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MLM vs. Anarchism

By Bob Avakian

Critique by Punkerslut

From RadicalGraphics.org
Image: From "Politics" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

Start Date: July 7, 2003
Finish Date: July 8, 2003


     I first came across this pamphlet in the Revolutionary Books store in Boston, in one of my vodka runs. It was only $2 and it wouldn't detract significantly from my alcohol fund, so I purchased it. The novelty of it, is that it was simply xeroxed paper, stapled together. I really like that. I mean, it was a shotty job, perhaps. I'm aware of this. But the appeal to it, is that it is the cheapest method of producing a book. It is something that an unpopular author would be reduced to, because he has been rejected by every major publisher. In this work, Avakian proposes some arguments against Anarchism, which I will largely refute. The MLM in the title stands for "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism." And now, on with the critique...

Who Is More Radical, Anyway?

     The first thing I should point out, is that Avakian makes the statement, "there is nothing more revolutionary than genuine communism," [part 1] when he begins his argument against Anarchism. Or elsewhere, "...we might actually come off as more conservative than anarchism, when in fact, as has been stressed, we're much more radical than anarchists. " [part 1] And we also have, "While at times anarchism may appear extremely radical and appear to be criticizing Marxism from a more 'left' position, anarchism is essentially reformist." [part 2] Or... "This has to do with the fact that, regardless of the intentions and sentiments of particular anarchists, anarchism as a program and outlook is ultimately the expression of petit bourgeois interests..." [part 2] Or even, "This is what is reflected in the program of the anarchists--as a radical expression of the petit bourgeois democratic outlook--and in particular their demands for no state, no vanguard party, no leadership (or "hierarchies") of any kind, including within the armed forces of the revolution, both before and after the seizure of power (if power could ever be seized without such leadership!!). " [part 4] His opponents, allegedly, had argued that Anarchism was more revolutionary than Communism. Of course, this all seems good and qualified, when we want to have a debate about some topic in our elementary school yard. It doesn't matter what is "more revolutionary," nor should it even seem slightly relevant to the discussion. If I were to argue against Statist-Communism on behalf of Anarcho-Communism, I would not begin with, "Yeah, well, you know what's more revolutionary than Statist-Communism? That's right, Anarcho-Communism." Avakian would look to me and his head would bow down, speaking only to his comrades, "You know, he's right..." And then he would leave as I won the debate. Of course, demonstrating the rather absurd nature of this argument, and the valuable seconds which have already been lost on examining it, I continue.

Power in an Anarcho-Communist Commune

The reason is that if you were to implement the anarchist position that you shouldn't have any state at all, then there would not be any way to put the interests of the proletariat as a class, and the interests of the masses of people, above the interests of individuals and small groups of people. And, along with that, there would be no way to put the interests of the world revolution above the more narrow interests of the people in this or that particular country. And this is especially a problem in a country that has a whole history of imperialist domination and plunder. [part 1]

Now, the anarchists actually argue not only that you shouldn't have a state in their vision of a new society, but that you shouldn't have an established, organized revolutionary leadership to carry out the overthrow of the existing order. If that line were followed, it would actually mean that you couldn't overthrow the existing order--because, in order to do that, you have to go up against and actually defeat the highly organized and very powerful military as well as political forces of the imperialists and their whole state apparatus. [part 1]

...if you were to do this beginning on an economic foundation that resulted from the position of the old imperialist country in the overall international division of labor and accumulation process of the imperialist system, then you would be proceeding on the basis of reaping the fruits and "communizing" the plunder and exploitation that had been carried out by imperialism. [part 1]

If the bourgeoisie and all its hirelings somehow disappeared overnight from the face of the earth, would the masses instantly know how to do all this, or could they learn all this in a very short period of time, and without leadership? Anyone who examines this problem honestly and with any kind of scientific approach will have to answer simply--No. [part 3]

     In this pamphlet, the primary argument that Avakian proposes against Anarchism is the idea that a stateless society would be without power -- without power to enforce its own ideals, and without power to enforce such ideals globally (if even the later is wholly desirable, as Globalization has been attacked by both Communists and Anarchists). Besides this, he argues that without a state, nothing could stop Imperialism. Essentially.... he does not believe that anything can happen, unless there is a state. Without officials, elected or not, there can be no justice, so he believes.

     Though an Anarcho-Communist society may be without a government, this does not mean that it is without ability to enforce its ideals. One must understand that an Anarchist society still has a method for political decision-making. That is the primary difference between an Anarchist society and a Statist society: their methods for political decision-making. The fact that an Anarchist society has no officials, elected or not, does not detract from the basic idea that the people are capable of enforcing such ideals. For instance, examine the legislative process of both societies. In a Statist society, a law comes into effect, when an individual, not the people, decides it to be law. Such contradictory terms as "representation" are used to justify this, but it is a lie. In an Anarchist society, every law will become an effect, only when the people have ratified it. To say that there cannot be direction without a statist society, is to undermine the basic principles of political decision-making: that all power is derived from the people. While every other government recognizes this principle, it is only Anarchism which endorses such an idea.

     Is it possible for an Anarchist society to uphold its ideals, as opposed to a Statist society? Certainly, and easily, as history will tell. In the Soviet Union, for instance, did the state endorse the will of the people? It did not. Stalin, as well as Lenin, executed those who got in their way. There was no Democracy. There was no liberty. There was no freedom. Had there been a Democracy, would anyone think that the people would agree to build torture chambers for randomly suspected individuals? Would their citizens wholly elect to resurrect the inquisition? I would doubt it, because such institutions can only be enforced by the government against the people, not by the people against the people. In an Anarchist society, though, the elimination of the Capitalist system can be completed, by the will of the people. It is that which is required: the will of the people. Not the will of government. The government only exists to coerce. The people can govern for themselves, and that is the idea of Anarchism. Can an Anarchist society uphold its ideals, and end Capitalism? The only difference is this: in a Statist society, no person has a right to decide what will happen with their life. In an Anarchist society, every person has that right.


     Personally, I think it would be proper in regarding this work as pseudo-intellectual. Avakian used excessive terminology, bogging down his whole case. What he wrote in 26 pages could have been much more comprehensible in 2 paragraphs. His argument can be summed up as this: "Once the Capitalist yoke on society has been overthrown, we need to have a state, because without a state, the Capitalists will regain control." 26 pages all summed up into one simple perfect sentence. Honestly, I don't think this kind of literature helps spur on the revolution. I think it just alienates people from understanding alternative positions on these issues. Besides that, Avakian argues that an Anarchist society would not be able to abolish Capitalism, which I hope I have ably refuted in this paper.


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