April Carter, The Political Theory of Anarchism, 1971.

3 Anarchism and Society

The Paris Commune

The anarchist alternative to State control based on repression is a self-regulating social order. What an anarchist society would be like has been indicated primarily by Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin, who despite significant differences share certain common values, and who all three define their position to some extent in opposition to Marxist socialism. Any comparison with Marxism is rendered difficult by the inherent diversity of the anarchist tradition, including the very divergent interpretations of Proudhon and Bakunin available, and the increasing complexity of Marxism as it has evolved. But since anarchism has been engaged in a conscious critique of Marxism for over a century, comparison is clearly relevant. Both start off with a common commitment to abolish capitalism and the capitalist State; both reject parliamentary liberalism; and both aspire to create a society free from inequality and exploitation. Where they often differ is in their attitudes to nationalism, industrialization and democracy, and so in their conceptions of historical progress. The crucial point of difference is on the role of State power in the transitional period after a socialist revolution. Ultimately they also disagree on the role of government and of law, and in their understanding of 'politics'.

Many of the differences between Marxists and anarchists emerge interestingly in their views of the 1871 Paris Commune, adopted by both as a symbol of the new socialist society -- focusing on the Commune means comparing anarchism with the most libertarian element in Marxist thinking about post-revolutionary organization. For Marxists the Commune symbolizes a type of participatory democracy which draws on the French Revolutionary idea of popular sovereignty, but seeks to realize it through a combination of radical decentralism and populist devices. The Commune which rose phoenixlike out of the destruction of Louis Napoleon's Empire was in Marx's eyes the antithesis of the previous imperial power -- 'the centralized state power with its ubiquitous organs of standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy and judicature'. The model of communal government in Paris was intended to be a pattern for the rest of the country, 'even the smallest hamlet', to follow. The Commune guarded [61] itself against the domination of the organs of the new 'state' over society by what Engels called 'two infallible means':

In the first place, it filled all posts -- administrative, judicial and educational -- by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, subject to the right of recall at any time by the same electors. And, in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, 261-2).

The Marxist commitment to radical popular sovereignty also entails contempt for constitutionalist devices like balance of powers, separation of functions and the hedging of central power through local autonomy or federalism. Marx commended the Commune for abolishing the distinction between legislature and executive, between policymaking and administration: 'The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time' (291). He attacked the view that the Commune was a reversion to the medieval commune, commenting that the local communes which were an inheritance from feudalism had been in France converted effectively into a 'substratum' of modern State power, and that in Prussia the municipal constitution had degraded the town governments to 'mere secondary wheels in the police-machinery of the Prussian State' (293). He also denied that the Commune represented 'an attempt to break up into a federation of small states, as dreamed of by Montesquieu and the Girondins', or 'an exaggerated form of the ancient struggle against overcentralisation' (293). Constitutionalist theorists' admiration for England, where the logic of state centralization has been impeded, is derided; corrupt local government in the towns and 'virtually hereditary magistrates in the counties' simply 'complete the great central State organs'.

Federalism and Nationalism

Marx was necessarily committed to abolishing institutions which embodied the practices of a previous regime, and rightly emphasized the distinctively new character of the Commune. But his opposition to 'federalism' raises questions about the direction of revolutionary change. It is on this point anarchists have always taken issue with Marxists, and it is relevant that Marx's pamphlet on The Civil War in France is in a sense 'claiming' the Commune for the First International, and implicitly discrediting the Proudhonist claims to it as an embodiment of their own theories of confederation. Marx stresses that 'the unity of the nation was not to be broken', and 'the few [62] but important functions which still would remain for a central government were not to be suppressed, as has been intentionally misstated . . .' (292). Lenin takes up this question in The State and Revolution:

To confuse Marx's views on the 'destruction of the state power -- the parasitic excrescence' with Proudhon's federalism is positively monstrous! ... Federalism as a principle follows logically from the petty-bourgeois views of anarchism. Marx was a centralist (89-91).

Proudhon too was scornful about constitutionalist devices like the balance of power and the separation of the legislature and the executive, when these are a disguise for an underlying drive to maximize the power of the State itself, as in the 1848 Constitution in France. He also deplores the use made by Rousseau of the distinction between framing and executing the laws, since Rousseau is led to posit the need for a permanent executive which by its very nature will tend to usurp power from the people legislating as a body. However, Proudhon also hails the principle of the balance and separation of powers as a great invention if its potential implications can be extended to demolish unified and centralized State power. He suggests that the balance of power at the centre of the State should be replaced by a federative contract in which each commune, canton, province and region retains more power than it surrenders to the higher level; and that the division of power should be extended to functional separation of powers between different branches of industry.

Proudhon's federalism stems not only from a general belief in local autonomy but also from acute distrust of new nationalisms. He argues that many nationalist movements aspiring to create new nation States are based on the historical claims of old kingdoms or empires, and so embody a desire towards nationalist domination. His book on The Federative Principle is particularly critical of Italian nationalism for its lack of concern for the economic emancipation of the peasants, and its willingness to subordinate republican principles to the real politik demands of national unification under the Piedmontese King. Proudhon tries to distinguish between imperialistic forms of nationalism, and a concept of nationality based on culture, tradition and geographical factors, which would favour regionalism in Italy rather than a unified State. Proudhon's own brand of ardent patriotism is rooted first in his regional loyalty to the France-Comte. His belief in regional 'nationalism' is also entirely consistent with his advocacy of confederation. Nevertheless, his patriotism, allied to his insensitivity to the nationalist aspiration of others, led some of [63] his contemporaries to accuse him of, in effect, promoting the national interests of France. While Marx commented that Proudhon's attack on Polish nationalism in its struggle against Russia led to his writing 'for the greater glory of the tsar'. Proudhon may not have been guilty of any greater nationalist bias than Marx himself; but whereas the latter is supremely aware of the immediate political implications of his position, Proudhon seems more interested in extending his principles to logical (though not always consistent) conclusions. Despite the difficulties Proudhon's distrust of nationalist movements created for him, in retrospect his emphasis on the dangers of nationalism, which he said would promote autocracy internally and wars between nation States, seems more profound than the easy endorsement of nationalism by many liberals and radicals.

Proudhon's dislike of nationalism reflected his fear not only of any tendency to political centralization, but also of a trend towards centralization of economic power. Marx on the other hand insisted on the necessity of retaining that 'unity of great nations which, if originally brought about by political force, has now become a powerful coefficient of social production' (Selected Works, 293). In this view the nation State is one stage in that historical development which is creating the necessary conditions for socialism, as it promotes the progress of industrialization. Engels comments that 'by far the most important decree of the Commune instituted an organisation of large-scale industry and even of manufacture which was not only to be based on the association of the workers in each factory, but also to combine all these associations in one great union' -- an organizational form which would have led to communism. Therefore 'the Commune was the grave of the Proudhon school of socialism' (Selected Works, 260).


If Marxist support for national unity is related to acceptance of the need for full and rapid industrialization, Proudhon's emphasis on regionalism is certainly consistent with his general preference for a peasant economy and mode of life. A key distinction between Marxism and anarchism is in their view of industrialization. This contrast is complicated however by the fact that anarchists are themselves divided. Anarchist attitudes to industrial development fall into broadly three categories: opposition to industry as a dehumanizing process; acceptance of it as a necessary means of creating social wealth; and a conditional willingness to use industrial techniques, combined with proposals for directing industrial growth so that it is [64] compatible with decentralism, and maintains close links with agriculture. Tolstoy is the most extreme exponent of the first position. In his view factory work, and its concomitant division of labour, is the antithesis of the healthy labour of the peasant; and mass production is only necessary in a society corrupted by luxury. Tolstoy also dismisses the socialist belief that when the workers have become masters of the means of production they will adopt the living standards enjoyed by the bourgeoisie. Workers freed from the economic compulsion to do the jobs demanded by modern industry would refuse to be enslaved to machines, and would only accept a division of labour which produced obvious communal advantages. Abolition of wage slavery, like the abolition of serfdom, might require the loss of certain economic and cultural refinements now enjoyed by a few (see 'The Slavery of Our Times' in Essays from Tula).

Proudhon seeks to promote an anarchism based on an independent peasantry and small family workshops, whilst accepting the need for large-scale industry, which is to be owned and run by workers' co-operatives. Both agrarian independence and industrial co-operatives are to be promoted by economic measures: virtually free credit leading to free competition; and a system of mutual exchange, designed to eliminate the middlemen between producers and consumers, based on use of labour cheques. A People's Bank was the institution he hoped could promote both. He tried to inaugurate such a Bank in 1849, which was closed down for political reasons before its economic viability could be tested. Marx commented on Proudhon's ideas in a letter to J. B. Schweitzer (24 January, 1865):

Proudhon's discovery of 'Credit gratuit' and the 'banque de peuple' based upon it, were his last economic 'deeds'... That under certain economic and political conditions the credit system can serve to hasten the emancipation of the working class ... is quite unquestionable, self evident. But to regard interest-bearing capital as the main form of capital while trying to use a special form of credit, the alleged abolition of interest, as a basis for a transformation of society, is a thoroughly petty-bourgeois fantasy (Selected Correspondence, 190-1).
This critique is not entirely fair, since Proudhon did recognize the need for some social reforms -- for example, redistribution of land by the local communes. Proudhon's writings do, however, convey a tendency to rely on economic formulas. These had some influence in America, where social conditions encouraged a demand for free credit. But his main legacy to the anarchist movement has been his [65] emphasis on bypassing the political process, and concentrating on the independent economic action of the workers.

Proudhon has also helped to promote a tradition of positive support for agricultural as opposed to industrial values. Herbert Read writing almost a century later confesses:

I am by birth and tradition a peasant... I despise this foul industrial epoch -- not only the plutocracy which it has raised to power, but also the industrial proletariat which it has drained from the land and proliferated in hovels of indifferent brick (Anarchy and Order, 58-9).
Industrialization must, however, be endured in an attempt to get to the other side, when man can 'return to the land not as a peasant but as a lord'. Elsewhere Read stresses that it is retrogressive to forsake the inventions of modern technology, like the aeroplane and the telegraph, and that 'liberty is always relative to man's control over natural forces'. As a result he endorses without qualifications anarcho-syndicalism. The syndicalist is for Read 'the anarchist in his practical rather than his theoretical activity'. The syndicalist answer to the organization of the economy and administration of society is summarized as follows:
The syndicalist... proposes to liquidate the bureaucracy first by federal devolution. Thereby he destroys the idealistic concept of the State ... He next destroys the money monopoly and the superstitious structure of the gold standard, and substitutes a medium of exchange based on the productive capacity of the country -- so many units of exchange for so many units of production. He then hands over to the syndicates all other administrative functions -- fixing of prices, transport, and distribution, health and education. In this manner the State begins to wither away (Anarchy and Order, 101).
This picture owes a good deal to Proudhon, whose co-operatives foreshadowed the later concept of trade union control, and who had already in 1851 envisaged a similar role for professional associations when suggesting that education should be organized directly by parents and teachers. Proudhon assumed however an administrative function for the local communes, though he does not suggest a detailed geographical administrative system until his later, and less anarchist, work on The Federative Principle. The role of the local community in relation to industrial organization has been one of the issues tending to divide anarchists and syndicalists.

Bakunin and Malatesta represent that wing of anarchism which unhesitatingly accepts industrialism and technology. Malatesta takes [66] for granted the need for division of labour and the technical direction of collective undertakings on a large scale. He also favours, in principle, international control of crucial raw materials (coal, minerals, oil), but urges that in practice a country which achieved a socialist revolution would have to become self-sufficient, or do without these raw materials, until socialism was established everywhere. Bakunin's commitment to propagate anarchism among the peasants of Italy and Spain has meant that his anarchism is associated more closely with the peasant commune than the industrial collective (see, for example, Gerald Brenan, The Spanish Labyrinth, chapter VII on 'The Anarchists', which emphasizes this element in Bakunin's approach exclusively). Nevertheless, Bakunin fully endorsed Marx's economic theory and Marx's belief in increasing world economic interdependence. Daniel Guerin, writing on anarchism from a syndicalist standpoint, concludes his recent book L'Anarchisme as follows:

Constructive anarchism, which found its most accomplished expression in the writings of Bakunin, relies on organization, self-discipline, integration, a centralisation which is not coercive but federal. It depends on large-scale modern industry, on modern technology, on the modern proletariat, on internationalism on a world scale (181).

Bakunin contrasts economic and political centralization. In Switzerland, for example, the increase in political centralization after 1848 produced no progress except in the economic domain: 'like the introduction of a single currency, a single standard of weights and measures, large scale public works, commercial treaties, etc' (The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, 256). He denies that economic and political centralization are inseparable. 'Economic centralization, the essential condition of civilization, creates liberty; but political centralization kills it' (ibid.).

Other anarchists, however, have believed that local autonomy requires economic devolution. Kropotkin's Fields, Factories and Workshops is a detailed attempt to describe a decentralist use of modern technology suitable to an anarchist ideal of society. He seeks to combine craftsmanship with the benefits of scientific invention, and to create organic links between industry and the land in order to preserve rural values. He also aims to abolish excessive division of labour -- between individual workers, and between regions and countries specializing in one type of industry or agriculture. The idea is:

Each nation her own agriculturalist and manufacturer; each individual working in the field and in some industrial art; each [67] individual combining scientific knowledge with the knowledge of a handicraft -- such is, we affirm, the present tendency of civilised nations (6).
Small industries can use new technical developments to reduce manual labour and increase the output and quality of goods. Kropot-kin suggests that the main advantages of large-scale industry are not in the application of technology but in the command big organizations have over the market, both in purchasing raw materials and in securing outlets for their goods. While certain industries like iron works and mining enterprises require hundreds, or thousands, of workers to be on one spot, many factories either comprise several distinct industries under common management, or are 'mere agglomerations of hundreds of copies of the very same machine' (179). There are very few technical reasons why the machines should not be distributed between several establishments, or why the different processes of production should not be separated. Kropotkin also urges the potentialities of applying science to agriculture in order to increase production and cut down the time needed on agricultural labour. He backs up his prescriptions for an economy founded less on the division than the 'integration' of labour with an analysis of how far industrial technology is promoting new handicrafts and petty trades.

Technically and economically Kropotkin's research and specific proposals have naturally become outdated, a fact which leads Herbert Read (though in an introduction to Kropotkin's writings he suggests the details only require updating) to opt for industrial syndicalism. But other anarchists have insisted on the continuing relevance of Kropotkin's approach. Alexander Berkman stresses in his ABC of Anarchism, written in 1929, the importance of economic independence through self-sufficiency, citing the early experience of the Bolshevik Government trying to secure foreign capital. He also sees value in internal decentralization of industrial and agricultural organization if there were attempts to destroy the revolution by economic pressure. For the same reason Berkman deplores any attempt to suppress existing small-scale industries or home manufacturers. But his main reason for favouring such devolution is his estimation of its long term social effects in promoting contact 'between the farm and the city' and a sense of community. He regrets that 'most people are still in the thraldom of the Marxian dogma that centralization is more efficient and economical"'. Centralization not only degrades the worker to being a cog in the machine, but tends to concentrate the running of industry in the hands of a powerful bureaucracy (92). Paul Goodman writing since the last War has been pointing in a [68] direction similar to Kropotkin, to whose inspiration he pays tribute. While emphasizing the general trend towards centralization, and the disposition, when 'organization begins to creak' to 'enlarge it further by adding new bureaus and overseers', he suggests there are some examples of a contrary tendency:

The management of a giant corporation -- General Motors is the classic example -- can shrewdly decide to delegate a measure of autonomy to its corporate parts, because more flexible enterprising is more profitable in the long run. Similarly, a huge physical plant can be geographically dispersed, and the management somewhat decentralized, to save on labour costs ... (People or Personnel, 23).

Goodman is, however, more cautious than Kropotkin about the blessings of technical invention, and argues the need to make conscious choices about our use of technology. He quotes John Ullman, a scientist, to the effect that 'the invention of flight ... is probably on balance a curse' (Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals, 27). Technical assumptions tend toward centralization, and so create inefficiency :

For instance, it can be demonstrated that, except in highly automated factories where labour cost is small compared to fixed capital, or in heavy mining attached to its site, for the most part large scale industrial plants and concentrations of industry are less efficient than smaller ones that assemble parts machined in small shops; it is cheaper to transport the parts than the workers (Utopian Essays, 30-31).

As unit cost of production falls, so the unit cost of distribution rises; thus 'it is likely that much of the vast technology of food processing and transportation is inefficient'. Goodman points out also that in an age of machines most people have no notion of how they work, so 'the mass of people are in bondage to a system of service men for even trivial repairs' (32). Goodman is not against all centralization. He suggests that in certain areas where there are no district limits but something must be done -- for instance smog control, or rapid decisions must be taken -- for example air traffic control, or where there is a temporary emergency, central authority is necessary. There are also gains, as Bakunin saw, in central decision on standardization of currency or weights and measures. Indeed Goodman suggests that in certain areas, like standardized building materials or spare parts, more 'centralization' is required (People or Personnel, 9-11). Nor is he urging efficiency as a key criterion: 'A more human-scaled production has obvious political and cultural advantages; it [69] allows for more flexible planning, it is more conducive to scientific education and invention' (Utopian Essays, 32).

Goodman is speaking of a situation in which technological criteria are related to a particular type of profit-motivated economy, in a country where there is (despite areas of extreme poverty) an unprecedented degree of affluence. He comments, for example, on 'the tendency of the manufacturers to build obsolescence and nonrepair-ability into the machinery'. Though American society may be seen as a warning against uncritical pursuit of industrialization and its latest technology, a critique of the life style of a society moving into the automation age has little direct relevance to countries struggling for a subsistence level standard of living for their people, many of whom have not moved into the bicycle age. But there are a few groups in the Third World which favour a Kropotkin-style approach to economic growth, the most obvious example being the Gandhian movement in India. Gandhi himself always linked his political agitation for Indian independence to a constructive programme for building up economic independence, and promoting village crafts like weaving to combat dependence on English produced cottons. His approach was not unlike Berkman's: a practical sense of the requirements of revolutionary change, and a profound belief in the values of local community. Since Indian society, like Russia in the nineteenth century, rested primarily on the great mass of peasants living in semi-feudal conditions in the villages, Gandhi, like Tolstoy, looked to the tradition of the village commune, laid most stress on handicrafts as a form of self-help, and, like Tolstoy, saw a partial solution to poverty in voluntary abstinence. (This view was encouraged by his personal asceticism, which, also like Tolstoy, but more realistically, he adopted both for its moral virtues, and as a means of identification with the poorest peasants.) Gandhi's views on industrialization were ambiguous, and are open to varying interpretation, but he tended to differ from Tolstoy in welcoming industry and technology, provided they were socially applied to ease human labour, but not to throw the masses out of work; and were adopted on a human scale compatible with decentralist political democracy.

One Marxist criticism of the Gandhian approach is that it misunderstands the requirements of economic development. A Hungarian economist discussing Gandhi's ideas comments that Gandhi's 'dislike of modern technology and industry and his bias against towns' are mistaken, as industry is indispensable in every developing country, and 'wherever there is industry urbanization will be inevitable' (The New Hungarian Quarterly, No. 37, Spring 1970, 170). But Professor Bognar concedes that Gandhi was partially right: traditional technology, especially in India where there is an enormous [70] surplus of labour, will be needed for generations; and rapid increase in agricultural output is vital to stave off famine, so 'the weight of agriculture is substantially larger than was assumed in traditional "pro-industry" economic theories'. Finally, Gandhi's belief that 'recurring gaps in the balance of the economic development of society' could be bridged by reducing consumption (as well as expanding production) though it 'runs counter to the progress of human society and the economy' nevertheless makes some sense in a poor, densely populated, country with a high birth rate.

The City versus the Country

Conflicting attitudes to large scale industry are closely related to attitudes towards cities. Tolstoy totally rejects city life, which he sees as wantonly destructive of the beauties of nature, bad for people's health, and worse for their morals. Resurrection starts with this passage:

Though men in their hundreds of thousands had tried their hardest to disfigure that little corner of the earth where they had crowded themselves together, paving the ground with stones so that nothing could grow... filling the air with the fumes of coal and gas, cutting down the trees and driving away every beast and every bird -- spring, however, was still spring, even in the town (19).
Proudhon's peasant background and regional loyalty predisposed him to distrust the metropolitan culture of Paris. Paris, moreover, both symbolized and propagated the centralization of all branches of French life. As De Tocqueville wrote: 'Paris was becoming more and more the national arbiter of taste, sole centre of authority and of the arts, the focal point of all that was most vital in France . . .' (The Old Regime, 75). Proudhon is very aware that French Revolutions were too often both made and defeated in Paris. Rather than blaming the success of Caesarism in the 1850s on the conservatism of the peasants, he blames instead the political organization which allowed Paris to dominate France, and a political conception of democracy which enshrined this domination of the Provinces by a Paris-based Assembly. Kropotkin, on the other hand, combined respect for a peasant mode of life with an awareness of the liberating and cultural role of the medieval cities, which developed areas of self-government, promoted trade and prosperity, and encouraged technical and artistic skills. Kropotkin also responded eagerly to the Parisian revolutionary tradition from 1789 to 1871, and valued the radical consciousness it bred. [71]

The implications of the debate about the values of rural versus city life have changed with the impact of modern technology and industry on both, and on society in general. Paul Goodman suggests that in our present era of regimentation and urban anomie, there is a good deal of validity in both 'a conservative and peasant critique of centralized court and town as inorganic, verbal and ritualistic' (Tolstoy), and 'a democratic urban critique of centralized bureaucracy and power . . .' (he puts both Proudhon and Kropotkin into this category). Goodman adds: '"We need to revive both peasant self-reliance and the democratic power of professional and technical guilds ...' (People or Personnel, 12).

He is primarily concerned with revivifying these values within American cities. Together with Percival Goodman he has made detailed planning proposals for remedying some of the ills of New York and Manhattan -- the housing shortage, blighted industrial areas and traffic-congested streets -- whilst urging a degree of neighbourhood self-government in running schools, promoting urban renewal, and policing local areas. Specific proposals are, however, linked to a wider ideal for community planning and architecture. Form follows function. But is the function good? Does it make sense, and does it make for beauty, what are its consequences? Only such ethical questions will provide the basis for adjusting means to ends of community planning (Communitas 19).

Apart from accepting that growth of cities is inevitable, Marxist theory tends to be intrinsically more favourable to the values of city life. Marx's own attitude is diametrically opposed to Proudhon's peasant and rural bias. In the Manifesto Marx saluted the Bourgeoisie for having 'rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life'. In his analysis of the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, when he is explaining why the peasants do not strictly form a coherent class because of their isolation from each other, he compares them with overtones of contempt to 'a sack of potatoes'. On the other hand, Marx, and particularly Engels, were well aware of the horrors of industrial slums. If they made the connexion between city life and civilization denoted by the Latin word for city, (civitas), they also drew on the classical tradition in which cities were not only centres of culture and politics, but were (like the medieval cities) small in size, with the countryside easily accessible. Moreover, Marx recognized, at least in the abstract, that the gap between the city and the country was damaging to the inhabitants of both, and proposed in the Manifesto that a Communist society would end the distinction between town and country. [72]

Democracy and Egalitarianism

Diverging attitudes to the industrial and urban revolution are closely connected with differing assessments of the era of 'democracy' ushered in by the French Revolution. One of the overtones of the word 'democratic' has been willingness to identify with 'the people' or 'the masses', whom anti-democrats see as 'the mob' or the 'ignorant multitude'. Proudhon's attitude is interestingly ambivalent, and not altogether dissimilar from De Tocqueville's. The latter moves between appreciation of the particular virtues of the spirit of democracy, and reversion to an inborn sense of the superiority of aristocratic values. Proudhon moves between acting as a socialist spokesman for the wronged workers (even Marx commended his courage in adopting this role in 1848), and a positive disdain for the shiftless urban proletariat. Proudhon seems to draw on the republican tradition in which democracy is associated with urban mob rule, and the related danger that the masses, lacking the education or the economic independence to sustain civic liberty, will veer towards popular despotism. Indeed, Proudhon argued in The Federative Principle that historically the aristocracy and bourgeoisie have tended to protect liberty and federalism, whilst the masses have supported a despotic and unitary State. In The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century he comments that if he accepted totally the innate virtues of universal suffrage, he would have to support Louis Napoleon as the choice of the people. Proudhon draws the conclusion that the people are by circumstance objectively better placed to support liberty wholeheartedly than are the bourgeoisie, who sponsor liberalism, but necessarily rely on an exploitative economic and political system. But the people as a whole must be protected from their own folly by a federal structure which limits the effects of their mistakes. Complementary to this analysis Proudhon stresses the inherent defects in universal suffrage and the referendum, which rest on the fallacy of the collective will, and in practice will result in manipulation from the top.

Proudhon's attitudes tend to be reflected by Herbert Read, who can also display contempt for the majority of the people. 'Such a majority, as any intelligence test will immediately reveal, is inevitably an ignorant majority . . .' (Anarchy and. Order, 15). Read recognizes this attitude leads towards elitist politics, and elsewhere unhesitatingly endorses the need for genuine democratic participation in running society, while desiring to dispose of democratic shibboleths like 'universal franchise' which is 'no more essential to democracy than divine right is to monarchy'.

The tone of Kropotkin is much more consistently democratic. He [73] never wavers in his faith in the capacity of the people -- not just in a future society, but here and now if they are given half a chance. Whereas Proudhon distrusts revolution which may unleash 'anarchy' in the pejorative sense, Kropotkin welcomes revolutions which liberate the suppressed capacity for self-organization:

Give the people a free hand, and in ten days the food service will be conducted with admirable regularity. Only those who have never seen the people hard at work ... can doubt it. Speak of the organizing genius of the 'Great Misunderstood', the people, to those who have seen it in Paris in the days of the barricades, or in London during the great dockers' strike, when half a million of starving folk had to be fed, and they will tell you how superior it is to the official ineptness of Bumbledom (The Conquest of Bread, 79).

This view is not altogether antagonistic to Proudhon's belief that men must acquire political experience in local organization -- Kropotkin admits people may make serious mistakes in an electoral context, where they lack means or criteria for clear judgments. But Kropotkin is happy to take democratic risks -- Proudhon's caution underlies his general scepticism about the wisdom of any attempt to seize political power.

Kropotkin's democratic and revolutionary optimism is echoed by Berkman and Malatesta, though the latter, who had a strong sense of the political difficulties which would be encountered after a revolution, criticized Kropotkin for radiating excessive optimism on the question of a speedy solution to the problem of economic scarcity. Nor is it surprising that a democratic commitment should be linked to the total economic egalitarianism of the communist anarchists. Proudhon, on the other hand, opposed complete equality in the economic sphere. He believed that private property was an incentive to hard work; he also wished individual talent and industry to be rewarded. In his proposed co-operatives all individuals would be given varied experience and equal opportunities; but skill and responsibility would earn higher salaries. Proudhon, like many nineteenth-century liberals, also feared that a communally imposed equality would lead to a loss of individual independence and liberty, and defended the rights of private property as a necessary bulwark of personal liberty. "While recognizing State ownership of land might be preferable to the existing system of ownership, Proudhon attacks the do gma of 'association', and the principle of 'fraternity', as Utopian goals hiding a despotic tendency to force humanity into conformity with principles repugnant to human nature. [74]

Class Rule and Elites

Marx condemned Proudhon for his 'sham criticism' of Utopias in which 'there is the anticipation and imaginative expression of a new world', and replacing this Utopian communism by his own 'petty-bourgeois' Utopia (Selected Correspondence, 223), Marx is much closer to the anarchist communists in his commitment to equality and fraternity as social values, in his hopes for revolution, and trust in popular action. But Marxism parts company with anarchism on two points of political importance. Though Marxism has generally adopted the democratic language of the French Revolution, it has equally insisted that 'the people' form distinct social classes, and that the immediate aim of the socialist revolution is the class rule of the workers. Marxism has also been prepared to accept the validity of universal suffrage as a basis for democratic government in a socialist society. 'The way out of parliamentarianism', commented Lenin, 'is not, of course, the abolition of representative institutions and the electoral principle, but the conversion of the representative institutions from talking shops into "working" bodies' (The State and Revolution, 79). These two issues are particularly significant for the organization of society during the transition period from socialism to true communism envisaged by Marx. Bakunin suggests that both the idea of class rule, and reliance on universal suffrage, enhance the dangers implicit in the Marxist theory that in the transition period it is necessary to retain the instruments of the State -- this time a State governed by the majority class, the workers, and directed against the minority of the previous ruling class.

Bakunin is particularly wary of a theory of class rule which seeks to subordinate the peasantry to the workers: T do not believe that even under the most favourable circumstances the city workers will have sufficient power to impose communism or collectivism upon the peasants; and I have never wanted this way of realizing socialism, because I hate every system imposed by force' (The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, 400). When discussing what is meant by the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', Bakunin asks:

What does it mean: 'the proletariat raised into a ruling class' ? Will the proletariat as a whole be at the head of the government? ... This dilemma is solved very simply in the Marxist theory. By a people's government they mean the governing of people by means of a small number of representatives elected by the people. Universal suffrage -- the right of the whole people to elect its so-called representatives and rulers of the State -- this is the last word of the Marxists as well as of the democratic [75] school. And this is a falsehood behind which lurks the despotism of a governing minority... (287).

He comments that in response to the anarchists' polemic the Marxists had conceded that 'Anarchism or freedom is the goal, the State or dictatorship is the means.' However Bakunin maintains: 'No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation.' Therefore, as soon as the workers capture the State, they ought to 'proceed with its destruction*. Yet according to Marx the people should strengthen the State, 'and transfer it in this form into the hands of its benefactors, guardians, and teachers, the chiefs of the Communist Party' (288).

Anarchists' early experience of the Bolshevik regime in Russia, where a number of prominent anarchist exiles had returned to participate in the building of socialism, tended to confirm their belief in Bakunin's critique. The symbol of their final disillusionment was the attack on Kronstadt in 1921, when Lenin and Trotsky turned the 'workers'' army against the dissident sailors and workers demanding free Soviets. Alexander Berkman noted:

March 7 -- Distant rumbling reaches my ears as I cross the Nevsky ... Kronstadt has been attacked! Days of anguish and cannonading ... The people on the streets look bowed with grief, bewildered . . .

March 17 -- Kronstadt has fallen today. Thousands of sailors and workers lie dead in its streets. Summary execution of prisoners and hostages continues.

March 18 -- The victors are celebrating the anniversary of the Commune...

(from The Bolshevik Myth, 303).

Both Berkman and Emma Goldman produced specific critiques of the early evolution of Soviet Socialism. Bakunin's style of analysis is, however, at a level of such generality that it could be applied equally to Russia in the 1920s, 1930s or 1960s. For Bakunin himself, engaged in a movement still far from reaching its goal, a degree of rhetorical generalization was inevitable. But there is a temptation inherent in this style of polemical anarchism to allow opposition to the abstraction of 'the State' to preclude concrete understanding of any particular regime. As a result important political differences are swept aside as peripheral. 'There is only one kind of freedom: total freedom', writes a contributor to Anarchy, 'it cannot exist within the framework of somebody's state, not though his name be Dubcek, [76] nor Johnson nor Castro nor De Gaulle' (Anarchy, No. 94, December 1968, 383). Herbert Read commenting that in the course of the Civil War the Spanish Government had 'created, in the form of a standing army and a secret police, all the instruments of oppression', says therefore Franco's victory 'regrettable in that it leaves the power of the State in still more ruthless hands, is to be looked upon with a certain indifference . . .' (Anarchy and Order, 51-2).

One objection to Bakunin's denunciation of 'Marxism' is that it is positively misleading about Marx's own theory of the State. In the Manifesto Marx had certainly envisaged State control of credit, transport and communications, industry and land. The proletariat will, after winning political supremacy, 'centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e. of the proletariat organized as the ruling class' (Selected Works, 52). The definition of 'the State' here is sufficiently ambiguous to suggest the authoritarianism Bakunin detected. But Marx's overall position is anti-statist in emphasis. In his early writings he regarded the State as one aspect of alienation; and in his later years he attacked Lasalle's attempt to woo support from Bismarck's State, and was scathing about the slogan of the 'free state' adopted in the 1875 German Social Democrats' Gotha Programme. His pamphlet on the Commune, which he describes as 'the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of Labour' suggests no predisposition to impose a political form on a workers' revolution, and indicates a far from authoritarian view of the 'dictatorship' of the proletariat.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that whereas there are considerable differences between Marx and Proudhon, Bakunin is very close to Marx on many issues. For example Bakunin too maintains that what the Commune wanted 'was not the dissolution of the national unity of France but its resurrection'. This unity is the antithesis of a bureaucratic State regime. "Where Bakunin differs is insisting such unity must be 'federalist' in character (see The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, 272). Lenin basing himself on Marx speaks of 'voluntary centralism' and 'the voluntary amalgamation of the communes into a nation', which is not to be confused with a bureaucratic and military centralism imposed from above (The State and Revolution, 91-2). It is by no means clear how this differs from Bakunin's own programme of spontaneous federation, since in both formulations the organizational implications are vague. Max Nomad argues in Apostles of Revolution that Bakunin used libertarian slogans primarily as a politically useful tactic in his struggle against Marx's leadership of the First International. Nomad stresses Bakunin's own predisposition to rely on a revolutionary elite to act as a vanguard, [77] and suggests that Bakunin was foreshadowing organizational tactics later adopted by Lenin. Nomad's thesis is highly polemical and certainly questionable. He assumes that the existence of a conscious revolutionary minority must necessarily mean a dominant elite seizing power after a revolution. He also links Lenin and Stalin indiscriminately as Bakunin's unwitting heirs. But Nomad does usefully underline that Marxists and anarchists in the nineteenth century faced common problems of how to put their ideals into practice, that anarchism has remained primarily a doctrine of those in opposition, and that anarchist awareness of the traps of political power is no guarantee that they could avoid them. Indeed Nomad's description of Makhno's career suggests that in some circumstances they could not.

Leaving aside the question of adapting ideals to political realities, it is relevant that the Marxist ideal of a workers' democracy does diverge significantly from the anarchist communist ideal, exemplified by Kropotkin's comments on the Paris Commune. Kropotkin sees the Commune's adherence to the principle of government not as an illustration of the political realism of the workers engaged in a concrete experiment in socialist organization, but as a sign of lingering prejudice in favour of the institutions of the old society.

In the midst of the Commune the ancient principle of authority cropped up and the people gave themselves a Council of the Commune, on the model of municipal Councils elsewhere. And yet if we admit that a Central Government to regulate the relations of Communes between themselves is quite needless, why should we admit the necessity to regulate the mutual relations of the groups which make up each Commune ? (The Commune of Paris, 10).

Kropotkin is opposing any form of representative government, and relying solely on the free initiative of 'groups' and on the spontaneous inventiveness of individuals.

Social Administration without Government

As a comment on the best way of running a revolution Kropotkin's views are pertinent. There is ample evidence of practical improvisation to deal with immediate crises, and the liberating effect a revolution may have on men's imaginations. Kropotkin's most persuasive criticism of the Commune's city government is that it stultified its own goals: [78]

Paris sent her devoted sons to the Town Hall. There, shelved in the midst of files and old papers, obliged to rule where their instincts prompted them to be and do amongst the people, obliged to discuss where it was needful to act, and to compromise where no compromise was the best policy; . . . they saw themselves reduced to impotence. Being paralysed by their separation from the people ... they themselves paralysed the popular initiative (10).

Certain parallels exist between Kropotkin's observations on the Commune's government and the more or less irrelevant role played by the Spanish Government during the real military and social struggles of the Civil War. Anarchists can indeed point to numerous instances in which an official leadership tied to orthodox procedures of political organization, and to conventional concepts of political realism, have slowed down or betrayed a popular struggle. But it is far from certain that the total informality of organization proposed by Kropotkin is appropriate to dealing with long term problems of economic co-ordination, or that the degree of activism and involvement typical of revolution can be expected from people in day to day life, or that it is even to be welcomed as an ideal.

It is implicit in Kropotkin's approach here that not only the State machine will wither away, but all forms of governmental organization. If what government means is an administrative structure, then both federalist and syndicalist proposals clearly involve formal organization. If Kropotkin's ad hoc co-operation between groups within a commune were to continue it would certainly evolve into organizational routines -- though the way it had evolved might well affect its degree of flexibility and freedom from authoritarianism. But 'government' has other connotations -- of an 'authority' which may resort to force. Government in this sense is closely connected to the law -- both depending ultimately on police enforcement, but claiming to embody social values and aims, and maintained by the passive assent of the majority. If anarchists differ about details of economic and administrative organization, they are unanimous in declaring for the abolition of law and the police. The underlying theoretical model which leads them to this conclusion is not however always the same. There are at least three social models in which natural harmony supersedes imposed and distorting forms of 'order': the reign of economics, in which a hidden hand will promote a natural coincidence of interests; the reign of reason in accordance with natural law or historical evolution; and the traditional community exemplified by peasant villages or tribal organization.

The importance of economics dominated much nineteenth-century [79] thinking. The fascination of the new science, and the evidence that economic activity involved a multiplicity of operations which could not be fully comprehended by a single intelligence, and which could therefore be harmed by conscious regulation, contributed to the idea of self-regulating economic harmony. So did the impact of early industrialization and technology, which seemed to point to the potentiality of unlimited wealth. They also seemed to be creating conditions in which men became necessarily dependent upon one another, and so could be brought to follow their natural economic interests by voluntary co-ordination. The first vision owes much to Adam Smith, the second to Saint-Simon, who recognized the need for conscious planning, but believed the 'administration of things', in accordance with scientific principles, would replace the 'government of men' by the arbitary will of other men. Proudhon seems to draw on both images. The State will be dissolved into Society, according to Proudhon, when industrial division of labour supersedes class divisions; when the collective force of workers' co-operatives replaces that of government armies; when commerce promotes the replacement of law by contract; when 'centralization' of interests through credit takes the place of obedience to central power; and through free competition, equality of exchange, and equilibrium of values and properties.

The implicit natural law basis of anarchism has been developed in accordance with three different strands in political theory; belief in enlightened rationalism, in historical teleology, and in science as .a--' guide to social action. For Godwin moral principles are accessible to the reason of all right-thinking men and are self-evident truths which will constrain men to accept their conclusions with a kind of mathematical rigour. Bakunin also appealed to the moral conscience of mankind but was influenced by Hegelianism towards a view of history in which human consciousness develops through a necessary dialectic with social reality towards a true moral understanding. Bakunin's faith in reason is also supplemented by a sense of the diversity of society: the Adam Smith view of economics is broadened into a general view of the complexity of social activity, which cannot without repression be fitted into the mould of any governmental design. Bakunin argues that no individual or group can devise a social organization capable of satisfying the multiple and diverse interests, aspirations, and needs of the people. 'Such an organization would ever be a procrustean bed into which violence, more or less sanctioned by the State, would force the unfortunate society' (The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, 299). Therefore, only popular spontaneous organization is likely to realize this diversity and satisfy real interests and needs. [80]

Kropotkin elaborated the view that anarchism is based on the scientific study of society and natural history and so a rational attempt to live in harmony with natural and social 'laws'. He pointed to the role of natural instincts in creating a morality of sympathy between men, and to the role of tradition and social habit in creating a set of largely unquestioned beliefs which guide man's behaviour. For Kropotkin tradition and habit are analogous to the instinctual behaviour patterns of animals, and historical evolution parallels natural evolution. His moral views conflict with those of Godwin, who lays great stress on scrupulous rational calculation of the path of duty. Kropotkin stresses rather the role of natural instinct (for example, to protect a child), spontaneous sympathy, and the inspirational force of heroic or devoted actions, which society turns into legends and teaches its children.

Kropotkin's approach was strongly influenced by the concrete examples of the peasant communes, or the Siberian tribal communities, with their own customs and values. The importance of this model is even clearer in Tolstoy when he comes to talk about what will replace organized forms of law and punishment. The economic solution suggests that crime will disappear when individual interests are satisfied -- it has no built-in answer as to how intermediate difficulties should be met. The solution based on natural reason or conscience assumes crime is an error which reason and social progress can remedy, and in the interim the answer is moral suasion and the coercion of public opinion -- to which Godwin explicitly appeals. But the solution based on examples of previous or existing communities incorporates concrete procedures. Tolstoy comments:

Why suppose that there cannot be tribunals without violence? Trial, by people trusted by the disputants, has always existed and will exist, and needs no violence ... Russian communes migrating to distant regions, where our Government leaves them alone, arrange their own taxation, administration, tribunals, and police, and always prosper until government violence interferes (Essays from Tula, 116).

The Administration of Justice

Proudhon also looks to the past for his practical proposals about the administration of justice in his book on The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, but focuses on the history and theoretical development of the legal tradition itself. A distinction can be made between law which involves restitution for a wrong, [81] broadly the category of civil law; and law which involves punitive retribution, penal law. Durkheim discussed this distinction, but considered that punishment expressing the moral reprobation of the community was a necessary aspect of social cohesion; and that the moral norms of any society would always tend to be so constricting that they would promote individual deviance and rebellion. Proud-hon, however, uses this distinction to argue that the concept of reparation (to individuals or to society) should be extended to the realm of penal law to eliminate entirely the idea of vengeance. A second and related distinction is between arbitration -- neutral mediation between conflicting parties who agree to accept the arbiter's decision, and the judgment of legal courts representing imposed authority. Proudhon seeks to replace judges by arbiters who will be elected by both parties to a case.

Proudhon's suggestions have precedents in primitive law, which as De Jouvenel comments 'could do without means of coercion. Judgment was an arbitral award accepted in advance. Maine noted the entire absence of sanctions in the earliest systems of Law' (Power, 275-6). Kropotkin stresses in his pamphlet on The State that common law or customary law provides a greater protection for individuals and greater independence for communities. 'Customary law naturally pertains to local life and Roman law to centralisation of power' (35). Kropotkin draws on Maine's Ancient Law to describe how justice was understood and administered in tribal and village communities, and adds:

all notions of right which we find in our codes (mutilated to the advantage of minorities), and all forms of judicial procedure, in so far as they offer guarantees to the individual, had their origin in the village community. Thus, when we imagine we have made great progress -- in introducing the jury for example -- we have only returned to the institution of the barbarians, after having modified it to the advantage of the ruling classes (15).

Kropotkin wished to restore the unity between social attitudes and the administration of justice that existed under customary law, by eliminating formal legal codes, which tend to perpetuate a rigid class structure based on legal distinctions, and to crystallize social institutions and attitudes long after society itself has begun to change. Kropotkin's point can be amply illustrated from English law -- for example, the heavy sentences attached to crimes against property, the long campaign required to alter legislation on homosexuality, and the perpetuation on the statute books of crudely drafted legislation uke the Official Secrets Act of 1911 (whose repressive potentialities aroused concern early in 1970). [82]

But it is clearly impossible simply to transpose a model of administering justice appropriate to a small, traditional and tightly knit community to a large, mobile and anonymous urban population. And it is even less possible to rely, as Godwin and Proudhon suggest, on the application of general principles of justice, dispensing both with formally defined rules of law and with formal procedures for administering them. Informal justice presupposes an agreement on moral and judicial principles, and their procedural application, unlikely except in a society with the cohesion and traditions which rationalism tends to destroy. Similar problems arise in relation to Kropotkin's desire to create a more flexible set of legal rules amenable to social change. Unless one can assume social homogeneity there may be passionately held divisions on issues of moral and social conduct and appropriate penalties. Moreover, Kropotkin is taking for granted a steady 'progression' in public opinion, whereas recent experience in Britain suggests that 'progressive' legal and penal reforms are supported only by a minority. Indeed, one strong argument in favour of legislation in areas like racial, religious or sexual discrimination is that the existence of laws carrying the weight of legal authority will influence public opinion in an egalitarian direction.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to notice that modern theories of penal reform tend to agree with nineteenth-century anarchist writers who criticized not only the barbarity of existing modes of punishment, but their social effects and their irrelevance in preventing crime. Considerable doubt has now been cast both on the idea of punishment as a form of social retribution and on the uses of punishment as a deterrent. Whilst there is a new danger, as anarchists have noticed, that modern psychology and sociology will be used simply as a more subtle instrument for manipulating 'social deviants', experiments in penal reform and developments in psychological theory do hold out possibilities of alternatives to the present penal system. Similarly there are areas of modern law -- for example, legislation to prevent discrimination -- in which law is used in a more flexible and less punitive manner, with a greater emphasis on arbitration, and a greater reliance on individuals and local communities to make the law effective. Despite anomalies involved in drafting and implementing this type of law, it provides a model which might be extended. Whether judicial 'arbitration' between individuals is, as Proudhon suggested, appropriate to crimes like violent assault is more questionable. Kropotkin in his account of village justice in fact suggests that the village commune made a collective 'judgment' when finding the appropriate sentence for a crime under customary law.

Anarchists concerned to promote a more flexible, socially realistic and humane administration of law tend to look to the local [83] community both as the unit in which a wide range of laws should be implemented, and as the unit in which any enforcement necessary should be carried out. Proudhon urged that every workshop, corporation, commune and locality should organize its own police just as it should organize its more general administration. Kropotkin recognizing that the family unit which used to bind its members together in a community of welfare is disintegrating, looks to new geographical and economic communities to play a similar role in dealing with 'moral' as well as 'material' troubles, for instance looking after 'criminals'. Paul Goodman suggests that in America the violence of modern urban police, and their ineffectiveness in preventing crime, points to the need for smaller units within cities to run their own police -- a proposal which makes obvious sense for ghetto communities.

Utopian Thinking and Historical Progress

Anarchists tend to vary between making specific, gradualistic proposals in areas like police and penal reform, and upholding a radical and absolute demand for abolishing existing courts, jails and police forces. The former is more immediately relevant, and more likely to win converts among non-anarchists. But uncompromising radicalism can be justified at three levels. Without a 'utopian' commitment to question the underlying assumptions of social practices, proposals for reform tend to bypass the central problems, and may ameliorate a situation which ought never to be tolerated. Secondly, as Kropotkin indicates when discussing nineteenth-century changes in the treatment of the insane, there is often historical evidence that what seems 'utopian' to one generation is accepted as obvious good sense by their successors. Oscar Wilde commented that 'A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing . . . Progress is the realization of Utopias' (The Soul of Man under Socialism, 43). Thirdly, as Kropotkin also emphasized, most people are prisoners of their own education, and of the reigning conventional wisdom. So their world view shuts out large stretches of historical experience, alien areas of social reality, and a vision of future possibilities. De Tocqueville, the least Utopian of theorists, recognized the significance of this social blindness. He wrote of the mid-eighteenth-century French 'Physiocrats':

It is a curious fact that when they envisaged all the social and adminstrative reforms subsequently carried out by our [84] revolutionaries, the idea of free institutions never crossed their minds ... political liberty in the full sense of the term was something that passed their imagination or was promptly dismissed from their thoughts if by any chance the idea of it occurred to them (The Old Regime, 159).

Marxism also retains a Utopian dimension, which it inherits from the historical optimism of the nineteenth century, and which is intrinsic to any revolutionary political movement. But Marxism lays much greater stress on the requirements of political and sociological realism, which demarcate the boundaries of Utopian possibility. 'Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered and transmitted from the past' ('The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte', Selected Works, 97). Marxists accept the need for institutionalized systems of law and government in any foreseeable socialist future. While Engels endorses Saint-Simon's slogan that the government of men will give way to the administration of things, he comments elsewhere in a highly critical analysis of Bakunin that 'in this society there will above all be no authority'. He adds 'how these people propose to run a factory, operate a railway or steer a ship . . . they do not of course tell us' (Selected Correspondence, 336). Marx and Engels did envisage that the socially repressive aspects of the State would fully disappear when communism had been realized, but left the organizational forms of such a society open. In all their specific statements about the nature of a post-revolutionary socialist society they assume delegation of authority to government bodies, and a democratically organized system of law. Marx commenting on the Commune approved the measures whereby magistrates and judges were to be 'elective, responsible, and revocable' and thus 'divested of that sham independence which has but served to mask their abject subserviency to all succeeding governments ...' (Selected Works, 291-2).

Ernest Barker has suggested that Marxism revived through Hegel the Greek conception of politics, in which State and Society are not distinguished, and that Marx wished to dissolve the State and reabsorb its activities into Society. This suggestion is illuminating -- though Barker himself then confuses the issue by assuming Marx equated 'society' with economic activity. Athens provides a rare model of democratic and egalitarian government based on public debate and the possibility of all citizens holding office: direct democracy may be seen as means of dissolving a separate State power into Society. Athens also provides a model of law being operated in a democratic and political mode, prosecutor and defendant pleading [85] their own case before a large jury of fellow citizens. The defects of this system of law, noted by constitutionalist theorists who prefer the classical model of Rome, spring from its democratic character. Athens was not in any sense explicitly idealized by Marx and Engels. It was, as Engels points out, based on slavery, degraded the status of women, and represented, in his analysis, the movement towards private property and centralized government power, in place of the equality, communalism and independence of the previous tribal societies. Moreover, a communism looking to the future was impatient of revolutionaries who dressed up in the clothes and symbols of antiquity. Engels regarded Athens as 'the prototype of the self-governing American municipality', but not a symbol of revolutionary possibilities. He concludes his study of the 'Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State' with a quotation from the anthropologist Lewis Morgan. The forthcoming society will be 'a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality and fraternity of the ancient gentes' (Selected Works, 593).

It is, however, crucial to the Marxist approach that modern communism will be the product of an historically evolved social consciousness, drawing on the benefits of economic development and intellectual development, including a new understanding of the social powers which now appear to men as uncontrollable and alien forces. This understanding will enable men consciously to control social activity. The kind of culture and consciousness envisaged is not unlike the humanist confidence and creativity evolved in the Greek city state, but incorporating modern science and the much richer sense of individuality developed by bourgeois society. The conception of humanism which Marxism embodies stems both from the optimism of the French Revolution, which promulgated the universality of the 'rights of man', and from the influence of Hellenism on the German cultural renaissance around the beginning of the nineteenth century. Marx did, however, believe in his later writings that historical development had not only exacted a heavy price in the past, but that some price must be paid in the future. For example, the demands of industrialism must limit the free scope of the individual worker -- a limit which automation may now transcend; or developing sophistication destroys certain kinds of art and culture.

The anarchist tendency to look to the medieval guild or township, or to present tribal or peasant societies, rather than to the evolution of existing trends, has by comparison both strengths and weaknesses. It avoids a facile optimism about 'progress', and the danger of identifying progress with technology; and it also challenges a crude historical determinism. But when Kropotkin, seeking [86] to prove the possibility of 'harmony in an ever-changing and fugitive equilibrium between a multitude of varied forces and influences' (Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal, 8), says this popular tendency can be found in 'the clan, the village, the guild and even the urban commune of the Middle Ages in their first stages', he is dodging historical and sociological issues. Kropotkin bypasses the fact that growth of individualism is usually associated with the breakdown of medieval institutions, or the escape of the individual from the clan. He also appeals to the rule of custom without examining its possibly restrictive effects on individuality or the development of intellectual culture. If an urban and industrial society is expected to revert to the flexible rules of custom, in preference to formal law or government of any kind, then the realism of this approach is questionable. If on the other hand one is aiming to avoid changing tribal or peasant societies where these still exist, idealizing custom tends to become conservative. Tolstoy recognizes that turning to the village commune entails a rejection of urban and 'civilized' culture, science and art. Proudhon is less willing to reject philosophy and science. But like Tolstoy he accepts as an ideal a peasant mode of living, including the patriarchal family, which assigns women to then-permanent place in the home.

The Meaning of Politics

Even if one grants the possibility of forming new communities endowed with a libertarian consciousness, an anarchist society which avowedly relies on social control by a local community to replace formal law and police is in danger, as George Orwell once pointed out, of appealing to an extremely coercive public opinion. Moreover, whatever the values of community by comparison with the anonymity and inhumanity of large cities, loss of anonymity may also mean a serious loss of personal freedom. It is true that a genuine and fairly stable community like a village may show more concern for individuals, and more tolerance of eccentricity, than a larger society governed by general codes and fashions; but its disapproval is also more overwhelming.

An anarchism which appeals primarily to the role of the local community tends towards using the family as an attractive image for social organization. The family has indeed always been a favoured model -- socialists overthrew the patriarchal image of the family which justified paternal authority in government in favour of fraternal equality. There are, however, difficulties in seeking to extend the affection and personal understanding possible within a family circle [87] to a larger society -- since the extension is either metaphorical or forced. This is true even of a society very small by modern standards, for example, classical Athens. Conscious deliberations about a society as a whole deal in categories of people and interests, and must exclude the unique personality and circumstances of each person affected by social decisions. Rousseau saw this gap between personal and communal interest, but resolved it in favour of public duty, whilst suggesting that ideally each person in his capacity as citizen would understand and agree the need to promote the 'general will' before his private needs or wishes. It is this impersonal aspect of judicial and political decisions and procedures that easily promotes inhumanity, that creates a gap between public and private morality, and arouses passionate protest against the artificialities of law and government. It is this sense that there is a separate realm of public affairs, which cannot be assimilated to other aspects of private life, which we inherit from the classical tradition, and which provides a primary definition of 'politics' (see Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition). Proudhon partially recognized the distinction between a private and public sphere when he urged the danger of trying to impose an artificial fraternity on society—but then appeared to deny politics in favour of economics.

It is possible, however, to see in Proudhon's espousal of economics a recognition of a basic distinction between a 'social principle' and a 'political principle'. The concept of economic activity can easily be extended to social activity -- the identification of the two was not uncommon in the nineteenth century, and still dogs interpretations of Marxism. The German anarchist, Gustav Landauer, writing at the beginning of this century, drew a distinction between social and political action based on Proudhon's affirmation that social revolution was quite different from political revolution. Landauer's ideas are developed by his friend Martin Buber in an essay 'Society and the State' (reprinted in Pointing the Way). The difference between State and Society is the difference between two kinds of relationship and two modes of behaviour which have always coexisted, but have often not been distinguished. The social principle involves action by equals co-operating together, and is a principle of community. 'Political' action involves relationships of domination and subordination, and therefore the use of force, and is typical of the State. Buber goes on to suggest that political organization gives men at the top more power than they need to fulfil a specific function, and so they extend and consolidate this surplus of 'power' -- a power which in reality stems from the social group as a whole.

The ambiguity of terminology, which confuses much political theorizing, is here revealed. Because the anarchist principle of 'social [88] action' seems very close to the Greek conception of 'polities', realized most fully in direct democracy, Buber suggests that the Greeks confused the social and political sphere. This is misleading. While the polis comprised both the social and political community, the Greeks made a very clear distinction in principle between co-operative action between equals -- 'polities', and the relationship of force and domination epitomized by the rule of a master over slaves. In practice, however, politics of course tended to involve force and domination in various forms. The notion of 'politics' has by now come to include positive recognition of the necessity of force and coercion, of meeting 'power' with power, and of compromise with social realities in ? very imperfect world -- which is why anarchists reject 'polities', and Marxists, in the short term at least, do not. [89]