“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
The issues between Anarchism and Leninism must be dealt with, not ignored and sorted out at a later time, as some “left-unity” advocates preach. Neither can the two camps disregard each other and vie for dominance. Because that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for 170 years. Leading Communists from one defeat to another as energy and revolutionary momentum is wasted fighting between the two camps. And they are of the same house! No one of either camp can insist that the other is “not real Communists,” because both camps have the same ultimate goal. When two groups fight for the same thing, they have no choice but to share the same space and fight the same enemies. Enemies which will take advantage of any conflict between the two groups to foil all attempts to obtain the prize by either group. We have to reconcile these two camps, we have to end this conflict permanently. Which isn’t impossible, as the conflict really arises from us throwing around terms that we seldom take the time to look at, to understand what each other means. State, Authoritarian, and whatnot.
The reason Leninists advocate for the establishment of a Socialist Transitional-State, is because of what they define as a State. As I have already pointed out: Engels and Lenin defined it as a type of Government that is held above society, a Government that enforces class-divides. Leninists argue that this physically cannot be eliminated immediately, simply because of the fact of it’s nature. The Government established by the Proletariat to eliminate Capitalism and class is, by this definition, a State. But it is a state that eliminates itself as a State through the act of eliminating private ownership and control over the means of production and Capitalist class systems. Engels describes it, as quoted by Lenin in “State and Revolution”:
“The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state.”
That is what is meant by “Transitional-State.” Once such systems are eliminated, once the means of production is fully Democratized, Leninists argue that the Government is no longer a State.
This is a fact that most Anarchists even acknowledge. They readily admit that the State is a Government used to enforce class-divides, and they don’t actually believe that Capitalism can be eliminated overnight. It is not a switch that can simply be flipped, making the means of production Democratically-managed in an instant. Thus neither can the State, as Leninists define it, be eliminated overnight, as even Anarchists wish to prohibit the Bourgeoisie from participating in systems set-up to eliminate their control over political and economic power, and thus eliminate the existence of that class and reducing its members to simply being members of society.
The conflict between Leninists and Anarchists arises over what Anarchists point to when they refer to Authoritarianism: highly centralized and Oligarchical Governmental-Power, which Anarchists argue must be eliminated from any Governmental system. Anarchists recognize the need to empower the whole Proletariat in Government through its very structure. Because if the Government is structured in a way that concentrates power in a small group of people’s hands, then it will never eliminate itself as a State. Because even after it has eliminated Capitalist systems, it will continue to enforce the class divide of the Governed and the Governors through it’s very structure; Governance will continue to be alienated from the vast majority of the Proletariat during the revolution, and the people as a whole after Capitalist systems are eliminated.
Interestingly, Lenin himself echoes this in “State and Revolution”:
“…the proletariat needs only a state which is withering away, i.e., a state so constituted that it begins to wither away immediately, and cannot but wither away.”
The State cannot wither away if it is structured in a way that continues to hold itself above society. If it is so constituted, then it neither eliminates private ownership and control over the means of production, nor class. Instead merely consolidating both under itself, and holding itself above society, manages both like a monopolistic corporation.
In this we can find common ground between Anarchists and Leninists. Because once we both acknowledge this, we can structure a Government that satisfies both sides. A Government that is structured so that the people, the Proletariat, are the government from the very beginning. That way, as the Government eliminates Capitalist systems, it eliminates all class systems as well, and thus eliminates itself as a state.
Those who argue that power must be concentrated in the hands of “the most class-conscious” temporarily, during the revolution, are expressing simple naivety and the very “infantile disorder” that Lenin was so critical of “Left-Communists” for. Because people are resistant to change, always. Especially when there is a fear that such change will empower those they oppose. This is why there will always be people in those positions of power who feel that it is “not yet time” to restructure the Government away from statehood, to give power to the people as a whole. This is why such a Governmental structure will always necessitate a second revolution to overthrow the first Revolutionary-Government. Which is, obviously, absurd and needlessly destructive, and ends up opening the door for Capitalism to reassert itself. Which is exactly what happened in the Soviet Union.
It’s doubtful that the majority of people who resisted the KGB coup d’etat wanted to reinstall Capitalism, but rather felt that they were fighting for the original spirit of Communism. And perhaps even had the noble goal of building a truly Proletarian Government that was not constituted as a State. After all, it was reforms such as “Perestroika,” which privatised many aspects of the Soviet Union’s economy and thus began rebuilding Capitalism, which led to the fall of the Soviet Union’s economic system in the first place. This is further testified by the fact that 71% of the population of the Soviet Union voted to retain its existence. After all, it was in prime condition to install a proper and permanent Government that was not a State. Despite “Perestroika” the major parts of the means of production was not privately owned, and all significant Capitalist class systems had been eliminated.
But by this time, the forces of Capitalism had already taken advantage of the weakened state of the Soviet Union, brought on by the mistakes of the Soviet Union’s Oligarchy, like “Perestroika,” and more importantly by the vacuum in power left by the revolution of 1991. So the desires of the people were ignored, and Capitalism was reinstalled.
This would not have happened if the Soviet Union’s State had been constituted as Lenin had desired, and as the Anarchists advocated it should be. If power was not concentrated in the hands of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (indeed, the Committee should not have existed at all), reducing the Congress of Soviets to a mere rubber-stamp service for the Committee’s decisions, there would have never been the need for a second revolution. The State would have eliminated itself as a State in the early 1920’s as it won the Civil War and eliminated Capitalism. Thus achieving Communism, or as close to Communism as is possible while Capitalism still rules over the rest of the world.
However, we’ve also seen Anarchist systems fail similarly. Because in the past they’ve manifested themselves as parochial and disparate communities and groups, only loosely allied with each other. Allowing any group to “opt-out” whenever they feel like it, making the whole movement weaker and unable to stand against the onslaught of reaction. This also has made them less appealing to large movements, and indeed many Anarchist revolutions even rejected large-scale methods all-together. Leaving them alone and isolated. Anarchists must throw off such inward focus, and build a system that is not only dissipated in political power, but linked through interdependence between all communities and groups. Because even after the revolution, parochial independence isn’t to be desired. As it cannot provide a community with a modern standard of living. We cannot have modern medicine, infrastructure, personal technology, nor goods in regions they do not grow, without large-scale interdependence between communities. This Leninist argument is correct.
We need a large Governmental system (in the way I’ve been using “Government”) to facilitate such things. Otherwise communities will be left after the revolution to be reduced to old ways of backbreaking subsistence farming in antiquated living conditions with inadequate healthcare. And that’s even in the unlikely event that such a loose association of Communities could ever achieve a revolution in the first place.
This is the compromise that both camps need to reach. Both their methods for revolution and Governance have failed. They must build a system which accomplishes interdependence between all communities, but does so with a Government that is not alienated from the people. Government must be centralized while also being Directly-Democratic. This seems like a contradiction, and it is why it must be carefully planned out, not simply be a statement that is made in hopes that we can figure it out one day. We need concrete plans for systems to ensure this kind of Government can be implemented and sustained.
Anarchists and Leninists both have arguments against such a system, as is expected. It is a synthesis of both ideas, after all. And as such is not a “pure” reflection of either system. But that is the purpose of it: it must give in to the dialectical process of Anarchists Vs. Leninists, which will knock down the parts of both systems which have no basis. Leaving only the parts that work, and allowing them to reconcile each other.
The Leninists argue that such a system leaves the Government susceptible to the forces of reaction. But the pure-Leninist system they propose does the same, as it makes a second revolution a necessity, opening the door to Capitalism reasserting itself. Anarchists argue that power is still too concentrated, and that concentration always leads to Authoritarianism as they define it. But so too does their pure-Anarchism. As the communities and groups fall prey to a “divide and conquer” strategy, but one where their enemies do not need to divide them as they’ve already divided themselves. And it also leaves communities without their needs and goods, because there is no system in place to facilitate the well intentioned and correct philosophy of Mutual Aid.
If we can build a system where there is no central power, no figurehead like a President or a Central Committee, and centralized power is dispersed to separate Governmental groups, groups which are left to Govern themselves in matters that only affect themselves and only require engaging in Parliamentary Government in matters that affect all groups, then we can finally achieve the reconciliation between Anarchism and Leninism. And then, finally, the forces of Capitalism can be overcome, and Communism will be achievable. I believe this system to be Communalism, which I have already touched on. It empowers each community to Govern itself in a Directly-Democratic way, but still has a system in place to facilitate interdependence and allow other communities to Democratically interject when such actions affect them. This accomplishes the needs and desires of both the Leninist and the Anarchists, and finally ends the maladies of Capitalism.