Josef Stalin: Anarchism or Socialism | Book Review

A work Josef Stalin started in 1907, a decade before the Russian Revolution, and never finished – “Anarchism or Socialism” is his literary critique of the anarchists of his time. Viewing the individualism of anarchism as an opposing force against the ideas of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Anarchism or Socialism

In the opening pages of “Anarchism or Socialism” Stalin goes through the dialectical worldview, the idea of movent not only in human interaction but also nature as a whole: “Evolution prepares for revolution and creates the ground for it“.

Stalin does a commendable work of explaining the material dialectics of Karl Marx, one of the better walkthroughs of the system I’ve read so far  – Something I didn’t expect to find in this book when I first picked it up. Josef Stalin uses this as one of his tools to explain his stance as an anti-anarchist. Stalin saves no gunpowder in his salves, describing the political thinkers he opposes as “schoolgirls” in a passage of the book (something I found hilarious!).

“First the external condition change, first the material side changes, and then consciousness, the ideal side, changes accordingly. Thus, the history of the development of nature utterly refutes so-called idealism” – Josef Stalin

Stalin builds up and defends his position by using quotes from the anarchist philosophers and tear into them. One example of this is when he explains how Kropotkin and others are attacking material dialectic reasoning by stating that it reflects badly on Karl Marx that Hegel (the ‘father of dialectics’) was a conservative, non-revolutionary constitutionalist. Stalin, in the defense of Marx and his ideas, makes the case that no matter the political leaning of the scientist, the science is still solid – Pascal, for example, wasn’t revolutionary, but math is still useful regardless of this fact.

“Some people belive that Marxism and Anarchism are based on the same principles and that the disagreements betwen them concern only tactics, so that, in the opinion of these people, it is quite impossible to draw a contrast between these two trends. This is a great misstake.” – Josef Stalin

In an interesting chapter of the book, Stalin reflects on how human society and production methods have changed throughout history, as it were, and the shifts in social interactions through this – From primitive ‘communism’ to the modern times focus on private property. These musings become a spearhead in his view of the future as a industrialized communism where the dictatorship of the proletariat must rule; “First the condition of men change and then their consciousness changes accordingly“. Going a little more in-depth of this concept, Josef Stalin explains:

“At the present time, for example, the form of appropriation of the product, which is private in character, does not correspon to the social content of production, and this is the basis of the present-day social ‘conflic’.” – Josef Stalin

“Anarchism or Socialism” is an interesting piece of pre-revolution literature and I was surprised how much I learned about the Marxism system by reading it. I was expecting something completely different from this book, but what I found was a nice surprise! The book gives a glimpse into how split the socialist factions was back then (and still are, no doubt!) and although Josef Stalin comes across as very blunt, this book delivers a clear and easily followed narrative. It’s light in the discussion of anarchism department, very heavy in the explaining of where Stalin stands politically-department.

Stalin name-drops quite a lot, something I have mixed feelings about in regard to this book – Especially since there are very little references to the works and people he is critiquing and citing. I’m not even sure the claims that Stalin makes that Proudhon supposedly said/wrote about “immutable justice” is even true.

If you come across this book, are interested in political history and have a few hours on your hands I can recommend this book as a curious introduction to Josef Stalin’s writing.

Anarchism or Socialism


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