From the Archives: Critique of State Socialism

We’re pleased to present Cienfuegos’ Critique of State Socialism as part of our “From the Archives” series. Originally produced by anarchists in Belfast in 1981, this comic juxtaposes Bakunin‘s critique of statist revolutionary movements with the events that subsequently confirmed it. Please print these out, staple them at the side, and share them far and wide!

Click here to download PDF [25 MB].

Anarchists have long argued that all statist approaches to social change are doomed to authoritarian results. This comic illustrates how Bakunin’s critique of state socialism, composed a century and a half ago, was borne out by the events of the 20th century.

Just as Bakunin’s concerns about power-hungry socialists and communists proved prescient, this comic retains its value today, when new politicians and parties are attempting to co-opt popular movements. We should never forget the hard-learned lessons of the Russian Revolution and the Spanish Civil War: those who would wield state power, whether in the name of the people or any other abstraction, can only be obstacles to liberation, if not actual foes of it.

Readers who lack context for 20th century history may find some passages a little perplexing—who was Oswald Mosley, exactly? But if nothing else, this comic provides points of departure to learn about many of the most fascinating and pivotal events of that era. There are plenty of other sources out there, should you wish to learn more about any of these!

9 thoughts on “From the Archives: Critique of State Socialism

  1. You’re right, Cienfuegos was in Okney. But the first edition of the comic itself was printed in Belfast, as it said on p. 44 (numbered as p. 43 in this edition–you can see the blank space at the bottom left where the printing information from that edition appeared).

    I suppose this begs the question of who deserves to be credited as the “producers” of a work–the ones who draw it, the ones who print it, the ones who fund it? Generally the publishers get the most credit, even if they spend a lot less time working with their hands. Just this one time, however, the printers get to be acclaimed as the ones who “produced” this work.

  2. I tried the link to the PDF and it didn’t work for me, did anyone else have this problem?
    ‘Cause I’d like to see it and print it out.

  3. Jacques–

    Nice name. I’m guessing your problem might be because it’s such a big file (sorry, it’s quite a few pages, all illustrations). Perhaps try again on another computer. I’m pretty sure nothing is wrong on our end.

  4. Hello. Thought I’d visit and hold my hand up as the co-author with Bakunin (I did the drawings) of the Critique. I’m flattered you’ve put it online, and pleased that it still seems a relevant bit of work, thirty years on. Yes, the 1981 first edition was by Cienfuegos in Orkney, but printed in Belfast. Later on, someone did a reprint. Some pages look a bit confusing in retrospect, and there’s a major emphasis on the Soviet Union which is not so relevant these days. My favourite page is the Frankenstein one, which I still find a neat metaphor. The original edition had a front cover that showed the surrender of the fictional Grimethorpe Anti-Fascist Militia to a pair of tanks. The larger tank is labelled “New Labour Party”, so how’s that for prescience? The bastards owe me millions in royalties! (The tinier tank is labelled “SDP”, which was the quasi-liberal Labour breakaway at the time. In the distance, Soviet tanks are arriving to “safeguard” the anti-fascist victory.) Anyway, nice to meet you and all power to your elbows.

  5. No problem – people can do what they like with it, after all. I’m flattered.

    Most of my stuff is years old, but more recently I did some pics for a volume of Stuart Christie’s reminiscences, for Pedro de Paz’s ‘The Man who Killed Durruti’ (Stuart’s Read and Noir imprint), and most recently for the Kate Sharpley Library’s translation of Ernestan’s ‘You Anarchist, You!’

    That’s about the limit of my activism these days ….

    Best to you all.

  6. Hey Puneta, As B.Traven said above, and I just confirmed, the file is fine, it is not damaged and downloads correctly. Also, as he said above, that means the problem is on your end, most likely that you are not waiting for the large download to complete–attempting to open a file before it is finished downloading will result in error, of course. If you still have problems, I’d make sure you are using the most current version of your PDF viewer, or perhaps attempt the download on a different computer.

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