Anarcho-Corbynism and support for Labour

Anarcho-Corbynism and support for Labour

It is a fact that lately certain anarchists have placed themselves in the Corbyn camp. As Freedom News admits, "lots of anarchists have decided they’re going to vote to try and get rid of the Tories".

The following article by a sympathiser of the CWO is printed as a contribution to debate.

It is a fact that lately certain anarchists have placed themselves in the Corbyn camp. As Freedom News admits, "lots of anarchists have decided they’re going to vote to try and get rid of the Tories"1. Lest we be accused of taking seriously a few insignificant UK internet dabblers2 and Class War sensationalists in order to take a stick to a serious political movement for our own gain, let us include the case of a globally known anarchist, whose weighty contributions have added to the prestige of that political tendency. “Professor Noam Chomsky has claimed that any serious future for the Labour Party must come from the left-wing pressure group Momentum and the army of new members attracted by the party’s leadership. In an interview with the Guardian3, the radical intellectual threw his weight behind Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that Labour would be doing far better in opinion polls if it were not for the “bitter” hostility of the mainstream media. “If I were a voter in Britain, I would vote for him,” said Chomsky, who admitted that the current polling position suggested Labour was not yet gaining popular support for the policy positions that he supported…But ahead of what could be a bitter split within the Labour movement if Corbyn’s party is defeated in the June election, Chomsky claimed the future must lie with the left of the party. “The constituency of the Labour party, the new participants, the Momentum group and so on … if there is to be a serious future for the Labour party that is where it is in my opinion,” he said.”

This does not mean that we are necessarily condemning all anarchists as if one or two fractions represented the whole, and we can be encouraged that certain anarchist organisations (like the Anarchist Federation and Sol Fed) have condemned in no uncertain terms what they see to be the error of lining up behind the Labour Party in any shape. However, there are grounds for saying that the general anarchist movement in the UK and elsewhere has done little to clarify the attitude to be taken to the reformist labour movement, one which we have unhesitatingly called a capitalist prison. Also, a little examination of highly visible anarchist groups like Class War and others reveals a highly biased perspective against the Tory party which fails to cast all bourgeois factions as equally reactionary, cogs within a machine which exploits and oppresses the working class. In their own words, directed at the present author;

_“Class War has a solidly 'They are all wankers' position my friend... but we reserve particular bile for the Tories...

So you are mistaken if you think that this is "anarcho -social democratic necrophilia"...._

And then we have the issue of the Class War Party which has in the past appeared on BBC television, breaking the abstentionist tradition by standing in the 2015 General Election. The move obviously opens the door to further non-principled actions of which the recent Vote Corbyn calls are a manifestation.

So even if the open call for a Labour vote, based on the supposed left credentials of J. Corbyn, is a step beyond what we usually are served up through the anarchist groups, the track record regarding the wider reformist Labour Movement and the attitude to the capitalist democratic process is not at all identical to that we uphold. Some, like the relatively prominent self-proclaimed anarchist David Graeber, have no issue with electoral participation. For him, it is merely individual and situational, he openly says it could be a good decision4

However, we are not simply content with condemning everything that moves. We can applaud those anarchists and others who have squarely rejected the Corbyn bandwagon. Even some clarity emerges from the Class War camp, on this matter anyway, “For us the Labour Party is a party of the System. Full stop. Therefore, as anarchists we totally oppose it as much as we oppose the Tories. Our task is to prepare for a long overdue revolutionary upheaval. “5

We can only encourage such elements to further examine the flimsiness of the positions they hold, not least regarding the capitalist left, the reformist labour movement and electoral participation in general. Theoretical clarity is no mere bauble. It is essential.

So, to reiterate, we are not at all saying that the anarchist movement in toto is simply an appendage of the capitalist state. It is a diverse arena whose healthiest elements may well play decisive positive roles in the struggle to come, but only if they can escape the pull of those forces which tie us to capitalism, its parties, trade unions, its theoretical confusions. Special mention could be made of the Anarchist Federation who have consistently rejected the Corbyn phenomenon and electoral participation in general, just to illustrate the point with a real example.

In one sense, the desire to play some sort of a role within the movements which attract significant working class support and channel the very real discontent which the trajectory of the capitalist crisis is brewing is one we can identify with. However, that participation, that intervention, can only be within precise limits which concede nothing to the snares and illusions hiding behind sugared phrases and “old men bearing gifts”.

For revolutionaries, withdrawal into isolated theoretical work (if that) is no solution. The point however, is not to commit political suicide, kneeling before the five-minute fashions and the momentarily popular, but to find ways to intervene as revolutionaries, defending revolutionary perspectives, on the difficult terrain which is presented to us by capitalism's trajectory. This may not yield immediate numerically significant victories but it can spread awareness that revolutionary organisation exists and sow a seed which may sprout when the next capitalist crash smashes against the conditions which maintain passivity and the safety nets of welfare and the ability to sleep walk through life are definitively jettisoned by a profit desperate capitalism.

We need to win over significant numbers to the revolutionary organisation because it is key to the success of the revolution and recognise that the numerically weak forces of today are insufficient.

We need an effective revolutionary organisation, one which has a clear perspective of rejection of all capitalist options and the goal of class wide proletarian organs, the workers own councils which can put our class firmly in the driving seat.

We need this organisation to be rooted in the class before the decisive confrontations that the crisis of capitalism is brewing. We communists are not daunted by the momentary condition of the working-class response. We know the capitalist class has no answer to the contradictions of its system and its resorting to massive debt along with attacks on our conditions is finite.

We cannot say when the dam will burst and the tables will be overturned, but we know there is only mounting crisis in store for us under capitalism and that the pre-constructed revolutionary organisation, fruit of patient intervention, has an essential role as a solid political reference point for a class driven by desperation into a fight back. A class dominated by illusions and misconceptions carefully grafted onto them by a ruling class. Amongst these misconceptions is the snare of democracy under capitalism, the parliamentary road to socialism, confidence in trade unions and the Labour Party which the NE anarchists and any others who have abandoned the abstentionist position to vote for the class enemy are fortifying.

Given an intense level of class struggle, we can get our message through to the class in general. But the precondition is we have a significant organisation built up in the preceding period.

We call on anarchists and others to abandon their support for the capitalist labour movement.

We call on all those who recognise the validity of the central revolutionary message, the one that contained all that was healthy in the previous revolutionary assault on filthy, blood sweating capitalism, the power of the workers’ councils. All who subscribe to revolution, to the impossibility of parliamentary socialism and such traps must consider smashing down the ideological prejudices and the past errors which divide us and make common cause in a revolutionary organisation that offers no support whatsoever to any capitalist faction, party or war and has no ambition to set up any separate power, but rather aims at empowering the clear majority of non-exploiters through the absolute power of the workers’ councils. Then we can build a society fit for humanity.

Ant

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

  • 1. freedomnews.org.uk
  • 2. We could include here North East Anarchists and Sabcat the Anarchist Workers Co-op
  • 3. theguardian.com
  • 4. Anarchist anthropologist and academic David Graeber talks about the choices in the upcoming UK General Election;
    DAVID GRAEBER: I'm an anarchist, so for me, that means not telling people what they have to do. I think it's really your call….. I haven't voted but I'm not going to tell people not to. In fact, I think that often it can be a perfectly legitimate call.
  • 5. youtube.com

Comments

Spikymike
Jun 9 2017 10:45

Can't tell if it's 'lots of anarchists' or not falling for the Corbyn line but I'm aware that most of the early 70's anarchists locally in my past circle of political comrades and friends have abandoned any anarchist principles they ever had and supported and voted this time for the Labour Party with some actually joining as LP members. That partly reflects a widespread demoralisation following past defeat of important UK working class struggles and the rightward drift of politics but also reflects a weakness in their past anarchism - more vaguely left libertarian than steadfastly communist. We may never get (and some don't indeed aspire to) a single united revolutionary organisation but there is still much to do in uniting our practical efforts in the class struggle around some clear revolutionary communist principles.

sarda
Jun 9 2017 11:54

The mistake is trying to put principles on the working class instead of adopting the principles of the working class, what are they?
Be not a burden!
Be independent!
Be practical!
Be equal!
Be learning and improving!
I think it is the simpleness of the principles that we see, that we usually ignore them, we ignore the unity of the working class all over the world.

Noah Fence
Jun 9 2017 12:12
sarda wrote:
The mistake is trying to put principles on the working class instead of adopting the principles of the working class, what are they?
Be not a burden!
Be independent!
Be practical!
Be equal!
Be learning and improving!
I think it is the simpleness of the principles that we see, that we usually ignore them, we ignore the unity of the working class all over the world.

Maybe it's just me but is this not a singularly peculiar post?

Khawaga
Jun 9 2017 14:07

ftIt's not just you. That post doesn't make much sense.

Anarcho
Jun 10 2017 13:05

I guess the use of the infamous 1979 Tory election poster is ironic? Anyways...

Quote:
However, there are grounds for saying that the general anarchist movement in the UK and elsewhere has done little to clarify the attitude to be taken to the reformist labour movement, one which we have unhesitatingly called a capitalist prison.

As a trade unionist, I do find this comment silly in the extreem. Having worked in both unionised and non-unionised workplaces -- true capitalist prisons -- I can tell you that it makes a difference. The unionised workplace actually took collective action, the non-unionised one did not (in spite of attempts otherwise). And I can tell you those crossing our picket-lines were not doing so to protest the reformist nature of the union...

But, then, it is hard to take this ultra-leftist posturing seriously... particularly from Marxists, who used to lecture anarchists in the same tones for NOT voting for the "socialist" party and for pointing out that the Marxist tactic of "political action" would produce illusions and reformism...

We are a long way from a genuine, revolutionary, labour movement. So we need to look around and see how best to create the pre-conditions for it. The above article is strong on rhetoric but weak on everything else, particularly a grasp of reality.

In terms of people voting Labour (or SNP for that matter), I cannot get too bothered by that -- sometimes it is a lesser evil (as when an authoritarian leader calls an election explicitly to crush opposition and ends the campaign proclaiming the abolition of human rights, which requires calling a state of emergency). I would suggest that being bothered by people spending 30 seconds to vote is just fetishism about the ballot -- it is really not that important.

After all, anarchists have been proven right while Marxists have been proven wrong in terms of electioneering. Few people believe in "the parliamentary road to socialism" -- they were voting to make capitalism better, to save it from itself. This is what "socialism" means now -- mostly because most Socialists followed Marx and Engels into "political action."

So I would suggest we start from where we are -- it does not matter if you voted, it is what you do next which counts. We need a labour movement based on direct action and solidarity, how you vote or whether you vote is irrelevant. This does not mean we ignore the question of reform by "political action" (of course not) but we don't use it as an excuse to remain a little sect like the CWO.

Anarchists have won the debate -- few people (the SPGB only?) think socialism can come via the ballot box. Marx was wrong, Bakunin was right -- "political action" did foster reformism. What we need to do is to argue that what we do when we are not putting that cross on the paper is what counts. Articles like this one do not help that process in the slightest.

But the whole article seems to be along the lines of "oh, a few anarchists did X, how terrible and shows that anarchism is wrong" and forgetting to mention that most anarchists did not do X. Like a particularly terrible CWO article I read on the First World War which concentrated on the few pro-war anarchists to smear anarchism -- it failed to mention that the vast majority of anarchists opposed the war (unlike the vast majority of Marxists).

And, to be honest, the election result was the funniest thing to happen in ages... hubris? May now have a new definition smile

As for joining the Labour Party? Now, that is silly -- and it suggests that their anarchism is weak.

Spikymike
Jun 10 2017 13:35

I don't think what anarcho regards as the 'ultra-left' Marxists have ever been amongst those criticising anarchists for not voting for the ''socialist party'' and the issue here is not so much whether some individuals may or may not vote but the attempt by some anarchists to actually persuade us and other workers of the benefits of supporting the Labour Party against the better judgement and organised efforts of both 'ultra-left' Marxists and anarchist-communists.

Noah Fence
Jun 10 2017 13:46

Yes, it's not just 'a few anarchists' either, I've seen and heard of it in many places.
BTW, the North East Anarchists' FB group mentioned is nothing short of outrageous.

radicalgraffiti
Jun 10 2017 14:07
Noah Fence wrote:
BTW, the North East Anarchists' FB group mentioned is nothing short of outrageous.

north east anarchists fb group is not remotely anarchist, not sure why the guy who runs it insists on calling him self that, but its just one asshole

radicalgraffiti
Jun 10 2017 14:11

mostly agree with Anarcho here, although talking about "anarchists" and "marxists" as if they where two separate and coherent groups is a bit silly

Reddebrek
Jun 19 2017 00:30
Quote:
I don't think what anarcho regards as the 'ultra-left' Marxists have ever been amongst those criticising anarchists for not voting for the ''socialist party'' and the issue here is not so much whether some individuals may or may not vote but the attempt by some anarchists to actually persuade us and other workers of the benefits of supporting the Labour Party against the better judgement and organised efforts of both 'ultra-left' Marxists and anarchist-communists.

I don't know about that Mike, plenty of the founders of the first wave of Left Communism definitely used non participation in elections as evidence of the Anarchists immaturity and utopianism. Luxemburg certainly did, and I've not yet encountered a criticism of her or any of the old guard for it by a Left Com author or group.

If anything this just seems to be something modern Left Coms would rather be forgotten, they're usually pretty rigorous in criticism of the big thinkers of everyone else's movements, so its kinda noticeable how little is done in house.

Especially compared to Anarchists who on average seem to have few kind words to say about their founders.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
mostly agree with Anarcho here, although talking about "anarchists" and "marxists" as if they where two separate and coherent groups is a bit silly

Yeah, one of the really tiresome and off putting Left Com stances is this insistence on a purity that just doesn't really exist. I mean this is a blog run by the CWO on an Anarchist website, so they clearly don't think the difference is that extreme. And I've seen them at Anarchist events and book fairs, and I remember the ICC moaning when it was denied a stall at one.

Then theres the issue that Ultra Left and Left Communism are terms so vague and broad that no one can agree on whose in it and whose out of it. Like every single reading list or catalogue of Ultra left thinkers or Left Com essentials I've seen has not only been different but mutually exclusive.

Trots, Maoists and MLs can play that game but Left Coms? Not really unless you're playing the no true Left Com game.

For what its worth I've been very annoyed by seeing random Anarchists calling for a progressive vote this election, but I've also seen Left Coms take the same position. Indeed having followed self declared Left Com blogs and organisation websites for several years now I often find more than a few doing what groups like the ICC and CWO etc are using to tut, tut at the Anarchist movement. Indeed I find the constant focussing on the anarchist movement like this to be a rather poor trick.

Cleishbotham
Jun 19 2017 12:43

Reddebrek

Neither Luxemburg (whose friend and successor, Paul Levy, threw the communist left that became the KAPD out of the KPD, despite Lenin's objections) nor Lenin can be considered part of the left communist tradition but both did contribute something to it in their various criticisms of social democracy. And if you want a critique of parliamentarism then the starting point is the Theses on Abstentionism of the Abstentionist fraction of the PSI (which Bordiga wrote). The Bordigists have made a fetish of anti-parliamentarism but we have not preferring to treat each situation on its merits (but today there is no merit in working through parliament as we will make clear in the next issue of Revolutionary Perspectives).

The contribution to discussion is by a former CWO member who left accusing some of us of being too soft on anarchism. The positive references to those groups like AF and Solfed for maintaining their principles were inserted at our insistence.

I also suggest that you give up on so-called leftcom (which are usually totally ignorant) blogs - one man (always) bands with their own agendas are no guide to clarity. They certainly don't take their lead from us.