Anarchism: Giving form to autonomy

Lenin Statue from Theo Angelopoulos’ Ulysses Gaze (1995)

This post was born of an exchange of letters between John Holloway and Michael Hardt that focused on the issue of “anti-capitalist social movements” and their “organisation” and “institutionalisation”. The letters date from 2011, but their subject remains contemporary, as does the much older “exchange” between anarchism and Marxism by which we introduce the letters.

If revolution is permanent in the sense that its “final” form is already anticipated in its initial outlines, it also must be permanent in the sense that it is never completed, always relative, and that in it victory and failure are one.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Adventures of the Dialectic


The Marxist and Marxist inspired criticism of anarchism is stubbornly resistant – no less so, of course, than the anarchist criticisms of Marxism and other forms of “state-centred socialism”. And even as explicit political-ideological identification has waned, the opposition persists, only to be re-rehearsed in new – often less transparent – attire: organisation versus affinity, verticalism versus horizontalism, institutionalisation versus de-institutionalisation, constitutent versus destituent power, totalisation versus fragmentation, and the like. The series of antinomies may not reproduce perfectly or fully capture the original opposition between Marxists and anarchists, but the conceptual resonances persist, as well as the equally numerous efforts at finding some kind of conceptual middle ground between the polarities. One can of course simply ignore the whole thing and dismiss it as a merely ideological tempest, when the real political work – whatever that is – needs to be done. But then it is this “real political work” that becomes confused without the ideology.

If the tension or contradiction between the two positions seems clear theoretically – which it is not entirely, as the variety to be found in each position blurs conceptual boundaries –, historical practice suggests otherwise, with state socialists and communists frequently rebelling against institutional command and anarchists assuming roles of organisational authority.

This endless waltz suggests uncertainty, equivocation, or worse, duplicity. Without choosing simply to walk away from the matter – something that is not possible except at the cost of the end of “politics” –, and without returning to the history of “political” events – because history by itself (and it never stands by itself) is unable to serve as a final judge in theoretical controversies –, some sort of clarity is called for, if not to overcome the difference, at least to see and understand it.  And with the latter, perhaps other possibilities become imaginable.

The Marxists’ refrain against anarchism is well known, with the following quotations being only a small part of the repertoire.  

We have already stated our deep opposition to the theory of Lassalle and Marx, which recommends to the workers, if not as final ideal then at least as the next major aim — the foundation of a people’s state, which, as they have expressed it, will be none other than the proletariat organized as ruling class. The question arises, if the proletariat becomes the ruling class, over whom will it rule? It means that there will still remain another proletariat, which will be subject to this new domination, this new state.

It means that so long as the other classes, especially the capitalist class, still exists, so long as the proletariat struggles with it (for when it attains government power its enemies and the old organization of society have not yet vanished), it must employ forcible means, hence governmental means. It is itself still a class and the economic conditions from which the class struggle and the existence of classes derive have still not disappeared and must forcibly be either removed out of the way or transformed, this transformation process being forcibly hastened.

Karl Marx, Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy (1874)

On examining the economic, industrial and agricultural conditions which form the basis of present-day bourgeois society, we find that they tend more and more to replace isolated action by combined action of individuals. Modern industry, with its big factories and mills, where hundreds of workers supervise complicated machines driven by steam, has superseded the small workshops of the separate producers; the carriages and wagons of the highways have become substituted by railway trains, just as the small schooners and sailing feluccas have been by steam-boats. Even agriculture falls increasingly under the dominion of the machine and of steam, which slowly but relentlessly put in the place of the small proprietors big capitalists, who with the aid of hired workers cultivate vast stretches of land.

Everywhere combined action, the complication of processes dependent upon each other, displaces independent action by individuals. But whoever mentions combined action speaks of organisation; now, is it possible to have organisation without authority?

Supposing a social revolution dethroned the capitalists, who now exercise their authority over the production and circulation of wealth. Supposing, to adopt entirely the point of view of the anti-authoritarians, that the land and the instruments of labour had become the collective property of the workers who use them. Will authority have disappeared, or will it only have changed its form?

 … the material conditions of production and circulation inevitably develop with large-scale industry and large-scale agriculture, and increasingly tend to enlarge the scope of this authority. Hence it is absurd to speak of the principle of authority as being absolutely evil, and of the principle of autonomy as being absolutely good. Authority and autonomy are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of the development of society. If the autonomists confined themselves to saying that the social organisation of the future would restrict authority solely to the limits within which the conditions of production render it inevitable, we could understand each other; but they are blind to all facts that make the thing necessary and they passionately fight the world.

Why do the anti-authoritarians not confine themselves to crying out against political authority, the state? All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

Therefore, either one of two things: either the anti-authoritarians don’t know what they’re talking about, in which case they are creating nothing but confusion; or they do know, and in that case they are betraying the movement of the proletariat. In either case they serve the reaction.

Friedrich Engels, On Authority (1872)


1. Anarchism, in the course of the 35 to 40 years (Bakunin and the International, 1866–) of its existence (and with Stirner included, in the course of many more years) has produced nothing but general platitudes against exploitation.

These phrases have been current for more than 2,000 years. What is missing is (alpha) an understanding of the causes of exploitation; (beta) an understanding of the development of society, which leads to socialism; (gamma) an understanding of the class struggle as the creative force for the realisation of socialism.

2. An understanding of the causes of exploitation. Private property as the basis of commodity economy. Social property in the means of production. In anarchism–nil.

Anarchism is bourgeois individualism in reverse. Individualism as the basis of the entire anarchist world outlook.

{Defence of petty property and petty economy on the land. Keine Majorität.[1] Negation of the unifying and organising power of the authority.}

3. Failure to understand the development of society–the role of large-scale production–the development of capitalism into socialism.

(Anarchism is a product of despair. The psychology of the unsettled intellectual or the vagabond and not of the proletarian.)

4. Failure to understand the class struggle of the proletariat.

Absurd negation of politics in bourgeois society.

Failure to understand the role of the organisation and the education of the workers.

Panaceas consisting of one-sided, disconnected means.

5. What has anarchism, at one time dominant in the Romance countries, contributed in recent European history?

– No doctrine, revolutionary teaching, or theory.

– Fragmentation of the working-class movement.

– Complete fiasco in the experiments of the revolutionary movement (Proudhonism, 1871; Bakuninism, 1873).

– Subordination of the working class to bourgeois politics in the guise of negation of politics.

V. I. Lenin, Anarchism and Socialism (1901)

To summarise, anarchism is utopian – an insult in the mouths of orthodox Marxists – in ignoring the history and specificity of different social relations of exploitation and therefore the material preconditions for different social forms, in thereby placing the abolition of an a-historical State before the overthrow of capitalist social relations, a necessary precondition for any real political change. Severed from the concrete historical development of the working class and its means of struggle against capitalist domination, anarchists are blind to actual political possibilities that it would be foolish to ignore (e.g., social democracy)[2], idealistic in their espousal of an absolute truth[3] (e.g., the State is – every state is – equivalent to tyranny and therefore freedom demands a rejection of all state-centred politics and the destruction of the State) and condemned to irrelevance as the history of capitalism and the struggle of the working class pursues its course.[4]

This criticism will be repeated throughout 20th century Marxism, running like a line of inclusion-exclusion in the self-definition of the theory and practice of this political tradition (e.g., Anton Pannekoek,[5] Georg Lukács,[6] Cornelius Castoriadis,[7] Guy Debord[8]) and will find new expressions in Marxist inspired criticisms of contemporary “anti-statist” or “horizontalist” thought and social movements (e.g., David Harvey,[9] Alain Badiou,[10] Slavoj Zizek,[11] Frédéric Lordon[12]).

In a letter of 1882, Friedrich Engels could write that the anarchists were the “buffoons” of history, ineffective and pathetic, fated to vanish and happily pushed along this path by their own suicidal “politics”.

… The anarchists commit suicide every year and arise anew from the ashes every year; this will continue until anarchism is persecuted in earnest. It is the only socialist sect which can be really destroyed by persecution. For its perpetual resurrection is due to the fact that there are always would-be great men who would like on the cheap to play an important role. It seems as if anarchism were specially made for this purpose. But to run a risk – that is no go![13] 

The difficulty for Marxism – one is tempted to call it its tragedy – is that history did not move along its predicted path, and that capitalist social relations did not “progress” or “develop” towards capitalism’s internal collapse, and that the working class did not assume its assigned role as capitalism’s “gravedigger”. The working class failed in its historical task, Pannekoek was to write.[14] And as for why it did so, he, like so many other Marxists after him, could do nothing more than fall back on politics – the failures of social democratic and communist parties in creating anything more than forms of “state capitalism”– and ideas – “… what is called the failure of the working class is the failure of its narrow socialist aims.”[15]

Having criticised anarchists for idealism and utopianism for ignoring the material conditions of social life under capitalism and their political consequences, when these same conditions latter failed – as they continue to do so – to generate a revolutionary working class, political idealism among Marxists returned with a vengeance, whether in the “economic determinism” of “reformist” social democracy, or in the many “voluntarist politics” of “communist” parties. And when the politics in turn failed, there remained the “idea”, now divorced from any History.

It is essential today to understand that ‘communist’ can no longer be the adjective qualifying a politics. An entire century of experiences both epic in scope and appalling was required to understand that certain phrases produced by this short-circuiting between the real and the Idea were misconceived, phrases such as ‘Communist Party’ or ‘Communist State’ – an oxymoron that the phrase ‘Socialist State’ attempted to get around. The long-term effects of the Hegelian origins of Marxism are evident in this short-circuiting. For Hegel in fact, the historical exposure of politics was not an imaginary subjectivation, it was the real as such. This was because the crucial axiom of the dialectic as he conceived of it was: ‘The True is the process of its own becoming’ or – what amounts to the same – ‘Time is the being-there of the concept’. As a result, in line with the Hegelian philosophical heritage, we are justified in thinking that, under the name of ‘communism’, the historical inscription of revolutionary political sequences or of the disparate fragments of collective emancipation reveals their truth: to move forward according to the meaning of History. This latent subordination of truths to their historical meaning entails that we can speak ‘in truth’ of communist politics, communist parties and communist militants. It is clear, however, that we need to avoid any such ‘adjectification’ today. To combat such a thing, I have many times had to insist that History does not exist, which is in keeping with my conception of truths, namely, that they have no meaning, and especially not the meaning of History. But I need to clarify this verdict today. Of course, there is no real of History and it is therefore true, transcendentally true, that it cannot exist. Discontinuity between worlds is the law of appearance, hence of existence. What does exist, however, under the real condition of organized political action, is the communist Idea, an operation tied to intellectual subjectivation and that integrates the real, the symbolic and the ideological at the level of the individual.  We must bring this Idea back, by uncoupling it from any predicative usage. We must rescue the Idea, but also free the real from any immediate fusion with it. Only political sequences that it would ultimately be absurd to label as communist can be recovered by the communist Idea as the potential force of the becoming-Subject of individuals.[16]

We cite Alain Badiou here not to criticise him, for we have no objections to “idealism” and “utopianism” once these terms are freed of their derogatory connotations. Indeed, they capture in a less sophisticated manner what Badiou implies with his concept of an Idea and the Idea of communism. Our intention is rather to trace a line of theoretical development within Marxism that ends by undermining or setting aside the older “historical materialist” critiques of anarchism. Once it is conceived that political projects, strategies and agents cannot be read off a presumed universal history of capitalist development, then the criticism of anarchism as ignorant of history and therefore politically blind, falls by the wayside. The working class did not fail in its historical task because it had no such task; history proffers no such tasks. Indeed, a history capable of assigning roles to universally significant human actors simply does not exist. This, yes, is an ideological fiction.

It accordingly becomes grossly unjustifiable to say with Marx that Bakunin’s “infant spelling-book” anarchism is a “secondary affair” that only “found favour (and still has a certain hold) in Italy and Spain, where the real conditions of the workers’ movement are as yet little developed, and among a few vain, ambitious and empty doctrinaires in French Switzerland and Belgium.”[17]

Gramsci once wrote of anarchists that they are “very touchy because they are very presumptuous: they have always been convinced that they are the guardians of the revealed revolutionary truth.” But then why have the majority of the Italian proletariat not flowed to them, instead of the Italian Socialist Party?[18] And in hindsight, we could now ask the same of Gramsci, knowing that the Italian proletariat finally did not rally to the Socialist Party or the future Italian Communist Party in overwhelming numbers, why did this happen? Well, it was not because these political parties failed to express or capture history’s truth or because the Italian working class forsook its historical obligations.

There is no disagreement with Gramsci – and we are tempted to add between Marxists and anarchists – when he affirms “that absolute truth is not enough to bring the masses to action, to infuse the masses with revolutionary spirit, but that a determinate ‘truth’ is needed: after having recognised that for the purposes of human history, the only ‘truth’ is that which is embodied in action, which swells present awareness with passion and drive, which is translated into profound movements and into real conquests on the part of the masses themselves.”[19] Or as Bakunin expresses it: “The only way for the workers to learn theory is through practice: emancipation through practical action.[20] “Education and propaganda” are necessary, says Bakunin, but the “isolated worker weighed down by toil and daily cares cannot attend to his education”.[21] Unless these ideas find some kind of “translation” into everyday life, they remain empty, sustenance fit only for intellectuals and social scientists – for Bakunin, the most dangerous riffraff of revolutions.

But then the question becomes – and what now separates the two traditions – is the content of this “determinate truth”, of Badiou’s “Idea of communism”. In other words, the divide is no longer marked by an absolute truth of history – the marxists’ –, but by questions revolving around the substance of the idea and its significance for politics. At this level, we may find in fact find more that is in common between Marxists and anarchists, than what separates them.


Let us return to Anton Pannekoek’s 1945 essay, “The Failure of the Working Class”, to see where these commonalities may be woven together, or not.

In his effort to diagnose the failure of the workers’ struggle against capitalism, whether in the German example of social democracy or the Russian example of “Bolshevism”, Pannekoek finally ascribes it to something rather simple, at least in words, though disturbingly deep rooted in fact: “Capitalism, indeed, cannot be annihilated by a change in the commanding persons; but only by the abolition of commanding.”[22] These are words that any anarchist could accept and they affirm what Bakunin had already written in the 19th century.

Nothing is as dangerous for a man’s personal morality as the habit of commanding. The best of men, the most intelligent, unselfish, generous, and pure, will always and inevitably be corrupted in this pursuit. Two feelings inherent in the exercise of power never fail to produce this demoralization: contempt for the masses, and, for the man in power, an exaggerated sense of his own worth.[23]

Pannekoek’s summary conclusion is then followed by what could be described as the “cure”; a “cure” that would come to be known as council communism.

The real freedom of the workers consists in their direct mastery over the means of production. The essence of the future free world community is not that the working masses get enough food, but they direct their work themselves, collectively. For the real content of their life is their productive work; the fundamental change is not a change in the passive realm of consumption, but in the active realm of production. Before them now the problem arises of how to unite freedom and organization; how to combine mastery of the workers over the work with the binding up of all this work into a well-planned social entirety. How to organize production, in every shop as well as over the whole of world economy, in such a way that they themselves as parts of a collaborating community regulate their work. Mastery over production means that the personnel, the bodies of workers, technicians and experts that by their collective effort run the shop and put into action the technical apparatus are at the same time the managers themselves. The organization into a social entity is then performed by delegates of the separate plants, by so-called workers councils, discussing and deciding on the common affairs. The development of such a council organization will afford the solution of the problem; but this development is a historical process, taking time and demanding a deep transformation of outlook and character.[24]

And again, if there is much in Pannekoek’s work that finds resonances in the anarchist tradition, there is also something which places him outside the “family”, so to speak. However much Pannekoek’s Marxism broadened the horizon of the “orthodoxy”, it remained confined to the world of labour, that is, exploitation and the liberation from it was bound to the sphere of commodity production. What was left out – as it so often is still in Marxist thought, with numerous significant exceptions – are the many political, social, cultural (for lack of a better conceptual vocabulary) conditions, themselves oppressive, that render commodity production possible and that without radical transformation, leave exploitive labour relations finally intact because the habit of “commanding” persists.

“Mastery of the means of production” by the working classes would be an enormous transformation in the social relations of commodity production. It would be folly to state otherwise. But it would be equally false to contend that the mastery of these means – for it must be asked, which ones should be mastered, and how, and which ones should be reformed or destroyed, and under what conditions should production continue – is sufficient for “the future free world community”.

Anarchists have often been taken to task for over emphasising the State, the role of the State, in human oppression. And it is undoubtedly the case that in more “enthusiastic” moments, anarchists have oversimplified matters by an overemphasis on an elementary conception of the State. However, it is equally the case that anarchists have understood the State as a complex set of relations of power that permeate the whole of social life and it is for this reason, among others, that anarchists were among the first to write critically about and endeavour to act against the complex relations of power that structure both political and economic life, as well as those that mark the family, the ties between women and men, the school, the city and the country-side, the metropole and the colonies, and so on. In Gustav Landauer’s words, “we are the state!”

The state is a social relationship: a certain way of people relating to one another. It can be destroyed by creating new social relationships; i.e., by people relating to one another differently.[25]

Bakunin would criticise Marx for “an exclusive preoccupation with economic questions”, something that he thought “would be fatal for the proletariat”, for its emancipation from capitalism: first, because it ignores the complexity of domination and, secondly, it cripples any emancipation that could emerge from this “preoccupation”.

Doubtless the defense and organization of its economic interests – a matter of life and death – must be the principal task of the proletariat. But it is impossible for the workers to stop there without renouncing their humanity and depriving themselves of the intellectual and moral power which is so necessary for the conquest of their economic rights. In the miserable circumstances in which the worker now finds himself, the main problem he faces is most likely bread for himself and his family. But much more than any of the privileged classes today, he is a human being in the fullest sense of the word; he thirsts for dignity, for justice, for equality, for liberty, for humanity, and for knowledge, and he passionately strives to attain all these things together with the full enjoyment of the fruits of his own labor.[26]

To thus push towards a broader understanding of freedom assumes, as it must, a more far-reaching grasp of social relations and the ways in which these may be configured by power and domination.[27] And this is obviously a common ground for both anarchism and Marxism.

What then persists as a motive for division is the issue of how the “rebellion” against capital is to take form, or more specifically, what organisational pattern should it assume. The caricature of anarchism is of course that it rejects any organisational or institutional structure. But this is nothing but a caricature, as both the concrete history of the tradition, as well as its written work, testifies to.

The many, the masses, have over the course of human history organised themselves without external authority and/or force, according to Bakunin. This internal passion towards free social life Bakunin calls instinct, which he summarises in the instincts of equality, liberty and social solidarity. But instinct alone has not freed peoples. These same instincts have not prevented the absurd and tragic violence of authorities who have been able to domesticate and channel them for unrestrained self-aggrandisement.  What the many have lacked, “which up until now constituted the power of all government”, are two things: “organization and knowledge”.[28]

Or, in Landauer’s words, if “we are the state”, “we will be the state as long as we are nothing different; as long as we have not yet created the institutions necessary for a true community and a true society of human beings.”[29]

What then are the anarchists’ “organisations”, “institutions”? And what distinguishes them, even opposes them, to those of the Marxist? The questions are of course expressed too simply. But then to demand more would be to push us into the history of these traditions. Our answer then will be equally simple, which is to say that in the end the question remains open.

Anarchists have never repudiated all organisational and institutional forms. What they have sought, and struggled with, are forms that articulate and secure the desired autonomy of free and equal communities. “Freedom can and must be defended only by freedom.”[30]

If this seems unclear, it is because it is, for freedom or autonomy, or better yet, autonomies, dictate no specific example or kind of organisation. How autonomies have been given form is the stuff of anarchist history with freedom as the uncertain but irreplaceable standard for how we may live and create together.


Creating Common Wealth and Cracking Capitalism: A cross-reading

Dear John,

One of the things I love about “Crack Capitalism”, which it shares with “Change the World Without Taking Power”, is that its argument traces the genealogy of revolt. In other words, you start with the indignation, rage, and anger that people feel but you don’t stop there. Your argument leads revolt toward both creative practice and theoretical investigation. On the one hand, although refusal is essential, perhaps even primary in your argument, especially the break with or exodus from capitalist social forms, every destructive force has to be accompanied by a creative one, every effort to tear down the world around us has to be aimed also toward the creation of a new one. Moreover these two processes, the destructive and the constructive, are not separable but completely embedded or entwined with each other. That is why, as you say, it makes no sense to defer creating a new society until after the complete collapse or demolition of capitalist society. Instead we must struggle now to create a new society in the shell of the old or, rather, in its cracks, its interstices.

On the other hand, you demonstrate how revolt must lead not only to practical but also to theoretical innovation. Although your book starts with an affective state and instances of practical resistance, the central argument involves a conceptual investigation, most importantly, it seems to me, about the role and potential of our productive capacities in capitalist society. I don’t mean to pose a separation here between practice and theory. In fact, your argument requires that they too are completely embedded or entwined. In order to change the world we need not only to act differently but also to think differently, which requires that we work on concepts and sometimes invent new concepts.

The core argument of the book, which distinguishes doing from labor and identifies abstraction as a primary power of capitalist domination, seems to me profoundly Marxist. It might seem paradoxical to say that because you carefully contrast your argument to orthodox Marxist traditions, situating your point instead in relation to Marx’s own writings, sometimes elucidating what he actually says and demonstrating how it goes against the orthodox Marxist tradition and at other times going beyond Marx. Although your argument stands indeed against the orthodox Marxist tradition, reading Marx against Marxism in this way and going beyond Marx puts you solidly in line (or, perhaps better, in dialogue) with a strong current of what was once called heterodox Marxist traditions that have been active since the 1960s. This is clearly apparent, for instance, in the claim, central to your argument in this book, that the course of our project for freedom lies not in the liberation of work, as is championed by Marxist orthodoxies and Soviet ideology, but the liberation from work. I see this as an essential slogan or principle of this heterodox tradition.

One thing that occurs to me is that whereas in the 1970s orthodox Marxism was indeed dominant, bolstered by the ideologues of various official communist parties, today that line of interpretation is virtually completely discredited. Instead Marxist theory today is primary characterized, in my view, by what used to be the heterodox line, which you helped develop together with your colleagues in the Conference of Socialist Economists and in collaboration with similar tendencies in Italy, Germany, and France. That’s a good thing and makes Marxist theory today more interesting and relevant.

I don’t mean by this to rein you back in within Marxism. Like you, I care little about whether my work is called Marxist or not. I often find that Marxists accuse me of being not Marxist enough and non-Marxists fault me for being too Marxist. None of that matters to me. What is important, though, is how useful I find it to read Marx’s work and it strikes me how useful it is for you too in this book.

One profound and important resonance your argument in this book shares with Marx’s writings resides in the identification of labor (or human productive capacity) as the site of both our exploitation and our power. You designate this duality by distinguishing labor (which you identify as production within a regime of capitalist abstraction) from doing (which strikes me as very similar to Marx’s notion of ‘living labor’). On the one hand, capital needs our productive capacities and could not exist and reproduce without them. Capital, in other words, does not just oppress or dominate us but exploits us, meaning that it must constantly seek to domesticate and command our productive powers within the limited frame of its social system. In your argument this is accomplished primarily by processes of abstraction. On the other hand, our productive capacities always exceed and are potentially autonomous from capital. That dissymmetry is crucial: whereas capital cannot survive without our labor, our productive capacities can potentially exist and thrive without capitalist organization. Indeed, as you demonstrate, there are always already innumerable instances of our productive autonomy that exist within the cracks or interstices of capitalist society. These are extremely important but not enough. Your project is to create alternative social networks of autonomous productive cooperation that can, as I said earlier, build a society of freedom from within capitalist society.

As I read ‘Crack Capitalism’, then, it seems to me that, whereas ‘Change the World’ adopted and extended the project for the abolition of the state, even its abolition within our own minds and practices, this book works through the project of the refusal of work — with the understanding that every rebellion against the capitalist labor regime is also, necessarily, a development of our own autonomous capacities for doing, that the destruction of the work society is coupled with the creation of a new society based on an alternative notion of production and productivity.

That brings me to a first, initial question. We know that the capitalist labor regime has extraordinarily well developed systems of social organization and cooperation, which function through discipline and control. You analyze these primarily through the lens of abstraction. The mainstream workers movements and, primarily the industrial trade unions, have also developed forms of organization and discipline into a sort of counter-power, but, according to your analysis, this too, like the capitalist regime, is dedicated to the organization of abstract labor. I think I understand this critique and agree with it in large part, with the caveat, as you say, citing the excellent book by Karl Heinz Roth published in the 1970s, that there has always also been an ‘other’ workers movement. My question, then, how can our autonomous productive practices, our doing, be organized and sustained as alternative social forms? I think you would agree that the schemes of cooperation and coordination among our practices of doing are not spontaneous but need to be organized. I would add that we need to create institutions of social cooperation, and you might agree with this too as long as I explain that by institution here I do not mean a bureaucratic structure but rather, as anthropologists use the term, a repeated social practice, a habit, that structures social relations. What institutions do we already have that fulfill this role and what kinds can we develop? And, more specifically, what relation can this have to the syndicalist traditions? The point here, of course, is not to reject entirely the traditional organizations of workers movements but, in some respects, extend and transform them. Here I would want to explore the innovations within contemporary labor organizing that point in the direction of your argument. Can we imagine instead of a traditional labor movement an association or syndicate of doers or, better, a social institution of doing? What would be its mechanisms of social cooperation and structures of organization? I’m not sure you have the answers to these questions, and I don’t pretend to myself, but I think you have some ways of thinking about how we can develop the structures and institutions of a society of doing and that is where I would first like to direct our exchange.

Best, Michael

December 2010

Dear Michael,

Thank you very much for your comments and for their tone which seems to me just right: a strong sense of shared concern and direction and a desire to move forward through exploring our differences. This reflects very much what I felt while I was reading “Commonwealth”: a sense of the very close touching of your preoccupations with mine, a feeling of walking arm in arm, at times too close, at times tugging in different directions, producing a sequence of bumps of admiration, enthusiasm and exasperation.

The question you raise at the end of your letter is exactly right because it hits directly on one of my main concerns while reading ‘Commonwealth’: the issue of institutions, which you and Toni emphasise a lot and which you develop especially in the last part of the book.

Our preoccupation, I think, is the same, but the answer we give is rather different. Our shared concern is: how do we go on after the explosions of rage, the jacqueries as you call them? The argentinazo of almost ten years ago, when the people in the streets of Argentina toppled one president after another to the resounding cry of “que se vayan todos” (out with the lot of them); the alterglobalisation movement and the great anti-summit protests in Seattle, Cancún, Genoa, Gleneagles, Rostock and so on; the explosions of rage in the last year in Greece, France, Italy, Britain, Ireland and now, as I write, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria. Great. We applaud, jump up and down with excitement. But then what? How do we go on? We both agree that rage is not enough, that there must be a positive moment. We both agree that the answer is not to build the party and win the next election or seize control of the state. But, if not that, then what? The answer you offer is ‘Insititutionalise. Create institutions to give duration to the achievements of the surge of revolt’. And I want to say ‘no, no, no, that is not the way to go, that is a dangerous proposal’.

Certainly I do not want to caricature what you are saying, for there is a great deal of care and subtlety in your argument. In your letter you say ‘I would add that we need to create institutions of social cooperation, and you might agree with this too as long as I explain that by institution here I do not mean a bureaucratic structure but rather, as anthropologists use the term, a repeated social practice, a habit, that structures social relations.’ But no, I do not agree with that, even taking into account your broad understanding of institutions.

Why do I not agree? Firstly, because although you argue for an extended understanding of institutionalisation, you open a door in which the distinction between the two meanings will become blurred. The repeated social practice slips easily into a bureaucratic structure and unless you create a very sharp distinction between the two (by using different words, for example), there is a danger that you legitimate this slippage. In the book, the distinction is clear at times, but at times it seems to evaporate, as in the surprising and perplexing suggestion on p.380 that UN agencies might provide a global guaranteed income (the mind boggles). Institutionalisation leads easily into a state-centred politics – how else could you even imagine achieving such a UN guarantee?

Secondly, I disagree because institutionalisation always means projecting the present on the future. Even in the soft sense of a repeated social practice, it creates an expectation that the young should behave as their parents (or older sisters and brothers) did. But no, they should not. “That’s not the way to do it, this is what you should do”, said the veterans of 1968 to the students in the great UNAM strike in 2000, but fortunately (or not) the students paid no attention. Institutionalisation is always a consecration of tradition, is it not? And what did Toni write years ago about tradition being the enemy of class struggle? I don’t remember exactly what or where, but I do remember thinking it was wonderful.

Thirdly, institutionalisation does not work, or not in the way that it is intended to. There is a flow of struggle, a social flow of rebellion (as my friend Sergio Tischler puts it) that cannot be controlled and that repeatedly sweeps aside institutions devised to channel it in a certain direction. My feeling is that you give too much weight to institutions in your understanding of society. Can love be institutionalised? I agree completely with your daring understanding of the revolutionary force of love, but then you must ask, can love be institutionalised? Surely not. Even if we say that we are not talking of a contract of marriage, but simply “a repeated social practice, a habit”, then probably the experience of all of us is that love constantly clashes with habit. Love may well survive in a context of repeated social practice, but only if it moves constantly in-against-and-beyond it.

Think of the World Social Forum, the prime institution to have emerged from the alterglobalisation movement. I am not particularly opposed to it and I think it can provide a useful and enjoyable meeting place, but, contrary to the intentions of most participants, it tends to promote a bureaucratization of the movement and it certainly is not the key to revolution.

Institutionalisation (broad or narrow) means trying to set life on railway tracks or highways, whereas rebellion is the constant attempt to break from that, to invent new ways of doing things. The proposal to create institutions, as I see it, says that the old roads to revolution no longer work and we must create new roads for those who follow us to walk along. But surely not: revolution is always a process of making our own paths. “Se hace el camino al andar” (we make the road by walking – eds’ translation) is an integral part of the revolutionary process. I see the very idea of institutionalisation as an aspect of the organisation of human activity as abstract labour, just what we are fighting against.

“Too easy”, you may say and of course you would be right. Does there not have to be some form of social organization? Certainly, but our forms of organisation, the forms of organisation that point towards a different society, cannot be thought of as being fixed. We have ideas and principles and experiences and directions that are more or less common to the movements against capitalism, but given that we ourselves, our practices and ideas are so marked by the society we are struggling against, the forms of organisation can only be experimental, a process of moving by trial and error and reflection.

But does there not have to be a coming together of the cracks? Yes, and I think this is an issue that is not sufficiently explored in my book. I would like to develop further at some point the question of the confluence of the cracks, both in terms of the inspirational lighting of prairie fires and the practical organisation of cooperation. But two things. I feel that institutional thinking is probably an obstacle to seeing the practice and potential of such confluence. And secondly it is important to think of the confluence as an always experimental moving from the particular, not a charting of the future that moves from the totality, as I think is the tendency in your book. We are in the cracks and pushing from there. Our problem is to break and move beyond, not to erect an alternative system of governance. We can try to follow the practices of existing movements, criticise them and see how the confluence is or is not being achieved, but we cannot establish a model for the future.

Dignity is a fleet-footed dance, I suggest in the book. But the doubt that arises is that perhaps we are not capable of such agility. Perhaps we are capable only of moving more slowly. Maybe we need institutions as crutches, so that we can consolidate each step we make. Conceivably so, but even then learning to walk is a throwing away of the crutches. We betray ourselves if we do not couple subversion with institutionalisation. If we must institutionalise, then we should subvert our own institutions in the same breath. This is akin to the question of identification. In “Change the World”, I accept that it may sometimes be important to affirm our identity, but only if we subvert it or go beyond it in the same breath, and what you and Toni say in your discussion of identity is similar. Institutionalise-and-subvert, then, is a formulation that I would find more attractive, but even then I do not like it. Institutionalisation may be inevitable at times, but in the tension between institutionalisation and subversion we have already taken sides. Thought is subversion. To think is to move beyond, as Ernst Bloch says – Ernst Bloch, whom you cite several times in the book, but whom Toni elsewhere unforgivably, unforgivenly characterises as a bourgeois philosopher (Antonio Negri, “Time for Revolution”, 2003, p. 109).

Publication, of course, is a form of institutionalisation and I do participate actively in this. In publishing my arguments, I give them a fixity. But perhaps this interchange of letters is an attempt by both of us to subvert that institutionality: the purpose is not to defend positions taken but to provoke each other to move beyond what we have already written.

And then an unavoidable theme if we are talking of institutions: what can I say of the title of your last chapter – ‘Governing the Revolution’? A horrifying oxymoron? A fiercely audacious provocation? Or is it a serious suggestion? To the extent that it seems to be a serious suggestion, it certainly provokes and horrifies me. What upsets me is that the phrase suggests a separation between governing and revolution whereas for me revolution is the abolition of this separation. Governing the revolution immediately makes me ask who, who is going to govern it? Just as your statement on p.377 that “humans are trainable” also scares me, for who is to do the training? Who would govern your revolution, who would train the humans? If you say we are talking of self-governance, then fine, but why not talk then of the organisational forms of self-determination, understanding that self-determination means a process of self-education, self-transformation? But if we rephrase the question like that, then we immediately have to say that the organisational forms of self-determination are self-determining and therefore cannot be institutionalised.

Let me open a second front of concern. Democracy. You centre the discussion of revolution on the struggle for democracy. The abolition of capitalism takes a back seat, as it were, and that confuses me. You formulate the argument in chapter 5.3 in terms of a programme to save capital and then say that it is not that you are abandoning the idea of revolution, but just working with a different notion of transition. I am not clear what you mean by this different notion of transition. It sounds almost like a programme of transitional demands, a concept of achieving anti-capitalist revolution by fighting for a democracy that we know (but do not say openly) is incompatible with capitalism. The danger is that the more you talk about democracy and the less about capitalism, the more the whole question of revolution fades into the background. It seems to me much simpler to start the other way around, by saying: capitalism is a catastrophe, how do we get rid of it?

This letter is unreasonably long. Your fault, of course, for writing such a stimulating book. I look forward to your replies.

Best wishes,


June 2011

Dear John,

I think you’re right that walking so closely together can sometime make us trip and stumble when reading each other. A kind of irritation arises when, after having agreed so much with the other’s argument, we come across a point or argument that sticks out and that we can’t accept.

Part of our task here is to clear up the seeming conflicts that are merely due to misunderstandings or terminological differences (no small task) and clarify the important points on which we disagree. I appreciate how much the term institution sits poorly with you and thus I am grateful that you work through it so tenaciously in your letter until you finally arrive on a formulation where we do, in fact, agree. You can accept a mandate to institutionalise if that is always accompanied with a simultaneous process of subversion. Yes, institutionalise and subvert – a good motto we can share. But, of course, our views of this do differ so let me return to them a bit more.

As you note, Toni and I come to the discussion of institution from our preoccupation with the need for organisation. Revolt comes first but spontaneity is not enough. Rebellion must be organised in a revolutionary process. On these basic points I think we differ little. The contrast comes, as you say, in where the accent falls and, in particular, the extent to which the stability of organisation is emphasised. On the molecular level I’m not convinced that our difference in emphasis is very significant. I understand that notions of habit, custom, and repeated practices seem restrictive to you and you fear they can blunt innovation. I insist, however, that forms-of-life only exist through structures of repetition. Our lives and bonds to each other are supported by innumerable habits and repeated practices, many of which we are not aware. This is not only a matter of the time we have dinner each night and when we go for a walk on Sundays, but also how we relate to each other and maintain both intimate and social bonds (Marcel Proust’s novel seems to me the classic investigation of how a life is constituted by complex webs of habits and repeated practices).

Such institutions do, as you suggest, link the present to the future but not necessarily in the way you fear. You worry that social habits restrict us to repeating the social and organisational forms of previous generations. I am more oriented toward what Spinoza calls prudence: regarding the future as if it were present and acting on that basis. This is not only how we act today against the industries and practices that will create by 2050 catastrophic CO2 levels but also the way we constantly create a perspective of duration in our relations with each other. This is also true with regard to love. Love is not only an event of rupture, shattering, and transformation but also a bond. I continually return to those I love. That does not mean that love is a static, fixed relationship. Love is innovation, you rightly say, going beyond. Yes, but there is also a ritual to love, returning to the beloved and repeating our shared practices. In the context of those rituals the innovations of love emerge.

Institutionalise and subvert, as you say, or repetition with difference. In any case, at this molecular level I understand that you and I approach the question of institution from different perspectives but I don’t see great consequence to our differences. At the molar level, in contrast, I think our differences are more significant. Toni and I put the emphasis on institution or, really, on creating new institutional forms in order to develop an alternative governance. I think you can accept and even be comfortable with some version of this project. Some of the greatest successes of the EZLN in Chiapas, for example, have been their creation of institutions of an alternative governance. Caracoles, Juntas de buen gobierno, and the myriad norms and procedures that govern Zapatista communities are excellent examples of the kind of experimentation with new, democratic institutional forms that we are advocating. My sense is that you are generally supportive of this level of Zapatista institutional practice. Here too the slogan institutionalise and subvert works well: all practices should be submitted to a constant force of critique, walk forward questioning (this is a translation of a phrase popularised by the Zapatistas. The Spanish is: “preguntando caminamos” – the ed.).

Our differences come out more clearly with regard to established institutions of which we are critical. Like you, Toni and I are critical of the official trade unions and their traditions but for us that does not position us in complete opposition to the entire union movement. Small segments of the union movement continually try to move out of the tradition and in new directions: for periods (sometimes brief) portions (often small minorities) of the FIOM in Italy, SUD in France, and the SEIU in the United States, for example, have sought to chart new directions. Our inclination is to enter into dialogue with these syndicalist elements while at the same time subverting their traditional logics, both inside and outside their institutional structures. Does institutionalise and subvert make sense to you also in this context? Or, rather, here is another way of approaching the same question in terms of your book: can and should “doing” be organised and, if so, what relation would these organisations bear to the history of organised labour? How would you characterse the syndicalist practices of doing? I’m attracted to the idea of constructing “soviets of doing” but I fear that idea would horrify you. Our differences are probably most pronounced with regard to the so-called progressive governments in power today, especially those in Latin America. As you know, Toni and I, like you, are critical of all of these Leftist parties and governments, from Argentina and Brazil to Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. And like for you too our hopes and inspirations are linked primarily not to the governments but the powerful social movements that created the possibility of their electoral victories. But we do not regard these governments solely as antagonists. Here too I like the dual stance of your slogan, institutionalise and subvert. I would say, in other words, that the advent of these governments creates a new (and in some respects better) terrain of struggle in which the movements need to continue the struggles against neoliberal practices, economic paradigms based on extraction (including reliance on oil, gas, soy monoculture, and the like), racial hierarchies, and many others.

I sense that the kind of critical engagement with which Toni and I feel comfortable seems alien and even dangerous to you. This is probably a real difference between us and I’m not sure there is much to say about it. (One small clarification: You are perplexed by a passage in our book in which Toni and I seem to be proposing that the UN institute a global guaranteed income. Your instincts are right that we are not proposing this. The passage comes in a paradoxical section of our book in which we attempt a thought experiment about how capital would reform if it were able to act rationally in its self-interest. We try to follow through the logic of capitalist reform, we say, all the while knowing that such reforms are impossible and the logic will eventually collapse.)

This might be the right time to bring up another question I had reading “Crack Capitalism”, which is probably related to the issue of institutions but in different frame. A primary antagonist in your argument is abstract labour and, if I understand correctly, the conceptual processes of abstraction more generally. I don’t think I share your opposition to abstraction. Let’s start with abstract labour in Marx by way of exchange value. In my reading of the opening pages of ‘Capital’ in which Marx details how the exchange value of a commodity obscures and takes precedence over its use value, just as abstract labour takes precedence over concrete labour, this does not imply a symmetrical anti-capitalist project pointing in the opposite direction. In other words, a political project to affirm use value over exchange value sounds to me like a nostalgic effort to recapture a precapitalist social order. Marx’s project instead, as I see it, pushes through capitalist society to come out the other side. In the same way I don’t see abstract labour as the antagonist. It’s a simplification (but an important one, I think) to say that without abstract labour there would be no proletariat. If the labour of the bricklayer, the joiner, the weaver, the agricultural worker, and the autoworker were each to remain concrete and incommensurable, we would have no concept of labour in general (labour without regard to its form of expenditure, as Marx says), which potentially links them together as a class. I know this must sound to you like I’m turning around and affirming the tradition of working class organisations now, but I’m not or, at least, not uncritically. In fact, abstraction is necessary for us to argue against the corporatist structures that have plagued that tradition. Such abstraction too is what made possible the domestic labour debates in social feminist circles in the US and the UK in the 1970s and 80s, recognising as work the unwaged domestic activities and practices of care that continue to characterise the sexual division of labour. Abstract labour, then, as I understand it, is not a thing but an analytic, a way of grasping the continuities across the worlds of labour.

In part I think what I just wrote might obscure the issue because you and I are using the terms differently. My guess is that you are using abstraction (and abstract labour) to name the processes and structures of exploitation by which capital measures and expropriates the value produced by our labour and exerts command over our lives. And, in contrast, “doing” serves for you as the self-organised, autonomous labour that we could create a space for in the cracks of the capitalist order. Ok, that can work for me. In fact, your argument in this regard corresponds well with and complements our argument in Chapter 3 of “Commonwealth” about what we call the crisis of capitalist biopolitical production, the emerging composition of labour, and the new possibilities for autonomy from capital. But, I suppose that even though I was trying to move away from the question of institution it sneaks back in here again. Yes, I want to appreciate each doing in its singularity but I also want to grasp what is common to the myriad doings across society (is this a logic of abstract doing?) I want organisation. Try to wash out of your mouth the bad taste of my proposition earlier for creating soviets of doing. How are doings organised and what is the form of their organisation? It’s not so easy to move away from the question of organisation and institution. It keeps coming back. I guess that’s an area where we still have work to do to understand our differences.



October 2011

Dear Michael,

Lots and lots of stimulus here, agreement and disagreement, lovely. Let me go straight to a sentence that slips unobtrusively into your argument but that I suspect is an important key to our differences. You say, in the context of the discussion of abstract labour: “Marx’s project instead, as I see it, pushes through capitalist society to come out the other side”. But I do not want to push through capitalism to come out the other side: I want us to get out now, while there is still time, if there is still time. There must be some kind of way out of here (as Bob Dylan/Jimi Hendrix put it) – though of course there may not. This is Benjamin’s emergency brake (Walter Benjamin’s comment that: “Marx called Revolutions the locomotives of world history. But perhaps it is totally different: perhaps it is the people in these trains reaching for the emergency brake.” – the ed.) We are on a train heading for disaster, rushing toward the total annihilation of humanity. It no longer makes sense, if it ever did, to think of coming out the other side. We need to pull the emergency brake, stop the train (or, jumping metaphors, capitalism is an over-ripe, rotting apple, or a zombie, already dead but marching on, destroying all). Not progress, then, but rupture. Here, now.

I suspect that much of your argument in your and Toni’s trilogy rests on the view that pushing through capitalist society will take us to the other side. Certainly you say that capital is on a path of destruction (p.306), but that is not quite the same as saying that capital is a path to destruction, as I would. Your formulation suggests that its course can be altered, whereas my feeling is that breaking with capital is a necessary precondition for stopping the rush to destruction. You follow your statement about capital being on the path of destruction by proposing a reformist programme for capital as a way of moving towards a transition to a different society, whereas I see capitalism as being already in an advanced stage of decomposition, with all sorts of projects for alternative societies overflowing its banks, and suggest that we should throw all our energies into those overflowings or cracks.

This helps to situate our differences on institutionalisation. We meet happily on the ground of institutionalise-and-subvert, but I feel that within this tension we lean in different directions. You put your emphasis on the importance of institutionalisation, whereas I want us to throw our weight on the side of subversion, of constantly moving against-and-beyond. Institutionalise-and-subvert is not, for me, “repetition with difference”, as you suggest, but a repeated process of rupture, of breaking, negating. Of course it is not just a question of breaking. Revolt is not enough – that is the shared starting point of our exploration. What then? Communise. This is the word that I am drawn to more and more. Break and weave social relations on a different basis. Obviously it comes close to your Common Wealth, but I feel it’s important to think in terms of verbs rather than nouns, in terms of our doings.

The problem, as always, is the material production of life. If we scream against capital but are not able to live in a way that breaks with capital, then we won’t get very far with our revolt. In order to break capitalist social relations we need the support of new productive forces, not in the old orthodox-Marxist sense of technology but rather in the sense of a new weaving of human activity. So absolutely YES to your soviets of doing, which you think will horrify me. Doing-against-labour means for me a collective or communising movement of self-determination which has at its centre a self-determination of our own activity – our own productive force.

Perhaps the movement creates new institutions, but only as the water in a stream rests for a moment in pools and then flows on. I think that would be my answer to your final question, “How are doings organised and what is the form of their organisation?” If we think of doing as a movement of communising self-determination, then we can hardly lay down what form it should take. At best, we can look at past and present experiences and draw suggestions from them.

We differ on the issue of abstract labour. I understand abstract labour as the substance of the social bond that is money. In other words, the fact that we exchange our products as commodities abstracts from us, takes away from us, control over our own activities. Abstract labour (and therefore money) is the core of the negation of social self-determination, and therefore any struggle for social self-determination must be a struggle against abstract labour (and money). To say, as you do, that there would be no proletariat without abstract labour is true, but who needs a proletariat? I imagine you agree that the proletariat’s existence is the struggle against its own existence as proletariat. To say that “a political project to affirm use value over exchange value sounds to me like a nostalgic effort to recapture a precapitalist social order” seems to me completely wrong. It could well be so, but for me it is the essence of the struggle to create a communist or anti-capitalist society. If you do not see the struggle as being to create a different sort of creative activity (a doing liberated from abstract labour) and therefore a different sort of product (a use value liberated from value), does this not bring you very close to Leninism, which, of course, was blind to the distinction between abstract and concrete labour, with disastrous results?

There’s much more to be said. On the progressive governments, for example: it is not that I regard them solely as antagonists. It is rather that the organisational form which they have adopted (the state) integrates them into the generality of capitalist social relations and turns them, tendentially at least, against movements that are directed against capitalism. Look at Bolivia in the last couple of months. But rather than go on and on, I want to end with a quandary. A dilemma perhaps for both of us, but I suspect we lean different ways. You say near the beginning of your letter “Revolt comes first but spontaneity is not enough. Rebellion must be organised in a revolutionary process.” I’m fine with the first sentence, it’s the second that makes me pause, wonder, feel shocked, wonder again. Rebellion for me is a massive and explosive confluence of discontents and other-doings, the dramatic coming together of so many puncturings of capitalist social relations. In order to avoid being swamped by a re-surging of capital, there must be a communising (or a confluence of cracks) so strong that the social nexus of money is shattered or rendered irrelevant. If you like, the rebellion must organise itself in such a way as to gather sufficient momentum to break capitalism completely. Organisation is crucial, but not an organisation: it has to be an organising that comes from below, a communising. Is that what you mean when you say “Rebellion must be organised in a revolutionary process”? I wonder.

A pleasure.


October 2011

Dear John,

Some misunderstandings persist. It’s clear, for example, that we understand abstraction and abstract labour in very different ways. And the paradoxical passage in “Commonwealth” in which we conduct a thought experiment about capitalist reform to demonstrate its impossibility comes up again in this letter and leads you again to think that such reform is our programme. But really such misunderstandings are minor and I suspect that even when they loom large in our eyes they matter little to our readers. What strikes me most strongly reading over our correspondence, though, is the common theoretical and political terrain we share. We meet happily, as you say, on the terrain of “institutionalise and subvert” – as well as “subvert and institutionalise” (since the process certainly works both ways). But then, you add, we move in different directions or, at least, put the accent on different sides of the equation. This difference comes out most clearly, I think, when we express apprehensions about the formulations of the other. I am often on guard against placing too much faith in spontaneous revolt because on its own it fails to create lasting alternatives, and thus I insist on constituent processes. You instead fear more the fixity of repeated practices and institutional structures, and thus you privilege rupture and movement. I found particularly interesting in this regard the apprehensions expressed in our brief exchange about love. But even such differences of emphasis should not be exaggerated since we clearly share each other’s preoccupations to a large degree. I’m happy, then, to leave off our correspondence here, with the hope that we can take it up again when the movements, and we too, have taken a few more steps forward.

All the best,


(Creating Common Wealth and Cracking Capitalism: A cross-reading (Part I); Creating commonwealth and cracking capitalism: a cross-reading (Part II) – John Holloway, Michael Hardt.)

[1] No majority (i.e., the anarchists’ non-acceptance of the submission by the minority to the majority).–Ed. —Lenin

[2] Karl Kautsky, “The Abolition of the State”, Der Sozialdem okrat, No. 51, 15 December 1881. (

[3] Antonio Gramsci, “Address to the Anarchists”, L’Ordine Nuovo, 3-10 April 1920, Vol. I, No. 43. (

[4] Rosa Luxemburg, “I. The Russian Revolution, Anarchism and the General Strike”, The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions, (1906). (

[5] Anton Pannekoek, “Socialism and Anarchism I-III”, in The New Review, Vol. I (1913), No 4 (25 January), p. 122-127; and Vol. I, No 5 (1 February), p. 147-152. (Association Archives Antonie Pannekoek)

[6] Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971, p. 260.

[7] Cornelius Castoriadis, On the Content of Socialism. (The Anarchist Library)

[8] Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Black and Red, Detroit, 1983, para. 90-94.

[9] David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, Verso Books, London, 2012.

[10] Alain Badiou, Le réveil de l’histoire, Nouvelles Éditions Lignes, 2011.

[11] Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, Verso Books, London, 2012.

[12] Frédéric Lordon, Vivre sans? Institutions, police, travail, argent…, Éditions La Fabrique, Paris, 2019.

[13] Friedrich Engels, Letter: “Engels to J. Becker in Geneva”, in Marx, Engels, Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972.

[14] Anton Pannekoek, “The Failure of the Working Class”, in Politics, Vol. III (1946), No 8 (September). (Association Archives Antonie Pannekoek)

[15] Ibid.

[16] Alain Badiou, The Communist Hypothesis, Verso Books, London, 2010, pp. 240-2.

[17] Karl Marx, Letter: “Marx to Friedrich Bolte In New York”, November 23, 1871.

[18] Antonio Gramsci, “Address to the Anarchists”.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Michael Bakunin, “The Policy of the International” [1869], in Sam Dolgoff ed., Bakunin: On Anarchism, Black Rose Books, Montréal, 1980, p. 167.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Anton Pannekoek, “The Failure of the Working Class”.

[23] Michael Bakunin, “Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism” [1867], in Bakunin: On Anarchism, p. 145.

[24] Anton Pannekoek, “The Failure of the Working Class”.

[25] Gustav Landauer, “Weak Statesmen, Weaker People!”, Revolution and Other Writings: A Political Reader [1910], PM Press, Oakland, 2010, p. 214.

[26] Michael Bakunin, “The International and Karl Marx” [1872], in Bakunin: On Anarchism, p. 301.

[27] Amedeo Bertolo, Authority, Power and Domination. (Autonomies)

[28] Michael Bakunin, “The Program of the Alliance” [1871], in Bakunin: On Anarchism, p. 255.

[29] Gustav Landauer, “Weak Statesmen, Weaker People!”, p. 214.

[30] Michael Bakunin, “Revolutionary Catechism” [1866], in Bakunin: On Anarchism, p. 79.

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