is a hierarchical and bureaucratic apparatus of power that sits separate and above the workers it manages. We have a similarity between the two forms, an isomorphism, despite the differences in the two institutions. We’re against both of them because they’re undemocratic. This is an important point to make, because often in discussions of the state we are — to borrow another Marxist term I found in the work of Georg Lukács — in danger of reifying the state. One of the virtues of Marx’s analysis of capitalism is that he reflects on it primarily as a social relation, which is a valuable thing to do, and this is why I raised the Ancient Greeks before. The Greeks were clear that the election of office bearers was an aristocratic principle — “aristos” meaning “best.” The problem they had with it is that if you elect someone, they can stand for election again, and they can be elected again, and you get the emergence of a governing group who become a class with their own class interests. It’s helpful to step back from the idea of class as if it’s just workers and the bourgeoisie. Class relationships can emerge in the context of different institutions and we ought to be wary of that.
TG: I bang on about culture, how people think and behave, and how this is consistent with given economic and social relations. And the ones that I’m most familiar with in my work are tribal, both of indigenous and particular refugee communities. Cultural beliefs stick their hooks into the flesh and hang on, and they cannot be legislated away. So when I think about what revolution is, yes, one of its aspects is a political revolution, e the workers take power, for example. That’s when the work starts, when change has to be pushed through. When we think about the Bourgeois Revolution, it is about the time of the Italian Renaissance. It was only a few hundred years, millions of deaths, wars all over the joint, before it was able to stick its hand up and say, we’re it. This was the Enlightenment, post-Enlightenment. Now, you can encourage cultural development. There is a need, after formal revolution, for a cultural revolution. Mao understood that. One can argue about whether mistakes were made, but the actual need of a cultural revolution is unambiguous. We are, to use an expression I heard in the 70s, pissing in the wind if we think otherwise.
Q & A
Arthur Dent, in the audience: I’m on Tom’s side, I’m also on the anarcho-communist Matthew’s side. It’s absolutely clear which of the three I’m looking at (that aren’t Tom): the anarcho-communist (Matthew), because there’s something in common between anarcho-communists and the real world. There’s nothing in common between what I heard from the other two speakers (Lachlan and Benjamin) and anything to do with the Left.
There’s a debate going on, hosted by Platypus, between Chris Cutrone, who is their mentor, and Benedict Cryptofash, who is trying to uncloak the sheep disguised as wolves. He’s making a clear point, that what people here would regard as Marxism and the Left are in fact precisely what Marx was writing polemics against in the 19th century, that every idea that you will hear, both from the anarchists here talking about Marxism, and from the Marxists that they’ve encountered, has no resemblance to anything from the revolutionary movement, from anything remotely progressive. We have a bunch of people who are allied with the Labor Party of Australia, the Democratic Party in the U.S., who push all kinds of crap ideas, and who any kind of progressive Left movement would be ruthlessly criticizing. I enjoyed seeing the anarcho-communist posters around my area, I presume it’s from the same group, because they’ve at least got that spirit of hostility and rebellion, etc. It’s nice to see them saying, “eat the rich,” etc., sharply directed against bosses. What’s actually needed for developing a revolutionary Left movement is a ruthless criticism of the existing thing that pretends to be a Left — and I disagree with Cryptofash about abandoning the Left and I agree more with Cutrone — but as far as spirit’s concerned, what is called Left these days is an enemy to be overthrown. Just as the Greek states that were held up to us as the examples of democracy, i.e., instead of electing oligarchs, they had sortition, a random ballot, to make sure that they didn’t have a ruling class — they were the fucking ruling class. These were slave states. They existed to hold down the slaves by force. The public assembly of all Greek citizens were the non-slaves, the slave owners, who were making decisions about holding down the slaves.
To have that basic fundamental incomprehension and to be spouting about the history of the Paris Commune and of the theories of Marxism, etc. reflects a degree of disconnection from the real world that would be tragic if it hadn’t been going on for close to a century now. It’s about half a century since the 1960s movement that I took part in, and that was minor. Marx was an 1848er. There is another movement coming. I haven’t seen this revival of Marxist or anarchist groups. I’ve seen the posters nearby, but whenever there’s a revival, anarchism crops up again as a punishment for how horrible Marxists have been. The First International degenerated into a Second International, and anarchism was an alternative to it. The Third International degenerated into fascism, and anarchism was an alternative to that too. But there is another movement stirring. There was the recent COVID pandemic which is not over, and I would love to see a political Left that was challenging the government’s total failures to do anything about it. There’s an economic crisis that they’re saying is linked to COVID or to the Ukraine War, and it may or may not be. We’re headed into another economic crisis, and taking over the means of production will be relevant.
The idea that a bunch of anarchists, or the entire populace, will rise up and take over the means of production, as a social revolution, without having a state power that is capable of crushing the opposition is farcical. You’ve just stolen all the private property, and they have police forces and armies to stop people stealing their property. And they will not avoid that.
The reason you need a party is so that you can have ruthless criticism. It’s not for any other function.
BS: If we want a revolution, and I think we agree on the idea of the revolution we want, it has to have a democratic form. It can’t be just an establishment of economic equality; it has to be practical political equality, and the only institutional form that that can take is democracy. Thinking about what the Athenian polis represented, what was good about it and, of course, what was bad about it, is important because it helps us to think about what direction we want to go and the reasons for that. As for the image of the Athenian polis that you’ve sketched, it’s inaccurate. Yes, they had slavery and it wasn’t a good thing. But that’s not a criticism of the Greek concept of democracy. If you’re going to analyze it properly, it’s a criticism of how expansive the Greek concept of the citizen was, because a democratic relationship is a relationship between the people of the group. I’m not at all advocating Athenian society as an economic model. I’m just suggesting that being acquainted with the history and what they thought is helpful for us in our thinking as we strive towards a politics of revolution.
David Glanz (Solidarity), in the audience: I’ve got two questions. One is to the whole panel. I’m assuming that you all agree that the struggle in the workplace, the direct class struggle against exploitation and the way it is managed inside the wage-labor relationship, is fundamental. We haven’t heard from any of you how the battle of ideas is fought out. While the ruling class has a monopoly on force, they don’t often want to use that force; they want to win coercion through an ideological process, which can be reflected through formal politics, but which exists alongside, as well as outside of formal politics.
The Australian working class is tied to the ruling class, and therefore to the project of the capitalist state, through potent Australian nationalism, which is focused on political panic around the potential of China becoming not just an adversary but an enemy. The Right is trying to fight a war of ideas around transphobia, not because their target is the small number of trans men and women, but because their target is the mass of the working class, who they’re trying to frighten into submission behind the mainstream ideas. Then the question of Ukraine. How do you see the battle of ideas being taken up? What is your view on the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
My second question starts from the Paris Commune, because the Paris Commune was undoubtedly a qualitative leap forward in the class struggle — the first time that workers challenged state power, and began to organize for themselves. But it was immature in lots of ways. The Commune was backward in that women weren’t allowed to vote. By 1905 in Russia, that backwardness is abolished — working class women in the factories are not going to take submission and servility as part of the package of revolt. My question is to Platypus: 150 years after the Paris Commune, how on earth do we end up with a panel of five men?
Moderator: Speaking as a representative of Platypus, we aim for our panels to be as ideologically and politically diverse as possible. We do invite women to our panels, and unfortunately they either refused or selected alternate members to speak on behalf of their organizations, but we are proud of the ideological diversity on our panels.
MC: The ideological battle is useful for us to spread our ideas in an organized fashion. There are trans-rights movements out there; I would more defer to them and integrate them within the broader movement within all forms of oppression. There’s not an easy answer to that, other than we fight the ideas, we condemn oppression and exploitation, we try to change people’s minds.
The Russia-Ukraine thing is very complicated. It’s a totally horrendous, imperialist act of aggression. How should we orient towards the struggle against that oppression? I support the right of Ukrainian people to defend themselves. Long term, ideally you’d want to see as much democratic, for lack of a better word, control over that struggle by the people fighting it, and you’d want to see it not be integrated into an authoritarian nationalist project, of which there is a risk in Ukraine. I don’t think that saying that they have a right to defend themselves means that we do or should embrace a pro-NATO position.
Arthur Dent: Why not?
MC: Because NATO is an imperialist alliance of imperialist states. We shouldn’t find ourselves echoing the kind of neo-Stalinist approach of saying, “we’re on the side of Russia because it’s anti-West.” We also shouldn’t say, “we’re on the side of NATO, and we want NATO to keep on expanding, and for it to continue militarizing previously neutral states.” That’s bad news for everybody and it’s not consistent with anti-militaristic politics.
TG: On the Ukrainian question, I’d agree with Arthur. Why not? Putin is the closest thing to a 21st-century fascist of the Nazi type that I’ve seen, and the Russian state is becoming increasingly fascistic. I’ve been staggered by the amount of old Lefties, including some who were in the CPAML with me — although they didn’t expel themselves — who would've said, “Russia? Social imperialist.” In the late 1990s, Russia didn’t become social imperialist, it became overtly and proudly capitalist, and imperialist in that sense. Yet the same people are now saying ‘, it’s all NATO’s fault, this is all a U.S. imperialism plot.” For Christfuckingsake. The Ukrainian people have every right to defend themselves, should be supported, and I hope that in defending their patch of turf, they create, or exacerbate, divisions inside Russian society which enable the regime there to collapse. I can only hope. As for the ideological question? It’s an important question. I come back to Dalton’s comment about a crib of fire. Without a crib of fire, with us stoking the flames as necessary, we are much more likely to fall victim to dominant bourgeois ideology in some form or another. Cryptofash’s comment around Left / Right being wings of bourgeois ideology has credibility. That doesn’t mean that there’s not been a Left which is separate from that, which I tried to focus on in my opening remarks.
LM: I agree more with Matt. What Russia’s doing is barbaric, and Ukrainians have a right to defend themselves, but it has been turned into a proxy war, where NATO is using Ukraine as a battering ram to punish and defeat Russia. We can’t side with our own ruling classes. The Australian government is on the side of NATO, and is part of the fight with Russia. The crippling sanctions are making life hell for Russian workers, the people who should be our allies in bringing down their own government. We should be making common cause with the anti-war struggles in all the countries, rather than expecting our own militaries to be part of the solution. That’s a recipe for World War III, nuclear war. It’s very scary. The context here is the U.S., but the Australian government in particular, our government’s hostility to China and an arms race with China, the nuclear subs, hundreds of billions of dollars spent. We need to be against our own government’s militarization.
On the changing of ideas as a socialist activist, ideas don’t usually change a huge amount just left in the abstract. Ideas change in struggle. That’s why the self activity of workers is crucial. It’s why Marx said, “the philosophers interpreted the world, the point is to change it.” Ideas change the most in revolution, but they change in any form of struggle when workers start to challenge the submissiveness they’ve been brought up with and start to see their coworkers as allies, whether they be trans, or black, or white, or female, or male. That’s when these divisions and backward mainstream ideas can break down. It’s the role of socialists, particularly the role of a revolutionary organization, to have a consistent approach to these questions of changing ideas, to lead people in struggle to change these ideas, and fan the flames of struggle wherever they are. In New South Wales it’s doing our best to support and take part in the nurses and teachers’ strikes. There’s going to be an early-childhood strike in September here. Any of those ways that we can break against that subordination that is pushed on workers.
The millennial Left has thought of its own trajectory as being “from protest to politics,” to use a phrase of Leo Panitch. That is, Corbyn- and Sanders-style social democracy, and working in Labor or the DSA as a successful overcoming of the limitations of the “protest” politics of the anti-globalization movement and Occupy, which were associated with “anarchism.” They celebrated an apparent overcoming of anarchism, yet neo-social democracy has also been a failure on its own terms. What do the anarchists say in response?
BS: The anarchist strategy, which I participate in, is the anarcho-syndicalist strategy. We’re not just about protest; we’re about the building of institutions that can contest power in the workplace, and, through that contestation, build our organizations in the hope that we could one day contest power in society, and create revolution. This mode of politics is important in that it’s a model of collective self-management of the struggle, in which we invite other people to participate with us. It also models and builds a culture. The structures of our organizations are just one piece of the puzzle. More important is the culture that develops within those institutions, especially if you’ve got a revolutionary project, because the culture of the organization and its project need to be able to withstand the stresses of a revolutionary situation in which there are temptations to engage in authoritarian politics. We can’t create a libertarian socialist society through authoritarian means. We need to model and practice that culture amongst ourselves. This is the only viable strategy for revolution.
MC: I would agree that this neo-social democratic moment that we have from roughly 2015 to 2020 was a punishment for the limitations of the strategies of things like Occupy, the Movements of the Squares, etc., which is, though it’s often associated with anarchism, is a specific kind of anarchism, small-a anarchism, or neo-anarchism. If anyone’s interested, I have a series of articles coming out on Red & Black Notes, critiquing this from the mass, class-struggle, anarchist perspective. It’s an understandable switch that a lot of people on the Left made, in that they saw that hanging out in the park and a good practice saying “directly democratic,” “we’re using consensus,” etc., didn’t have much impact in terms of pushing reform, let alone creating a social revolution. It politicized people; it had kind of useful, positive effects, but it had harsh limitations. So people moved from “protest to politics.”
What we’re hopefully seeing now, at least a bit, is that with disillusionment in politics, people are asking about class struggle, which was just off the table — real militant class struggle that doesn’t defer to these arrangements we have in Australia. Post Accord, we have this idea of arbitration and we play by the rules that the capitalist state sets up for us. We started seeing things in America with the teachers’ wildcat strikes, and this idea that there’s another alternative to both protest and politics: organizing on the job, exercising power where we have it, as workers in capitalist production. That’s a tool for us to exert leverage both over our bosses, in terms of improving the conditions at work, and building the capacity for where we can take over the means of production, and repurpose production to meet human needs. Hopefully that’s what we’re starting to see, which would be the return to the politics that my kind of anarchism advocates.
BS: Protest politics is often a politics of supplication, of relating to people in the hope that they will fulfill your demands which they’re in power to make. It replicates a relationship of a service provider and client. We could extend that critique to the mainstream union movement, which markets itself as a service provider to the workers, who are nominally their members, but which they relate to as clients. Part of the reason this has come about is because they’ve become professionalized. A better model of unionism is one in which it’s volunteer-based, and we relate to each other as equals, providing each other with mutual aid. It also creates a relationship within the union groups of collective self-management and autonomy. If that’s the sort of society we want to create, we need to create it through those sorts of institutions and build them up.
Andy Blunden, in the audience: What do the speakers make of the fact that no anarchist or Marxist has gathered sufficient popular support to win a seat at a state or federal level for about a century? Given this fact, do they see themselves capable of leading a social revolution? What changes in their own politics or in the social situation do they anticipate to justify their confidence, if they have such confidence?
LM: My version of Marxism doesn’t see power and activism coming through parliament or elections. It would be great to have some socialists in parliament to take the fight to all the Right-wingers, but it’s only an adjunct to where our real power is, the streets and the workplaces. Parliament is part of the state, and it’s not something we can use to improve our situation, although any reforms we can win through parliament are good, and we want to push for them. There are lots of reasons why we haven’t had any electoral success. The dominance of capitalist society has meant that socialist views are often in a minority. In the postwar period obviously there were a lot of social democrats and mass communist parties claiming to be Marxists. The genuine socialist tradition is socialism from below, not what you saw in the postwar period after Stalin, where the communist parties became focused on parliament. They had strength in trade unions and could mobilize workers that way, but they were no longer revolutionary parties. They wanted to take power through the state and through parliament. It was the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and the communist party into a dictatorship that led to the communist parties giving up on international revolution.
TG: We haven’t had representation in parliament or equivalents for a century because we haven’t bloody well deserved it. It says something about our failings combined with the strength of capitalism in the advanced world. We’ve been ambivalent, as movements, about parliamentary democracy, etc. Added to that, words like “Marxism” and “anarchism” are humpty-dumpty words. They mean what you want them to mean. I understand where the question is coming from, but to nail down what we’re talking about when we talk about them it’s tricky.
BS: I would’ve thought “fire in the crib” was vague. The type of change that we want to see in society is not going to come through parliament. As soon as you elect representatives to parliament, those representatives become a class unto themselves, with an interest in getting re-elected, which becomes a preoccupation for them, over and above pushing the sorts of change their constituents want. Coupled to this is the logic of representationalism, whereby, in order to promote one’s chances of getting elected, one can sell out the constituency to make a play for the votes of the constituency of your rivals. The people who are elected betray the people who elect them, time and time again. It’s not gonna build socialism; it’s not gonna build the sort of revolutionary change we want, which is why we’ve got a different approach.
Leigh Kendall (Anarcho-syndicalist Federation), in the audience: On the Paris Commune and Marx’s Civil War in France, I don’t agree with Matt’s interpretation. Marx was an authoritarian, and he came on like a libertarian in the Civil War in France, because he could see quite clearly the influence of Bakuninist, Benthamist, or collectivist politics that were being exemplified in the Paris Commune, and he wanted to get on board with it. Any doubt about what Marx believed was extinguished by his behavior subsequent to the Paris Commune, where he contrived to destroy the First International rather than see it fall under the influence of what later became known as anarchism.
Lachlan, you omitted a lot about what happened in the Russian Revolution and your characterization of it is contradicted by a participant, G. P. Maximov, who wrote The Guillotine at Work (1940), which is worth reading, along with Maurice Brinton’s The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control (1970), which demonstrates what Ben was saying: it was a coup, and they didn’t have the popular support that was claimed, and they worked actively against the Soviets. “All power to the Soviets” was an anarchist slogan that was appropriated by Bolsheviks.
On Matt’s characterization of the Spanish Revolution — you mentioned Danny Evans. It’s a problem with all English-speaking texts about the Spanish Revolution, and I’m not sure if you’re able to read Spanish, but there’s so much more in Spanish that needs to be read about that. I noticed that Lachlan also did the time-honored mention of the four members of the CNT, who were both members of or representing the CNT and the FAI, who agreed to join the Catalonian government as a way to obtain arms way to obtain arms, and clearly it was a mistake. It’s a bit dishonest to dismiss the entire history of anarchism on the basis of what four people did. It certainly wasn’t the position of the majority of the CNT.
Tom was correct, with regard to culture. I recommend Rudolf Rocker’s Nationalism and Culture (1933), particularly the introduction where he demolishes the materialist conception of history. We need to create a working class culture. And the problem with the Left, which is why I do not identify myself as Left and why a lot of workers hate the Left, is because the Left represent their bosses. They look, act and sound like their bosses. To which the Right has taken great advantage of, and you can see this reflected in electoral results. I was involved in a publication that was a vehicle to promote anarchist politics, which had a focus on a particular industry. I realized that the ideas that we’re talking about are more popular and easily relatable to than people realized, and that the passivity of the working class is more of a perception than it is real. There are some things about anarchism which were popular amongst the workers I worked with. But there were also things that weren’t. One thing that didn’t get a lot of traction was the anti-police position, because a lot of people thought the police do a good job, and it’s a hard job. Going back to the 1970s, the entire Left press completely missed this, and when they stand outside the factory gates, saying “buy a copy of Socialist whatever it is,” they shouldn’t be surprised when workers say, ‘no thanks, I’m a socialist.” You need to think about how those ideas are presented. The new technologies provide an opportunity for younger people to do something about that, and to speak to people in terms that they can relate to.
MC: I don’t think we do disagree. That was my presentation of what Marx’s reaction to the Paris Commune was. Marx had some bad information and was making a political intervention in opposition to the developing anarchist current. That was destructive to the First International.
I’m not interested in rehashing the stuff on Russia, but in regards to Spain, you soft-peddled the level of integration within the state that did occur. Down through regional levels of the CNT, there was integration within redeveloping municipal councils, taking on governmental functions. This was a real problem. You could say it was about roughly half of the organization that was at least tacitly supportive of this project. Then opposition really started to develop, and it became the majority current to be anti-collaborationist, particularly around the May Days. In regards to the texts that are available on the Spanish Revolution, I recommend Danny Evans because it's a very readable book in English. But for a text that was originally in Spanish, you can read Agustín Guillamón’s Insurrection (2020). Evans is building off a lot of his work. It shows what I said to be true, that there were real compromises made in reconstituting the Republican government, and that the revolutionary forces there, showing the anarchist conception of what a social revolution looks like, were the Friends of Durruti, the Barcelona FAI, the Libertarian Youth, and whole swathes of the CNT which rejected the collaborationist policy and wanted to end it.
TG: I won’t let you leave the room without talking to you about Norbert Elias’ Society of Individuals (1987). One of the things I took from what you were saying is the importance of individuality. You can call it individualism if you like, we’re not talking about bourgeois individualism, but the individual being able to stand up and grow. Any Left-wing or revolutionary movement which doesn’t embrace that is fraudulent. There are lessons for us there. And this has been driven home to me by the years I’ve worked as a therapist and group therapist, because when you work there, you’re working with individuals and groups, you’re not working with a blob.
On your question, “what is it that people really find important?” Speaking of workers coming out of factories, etc., I'm reminded of a comment that Brecht put in the Life of Galileo (1938): “Things indeed take a wondrous turn, when learned men do stoop to learn.” If we are to be serious about being revolutionaries, yes, we embrace a revolutionary ideology. To develop a mass base, we need to take a stooping stance: we need to find out what matters to people.
Andy Blunden: You think making a revolution is easier than winning a seat in parliament?
TG: As an abstraction, sure. And don’t we get lost in the distractions.
In Tom’s opening remarks he had the four examples of rebelliousness and communism, and in each of these four examples, the good communists were outnumbered by the bad communists. Why do far Left organizations have these elements that want to put out the fire? Is it something about the organization? The people they attract? What’s happening that there are so many conservative elements within far Left groups?
TG: It’s not good / bad; to some degree that’s a false antithesis. We live in a cultural environment, and most of the time we’re not aware of the values that that culture has. It’s like the saying, “follow me and you’ll never think again.” I see this often when working with refugees. To give you two examples: a Sierra Leonean man, a colleague, said to me, about ten years ago, “we have come from hell to find heaven. And it is heaven, if you change overnight.” That shouldn’t be too hard then. And a South Sudanese woman who had been here for quite some time, in explaining the difference between there and here: “marriage in Sudan is like prison. Here, for two years we go mad.” She meant that it took her about two years for the pennies to drop, that with freedom comes responsibility. They’re not pennies that had to drop for us, because we had grown up in an environment where this is just part of the deal. Being able to identify with and stay with revolutionary ideas, etc. is easier said than done. Because, as Marx and Engels pointed out in the Manifesto, “all that’s solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.” To keep up with that is not easy. I don’t have a problem with people fucking up; I’ve done it myself often enough. This is where the fire is important, it’s the crib that we need to nurture.
Benjamin, with your definitions of the state and saying the state will never work, have you ever considered new political strategies? For example, there is an Australian party called Flux. They want to elect a senator who will vote in parliament only according to what everyone votes on an app. They are essentially advocating a recallable-delegate, optional, direct-democracy system within the state.
BS: It’s not that the state doesn’t work; it doesn’t work in a way that’s healthy for us. I’m resistant to the idea of these technology-mediated representatives as a quasi-delegate. They don’t provide a social context, which is important — debating and arguments within your group. One of the reasons why anarcho-syndicalism is attractive to me is that it’s a collectivism. We have a federation of groups; those groups support each other through mutual aid. Through the federation we organize how we’re going to communicate and relate to each other to make sure that the communications are genuine communications and authorized by the groups, not by individuals, who might want to speak on behalf of the groups without having a mandate from the group. The democratic process within a federation happens within the local groups: all initiatives for actions that occur within the whole federation, whether it be the ASF or the broader IWA, come up from those groups, and it’s the democratic life of those groups which is important and vital and which is a direct source of peer support for the workers who make up those groups. We don’t expect everyone that will join us will be anarchists; we’re open to all workers. The anarchist character of the organization is the structure and the culture of the organization. We’re not interested in just being this tiny little ghetto for anarchists; we want to build a mass organization capable of undertaking a direct contest of power with the state. We’re a long way from that goal at the moment, but that is the plan we hope to realize.
MC: Although formally that seems to be direct democracy: “we have control over a decision that’s being made by someone who is nominally above us,” there’s no actual control that can be exercised over the decision they make. It’s someone who has a constitutional role within the existing system, and they can do what they want with those rights given to them. Then the reality is that what they can vote “yes” or “no” on with this app is a particular bill within the capitalist state. The voting isn’t the problem with what is going on in the state. The state as an institution in itself, and the structural veto power, the real power, is vested in the people who own the means of production and the economic life of the society. None of that changes because we tell — and hopefully they follow through — some politician how to vote on some legislation in an institution that isn’t going to accept expropriation. This isn’t a process that’s empowering workers within their workplaces.
Regarding the comments on anarcho-syndicalism, one critique that I would make of what was just talked about as a strategy, is that there is a risk in trying to build such a mass organization and attaching “anarchist” to it, and saying you don’t have to be an anarchist to be involved in it. There is a risk here in that you’re merging the idea of having a specifically anarchist organization with the idea of working with whoever’s your coworker and uniting with them on a class basis to engage in struggle. Maybe you’re trying to get a wage increase, etc. It just confuses things a bit. You’re either, as you said, ghettoizing yourself, saying “you can join if you’re an anarchist,” or you’re saying the anarchism of the union is nominal. Trying to build structures of workplace struggle in an anarchist fashion, I agree with that part. I am not hostile to anarcho-syndicalism, but there is a risk in saying that this is the anarchist organization. You would have trouble getting people to join even if you said it was open to non-anarchists. I advocate what was known as dual-organizationalism, in which we have our specific anarchist organizations and we intervene where possible, wherever we can create or engage with forms that allow for rank-and-file control of the struggle. It could take all kinds of forms; an anarcho-syndicalist union is one of them.
BS: It’s possible that we change the name, but we want the character of the organization to be anarchist. We intend to become a generally mass organization, and the larger it grows the more difficult it becomes to maintain a high degree of ideological cohesion amongst all the members. One of the benefits of anarcho-syndicalism as a model is that, doctrinally, it’s minimalist. We don’t seek to strive for tremendous ideological cohesion. What’s important is that we work, that a culture of struggle and mutual aid develops inside of the organization, that people can come with different ideas, because the best ideas rise to the top through debate. We’re collectivists, but we need people with a strong sense of individuality, because they need to be able to come to meetings, and to think and speak for themselves. We encourage people who want to join because they’ve got issues, to take ownership and management of their problem in the workplace, rather than come to us as people that can help and possibly direct them. We’ve got no interest in directing them; we’ve got an interest in partnering with them so that they can free themselves, because if you can’t free yourself, you can’t free anyone else. That’s why the ethos is of egalitarianism and the idea that the members\don’t act as consultants to people coming to us. We don’t want that consultant-client relationship, we want to build something different.
From my experience in the Melbourne Left, the majority of self-identified anarchists that I’ve met have politics that amount to moral individualism, lifestyle choices, etc. Why do the panelists think it is? How do you explain that phenomenon? Perhaps my experience is not representative of anarchism. Is it just a kind of liberalism that shrouds itself in anarchist rhetoric, or is it a symptom of the regression of modern politics and the Left today? Or does it have nothing to do with any of the traditions represented on the panel today?
MC: Unfortunately your experience has been representative for a long time. When you encounter someone who labels themself an anarchist, that is what you’ll find. There are similar currents within Marxism: autonomist types of Marxism that overlap with some of this. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the international workers’ movement underwent a real historic defeat beginning in the late 1970s, and was disorganized. The militancy was totally evacuated out of it. There came all of these ideas that said, “the worker is no longer a revolutionary subject, we have to find liberation in other ways.” It was giving up. It was giving an ideological justification for not doing the hard, often thankless work at a small scale. I mentioned in my opening remarks the collective Angry Workers of the World. I encourage everyone to read their book Class Power on Zero-Hours (2020). They’re often talking about small steps of beginning to communicate with their coworkers, and find out what the grievances are. This stuff seems like small potatoes to people who think, “in America, we nearly got Bernie Sanders elected.” It’s understandable, because there’s this illusory proximity to power, and it seems like such a gigantic hill to climb: “how do we get to social revolution from there?” There’s just no getting out of it; that’s the work that needs to be done. As far as we’re starting to see a reorientation within movements like anarchism and Marxism, towards a politics of developing our capacity for class struggle, that’s a positive development and I hope it keeps going.
BS: We, the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, have a reasonably narrow idea of what an anarchist is. When I say narrow I mean precise. The types of individuals you’ve described, an individual who is attracted to the lifestyle, they’re attracted to the image; they like the idea of authoritarianism; they like the image of defiance, often they associate it with cultural movements, such as punk. While we welcome their interest, we don’t think of them as anarchist. Anyone can appropriate a label, and much of what goes on in our society is people appropriating styles. It’s what’s marketed to them, it’s a lot of how the consumer economy works. In a way it’s natural, especially for young people who are trying to carve out an identity for themselves. It doesn’t always run very deep, and that’s a shame. If there’s anyone to whom we’re broadcasting, who feels that this describes them, don’t take umbrage. Get in contact with us and start a conversation with us, because we like to talk about anarchism; we can bore the legs off a chair if given half a chance.
Tom, you talk about culture and the ideological totality of society. Lachlan, you started off by giving an acknowledgment of country, and Tom you also talked about bourgeoisification and how society is going to need to go through a bourgeois element. Lachlan, Aboriginal societies were very complex. Their religious cosmology was totemic. There are all kinds of hierarchical structures in that society. To what extent do you see post-capitalism or anarchism as being a return to some kind of a new and better totemic religion?
TG: You’re right about traditional Aboriginal society, by which I don’t mean the traditional hierarchical structure is the equivalent of hierarchical structures in class societies. But up in Alice Springs we — and when I say “we,” I don’t just mean white fellow workers but fellow black workers — joke about “SWB” and “SMB”: secret women’s business and secret men’s business. The hierarchy of traditional leaders, the religious leaders — it’s real and broken. The broken picture ain’t pretty, and time still needs to pass before something can be built in its place. Post-revolutionary society, would you like to be a flower on the wall in 200, 300, 400 years’ time? Yes, sure. I’d love Dr. Who to drop in, that would solve a lot of problems. But no, we can’t predict these things easily. They’ll be different, but how can we predict what the principal contradictions will become post-revolution and, once they have been sorted, what will emerge after that? That’s not our problem, and we’re in no position to make those comments, other than in the abstract. We have got to worry about what’s happening now.
LM: Obviously indigenous societies are spiritual. There’s hierarchy in all kinds of societies, but there isn’t arbitrary authority. The authority of elders in indigenous societies comes from experience and respect. If you expand that to the pre-class societies, there weren’t class distinctions. That’s a history all of humanity shares. Class society is a recent thing. That’s the point I was making, after the acknowledgement, that that’s our history, and if we have a human nature, and I don’t really think we do, but if we have any inbuilt tendency, it is towards egalitarianism, because that’s the majority of our history as a species. In terms of what the future socialist society would have, I don’t think we can say. It will have a more secular spirituality, and maybe it will look a bit more like pre-class societies in terms of restoring the connection we should have with the natural world which is broken with capitalism. But in terms of religion, in which we project human characteristics onto an all powerful god, that's a characteristic of class societies and the alienation of people under class societies. That wouldn’t exist under a future classless society.
TG: Human beings are spiritual creatures. But we make the gods; we make the saints; we make spirituality. It’s not simply class-related: most of human existence,150,000 years or whatever, has been without classes; it’s prehistory, and it was about survival. The projections that occurred dealt with nature and our struggle for survival.
Arthur Dent: Andy Blunden put his finger on it: it’s going to be harder to make a revolution than to elect people to parliament. The only recent parliamentary struggle I’m aware of that came anywhere near an electoral quota of one seat was that, nationally, people put both major parties last, about 50,000 more people did than normal because they jailed me for urging them to. That’s the largest electoral campaign there’s been in the last couple of decades. If you can persuade them to jail you for telling people to put them last, then you’ll get a lot of people putting them last. When I say a lot, 50,000 out of a much larger electorate, but that’s more than any of the candidates of the various tribal groups here are able to get in elections.
Anybody that can’t say very clearly that we’re at war with the fascist czar of Russia who is invading Western Europe at the moment is not capable of organizing a tea party, let alone a revolution. The backward popular opinion in Australia is ahead of the NATO line I heard from three of the speakers here: that the Ukrainians are entitled to defend themselves, whereas the Ukrainians are saying, “We are under attack from fascists; there is a war against fascism; it is a global war. You’re welcome to volunteer; there is a foreign legion. We need arms and mass support.” They’re getting crowds in the streets of Prague, Munich, and other European cities. They are mobilizing a mass movement worldwide against fascism, and what you call the Left in Australia has nothing to do with it. If you want to have an example of ruthless critique, of the kind of fight you’re in for when there is a Left, try discussing what you’re going to do about the fact that fascism is at war, in your little tiny sects. The response you’ll get will be people mumbling about a NATO proxy war and how we mustn’t isolate Russia with sanctions. That is as close as you’ve got to popular opinion. You’re halfway between NATO and Putin. NATO is not doing what it ought to be doing, which is sending troops to fight fascism. Putin is saying, “we can’t have sanctions because we’re allowed to invade Ukraine,” and you’re echoing him. How can anything as pathetic and backward and explicitly reactionary as that attract any mass support from anybody with blood running in their veins?
MC: It’s too complicated to go into this topic at this point, but I would say that I disagree, and I don’t think that this standpoint epistemology — though I sympathize with people who are desperate and want help. There are many Ukrainians, including the government, who are calling for a no-fly zone, which would be disastrous. That shouldn’t be the metric by which we make decisions: when an oppressed group or group under attack says something.
LM: The Ukrainians are getting billions and billions of dollars of arms, and it’s escalating the war, causing mass death and destruction. We should deescalate the war by demanding the disarming of our own government, which is why we should be building a movement against AUKUS and against their own militaries and their own governments. It’s important to fight militarism in our own country, because that’s the main enemy, it’s at home. Our rulers in NATO have no interest in self-determination for Ukrainians. They support Israel to the hilt, an apartheid state. Saudi Arabia's assaults on Yemen are as barbaric as Russia’s, but they’re our allies so we don’t do anything about it. There are no principles in this. We need to be fighting to reduce military spending wherever we are. Russia and NATO are both imperialist forces and we should be fighting both of them, but above all our own military. That $170 billion that’s going into the nuclear subs. Imagine what that could do for our health system, our education system, a proper disability system — that’s what we need to be fighting for, not for pouring more arms into an already devastated area.
TG: Lachlan, you seem uncomfortable about what you’re saying, and I’m not surprised. And quoting our old mate Hegel: if something is abstract it must be untrue. Philosophy is the enemy of the abstract, philosophy returns to the concrete. Where did you leave the Ukrainian people? Hanging in an abstraction, I mean seriously, it’s not good enough, and it is their rights we need to prioritize, not Russian fascists.
LM: We can welcome them as refugees as we should welcome all refugees.
TG: We can put more pressure on NATO to supply more arms.
TG closes the event with his poem on bureaucracy:
In medieval times some theologians seriously debated how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.
Their mistake can be found in their being insufficiently inclusive, in their reckonings, for demons too can sit atop pins.
Using their urge to torment and feed off human flesh, these demons embraced the modern world and mutated into bureaucrats.
And each mutation mutated in turn, spawning managers, middle-managers, Human Resources departments and regulations beyond measure.
In honor of this strain, the mutants commissioned a great public work and constructed an invisible pin with an ever expanding head.
Transcribed by Freya Newman, Michael McClelland, Natalya Antonova, Liam Kenny, Aidan McKay.
 The International Workingmen’s Association, “General Rules” (October 1864), available online at <https://www.marxists.org/history/international/iwma/documents/1864/rules.htm>.
 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Preface to the 1872 German Edition,” in The Communist Manifesto (1848), quoting from Karl Marx, “The Paris Commune,” in The Civil War in France (1871), available online at <https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/preface.htm>.
 Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labor), founded in Barcelona in 1910.
 This is from Rudyard Kipling, but often misattributed to Friedrich Nietzsche.
 An Australian colloquialism meaning genuine, honest, legitimate.
 The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist), split from the CPA in 1964 after the Sino-Soviet split.
 Arthur Dent writes for C21st Left and is a former member of the CPAML. He appears with Rjurik Davidson and Rory Dufficy in “What is capitalism, and why should we be against it?,” Platypus Review 139 (September 2021), available online at <https://platypus1917.org/2021/09/01/what-is-capitalism-and-why-should-we-be-against-it-2/>.
 Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification).
 Federación Anarquista Ibérica (Iberian Anarchist Federation).
 Benedict Cryptofash, “The Left is not a concept,” Platypus Review 142 (December 2021 – January 2022), available online at <https://platypus1917.org/2021/12/01/the-left-is-not-a-concept/>; Chris Cutrone, “The Left is a concept — but social revolution is not: A response to ‘Benedict Cryptofash,’” Platypus Review 143 (February 2022), available online at <https://platypus1917.org/2022/02/01/the-left-is-a-concept-but-social-revolution-is-not-a-response-to-benedict-cryptofash/>; Benedict Cryptofash, “The Left is not the Right: A Response to Chris Cutrone,” The Antileftist Marx (March 10, 2022); Chris Cutrone, “Consciousness is essential — why the death of the Left is consequential: A rejoinder to Benedict Cryptofash,” Platypus Review 145 (April 2022), available online at <https://platypus1917.org/2022/04/01/consciousness-is-essential-why-the-death-of-the-left-is-consequential-a-rejoinder-to-benedict-cryptofash/>; Benedict Cryptofash, “The Left is Not Consciousness: A Response to Chris Cutrone’s Response to My Response to Chris Cutrone’s Response to My Response to the Platypus Affiliated Society, The Antileftist Marx (April 21, 2022).
 See Matt Crossin, “Anarchists and Dual Power: Situation or Strategy?” (July 18, 2022), “Anarchists and Neo-anarchists: Horizontalism and Autonomous Spaces” (July 25, 2022), “Anarchists and Insurrection: Organisation, Class Struggle, and Riots” (August 4, 2022), “Anarchists and Parliamentarianism: Elections and Social Change” (August 13, 2022), Red & Black Notes, available online at <https://www.redblacknotes.com/tag/critical-notes/>.
 The Prices and Incomes Accord was an 1983 agreement between the federal government of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
 Andy Blunden is an author and secretary of the Marxists Internet Archive. He appears with Adrian Johnston, Henry Pickford, and Jensen Suther, in “Hegel and the Left,” Platypus Review 138 (July–August 2021), available online at <https://platypus1917.org/2021/07/03/hegel-and-the-left/>.
 A trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK, and the U.S, announced on September 15, 2021. Under the pact, the U.S. and the UK will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.