SOME NOTES ON MARXIST ANALYSIS: For Discussion and Debate Toward the Development of a Deeper Anarchist Social Analysis
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For Discussion and Debate Toward the Development
of a Deeper Anarchist Social Analysis


Often it seems that anarchists lack much in the way of economic theory, leading to conceptions of revolutionary change that seem to be largely schemes for a change in the form of social management rather than a total transformation of existence. Even anarcho-communist visions often seem more like economic schemes than poetic explorations of possibilities. What little serious economic theory is developed in anarchist circles seems to take the form of half-digested Marxism in which it is difficult to see any specifically anarchist aspects. I do not claim to have a deep knowledge of Marx. I have read The Communist Manifesto and the first volume of Capital as well as a few fragments here and there, but I have read a great deal by Marxists. There certainly may be many analytical tools that anarchists can steal from Marxism, but we need to do so critically. This article is intended to open up discussion in this area and deals with one particular problem I have with much Marxist analysis. There are others as well.

Marxist analysis is aimed at a revolutionary understanding of the social relationships of capitalism - as such, it is an attempt to understand the activities and relationships of people. Marx developed his theory and methodology to provide the movement toward communism with a materialistic/scientific basis, in opposition to the quasi-mystical basis behind so many earlier communist ideas.

Unfortunately, the mechanistic basis of modem science, particularly in its 19th century manifestation, all too readily eradicates what is living from any situation under analysis in order to make it fit into the equations developed. Thus, in a great deal of Marxist theory, the fact that it is relationships between people that are being analyzed seems to be forgotten. Instead, the activities of productive forces, value, surplus labor, etc. end up being analyzed with the reality of human interaction disappearing beneath the economic concepts. But like gravity, evolution, entropy, inertia, etc., these concepts are not material realities, but mental constructs that can be useful tools for developing an understanding of relationships. In other words, they are not entities that can act for themselves.

Since "laws" of physics general refer to relationships between entities that, as far as we can tell, have no volition, these "laws" can be applied - to the extent to which they are useful - without taking individuality into account. But in dealing with social relationships the activities and relationships between individuals with dreams, desires, passions and wills - the volitional aspect cannot be ignored without losing one of the most significant aspects of our situation, one of the most important tools for understanding social reality.

Taking the volitional aspect of social relationships into account removes some assumptions that often appear in Marxist analyses. First of all, one can no longer speak of situations that are objectively revolutionary or objectively non-revolutionary situations. Rather one can only speak in terms of situations in which uprisings are more likely to occur and those in which they are less likely to occur, situations in which uprisings are more likely to flower into revolutionary transformation and those in which they are less likely to do so. But in recognizing the reality of the human will, the capacity to defy circumstances, not only individually, but also collectively, is always there. Thus, as well, one of the more disgusting conceptions of vulgar Marxism - the idea that capitalism, industrialism and the consequent immiseration of the vast majority of creatures on this planet are a necessary development in order to realize communism - is exposed for the determinist ideology that it is.

Once we recognize that all social relationships are the activities of individuals in association with each other, it becomes clear that the continuation of the present social order replies on the willingness of individuals to continue to act and relate in ways that reproduce it. Of course, in order to destroy this order, the choice to refuse the cur lent existence must necessarily become collective, ultimately on a global scale. But from what would this collective 'refusal arise? The economic and productive forces have developed to the point that they are tearing the planet apart. In fact, any further development of these forces seem to guarantee the absolute destruction of the possibility of a free human existence. The old Marxist idea that development of the forces of production would bring about the objective necessity for communism no longer makes sense (even many Marxists now reject this progressivist perspective), unless one means by this, that the havoc wreaked by the industrial/cybernetic juggernaut will make it necessary to destroy the civilization of capital and the state in order for us avoid the parade of ever more devastating catastrohes and the destruction of life. But in this latter sense, it is not a determined inevitability, but a necessity to break out of the habits of acceptance and obedience that one is speaking about. Thus, it is a question of choice, of volition. As one comrade put it, it is not so much revolutionary consciousness, but revolutionary will that the exploited need to develop. The current social order continues not because conditions are not ripe for its destruction (they are, in fact, well past rotting), but because refusal remains isolated and limited, because most people prefer the security of their misery to the unknown of insurrection and freedom.

An anarchist economic analysis would have to include, along with a serious analysis of the relationship of power and wealth, an analysis of the volitional in the continued reproduction of the economy. It is here that the role of desire, of aspirations, of utopian dreams in the development of an insurrectional practice can become an integral part of our analysis, where the poetry of revolt encounters the theory of revolution.



Once the proletariat had tasted this passion for social war these actions were understood clearly and explicitly by all. The burnings, the stoning of the police,... banks, firemen, etc acquired a lucidity and meaning for themselves. They were by no means gratuitous acts subject to the tactics of fascist [...] but on the contrary were perfectly identifiable with the proletarian expression of social violence against capital.

And those things which were most attacked, even if they remained intact, were precisely those things which sustain and maintain capitalist relations. Thus, when cars were attacked and overturned or even burnt or just plain moved, it was something more than an attack on a lump of steel with four wheels and a motor. It was an attack on commodity fetishism, against a fetish which depends on the spectacle and which transforms it into an instrument of death. When bank and store windows were stoned it wasn't merely a question of smashing glass crystals but also of smashing the meaning these places take on as exhibition centers for the circulation of these products. These expressions of festive destruction came to be the means whereby communication was reestablished in the streets.

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