Socialism and anarchism are two political ideologies that have been at the forefront of many political debates throughout history. While they share some similarities, such as a rejection of capitalist economic systems and a belief in the need for greater social and economic equality, they differ in their views on the role of government and the state. In this article, we will explore the key differences between socialism and anarchism, as well as the historical context that has shaped these ideologies.
Socialism is an economic and political ideology that advocates for the collective ownership and control of the means of production. This means that instead of private individuals or corporations owning and controlling the resources and industries that make up a society, these resources and industries would be owned and controlled collectively by the people. The goal of socialism is to achieve greater social and economic equality, as well as to eliminate the exploitation of workers by capitalists.
There are different forms of socialism, such as democratic socialism, which advocates for the collective ownership and control of the means of production through democratic means. This means that instead of a single centralized government controlling the economy, the people would have a say in how the economy is run through democratic processes. Another form of socialism is authoritarian socialism, which advocates for the collective ownership and control of the means of production through authoritarian means. This means that the economy would be controlled by a single centralized government, with little or no input from the people.
Anarchism, on the other hand, is a political ideology that advocates for the abolition of all forms of government and the creation of a society based on voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. Anarchists believe that all forms of government are inherently oppressive and that the only way to achieve true freedom and equality is to get rid of them altogether. They believe that society can function without government and that people can work together voluntarily to meet their needs and wants.
Anarchism also has different forms, such as individualist anarchism, which emphasizes the individual freedom and autonomy. They believe that people should be free to make their own choices and live their lives as they see fit, as long as they do not harm others. Another form of anarchism is collectivist anarchism, which emphasizes the importance of collective ownership and control of resources, as well as collective decision-making. They believe that people should work together to meet their needs and wants and that this can only be achieved through collective ownership and control of resources.
Historically, socialism and anarchism have often been at odds with each other. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were many socialist movements that advocated for the creation of centralized governments and the use of state power to achieve their goals. These socialists believed that the state was a necessary tool to bring about the changes they wanted to see in society, such as the collective ownership and control of the means of production, the elimination of exploitation of workers by capitalists, and the establishment of greater social and economic equality.
Anarchists, on the other hand, believed that the state was a tool of oppression that should be abolished. They believed that society could function without government and that people could work together voluntarily to meet their needs and wants. They saw the creation of centralized governments and the use of state power as a betrayal of the principles of socialism and a step in the wrong direction.
As a result, there was a split between socialists and anarchists, with socialists forming their own political parties and movements, while anarchists formed their own. This disagreement led to a lot of tension and conflict between the two groups, with socialists accusing anarchists of being unrealistic and anarchists accusing socialists of betraying their principles. Despite this, both ideologies have influenced many political movements and continue to shape political discourse today.
It’s important to note that these ideologies are not mutually exclusive and that there have been attempts to combine the two ideologies, such as libertarian socialism, which advocates for the collective ownership of the means of production while also promoting individual freedom.
In conclusion, Socialism and anarchism are two political ideologies that have different views on the role of government and the state. While they share some similarities, such as a rejection of capitalist economic systems and a belief in the need for greater social and economic equality, they differ in their views on the role of government and the state. Understanding these differences and the historical context that has shaped these ideologies is important in understanding the political discourse today.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment on the relationship between socialism and anarchism. It is clear that you have a lot of experience and knowledge on the subject, and I appreciate your insight into the different perspectives and critiques of both ideologies. I agree with your assertion that a true anarchist society, as described by Ursula K. Le Guin in “The Dispossessed,” requires a majority movement to dismantle property and capital and replace it with a society without owners, money, or state. I also see your point that many socialists, such as the SPGB in the UK, advocate for a revolution by the majority to run society for itself, and that this aligns closely with anarchist principles..
I understand your frustration with the fact that many individuals who identify as anarchists or socialists do not actively work towards the goal of a majority movement to dismantle property and capital and replace it with a society without owners, money, or state. Instead, they focus on reforms or local issues which may not be as impactful. Your suggestion that psychological science can help us understand how to achieve a majority is an interesting one and I look forward to hearing more about your thoughts on the subject.
Very nice overview on the differences between socialism and anarchism. I have spent my life supporting the ideal of both an anarchist and socialist future, and worked with many different groups promoting it, but my frustrations about both have been that many anarchists are not socialists (going back to the small-time capitalist model, though a decentralized one, of Bakunin or Proudhon, rightly criticized by Marx) and most I have found are the kind of lifestyle anarchists also rightly critiqued by Bookchin, a writer who in my mind showed a very advanced understanding of both the anarchist and socialist dimensions (I also connected often with a French anarchist called Maximilien Rubel, who was also an expert in Marx – you should read his article on Marx as a theoretician of anarchism, a position that most Marxists and anarchists find difficult to stomach!).
In my mind, a real anarchist society (such as that so beautifully illustrated by LeGuin in her novel The Dispossessed) requires a large movement to dismantle property and capital and replace it with a society without owners, money or state. Some socialists do advocate that, such as the SPGB in the UK, who I believe are often unfairly criticized by some anarchists as being statists – their view of the vast majority of people (not elites or people in power) capturing the machinery of government is only to make sure that a) the move is democratic and b) to make sure that the forces of oppression (the military and police for example) are under the control of the majority. Although I live in the USA, I have visited them at times and while I do have critical questions about their advocacy of voting to achieve the free society, the goal they want is so unquestionably anarchist that I feel it a waste of time to criticize them for their method when there are so many more important things for us to both work on and be upset about.
As long as anarchists and socialists advocate a revolution by a majority to run society for itself, I don’t really see any major difference with the socialists (the real ones) and anarchists (obviously, if we are talking about most people who call themselves socialists and who advocate a welfare state, they are not real socialists anyway because they advocate a form of statist capitalism, with continued wages, money, banks, all features of a capitalist society but with a different type of government)..
My frustration has been that most people who call themselves anarchists, socialists or communists are generally not those who are working for such a majority, and even anarchists who are not lifestyle anarchists tend to work for reforms or local issues that they view as contributing eventually to a wider decentralized society, when that perspective could be validly queried. The deeper problem in my view is how we achieve a majority, and it’s not going to be by smashing windows or burning cars at a BML or Stop The City event or other romantic take on violence that comes from the revolutionaries who contributed to the Terror of the French Revolution (even if they feel they did something, while they languish in jail for 24 hours waiting to be released).
Psychological science has shown us how political thinking is greatly determined by emotions and not just rationality, so believing a society which we may call socialist or anarchist (and which would ideally be both) to be rational, seems not to be sufficient, even though of course it is rational (allowing our nature as pack primates to be fully realized, a nature which in our modern world makes us depressed, disgusted, bored, upset, and alienated.. Most people, even those unhappy with the existing order (and when one looks at horrifying ecocide due to the needs of the marketplace which are opposed to both human and nature’s needs) believe that capitalism, with all its faults (and that’s a joke in itself) has significantly improved our lives with the advent of science. It is hard to argue against that obvious truth given the wonders of medicine, digital recording, cell phones and access to greens and tofu, even though the evils of capitalism are considerable. Capitalism is both incredibly liberating by giving us this mode of production, science and liberal thinking, while also giving us incredible chains, poverty, wars, and denaturing of the world. I am not even sure if anyone has come up with a realistic description of how an advanced technological society that is also anarchist and socialist would work. Right now, people can only buy what they can afford (and the rich can buy anything but they are a minority), so the market at least limits consumption (sometimes not enough, and often too much). Limits have to be placed somehow given limited planetary resources.
On top of that, some people are going to have to figure out how resources are distributed to produce someone’s newspaper against a collective’s new digital app against a new idea for corn chips that taste like garlic (just an example). Will we need some hierarchy to achieve that, even if its managers and decision makers can lose their positions if they violate their mandate? When we lived in tribes or small villages, it was not a problem meeting basic needs and sharing the fruits of our work. Imagine twelve high-tech cities run along anarchist and socialist principles, with 90% of the planet returned to wildnerness around the land we use for agriculture and factories. Civilization probably can be high-tech without destroying our planet at all. But complexities about how this would work have never, to my mind, been well figured out. Which also means that no workable solution has been presented to the majority.
Which in turn means that the typical vague solutions we can come up with are insufficiently convincing to change many people’s minds. Anyway, enough of me ranting, some ignorant old Chicago musician who has struggled with this issue my whole life. Freedom, a more communal society, a world made of people that highly value both science and the integrity of the natural world, are all fantastic ideals we should never lose. But the project to actually get there is mired in its own complexities. But that does not mean humans will never get there. We should continue to think up solutions on all fronts. My advice to the young – you are filled with energy and you want it all now! Great, so do I, but give yourselves time to think this through as well!