Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Critiquing Left-wing Authoritarianism is Essential to Anarchism

The foundation of anarchism should be a commitment to anti-authoritarian values generally, not just opposition to “right-wing authoritarianism.” Far too many anarchists are simply “conventional progressives, minus the state” and even the anti-statism of many “anarcho-social democrats” is questionable. Left-wing authoritarianism has been a plague on radical movements for more than two centuries. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the critiques of left-wing authoritarianism that have been developed over time.

One of the first and most important works of this kind was Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. The writings of Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche provided an analysis of left-wing politics as a expression of secularized religiosity. Early anarchist criticisms of Marxism are also an important part of this history, particularly the critique of Marxism offered by Bakunin. In the 20th century, a range of writers from the left and right created critiques of Communist authoritarianism. The writings of Arthur Koestler are among the most interesting of these.

Many anarchists, even those of a hard left variety, are aware of the history of Communist totalitarianism (although such tendencies are also making something of a comeback in leftist circles as well, and are presently infesting the anarchist milieu in various ways). However, many anarchists are oblivious to the fact that the tradition of leftist authoritarianism is far more than merely Bolshevism or Stalinism. Hence, most anarchists have no intellectual armor against the influence of critical theory and “cultural Marxism.”

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