When we are discussing differences between Marxism and anarchism, we are talking about how to move from our current, incredibly crooked society, to one where the culture and material environment make it so that literally all humans are raised so that there is no major discrepancy between what will lead to their own personal flourishing and what will lead to the flourishing of the rest of humanity. that’s definitely a long-term project. nonetheless, i think what happened in China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and the kinds of changes that we saw then, were the closest humanity had ever come to that fundamentally new type of society.
i think that the changes that have to take place require a party.
i think this because the changes that must happen to make this new world a reality cannot happen without an apparatus that the lowest and the deepest sections of the old society can make their own and use to push all of society through the material and ideological restructuring necessary to abolish the mechanisms that had formerly perpetuated their oppression. we need a coordinated way to do that, to collectively gather an understanding of our problems and then apply it to every part of society
no anarchist school of thought proposes a mechanism for this kind of holographic, top-to-bottom self-conscious alteration of society led by the most oppressed. all the anarchism i’ve ever heard of would de facto leave local variations in power among the people virtually unchanged. i believe these inequalities are the seeds of a return to capitalism, both in the way they do not challenge ideological and social hegemonies of some segments of the population over others (e.g., men over non-men, those who have been trained to do intellectual labor over those who were trained only to do manual labor) but also in the way they also disallow a coordinated and unified change of the physical, built environment.
without a party, the ongoing class struggle necessary even after the revolution cannot be systematically undertaken. A party is necessary to continuously collect the ideas of each and every part of the proletariat, especially the lowest and deepest sections, so that the proletariat has the best, fullest possible understanding of itself. Only with this comprehensive, all-around, full-spectrum, top-to-bottom picture of itself can the proletariat consciously remake itself and the world, both physically and culturally, to proceed ever more fully toward communism.
in general there are two different conceptions of what it really means for the state to disappear going on in anarchist thinking vs. Marxist thinking.
anarchists imagine that the deal with wanting statelessness is “there’s somebody out there who wants to tell me what to do, and i’m not gonna do it.” this is in fact a capitalist/liberal notion of statelessness based on the idea of lone individuals getting hounded for scientifically inexplicable reasons and the idea that the masses out there are somehow prone to oppress.
the Marxist idea of statelessness recognizes that we have to take all the world as a global system and cure the whole thing of the patterns that lead to oppression, which–because the patterns of oppression prevailing in each part of the world are extremely historically entangled with the patterns of oppression prevailing in each other part of the world–requires gathering understandings from the whole world in order to transform each and every last part. we won’t get free by just little bits withdrawing here and there and them running their own show–we’ll get free by transforming everywhere into a well-functioning and cooperative and harmonious whole.
so, anarchism is like “let’s withdraw so no one oppresses me.” communism is like, “let’s dissolve the very root that leads to oppression to begin with, and we won’t need to “withdraw” because we will dissolve the distinction between withdrawer and withdrawee.
one of the most obvious examples of the necessity here is in coordinating reparations from imperialist “centers” to the previously most heavily exploited “peripheries.” such a complicated task will without a doubt require global coordination, but in fact the true eradication of white supremacy and patriarchy from every spot in the heart of every human being on earth will require even more subtle, complex, and elaborate coordination.
for a little bit more elaboration on this process, check out “The role of the people’s party under socialism in the masses’ conscious transformation of themselves: A metaphor with holograms”
for some brilliant discussion about what the economic transformations that must be undertaken in order to completely abolish structural inequality would look like, and what we have learned about how concretely to undertake them from the experience of socialism in China, check out “Capitalist and Maoist Economic Development”
for some equally brilliant discussion about the shortcomings of even the most thoughtful anarchist proposals for post-capitalist economics, check out the PCR-RCP’s “The Myth of Self-Management”