, , , , , , , , ,

Source: Marxists Internet Archive

Hal Draper

The Two Souls of Socialism


4. The Myth of Anarchist “Libertarianism”

One of the most thoroughgoing authoritarians in the history of radicalism is none other than the “Father of Anarchism,” Proudhon, whose name is periodically revived as a great “libertarian” model, because of his industrious repetition of the word liberty and his invocations to “revolution from below.”

Some may be willing to pass over his Hitlerite form of anti-Semitism (“The Jew is the enemy of humankind. It is necessary to send this race back to Asia, or exterminate it …”). Or his principled racism in general (he thought it was right for the South to keep American Negroes in slavery, since they were the lowest of inferior races). Or his glorification of war for its own sake (in the exact manner of Mussolini). Or his view that women had no rights (“I deny her every political right and every initiative. For woman liberty and well-being lie solely in marriage, in motherhood,in domestic duties …”) – that is, the “Kinder-Kirche-Küche” of the Nazis.

But it is not possible to gloss over his violent opposition not only to trade-unionism and the right to strike (even supporting police strikebreaking), but to any and every idea of the right to vote, universal suffrage, popular sovereignty, and the very idea of constitutions. (“All this democracy disgusts me … What would I not give to sail into this mob with my clenched fists!”) His notes for his ideal society notably include suppression of all other groups, any public meeting by more than 20, any free press, and any elections; in the same notes he looks forward to “a general inquisition” and the condemnation of “several million people” to forced labor – “once the Revolution is made.”

Behind all this was a fierce contempt for the masses of people – the necessary foundation of Socialism-from-Above, as its opposite was the groundwork of Marxism. The masses are corrupt and hopeless (“I worship humanity, but I spit on men!”) They are “only savages … whom it is our duty to civilize, and without making them our sovereign,” he wrote to a friend whom he scornfully chided with: “You still believe in the people.” Progress can come only from mastery by an elite who take care to give the people no sovereignty.

At one time or another he looked to some ruling despot as the one-man dictator who would bring the Revolution: Louis Bonaparte (he wrote a whole book in 1852 extolling the Emperor as the bearer of the Revolution); Prince Jerome Bonaparte; finally Czar Alexander II (“Do not forget that the despotism of the czar is necessary to civilization”).

There was a candidate for the dictator’s job closer to home, of course: himself. He elaborated a detailed scheme for a “mutualist” business, cooperative in form, which would spread to take over all business and then the state. In his notes Proudhon put himself down as the Manager in Chief, naturally not subject to the democratic control he so despised. He took care of details in advance: “Draw up a secret program, for all the managers: irrevocable elimination of royalty, democracy, proprietors, religion [and so on].” – “The Managers are the natural representatives of the country. Ministers are only superior Managers or General Directors: as I will be one day … When we are masters, Religion will be what we want it to be; ditto Education, philosophy, justice, administration and government.”

The reader, who may be full of the usual illusions about anarchist “libertarianism,” may ask: Was he then insincere about his great love for liberty?

Not at all: it is only necessary to understand what anarchist “liberty” means. Proudhoun wrote: “The principle of liberty is that of the Abbey of Theleme [in Rabelais]: do what you want!” and the principle meant: “any man who cannot do what he wants and anything he wants has the right to revolt, even alone, against the government, even if the government were everybody else. “the only man who can enjoy this liberty is a despot; this is the sense of the brilliant insight by Dostoyevsky’s Shigalev: “Starting from unlimited freedom, I arrive at unlimited despotism.”

The story is similar with the second “Father of Anarchism,” Bakunin, whose schemes for dictatorship and suppression of democratic control are better known than Proudhon’s.

The basic reason is the same: Anarchism is not concerned with the creation of democratic control from below, but only with the destruction of “authority” over the individual, including the authority of the most extremely democratic regulation of society that it is possible to imagine. This has been made clear by authoritative anarchist expositors time and again; for example, by George Woodcock: “even were democracy possible, the anarchist would still not support it … Anarchists do not advocate political freedom. What they advocate is freedom from politics…” Anarchism is on principle fiercely anti-democratic, since an ideally democratic authority is still authority. But since, rejecting democracy, it has no other way of resolving the inevitable disagreements and differences among the inhabitants of Theleme, its unlimited freedom for each uncontrolled individual is indistinguishable from unlimited despotism by such an individual, both in theory and practice.

The great problem of our age is the achievement of democratic control from below over the vast powers of modern social authority. Anarchism, which is freest of all with verbiage about something-from-below, rejects this goal. It is the other side of the coin of bureaucratic despotism, with all its values turned inside-out, not the cure or the alternative.



Hal Draper

The Two Souls of Socialism


Hal Draper, The Two Souls of SocialismNew Politics 5, no.1, Winter 1966, pp.57-84.
Reprinted in numerous editions, both authorised and unauthorised. [1]
Downloaded from the Marxism Page – many thanks to Rick Kuhn.The full PDF of the 1966 edition can be downloaded here.
© Center for Socialist History (CSH), Berkeley; published here with kind permission of the copyright holders.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

1. Some Socialist “Ancestors”

2. The First Modern Socialists

3. What Marx Did

4. The Myth of Anarchist “Libertarianism”

5. Lassalle and State Socialism

6. The Fabian Model

7. The “Revisionist” Façade

8. The 100% American Scene

9. Six Strains of Socialism-rom-Above

10. Which Side Are You On?

A Few References


Note from The Two Souls of Socialism International Socialists, Highland Park, Michigan, revised edition, fourth printing 1970

This is a completely rewritten and expanded version of a study which originally appeared in the socialist student magazine Anvil (Winter 1960) and was subsequently reprinted two or three times elsewhere. The framework, the general content, and some passages remain, but I have taken advantage of this new edition to make a thorough revision of what was a hasty first draft.

The aim is not to give a history of socialist thought in a nutshell, but simply to illustrate a thesis – the thesis being a historical interpretation of the meaning of socialism and of how socialism came to mean what it does today. To this end I have selected for discussion a few of the most important socialist currents up to the early 20th century, since the object of the inquiry is the wellsprings of the modern socialist movement. There are a number of tendencies which would have been difficult to treat briefly, and are therefore not discussed here at all, such as syndicalism, DeLeonism, Bolshevism, the IWW, the collectivist liberals, etc.; but I believe that their study leads to the same conclusions.

The chief difficulty in treating the subject briefly is the heavy encrustation of myth over the written history of socialism. At the end I have listed a very few works which are especially useful for some of the figures discussed here; for others the interested reader simply has to go back to the sources. There is no half-decent history of socialist thought extant today: and there probably will not be one until more socialist scholars do the kind of job that E.P. Thompson did for William Morris, whose image had been almost obliterated by the myths.

Speaking of William Morris, I re-read A Dream of John Ball, and came once again across the oft-quoted passage about – Well, let us quote it again, as motto for the following pages: “… I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name…”



Note on this edition

1. The Two Souls of Socialism appeared in New Politics 5, no.1 (Winter 1966) pp.57-84, a pamphlet published by the International Socialists, Highland Park, Michigan, revised edition, fourth printing 1970 and was included in Socialism From Below by Hal Draper, essays selected, edited and with an introduction by E. Haberkern, Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands 1992 pp.2-33. That edition is now out of print. The The Two Souls of Socialism was scanned and digitized into ASCII text and mounted on the Guelph Socialists Homepage (now defunct). The Guelph version was edited to eliminate some divergences from the Socialism From Below text to form the edition below. The paragraph in section 3. What Marx Did in {curly brackets} appeared in the 1966 pamphlet but not the Socialism From Below edition.


Last updated on 26.9.2004