Anarchists often repeated Marxist formulations (or approximations) that the state was the "executive committee" of the ruling class, and so forth, but the content of their state theory was just the reverse of Marx's. Their insistence that the abolition of the state had to be the firs tact of the revolution was the product of pure dogma, simply an unhistorical view of the relation between the state and social order. Many socialists (including Marx and Engels, as we have seen) had struggled with this question in the early days of the movement, so it had always been a well-known view before it became hardened into anarchist theory.
But this mistaken approach led the Anarchists into dead-ends and in some cases, led them into reactionary alliances. Draper notes that in 1877, "Engels emphasized how the anarchists' political abstentionism had reduced them even in Italy to a tiny sect" precisely because the logic of their position on the state was to abstain from immediately struggle in favour of a point in the future when they would abolish the state and everything would be sorted out.While the book does discuss other socialisms, much of the book focuses on Anarchism and in particular the debates and struggles between Marxists and the followers of Bakunin's "reformist politics" in the First International. Draper follows his usual model of exploring ideas in depth, backing up arguments with copious and rigorous quotes from the works of Marx, Engels and their contempories. It is quite a shock them to see his expose of Bakunin's ideas and Bakunin's activity. In particular there is an unpleasant, but completely necessary, discussion of Bakunin's antisemitism which makes for difficult reading. Draper shows how this arises out of Bakunin's complete lack of concrete politics and his dismissal of the masses as the agent of social change. Time and space precludes a detailed discussion of Bakunin's failed politics and how it essentially becomes a utopian movement of top down change.
All this life, Bakunin sought a shortcuts to effective power: by convincing a suitable czar, emperor, king or other autocrat to declare the People's Revolution from above, and impose the Rule of Anarchy (or Whatever) through the convenience of an already established despotism.
If any young anarchists are reading this and find it a difficult pill to swallow it is worth them digging out the source material from Draper on Bakunin's secret societies, hidden within secret societies, which postulate rule by an enlightened despot or individual rather than a society governed from below by the "associated producers".
Crucially though, Draper returns to the question of the state. He points out that the end game for Marx was, of course, a society without classes and without the state (the state is an instrument of class rule and the disappearance of classes would lead to the disappearance, dying out, or withering away of the state). In this Marx was the same as the best of the anarchists, and indeed Draper quotes from the International's circular of 1872, "all socialists see anarchy as the following programme". Draper continues though:
This revelation assumes ignorance of the real history of antistatism in the socialist movement, that is, of the fact that anarchism developed out of a reservoir of antistatism, but that antistatism is not congruent with anarchism.
Marxism as a concrete framework for understanding the world and changing it, sees the workers' state as a transitional stage (a subject discussed in detail in Draper's third volume) toward a stateless and classless society. The abstract approach of many anarchists towards the state and their abstention from the movement, was for Marx, a limitation and a utopianism.
But this utopianism wasn't restricted just to the anarchist movement. In a fascinating chapter Draper looks at the case of the French General Boulanger, a reactionary "protofascist" whom, in the late 1880s, received brief, mass support from the lower-classes and drew a number of socialists towards him, who were "looking to take a free ride into power on the coattails of the populat demagogue". Draper shows how Engels engaged in a fight against this, as one of the advocates of this sorry politics was Marx's son-in-law, Paul Lafargue. Lafargue essential wanted to hide his principles to avoid cutting himself off from the masses, "To combat Boulangism, Boulanger should not be attacked" said Lafargue. In response Engels asserted the importance of the "formation of a party separate from and opposed to all bourgeois parties". He emphasised that there are no short cuts to workers' power.
The chapter on Boulanger is fascinating and I had not been aware of the arguments, but it forms a useful summary of the approach of Marx and Engels to concrete problems and the use of their method. Draper's discussion is a very readable account and deserves study. He concludes the section, and the book:
To our ears, Engels' discussions regarding Boulanger have a bitter echo; they reverberate with many of the themes that crippled the socialist and Communist movements before Hitler's conquest of power. The political letters written by Engels on this now obscure episode in the life of the [French] Third Republic - an episode dim in the history books, and letters which few have paid attention to - are more germane to the tragic history of socialism in our day than several tons of marxological works.
It's a fine summary that demonstrates the importance of Hal Draper's own work and this magnificent series in particular.
Draper - Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 1: State & Bureaucracy
Draper - Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 2: The Politics of Social Classes
Draper - Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 3: The 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat'