Alex Prichard, Ruth Kinna, Saku Pinta and David Berry (eds), Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red
London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, 328pp; ISBN-13: 978-0-230280-37-3.
The links between the two schools of revolutionary socialism--Marxism and class struggle anarchism--have produced much debate, some more helpful than others. Into the helpful pile comes Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red. Twelve excellent chapters and a terrible one are sandwiched between a useful introduction and conclusion. Overall, it is essential reading for all those seeking to enrich libertarian socialism in the twenty-first century.
It is a shame that after a clear introduction exploring its aim, the book starts with a terrible chapter by Leninist Paul Blackledge. Words cannot express how superficial and wrong this chapter is. He presents superficial cherry-picking riddled with mistakes, incomprehension, dubious assertions and selective quoting on both Marxism and anarchism.
Some of the issues Blackledge tries to address are covered well in Ruth Kinna's article on William Morris. She shows how Morris seemed unable to see anarchism as anything other than individualism, regardless of the facts, and usefully explores the interrelationships between individualism, anarchism and Morris before critiquing his views on anarchism. This is a welcome addition to our understanding of this period.
The chapter on syndicalism in the Durham Coalfield is also excellent, although its assertion that the rise of syndicalism saw a turn 'away from Kropotkin's anarcho- communism' towards an 'emphasis on workplace and trade union struggle' (p 61) is hard to square with Kropotkin's many articles on anarchist involvement in trade unions. Similarly, the suggestion that anarchist 'rejection of any form of constitutional office' (p 69) within the Miners' Union limited its influence is contradicted by the anarchist discussed ending his career 'as a right-wing national miners' leader' (p 68).
Llorente's chapter on Georges Sorel gets to the heart of the matter by discussing the overlap between the two theories. Yet his discussion of what Marxism offers anarchism (pp 84-5) shows that part of the problem is an unawareness of basic anarchist ideas: Proudhon argued most of these ('the state as an instrument of class domination and advocates its abolition'; 'rejects utopias and utopian socialism'; 'the primacy of production'; 'proletarian self-emancipation'), while Bakunin added...