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CNC0010.1177/0309816815624370Capital & ClassPrichard and Worth


Capital & Class

Left-wing convergence: 2016, Vol. 40(1) 317

The Author(s) 2016

An introduction
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0309816815624370

Alex Prichard
University of Exeter, UK

Owen Worth
University of Limerick, Ireland

In this article, we argue that despite there being little evidence of an ideological
convergence between Marxism and anarchism, such a convergence is not only
sorely needed, but also eminently possible. We propose an open discussion on
the appropriate terms of such a convergence, the context in which it should take
place, and the reasons why it should. We close by showing how our contributors
to this special issue open this debate for us in promising ways.

Anarchism, ideological convergence, Marxism, strategy, war of position

The idea of convergence around a broad alliance of the left is something that has bedev-
illed socialist organisations since the 19th century. It has often been easier to show what
divides us than that which unites us. The Marxist left is a rich tapestry of difference, but
the cleavage between these various Marxisms and equally diverse anarchisms is often said
to be insurmountable in theory and/or practice. Assuming that the split between
Marxism and anarchism does not exhaust left-wing politics, although it has frequently
been seen as an intractable division within it, what might signs of convergence here tell
us about a wider convergence across the full spectrum of the left? In an era of the decline
of state socialism and the rise of the civil multitude, contrasting understandings of how

Corresponding author:
Alex Prichard, Department of Politics, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4RJ, UK.
Email: a.prichard@exeter.ac.uk

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4 Capital & Class 40(1)

the politics of the left might position itself have emerged. The so-called globalisation of
the nation-state and the rise of regional EU governance, coupled with the emergence of
civil society from below, have led to questions about the level at which a left-wing
response should be levied. The age-old debates over state/party that plagued previous
divisions between anarchism and Marxism have waned because neither seems particu-
larly viable today, while social movements have recaptured the socialist impetus. In this
context, convergence between the two has not merely become a possibility but, one
might suggest, a necessity. In the post-crisis arena in which politics is being ordered
through a free-market doctrine that appears to be narrowing in its application, conver-
gence is, surely, also required.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that such a thing is impossible. And yet, perhaps
not. Both now and over the past 150 years, anarchists and Marxists have combined and
struggled together for common cause across multiple sites of power and resistance
(Prichard et al. 2012). It is time to reject the dominant narrative of division and incom-
mensurability that was never, in any case, more than part of the story (Kinna & Prichard
2012). Indeed, left unity groups are today springing up across Europe and the world,
with the radical left making a comeback in electoral terms and within social movements.
Both anarchism and Marxism have captured something of the political zeitgeist in the
post-Occupy era, but propose radically different strategic solutions.
Of the new electoral left, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, Alexis Tsipras and Pablo
Iglesias are typical but also radically unconventional. All four are men, a fact that speaks
to wider concerns of gender inequality on the far left, and all four seek electoral paths to
radical social change. Tsiprass repeated failings and re-election speak directly to the con-
ventional hopes and failings of this mainstream left: that the state is the machinery that
must be controlled in order to generate radical social change, and that pragmatism is the
best hope in the face of repeated failure.
But alongside this up-swell has come a revival in anarchist political theory and activ-
ism. Anarchist groups have been of central importance to grass-roots organising and
resistance to the neoliberal agenda; and their visibility, and the airtime they have gener-
ated around Occupy, particularly in the USA, has pushed public discourse to the left,
thereby creating space for electoral challenges to the Blairite Third Way as well as con-
stituting a radically alternative vision of their own (Bray 2013). Viewed, as is typically
the case, in this twin-track way, it is hard to discern the linkages between these two
processes of electoralism and social movement activity; and yet it is plain to see, for those
who have been out on the streets over the past ten years, that black and red flags wave a
common cause, with Jeremy Corbyn marching alongside anarchists at more than one
march. This is rarely acknowledged or discussed, in public or, more pertinently, in aca-
demic-facing publications such as this one. It is not that the links are obvious or simple,
but that they deserve sustained discussion. Hence the need for, and the promise of, this
special issue, which attempts to theorise and analyse the limits and potentials inherent in
an ideological left-wing convergence across the anarchist and Marxist left today.
We have collected eight excellent reflections on the potentials immanent in the dia-
lectical relationship between the plural strains of anarchism and Marxism, the limits of
that relationship, and what might be possible as a result of each thinking with, rather
than against the other. The contributors here probe the philosophical and political
assumptions that unite and divide the anarchist and Marxist traditions (Ingham &

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Prichard and Worth 5

Choat); the points of tension and the opportunities that come to light when we find
anarchists and Marxists organising together (Teivainen Dean, Keith & Maiguashca; Vey;
Kiersey & Vrasti and what combining an anarchist and Marxist social science might look
like (Wigger;OHearn&Grubai). We have worked to ensure a sophisticated under-
standing and engagement with both traditions of left-wing thought. These pieces are
contemporary, geographically expansive in scope and purview (if not universally inclu-
sive), and, we hope, comradely, critical and friendly. This collection of reflections on the
contemporary context should help delimit the terms of debate at least, while helping us
to understand the key points of divergence and convergence, and locate theoretical
debates in lived practices. It can help us to answer questions such as that of what such a
convergence might look like; how successful attempts to achieve it have been; what the
theoretical or philosophical limits to such a move are; and the extent to which practical
obstacles may be insurmountable. These are some of the questions reflected on by the
authors in this issue, both directly and indirectly.
The overall conclusion is that a general left-wing convergence is still some way off,
despite the best efforts of some. What we wish to do in this introduction is to make the
case for such a convergence today, addressing the questions of why such a convergence is
needed, what form it might take, and to what end strategic, tactical or ideological.
Until recently (Prichard et al. 2012; Besancenot & Lwy 2014), the tendency on the
left has been to highlight division, fracture and the incommensurability of separate ten-
dencies, and to develop moral and political rankings of left-wing groups. The Stalinists
took this to be a paramount duty, making the anarchists the sworn enemy of the revolu-
tion, with murderous consequences. Understandably, then, the morphology of left-wing
ideologies in the 20th century must be understood against the rise and fall of the Soviet
Union (Franks 2012). With its demise there has been a revival in Trotskyist and autono-
mous Marxisms, and in councillist and syndicalist movements that have sought a more
unconventional path. Anarchists have found that they have a common ally in many of
these (with the exception of the Trotskyist left, perhaps), and have also found common
cause and intellectual allies with various strands of Marxist feminisms (Maiguashca
2013), and in the Marxist poststructuralist and postcolonial writers of the late 20th cen-
tury (Ramnath 2011; Rousselle & Evren 2012). In the absence of a party line, social
movements and single-issue groups have proliferated and often merged, with some indi-
viduals members of multiple and contradictory groups coming from radically different
ideological and activist backgrounds. Following the explicit attempts of George Georges
and Daniel Guerin, others have advanced a more libertarian socialism or communism:
for example, Hardt and Negri, Alain Badiou, Deleuze and Guattari, and others. CLR
James, Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg were all antecedents in this move, and
remain important intellectual points of reference (Prichard et al. 2012).
There is material as well as ideological morphology to reckon with. Just as 20th-cen-
tury history must be understood in terms of the geopolitical structures precipitated by
imperialism, the Russian revolution and the Cold War, what makes the 21st century so
auspicious is the collapse of the latter two and the development of the US imperial pro-
ject today (Gindin & Panitch 2013). Hardt and Negri (2000) captured a unique aspect
of this conjuncture in their recognition of the transformation of sovereign rule from
command and control to biopolitics and governmentality. Fukuyamas prophesy of the
common marketization of world order rushes towards us apace, with the object of

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6 Capital & Class 40(1)

attack, neoliberalism, demanding new registers of identification as well as critique. As a

result, political subjectivity is produced and resisted in terms that would have been
unrecognisable 100 years ago (Rossdale 2014).
States seem to react to, rather than steer, political processes today, with networked
sovereignties of elites (Slaughter 2004) displacing populist democracy. The statist left has
failed intellectually and practically to respond to these processes, and with the anarchist
left seemingly vanquished, the mainstream left has missed an open goal. Clearly the old
lefts register no longer resonates, with Corbyns selection by the Labour Party prompting
many to make analogies with the 1980s as a way of discrediting him. It is thus heartening
and perhaps inevitable that Corbyn would seek support from social movements and
distance himself from the command-and-control proclivities of the old left. Corbyns
background as head of the anti-war coalition, and its firm engagement with the post-
Cold War radicalism that has been synonymous with the rise in civil protest, is testament
to this shift. But the electoral left must change much more than this. The object of attack
and the traditional means to change it are no longer available in the same ways as they
might once have been. The current generation of scholar activists cut their teeth on the
streets of Seattle and Genoa, rather than Paris and Prague. The Marxism of today is fused
with Deleuze and Guattari and Foucault, rather than with Lenin or Mao, and it is this
fusion that has shaped large swathes of contemporary left-wing ideology. There is also an
identifiable anarchist culture to much left-wing militancy these days (Dean et al., this
issue). Whether or not this can be fused with non-electoral wings of the traditional left
is an open question, and one with which this issue engages head on. What a left-wing
convergence must be today is ideological and strategic, leaving a practical or tactical
plurality in place. The challenge is to develop anew a Gramscian ideological war of

For a renewed war of position

Soviet hacks and ideological conformity mattered in a time in which the battle lines were
clearer, and in many respects the self-same hacks manufactured those very same battle
lines. How, then, to think of an ideological convergence and a common enemy without
delimiting what it is possible to think and do? What a convergence ought to do is provide
a point of contact for allies and a common object of attack.
Plural social movements, blossoming with each new social injustice, lack direction in
terms of becoming a coordinated, practical and ideological challenge to the status quo
around which a mass movement can be forged (Worth 2013). As Mark Bray (2013) has
shown, eschewing ideology in order to appeal to a wide audience is valuable when the
cameras are trained on you. The attempts by Podemos and Syriza to abandon ideology
in the name of pluralism and pragmatism have alienated the traditional left that put
them power. In Greece, it has led to an incoherent standoff between Syriza, the creditors,
the EU, Golden Dawn and the rest of the electorate. By contrast, the work of translat-
ing contemporary anarchism for a popular audience in the aftermath of Occupy is
urgent, given these very same failings and the need for different answers to the same old
questions. It is hugely problematic that Syriza and Podemos and their imitators in the
UK and elsewhere (Keith et al., this issue), and likewise the collaborative big-tent politics
of the Occupy movement, Bolivarianism and so on stand and oppose, but that they are

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Prichard and Worth 7

often explicitly and instrumentally ideologically hollow (Chandler 2009; Panitch, Albo
& Chibber 2012). Might reanimating the old fault lines at least help us reset our political
compass? This is what seems to be taking place on the streets, but it has yet to be reflected
in the learned publications. Hence the need for a special issue such as this one.
As argued above, the importance of looking to convergence cannot be emphasised
enough in the current era. As the post-financial-crisis world has maintained itself through
a series of austerity drives, which have looked to sustain the neoliberal system in spite of
its serious system weaknesses, the left has been unable to find a way to challenge it. Or
to put it another way, there has been a lack of the sort of hegemonic project to which
Gramsci referred when he mentioned the twin processes of the war of position and the
war of movement (Gramsci 1971). The two can be seen as fulfilling a wide ideological
set of principles that are geared towards contesting and replacing an existing social order.
Whilst the second can be seen as a more political assault of the sort Lenin wrote of when
he spoke of the importance of building a working-class socialist hegemony, the war of
position looks at the space within civil society in which ideas are formed, contested and
consolidated (Worth 2015). It is alongside the lines of the war of position that opposi-
tion to the dominant order can be forged. It is here where the main tenets, cultures, ritu-
als (to borrow from Stuart Hall) and beliefs of such an order are contested and challenged,
and alternatives put in their place (Hall 1988). This can be an organic process, but it
needs translating in order that the messages and principles might reach their audience.
As a concept, the war of position might be met with scepticism by many associated
with the anarchist tradition (Day 2005). The idea that a form of hegemonic project can
be fashioned from the ashes of the old political left would appear at first glance precisely
the sort of structural understanding that a new left would attempt to avoid, particularly
in light of the many clashes between Gramscian-inspired western Marxism and syndi-
calism. Indeed, Gramscis own criticisms of the syndicalist tradition in Southern Italy
sketched out some of the initial divisions between the traditions (Gramsci 1994). Yet
the war of position provides us with a unique framework for contestation, and one that
is perhaps more relevant in the contemporary era than previously. For it is in arguing
that contestation is forged across different spectrums within society that some of the
key norms, practices and common-sense inherent within a specific order can be inter-
rogated, and a departure point for transformation can be developed. Similarly, by
understanding a war of position as a wide terrain in political and civil society in which
ideas are discussed, challenged and contested, convergence can be tentatively imagined
and understood. In short, we cant just keep doing. We have to stop and think every
once in a while.
If the war of position can be seen as an arena in which dominant norms and ideas that
underpin the fabric of society can be challenged, then the question of how a coherent
alternative might be fashioned needs also to be addressed in order to respond to charges
that the left offers empty critiques. One such strategy has been prefiguration on the
anarchist left, and pragmatism on the Marxist wing. Both seem to prioritise process over
outcomes, abandoning future ideals in an attempt to realise the best we can today, or
living the change we desire. This follows the move by the left to question and reject the
terms on which the promise of emancipation was offered by the old left over the course
of the 20th century. No longer is the state seen as the end point of social development, a
prize that could justify nearly 100 million deaths on the communist left alone. Now

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8 Capital & Class 40(1)

emancipation is defined in terms of self-realisation, community and commoning, and

infinite pluralisation. Positive goals like these conceptions of the good, universalised or
universalisable creeds are seen to lack the transcendental foundation they once had and
to have lost their lustre, leaving us with only critique and no viable alternative.
A focus on process ultimately results in a loss of strategy: the forgetting of the point
of it all. The tension between tactics, strategy, process and the war of position has never
been so acute, and is also where fragmentation and division have cost the left. The sheer
diversity of positions and movements on the left has led to questions over whether the
different parts can adequately form a coherent convergence around co-ordinated themes
and strategies, or whether we should assume that pluralisation and autonomy are suffi-
cient to induce the change we want to see in the world. The evidence suggests not.
Following this latter line of thought, in order for the left to challenge the rhetoric of
neoliberalism, contemporary norms and common sense (to use another Gramscian
term) must be challenged at an ideological level, coherently and with precision, to create
a space in which a viable alternative can be forged. Our suggestion is for a development
of the republican language of non-domination, leaving open the institutional means for
renewal, but uniting in the critique of those dominating forces that curtail our freedoms
(McCormick 2011; Gourevitch 2015).
How should we think about non-domination in a radically left-wing register?
Consider what united Marx and Proudhon all those years ago. This was the rise and
constitutionalisation of private property, an institution of commodification and domin-
ium that has colonised all aspects of modern life in less than two centuries. Yet in spite
of that, the left has become increasingly silent on this issue. The dominium that follows
commodification is central to these first critiques of capitalism. There is here a source
point of convergence: a clear focal point for the source of dominium and object of attack.
For Marx and Proudhon, it was the systems of domination that were enabled and neces-
sitated by enforcing private property that were the more general object of attack, uniting
them in their critique of the modern liberal state. We have lost sight of the fact that the
opposition to arbitrary dominium, to regimes of domination (Gordon 2008), is what
unites anti-capitalist critique, and helps us make sense of the unity of socialism in its
many guises, anarchist, Marxist, feminist and so on.
Reclaiming this central critical concept domination allows us to link back to 19th-
century struggles, to show how the struggle against domination is open ended, and that
nothing is precluded a priori but arbitrary domination. It also avoids the need to articu-
late in advance the key points of an emancipated state. A negative normative politics
leaves open the tactics and processes, but enables a grouping behind a common problem,
one with the capacity to forge connections far wider than the readership of this volume
and than academic debate. Non-domination is open in a way that permits both an anar-
chist politics and a pragmatist left to mutually sustain a concerted critique, and to co-
develop alternatives within and outside the movement. Austerity, for example, ought to
be resisted for the structures of domination it sustains. To contest its economic logic is to
remain trapped within the terms of a debate the left has already lost. Political alternatives
must be articulated in terms that demonstrate non-domination. Thus the plural experi-
ments in radical alternatives, proposed or lived and forgotten, can be evaluated in terms
of process and outcome. Are our processes dominating? Are the outcomes dominating?
How might we minimise this such that the fullest flourishing is made possible?

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Prichard and Worth 9

Autogestion, LGBT struggles and radical environmentalism can all be articulated within
this prism of non-domination (Pettit 1997). Might this be a common political grammar,
a negative ideological reference point that can structure the infinite diversity of the lan-
guage of oppression, freedom and resistance? The question is a larger one than we can
answer in this volume, and indeed, in this introduction, but there may be significant
mileage in its articulation.
Others have illustrated the need for the left to move beyond strategic forms of statism
when looking to understand the functions of modern capitalism (for example, Bruff &
Ebenau 2014). Yet the problem of sovereignty is such that despite capital flows and glo-
balisation moving to a level at which states as single entities have not been able to keep
up, the anachronistic ideological structures have remained in place. As a result, whilst
accounts have been quick to inform that the 20th-century solution of building socialism
within sociologically different states has reached an end in terms of its effectiveness, any
more global solution has been hard to comprehend. Contributors to this volume, drawn
from predominantly political science and more specifically the field of international rela-
tions, are perhaps well placed to help us think in these global terms (cf. Slaughter 2005;
Bohman 2007). But without anarchism, it is hard to see how the old left can offer any-
thing new on this score, with its proposal of either the state or a world state (Albert et al.
2012). What about the no-state solution?
The problems we face today are global in scope, and have generated effective and
plural transnational social movements. While not unprecedented (Davies 2013), they are
nevertheless more coherent in their anti-capitalism, in the negativity of their critique and
the absence of the positive terms of emancipation. The anti-globalisation movement, as
it was originally denominated, emerged as a significant new development within global
forms of resistance, and was first seen at the World Trade Organization Ministerial
Conference in Seattle in 1999. This was one of the key features of opposition in the era
of neoliberalism, giving ideological coherence to radical civil groups, and the moniker
giving shape to dissent; but the inability of the movement to get its message out meant
that it came to be seen as having no alternative. A more substantial alternative was
attempted and continues to be attempted within the various social forums that appeared
from 2001 onwards. The World Social Forum looked to establish a space in which
groups that represent civil society can imagine ways in which another world could be
constructed. These were explicitly global, transnational and internationalist movements,
mirrored in the initiatives of La Via Campesina and others, and broke through to main-
stream consciousness, particularly in the USA, in 2011 with the Occupy movement and
the ongoing global financial crisis (Teivanen, this issue).
Borrowing from strategies of the past such as those of the Situationalist International,
anarchist protest-camp politics and in solidarity with North African revolutionary move-
ments, the Occupy encampments created a space in which forms of opposition to the
key actors implicated in the collapse of the financial crisis could be articulated. These
have demonstrated that convergence can be forged as a critique of the contemporary
order, with even the processes and practices of the camps managing a degree of inclusiv-
ity unseen in nearly a century. Yet clear solutions and alternative seem to have been less
coherent, perhaps as a consequence of this. If anarchists need to get their message out,
then so do Marxists. What were saying is that we should probably talk to one another
first. It will be no real alternative if it is the preserve or domain of a few intellectuals. It

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10 Capital & Class 40(1)

must be lived, practiced, experimented with. Ideological coherence can come from artic-
ulating and combating the intersectionality of regimes of domination. In this respect,
preaching about what we practice might today take us further than the ecumenical ten-
dencies of the stalwart ideological purists of the old left. But we still need to take the time
to reflect, to develop ideological coherence and precision in the naming of the enemy.
This special issue takes a number of steps in this direction.

The road to renewal

If we can suggest, therefore that convergence might be forged strategically through the
wide terrain of the war of position, and practically by contesting regimes of domination
at every level, then what of the wider implications?1 Do we need a grand strategy when
contesting and challenging the processes and policies that underline global capitalism?
Many say no (Bailey, Huke & Clua-Losada 2015). Following John Holloway (2002) and
his accounts of the Zapatistas in Mexico, many argue that groups can mobilise them-
selves in a way that can resist forms of capitalisation without the consent of the state and
of official politics. The Zapatistas protected their own land from commercial takeover
through forms of local empowerment, and as such met their own objectives without rely-
ing on political representation at the centre. Whilst these tactics might find more success
in states that are institutionally weaker than others, mirroring the war-time successes of
anarchist groups in Spain, Ukraine and elsewhere, they nonetheless have shown how
certain forms of occupying strategies can be effective, and they spawned innumerable
imitators from 2011. But occupying can only provide an incoherent form of resistance
at a macro level. Others argue that the diversity of tactics employed by the disparate
groups of the left is a grand strategy. This may make sense within an anarchist ideological
frame, but can it make sense across a broader socialist one?
Another possible way of looking at strategy is through the lens of Rosa Luxemburg
and her understanding of dialectical materialism in the process of change and transfor-
mation. In opposition to Lenin and against his position on the role of anarcho-syndical-
ism, Luxemburg argued that a firm socialist strategy could not be imagined a priori, as it
would necessarily arise from the revolutionary dialectical process (Luxemburg 1971).
Luxemburgs point was that capitalism and the bourgeois state would be delegitimised by
mass protest, strikes and action from civil society. From these spontaneous actions, she
believed a set of practices would emerge that would reflect revolutionary change
(Luxemburg 1971). The purpose of this exercise is not to set out a single platform, but
neither is it a rejection of the grand narratives that have given coherence to struggles
worldwide. Luxemburg, again, offers us a prescription for change that is very much
within the spirit of both autonomous and open Marxism (Bonefeld, Gunn & Psychopedis
1992). As Besancenot and Lwy (2014) have argued, this can resonate with anarchist
politics too. It may have been the case that Luxemburgs rejection of unyielding princi-
ples on ideology and organisation became divisive in the context of 20th-century social-
ism. But this attests to the importance of coherent and compelling ideologies to direct
mass contestation, not to the futility of the attempt to craft that ideology.
To return to Gramsci, if a war of position is to have any chance of systematically
contesting the norms and principles of the neoliberal order, then it requires some ammu-
nition. For this to be fashioned, the main assumptions that underpin the dynamics of

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Prichard and Worth 11

market hegemony not only need to be challenged, but some form of alternative agenda
must also be made explicit. As the recent reaction to the Greece crisis has evidenced, the
problem with not providing any form of future direction to an alternative allows both for
the emergence of reactionary forces of the far right, and for a form of empty critique. The
problems become exacerbated by exit referenda, as though the European membership or
otherwise of sovereign states adequately captured the terms of the problem, marginalis-
ing progressive alternatives (Meadway 2015). As we have already noted, the era of the
state as an expression for the left has certainly passed. Therefore, unless a new body is
imagined before the nation-state is abandoned, the left is not only open to more fleshed-
out neoliberal criticisms of the EU (as seen with the many Hayekian accounts associated
with the Euro-sceptic wing of the British Conservative Party), but it will again allow for
reactionary forces to construct nationalist narratives. This is surely where anarchism and
various councillist communisms have most to offer. Can these be a spur to wider utopian
renewal? What is the vision? What remains attractive about anarchism is that it draws
from well versed, historically defined narratives on the exceptional nature of the nation-
state (Worth 2002). Anarchism contains a vast set of historical insights for future renewal,
as long as the presentist tendencies therein do not dominate (Kinna & Prichard 2009).
For us to think about the reality of left-wing convergence and of a left narrative, it
might also be useful to look at previous attempts by the left to forge a position that
appeared capable of wider contestation. Despite entirely different conditions, the 1970s
provide us with a useful comparison. The breakdown of the dollar system in 1971, cou-
pled with the mobilisation of the OPEC countries, saw the gradual unravelling of the
post-war mixed economy. As a response, a number of discourses emerged that provided
a set of competing narratives that would lead to a set of hegemonic struggles that would
only be settled in the aftermath of the Thatcher-Reagan doctrines, and the end of the
Soviet Union. The left responded to the crisis in the 1970s in a number of ways. One
response was to attempt to fashion a form of democratic socialism that looked to radi-
cally overturn the ownership of production. Here, we saw the success of the Mitterrand
government in France in the early 1980s and the rise of the Bennites in the UK, as well
as the mobilisation of radical social movements and trade unions across Europe. The
failure to utilise this position2 had more to do with the popular success of centrist and
new right alternatives that were placed alongside the growing mobilisation of global capi-
talism that was occurring by the 1980s.
The left also took up a number of other positions with contrasting success. The emer-
gence of Eurocommunism argued for a pluralist coalition on the left that would engage,
from above, with the transformation that was occurring. This was thus an attempt to
form a broad coalition that would try to contest and dilute the vision of a more market-
based system that the new right was attempting to construct. For Eurocommunists, the
failure of the left to contain the emerging neoliberal right meant that the left needed to
adopt a more engaging position within the political mainstream. The forming of coali-
tions and an engagement with orthodox forms of civil society and with emerging norms
that were making old institutions of the left redundant were a way of building up con-
vergence between former foes, and of looking to embrace the realities of the post Fordist
forms of production (Lipietz 1985). Part of this, as Chris Harman correctly points out,
was based on a reading of Gramsci that seemed to suggest that coalition-building across
nearly every political walk of life was beneficial for strategic change. The result of this,

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12 Capital & Class 40(1)

with which we are all too familiar, was the emergence of new centre-left parties across
Europe, North America and in many emerging powers, which looked to adopt a Third
Way approach to politics (Giddens 1997) that effectively saw the left move right. It has
been this Third Way acceptance of the general framework of neoliberalism that has
ultimately led to the lack of ideological opposition within the left in this post-crisis
world, and as such, parties have often been unable to adequately move beyond the con-
fines of this position.
Such was the electoral success of this process that the majority left simply forgot what it
was fighting against. It was only a matter of years before the anarchist left returned to
remind people that history wasnt over, and that the left once stood for more than simply
gaining state power. The question with which we are left is that of whether the demands of
the protesters that have swept to prominence since 2011 can avoid being co-opted by the
state. In many respects, what the EU offers is a post-statist alternative, though not one you
will see unless you look very carefully. From Mitranys functionalism onwards, the point of
supranationalism was the erosion of state power such that sub-national groups would be
empowered. But from the EUs policy of the regions to subsidiarity, the reduction of parlia-
ments to inconsequential talking shops, localism has been sacrificed to intergovernmental-
ism. EU populism is as distant now as it was twenty years ago, and in spite of the millions
spent by the EU in trying to graft a sense of transnational citizenship onto the political
project, national populism is the product of supranational elitist neoliberalism. The main-
stream left has played its part in this, and an alternative strategy is long overdue.
So ultimately, what can we learn from the experience of the left from the 1970s and
the 1980s? The problems today are that despite the fact that the economic crisis was
unanimously (at the time) seen as a result of the excessive power of unregulated capital
(as opposed to the excessive power of labour that was often seen as being responsive for
the slow-down of the economy from the 1970s onwards), the left has lacked the impetus
to imagine solutions in the way that it did previously. The Eurocommunists of the 80s
and 90s were able to argue that the old left provided an outdated, statist solution to
questions of public ownership (through nationalisation) that under-estimated the global
connectivity of the economy. But the Eurocommunist experience simply created a cul-
ture of pluralism that would explore the possibilities of constructing a war of position to
no avail. The worry today is that any new convergence will eventually fold back into the
dominant neoliberal ideology. It was precisely the lefts engagement with neoliberalism
in the 1990s that softened into the hegemonic force that it was to become. As Stuart Hall
acknowledged before he died, the left has been unable to provide a popular alternative of
its own, and as such has a long way to go if it is to be able to back up its rich set of intel-
lectual critiques with political substance (Hall 2011; Hall & OShea 2013).
Could a Marxist/anarchist convergence avoid this? Anarchists have been at the fore-
front of struggles for democracy and autonomy from the Paris Commune to pre-1917
Russia, revolutionary Spain and Ukraine; and subsequently the driving force behind
most anti-colonial and radical left projects worldwide (Anderson 2005). Anarchist syn-
dicalism has galvanised millions worldwide in the 20th century (Hirsch & Van Der Walt
2010; Schmidt & Van der Walt 2009), and has scored numerous successes. But anar-
chists reluctance to engage in mainstream political projects like Eurocommunism, and
the active hostility of the mainstream media, has pushed their relevance and voice to the
fringes of mass debate, leaving them to act as a perpetual reminder of the probability of

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Prichard and Worth 13

rebellion rather than being able to articulate, or to convince the general public that they
offer a realistic alternative. Anarchist virtues of mutual aid, solidarity and non-domina-
tion in all aspects of life and, of course anti-capitalism, have infrequently been given a
voice by wider non-anarchist sections of the left. Colin Ward (1982) was able and willing
to point to anarchy in action, and to draw sustenance and inspiration from the autono-
mous, self-directing activities of peoples. Anarchists have to get better at appealing to
wider publics, and this is only possible when the option of accepting statism and capital-
ism as part of a left-wing project is no longer on the table. The mainstream left needs to
realise that this is that time.

Left-wing convergence?
What this special issue shows is that there is very little contemporary convergence
between Marxist and anarchist currents on the left. What we wish to argue is that there
should be and the articles collected here suggest that there can be. Perhaps unsurpris-
ingly, there has been no convergence in the formal party political groupings of the con-
temporary left in the UK (Dean et al., this issue). There are no doubt instances of tactical
convergence in discrete locations, whether in the housing co-ops of Europe (Vey, this
issue), on the streets of Greece and in the mountains of Rojava; but there is no coherent
strategic convergence. The contributions by Kiersey and Vrasti and by Teivainen (this
issue) point to the macro-structural constraints facing convergence, with the latter in
particular pointing to the limits and potentials of speaking on behalf of those not pre-
sent. Anarchist groups will remain self-referential when they fail to be something with
which those not present can identify. Kiersey and Vrasti explore exodus and political
occupation as a strategic choice, alongside more vertical strategies of engagement. They
suggest that the two keep each other honest, and have been shown to be somewhat suc-
cessful in Greece. But is this the right strategy (Dean 2013)?
This issue aims to provide ways of understanding the different directions this renewal
of popular contestation might take. As many forms of anti-neoliberal protests show, a set
of movements have emerged that have blended forms of left libertarianism alongside
forms of Marxist socialism. It therefore seems logical to discuss the theoretical relevance
of Marxism and anarchism in philosophical terms. What are the key tenets of anarchism
and Marxism? Does it help to identify them? What can we learn from contrasting cherry-
picked concepts? The morphological character of ideologies is precisely why it is impor-
tant to contrast the ways various tendencies define and articulate the relationship between
key terms like history, technology, economy, society and freedom. Philosophical clarity
around questions such as this will help to delimit and distinguish different concepts, and
in so doing, will also help to explore the shared terms of reference. This is precisely what
the contributions by Choat and Ingham (this issue) are able to do.
OHearnandGrubai, and Angela Wigger (this issue), show that a radical and
emancipatory research programme in international political economy can link the anti-
domination practices and principles of anarchists with Marxists, as knowledge produc-
tion with a revolutionary intent. Those who have delinked from modern capitalism and
escaped the modern state show us where the refusal of domination takes place, how it
operates within global processes of development, and how the processes of working with
these communities are part of a project in radical alternatives. These chapters shows us

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14 Capital & Class 40(1)

how it is possible to bridge anarchist and Marxist politics, in emancipatory research

projects that build on the best of these traditions in the process.
Individuals in communities are rarely pure in thought and action, and the compromises
that characterise the activism of the left are subtle and far-reaching. What Dean, Keith and
Maiguashca show (this issue) is that anarchists are a pragmatic bunch too, but that they are
routinely misunderstood by their comrades on the traditional left. Anarchists are often seen
at the meetings and gatherings of new left unity groups, as critical friends rather than pro-
vocateurs. But the left-wing populist groups and parties they join remain beset by the
problems that plagued the old left: hierarchy, patriarchy, and a focus on class politics to the
exclusion of much else. Viewed through a feminist filter, the Indian summer of British
socialism is promised more rain. A latent anarchist culture notwithstanding, the failure of
Left Unity, the Peoples Assemblies and Occupy to constitutionalise a progressive gender
politics is telling. Their non-dominating credentials are open to question.
Housing co-ops are one location in which tensions between Marxists and anarchists
are mediated in daily practice, as Judith Veys piece illustrates, showing what a possible
convergence looks like. The case study of the Mietshuser Syndikat, with which many on
the left can no doubt identify, provides a useful micro-study of convergence in action. It
also, as Vey argues in her piece, gives us an example of a movement that challenges the
legitimacy of neoliberalism by looking to contest one of its primacies of common-sense
private property building non-domination into its practical constitution, and being
pragmatic about working within the constitutional forms of modern state capitalism.
The temptation might be to upscale, but the solution probably lies in horizontalist
The World Social Forum, Occupy, and the elements that make up an array of protest
movements are all discussed throughout this issue. In addition, attempts are made to
make some sense of the new populist left-wing political parties that have emerged in
parts of Europe. From this, a number of observations are made. Kiersey and Vrasti, for
example, concentrate on the horizontal nature of the Occupy movement. Borrowed
from Hardt and Negris idea of the multitude and from recent observations by David
Graeber, horizontalism has been used and understood as a form of politics, whereby
direction looks to emerge from open participation and to be forged across the notion of
consensus (Graeber 2013; Hardt & Negri 2005). This horizontalism has also been seen
in the World Social Forum, as identified in this issue by Teivainen. Here, the open
space form of participation is geared towards convergence by imagining contrasting
worlds to the neoliberal one. Kiersey and Vrasti provide a genealogical account of the
limits and potentialities of the horizontalist moment, and point to the councillist prom-
ise therein. Kiesey and Vrasti also take up a similar line to Luxemburgs spontaneity.
Both suggest that a transformational spirit can emerge from movements looking to
challenge the basis of capitalism (Luxemburg 1908). As Luxemburgs understanding of
this offered a different form of socialism to the statist centralism suggested by Lenin,
Teivainen argues that the very real link between social movements and the new left
provide us with a similar trajectory. Here, if a tentative link can be made between the
new political left and social movements, particularly in Latin America, then a form of
convergence might be possible through the sum of these parts. This in turn would also
potentially suggest a direction in which a war of position could be built as both civil
and political components combine to provide a wider alternative platform. However,

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Prichard and Worth 15

caution should also be voiced. Amidst the varied criticisms that have been levelled at the
World Social Forums, that of elitism might suggest that this relationship is far from
being horizontal or spontaneous in character (Chandler 2004; Worth & Buckley
2009). Again, the anarchists have much to offer.

The papers in this special issue may prompt readers to reflect on their own experience of
points of convergence and divergence within the left. These ideological differences
between major cleavages of the left are perhaps less significant for some individuals than
the cleavages within minor parties of the left. Expulsions and purges are common fea-
tures of the historic left, so a story about the convergence of anarchisms and Marxisms is
just one study in a wider project of convergence around a coherent strategy for the left.
If domination is the object of attack, and non-domination an ideal, the forms and means
to realise constructive critique, and the forums for open dialogue, are open questions. A
critical anarchism (Egoumenides 2014) can be open about the possibility that no institu-
tion is a priori antithetical to non-domination. Each can and must stand on its own
merits. But with an open anarchist ethos, it is possible to think through the limits of
those institutions far more critically (Leipold 2015).
Is it time for anarchists to embrace and support Marxists in their formal political
activism, without giving up on their grass roots agitation? Or, as we have asked here, is it
feasible for disparate groups on the left to unite behind a strategic war of position in the
struggles against neoliberal capitalism? Ultimately, these might create more even more
divisions than before, but there is probably more mileage to be had from investigating
the terms of that disagreement in good faith and at length. A non-dominating commu-
nism would be a libertarian communism. It must also be robust and viable in the context
of inter-state relations. The reflections within this issue are borne from very different
times, but have not given up demanding the impossible. It might be said that since the
left finally has some momentum behind it, for the first time since the end of the Cold
War it also has the possibility of building a viable alternative to free-market capitalism.
Now is the time for these debates to be urged and welcomed.

We would like to thank Ruth Kinna for her comments on an earlier draft of this introduction.

1. The title of this section of the Introduction is taken from Stuart Halls Hard Road to Renewal,
which looked at strategies the left should take in order to challenge the positions to which
Thatcherism had taken Britain by the end of the 1980s.
2. The Mitterrand government in France U-turned on a number of its positions due to pressure
from above, and the Bennites failed to maintain a dominant position in the UK Labour Party
after 1983.

Albert M, Harste G et al. (2012) Introduction: World state futures. Cooperation and Conflict
47(2): 145156.

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16 Capital & Class 40(1)

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Author biographies
Alex Prichard is a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Exeter. He was a
founding member of the PSA Anarchist Studies Network, and is the co-editor of the Contemporary
Anarchist Studies monograph series published by Manchester University Press. He is currently a
co-investigator (with Ruth Kinna), on an 18-month ESRC project designed to bring to light the
ways in which anarchists constitutionalise.
Owen Worth is a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Limerick. He is the
author of many books and articles on the area of power and resistance in international political
society/economy, and is chair of the editorial board of Capital & Class. His most recent book was
Rethinking Hegemony (Palgrave, 2015).

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