Part III: “The marxian church against anarchist “sectarianism””.
Anti-sectarian grammar achieved preeminence amidst the entanglements of the First International between 1864 and 1872. While during its first years the conceptual discrepancies between Proudhonians, Blanquists, Lassalleans and Marxists had been resolved without major tantrums within the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA), in 1868 tensions increased with the incorporation of Bakunin and a large group of like-minded people. The anarchists went so far as to demolish all the economistic onanism of Saint Charlie and his acolytes, placing in their sights the “gravest evil”. That is to say, the State (in particular) and all authority (in general). Thus, they erected their strongest theoretical specificity on the assumption that property or, generically, the relationship with the means of production, was not the only and excluding factor of “class” domination, but that the very instances of domination – and the State in particular – were also mechanisms that generated social groups that could be considered privileged.
On top of all that, the anarchists defended the full autonomy of the different sections of the IWA against the statutory centralism of the General Council tooth and nail. This position provoked the definitive rupture with the Marxists during the celebration of the V Congress of the Association in 1872. The theoretical-practical positions were irreconcilable and markedly antagonistic. For Saint Charlie, the International had to be the centralizing and guiding organ of the “movement”; while for the Russian anarchist and his comrades, it had to be a planetary conspiracy lacking a directing organ, centred on the concrete individual and his freedom; capable of eradicating all authority from the face of the earth, even that which was instituted in the name of the proletariat. By placing individual freedom and voluntary and autonomous association “before the historical development of society”, they received the eternal condemnation of the marxian Church and were accused of being “sectarians”; becoming the target of the wrath of Saint Charlie and his fervent sacristans.
However, the use of the term “sectarian” as a synonym for anarchist already had a long history among the Marxian nomenclature. In the pages of the Communist Manifesto (1848), both Saint Charlie and Mr Friedrich give irrefutable proof of their condemnation of “reactionary sects”. During the days of the Paris Commune, the anti-sectarian lexicon grows against “Herr Bakunin” and his ilk, for objecting to the formation of a “workers’ party”, the seizure of power by the “working class” and the establishment of a “proletarian government”. It was precisely this authoritarian strategy that was adopted by the new alliance between Blanquists and Marxians, which was recorded at the London Conference of September 1871.1 On that autumn equinox, Édouard Villant and Constant Martin, together with other well-known exponents of the Blanquist party exiled in London, incriminated “Bakunist sectarianism” with the same fury as Saint Charlie. This atmosphere encouraged the sixth section of the Conference to lash out against the anarchist Alliance2, blaming them for acting to the detriment of the development of the International, with the sectarian intention of “promoting political abstention and atheism” as fundamental principles of the Association.3
In a letter addressed to Theodor Cuno dated January 24, 1872 in London, Mr Friedrich mockingly attacked the “intriguing” Bakunin and his circle of “sectarians”.4 In the same letter, he was optimistic and convinced that an evolutionary process was bringing about the advance of capitalism in most of the world which was increasing the antagonism between capitalists and wage workers and, with it, the inevitable emergence of an increasingly homogeneous class consciousness. He took for granted that this would put an end to capitalism, causing “the State to collapse of its own accord” as part of the inexorable development of history. But neither Saint Charlie’s theses nor the prognoses of his patron Mr Friedrich have been verified by the course of events, corroborating that “progress” and “social evolution” are a lousy invention of the Marxian Church, a fantasy that metamorphoses and multiplies, adopting new ways of reproducing more of the same.
Indeed, the unlimited expansion of a process of “social evolution” and the “inexorable development of history”5 are the central dogma of the Marxian religion. Its unreflective faith in human progress knows no bounds. For the eternal tenant of Highgate, the human animal would expand its power through the driving force of scientific-technical progress – hand in hand with ethical-political evolution – transforming Humanity into the true supreme being to be venerated for centuries to come. This positivist and evolutionist conception of history is the basic peculiarity of Marxian religion, which requires a much greater act of faith than the faith demanded by any other religion. Hence his predictions about the substitution of the “government of men” by the “administration of things” once the earthly paradise, that is, communism, has been reached: “the riddle of history solved”.6
Of course, any conception that departs from this monotheistic vision 7 is a sacrilegious act that weakens both the meaning of the organizational structure and the monopolistic forms of worship and doctrine, earning the condemnation of the Marxian Church for its “reactionary essence”. This automatically places all critical, dissenting and/or splinter positions in the category of “sects”. As such, they are placed outside of time and place, in a movement asynchronous with “the historical tendency towards the unity of the proletarian movement” and, therefore, alien to the “real world”.
Particularly striking is a contradiction that appears as a constant in Marxian doctrine around the critique of history and the teleological temptation of the inexorable realization of objective development. Underlying his conception of history – as a movement towards a universal goal – is the idea of a teleological development that assigns a predetermined purpose to history. This is evidence of the reincarnation of Christian theodicy in the myth of Humanity with a capital H. Thus, the narrative of divine redemption was replaced by that of progress through the efforts of the human animal transmuted into a collective moral agent, confirming that the Marxian story of “human self-realization” rests on the apocalyptic myth and fits with the verbiage of Jesus announcing the end of the old world and the arrival of a new one that would be established in its place.
In his excellent book The Pursuit of the Millennium, Cohn summarizes the defining features of Marxian religion: “what Marx brought to the communist movement was not the fruit of his long years of study in the fields of economics and sociology, but an almost apocalyptic fantasy […]”.8 Indeed, Saint Charlie recycled apocalyptic conceptions in scientific terms, transforming them into metaphors for the rational hopes that inspired the dull and dark red fascisms, an approach to which certain anarchism – the heir of rationalism – is much too indebted.
Planet Earth, October 19, 2021.
(From the pamphlet “Apología a la especificidad asociativa”[In defence of associative specificity]).
Via & Translated by Act for freedom now!
- The Marxian position on the “workers’ party” and the “proletarian government” was embodied in Resolution IX, on the “Political Action of the Working Class”, agreed on July 25, 1871 – which took place behind closed doors by Engels’ orders – and, “ratified” by “22 delegates with full rights and 10 with voice but without vote”, on the basis of the Blanquist motion during the London Conference. Dommanget, Maurice, “La Première Internationale”, Revue d’histoire économique et sociale, 1962, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 553-556. ↵
- The International Alliance of Socialist Democracy was an anarchist secret society founded by Bakunin and his associates in Geneva in September 1868 in order to coordinate a global conspiracy through the First International. ↵
- F. Engels, “Bericht über die Allianz der Sozialistischen Demokratie, vorgelegt dem Haager Kongreß im Namen des Generalrats,” 1872, in Marx-Engels-Werke (MEW), Band. XVIII, pp. 138 ff. ↵
- First published partially in the book: Engels, F.; Politisches Vermächtnis. Aus unveröffentlichten Briefen, Berlin, 1920; in complete form in the journal Die Geselschaft, no. 11, Berlin, 1925. Collected in: C. Marx, C. and Engels, F.; Selected Works, in three volumes, Progress Publishing House, Moscow, 1974, t. II. Available online: https://www.marxists.org/espanol/m-e/cartas/e24-1-72.htm (accessed: 18/10/2021). ↵
- It is a glaring contradiction that Saint Charlie argued his systematic attacks on “sectarianism” on the basis of this conception of the inexorable development of history, drawing on the evolutionist view, while in many articles in the press, as well as in the Grundrisse of 1857-1858, he effusively questioned all evolutionism in history. Curiously, his acolytes rarely reflect on this. ↵
- Marx, K, Third Manuscript (Private Property and Communism), in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts 1844, available online: https://www.marxists.org/espanol/m-e/1840s/manuscritos/man3.htm (accessed: 18/10/2021). ↵
- In all honesty, I must admit that Marxians have always rejected monotheistic beliefs but have never overcome the monotheistic way of thinking. Certainly, behind these conceptions is hidden the blind faith in the “god Humanity” and the belief in history as a movement towards a universal purpose: “the progress of humanity”. The myth of progress is a clear vestige of the radical change in human affairs announced and expected by Christianity. Hence the similarities between the religion that Mr Friedrich invented from the life and sermons of Saint Charlie and the religion that St. Paul invented from the life and sermons of Jesus. ↵
- Op. cit., Cohn, Norman, p. 404. ↵