I’m going to hazard a historical thesis: that marxism and anarchism, the red and the black, have been superseded by history.
I’m speaking here not about subjectivity, how people think about these movements, but objectively, of movements and struggles. My reason is this, objectively speaking the divisions that existed between marxists and anarchists have blurred to such an extent, that it is no longer possible to speak realistically of separate movements merely on the historical basis of people drawing from those two traditions. Reasons:
1. Those who call themselves marxists are overrun by anarchist concepts.
Marxists today have to define themselves on the terms of anarchism, which is many ways has ascended to become the dominant revolutionary discourse consciously or not. You hear maoists talking about participatory democracy and autonomy, you hear trotskyists call Venezuelan government organs decentralized community councils, and you hear communists speak about anti-politics, anti-statism, the unity of capital and the state, the incoherence of the transition period, etc.
2. Anarchists have been so deeply influenced and change by marxist ideology.
Anarchists of all kind draw from, study, work with, etc., marxist concepts. Anarchist groups reframe lenin is supposedly libertarian terms, anarchists utilize marx’s thought (the good and the bad) on economics, marxists formulate libertarian organization in response to marxist debates, and annex marxists into the anarchist cannon. This is natural given that marxism produced the the greatest breadth and depth of thinking around revolution in the 20th century.
1. Marxists have assumed anarchist practice under the banner of marxism.
Marxism, which once scorned direct action, affinity groups, direct democracy, etc. (and in some archaic or avant garde manner occasionally does), has embraced anarchist practice and reconfigured it to fall within the orthodoxy of marxism. Marxism in name, anarchist in practice. Or so it goes with many.
2. Anarchists have assumed marxist practice under the banner of anarchism.
Guevarism, leninist organizational practice + assembly votes, national liberation, marxist practice of revolutionary struggle, etc., all find practice in the void filled by anarchists relative youth when it comes to practice. Correspondingly, we find reconceptualization of marxist struggle as though old concepts in libertarian clothing transforms the reinvention of dead struggles. Or even more bizarrely, the dressing up of social democracy, keynesianism, and reform as stepping stones to libertarianism.
This is all at the level of appearances; reformists masquerade as revolutionaries, revolutionaries dress up as their favorite superheros, radicals afraid of change throw old names at new struggles and try to force todays wooden blocks into history’s circular hole.
What is really going on is the emergence of a number of distinct tendencies arising from real struggles in the proletariat (broadly understood).
1.The revolutionary farce
Liberalism expressed in its more raw and extreme form yearns for a revolutionary upheaval, but settles on revamping it in the form of improving capitalism. The left is extremely good at reproducing this revolutionary masquerade, and perhaps that constitutes nearly the whole of the left. Anarchist, marxist, socialist, or liberal, we can see the emergence of a pan-left movement which is diverse in ideology but united around supporting the left-wing of capital in the attempt to reform capital along humanistic lines.
2. Old moles blindly chewing pages under the mountain of dead texts
Likewise there are hangers on, prophets of the second coming of some hackneyed representative of authentic revolution who saw the light but wasn’t given the chance the make the revolution we are unwilling to make ourselves. Again the ideology diverges, but the practice is unitary. Education and propaganda, marketing and PR, these revolutionaries and their worship of political organization are in the business of selling ideas to masses held back by being duped by worse ideas. If they intervene at all, it is to try and influence ideas and further propagate the message, which if only it took hold in the masses would mean certain revolution. This concept of revolution is as old as revolution itself, and is a tragic comedy of the Waiting for Godot sort. Unlike the reformists above, these old moles will find no unity since they are united only by their love of their own ideas, party line, or commitment to the futile external propaganda of class that a million times more revolutionary than the self-proclaimed revolutionaries.
3. The non-dialectical synthesis of marxism and anarchism
A sector of the marxist and anarchist movements are quickly finding themselves dissolved into one and another. On a practical basis, we literally see this in struggle. Revolutionary tendencies emerge less on the historical basis of identification with a particular history, than with the unity of practice and ideas in struggle. To this end we see both in the theory of libertarian revolutionary (consider the anarchism of the ultraleft and the marxism of communist anti-union anarchists) and the practice (networks of militants, workplace struggles that supersede unions, assemblies and councils, consciousness through action, and content in struggle beyond mere form).
In essence we see that the historical destruction of the left by its own reformism and procapitalist stance, led to the dissolution of practice from theory, an anti-praxis of sorts. Alongside this, the birth of new struggles in the post-soviet era, began to undermine both the theory and the praxis. We now see the emergence of a new praxis, whose theory or praxis is absent or incomplete.
There is reason to be hopeful in the last case, with the emergence of a non-sectarian libertarian tendency that supercedes the historical limitations of marxism and anarchism, yet which utilizes the advances of both. There is hope here, because we can see in practice the advances of this in terms of both practice and theory on a global scale. Bizarrely, from a motley crew of parts of the SAC, the IWW, SolFed, working place resistance groups in the UK, workers struggles in France and Germany, to the industrial slums of India, we see a kind of dialogue unusual for groups of people who directly fight in struggles. This collective engagement transforms revolutionaries in struggle beyond their individual and grouplet bounds, and can open up space for the emergence of perspectives that can rupture the staleness of the left in our time. To this end, we are better served by open debate, reflection, and collaborative practice on the basis of this emerging praxis than we are by clinging to the fetish of identity-based historical associations, semantic and intellectually driven debates, and the reproduction of internet stances isolated from active strengths of an immanent proletariat.