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Why Marxists need anarchists, and vice versa


At the LA Review of Books, Malcolm Harris reviews the book Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the Twentieth Century by Andrew Cornell. Harris makes the case that despite their century-long political differences, anarchists and Marxist need to work together if they want to have the political power to change the world. An excerpt:

Democrats like Kazin often criticize anarchists for splitting the left’s energy, and though I usually play the role of anarchist in these debates, Cornell’s book gave me a chance to reconsider the question and its implications. The refusal of Marxists and anarchists to plot out some unified strategy does more than reduce our numbers. The division separates us like a personality test, leaving both sides lacking in particular necessary energies. Marxists without anarchists have too much respect for law and authority, leaving them susceptible to co-optation by liberals. Anarchists without Marxists can be self-righteous about compromise and getting their hands dirty by interacting with existing power structures. Marxists without anarchists can lack flexibility and imagination, while anarchists without Marxists can lack discipline. Anarchists put on aesthetic performances that captivate and amuse the culture without convincing it, while Marxists craft airtight logical theories that are culturally irrelevant. Marxists don’t know shit about tactics and anarchists can’t strategize. Anarchists are too quick to act, Marxists too reluctant. There are plenty of exceptions to these rules, but they help determine who gravitates to which side, which only increases the problem: anarchists get the artists and tacticians, Marxists get the theorists and politicians.

Image: A demonstration organized by the anarchist group Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers, active during the late 1960s and early '70s.