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Correcting Marxist Inaccuracies on Anarchism

The editor of, Adam Booth, gave a talk on the Marxist conception of the state
and during this talk made a number of claims about anarchism. Given anarchism’s very
broad nature in terms of those who have or do identify as anarchists I shall here restrict
anarchism to social anarchism. This kind of anarchism has been and continues to be the
majority position within anarchism since it emerged as a distinct social movement in the
1860s. By social anarchism I mean anarcho-collectivism, anarcho-communism and anarchosyndicalism.
This is what Booth said,
“The Anarchists had this concept of the state also as a kind of mystical power, also
as something kind of omnipotent, in the sense that it was almost a power that could
corrupt anyone who tried to touch it. It had like an anti-midas touch if you like. As
soon as you go anywhere near it you automatically become as evil as whoever
held the state power before. And this is where you get this phrase, Lord Acton,
‘power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’. For them the state had a kind
of original sin associated with it basically, that any use of authority, of organisation,
of leadership automatically led to all the sins that we see under class society.
This is a very idealistic interpretation of the state, it looks as the state as something
independent of society, as something eternal in its shape, that isn’t influenced by the
material conditions below...that always is exploitative. And Engels answered the
Anarchists in many places, particularly in two of his works. One, in an article ‘on the
question of authority’ he pointed out that being against organization, being against
authority, in an abstract sense was meaningless. Looking around in society we see
that all of us on a day to day basis require organization in society, we require to
submit our individual freedom to some sort of authority. Production itself would
completely fail otherwise. If you didn’t have with the division of labour individuals
submitting to a general plan society would completely breakdown, the railways
wouldn’t run on time, nothing would ever happen and a socialist society would be no
different. In that sense you’d still have to submit your own individual desires to an
organised plan but it would be one where for the first time one that we as a whole
had decided upon. He said also on the question of authority, that revolution itself was
an authoritarian act and you couldn’t get around the fact. It is by necessity an
authoritative act in which the majority of people make the minority, the capitalists, the
old ruling class, submit to their authority and he points out that to deny this, to deny
the authoritarian nature of a revolution, is actually very anti-revolutionary itself.”1
In this segment Booth makes a number of claims about the anarchist position on the state,
authority, organisation and leadership. I shall go through each of these statements and
demonstrate why they are inaccurate by quoting what the major social anarchist theorists
really said. The hope is that in demonstrating why Booth is wrong, I shall also help the
reader develop their understanding of anarchism.
The State
Booth claims that anarchists have an idealistic conception of the state according to which
the state is thought to be eternal in its shape, independent of society, and uninfluenced by
how the economy is organised. This is incorrect for several reasons.

Firstly, anarchist thinkers have consistently advocated a scientific understanding of society
grounded in the study of history. Peter Kropotkin, one of the most widely read and influential
anarchist theorists, wrote that the “method followed by the anarchist thinker...entirely differs
from that followed by the utopianists” for it “does not resort to metaphysical conceptions”
but “studies human society as it is now and as it was in the past.”2
Secondly, anarchists have applied such a scientific understanding to the state and
described it as an historical entity that is a product of society and so is not independent of
society. Mikhail Bakunin, one of the founders of anarchism, writes that "[t]he State is a
transitory historic form, a passing form of society... but it lacks the necessary and immutable
character of society which is anterior to all development of humanity and which, partaking
fully of the almighty power of natural laws, acts, and manifestations, constitutes the very
basis of human existence."3 Kropotkin similarly writes that “[t]he State is only one of the
forms assumed by society in the course of history.”4
Thirdly, anarchists have consistently argued that the state is shaped by the economy in
which it exists. Kropotkin writes that "the political always an expression of the
economic regime which exists at the heart of society” and acts as “the consecration and the
sustaining force” of the economic regime5. While Bakunin explicitly endorsed historical
materialism when he wrote “[u]ndoubtedly the idealists are wrong and the materialists right.
Yes, facts are before ideas; yes, the ideal, as Proudhon said, is but a flower, whose root
lies in the material conditions of existence. Yes, the whole history of humanity, intellectual
and moral, political and social, is but a reflection of its economic history.”6
Yet neither thinker endorsed an economic reductionism whereby the economy is a primary
factor in determining social relations such that the state lacks an independence or
autonomy as a structure. Bakunin insisted that Marx “ignored other factors in history, such
as the ever present reaction of political, juridical and religious institutions on the economic
situation.” Thus for Bakunin there is a holistic interaction between class society and the
state, whereby class society gives rise to the state and the state in turn maintains class
society such that “the State, reproduces in its turn, and maintains poverty as a condition
for its own existence; so that to destroy poverty, it is necessary to destroy the State!”7
Kropotkin similarly wrote that "the State...State Justice, the Church and Capitalism are facts
and conceptions which we cannot separate from each other. In the course of history these
institutions have developed, supporting and reinforcing each other. They are connected with
each other -- not as mere accidental co-incidences. They are linked together by the links of
cause and effect. The state is, for us, a society of mutual insurance between the landlord,
the military commander, the judge, the priest and later on the capitalist, in order to support
each other’s authority over the people, and for exploiting the poverty of the masses and
getting rich themselves.” From this Kropotkin infers, like Bakunin, that “to imagine that
capitalism may be abolished while the State is maintained, and with the aid of the state” 8 is
to imagine an incredibly unlikely scenario due to the inherent nature of the state as a
maintainer of class society. Anarchists therefore view economic factors as highly important
but not primary determining factors of society and adopt a holistic approach in which
spheres of social life interact and determine one another, with no particular sphere being
necessarily primary.9
Fourthly, anarchists accept that there are different kinds of states and that some kinds of
states are superior to other kinds. To quote Bakunin, “[w]e are firmly convinced it is true
that the most imperfect republic is a thousand times better than the most enlightened
monarchy. In a republic there are at least brief periods when the people, while continuously

exploited, is not oppressed, in the monarchies, oppression is constant. The democratic
regime also lifts the masses up gradually in participation in public life – something the
monarchy never does.”10
Booth’s next inaccurate claim is that for anarchists the state is illegitimate and a problematic
tool for revolution because ‘power corrupts’. There is an element of truth in so far as Bakunin
wrote such things as, “[n]o one should be entrusted with power, inasmuch as anyone
invested with authority must...became an oppressor and exploiter of society"11, and held
that, “if you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year
he would be worse than the Tsar himself.” 12 However, Bakunin did not think this simply
because he thought that power corrupts. Rather, anarchists like Bakunin believe that the
state cannot be used to successfully bring about a socialist or communist society because of
a sociological analysis of the state.
For anarchists the state is a social institution that is necessarily wielded by an elite minority
in their interests against the masses. Kropotkin, for example, thinks that, "the State
organisation...[is] the force to which minorities resorted for establishing and organising their
power over the masses."13 On this view, the state "not only includes the existence of a power
situated above society, but also of a territorial concentration as well as the concentration in
the hands of a few of many functions in the life of societies...A whole mechanism of
legislation and of policing has to be developed in order to subject some classes to the
domination of others."14
Bakunin likewise insists that states are social institutions ruled by a minority. He thinks that
all states "are in essence only machines governing the masses from above, through...a
privileged minority, allegedly knowing the genuine interests of the people better than the
people themselves."15 Thus “the State has always been the patrimony of some privileged
class or other; a priestly class, an aristocratic class, a bourgeois class. And finally, when all
the other classes have exhausted themselves, the state becomes the patrimony of the
bureaucratic class and then falls—or, if you will, rises—to the position of a machine; but it is
absolutely necessary for the salvation of the state that there should be some privileged
class devoted to its preservation.”16
Lucian van der Walt and Michael Schmidt correctly summarise the anarchist position when
they write that for anarchists,
“[t]he state is seen as a defender of the class system and a centralised body that
necessarily concentrates power in the hands of the ruling classes; in both respects, it
is the means through which a minority rules a majority.” If the state is “always a
highly centralised structure that inevitably concentrated power in the hands of a
directing elite” then it follows that “even the most radical government must
perpetuate the rule of a (class) minority over a (class) majority.” From this anarchists
conclude that “the abolition of the state is one of the preconditions for a libertarian
and socialist order.”17
Booth claims that anarchists are opposed to all authority. This is false since anarchists are
not opposed to all authority, but instead have a general scepticism towards all authority. As
Noam Chomsky puts it, anarchism is

“[p]rimarily...a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and
hierarchy. It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the
whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and
it asks whether those systems are justified. It assumes that the burden of proof for
anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them. Their authority is not selfjustifying. They have to give a reason for it, a justification. And if they can’t justify that
authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to
be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just.”18
Anarchists therefore distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate authority and actively
attempt to determine whether or not a given instance of authority is legitimate or illegitimate.
In my opinion, anarchists distinguish between three different types of authority. 19 A person
can be an authority, have authority or be in authority. Firstly, a person is an authority if they
are competent and knowledgeable on a given subject. A good doctor for instance is an
authority on healthcare, while a good librarian is an authority on the storing and cataloguing
of books. Bakunin referred to this type of authority when he wrote, “[d]oes it follow that I
reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the
authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the
architect or the engineer."20 In this sense there are certainly anarchist authorities like
Chomsky, who is an authority on the foreign policy of the United States of America, or
Kropotkin, who was an authority on communism and biology.
Secondly, a person who has authority is a person who is in a position of just control over
something. For instance, a person has authority over their possessions since they justly
control their possessions, or a secretary of a club has authority and just control over the
task of informing members of club meetings. Anarchists believe that the authority a member
of a group has is made legitimate by it being delegated by the other members of the group.
Thus, outside of direct control over one's life, positions of having authority are usually only
made legitimate via delegation from those over whom the authority applies.
Lastly, a person is in authority if they have powers of coercion and are in a relationship of
command and obedience with those subject to their authority. What separates a person in
authority from a person who is an authority or has authority is that their authority applies to
those who do not consent to their authority or those who do allegedly consent and obey their
commands but do not consent to their authority meaningfully. Anarchists cite, amongst
others, police officers, politicians and CEO's are modern day examples of people in
authority. Generally speaking an anarchist can be an authority and have authority, but they
may not be in authority.
This should not be interpreted as the claim that anarchists always view people in authority
as exercising illegitimate authority. Anarchists are instead generally opposed to it and seek
a society in which the number of people in authority is as low as possible for the
maximisation of a societies overall freedom and equality. Since freedom and equality are
products of social organization, it follows that certain sorts of authority required for the
proper running of a large-scale modern society may be legitimate in virtue of the instances
of freedom and equality that the authority enables or produces. Thus, anarchists may
support the use of coercive authority in circumstances where it maximizes greater overall
freedom and equality. Hence why the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta writes that
anarchists advocate “[e]qual freedom for all and the right, therefore, to resist every violation

of freedom, and resist with brute force when the violation is maintained by brute force and
there is no better way to oppose it successfully.” Anarchists therefore support “freedom for
everybody...with the only limit of the equal freedom for others; which does not mean…that
we recognise, and wish to respect, the ‘freedom’ to exploit, to oppress, to command, which
is oppression and certainly not freedom.”21
The use of coercive authority to maximise greater overall freedom and equality is
what occurs in a social revolution when the organized working class (and peasantry
depending on where in the world we are talking about) expropriate the private
property of capitalists and abolish the state. The use of coercive authority in a social
revolution does not contradict anarchist principles given that the use of coercive
authority by the organized masses is directed against those in positions of hierarchical
power who dominate and exploit them. As Malatesta puts it, "[f]or two people to live in
peace they must both want peace; if one insists on using force to oblige the other to
work for him and serve him, then the other, if he wishes to retain his dignity as a man
and not be reduced to abject slavery, will be obliged, in spite of his love of peace, to
resist force with adequate means."22
Through the exercise of coercive authority the masses abolish the social conditions of their
domination. The social revolution is thus simultaneously an authoritarian act in so far as
coercive authority is being exercised and directed at the ruling class, and a libertarian act in
so far as domination is being abolished and freedom is being attained. As the German
anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker writes,
"[w]e...know that a revolution cannot be made with rosewater. And we know, too,
that the owning classes will never yield up their privileges spontaneously. On the day
of victorious revolution the workers will have to impose their will on the present
owners of the soil, of the subsoil and of the means of production, which cannot be
done -- let us be clear on this -- without the workers taking the capital of society into
their own hands, and, above all, without their having demolished the authoritarian
structure which is, and will continue to be, the fortress keeping the masses of the
people under dominion. Such an action is, without doubt, an act of liberation; a
proclamation of social justice; the very essence of social revolution, which has
nothing in common with the utterly bourgeois principle of dictatorship."23
Walt & Schmidt nicely summarize the anarchist position as follows,
“the forceful overthrow of the ruling class is not in contradiction with the antiauthoritarian principle. It is force used to remove the existing coercion of the
capitalist system and can be seen as an act of legitimate self-defence by the
popular classes. To allow the ruling class to retain its privileges until it is willing to
concede to anarchism, on the grounds that everyone must enter anarchism
voluntarily, is to provide that class with a permanent veto on the emancipation of
the great majority of humanity. Unlike utopian socialism, anarchism does not
premise its strategy on the moral conversion of the ruling class, it invokes legitimate
coercive power derived from the collective and democratic decision making.”24
Booth claims that anarchists are against organization. This is false. Anarchists are not
opposed to organisation in either a socialist society or organisations under capitalism
struggling for a socialist future. As Alexander Berkman put it, “[a]ny one who tells you that
Anarchists don't believe in organisation is talking nonsense”.25

Firstly, anarchists believe that society, and so organisation, is the basis of individual liberty.
To quote Bakunin,
“[s]ociety, far from decreasing ... freedom, on the contrary creates the individual
freedom of all human beings. Society is the root, the tree, and liberty is its fruit.
Hence, in every epoch, man must seek his freedom not at the beginning but at the
end of history.... I can feel free only in the presence of, and in relation with other
men....I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free,
and the freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the
contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation.”
Secondly, anarchists object to centralised and hierarchical organisation and seek to
replace it with decentralised and horizontal association. Bakunin writes that an anarchist
society would “no longer [be] organised, as it is today, from high to low and from centre to
circumference by means of enforced unity and concentration, but...[would start]...with the
free individual, the free association and the autonomous commune, from low to high and
from circumference to centre, by means of free federation.”26 While Rocker states that,
“[i]n place of the capitalist economic order, anarchists would have a free
association of all productive forces based upon cooperative labour, which would
have for its sole purpose the satisfying of the necessary requirements of every
member of society. In place of the present national states with their lifeless
machinery of political and bureaucratic institutions, Anarchists desire a federation
of free communities which shall be bound to one another by their common
economic and social interests and arrange their affairs by mutual agreement and
free contract.”27
Kropotkin similarly insists that in an anarchist society,
“harmony...[would be]...obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any
authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial
and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as
also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized
being. In a society developed on these lines, the voluntary associations which
already now begin to cover all the fields of human activity would take a still greater
extension so as to substitute themselves for the state in all its functions. They
would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups
and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international
temporary or more or less permanent - for all possible purposes: production,
consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education,
mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for
the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and
sociable needs.”28
Booth gives two brief examples of necessary organization in a socialist society, the
organization of the economy via democratic planning and decision making and the
organization of trains. In Kropotkin’s major and widely read work ‘The Conquest of Bread’ he
gives the example of the organization of trains as an example of free agreement in action
and so evidence in favour of the view that mass transit could be organized in an anarchist
society on the basis of free agreement. Kropotkin writes that,
“This immense network of railways connected together, and the enormous traffic it
has given rise to, no doubt constitutes the most striking trait of our century; and it is
the result of free agreement. If a man had foreseen or predicted it fifty years ago,
our grandfathers would have thought him idiotic or mad. They would have said:

“Never will you be able to make the shareholders of a hundred companies listen to
reason ! It is a Utopia, a fairy tale. A central Government, with an ‘iron’ director, can
alone enforce it.”
And the most interesting thing in this organization is, that there is no European
Central Government of Railways! Nothing! No minister of railways, no dictator, not
even a continental parliament, not even a directing committee! Everything is done
by contract.
So we ask the believers in the State, who pretend that “we can never do without a
central Government, were it only for regulating the traffic,” we ask them: “But how do
European railways manage without them? How do they continue to convey millions
of travelers and mountains of luggage across a continent? If companies owning
railways have been able to agree, why should railway workers, who would take
possession of railways, not agree likewise? And if the Petersburg-Warsaw Company
and that of Paris-Belfort can act in harmony, without giving themselves the luxury of
a common commander, why, in the midst of our societies, consisting of groups of
free workers, should we need a Government?”29
In response to Booth’s other example of the democratic organization of the economy it
need only be said that anarchists explicitly advocate a self-managed economy based on
democratic decision
making and democratic planning. Rocker described an anarchist society as one “based on
co-operative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the community.” 30
This is what
anarchists refer to as worker self-management. Worker self-management means to quote
the Anarchist FAQ,
“collective worker ownership, control and direction of all aspects of production,
distribution and investment.” The FAQ continues, “[t]his is achieved through
participatory-democratic workers' assemblies, councils and federations, in both
agriculture and industry. These bodies would perform all the functions formerly
reserved for capitalist owners, managers, executives and financiers where these
activities actually relate to productive activity rather than the needs to maximise
minority profits and power (in which case they would disappear along with
hierarchical management). These workplace assemblies will be complemented by
people's financial institutions or federations of syndicates which perform all functions
formerly reserved for capitalist owners, executives, and financiers in terms of
allocating investment funds or resources.”31
Diego Abad de Santillan describes an anarchist economy in detail as follows,
“In place of the capitalist, private owner and entrepreneur, after the Revolution we will
have factory, shop or industrial Councils, constituted of workers, executives, and
technicians in representation of the personnel of the enterprise, who will have the
right to moderate and revoke their delegates. No one knows better than the workers
themselves the capacity of each one in a determined establishment. There, where
everybody knows everybody, the practice of democracy is possible. The factory
Council in representation of the personnel in the same place of work will coordinate
and cohere the work in their establishment and combine same with similar activities
of other establishments or productive groups. In the disposition and regulation of their
work, no outside factor intervenes. There is complete autonomy without any intent of
caprice in production, because the same has to respond to the necessities and
possibilities in line with the exact knowledge of the conditions of each establishment
and the needs and demands of the population.

The factory Councils will be combined by functional relation and form the syndicates
of producers of similar goods, syndicates of trade or of industry; these new
institutions have no proper authority in the internal structure of local establishments.
They will provide for the modernizing of implements; attend to the fusion and
coordination of factories, suppression of unproductive establishments, etc. The
Syndicates are the representative organisms of local production and not only do
they care for its preservation, but condition the future; creating schools of
apprenticeship, research institutes, and experimental laboratories in accordance
with their means and initiative. The Syndicates are co-leagued in accordance with
the basic functions of economy, which we divide into eighteen sectors or general
branches of activity necessary for the progressive march of a modern society.”32
It is clear from these quotes that anarchists advocate a democratically organized and
planned economy.
Thirdly, just as anarchists advocate a highly organised society, they also advocate highly
organised means to reach such a society. Anarchist political organisations must, in
Malatesta’s words, “remain in harmony with the principles of anarchism; that is, they must
know how to blend the free action of individuals with the necessity and the joy of cooperation which serve to develop the awareness and initiative of their members and a
means of education for the environment in which they operate and of a moral and material
preparation for the future we desire."33 Anarchists thus seek a balance between rigid
organisational structure and the spontaneous free activity of its members.
The main type of organisation anarchists advocate are affinity groups, which are selfmanaged, autonomous groupings of anarchists who unite and work on specific activities
and interests. To quote the Anarchist FAQ,
“[t]he local affinity group is the means by which anarchists co-ordinate their activities
in a community, workplace, social movement and so on. Within these groups,
anarchists discuss their ideas, politics and hopes, what they plan to do, organise
propaganda work, discuss how they are going to work within wider organisations like
unions, how their strategies fit into their long term plans and goals and so on. It is
the basic way that anarchists work out their ideas, pull their resources and get their
message across to others. There can be affinity groups for different interests and
activities (for example a workplace affinity group, a community affinity group, an
anarcha-feminist affinity group, etc., could all exist within the same area, with
overlapping members).”34
Anarcho-syndicalists seek to create an industrial union movement based on anarchist
principles of self-determination and decentralisation. As the Anarchist FAQ puts it, anarchosyndicalists “advocate decentralised, federated unions that use direct action to get reforms
under capitalism until they are strong enough to overthrow it.”
Rocker outlines the anarcho-syndicalist organizational program as follows,
“The workers in each locality join the unions for their respective trades, and these
are subject to the veto of no Central but enjoy the entire right of self-determination.
The trade unions of a city or rural district combine in a so-called labour cartel. The
labour cartels constitute the centres for local propaganda and education; they weld
the workers together as a class and prevent the rise of any narrow-minded factional
spirit. In times of local labour trouble they arrange for the solidaric co-operation of

the whole body of organised labour in the use of every agency available under the
circumstances. All the labour cartels are grouped according to districts and regions
to form the National Federation of Labour Cartels, which maintain the permanent
connection between the local bodies, arranges for free adjustment of the productive
labour of the members of the different organisations on co-operative lines, provide
for the necessary co-operation in the field of education, in which the stronger cartels
will need to come to the aid of the weaker ones, and in general support the local
groups with council and guidance.
Every trade union is, moreover, federatively allied with all the same organisations in
the same trade throughout the country, and these in turn with all related trades, so
that all are combined in general industrial alliances. It is the task of these alliances to
arrange for the co-operative action of the local groups, to conduct solidaric strikes
where the necessity arises, and to meet all the demands of the day-to-day struggle
between capital and labour. Thus the Federation of Labour Cartels and the
Federation of Industrial Alliances constitute the two poles about which the whole life
of the trade unions revolves.”35
Fourthly, there are an incredibly large number of anarchist organizations that have been
created since the 1860s across the world whose collective membership is in the millions.
Were Booth’s remarks to be correct and anarchists did not advocate organisation then
Booth must explain why the practice of the anarchist movement has been to advocate the
creation of anarchist organizations, to actually create such organizations in the real world,
and to partake in struggle within said organizations. In the modern world alone Booth must
explain the existence and actions of Solidarity Federation, Anarchist Federation, Alternative
Libertaire, The North Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists, Anarchist Black Cross,
Workers Solidarity Movement, Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front, Prairie Struggle
Organization and so on.36
Anarchists are not opposed to leadership in the sense of individuals who guide or direct
other people. What anarchists oppose are fixed positions of hierarchical authority in
organisations in which the leaders are separate from the membership and elevated above
the membership in terms of power. Anarchists seek temporary positions of leadership based
upon the circumstances and the abilities of members of the group. An anarchist instance of
leadership would be that when a car breaks down it seems that the mechanic in the car
should lead the repair of the car and instruct other members of the group towards actions
which help the car become fixed, such as instructing people to pass them tools as they work.
As Bakunin puts it "I receive and I give - such is human life. Each directs and is directed in
his turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of
mutual, temporary, and, above all, voluntary authority and subordination."37
This type of leadership is what the anarchist anthropologist David Graeber terms selfundermining authority. He says, “there are certain kinds of authority that undermine their
own a teacher. If you’re a teacher and you teach someone well they know what
you know and so there is no longer a basis for your authority...[or] if you’re a doctor and
you cure someone you no longer have authority over them.”38
Nor are anarchists opposed to leadership in the sense of those with revolutionary ideas
trying to influence struggle, in particular class struggle. Kropotkin writes that "[t]he idea of
anarchist communism, today represented by...minorities, but increasingly finding popular

expression, will make its way among the mass of the people. Spreading everywhere, the
anarchist groups...will take strength from the support they find among the people.” He
believed that large-scale revolutionary acts by the masses were caused by the
transformation of the masses consciousness. This in turn he thought was caused by, among
other factors, “the action of the minorities” who through “continuous action endlessly
renewed” instil in people the spirit of revolt by their propaganda and direct action. 39 He
thought that it was the “party which has done [the] most revolutionary agitation” and has
shown in their acts great “liveliness and audacity” that “will get the best hearing on the day
when action becomes necessary, when someone must march at the head to accomplish the
revolution.” Thus while “the direction which the revolution will assume is clearly dependent
on the sum of the circumstances that have led up to the cataclysm”, the direction can
nonetheless be “foreseen in advance” by examining “the strength of the revolutionary
actions deployed in the preparatory period by the various advanced groups.” 40 He thus
thought it essential “to plan for the penetration of the masses and their stimulation by
libertarian militants”.41 A concrete example of such a revolutionary minority would be the
International Workingmen’s Association who he thought sought to “awaken the spirit of
revolt in the hearts of the city workers, and to direct it towards the natural enemy of the
wage earner – the monopolist of the instruments of work and raw materials.”42
While the French anarcho-communist Georges Fontenis explicitly argued for a revolutionary
vanguard. By vanguard he did not mean the self-appointed leaders of the people or
revolutionaries who believe that only they have revolutionary initiative. Such a view he
thought led to “a pessimistic evaluation of the role of the masses, to an aristocratic contempt
for their political ability, to concealed direction of revolutionary activity and so defeat.” Rather
by vanguard he meant a revolutionary organisation that aimed at “developing the direct
political responsibility of the masses” and increasing “the masses’ ability to organise
themselves.” The vanguard should function as a guide whose role is to,
“formulate and express an ideological orientation, both organisational and tactical an orientation specified, elaborated and adapted on the basis of the experiences and
desires of the masses.” Thus “the organisation's directives are not orders from
outside but rather the mirrored expression of the general aspirations of the people.
Since the directing function of the revolutionary Organisation cannot possibly be
coercive it can only be revealed by its trying to get its ideas across successfully, by
its giving the mass of the people a thorough knowledge of its theoretical principles
and the main lines of its tactics. It is a struggle through ideas and through example.
And if it's not forgotten that the programme of the revolutionary Organisation, the
path and the means that it shows, reflect the experiences and desires of the
masses...then it's clear that leading is not dictating but coordinated orientation, that
on the contrary it opposes any bureaucratic manipulation of the masses, military
style discipline or unthinking obedience.” As its final aim the vanguard has “to
disappear in becoming identical with the masses when they reach their highest level
of consciousness in achieving the revolution.”
Furthermore, Fontenis asserts the anarchist position on leadership articulated by Graeber
whereby in exercising my capacity as a leader I undermine my leadership. He thinks that
“the better prepared, more mature militants inside the Organisation have the role of guide
and educator to other members, so that all may become well informed and alert in both the
theoretical and the practical field, so that all may become animators in their turn.”43
It is clear then that anarchists are not against leadership in and of itself. They are merely

against certain kinds of leadership and in fact think that some kinds of leadership are a
good thing.
In summary, It should be clear by now why Booth’s comments on anarchism are highly
inaccurate. They strike me as so inaccurate that I wonder whether or not Booth has ever
read any of the major anarchist texts which are easily available in English, such as ‘God
and State’ by Bakunin, ‘The Conquest of Bread’ by Kropotkin, ‘Anarcho-Syndicalism’ by
Rocker and ‘What is Anarchism’ by Berkman. I suggest that any Marxist who wishes to
speak on anarchism should read all of these texts before uttering a word, unless they do
not care about the truth or wish to appear as utterly ignorant on anarchism as Booth does.

Booth, Adam, Marxism and The State Introduction, from 30:47 to 33:57. Accessed 18/12/16,
2 Kropotkin, Peter, Fugitive Writings (Black Rose Books, 1993), 72
3 Bakunin, Mikhail, The Immorality of The State. Accessed 18/12/16,
4 Kropotkin, Fugitive Writings, 160
5 Kropotkin, Peter, Words of A Rebel (Black Rose Books, 1992), 118
6 Bakunin, God and State. Accessed 18/12/16,
7 Bakunin, Letter to Liberte. Accessed 18/12/16,
8 Kropotkin, Evolution and Environment (Black Rose Books, 1995), 94-95
9 For a detailed account of this sort of holistic theory see, Albert et al, Liberating Theory (South End Press,
10 Bakunin, Bakunin on Anarchy: Selected Works by the Activist-Founder of World Anarchism, ed. Sam Doldoff
(Vintage Books, 1972), 144
11 Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism, ed. G.P Maximoff (The Free Press,
1953), p249
12 Quoted in Guerin, Daniel, Anarchism: From Theory to Practice (Monthly Review Press, 1971), 25-26
13 Kropotkin, Evolution and Environment, 82
14 Kropotkin, Fugitive Writings, 160
15 Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, 211
16 Bakunin, Bakunin on Anarchy, 318
17 Schmidt, Michael & Van der Walt, Lucian, Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and
Syndicalism (AK Press, 2009), 52
18 Wilson, Michael & Chomsky, Noam, The Kind of Anarchism I Believe in, and What’s Wrong With Libertarians.
Accessed 18/12/16,
19 Based on but not identical with Westall, “On Authority” in A Decade of Anarchy, ed. Colin Ward (Freedom
Press, 1987)
20 Bakunin, God and State
21 Malatesta, Errico, Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas, ed. Vernon Richards (Freedom Press, 1965), 51, 53
22 Ibid, 54
23 Rocker, Rudolf, Anarchism and Sovietism. Accessed 18/12/16,
24 Schmidt & Van der Walt, Black Flame, 203
25 Berkman, Alexander, What is Anarchism? (AK Press,2003), 198
26 Bakunin, Organization of International Brotherhood
27 Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice (AK Press 2004), 1
28 Kropotkin, Anarchism, Encyclopedia Britannica 1910. Accessed 18/12/16,
29 Kropotkin, The Conquest of Bread (AK Press, 2007), 160-61
30 Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, 72
31 Mckay, Iain, The Anarchist FAQ, Section I.3 What Could the Economic Structure of Anarchy Look Like?.
Accessed 18/12/16,
32 Santillan, Diego Abad de, After The Revolution (1937). Accessed 18/12/16,
33 Malatesta, The Anarchist Revolution: Polemical Articles 1924-1931, ed. Vernon Richards (Freedom Press
1995, p95
34 Mckay, The Anarchist FAQ, section J.3 What Kinds of Organisation do Anarchists Build?. Accessed 18/12/16,
35 Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, 62
36 See Michael Schmidt, Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism (AK Press, 2013) for a short but detailed
history of the Anarchist Movement.
37 Bakunin, God and State

38 A Conversation With Anarchist David Graeber. Accessed 18/12/16,
39 Kropotkin, Words of A Rebel, 186
40 Ibid, 186, 189, 190
41 Quoted in Nettlau, Max, A Short History of Anarchism, (Freedom Press, 1996), 131
42 Kropotkin, Words of A Rebel, 190
43 Fontenis, Georges, Manifesto of Libertarian Communism (1953). Accessed 18/12/16,