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Our comrades in red

November 27, 2012

The relationship of communism and anarchism to one another is often a source of discussion or confusion.  Some perspectives regard them as similar liberal philosophies which reject current market-oriented constructions of civilization.  Others treat them as incompatible due to anarchism’s emphasis on the individual, which appears to run counter to communism’s regard for the whole of society.

The trouble is caused largely by a lack of clarity as to what actually constitutes communism.  Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, socialism–there are many “-ism’s” which are lumped together and pejoratively or seriously referred to as communism.  And therein lies the source of the distortion.  Successive generations of revolutionaries and would-be revolutionaries, trying to follow out Karl Marx’s recipes for social change, applied the term “communism” to their actions.  Unfortunately for them, Marx never used the word in the same sense that they did.  Communism as Marx defined it did not refer to the rise of the proletariat or the process of revolution.  Instead, communism designated the ideal stateless society which would emerge after all revolutions were over.  The managed economies and socialist governments often seen as the products of communism are really nothing more than predecessors to communism.  They cease to exist at all when true communism, which does away with all formal organizations, is established.

So, communism and anarchism are very much the same thing in that they both aim at creating stateless societies.  There is a key difference, though.  Some will be surprised that it is an ethical one.  Anarchism places the highest possible value on the unfettered will of the individual, and accepts the fact that this exercise of will inevitably creates conflicts and inequity.  Communism, on the other hand, postulates the emergence of a stable, equitable society through men voluntarily choosing actions that benefit their fellows rather than themselves.  In neither case is a state or any form of government involved, and no rules are imposed from above by a source of authority.  It all comes down to individuals and the choices they make, an idea that is simultaneously anarchist and communist.

In essence, the difference between the communist and the anarchist is that the former is a better, kinder, more considerate man.  Communism is anarchism with a conscience.

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