marx, bakunin and the question of authoritarianism

David Adam casts doubt on the traditional narrative regarding the question of authoritarianism in the Marx-Bakunin conflict

Historically, Bakunin’s criticism of Marx’s “authoritarian” aims has tended to overshadow Marx’s critique of Bakunin’s “authoritarian” aims. This is in large part due to the fact that mainstream anarchism and Marxism have been polarized over a myth—that of Marx’s authoritarian statism—which they both share.1

Thus, the conflict in the First International is directly identified with a disagreement over anti-authoritarian principles, and Marx’s hostility toward Bakunin is said to stem from his rejection of these principles, his vanguardism, etc. Anarchism, not without justification, posits itself as the “libertarian” alternative to the “authoritarianism” of mainstream Marxism. Because of this, nothing could be easier than to see the famous conflict between the pioneering theorists of these movements—Bakunin and Marx—as a conflict between absolute liberty and authoritarianism. This essay will bring this narrative into question. It will not do this by making grand pronouncements about Anarchism and Marxism in the abstract, but simply by assembling some often neglected evidence. Bakunin’s ideas about revolutionary organization lie at the heart of this investigation. Continue reading “marx, bakunin and the question of authoritarianism”