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van der Walt, Lucien. "Counterpower, participatory democracy, revolutionary defence: debating Black Flame, revolutionary anarchism and historical Marxism’
Article published on 10 April 2011
last modification on 22 July 2018

by r-c.
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International Socialism. A Quarterly Journal of Socialist Theory. Issue 130

This article responds to criticisms of the broad anarchist tradition in International Socialism, an International Socialist Tendency (IST) journal. [1] I will discuss topics such as the use of sources, defending revolutions and freedom, the Spanish anarchists, anarchism and democracy, the historical role of Marxism, and the Russian Revolution.

The articles I am engaging with are marked by commendable goodwill; I strive for the same. Paul Blackledge’s article rejects “caricatured non-debate”. [2] Ian Birchall stresses that “lines between anarchism and Marxism are often blurred”. [3] Leo Zeilig praises Michael Schmidt’s and my book, Black Flame: the Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, as “a fascinating account”. [4]

It is important to note where we converge. The IST states it is for socialism from below through revolution. If Marx, Lenin and Trotsky are invoked here, it is because the “essence” of their works is taken to be “working class self-emancipation”. [5] The term “dictatorship of the proletariat”, Leo insists, means merely “the democratic defence of working class power” through “organs of self-organisation; councils, trade unions, communes etc”. [6]

By any measure, anarchists favour working class self-emancipation. For Mikhail Bakunin and Pyotr Kropotkin, social revolution required a movement by “the workers and the peasants”, “the only two classes capable of so mighty an insurrection”. [7] Read all

Notes :

[2Blackledge, 2010, p. 132.

[3Birchall, 2010, p. 177.

[4Zeilig, 2009 , pp. 221-2. I use the term “syndicalism” to refer to revolutionary trade unionism that combines daily struggles with the goal of seizing the means of production. It emerged from the anarchist wing of the First International; it is an anarchist strategy and all its forms are part of the “broad anarchist tradition”.

[5Blackledge, 2010, p. 132.

[6Zeilig, 2009 , pp221-222.

[7Bakunin [1870], pp185,189, emphasis in original.


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