I’ve considered myself some from of leftist since about the age of 14 or so. However, about seven months ago I became an Anarchist. This may sound like a short time but it had quite an influence on me. This was after maybe half a year of experimenting and flirting with other ideologies, of which Anarchism was one of them, along with Marxism, Left Communism and shit I’d never contemplate now such as Parecon. In the past I’ve referred to my pre-Anarchist self as a mixture of social democracy, Marxism and left-libertarianism, however this is not entirely accurate and has more been said for the sake of convenience. Despite this, these contradictions where largely resolved with my adoption of Anarchism.
What specifically converted me to Anarchism was the Youtuber Cameron Watt, who goes under the name Libertarian Socialist Rants. Cameron’s arguments were clear, articulate and made an incredibly persuasive case, his videos are worth watching for any communist. I’ll never forget how I felt after the searching for an ideology, I felt like I finally had something I could commit myself to, something in which I could be productive and carve my own thought in, but most importantly, I felt like I’d found my place. I didn’t sleep that night.
During this time I more or less devoted myself to reading Anarchist theory. I read what modern authors I could- Graeber and Chomsky1– but mostly stuck to classic authors such as Bakunin, Kropotkin, Goldman, Malatesta, Rocker and a little bit of Proudhon2. Of these authors I found- and continue to find- Kropotkin and Rocker the most helpful, with Kropotkin’s conception of communism being enticing and Rocker’s documentation and defence of syndicalism providing a good, practical model, though I never went as far as calling myself an Anarcho-Syndicalist. Although prior to my Anarchism I had been more than receptive to Marxism, during this time I was hostile3 towards it, seeing it as a theory of State Socialism.
Indeed, and somewhat ironically, it was actually Anarchists writing sympathetically about Marx and Marxism that led to the beginning of my reconciliation with him and it. The person mainly responsible for this was youtuber Anarchopac4, though the tumblr blogger Class-Struggle-Anarchism also played a big role, with him going as far to say that Marx is his biggest influence5. This was coupled with the starting of my reading of volume 1 of Capital, and although, like most people, I found parts of it impenetrable, I found more of it really clear and lucid, and most importantly, an incisive critique of the Capitalist mode of production. I also started reading more about how ideally Marxism should be a critical method, and not an ideology, which sounded appealing6.
(Before writing the next paragraph I would first of all like to clarify that I am in no way anti-Anarchist. Anarchists continue to influence my thought and Anarchists have made plenty of valid critiques of Marxism which I would still agree with.)
At the same time, I found myself starting to question certain aspects of Anarchism. While there are Anarchists who take an anti-work position, the majority seemed to stop short at worker’s self-management, with even the ones who didn’t operating on a post-leftist rejection of civilization rather than a critique of exchange value7. I also began to find the authoritarian/libertarian dichotomy increasingly unhelpful, as I viewed Communism/Socialism as inherently liberatory and thus to talk about an “authoritarian socialism” made little sense to me, especially when this critique was rooted more on method than the communism these authoritarians failed to bring about8.
As I began to find Anarchism unsatisfactory I began to read Left Communist theory and find it more helpful. Indeed it was the now defunct blog Eldritch-Univeralism which introduced me to the critique of exchange value, and as I began to grasp this and see that the value form as a whole must be obliterated I realised the Left Communist authors would be worth a read. Initially I did not start with the Dutch/German or the Italian Left, instead going to modern day Left Communist Gilles Dauvé. I read his book Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Communist Movement, a collection of essays that amongst other things critiqued Lenin, fully showed Communism as a society in which the law of value doesn’t operate, and most importantly introduced me to communisation theory and Amadeo Bordiga. It is because of this that despite Anarchism having more in common with Council Communism I began my reading proper of the classic Left Communists with Bordiga. Bordiga was a Leninist- albeit a heterodox one- and thus I found him initially alienating. However, I also saw the usefulness of his critique of the democratic principle and activism, and soon even his works on the party started to make more sense to me, and I have now formulated a conception of the party that is heavily indebted to Bordiga, although one that is definitely influenced by Council Communism and even Anarchism. As I read Bordiga I also began to read random Left Communist essays, and my reading of the Council Communists is somewhat belated, as I have only started recently.
So although I initially planned to be a Marxian Anarchist the strength of classical and modern Left Communism as a tendency that stayed closest to Marxism as method and the strongest in its use of historical materialism- as well as offering a thorough critique of the left and market socialism- increasingly appealed to me to the point where I had no choice but to realise I was a Left Communist.
I will admit that my transition to Left Communism was not as profound as my conversion to Anarchism, instead being one fraught with doubt. I had an emotional attachment to Anarchism and was scared to leave it initially. I remember walking through the city where I live as a Left Communist and seeing a “No Gods, No Masters” sticker and wondering if I could really leave Anarchism.
However, since then I have became increasingly confident in my adoption of Marxism and my leaving of Anarchism, despite the affinities I retain for it.
1I now find Chomsky to be largely unuseful, though his critiques of American foreign policy are good. For a really good pre-Chomsky critique of Chomsky see the second section of Georg Lukacs’ What is Orthodox Marxism.
2I’d like to think I don’t share the vulgar anti-proudhonism that many Marxists do, but I haven’t read enough to find out. Mutualism isn’t too hot, though.
3I go into more detail here though for obvious reasons I wouldn’t entirely agree with this essay any more https://devoutsocialist.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/my-relationship-with-marxism/
4Once again gone into more detail here https://devoutsocialist.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/my-relationship-with-marxism/
6Lukacs was especially influential in this, explicitly stating: ” Orthodox Marxism, therefore, does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx’s investigations. It is not the ‘belief’ in this or that thesis, nor the exegesis of a ‘sacred’ book. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method”. I would argue he’s wrong to speak this way about Orthodox Marxism and will go further into why in a future essay.
7That said, there are Anarcho-Communists who take a more materialist stance on anti-work who I largely agree with.
8The Communist League of Tampa go into more detail on this here: https://communistleaguetampa.org/2015/06/28/libertarian-unnecessarian/