A comrade—or perhaps I should say a “fellow worker”— on Facebook asked a series of excellent questions about the differences between anarchism and communism. I thought the questions were good enough to deserve their own post. There is nothing academic about this issue. Trumpism is creating both outrage and disorientation. We’re seeing mass protests triggered by Trump’s reactionary, racist, anti-immigrant anti-working class policies; we’re seeing the Democrats attempt to turn all of this outrage into support for war drives against Russia; we’re seeing anarchist groups—maybe led by provocateurs, maybe not—attempt to substitute themselves for the masses by committing individual acts of violence. We need to ask: what is our end game? What are we fighting for? A President Pence? Raise your hand if you think that’s a good idea. Back to the attacks on living standards and human rights, and the wars of the last 16 years, that put us into a position where a Trump could win an election? Even if possible, that would only create conditions for a Trump v2, which would be worse.
If our goal is, as I think it should be, the revolutionary reconstruction of society based on human need rather than individual profit, then it is worth taking some time to look at where we’re trying go, and to me, the questions I was asked strike to the heart of that. So, let’s begin:
Isn’t “true” communism ultimately a state-less organization of cooperative and planned labor and distribution, without coercement or, again, the state?
IF this premise is correct (and again, please correct me), then how is this fundamentally different from a form of anarchism?
Yes, that is fundamentally correct. The difference is this: Marxists believe that, as the state exists to protect property, capitalist property relations must be destroyed first; efforts to destroy the state while capitalist property relations still exist strike me as implausible—which is to say, I don’t know how anyone would go about it—and catastrophic if it were to happen. While capitalists still have their wealth and privileges (ie, property) they would simply use these to secure the armed forces to protect them, which is, in essence, the state. Whereas once the mechanisms of the state (military, police, jails &c) are in the hands of the working class, these mechanisms can be used to enforce the expropriation and to protect the working class from counter-revolution.
You might argue that, in the first case, the armed masses themselves would prevent counter-revolution. But this requires organization, and once you have organized armed bodies prepared to do violence over property rights, you have—the state.
Also, in my understanding, socialism is a mid-point in the path toward communism, right? Where the state still exists but is truly of, by, for the people/laborers?
That is also my understanding, yes.
If it’s the function of ownership protection, except instead of protecting the capitalists’ ownership but rather the proletariats’ ownership, then, isn’t the belief it’ll “whither away” naive? Because state involves power, and no one ever allows their power to just be voted away. Is this where “permanent revolution” comes in? (Seriously asking, here.)
The state exists to enforce property rights on behalf of a definite social class. When property is in the hands of the working class, it exists to protect those rights and prevent capitalist restoration. But what happens later, when there are no capitalists? When everyone is working class, no one is working class; and if there are no classes, then there is no one for the state to protect property from. Why, then, would it continue to exist? Certainly, some forms of organization must still exist, because we live in a complex society that requires coordination; indeed, this ability to planfully coordinate the economy in the interests of all is one of the strengths of communism. But I can think of no reason why this coordination would require armed force, or coercion of any kind.
Does that answer your questions?