Unity, Coercion, and the State

To my comrades in the Asia Pacific region.

Quite a bit stands on how anarchists are supposed to relate to Marxists—the kind of socialists who believe there is to be a worker's state, after the social revolution.

I have had many conversations with you all over the years about the approach our organising takes with respect to Statism. I agree with our resolute stance against any form of hierarchy. In other circles this might be verbalised as a slight—“sectarianism”. But what does this actually mean? Does it mean we are excluding legitimate comrades from our cause? I always took it this way. In reality, what such criticism amounts to is a disagreement over the aims, principles, and methods of revolution.

Marxists are the ones who have—historically—excluded our ideas from the cause of worker's struggle. So too in their attempts to re-animate their conception of the social revolution. It is not that they turned-back the argument for Free Association on itself; this is absurd. Because, intolerance cannot be met with tolerance.

A Statist Socialist—be they a Trotskyist, a Stalinist, any kind of Bolshevik, and academic, or a measly social democrat—has not parted ways with the current social and political epoch. They still hold fast to the idea of there still existing or operating some form of Government; some form of hierarchy existing and percolating through every section of the planet's social ecology.

The Monopolistic Party

Let us imagine we are to form a political party—and through some, or any means, form the state-within-the-capitalist state, that either conquers, assumes, dissolves, or takes over the existing social order. What is left? We are—on all accounts from the Bolsheviks—left with the epoch of Socialism.* But, so we understand in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, we have not advanced one iota towards Communism. We have replaced one form of Government with another.

I am not so interested in whether this Socialist State is of a cosmopolitan political composition, because, whether any state is a multi-party monopoly on power, it still remains some monopoly over the social affairs of our ecology. Emma Goldman was clear on this topic: in the same way that Religion is a monopolistic tyranny on the beliefs of humanity, so too the State is a tyranny over the social behaviours of our complex social and natural environment. The kind of “unity” that State Socialism—in any of its forms—is a trick. Really all a Statist is saying to you when they discuss “unity” amongst the workers is the “unity” of the State. Co-operate with the State!


The terms of the question have not been properly posed by the Orthodox Marxists. Engels did say that he considered Anarchism to have the strategy of revolution the “wrong way around”:

One must not allow oneself to be misled by the cry for “unity.” Those who have this word most often on their lips are those who sow the most dissension, just as at present the Jura Bakuninists in Switzerland, who have provoked all the splits, scream for nothing so much as for unity.*

This is because he was the one with the solution sagging upside down on its head!

'Turtles All The Way Down'

This brings me to the other topic I wanted to discuss with you all. This is to ask you: what is it when anarchists are advocating for a “social revolution”? The Marxists were once the animals of the “Social Democratic” parties. Look at what the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks were called before their parties split: the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). But, a Marxist revolution is just a reorganisation of social life under a State. It is a substitute of one form of Government for yet another.The anarchist conception of revolution demands that human, as well as the rest of planet Earth's ecology, must undergo a radical restructuring. The collectivisation of Property is still a monopoly over the means of subsistence and the instruments of production.

Consider, for instance, the following thought experiment: Socialist Alternative seizes power. This unorthodox Trotskyist party who follow the teachings of Tony Cliff achieve their wildest phantasies. The revolution goes as well as it possibly could have: completely according to their plan.* The party assumes the name of the Communist Party, and they, following the tradition of the Bolsheviks, assume control of the 'former' Australian Capitalist State. Whether it be a multi-party State matters not. They dutifully replicate in reality Marx's dictum that the Executive and Legislative arms of their imagined Soviets are to be fused.*

Now—watch carefully: in the same way as the Sophist speaks of there being no foundation to truth, it is “turtles all the way down”:

50% + 1 member of their Soviets awards the 'Alternatives' their control of the State apparatus. 50% + 1 member of their National Council (NC) awards control of the Party to their National Executive (NE). Power over the whole clockwork of the State is now collected in the same number of people at a board-room meeting.

So much for unity! This is the substitution of the letters “U-N-I-T-Y” for the letters “T-Y-R-A-N-N-Y”. Indeed where Statists such as Socialist Alternative enjoy collection, anarchists enjoy dissolution.

This is the foundation of the Anarchist conception of Democracy—“Democracy Without State Characteristics”, if I am allowed to speak so cheekily. Anarchism wants nothing of that. Our conception of Democracy, the 'true one' so as we regard planet Earth's social ecology, still involves bodies of assemblies of humans, but nowise involving political parties, and, similarly, we eliminate the need for the permanence and everlastingness of these social bodies. Perhaps once the purpose of a collective communal body has achieved its aims, it can be unwound and dissolved.

Engels attempted to frame his rejection of anarchism in terms of the necessity of Authority,* but really, what he was describing is what Anarchists would verbalise as 'Discipline'. There is, in a distorted way, a conception of free co-operation and mutual aid in Marxism, but too often these Statists will confuse—or, perhaps, conspire—to replace the meaning of 'SOLIDARITY' with 'COERCION'.

I hope this letter finds you all well. I have been thinking about this topic for a while now, as I had been wondering about this question of the relationship between unity, coercion, and the state.

To health and anarchy,