Anarchism: Counter-Revolution in Disguise

by M.A. Booth

Now more than ever, self-described Marxist-Leninists across the United States need to be equipped with proper ideological tools to navigate the treacherous waters that appear right beyond the horizon. As it was in the past, the distorters of Marxism have taken our theory and vulgarized it beyond belief! Thanks in no small part to the bourgeois capitalist media, these mistaken ideas have quickly taken root and caused an unprecedented wave of ideological confusion to enter the movement. Effectively blinding a substantial majority of “Leftists” to even the most rudimentary of dangers that await us. Consistent engagement in a real Marxist-Leninist education, one that is based in a firm understanding of dialectical and historical materialism has become a necessity for us. Simultaneously, while organizing the working class, waging a fierce ideological struggle against all forms of revisionism has become a necessity as well for any serious Communist party to achieve state power in a Bolshevik-style revolution. Not just here in America, but across the globe. As Marx said, “Revolutions are the locomotives of history.”[1] That means it’s up to us to cultivate class consciousness among the great masses of working people and bring them to the realization that only through Communist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat can their freedom, dignity, well-being, and liberation be truly realized. To bring our society and history itself to the next stage of social development: Socialism, then Communism!

 Deviations from Marxist-Leninist ideology are awfully abundant among the so-called “left” in western capitalist countries. Anarchism is the most prominent among left-adventurist tendencies in America. Is this a mere coincidence, or is there something about American capitalist society that specifically encourages this anti-Marxist, individualist trend? What does putting the individual above the collective, opposing all forms of authority, thinking idealistically, justifying the implementation of direct democracy, and rioting in the streets dressed in “black bloc” (It’s worth noting that in the past, “black bloc” tactics have been utilized by federal agents, right-wing militants, and other disingenuous actors to disrupt the activities of far-left organizers. This inherently flawed tactic might even be deployed by those with the best subjective convictions, but objectively, this course of action gives our class enemies the opportunity to use it against us. They will exploit its vulnerabilities and use it against us in the most ruthless manner imaginable.) have anything to do with what Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin talked about? Absolutely nothing! In several different ways, anarchism represents the polar opposite of revolutionary Marxist-Leninist ideology. Both in terms of theory and its application in real-world circumstances. In its wake, anarchism leads to the active negation of revolution, consequently paving the way for a counter-revolution!

Anarchist ideology can be contrasted with our Communist ideology along five main lines of demarcation. Individualism, direct democracy, “anti-authoritarianism”, idealism, and adventurism. From the days of Bakunin, Stirner, Proudhon, and Kropotkin, to the modern reincarnations such as anarcho-primitivist academic John Zerzan, these lines of demarcation played a pivotal role in distinguishing our revolutionary Communist ideology from the mistaken ideas of anarchist ideology.

Individualism or Collectivism?

As Lenin said, “Anarchism is bourgeois individualism in reverse. Individualism as the basis of the entire anarchist world outlook.”[2] This is as true today as it was the day it was written. Individualism continues to form the basis of the entire anarchist world outlook. Their staunch opposition to any form of authority mutates average, everyday bourgeois individualism into its most extreme manifestation. Its essence is one that asserts that the sacred rights of individuals is to remain unimpeded by others, thus actively negating the unifying power of authority in all regards.[3] Anarchists see freedom of the “individual” as being in irreconcilable contradiction with governments, schools, national borders, and so on. That these institutions are inherently evil, corrupt, and need to be destroyed because they supposedly impede the unrestricted freedom of the individual over that of the collective. This line of thinking is inherently anti-Marxist and does nothing to create a Communist revolution in any country, especially in a nation so heavily inundated with individualism like America and the West.

These mistaken ideas of the anarchists stand in stark contrast with the way Marxist-Leninists view the world. A Communist does not see “authority” as somehow inherently corrupt, evil, and something to be destroyed. A Communist always begins by asking the question, “Which class stands to benefit from the exertion of this particular form of “authority”? The bourgeoisie, or the proletariat?” The complete absence of this kind of basic Marxist thinking in the outlook of anarchism indicates a fundamental error in their ideological position. One that manifests itself in the rejection of all forms of authority (good or bad), the elevation of the individual above the collective, and de-facto complicity with the prevailing capitalist superstructure in the ongoing process of its own reproduction. Anarchism represents (in the minds of many petit-bourgeois radicals lacking firm class consciousness) a form of rebellion against all that currently exists in society. An idealistic, infantile notion that couldn’t be further from the truth. Anarchism aids in the reproduction of capitalist cultural hegemony by giving it what it wants (e.g., violence, property destruction, rioting). An excuse to crackdown on legitimate revolutionaries! From the times of the Palmer raids (1919-1920), Communists have had to pay the price for the adventurist actions of anarchists. The anarchists don’t care because, after all, they function as the useful idiots of the capitalist class.

Direct Democracy, Democratic Centralism, and their Consequences

From the earliest days of anarchist thought, its practitioners have advocated “direct democracy” or “decentralized” methods of organizing as opposed to democratic centralism, or more centralized methods of organizing (which is the historically vindicated path of achieving state power for the working class in a Communist revolution). “Direct democracy” comes from the days of ancient Greece, the idea that one person equals one vote. Representatives are not elected, but each member votes individually on each issue. Direct democracy may sound all well and good to the false-conscious or semi-class-conscious worker, but we know in practice it lacks the necessary longevity to carry out a revolution. “Occupy Wall Street” is a good example of how direct democracy loses its potency over time. Without a central command structure being adhered to by most participants, the protest movement splintered into a million pieces and scattered into the winds of history. Anarchists reject authority, and only recognize the legitimacy of direct democratic votes within their own organizations. This leads the average Anarchist to a whole host of unforeseen “problems”. From leaving the door wide open to police infiltration and disruption to sowing the seeds of their own destruction, the consequences of rejecting workers’ authority, and the implementation of so-called, “direct democratic” politics are immense.

On the flipside, the democratic centralism of Communist organizations actively prevents these dire consequences from occurring by creating a core of highly trained cadre that will lead the working class as the vanguard of the revolution. Democratic centralism is characterized by unity of will and action. The Communists vote on motions, and after a vote is finalized, unity of action is then enforced. Unlike direct democracy, democratic centralism negates neither democracy, nor centralism in its practice. Democratic centralism’s primary strength lies in the fact that all appendages of the party come together to form an iron fist which we use to smash the bourgeoisie! This is the key to our struggle against the capitalist ruling class!

We recognize that it’s only through organizing the working class that we can achieve revolution, by going out there and building the mass movement. We recognize that direct democracy, decentralized methods of organization, and the upholding of individualist freedom above all else is a recipe for disaster. Most of all, if we’re doing our job as Communists, we recognize the importance of this struggle against the anarchist tendency both at home and abroad.

“Direct democracy” has never created a revolution, and never will. It’s a utopian vision imposed upon the masses of western countries by their ruling classes; It is an idealized version of the farcical democracy of bourgeois republics. As Lenin said, “Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek republics: Freedom for slave owners.”[4]

The So-Called “Anti-Authoritarianism” of Anarchists

Anarchists reject all forms of authority in principle, but in practice create their own inverted form of how to be “authoritarian”. Rationalizing their use of force as an attempt to combat the very evil they claim to oppose! They refuse to operate beyond the scope of their own petit-bourgeois individualist mentality. This explains why the average Anarchist disavows the notion of “authoritarianism” yet will employ it to a certain extent in a twisted, distorted manner. It stems from a lack of ideological self-awareness, political miseducation, and the manufactured individualism we are subjected to in our capitalist society.

In 1872, Engels wrote in On Authority, “Why do the anti-authoritarians not confine themselves to crying out against political authority, the state? All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

Therefore, either one of two things: either the anti-authoritarians don’t know what they’re talking about, in which case they are creating nothing but confusion; or they do know, and in that case, they are betraying the movement of the proletariat. In either case they serve the reaction.”[5]

In the previous passage, Engels makes it clear to the reader that the “Anti-Authoritarians” (in our case, the Anarchists) are either completely ignorant of history and politics, or they’re actively betraying the movement of the Proletariat. Either way, they objectively serve the forces of reaction! In addition, Engels exposes the absurdity of the demand made by the “anti-authoritarians” to abolish the state with one stroke. We can see the so-called, “authoritarianism” the anarchists fear most is necessary for us during the transition from capitalism to socialism. Without the dictatorship of the proletariat, capitalism cannot be abolished and there can be no revolutionary transformation toward the establishment of socialism. The paranoid fantasy that tyranny will reign if we allow any “authoritarianism” in the name of the working class is a lie pushed by our ruling class and perpetuated by these petit-bourgeois radicals in the anarchist movement. Let us struggle against this “anti-authoritarian” tendency through our organization and education! We will continue to lead by example, while the anarchists (as the inevitable result of their ideological quagmire) will repeat the mistakes of the past.

Idealism, Utopianism, Anti-Scientific Thinking

Another irreconcilable contradiction between Marxist-Leninist ideology and anarchism lies between their contrasting philosophical, theoretical cores. Marxism-Leninism is based in dialectical materialism, while anarchism is based in idealism. Dialectical materialism is the specific term we are referring to when we talk about the “science of Marxism-Leninism”. Our ideology is not a “faith”, “religion”, or a static “dogma”. Our thinking is not idealistic, utopian, or superstitious by nature. Marxism-Leninism is an ever-evolving worldview that takes the best from the long history of bourgeois sciences, while discarding the rest. We may look at the subjective reasons behind why a specific phenomenon occurs, but ultimately we are concerned with how it plays out objectively, in reality.

Simultaneously, we take into account the class dynamics of any given society. We recognize that the thinking, practices, and ideologies of all peoples are imprinted by the cultural hegemony and superstructure of capitalism. Marx gives some insight into this condition when he stated, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.”[6] Thus, it is inevitable that we’re all conditioned to accept the ideas of the ruling class. 

Class background is the root of all thinking. As Marx said, “Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.”[7] This shows us the reason Anarchism seems to always come from the petit-bourgeois class: those who own small capitalist enterprises and lie in between the working class and the ruling class of the bourgeoisie. It is no coincidence that these anti-Marxist ideas have always been propagated by the propertied classes. Why? Because they serve to reinforce the ruling ideas of our capitalist system, thus further reinforcing the base of existing capitalist property relations. We must always remain vigilant to the dangers of class-alien elements entering our movement. Those who would bring with them distorted ideological trends such as anarchism. We are staunchly opposed to anything that makes capitalism stronger. If one’s individualistic, utopian, idealistic, unscientific ideological practice makes the capitalist system stronger, then we are against that as well.

Adventurism as the road to ruin

Adventurism is defined by Communists as taking risky, or reckless actions (oftentimes violent) that get too far ahead of where the masses are currently. In 1914, Lenin had this to say about adventurism: “The history of Russian Social-Democracy teems with tiny groups, which sprang up for an hour, for several months, with no roots whatever among the masses (and politics without the masses are adventurist politics), and with no serious and stable principles”.[8] Communists have always struggled against this self-destructive tendency, and actively take steps to keep it out of our movement. On the other hand, the anarchists embody this self-destructive tendency! They take on the form of being “super-revolutionary” (an attitude of feeling more revolutionary than thou). This does more harm to the cause for worker’s liberation than they realize! When the average American who lacks class consciousness sees a mob of angry, black-clad anarchists rioting, vandalizing, and blowing things up on television, their immediate thoughts are not, “Wow, look at how revolutionary these people are, I should join them!” their first thoughts are, “I want nothing to do with these people, and they need to be locked up!” Whatever it was that started the whole fiasco is quickly forgotten, and the bourgeois state has every excuse it needs to begin cracking down on legitimate, revolutionary activists and organizations. This is what we mean when we say the Anarchists are the unpaid enforcement wing of the capitalist state.

            Adventurism can manifest itself in more subtle ways too. Such as when a group of anarchists goes up to a bunch of regular workers and starts burning the American flag in front of them. This kind of action may be viewed positively by someone who leans more towards the idealistic, anarchist tendency. Except as seasoned dialectical materialists, know that this kind of public act of protest will only work against us. It feeds into the prevailing bourgeois narrative regarding far-left organizing. It gives the bourgeois propaganda apparatus the thing it wanted all along. The opportunity to reinforce their audiences’ false-conscious, confirmation biases. To make them think something along the lines of “see, those far-left radicals are un-American! Just look at them burning our beloved flag!”. This is another example of getting too far ahead of the masses. If the current level of class consciousness among the great masses of working people does not meet or exceed the level required for a specific action, it will always qualify as adventurism.

Not all adventurists are anarchists, but all anarchists are adventurists. Anarchists hold the counterrevolutionary idea that, “propaganda of the deed” is the way for us to advance the cause of revolution. “Propaganda of the deed” is a specific direct action meant to spark the revolution. These specific direct actions can take on the form of assassinations, bombings, riots, and so on. Regardless of the specific form, the essential idea behind this adventurist, terrorist action being the catalyst for a “revolution” remains the same. For example, Aleksandr Ulyanov, Lenin’s older brother, was a member of a terrorist faction that became the successor to the Party known as, “Narodnaya Volya” (or the “People’s Will”). In their idealism and revolutionary zealotry, they concluded that if they managed to kill the Tsar, it would spark a socialist revolution throughout the entire Russian empire. This was mistaken. After killing Tsar Alexander II, Aleksandr Ulyanov and his comrades were publicly executed. On top of that, their adventurist “propaganda of the deed” ushered in a new wave of reaction and state repression aimed directly at the working people of Russia. In the final analysis, any “propaganda of the deed” will only result in the destruction of its own cause via counter-revolution!

The only way to ignite the flames of revolution in the hearts of the working class is by cultivating class-consciousness though political education and working to build the mass movement as a whole against capitalism! No single action by any “super-revolutionary” individual can change the simple fact that it’s only through the mass movement of workers and peasants that revolution is possible.


From the days of the renegade Bakunin until now, the practitioners of anarchism have stood against real revolutionaries in the international Communist movement. Decades upon decades of bourgeois individualist propaganda has created a situation where the Anarchist’s old ideas are being picked back up and practiced by an ever-increasing number of American youth! Old anti-Communist arguments are even being repurposed under the guise of a struggle against so-called, “statists”. Counter-revolution has become the practice of all too many in the anarchist movement, especially here in America. Whether acting in good faith or not, in the best of subjective intentions or not, objectively speaking anarchists are actively aiding the cause of counter-revolution.

In response to this rising black tide, we call upon all anarchists to conduct a thorough self-criticism of their ideology. To give up any illusions regarding the supremacy of the “individual” over that of the collective! To abandon the failed practice of “direct democracy” and other forms of so-called “horizontal organization” over the historically proven method of democratic centralism! To renounce the superstitious belief in the allegedly sinful nature of “authority”! To replace idealism and anarchism with the scientific outlook of Marxism-Leninism and dialectical materialism! To forsake the counter-productive methods of adventurism that inevitably lead us in the working-class movement to the road of ruin!

We know from the rigorous application of theory and practice that unity was never possible, and never will be with the Anarchist trend. Our schools of thought may come from common roots, and Communism may in fact be the stateless ideal these Anarchists so desperately seek, but we fundamentally have nothing in common with each other. We believe in authority, they don’t. We believe in collectivism; they believe in individualism. Most of all, we believe it is the people who are the great movers of history, and not the so-called, “great men” and their “super-revolutionary” acts of violence! We believe that technology is neither inherently good nor evil. That in the end, as with all things, its harm or benefit depends on which class wields it. The bourgeoisie, or the proletariat? We recognize that the class struggle is the highest form of revolutionary struggle we can engage in, that only the abolition of capitalism will result in workers’ liberation and a truly revolutionary shift in the way our society operates.

[1] Marx, Karl, The Class Struggles In France (1850); published by Friedrich Engels

[2] Lenin, Anarchism and Socialism (1901); Proletarskaya Revolutsia

[3] Lenin, Anarchism and Socialism (1901); Proletarskaya Revolutsia

[4] Lenin, The State and Revolution (1918); Foreign Languages Publishing House

[5] Engels, Friedrich, On Authority (1872); Almanacco Republicano

[6] Marx, Karl, The German Ideology (1846); Marx-Engels Institute (1932)

[7] Marx, Karl, The German Ideology (1846); Marx-Engels Institute (1932)

[8] Lenin, Adventurism (1914); Rabochy