The monstrosity of class-struggle anarchism
As the title may suggest, this article is going to discuss the concept of “class-struggle anarchism”, as put forward by the UK Anarchist Federation in their self-definition as “an organisation of revolutionary class struggle anarchists.” Discussing such an issue will no doubt be seen by some as an attack. We have little time for political infighting and allegiances. We are writing for those of our comrades who can understand, reply and not be sectarian: anarchism’s future lies in truth. We have the utmost respect for many comrades who use this label, but we wish, first, to study the reasons for this facade of “class-struggle”, then, its actual effect as it circumvents discussions on the function of class-struggle, and we will conclude that instead of filling this void in our theory with half-digested Marxism and reassuring mantras, we might want to look towards anti-authoritarian readings of Marx.
A tautology and many bogeymen
What is arresting about this phrase is how obvious it seems. Anarchism is a revolutionary movement born from the class-struggle. In anarchism, workers theorized their practices and aspirations against class society.
So why the precision? The conscious explanation is a list of bogeymen, the most “out there” types of anarchism, whether these are actually antithetical to class-struggle or not. It was written because people did not want to spend time arguing against anarcho-capitalism, lifestylism, utopianism, individualism… and this seems natural.
However, using a positive, if vague, term instead of refuting once and for all these deviations poses a few problems. The less serious one is probably that it acknowledges that there would be the possibility of anarchism which would somehow be “outside” of the class struggle. The most serious ones are that, far from encouraging it, in practice it stifles debates and ideas about class-struggle, its emancipatory possibilities and its limits.
The underpants gnome path to revolution
This silencing leads to a very awkward position in which some people may think they know what the Anarchist Federation is doing, but, from what we have seen, the most accurate and complete plan for action on which there is a consensus is:
1. Class struggle
3. Anarchist communism
This is obviously insufficient, but the only way to develop it would be to discuss the limits of class-struggle, and think a classless society, neither of which is allowed by the Aims and Principles.
Members then try to fill this blank space in their theory in different ways. In the best case, they turn to anarcho-syndicalism’s conception of the expropriating general strike, and add their concerns at work alienation as a vague concomitant “community mass movement”. In the worst case, they turn to a form of Marxism they try to make more “libertarian”, or “democratic”.
With Marx against Marxism
In both cases, however, they fail at communism. They replace it instead by the dictatorship of the proletariat, the access to political and economic power of the proletariat. Although they might pay lip service to the critique of capitalist categories such as work and value, they rely on the capitalist mechanisms to overthrow it. However necessary to our survival it might be, class-struggle remains indeed a mechanism of (re)production of capitalism.
In truth, what many anarchists oppose in the dictatorship of the proletariat is the dirty word of “dictatorship”. However, when they realize what it actually means, their critique of it seems to dwindle to almost nothing. That is because, increasingly over the years, anarchists have imported Trotskyist and Marxist ideas without much debate or realization under the banner of their interest for “class-struggle”, and out of fear of these bogeymen which Marxists like to accuse us to be (anarcho-capitalists, lifestylists, utopianists, individualists).
It is high time we read Marx and analyze capitalism from an anarchist perspective, which means developing a project of emancipation that goes beyond what Wayne Price calls “democratic libertarian communism”: anarchism. We have no time for the producers versus parasite rhetorics of regressive anti-capitalism, as we have enough examples in our history and arguments in our classics to show their inadequacy many times over. We must truly make ours the critique of labour defended by the Wertkritik and communisation currents, among others.
Class-struggle is the origin of anarchism, it is its “natural habitat”, but it is not its end. Anarchism’s end is a classless, stateless society free of oppression. This is not obtained by a victory over the bourgeoisie, but the abolition of capitalism, the bourgeoisie, and the proletariat. These ideas have been circulating in anarchist circles for a while, in a sense, they are the basic principles of “real” anarchism. However, the stress on the label “class-struggle anarchism” created a climate of confusion and duplicity which made many comrades lose these bearings.