A Look into Anarchism and Capitalism Essay

Anarchism can be defined as the absence of rule inasmuch as it comprises numerous modes of thought and action with the former especially intricate to trace given the tendency of its most influential proponents not to systematize their respective conceptualizations and corresponding advocacies.

            Free market capitalism, on the other hand, depends on the self interests of those who purchase the goods as well as services based on the quality and affordability of the goods and services being offered. In this manner every vendor of the goods and services has an economic benefit or advantage in improving the quality and reducing the prices of the goods and services.

            In this regard, it has been argued that anarchism, and not ‘free market’ capitalism, is considered by some to be the genuine heir to the liberal ideals of the European Enlightenment. Part of the justification behind this claim is the idea that liberal ideals entail the rights of every individual as well as the idea of equality in terms of opportunity in almost all relevant and applicable aspects of the society. Since anarchism entails the absence of rule, it can be pointed out that it very well befits the ideals of liberalism. In other words, having a society without a set of stringent rules that define the actions of every individual gives way for the individual to fully exercise one’s rights and claims for opportunity.

            ‘Free market’ capitalism, on the other hand, restricts the idea of equality which is strongly advocated by liberalism. Since this capitalist system entails a ‘capitalist’ and a ‘worker’, it inevitably and immediately sets the distinctions between the two at least in terms of market capabilities, with the worker usually under the command of the capitalist. Thus, even a ‘free market’ capitalist society degrades the causes for equal opportunity and rights of the individuals—the two significant aspects staunchly championed by the liberal ideals of the European Enlightenment.

One can declare the Paris Commune as a vindication of the ideas of anarchism and not as a vindication of Marx essentially because those who were involved in the Paris Commune primarily distorted his ideas instead of expressing or advancing them. In the group of Marxists, the Paris Commune of 1871 is considered as the first illustration of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Meanwhile, anarchists counter the vindicating status of the Commune based on the idea that the Commune did not depend on a vanguard. The Paris Commune was not also able to entirely capture the power State and try to establish a new revolutionary State. Although Marx himself repeatedly warned against an uprising coming from the laboring class—as evidenced in his official documents published no less by the First International— it can be noted that those who comprised the Paris Commune were not able to fully establish their goals in the context of the ideals of Marx.

Although the Paris Commune of 1871 served as a local authority which enforced its power for roughly two quick months, it can nevertheless be observed that in totality the Commune was not able to solidify its goal of creating a lasting proletariat rule. Instead, what it did was to amplify all the more the existing chaos that existed after being instigated by the first uprising in Paris.

The organizational principles of anarchism can be briefly summarized in terms of decentralization, common aid, deliberate association, network model and, far more importantly, the elimination of any scheme that portrays the precept of “the ends justify the means” not to mention that the concern of a revolutionary is to capture the power of the state and then start enforcing one’s vision.

Anarchists were able to address the issues of scale and complexity of a post-capitalist, liberal society by attacking the very structures that create the rule or mandates within the society which limits the opportunities of the individual. Hence, the increase in the presence of the liberal principles such as equality and the consideration for individual rights is a form of manifestation —though not entirely—of the decentralization of the authority which is the essence of anarchism. The growth of individual participation in post-capitalist and liberal societies more or less indicates the subtle or, perhaps, the obvious incorporation of anarchist organizational principles into the liberal and post-capitalist society.

Although Marxists and anarchists have been relatively conceived as differing groups, there are, for some parts, existing similarities between the two. The similarity can be observed from the fact that both of these groups argue for a change in the system or of the status quo by replacing the existing, say, members of the government or the very form of government. This leads us into the assumption that the similarities dwell on the generalities that lay at the foundation of both groups further suggesting the idea that, while anarchists and Marxists may have different proponents and specific principles, they are nevertheless compounded under the greater goal of replacing the authority—one that suppresses and oppresses the individual or, for Marxists, the proletariats—essentially through violent measures.

On the other hand, it is a fact that anarchists and Marxists have differing specific principles which sets them apart. While anarchists seek the elimination of rule either by a single individual or by a group of people, Marxists further extends this vision of the anarchists. That is, Marxists stretches the point of the anarchists of eliminating the status quo by adding the idea of establishing the rule of the proletariat or of the working class. Hence, it can be observed that Marxists still believe in a ruling class, only that the ruling class that should take the central authority is the proletariat. Needless to say, the anarchist may still adapt the possibility of further dismantling this proletariat rule—which is most likely to happen.

Hence, it can be argued that what divides them—Marxists extending the point of view of the anarchists by suggesting the idea of ‘dismantling and constructing anew’—is less significant than what unites them. Conversely, it can be argued that the general foundation of the two which is the elimination of the status quo is more important than what divides them. The reason behind this is that the general foundation of the two is the greater reason why both or each has been conceived and that their differences are common to the various approaches in changing an oppressive system.

The revolutionary practice of anarchism, particularly in Spain, validates the champions of anarchism primarily because the communes were run consistent with the primary tenet of appropriation according to the needs and abilities of the individual without the attachment to any dogma of Marxism. In several locations money was fully abolished and that decisions were arrived at by the council of ordinary citizens devoid of any type of bureaucracy. The economic revolution at that time in Spain was coincided by a spirit of cultural revolution manifested at least in terms of Spain’s allowing of women’s abortion.

On the other hand, the revolutionary practice of anarchism in Russia also validates the champions of anarchism. This can be traced from the fact that the rise of the insurgence groups in Russia was able to fulfill a social revolution founded on the principles of anarchy amidst spending a wealth of resources and energy in defeating the German and Austro-Hungarian invaders.

In essence, both Russia and Spain were able to manifest the anarchist ideals and sustain them for a certain period of time. Although both countries may have eventually evolved through time, nevertheless Russia and Spain, at one point in time, were both able to prove the validation of the champions of anarchism.


Duncan, M. G. (1988). Spanish Anarchism Refracted: Theme and Image in the Millenarian and Revisionist Literature. Journal of Contemporary History, 23(3), 323-346.