Title: Critique of Marxism
Date: May 1919
Source: From Robert Graham (Ed.), Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas; Volume One: From Anarchy to Anarchism (300 CE to 1939). libcom.org

Marx’s idea of politics can be found in ‘The Communist Manifesto,” coauthored with Engels (there was confrontation in the International Working Men’s Association between Marx and Bakunin, an anarchist. Actually, Marx’s idea of communism is the contemporary idea of collectivism, while Bakunin’s idea of collectivism is the contemporary idea of communism). In the Manifesto there are ten measures, which can be seen as the policies of social democracy. What are these policies all about?

  1. Abolition of property;

  2. Management of transportation by the state;

  3. Concentration of factories and instruments of production in the hands of the state;

  4. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

The most severe criticism of these policies came from anarchists, whose communism is quite different from Marx’s collectivism. Anarchists believe that in a historical perspective the state is organized solely for the protection of the privileges and property of the few. By now all the power of education, state religion and national defence has been concentrated in the hands of the state. If we endow the state with more power, such as control of the land, mines, railways, banks, insurance, will the tyranny of the state be even harsher (these are Kropotkin’s words in the Encyclopedia Britannica)? Can we guarantee that our leaders will not become a Napoleon or a Yuan Shikai [Chinese strongman]? Moreover, socialism should not be the suppression of individual freedom. The government of the social democratic party wants to establish industrial armies and agricultural armies. Isn’t this a suppression of the individual? There are also some problems in their principle of distribution. Society is different from an individual. In the light of socialism, the possessions of society should belong to the public rather than to the individual. According to Marx’s idea of collectivism, things, such as houses and clothes, may be privately owned. I believe that private ownership of property is contradictory to the principle of socialism. Is it problematic if in the same house the cattle-shed is public property while the bedrooms are privately owned? Moreover, the Marxists advocate to each according to his capacity. If so, men of strong ability would enjoy rewards while men of poor ability would lose their means of living. Poor ability is caused by one’s physiological condition. This does not result from his laziness. Such a method of distribution has nothing to do with human happiness. Anarchist communists want to subvert the organization of the state and allow the common people to establish a variety of associations to run enterprises, such as educational associations and agricultural associations. Step by step these associations will become complex enough to deal with all business in society so as to abolish all kinds of authoritarian power and bring equality and happiness to every individual. Their principle of labour is “from each according to his capacity,” and their principle of distribution is “to each according to his needs.” This is the focus of the difference between anarchists and Marxists.