Why do I address myself to the crisis of socialism, rather than to that of anarchism? Because the anarchist movement is not in crisis. It remains just what it always was: a tiny network of propagandists around the world, whose bitterest disputes are internal, but whose general conclusions are far more relevant today than when they were first formulated in the last century.
The anarchists claimed that it was necessary to destroy power of the state. The socialists claimed that it was necessary to take control of that power. By 1984 the whole world feels threatened by nuclear weapons which are the ultimate expression of state power. States, whether capitalist or socialist, have achieved what they have always sought to achieves the power to destroy every Citizen of every state.
The anarchists claimed that it was necessary for industrial production to be in the hands of the producers. The socialists claimed that it should he in the hands of the state. The result is, as we can all see, looking around the world today, that the more the control of industry is concentrated in the hands of the state, the more powerless are the industrial workers. Compare the situation of the industrial worker in the Soviet Union, 67 years after the Bolshevik revolution, with that of the industrial worker in the capitalist West. The common factor that links the struggles of Solidarity in Poland with that of the coal-miners in Britain is not that they are confrontations with the state. (In Britain the mining industry has been owned by the state for 38 years and controlled by it for 45 years).
How long are the socialists prepared to wait for socialism? In the last century the anarchist faction was pushed out of history by the believers in state socialism, whether by Marxism in the First International or by Fabianism in Britain. Ordinary citizens outside were, of course, unaffected, but when large-scale socialist movements emerged as contenders for political power, it was state-socialism which represented the socialist ideology to the ordinary non-political population. In both East and West it has utterly discredited itself, because in the East it implies the emergence of a police state and in the West it implies the emergence of a managerial, bureaucratic class, living off the people.
It is this that explains why the grotesque political figures like Reagan in America or Thatcher in Britain are actually popular among the electorate. (I hardly need emphasis that their belief in ”small government” does not extend to the key instruments of the state: the army, the law and the police). And it explains why in the Marxist States that rule the greater part of the world’s population, the ideal of socialism has been turned into a cynical joke through its association with an authoritarian oligarchical ruling class.
Anarchism has always been the unheeded conscience of the political left.
Its future task is to rescue those generous social impulses that draw people towards socialist ideals from what seems today to be the terminal illness of the socialist movement.