vol.7, no.3, (November 2001)


The “Advance Without Authority”[1]: Post-modernism, Libertarian Socialism, and Intellectuals

Chamsy Ojeili


Abstract: The eclipse of socialist statism and the advent of post-modernism have generated important questions about the role and future of Left intellectuals, political organisation, and theory. Socialist statism’s vanguardism, elitism, scientism, and substitutionism have been thoroughly discredited. The advent of post-modernism is one signal of this. The post-modern rejection of universalism, its critique of representation, and its emphasis on situatedness provide a challenge to emancipatory thought. However, post-modernism’s suspension of judgement, relativism, and – most importantly – rejection of universalism is not a coherent emancipatory alternative. A more fruitful way of answering questions about intellectuals and political organisation is to examine the broad libertarian socialist tradition. At various times, thinkers within this political field have managed to steer a path between vanguardism and revolutionary waiting, between scientism and theoretical randomisation, advancing without authority to organise and theorise towards a radically democratic social order beyond state and capital.




The current period is a time of profound uncertainty for Left intellectuals. As Anderson has noted, the entire ground upon which the New Left was built has been eroded, and rampant neo-liberalism stands as “the most successful ideology in world history”.[2] Further, elements of the post-modern imagination appear to stand as an unsurpassable cultural and political horizon for progressive thinkers, and this post-modernism seems, at times, non-socialist, even anti-socialist, in orientation. For many on the broad Left, this climate has encouraged attention to the role of, and scope of tasks for, the intellectual today, in creating “a new hegemonic socialist paradigm”.

For a number of thinkers, the present time is one of pessimism and withdrawal to the socialist watchtower. Anderson, for instance, calls for an “uncompromising realism” before the enormous tasks at hand. In a similarly pessimistic vein, Russell Jacoby has lamented the retreat of progressive intellectuals from utopian concerns to the struggle to publish[3]: “[the New Left became] professors who neither looked backwards nor sideways; they kept their eyes on professional journals, monographs and conferences”.[4]

For others, the ground clearing effected by the advent of post-modernism and the “crisis of socialism” makes ours a time of possibilities. Post-modern philosopher and red-diaper baby Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Country,[5] for instance, is a plea to a now spectatorial, retrospective, overly culturalist, and pessimistic Left to once again become the “party of hope”, able to inspire (America) with stories of nationhood and progress. More radically, critical theorist Douglas Kellner has spoken of the new possibilities before Left intellectuals that the advent and dissemination of new technologies brings.[6] These new technologies potentially form a new public sphere within which the critical-oppositional intellectual, a re-working of Sartre’s vision of intellectual life, can educate and organise towards a socialist society.

One noteworthy recent contribution to the debate about the role and future of the Left intellectual is Suman Gupta’s Marxism, History, and Intellectuals: Towards a Reconceptualised Transformative Socialism.[7] Gupta provides a rigorous examination of the place of the intellectual within the Marxist tradition, an attempt to resolve or move beyond the blockages within this tradition, and more grandly still an attempt to reconstruct an equalitarian socialist programme. According to Gupta, since Marx’s wrestling match with Hegel, the socialist intellectual has been rendered invisible. With the discovery of History, class struggle, and the proletariat, there is no legitimate place anymore for the thinker who must become proletariat in a mysterious transfiguration, or who, as practical revolutionary, is the intellectual’s other. Against Marxian coyness or self-deception, Gupta forwards the case for a full autonomy for socialist intellectuals as the primary agents of a reconstructed socialism.

Gupta’s work is impressive in its exegetical detail and dense in its argumentation. However, Gupta’s proposals could also be understood as too close to the elitism, scientism, and substitutionism of now virtually eclipsed socialist statism (social democracy and Leninism). It is important to show that emancipatory discourse is not exhausted by such socialist orthodoxy. This task has been, I think, one of the features of the debate around the project of inclusive democracy. With respect to the questions of intellectuals and organisation, for instance, participants in this debate have called for a new type of political organisation that mirrors the desired structure of the social order to be established.[8] This organisation would, therefore, have quite a different shape to the party form of social democracy and Leninism. However, the inclusive democracy project rejects both the lifestyle strategy of social change and post-modern fragmentation, insisting on the need to mount a hegemonic challenge to the domination of state and capital. The most important role for such an organisation and for intellectuals would be as catalysts to the establishment of new institutions and the development of an alternative consciousness, since, for the inclusive democracy project, the establishment of a new society must be, first and foremost, the self-reflective, collective choice of autonomy.

In the following essay, I aim to examine questions of social transformation, intellectual life, and political organisation. I want to examine these questions in relation to post-modernism, socialist orthodoxy, and the libertarian socialist tradition. In this essay, the libertarian socialist tradition is defined broadly to encompass socialist and anarchist sub-traditions such as western Marxism (Korsch, Gramsci, Marcuse), council communism (Pannekoek, Pankhurst, Socialisme ou Barbarie, Debord), Bordigism (Camatte, Barrot), anarcho-communism (Kropotkin, Berkman, Goldman, Bookchin), anarcho-syndicalism (Chomsky, Rocker), and impossibilism (William Morris, Daniel De Leon, the Socialist Labour Party (SLP), the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB)). In this sense, the libertarian socialist tradition runs wide and is internally divided. However, despite its internal divergences, libertarian socialism holds together, both through its implacable opposition to socialist orthodoxy’s state capitalism and vanguardism, and through its commitment to popular sovereignty. This emancipatory discourse moves uncertainly, through tensions between working class self-emancipation and the desire for independent socialist organisation, between science/theory and movement, between anti-intellectual withdrawal and theoretical and political engagement. At libertarian socialism’s best moments, these tensions have, I will contend, resulted in an “advance without authority”, which nonetheless avoids the localism, individualism, anti-intellectualism, and romanticism sometimes found in post-modern considerations of intellectual life. At best, libertarian socialists have avoided the anti-politics of both revolutionary waiting and Jacobinism, promising an ironic but engaged and confident politics of the present.

From Marx to Post-modernism

Marx, as Lovell[9] notes, was never clear about the relationship between his project and the working class movement, about the link between leaders, intellectuals, parties, and the masses. At a certain moment, communist intellectuals, their theory, and the party are lent no autonomy whatsoever. Marx insists that revolutions cannot be made and communism is not an ideal.[10] Socialism is a “real movement” to be achieved by the working class made conscious as a result of “the premises now in existence”, of history itself. Therefore, communism was not a function of the educative investments of intellectuals, the revolutionary exertions of a clique of activists, or the result of a “good theory”.

At the next moment, however, Marx elevates philosophy to the head of a coming emancipation. Theory - rather than always arriving too late, rather than being historical and partisan - might have a leading role, a leading role attributable to its scientificity above and beyond its historical coordinates or attachments to progressive social movements. Here, the moralistic and messianic motif is replaced by a scientific emphasis on the primacy of material forces and the laws of capitalist development.[11] This second tendency posits Marxism as a hard science in line with the natural sciences complete, objective, and able to unproblematically guarantee the truth of its theoretical propositions. This science is developed and expounded by the communists, “the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country”. And, because these communists “have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole”, because “they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement”,[12] they appear to have an independent authority over the working class.

Post-modernism is the most radical contemporary expression of the difficulties encountered by these socialist formulations on intellectuals, political organisation, and theory. Most crucially, the post-modernist challenge to socialist theory and practice is contained in its sharp critique of representation. In its philosophical form, this challenge is an attack on the metaphor of the mind as a mirror of nature, on the confident separation of science from ideology, and on the aspiration for totalising theories of social order and history.[13] Today, no one believes that theory can escape ideology and that we might someday achieve closure and scientific certainty on social matters. Postmodernism has instead turned to accent partiality, play, and theoretical openness. The critique of representation also entails a rejection of any sort of vanguardism.[14] Here, post-modernity as a whole entails a declining faith in party political organisation and a rather modest conception of the role of the contemporary intellectual. There can, it is argued, be no unproblematic identity between the people and the party/intellectual.

Thus it was that Michel Foucault spoke of the closing of the period in which “To be an intellectual meant something like being the consciousness/conscience of us all.”[15] The “universal intellectual”, “proclaiming the rights of humanity, unveiling deceit and hypocrisy, attacking despotism and false hierarchies, combating injustices and inequalities”, had given way, argued Foucault, to the “specific intellectual”.[16] Against the image of the intellectual as “somewhat ahead and to the side”, Foucault’s specific intellectual would work “within specific sectors, at the precise points where their own conditions of life or work situate them.”[17]

Vital in the post-modern emphasis on specificity is the opposition to universalist claims. Illustrative of the post-modern position, here, is Bernard-Henry Levy’s imaginary year 2000 dictionary entry for intellectuals: “noun, masculine gender, a social and cultural category born in Paris at the moment of the Deyfus Affair, dead in Paris at the end of the twentieth century, apparently was not able to survive the decline of belief in universals”.[18] There is, argues Lyotard, no “universal subject-victim”, and there can therefore be no more intellectuals – at least in the Sartrean sense.[19] Neither can there be the sort of intellectual “detached concern” for humanity that Lewis Coser[20] speaks of.

Foucault’s comments on the specific intellectual resonate with an apparent truth regarding the post-modern age, hyper-sensitised to  “the indignity” not to mention the dangers “of speaking for others”.[21] The notion that a philosopher or a political organisation could effectively represent any social whole, the pretensions of intellectuals to knowledge of people’s real interests, and the assumption of universal values pointing towards some future harmonious order are all anathema to the post-modern thinker. For instance, Zygmunt Bauman[22] has argued that the model of the intellectual as ethical and cultural legislator is now gone. With the consumer choices, privatisation, identity fragmentation, and – most importantly – the decline of “great utopias … projects of global engineering” that post-modernism encompasses, we witness a change in the role of the intellectual. Having lost their function as cultural legislators, intellectuals, in Bauman’s opinion, have a new, apparently more modest function as cultural interpreters: “translators in the ongoing exchange between autonomous, diverse but equivalent styles.” This interpreter-intellectual is forced to “advance without authority”, though he or she is still endowed with the duty of making unheard voices audible and still burdened by the courage and sacrifice such a duty requires.[23] This may certainly not appear ideal, but in the post-legitimation era it is “the only feasible, sensible and, indeed … realistic programme that the intellectuals … have and are likely to have for some time to come.”

For the contemporary socialist with Marx still on his or her mind, the post-modern choices look equally unsatisfactory. The intellectual in Foucault and Bauman looks too little involved in the questions of universal significance that socialism is vitally concerned with. A second option – ludic Baudrillardian culturalist escapism – looks even worse. Finally, the muscular reassertion of the heritage and true role of the modern progressive intellectual by thinkers such as Christopher Norris and Edward Said appears far too individualist and romantic,[24] despite its and its proponents’ obvious appeal.

On the one hand, post-modernism’s liberal modesty regarding the tasks of intellectuals, and the authority of parties and theory is very attractive when placed beside those political axioms of socialist orthodoxy: the intellectual or party as ruler-legislator, as privileged interpreter of the direction of history and the real needs of the masses, and as bearer of a theory or utopian vision that guides and guarantees the movement’s success. In this vein, those post-modern elements prefigured by Castoriadis are vital: the jettisoning of the notion of history as progress, the rejection of the idea of a single and universal reason, and the emphasis on the instituted, historical specificity, and the priority of the political.[25] On the other hand, as noted, post-modernism falls short, in a number of ways, of the necessary tasks ahead for the socialist thinker. That is, post-modern thinkers have uncritically rejected universalism and overvalued contingency and difference, under-theorised the still central place of state and capital, and foreclosed on the possibility of a collective project oriented towards alteration of those “structures of unfreedom”.[26] It is my contention that from within the libertarian emancipatory tradition there are resources that go beyond both post-modernism and socialist orthodoxy (considered below).

From the Second International to Bolshevism

The pages in the Communist Manifesto that fall under the heading “Proletarians and Communists” begin with a series of propositions on the relations between communists and the proletariat and end with a number of proposals of a state capitalist character. The deep structure of passages such as these, commentators have claimed, clearly indicates a bid for power by the intellectuals. For instance, for Gouldner: “At the deepest reaches of Marxism, what we unearth is the ancient commitment to govern rationally - the commitment to the ‘philosopher king’.”[27] According to Gouldner, Marxism is founded on a paradox - a paradox that will later be resolved by Lenin’s vanguard party. “The Marxist scenario of class struggle was never able to account for itself, for those who produced the scenario, for Marx and Engels themselves. Where did the theorists of this class struggle fit into the supposed cleavage between proletariat and capitalist class?”.[28] Gouldner concludes that this lacuna is important in understanding Marxism as the expression of the aspirations of the “New Class”, those intellectuals and intelligentsia seeking to counter their own blocked ascendance to power.[29] Here, those measures suggested at the end of the second section of the Manifesto serve to propel this New Class to ruling class by eliminating the rule of money capital in favour of cultural capital. A consideration of socialist statism, I argue, supports Gouldner’s equation of socialism with rule by the intellectual or party. It is this conception of socialist political and intellectual life that must be superseded, without making the mistakes of strong post-modernism.

In the period from the 1890s until the First World War, with the crises of ministerialism in France and revisionism in Germany, and with the increasingly syndicalist mood among militants, the problem of the relationship of theorists, political leaders, and workers became ever more vexed.[30] The response by thinkers like Engels and Lafargue to such conflicts was a common and paradoxical anti-intellectualism, which relegated intellectuals to a mere function of economic development.[31] However, within the Second International, the intellectual had a decisive place: “Even before political socialism appeared on the scene, the labour lawyer who defended the workers’ rights was often an important figure. Socialist parties offered an even more fruitful field of work to progressive-minded intellectuals. As parliamentary experts they drafted the bills which the socialist deputies proposed; as editors they wrote articles in the socialist press; as authors they popularised socialist ideas or developed and defended them in discussions with their opponents; as instructors they gave intellectual training to leaders and subleaders of proletarian origin; as lawyers they advised the party officers how to avoid legal traps or defended them in political trials. Through the mere fact of their participation, the intellectual demonstrated that the socialist appeal was not merely based on the economic interest of the individual, but also on the significance which were the concern of all mankind”.[32]

The “pope of Marxist orthodoxy”, Karl Kautsky, understood the party as representative of and legislator for the working class. For Kautsky, it was the party that would take power after the revolution, as a class, though it might rule, could not directly govern.[33] In Kautsky’s opinion, it was the very character of those in the party, as professional and skilled politicians and as technically-trained intelligentsia, that allowed for, or, more strongly, necessitated this role for the intellectual and the party.

Capable of freeing themselves from the determinants of their backgrounds, intellectuals could, Kautsky argued, lend to workers a “clear conception of their historical function” and “clarity and consciousness of goals”.[34] In fact, Kautsky famously asserted that “Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge … The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia.” Therefore, “socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without” and is “not something that grew naturally from within it”.[35] It is, though, important to clarify Kautsky’s point and so differentiate his position from Lenin’s. What was introduced from without, for the fatalistic and optimistic Kautsky, was “modern socialism,” that is, Marxism.[36] It was, in Kautsky’s reckoning, the intellectual’s function to provide “knowledge of the goal” and a scientific basis for workers’ ideals and instincts, but revolutions could not be made.[37]

The precise content and function of this “modern socialism” expounded by Second International orthodoxy developed from Engels’ extrapolations of Marx’s work in contributions such as Anti-Duhring,[38] Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy, and the posthumously published Dialectics of Nature. The growing popularity of Marx’s work demanded a clearer formulation, and Engels proved an excellent populariser and simplifier,[39] in the process attaching Marx’s work to natural science, diminishing the idealistic, ethical, and historicist accents in Marx’s work, and systematising Marx’s oeuvre into “historical materialism”. Within the rising social democratic movement, developing beneath the “long shadow” cast by Darwin[40] and the achievements of science, Marxism became an important myth for adherents, a set of simple and wide-ranging axioms that could be wielded against opponents.[41]

Lenin’s voluntarism and the context in which Bolshevism developed produced important differences between Leninism and classical social democracy; yet, in essentials, the consonance is obvious. Signalling the context of feudal absolutism and illegality, Lenin’s infamous treatise of 1902, What is to be Done?, champions the organisational principles of secrecy, the closely-monitored selection of professional revolutionaries, centralism, and the disciplinary subordination of members to the party’s central command.[42] Given the division and degradation of the working class, and the age and weight of bourgeois ideology, socialist consciousness must be introduced to the proletariat from without. The party must thus train and enlighten the masses, express their interests and direct all their activities along the path of conscious class politics[43]: “only the political party of the working class, i.e., the Communist Party, is capable of uniting, training and organising a vanguard of the proletariat and of the whole mass of the working people … and of guiding all the united activities of the whole of the proletariat, i.e., of leading it politically, and through it, the whole mass of the working people. Without this the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible”.[44] Thus, for Lenin, to weaken the party was to weaken the working class.[45]

Bolshevism’s accentuation of the party and the intellectual was closely tied to their presumed capacity for developing a correct and guiding theory. Revolutionary theory was vital, and the content of such theory followed from Engels’ simplifications and confidence: “The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true”. And despite Lenin’s war-time Hegelian rethinking, it was Lenin’s earlier, raw theoretical conceptions, developed in Materialism and Empiriocriticism and Three Sources of Marxism, that furnished the “Diamat” of Soviet Marxism, as official state ideology.

Libertarian Socialists on Parties and Intellectuals

The above notions of intellectual life, political organisation, and theory have dominated the socialist movement. They have also been the focus for a post-modernism desperate to differentiate its politics and theory from the authoritarian consequences of socialist statism. I shall now examine the contribution of a broad socialist tradition that has opposed this orthodoxy and that offers a vision of intellectual life beyond party functionary, theory beyond dogma, and politics beyond substitutionism and elitism.

The libertarian socialist advance beyond substitutionism and elitism has not been achieved all at once or in a straightforward and linear manner. Much libertarian socialism was faced with, and marked by, a troubled social-historical context. Periodically, until the time of revolutionary insurgency from 1917, libertarian socialists had fought the de-radicalisation and bureaucratisation of European social democracy. Against the elitism and quietism of the social democrats, libertarian socialists emphasised proletarian self-organisation. Conversely, the failures of the spontaneous movements of proletarian unrest in the 1917-1923 period led some thinkers back to the problems of politics and culture. The collapse of the immense hopes raised by the struggles around the First World War was, in a sense, the failure both of the unrealistic hopes for parties and of those for the proletariat. The SPD showed itself a bureaucratic and nationalist force that rejected social revolution. The Bolsheviks seized power on their own behalf and worked to undermine the organs of workers’ power. On the other hand, the proletariat in Europe refused to grasp power when it seemed there for the taking, settling instead for the meagre gains of republican democracy or, worse, supinely allowing all working class organisations to be crushed by the reaction. It was amidst such failures and the dilemmas of isolation versus compromise and sectarianism versus incorporation[46] that the possibility emerged of a properly political and engaged but non-vanguardist conception of socialist struggle. Insisting that the predominant force of societal transformation was the organisation of the mass of people by the mass of people, even the extreme spontaneist conclusions of libertarian socialists like Luxemburg and Paul Mattick did not mean a cessation of intellectual and political work. Here, intellectuals intervene with the aim of generalising socialist consciousness because they must, even while insisting that “revolution is not a party affair”. These libertarian socialists have diminished the authority of intellectuals, while continuing, as intellectuals, to enter the battle over the social question. A certain tension here is inescapable, and it has meant that libertarian socialists frequently oscillated between the anti-politics of pure proletarian spontaneity and a substitutionist position that is hard to distinguish from orthodoxy. Nonetheless, at certain moments, libertarian socialists have managed to combine a strong political attachment and strong democratic commitments, intervention and modesty.


Anarchism posed an early challenge to the vanguardism and statism it detected in the Marxian conception of communism. The consequences of the growth of parliamentary action, ministerialism, and party life, charged the anarchists, would be de-radicalism and embourgeoisiement. Further, state politics would subvert both true individuality and true community. In response, many anarchists refused Marxist-type organisation, seeking to dissolve or undermine power and hierarchy by way of loose political-cultural groupings, or by championing organisation by a single, similtaneously economic and political administrative unit (Ruhle, Syndicalism). The power of the intellectual and of science were also rejected by many anarchists: “In conquering the state, in exalting the role of parties, they [intellectuals] reinforce the hierarchical principle embodied in political and administrative institutions”.[47] Revolutions could only come through force of circumstances and/or the inherently rebellious instincts of the masses (the “instinct for freedom” (Bakunin, Chomsky)). Thus, in Bakunin’s words: “All that individuals can do is to clarify, propagate, and work out ideas corresponding to the popular instinct”. [48]

Yet, even the apparently hyper-spontaneist anarchists showed themselves unable to comply with the logical consequences of privileging the masses and rejecting leadership. For example, with his notion of a “collective, invisible dictatorship,” and because of his penchant for secret societies and ill-conceived plots,[49] Bakunin has been viewed by a number of thinkers as the hitherto unacknowledged father of Lenin’s authoritarian vanguard party. Similarly, while syndicalism held to the notion of the moral superiority of the heroic, self-sacrificing working class le travail est grand et noble, c’est la source de toute richesse et de toute moralite[50] many syndicalists similtaneously expounded the idea of a “minorite conscient” that would activate the indifferent or idiotic  (“zeros humains”) masses.[51]

The anarchists also challenged Marxian conceptions of the place and content of socialist theory. As Flacks has pointed out: “To make social theory is frequently to attempt to make history … Social theories are levers intellectuals use to influence power structures, to facilitate political outcomes, to enable groups interested in exercising control to improve their practice, to justify their ascendency, to achieve their goals, or to advance their interests.”[52] Socialist orthodoxy denied this political dimension, presenting theory as no more than scientific investigation that relays what lies before us, thereby secretly privileging theory and theorist, and devaluing popular self-activity.[53] Further, socialist orthodoxy has avoided properly addressing the crucial questions: “what … of the relationship of the intellectual to those whose interests are represented? What of the cultural power and authority of intellectuals themselves?”.[54] The anarchists showed themselves to be concerned with these questions.

Many anarchists have placed tremendous faith in human rationality, and have viewed the human being as profoundly the effect of circumstances and thus of the opportunities for enlightenment that he or she encounters.[55] While many anarchists have followed Bakunin and Kropotkin in seeing revolution as given by force of circumstances, many have rejected the Marxian super-determination (the “inevitable fatalism of rigid natural laws”[56]) that reduces the proletariat to an object and emphasises only economic conditions. Instead, they have maintained that people can be swayed by the moral and rational arguments a libertarian education would provide.[57] Thus for numerous anarchists – Reclus, Berkman, Goldman, Bookchin - the task ahead, in Pelloutier’s words, is “instruire pour revolter”.[58]

The anarchists have been suspicious of theory and theorists, emphasising movement over theory,[59] and rejecting theoretical closure: “We do not boast that we possess absolute truth; on the contrary, we believe that social truth is not a fixed quality, good for all times, universally applicable, or determinable in advance … Thus our solutions always leave the door open to different and, one hopes, better solutions”.[60] At times, such distrust of the “representatives of science”[61] lapses into irrationalism, as in Sorel’s accent on will, struggle, and myth or in Landauer’s Nietszchean conception of history as flux, poetry, and love.[62]

For all their suspicion of final answers and the claims of science, though, most anarchists have not rejected the aspirations of classical social theory. A rational, even scientific, social theory has therefore remained an important goal for numerous anarchists. Chomsky and Kropotkin, for example, both display an immense faith in rational thought, Enlightenment values, and science


If the anarchists made a rather early and clear break from the notion of liberation as the rule of intellectuals and parties, such a turn was slower emerging within the Marxian tradition. One does find early expressions of such perspectives in Morris and the Socialist Party of Great Britain (the SPGB), then again around the events of 1905, with the growing concern at the bureaucratisation and de-radicalisation of international socialism. However, the most important ruptures are to be traced to the insurgency during and after the First World War. Disillusioned with the capitulation of the social democrats, excited by the emergence of workers’ councils, and slowly distanced from Leninism, many communists came to reject the claims of socialist parties and to put their faith instead in the masses. For these socialists, “The intuition of the masses in action can have more genius in it than the work of the greatest individual genius”.[63]

Luxemburg’s workerism and spontaneism are exemplary of positions later taken up by the far-left of the period – Pannekoek, Roland Holst, and Gorter in Holland, Sylvia Pankhurst in Britain, Gramsci in Italy, Lukacs in Hungary. In these formulations, the dictatorship of the proletariat was to be the dictatorship of a class, “not of a party or of a clique”. Moreover, such social change could not be “artificially devised”,[64] but could only emerge through History and its struggles; that is, action rather than education was the midwife to socialism: “To educate the proletarian masses socialistically [in the past] meant to deliver lectures to them, to circulate leaflets and pamphlets among them. No, the socialist proletariat doesn’t need all this. The workers will learn in the school of action”.[65]

In practice, however, things were not so simple. For instance, as Gombin has argued, Luxemburg’s whole career was concerned with an attempt to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable: an autonomous proletarian movement with the need for a vanguard.[66] Sometimes this vanguard is but the “speaking part” to the active chorus that is the masses; sometimes the party is to forge ahead and to accelerate the revolutionary process; sometimes the party itself is to take power.[67] Luxemburg was reluctant to stray from the old social democratic vision of the party.[68] When she did, however, she lapsed into Jacobin fantasies, imagining that the Spartacus Union - hardly a mass organisation - might take power. In general, libertarian socialists have been reluctant to give up the idea that there is still a vital role for communist thinkers and communist organisation in the achievement of socialism. The tension between anti-vanguardism and vanguardism has frequently resolved itself in two diametrically opposed ways: the first involved a drift towards the party; the second saw a move towards the idea of complete proletarian spontaneity.

The first course is exemplified most clearly in Gramsci and Lukacs. Radicalised by the prevailing syndicalist mood and by the appearance of councils in Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere, Gramsci and Lukacs initially emphasised the proletariat over the party: “Nothing but the unity and will of the proletariat can destroy the old society and build the new”.[69] With the defeat of the post-war proletarian unrest, both thinkers came to elevate the party over the proletariat. For Lukacs,[70] “the working class without an independent political party is a rump without a head”, and it became the party that was prefigurative of socialism, embodying all that was potentially admirable in the proletariat as a class for itself.[71]

The second course is illustrated in the tendency, developing from the Dutch and German far-lefts, which inclined towards the complete eradication of the party form. For instance, Pannekoek soon came to the conclusion that there was an internal contradiction to the phrase “revolutionary party”.[72] In fact, Pannekoek went so far as to suggest that: “The belief in parties is the main reason for the impotence of the working class.”[73] In 1927, when the Dutch councilist group, KAPN (Communist Workers’ Party of Netherlands), asked him to clarify whether he was or was not a member, Pannekoek replied: “I consider the party-system and the conception of party membership to be in large part a remnant of the earlier socialist era of the workers’ movement, which, however inevitable it may be in certain respects, is in general harmful. For this reason, I remain outside it”.[74] However, by 1936, the party form returns disguised as a “work group” for the “transitional period … of education and enlightenment”,[75] in Pannekoek’s attempt to theorise away his own continued participation in “separate” political organisations and to erase the ever-present problem of the role of intellectual in the projected revolution. In a similar vein, in later years Pannekoek also prescribed a role (also promoted, at certain points, by Pankhurst, Bordiga, and Barrot) to groupings of intellectuals in periods “of decline, of confusion, of deceit”. At such times, intellectuals could preserve “the principles of class struggle” for a future revival.[76]

Such covert educationisme was dispensed with by some of Pannekoek’s political descendents. A faction within Socialisme ou Barbarie (SoB) insisted that the organisation’s role was merely that of a study group (rather than a party), and the group was a priori subordinate (“a provisional detachment purely conjunctural to the proletariat”) to any autonomous workers’ organisation.[77] The irresolvable organisational dispute within SoB finally saw Claude Lefort and Henri Simon leaving the group in 1958 to form Informations et Liasons Ouvrieres (ILO), which in 1960 became Informations Correspondance Ouvrieres (ICO).[78] Within these groupings, liaison, and information were taken as more important than theorising, and workers’ everyday struggles were raised to the very stuff of socialism.[79] For Henri Simon, the spontaneous struggles arising from the capitalist system moved inexorably towards autonomy and the destruction of hierarchy.[80] Simon’s successor group to ICO, Echanges et Mouvements, developed these anti-vanguardist contentions, insisting that all “revolutionary groups” were in decline, that their existence played no real role anyhow, and that workers were themselves taking the path of revolution. Echanges thus modestly restricts its role to the exchange of information and theoretical discussion.[81]

For those inclined towards spontaneism, it was the logic of the historical process that educated the working class and generated the movement towards socialism. Socialism was a process, a dialectic of struggle and consciousness.[82] For Luxemburg, for instance: “The unconscious comes before the conscious. The logic of the historic process comes before the subjective logic of human beings who participate in the historic process”. [83] Here, history is frequently viewed as a story of “unceasing progress”,[84] where, in Mattick’s words, things seem to inexorably “roll uphill”.[85] At its most extreme, this doctrine – relying on History and its attendent catastrophes, or, in anarchism, the revolutionary instinct - becomes a recipe for attentisme (“revolutionary waiting”): “[It is] unnecessary to fight against the propaganda agencies of the totalitarian rulers with their own weapons … [These ideologies’] inconsistency with reality will become openly apparent at the moment the masses are forced to face the material overthrow of society”.[86]

Perhaps there is some merit in such an approach. Not only do such claims a priori deny the intellectual and party any unchallenged authority over the socialist movement, but history, after all, does indicate the confluence of revolution with war, famine, and natural disaster, rather than with the intervention of socialist parties. However, this attentiste stance has meant that, in some ways, councilism makes no advance on the ultra-determinism and unshakable optimism of the Second International. For instance, while many of these thinkers – Pannekoek, Gorter, Lukacs, for instance – turned to questions of consciousness, consciousness can never achieve any independence. Lukacs is exemplary here : “Only the consciousness of the proletariat can point the way that leads out of the impasse of capitalism … But the proletariat is not given any choice …”.[87] Further, as Murray Bookchin points out, economic decline and catastrophe are just as likely – perhaps more likely – to elicit reformism and resignation.[88] Bernstein’s challenge to catastrophism/attentisme and Luxemburg’s response are highly revealing. Bernstein rejected the law of value and the idea of collapse, arguing that trusts would allow capitalism to survive almost indefinitely.[89] Luxemburg replied: “Bernstein began his revision of the social democracy by abandoning the theory of capitalist collapse. The latter, however, is the cornerstone of scientific socialism.”[90] This response is, though, little but a declaration of stubborn faith. As Guttsman[91] and Kitching[92] argue, inevitability doctrines seem to function as a psychological placebo or a revolutionary myth for the unsuccessful intellectual.

Thinkers like Pannekoek and Mattick rejected vanguardism for spontaneism. However, they were unable to put up with immobilising spontaneism and they continued to intervene, theorise, and organise. Castoriadis was more critical of the illusions of spontaneism and he did not allow the fear of Jacobinism to eclipse the political dimension. Similarly, libertarian socialism’s “educationist” tendency sees a combination of the stricture that proletarian emancipation must be self-emancipation with the contention that socialist intellectuals and socialist organisations have a potentially important role to play in the revolutionary process. Communists like William Morris, Daniel De Leon, the SLP, and the SPGB prioritised education. For Morris, “the only rational means of attaining to the New Order of Things” was by “making socialists by educating them”.[93] In an article in which he farewelled political activity, Morris maintained: “I say make Socialists. We socialists can do nothing else that is useful, and preaching and teaching is not out of date for that purpose”.[94] Similarly, according to Daniel De Leon, the SLP had an important role as an “educational-propaganda organisation”. The SLP sought to refine “the character and moral fibre of the mass” and to alter enslaving habits of thought.[95] And Cole[96] and Pankhurst[97] insisted that the problem ahead was an educational one.

For many Marxian libertarian socialists, the political bankruptcy of socialist orthodoxy necessitated a theoretical break. This break took a number of forms. The Bordigists[98] and the SPGB championed a super-Marxian intransigence in theoretical matters. Other socialists made a return “behind Marx” to the anti-positivist programme of German idealism. Libertarian socialism has frequently linked its anti-authoritarian political aspirations with this theoretical differentiation from orthodoxy. While contending that there can be no purely theoretical solution to the problems that socialism addresses, many libertarian socialists have importantly both attempted to make a break from the determinist and authoritarian implications of theoretical orthodoxy and they have continued to view a rational comprehension of society as a whole and of the possibilities for change as an important goal for socialist intellectuals. Such a stance has again entailed a difficult but important and inescapable negotiation. On the one side, libertarian socialists have battled against the possibilities of theory and theorists dominating the socialist movement. On the other side, they have continued to intervene as theorists and to act as if theory mattered.

Those within the broad Marxian tradition sought a theoretical escape route from the consequences of orthodoxy that would still be, after all, Marxian. “Western Marxism”, offered a philosophical correlate to the political challenges made by the “left” wing communism attacked by Lenin and the Comintern.[99] Implicitly rejecting the notion that theory reaches its zenith with Marx, returning “behind Marx” to Hegel and other “bourgeois” philosophers, Western Marxism accents history, totality, dialectics, and examines questions about culture and human autonomy. Contrary to the orthodox socialist emphasis on the purely scientific study of economic structuring, it stresses the critical aspect of theorising.[100] In a similar vein, though turning to Joseph Dietzgen rather than Hegel, Pannekoek accepted the relativistic view of human knowledge that followed the collapse of faith in naïve positivism.[101] In this vein, Pannekoek claimed that Marxism, though a science, was not outside of evolution and regression. Marxism’s importance lay in its partisan nature, as the ideology of the revolutionary working class movement.[102]

Karl Korsch is a particularly interesting figure because he remained a libertarian socialist for a large part of his life and because of the persistent urge towards theoretical openness in his work. Korsch rejected the eternal and static, and he was obsessed by the essential role of  practice in a theory’s truth. For Korsch, no theory could escape history, not even Marxism. In this vein, Korsch even credited the stimulus for Marx’s Capital to the movement of the oppressed classes. Further, for Korsch,[103] Marxist theory was not a positive but primarily a critical theory, being concerned not with detached contemplation but with active transformation. Given this, Marxian concepts, explained Korsch,[104] “are not dogmatic fetters” or pre-established truths: they “are an undogmatic guide for scientific research and revolutionary action. ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’.”

Like many Marxian libertarian socialists, Korsch’s work is haunted by the tension between an authoritarian autonomisation of theory as science and the anti-intellectual conclusion that theory is completely without autonomy. Relatedly, in Korsch, a positivist and scientistic thrust confronts a Hegelian and dialectical thrust.[105] Korsch wanted to save Marx from his scientistic Kautskyite and Leninist interpreters, denying that these interpreters had described the real Marx. Simultaneously, however, Korsch periodically found Marx too positivist and too uncritical of bourgeois science.[106] In the contributions of thinkers who have expounded the goal of autonomy, we find a way beyond these sorts of blockages in emancipatory political practice.  


Because he explicitly both rejected Leninist vanguardism and criticised spontaneism, Cornelius Castoriadis is a particularly important figure within the broad field of emancipatory discourse. For Castoriadis, the emancipation of the mass of people was the task of those people; however, the socialist thinker could not simply fold his or her arms. Castoriadis argued that the special place accorded to the intellectual should belong to each autonomous citizen. However, he rejected attentisme, maintaining that, in the struggle for a new society, intellectuals needed to “place themselves at a distance from the everyday and from the real”.[107]

In 1953, Castoriadis established contact with the aged Pannekoek, sending the latter twelve issues of Socialisme ou Barbarie, and an interesting exchange took place between the old and the new representatives of council communism.[108] Pannekoek applauded SoB’s efforts but criticised Castoriadis’ programme as attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable - self-government with leadership by a small vanguard group - and consequently as tending towards Leninism.[109] Castoriadis responded that socialist organisations need not be Leninist and that, in reality, a small nucleus of avant-garde workers could spark larger battles that might eventually draw together large sections of the working class.[110]

Castoriadis rejected the “messianic mysticism” of ICO’s spontaneism, arguing that intellectuals and organisation were still important for ideological struggle and exemplary action, and that this did not mean substitutionism: “People’s evolution is not ‘autonomous’ in the absolute; it occurs in the midst of a struggle and of a social dialectic in which capitalists, Stalinists, and so on are constantly present … It is one thing to condemn the conception of party as ‘director’, it is another to reject one’s own responsibilities and say [like ILO/ICO], ‘Our sole point of view consists in putting our newspaper at the disposal of those who want to speak’.”[111] A revolutionary organisation is an important instrument, one instrument, in the struggle for socialism.[112] Still, the most important factor in socialism is the mass of people: “they alone can invent, create a solution to a problem of which today no one can have even a suspicion”.[113] Further, the seeds of socialism arise most crucially from people’s everyday “experience of work and of life under capitalism”.[114] In essence, for Castoriadis: “To be revolutionary signifies both to think that only the masses in struggle can resolve the problems of socialism and not to fold one’s arms for all that; it means to think that the essential content of the revolution will be given by the masses’ creative, original and unforeseeable activity, and to act oneself, beginning with a rational analysis of the present and with a perspective that anticipates the future.”[115]

Castoriadis was also eventually able to explicitly make the break from Marxism, while retaining within his thought the essentials of critical social theory. For Castoriadis, revolutionary theory was an essential moment in the struggle for a new social order, as it answered questions about the significance of everyday struggles by ordinary people and connected these to the problem of society and of social transformation.[116] Castoriadis did not, however, thereby disregard the practical and historical presuppositions of theoretical development. After all, he asserted, “Marx could not have anticipated the Commune … nor Lenin the soviets”.[117]

Castoriadis rejected the major premises of Marxian economics, Marxism’s external and teleological laws of history, its consequent elimination of class struggle, and its tautological claims to scientificity.[118] Today, Marxism functions simply as ideology, an eternal and closed doctrine that veils reality in the so-called communist nation-states.[119] Though one can - indeed must - discern the difference in any period between truth and error and arrive at a “provisional totalisation of truth”, the ideology of a complete and definitive theory safe from history is a bureaucratic and manipulative fantasy. With the passing of what Castoriadis[120] called the “theological phase of history”, this fantasy cannot be revived.

This thinking beyond Marxism, which retains a commitment to rational and critical social theory, embraces, I believe, all that is worth holding onto within the libertarian socialist tradition, while jettisoning the unsupportable philosophical axioms or scientific pretensions of that tradition. Today, the kind of break from Marxism (which is not, for all that, anti-Marxian) made by Castoriadis is vital for any progressive transformatory project. Such a theoretical commitment advances on anti-intellectualist spontaneism and workerism, and it goes beyond the frequent scientism and closure of the left-Marxian return to Marx. Theory does, here, remain important for comprehending and changing the world. As Best and Kellner put it, “social theories provide mappings of contemporary society: its organisation; its constitutive social relations, practices, discourses, and institutions; its integrated and interdependent features; its conflictual and fragmentary features; and its structures of power and modes of oppression and domination”.[121]

The inclusive democracy project has attempted to develop elements within the classical democratic and socialist traditions and currents of the new social movements into a programme for comprehensive economic, political, cultural, and social change. Most importantly, the inclusive democracy project seeks to replace the market economy and statist democracy with an inclusive democracy.[122] Taking as fundamental the assertion that the mark of autonomy is the conscious and self-reflective creation and re-creation by people as a collectivity of their institutions and laws, the inclusive democracy project eschews vanguardism and views politics as praxis rather than technique.[123] This means autonomy as both ends and means for the project. The new political organisation must therefore be a “democracy in action”, which will function at a variety of levels but will nonetheless need to be part of a comprehensive programme for social change.[124] In the end, the hopes of the inclusive democracy project come down to “our own conscious and self-reflective choice between the two main historical traditions: the tradition of heteronomy which has been historically dominant, and the tradition of autonomy”.[125] The main work ahead, for the inclusive democracy project, is both in creating local realms of democracy and in education. Of the latter, Fotopoulos has spoken of the need to “connect today’s economic and ecological crisis to the present sociao-economic system and the need to replace it with an inclusive democracy based on confedreated self-reliant communities”.[126]

Theoretically, the inclusive democracy project has sought to avoid both antiquated objectivism and post-modern philosophical relativism, which Fotopoulos has charged can lead to both irrationalism and apoliticism.[127] Further, the inclusive democracy project has sought to distance itself from both scientistic and philosophical Marxism. Lastly, Fotopoulos has also attempted to provide an alternative to the dialectical naturalism promoted by Murray Bookchin. For Fotopoulos, Bookchin’s assumption of social evolution is both unfounded and potentially harmful because of its affinity with the heteronomous tradition of social thought. Instead, the inclusive democracy project has sought to once again emphasise the autonomous historical tradition and the choice between heteronomy and autonomy as the only foundation of, and hope for, social change. This conclusion, rejecting the illusory foundations of doctrine, science, and History, and relying only on the everpresence of politics and on the necessarily collective character of progressive social change, is vital for emancipatory thought – moving us beyond both socialist orthodoxy and post-modernism.


Libertarian socialists have been forced to tread an uncertain and difficult path. Consistent critics of representation (viewing it, like Marx, as “something passive”), libertarian socialists have eschewed directorial pretensions, while nevertheless finding themselves propelled into political contestation by their own commitments. At numerous instances, then, libertarian socialists have tended to go beyond the bind of the fetishism of party and intellectuals versus the fear of party and intellectuals. The political path for libertarian socialists could, then, be described as an “advance without authority”.

Such an advance entails a scepticism towards the vanguardist tendencies of intellectuals and a realisation that, in Castoriadis’ words, “the great majority of men and women living in society are the source of creation, the principle bearers of the instituting imaginary, and … they should become the active subjects of an explicit politics”.[128] It also entails a realisation that history means that some are more advanced towards the progressive goal than others and that, as Bookchin notes, “spontaneity has to be informed”.[129]

The enlightened modesty and libertarianism demonstrated by some libertarian socialists does not, however, mean that these thinkers are interesting merely for approximating currently fashionable post-modernist positions. By avoiding the anti-political, particularistic, and romantic-individualist tendencies of post-modernism, libertarian socialists have something more to offer. All traditions cannot be of equal value for the intellectual committed to extending democracy in all directions. That is, strong evaluations must be made. These evaluations do not, however, arise from the efforts of special individuals, as in Rorty’s conception of the post-modern “ironist” or in Said’s romantic restatement of the heritage of the modern intellectual, those who “think otherwise”, the “antennae of the race”.[130] Rather, such evaluations have historical coordinates. These coordinates necessarily entail a certain situatedness, rather than a Sartrean universality. In this, the inclusive democracy project rightly asserts that “it is only at the local level, the community level, that direct and economic democracy can be founded today”.[131] Here, the task would be to create “local public realms of direct and economic democracy which, at some stage, will confederate in order to create the conditions for the establishment of a new society”.[132] This stance also necessarily involves the rejection of communitarian particularism. Without the notion of universalisms, an oppositional stance becomes problematic, and we are left, as Jennings and Kemp-Welch maintain, simply with the endless circulation of discourse.[133] As Castoriadis argued, the intellectual must maintain a critical function while acknowledging that “history is the domain in which there unfolds the creativity of all people, both men and women, the learned and the illiterate, a humanity in which [the intellectual] … is only one atom”.[134] The overarching value is that of autonomy, which is, of course, a universalism. This highly immodest goal of universal emancipation – anathema to many post-modernist thinkers – is combined, in the best of libertarian socialist thought, with a practical commitment to political organisation and engagement.

Castoriadis’ modest response serves as a fine summary of the best that emancipatory thought has to offer here: “I think that immense tasks are to be accomplished on the level of elucidating the problematic of revolution, of denouncing falsehoods and mystifications, of spreading just and justifiable ideas, as well as relevant, significant, and precise information”; “As for the rest, we can do nothing: the workers will struggle or they won’t, the women’s movement will spread or it won’t … But what one should feel responsible for is that in France [for example] there are at least hundreds of people who are thinking by the problematic that matters to us … The only way to find out if you can swim is to get into the water.”[135]



[1] This phrase is taken from Zygmunt Bauman’s Life in Fragments: Essays in Postmodern Morality, (Blackwell, 1995).

[2] Perry Anderson, “Renewals”, New Left Review, 1 (Jan-Feb. 2000), p. 14.

[3] Russell Jacoby, The End of Utopia: Politics and Culture in an Age of Apathy, (Basic Books, 2000).

[4] Jacoby in Jennings, J and Kemp-Welch, A, “The Century of the Intellectual: From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie” in Jennings, J and Kemp-Welch, A (eds), Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie, (Routledge, 1997).

[5] Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America, (Harvard University Press, 1997).

[6] Douglas Kellner, “Intellectuals and New Technologies”.

[7] Suman Gupta, Marxism, History and Intellectuals: Towards a Reconceptualised Transformative Socialism, (Associated University Presses, 2000).

[8] Takis Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy: The Crisis of the Growth Economy and the Need for a New Liberatory Project, (Cassells, 1997).

[9] David Lovell, From Marx to Lenin: An Evaluation of Marx's Responsibility for Soviet Authoritarianism, (Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 30.

[10] Karl Marx, Selected Writings, (Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 228-31.

[11] Joseph Femia, Marxism and Democracy, (Clarendon, 1993); Carl Boggs, The Two Revolutions: Gramsci and the Dilemmas of Western Marxism, (South End Press, 1984), p. 2.

[12] Karl Marx Selected Writings, pp. 228-31,229-231.

[13] Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations, (Macmillan, 1991), p. 287.

[14] Tim May, The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism, (Pennsylvania State University, 1994), p. 12; Best and Kellner Postmodern Theory, p.287.

[15] Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, (Harvester, 1980), p. 126.

[16] Michel Foucault in Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, (Harvester, 1982), p. 202.

[17] Peter Osbourne (ed.), A Critical Sense: Interviews With Intellectuals, (Routledge, 1996), p.xvi.

[18] in Schalk, D, L, “Are Intellectuals a Dying Species? War and the Ivory Tower in the Postmodern Age”, in Jennings, J and Kemp-Walsh, A, Intellectuals in Politics: From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie, (Routledge, 1997).

[19] Jean-Francois Lyotard, Political Writings, (UCL Press, 1993), p. 6.

[20] Lewis Coser, Men of Ideas: A Sociologist’s View, (Free Press, 1965), p. 360.

[21] Deleuze in May, The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism, p.97.

[22] Zygmunt Bauman Life in Fragments: Essays in Postmodern Morality, (Blackwell, 1995), pp.230-1,238-40.

[23] Bauman Life in Fragments, p.241-3

[24] Despite their post-structuralist leanings and against the post-modernist “deviation of the intellectuals”, Said and Norris have championed the heroic-individualist conception of the intellectual who seeks to advance human freedom and knowledge, who courageously “speaks the truth to power”, and who remains defiantly undomesticated. (Said, E, W, Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures, (Vintage, 1994).)

[25] Cornelius Castoriadis, World In Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis, and the Imagination, (Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 47.

[26] Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, The Postmodern Turn. (Guilford, 1997).

[27] Alvin Gouldner, Against Fragmentation: The Origins of Marxism and the Sociology of Intellectuals, (Oxford University Press, 1985), p.49.

[28] Alvin Gouldner, The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class,  (Macmillan, 1979), p.9.

[29] Gouldner The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class, p. 75.

[30] This dispute centred on the role of the intellectuals who had entered the party in large numbers in the 1890s and who were viewed by some as responsible for a veritable de-proletarianisation, and even of an accompanying de-radicalisation, of socialism (Carl Pierson, Marxist Intellectuals and the Working-Class Mentality in Germany, 1887-1912, (Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 9,79).

[31] Stanley Pierson, Marxist Intellectuals and the Working-Class Mentality in Germany 1887-1912, (Harvard University Press, 1993), p.32. “We should have to put off the triumph of socialism not to the year two thousand but to the end of the world if we had to wait upon the delicate, shrinking and impressionable hesitancy of the intellectuals” (Paul Lafargue, in Danial De Leon, Socialism and Anarchism, (New York Labour News, 1970), p. 323. 19).

[32] Carl Landauer, European Socialism: A History of Ideas and Movements from the Industrial Revolution to Hitler's Seizure of Power. Vol. I From the Industrial Revolution to the First World War and its Aftermath, (Greenwood, 1976), p.486.

[33] Massimo Salvadori, Karl Kautsky and the Socialist Revolution 1880-1938, (New Left Books, 1979), p. 21.

[34] in Pierson Marxist Intellectuals and the Working-Class Mentality in Germany, pp. 40,65,86.

[35] Karl Kautsky in Lenin, V, I., Selected Works, Vol. I, (Progress, 1970), p.151.

[36] John Kautsky, Karl Kautsky: Marxism, Revolution and Democracy, (Transaction, 1994),  p.80.

[37] John Kautsky Karl Kautsky, pp. 72,80.

[38] Engels’ serialised attack on Duhring, part of which was reproduced as Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, proved the “single most important source of the spread of Marxian thought in Europe” (Gary Steenson, “Not One Man! Not One Penny!”: German Social Democracy, 1863-1914, (University of Pittsburgh), p. 193).

[39] David McLellan, Engels, (Harvester, 1977), p.39.

[40] Russell Jacoby, Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism, (Cambridge University Press, 1981).

[41] Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century, (I. B. Tauris Publishers, 1996).

[42] Jacoby, Dialectic of Defeat, p.67; Paul Mattick, Anti-Bolshevik Communism, (M E Sharpe Inc, 1978), p. 45.

[43] Lenin, in Marx, K, Engels, F, Lenin, V, I. Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, (International Publishers, 1972), pp.253,319.

[44] Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p.327.

[45] Robert Daniels, Marxism and Communism: Essential Readings, (Random House, 1965), p.113. In the months leading up to the October Revolution, Lenin came to terms with the shock of the collapse of the Second International and was excited into libertarian mode by the unrest and radicality of the Russian working class. However, even in The State and Revolution the role of the vanguard (references to the party, notes Carmen Sirianni, being suspiciously absent) was still essential. In the period after the 1917 revolution, vanguardist principles again assumed a central place in Lenin’s thought. (Carmen Sirianni, Workers’ Control and Socialist Democracy: The Soviet Experience, (Verso, 1982)).

[46] Carl Boggs, The Two Revolutions, p.226.

[47] Lagardelle in David Beetham, “Reformism and the ‘Bourgeoisification’ of the Labour Movement” in Carl Levy (ed.), Socialism and the Intelligentsia: 1880-1914, (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987), pp.111-2.

[48] Mikhail Bakunin, Statism and Anarchy, (Cambridge University Press, 1990), p.204.

[49] Anthony Masters, Bakunin: The Father of Anarchism, (Sidgewick and Jackson, 1974), pp.142,161

[50] in Paul Thomas, Karl Marx and the Anarchists, (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980), p. 169.

[51] George Woodcock, Anarchism, (Pelican, 1962), p.301.

[52] Richard Flacks, “Making History and Making Theory” in Charles Lemert (ed.). Intellectuals and Politics: Social Theory in a Changing World, (Sage, 1991), p. 3.

[53] Carl Boggs, The Socialist Tradition: From Crisis to Decline, p. 55.

[54] Peter Osbourne, A Critical Sense, p. xv.

[55] George Woodcock, Anarchism,  p. 53.

[56] Rudolph Rocker in Wayne Thorpe, “Syndicalist Internationalism Before World War II” in Marcel Van der Linden and Wayne Thorpe (eds), Revolutionary Syndicalism: An International Perspective, (Scolar, 1990), p. 245.

[57] Daniel Guerin, Anarchism, p. 34; Mikhail Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism, (Free Press, 1953), pp. 315,323; John Clark, The Anarchist Moment, p. 65.

[58] in Jeremy Jennings, Syndicalism in France: A Study of Ideas, (Macmillan, 1990), p.18.

[59] Frederick Ridley, Revolutionary Syndicalism in France: The Direct Action of its Time, (Cambridge University Press,1970), p. 1.

[60] Errico Malatesta, Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas, (Freedom, 1965), p. 21.

[61] Bakunin, The Political Philosophy of Bakunin:, p. 254.  

[62] Gustav Landauer For Socialism, (Telos, 1978), p. 54; Ruth Link-Salinger, Gustav Landauer: Philosopher of Utopia, (Hackett, 1977), pp. 54,84.

[63] Mehring in Jan Appel, Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution,  (Movement For Workers' Councils, 1990), p. 342.

[64] Karl Korsch in Douglas Kellner, Karl Korsch: Revolutionary Theory, (University of Texas Press, 1977), pp. 193, 211.

[65] Rosa Luxemburg in Dick Howard, Selected Political Writing of Rosa Luxemburg, (Monthly Review Press, 1971), p. 406.

[66] Richard Gombin, The Radical Tradition: A Study in Modern Revolutionary Thought, (Methuen, 1978), p.80.

[67] Raya Dunayevskaya,, Rosa Luxemburg, Women's Liberation, and Marx's Philosophy of Revolution, (University of Illinois, 1991), p. 20.; Paul Frolich, Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work, (Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1940), p.168.

[68] Luxemburg clung to the social democratic vision of the mass party, refusing until late in the piece to leave the SPD, and then only in order to collaborate with the USPD (a party built up on a similar model to the SPD). It was better, argued Luxemburg, to be part of a reformist party in which the masses participated than in a doctrinally-pure sect without the masses, a head without a body.

[69] Georg Lukacs, Political Writings 1919-1929, (New Left Books,1973), p.34.

[70] Georg Lukacs, Political Writings, pp. 35,88

[71] In sad contrast to his own bitter experience in the Hungarian Communist Party, Lukacs praised the immense comradeship and depth of selfless solidarity to be found in such a revolutionary grouping.

[72] Anton Pannekoek “Party and Class”, http://www.geocities/~johngray/panparty.htm. n.d. p. 2.

[73] Pannekoek “Party and Class”, p. 2.

[74] Pannekoek in Gerber, J, Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers-Self-Emancipation 1873-1960, (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989), p. 182.

[75] in Serge Bricanier, Pannekoek and the Workers-Councils, (Telos,1978), p. 282.

[76] in Bricanier, Pannekoek and the Workers-Councils, p. 243.

[77] in Alan Binstock, Socialisme ou Barbarie: Examination of a Revolutionary Project, (M. A. Thesis.  University of Wisconsin, 1971), pp.188,194.

[78] David Ames Curtis , “Forward” in Castoriadis, C. Political and Social Writings Vol I 1946-55,  (University of Minnesota Press,1988), p. 301.

[79] Richard Gombin, The Origins of Modern Leftism,  (Penguin, 1975), p.112.

[80] Henri Simon, The New Movement.^Johngray/indxl.htm#Simon, 1974.

[81] Echanges et Mouvement, “Presentation Pamphlet”, n.d.

[82] Anton Pannekoek, Workers' Councils, (Echanges et Mouvement, 1970), p. 19; Mark Shipway, “Council Communism” in Maximillian Rubel and John Crump (eds), Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, (Macmillan, 1987), p. 111; Rosa Luxemburg, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, (Pathfinder, 1970), p. 118.

[83] Luxemburg, Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, pp.121,426

[84] Pannekoek, Workers' Councils, p. 34.

[85] Paul Mattick, Anti-Bolshevik Communism.

[86] from Mattick’s Living Marxism, in Peter Rachleff, Marxism and Council Communism: The Foundation for Revolutionary Theory for Modern Society, (Revisionist Press, 1976), p. 240.

[87] Georg Lukacs, Political Writings, p. 76

[88] Murray Bookchin, The Modern Crisis (2nd revised ed.), (Black Rose,1987), p. 177.

[89] David McLellan, Marxism After Marx: An Introduction, (Macmillan, 1979), p. 25.

[90] Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution? (Pathfinder, 1986), p. 55.

[91] William Guttman, The German Social Democratic Party 1875-1933, (George Allen and Unwin, 1981), p. 297.

[92] Gavin Kitching, Marxism and Science: Analysis of an Obsession, (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), p. 8.

[93] William Morris in ALB, “Morris and the Problem of Reform and Revolution” in Socialist Standard, Vol. 80 (954), 1984, February, pp. 23-26.

[94] Morris in Nick Salmon, “Introduction” in Morris, W. Political Writings: Contributions to Justice and Commonweal, 1883-1890, (Thoemmes, 1994), p. xli.

[95] Mark Shipway, Anti-Parliamentary Communism: The Movement for Workers’ Councils in Britain, 1917-45,  (Macmillan, 1988), p. 186; David Herreshoff, American Disciples of Marx, (Wayne State University, 1967), p. 152; Daniel De Leon, Socialism and Anarchism, (New York Labour News, 1970), p. 34.

[96] Cole in Carpenter, G, D, H Cole: An Intellectual Biography, (Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 100.

[97] Silvia Pankhurst, A Sylvia Pankhurst Reader, (Manchester University press,  1993), p. 83.

[98] Amadeo Bordiga saw Marxism as a completed system, insisting on “no revision whatsoever of the primary principle of proletarian revolution”. Bordiga boasted of never having read a page of idealist philosophy, and forthrightly promoted vulgar materialism (Donald Sassoon, One hundred Years of Socialism1996:83; Paul Piccone, Italian Marxism, (University of California Press, 1983), p. 134; Communist Left, December Party Meeting (, 1951)). Bordiga’s theoretical interventions must be seen as every bit as much a reaction to “conformist communism” as the turn away from the doctrinal understanding of Marxism. With his notion of the “invariant” communist programme, Bordiga sought to differentiate his politics from those of orthodoxy with a theoretical commitment of astounding rigidity and consistency, lamenting the compromises, political and theoretical, of the socialist parties.

[99] Russell Jacoby, Dialectic of Defeat; Stanley Aronowitz, The Crisis of Historical Materialism: Class, Politics and Culture in Marxist Theory, (Praeger, 1981).

[100] Perry Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism, (New Left Books, 1976). For Max Horkheimer, Critical Theory was dominated by the concern for reasonable conditions of life: “Thought is not something independent, to be separated from this struggle [for a new life]” (in Douglas Kellner and Steven Bronner (eds), Critical Theory and Society: A Reader, (Routledge, 1989), p. 204).

[101] Gerber, Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers-Self-Emancipation 1873-1960, p. 15; Pierson, Marxist Intellectuals and the Working-Class Mentality in Germany 1887-1912, pp. 236.

[102] Gerber, Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers-Self-Emancipation 1873-1960, p. 24,27.

[103] Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy, (New Left Books, 1971), p. 61.

[104] Karl Korsch, Karl Marx, (Russell and Russell, 1963), p. 229.

[105] Kellner, Karl Korsch:, pp. 100,96.

[106] Kellner, Karl Korsch:, p. 99. See also Anton Pannekoek, Workers' Councils, p. 29.

[107] Cornelius Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy. (OUP, 1991), p. 10.

[108] Binstock, Socialisme ou Barbarie, p.200

[109] Gerber, J, Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers-Self-Emancipation 1873-1960, (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989), p. 195; Binstock, Socialisme ou Barbarie, p. 200.

[110] Gerber, Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers-Self-Emancipation 1873-1960, p. 195

[111] Cornelius Castoriadis, Political and Social Writings Vol. I 1946-55, (University of Minnesota Press, 1988a), p. 198.

[112] Cornelius Castoriadis, The Castoriadis Reader, (Blackwell, 1997), p. 7.

[113] Cornelius Castoriadis, Political and Social Writings Vol. I, p. 232.

[114] Castoriadis, Political and Social Writings Vol. I, p. 10.

[115] Castoriadis Political and Social Writings Vol. I, p. 298. Though Gramsci drifted to a “ferocious Jacobinism” (Joseph Femia, Marxism and Democracy, (OUP, 1993)), he provides a useful model in his struggle with Bordiga’s ultra-leftist Blanqusim, rejecting pure spontaneity, stressing the force of ideas in historical change, positing a decisive place for education and the intellectual, and emphasizing the political aspect of socialist work against Bordiga’s strangely apolitical political fetishism: that is, in Bordiga the party was appointed to a leading role that it could not work towards taking up.

[116] Cornelius Castoriadis, Political and Social Writings Vol. II 1955-60, (University of Minnesota Press, 1988b), p.214; Corneilus Castoriadis, Political and Social Writings Vol. III 1961-70., (University of Minnesota Press, 1993), p. 29; Castoriadis, The Castoriadis Reader, pp. 9-10,36-7.

[117] Castoriadis, Political and Social Writings Vol. II 1955-60, p. 213.

[118] Castoriadis The Castoriadis Reader, pp. 17,25. Neither, argued Castoriadis, can one save Marxism by separating method and content a la Lukacs: “How are we to know which category corresponds to which material?” (The Castoriadis Reader, p. 143).

[119] Castoriadis, The Castoriadis Reader, pp. 113,141.

[120] Castoriadis The Castoriadis Reader, p.113.

[121] Best and Kellner Postmodern Theory, p. 260.

[122] Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy, p. 275.

[123] Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy, p. 347.

[124] Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy, p. 285.

[125] Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy, p. 344.

[126] Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy, p. 287.

[127] Takis Fotopoulos, “The Myth of Postmodernity”.

[128] Corneilus Castoriadis, Philosophy, Autonomy, Politics, (OUP, 1991), p. 6

[129] Murray Bookchin, Anarchism, Marxism, and the Future of the Left; Interviews and Essays, 1993-1998, (AK Press, 1999), p. 296. Bookchin argues the case for a non-centralised vanguard organization that is made of interlinked affinity groups, and organized in a radically democratic manner.

[130] Lewis Coser, Men of Ideas: A Sociologist’s View, (Free Press, 1965), pp. x,361.

[131] Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy, p. 283.

[132] Fotopoulos, Towards an Inclusive Democracy, p. 284.

[133] Jennings, J and Kemp-Welch, A, “The Century of the Intellectual: From the Dreyfus Affair to Salman Rushdie”, in Jennings and Kemp-Welch, Intellectuals in Politics, p. 17.

[134] Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy, p. 12.

[135] Castoriadis, The Castoriadis Reader, pp. 32-33.