Review of book about the CNT’s integration into the State

June 2024 Forums Events and announcements Review of book about the CNT’s integration into the State

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    … what you are describing as anarchism seems to have more to do with Stirner than Bakunin, Kropotkin or Malatesta. Contrary to what is written in a lot of the commentaries Stirner was not a founding influence on anarchism…

    Marx certainly thought that Stirner, Proudhon and especially Bakunin were a founding influence on anarchism. He wrote extensively against them for that reason.


    LEW knows whereof he speaks. If I remember right he reviewed Paul Thomas’ Karl Marx and the Anarchists way back in the 1980’s. The book dealt with Marx’s dealings with Stirner, Proudhon and Bakunin. I think that review got LEW into a bit bother with the SPGB anarchists.
    But it was a long time ago so the old memory might be letting me down.


    Speaking of anarchist communists, will someone obtain and review in SS the new big book by Anarchist Communist Group member [?] Nick Heath, ‘The Idea : Anarchist Communism, Past, Present and Future’?

    (Don’t bother with the booklet, also new, by Brian Morris, ‘Communist Anarchism a Defense’. That, I have, and thought reading it was mostly a big waste of time.)


    FWIW here’s a quote from one of the best scholarly studies of anarchism. ‘Black Flame’ by Schmidt and Van Der Walt

    In other words, genuine individual freedom and individuality could only exist in a free society. The anarchists did not therefore identify freedom with the right of everybody to do exactly what one pleased but with a social order in which collective effort and responsibilities that is to say, obligations would provide the material basis and social nexus in which individual freedom could exist. This is entirely at odds with Stirner’s views. Stirner believed that “the egoist” thinks “only of himself, only of “my cause” and not of anything more, whether that be “the Good Cause, then Gods cause, the cause of mankind, of truth, of freedom, of humanity, of justice; further, the cause of my people, my prince, my fatherland; finally, even the cause of Mind, and a thousand other causes.” The “name of egoist” must be applied to the “man who, instead of living to an idea, i.e. a spiritual thing,” is always “sacrificing it to his personal advantage.”

    Between the notion of freedom articulated by Stirner and that of the anarchists lies an abyss. For Bakunin, a persons “duties to society are indissolubly linked with his rights.”The watchwords of popular emancipation were freedom and solidarity. Such solidarity was “the spontaneous product of social life, economic as well as moral; the result of the free federation of common interests, aspirations and tendencies.” Most important, he emphasised, it “has as its essential basis equality and collective labour—obligatory not by law, but by the force of realities and collective property.” Kropotkin likewise insisted that “all must be put on the same footing as producers and consumers of wealth,” and “everybody” must contribute to “the common well-being to the full extent of his capacities.

    • This reply was modified 11 months, 1 week ago by DJP. Reason: Quote source added

    “Speaking of anarchist communists, will someone obtain and review in SS the new big book by Anarchist Communist Group member [?] Nick Heath, ‘The Idea : Anarchist Communism, Past, Present and Future’?”

    It’s worth a read, though it lacks an index, and the formatting of the text makes it hard in places to tell if the writing is from Heath, or if he is directly quoting.

    Heath doesn’t think Stirner influenced the foundation of anarchism either – as one example, the writings of Stirner weren’t widely available in Italian until the twentieth century, until after anarchist-communism had taken off there.


    I thought we had reviewed that book by Nick Heath, but apparently not. But I remember now. We were going to but the reviewer said it was boring, a real trudge to get through, and had no index, and didn’t submit a review because he didn’t want to have to offend the author.

    We certainly discussed it here before:

    Anarchist Book Launch 19/11

    Incidentally, Brian Morris had a letter in the June Socialist Standard defending Marx as philosopher.


    Quite a while back in this thread ZJW mentioned that:

    “Amusingly, the Western Socialist in 1948 published an article by Pannekoek in which he says: ‘The strikers themselves may not be aware of it — neither are most socialists– they may have no intention to be revolutionary, but they are. And gradually consciousness will come up of what they are doing intuitively, out of necessity; and it will make the actions more direct and more efficient.’”

    Was there any commentary on the article written by the Western Socialist? Seems a strange position for them to endorse?


    It will be this article:

    It was introduced as;

    “[This is the second of two articles by Anton Pannekoek. The first appeared in the November WESTERN SOCIALIST under the title “Public Ownership and Common Ownership.” As is the case of the first article we are not in agreement with the views expressed. We therefore append our comments.]”

    Below is what the WESTERN SOCIALIST editors commented. Far from an endorsement and no doubt what you would have expected, DJP.

    Editorial Comment

    Pannekoek follows in the footsteps of a long line of people who have dis­carded old errors only to take up new ones. Observing the failure of labor parties and trade unions to function as agencies for socialism, he turns now, not to the growing numbers of genuine socialists, but to the groups of workers throughout the world who have lately been given vent to their discontent in “wild strikes”. “They may have no intention to be revolu­tionary”, he says, “but they are”. In this manner does he take his place in the ranks of the “unconscious revolutionaries”.

    Revolution is a conscious act. It can no more issue from blind and sporadic revolts of workers than it can from the fulminations of labor politicians or the bread and butter activities of the trade unions. It can result only from the conscious and deliberate efforts of workers who have become socialists. The failure of laborism, which Pannekoek wrongly calls parliamentary socialism, has not been a failure to introduce socialism. That has not been its aim. Its fail­ure has been to make capitalism fit for workers to live under.

    Pannekoek speaks of state officials becoming the “directors of a planned economy, regulating production and consumption”. Does he really believe that capitalism can be planned? An elaboration on this point would be interesting. Even in Russia, where the highest possible degree of state control exists, the government has frequently been compelled by unforseen factors to modify its plans. Com­modity production does not lend itself readily to plans.

    He speaks also of the “capitalist mechanism of increasing prices”. If the capitalists really possess such a mechanism, why did they not put it into operation during the depression years instead of wringing their hands in agony as prices tumbled steadily? And why do they resist wage increases? Surely it would be easier for them to add these increases to prices.

    Until Pannekoek pays greater attention to the real voice of social­ism, he is simply exchanging one set of illusions and disappointments for another.


    Regarding the Pannekoek article, I note that he is talking specifically about strikes that challenge state power – not just any strike about pay and conditions – that is why he says these types of strikes are revolutionary. I think that makes it a bit more understandable. But even so, it’s a bit of a leap to think that these kinds of actions will somehow spontaneously, without conscious effort or theoretical work, transform into action for communism and not just die down once demands are met, or resistance is exhausted.


    I’d forgotten there was that thread mentioning both the Heath and Morris books. (A good reason to use the search function before wantonly posting.)

    One thing I would hope the Heath book has — has it, DJP? — is something of a list of anarchist communist groups around the world that took an internationalist position during the Second World War. ‘Chapter 16: Anarcho-Syndicalism during the Second World War’ of Vadim Damier’s ‘Anarcho-syndicalism in the 20th Century’ ( read it online at ) may have omissions in this regard, I’d think, since the book is about anarcho-syndicalism and not all anarchist-communists have been syndicalist.


    “One thing I would hope the Heath book has — has it, DJP? — is something of a list of anarchist communist groups around the world that took an internationalist position during the Second World War.”

    Information on that is probably in the book, but you’d have to read through the various chapters on region histories to find it.

    Incidentally, I’ve been told a second edition of this book has already been printed and there will be an index available online.

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