Anti-Capitalism Within and Beyond Capitalism: The Gramscian Bridge Between Anti-Power and Statocentric Theories of Left Political Contestation

Onur Acaroglu


Anti-power theories in the Marxist paradigm seek to overcome the traditional emphasis on the capture of political power by identifying alternative revolutionary subjectivities beyond the working class and modes of localized, decentred political contestation that circumvent power relations and implement social change within the interstices of capitalist society. This tendency is in stark contrast with the conventional Leninist goal of capturing political power through the historical agency of a vanguard party. This investigation, however, seeks to show that the boundaries between these two paradigms are more porous than they tend to be portrayed, and that the methodical precision and democratic centralism of the Leninist party could deepen the understanding of how experimentation in alternative societies gets subdued, or conversely, what the main reasons for their resiliency are. On a strategic level, the Gramscian concept of hegemony provides a useful nexus between the aspects of war of position and war of manoeuvre on both sides of the debate. It is proposed that hegemonic struggle to counter the bombardment of capitalist ideology spans both political struggle to prevail in the state, as well as the counterhegemonic models of organizing social life that do not involve overtly statocentric goals. Firstly, an account of the genesis of the ‘statocentric’ paradigm is surveyed, giving due attention to Lenin’s formulations of state power, and this is contrasted with an outline of anti-power theories beginning from autonomist standpoints and leading to the recent proposal of John Holloway to Change the World Without Taking Power (2002). The latter part covers a discussion of the multifaceted concept of hegemony in Gramsci, which sets the stage for a substantive comparative analysis of the two paradigms, mainly from a theoretical angle but also taking strides into historical examples where pertinent. The intention is to bridge the gulf that separates Lenin from Holloway without losing sight of particularities in each paradigm but also advancing the thesis that pockets of anti-capitalism within the capitalist maelstrom could only overcome market imperatives by complementing the direct transformation of social relations with the overall cohesion and political focus found in Lenin’s theoretical practice.

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