The Red Menace newsletter

Issues of the Red Menace newsletter, published by the Libertarian Socialist Collective in Canada between 1976 and 1980.

Red Menace #1 - Volume 1, Number 1 - February 1976

The Red Menace was a Canadian libertarian socialist publication put out from 1976-1980.

What is The Red Menace?

Description and vision of the libertarian socialist newsletter, The Red Menace, which was published in Canada during the late 1970s.


The Red Menace is published by Toronto Liberation School. Toronto Liberation School is a group of liberation socialists, independent of any political organization, who see a need for a broad range of educational and cultural activities that contribute to transforming this society. We see the constituency for these activities as all those people who have become concerned about their lives, their communities, and the problems of this society and its institutions; people who have become activists at the workplace or in the community, for their needs and rights, or around national and international issues; people struggling for their liberation. We believe that liberation requires a fundamental restructuring of social and economic relationships, suited to the needs of all people rather than only to those of the few. This we would call "socialism", but by it we mean neither the band-aid reformism of the NDP nor Russian-style totalitarianism. Socialism to us is possible only through the self-activity of working people towards a completely democratic society. Toronto Liberation School hopes to contribute to this in any way that it can. In the past, we have put on lectures, courses, and helped to organize a conference on Popular Education, and participated individually and collectively in a range of political activities. We see this newsletter, The Red Menace, as one part, but by no means the only part, of our political practice and development.


The Red Menace is not a theoretical journal. It is not a mouthpiece for the correct line of political sect. What it is is a newsletter, an organ of communication. Not a one-way conveyor of communication, from a few theoretical "heavies" to the unwashed masses, but a vehicle of encouraging vigorous participation from as many people as possible. (In some ways, we look back to the early development of modern science, when there was dynamic, anarchic, and marvelously efficient, exchange of ideas and information between scientists in different countries through the exchange of 'news letters').

Theory and writing have to be de-mythologized. Thinking about society and how it could change is something that everyone does. And no one has all the answers.

We don't just want to print long, dry, ponderous articles. We are at least equally interested in brief, to-the-point comments on various problems. A one-page observation on some specific issue or idea is more valuable than a 15-page article that is academically competent, but has nothing new to say. Nor are we looking for "definitive statements" on particular topics. We are much more interested in the tentative, the exploratory, the contribution, of someone who is unsure of what s/he says, but is willing to air it to the comments of others.

So please put your thoughts on paper and send them in. We are interested in:

· articles about where you work, where you go to school, where you live, where you shop, where you play
· analytical articles about political activities and organizations you are/have been involved in
· criticism and evaluation of what is happening on the left, in the women's movement, in society as large
· articles about theoretical and strategic questions
· poetry
· artwork (black and white).
· humour and satire
· experiences in, and analyses of, mass culture, everyday life, etc.
· analysis of leftist newspapers, posters, films, music, etc.
· book reviews
· revealing anecdotes
· questions you don't have answer for.
· questions you do have answers for

Oh yes - we need money, of course. Money to keep this newsletter going, especially since we are trying to distribute them free as much as possible. A dollar or two will help, five or ten dollars would be really nice. If you are sending a cheque, make it payable to Toronto Liberation School. And if you're involved in a publication yourself, we'd be glad to trade subscriptions.

Write to us:
The Red Menace


The Red Menace, as the name implies, is a sinister communist conspiracy of fanatical revolutionaries sworn to poison the fabric of our national life, extremists who will stop at nothing in their ruthless determination to undermine the moral values which are the bedrock of this society and its institutions. In the pursuit of their treacherous goals the agents of this Red Menace are willing to go to any length. Their aim is nothing less than the willful subversion and final overthrow of all that is most sacred in our precious free enterprise society: wage labour, exploitation, bureaucracy, authoritarianism, the nuclear family, even the state itself.

The newsletter you are holding in your hand is put by a number of dupes, fellow-travellers, and conscious tools of this red conspiracy who have formed themselves together in an organization called Toronto Liberation School. Our intention is to use this newsletter, The Red Menace, as a mouthpiece for the conspiracy.

This however requires the assistance of other people who agree with our objectives.

We would stress, first of all, for the benefit of prospective fellow-travellers, that this publication is a newsletter, not a journal or magazine. We in Toronto Liberation School do not want to be the editors of a product which will be passively consumed by readership. What we intend, rather, is that The Red Menace be a vehicle of communication between independent socialists in Canada, a forum in which there can be discussion of experiences, strategy, and theory. It is a project for which we seek the active participation of as many people as possible across Canada.

Our decision to publish The Red Menace stems from our understanding of the current state of the independent left in Canada. It is a situation where there is widespread and diverse activity, on the one hand, and a significant degree of isolation and strategic confusion, on the other. There are some who do little except talk and theorize, and others who are very active, but reflect very little about what they are doing, and why. Few groups have a developed class analysis of the situation in Canada itself. Many are oriented exclusively to the Third World, doing solidarity work, which is valuable, but which can hardly be the main activity of a socialist movement in Canada. Few groups have a perspective or strategy for their own development; most have little sense of where they are going.

Yet the independent left is a positive phenomenon. There are now many groups and individuals across Canada who are committed to a politics based on marxism, who have rejected any temptation to withdraw from political activism, and who have similarly rejected the spurious alternative of joining one of the innumerable "vanguard" sects. Among many (although certainly not all) of the groups and individuals of the independent left there at least implicit rudimentary agreement around certain fundamental questions of revolutionary politics.

This unity has however tended by and large to be implied, or expressed by practice alone; this why it has remained implicit, rather than being made explicit. This in turn has set sharp limits on the extent to which this basic unity could be developed and elaborated. The failure to confront strategic and political questions on the part of much of the independent left may be partially explicable by the basis of unity on which many left groups currently exist. Coalitions of people with different political viewpoints, they have avoided debate for the sake of self-preservation, for frank discussion might easily uncover political differences that would threaten the viability of some organizations.

Yet this failure to probe political questions in a serious way has imposed a handicap that is often stifling: an inability to collectively develop perspectives and directions. It also means that the independent left, the product of social movements which marked a radical departure from the "old left" and its politics, has nevertheless largely failed to assimilate the lessons of those social movements, of the new left, the women's movement, etc., as well as the traditions of a wholistic, critical, libertarian marxism. As long as it fails to do so, its prospects are problematic indeed.

These problems are neither surprising nor especially blameworthy given the degree of isolation, from each other and from the working class, in which so many groups operate. Fundamentally this isolation is an expression of the level of class struggle in Canada. It cannot be wished away or arbitrarily overcome by organizational measures or by finding the "correct" strategy. Organization and strategy are not universally applicable formulae that are "discovered" by some clever theoretician steeped in the marxist classics and then applied everywhere: they are ways of exploiting, as much as possible, and as realistically as possible, the options which are presented by a particular moment of the class struggle. They constantly have to be re-evaluated, adapted, and amended in the light of particular circumstances and changed situations. The vision of "the" strategy is a mirage.

But nevertheless, it is our belief that the level of political activity permits more initiatives, in terms of organizational links and in terms of development of strategy and theory, than are presently being developed. Hence The Red Menace.

One of the most important needs which we see this newsletter responding to is therefore the simple one of overcoming isolation, for more communication within the independent left. In this process of communication, one of the most important priorities must be the sharing and criticism of political experiences and activities. This could involve, for example, a particular collective describing and analyzing a project, organizing campaign, or whatever, that it has been involved in. The purpose would not be simply to convey information about what is being done by various groups (although this can be useful in itself) but to encourage critical evaluations of various forms of left practice, and the theory underlying it. This evaluation would come in the first instance from people describing their own work and using the opportunity to reflect critically on what they have been doing. Response from others in the pages of this newsletter could then potentially comprise a positive ongoing discussion of the experience being considered and of related activities.

A process of constructive criticism should help to develop the habit of looking at individual projects in a larger strategic, political, and theoretical context. It should also make it more common for revolutionaries to draw lessons from their practice and to learn from each other, so that positive lessons are generalized and negative ones not repeated over and over again. This is clearly something that can occur only with established communications links.

At the same time, in this way we can (and must) avoid the rigidities of the Leninist form of organization which seeks to subject everyone to a uniform "line" and centralized discipline, which seeks to guarantee political unity by organizational measures.

Another priority of the newsletter, related to the first, will be similar discussions of experiences at work, at school, in the community, at play, and in other activities which constitute daily life in this society. It is our belief that marxist politics must deal with not only the 'high politics' of governments, monetary crises, wars, etc., but also with the politics of ordinary life, the level at which the oppressiveness of capitalist society is experienced by most of us on the day-to-day level ("The critique of daily life"). We believe that it is crucially important that Marxists analyze this level of reality with same energy that they have traditionally given to the affairs of states and capital, and that they incorporate this analysis into their strategy.

An emphasis on specific analysis of specific situations should make it possible to broaden participation in this political exchange, so that not only the "theoreticians" take part, but also those who now participate little or not at all in the formal development of concepts, strategies, theories, etc. The newsletter will be strongly committed to aiding the democratization of the political process within the left, a matter not only of formal principles but of practical utility, for the left needs to engage the minds and imaginations of all its members.

Another priority of The Red Menace will be the project of developing a coherent political perspective, partly out of these different examinations of experience, but also through discussions of theoretical, strategic and organizational questions. Our purpose, after all, is not communication for its own sake, but the stimulation of a definite political process toward definite political goals.

Accordingly, we approach this project of a newsletter with a certain set of political attitudes and beliefs. This is not the place to set out our ideas in great detail: this is not a manifesto. Indeed, to be honest, at this point we in the TLS collective have worked out our ideas in much less detail and with much less sophistication than we would wish, although we believe that we have progressed in the right direction. The content of The Red Menace from issue to issue will necessarily be the best indication of our politics. Hopefully the interchange in its pages will cause us to deepen, re-affirm, and change the ideas we carry to it at the outset.

But we do not intend that this newsletter reflect a single political line, not only because we do not believe that a coherent and comprehensive "correct line" exists but more importantly because we believe that a necessary condition, and pre-condition, of libertarian politics is the widest and most open discussion. We cannot consider any questions closed. And certainly there will be many times when we print contributions that we do not ourselves agree with. At the same time, we consider it neither possible nor desirable to throw open the pages of The Red Menace to all possible shades of opinion.

The project we are committed is that of developing a libertarian marxism which takes as its project the critique of the totality of human life in capitalist society. This critique cannot simply content itself with generalities or with conclusions drawn decades ago in a world that was significantly different. To understand something means to understand it in detail, in historical context, and in all its complexity.

Based on this critique, we are committed to developing a revolutionary politics that is liberatory in the fullest sense of the word. Capitalism is a totalistic system of oppression that invades all areas of life: socialism must be the overcoming of capitalist reality in its entirety, or it is nothing. Or more concretely, a socialism that is partial can only become a parody of the liberatory ideals it espouses. The disastrous results of a "socialist" movement that equated socialism with nationalization of industry speak clearly enough in this regard.

Our belief in a total revolution impels us to underline the assertion that Marx made the first point in the statement of principles of the First International: "The emancipation of the working classes must be achieved by the working classes themselves." Nationalization to be sure can be carried out by a vanguard party installing itself in the state power. Social liberation, human liberation, however, is a process that must go to the root. It cannot be decreed. Nor can it be achieved without the participation of the vast majority of the population. A collective project, and therefore individual, as well, socialism must be self-liberation in every sense of the word. We in TLS hope to contribute to this project because our own lives are shaped and misshaped by our capitalist reality. Whatever contribution we make will stem from our role as participants in a great human adventure, not from any self-proclaimed standing as the "vanguard of the proletariat" or any such reactionary nonsense.

We do not consider it a priority to engage in lengthy debate with those whose political identification is with the corpse of Bolshevism. But The Red Menace will concern itself with some of the elements of Leninist theory and practice, not for themselves, but because they are based on principles which most of the independent left has not sufficiently analyzed. Without fully understanding these mistakes, it is impossible to develop a Marxist politics which avoids them. "The traditions of all the dead generations weigh like a nightmare on the brains of the living". Such critique is especially important since these encrusted orthodoxies tend to dominate much of left discussion through their controlled presses and the sheer volume of the noise they generate. They do not convince, but often they manage to deaden thought or disrupt or prevent intelligent public debate with their incessant "interventions".

We will also seek to foster critical discussions of other theories and tendencies on the left which pose important issues for a revolutionary movement in Canada.

We hope that the kind of discussion we envisage will enable the newsletter to contribute to a process of political unification on the independent left in Canada. In this, we differ from those who propose that various organizational ties be created to pull different groups together, that we should all "get together" now. We believe that this latter kind of unification is a rather mechanical approach to the problem which would almost inevitably come to grief because it sees the process only in organizational terms. Political problems cannot be solved by organizational measures. Lasting organizational unity is possible only where there is fundamental agreement on questions of theory, principles, and strategy. And to assume that such agreement exists at present is to blind oneself to reality. Indeed a number of groups united primarily around practical tasks are finding it difficult to develop further because the requisite common political outlook is lacking. For them, the alternative may be a choice between relative stagnation resulting from inability to develop politically (or fear of doing so), and attempts at political development that result in polarization and splits.

We do not think that it is a service to anyone to be over-hasty in trying to create organizational links. Such links should grow, not from an a priori belief in the virtues of bigness or centralization, but from the actual needs of the groups concerned. We should create whatever structures are needed to accomplish agreed-on and clearly defined common tasks. Such pragmatic links, if accompanied by conscious efforts to discuss issues of common political concern, whether they be the mutual critique of practice, or theoretical discussion, and stimulate a process of political drawing together that is organic and rooted in real situations.

Some people disagree. They want to "get on with it" and be done with all the talk. However, we cannot accept the often assumed idea that everything has been said and that for socialists now it is just a matter of doing things. Most of us have been involved in enough groups that demand frantic activity but little thought to be wary of such an orientation. We are similarly wary of those who fail to recognize that theoretical practice is also a form of practice, a form that is quite important at the present time. We think that the socialist movement in Canada faces many unanswered questions (indeed, many unasked and unformulated questions) that have to be dealt with before we can progress significantly. Not least among those questions are "What is socialism?" and "Why does a socialist revolution seem so distant?" That the level of discussion on the left is so dismally low is an indication of how much socialists, like everyone else, are alienated from their own intelligence: so many people want ready-made answers, but are unwilling to think things through for themselves.

For us, one of the implications of marxism is the conception that there is a close link between form and content in political work. Consequently we will endeavor to pay close attention to form in The Red Menace. We will persistently try to encourage the use of plain language rather than left jargon, and try to foster the ability to express complex ideas in as simple a way as possible without losing the meaning. We also use graphics, cartoons, etc. as much as we can given the rather severe limitations of the newsletter format. As much as possible, we want to use The Red Menace as a medium with which we can experiment, in which we can try to develop different ways of getting our point across as effectively as possible. This too should be an area which radicals can learn from each other (and from non-radicals). Hopefully we can develop livelier forms of communication that can be used in our political work. Accordingly, we will sometimes be guilty of poetry, satire, having fun and similar violations of political orthodoxy. There should be no reason why marxist politics have to be as deadly and dull as they generally tend to be. The task is serious, but creatively, playfulness and humour are resources that we must learn to draw on in our struggle for a socialist future. Their repression is itself one of the indictments of capitalism, and of any politics that fail to combat that repression.

It is impossible to stress enough that the flowering of creativity demanded by a revolutionary socialist politics demands the widest possible participation. By this criterion, the project of The Red Menace, modest as it is, will be a failure if it doesn't win the active involvement of considerable numbers of the people who receive it. This is especially so because we are not a theoretical journal in the traditional sense. We are not terribly interested in seeking out articles that are the definitive last word on some particular topic (though if you do happen to have such a definitive interpretation of the world, we would be happy to see it.) We are more interested in fostering an orientation to theory and strategy and tactics that rejects the idea that these are the exclusive preserve of theorists, strategists, and tacticians.

Everyone has something to contribute to these questions, if not in the same degree. Our task is to create an environment where such contributions are drawn out, and where we all learn to get the maximum benefit from them. This means that theory has to be de-mythologized. Theoretical practice is not only the writing of books and articles, important as that may be. It is also drawing conclusions from various situations, making generalizations on the basis of one's experience and intellectual resources. This is not necessarily a grandiose undertaking: a one- or two page comment making one or two basic points about some particular topic, experience, or problem is often more useful than a long treatise that is read by almost no one, and says nothing new at any rate. A tentative exploration of a problem is often valuable in provoking further thought: there is no reason to insist that people have to have fully thought our all aspects of a problem before they venture an opinion on some part of it.

One consequence of this is that we will try to maintain a definite bias in favour of brevity in The Red Menace, although we will undoubtedly make exceptions. But it is less necessary to encourage the self-confident theoreticians than those who don't think of themselves that way, so we are "bending the stick the other way" with an extra stress on the importance of short comments, feedback, letters, and the like, in the process of dialogue that we are seeking to develop in The Red Menace.

The purpose of this introduction is to open discussion, not to close it with definitive pronouncements. So it will end here. A fuller definition of what this newsletter is to be will have to emerge from its practice. And that will be determined by those who participate with us in this project.

Published in Volume 1, Number 1 of The Red Menace, February 1976.
Taken from the web-archived version of The Red Menace site.

Know thy enemy

Know thy enemy:
he does not care what colour you are
provided you work for him
and yet you do!

he does not care how much you earn
provided you earn more for him
and yet you do!

he does not care who lives in the room at the top
provided he owns the building
and yet you strive!

he will let you write against him
provided you do not act against him
and yet you write!

he sings the praises of humanity
but knows machines cost more than men.
Bargain with him, he laughs, and beats you at it;
challenge him, and he kills.
Sooner than lose the things he owns
he will destroy the world.

But as you hasten to be free

And build your commonwealth
Do not forget the enemy
Who lies within yourself.

Christopher Logue

Popular Education Conference

Agenda of the 'Popular Education Conference' in Toronto during October 3-4, 1975.

On October 3-5, 1975, a 'Popular Education Conference' was held in Toronto with the participation of a large number of independent left groups and individuals. Altogether, close to 300 people from 47 groups attended all or part of the conference. Most from the Toronto area, but some came from as far away as Windsor.

In order to help generalize the experience of that conference, and to stimulate ongoing discussion of the issues it tried to grapple with, we are presenting a number of items relating to the conference here.

The first piece is simply an edited version of the agenda. It is followed by a fairly lengthy article, both factual and analytical, by Ashley Chester, a Manitoban recently transplanted to Ontario, who as a relative outsider is able to present a fairly detached look at the strengths and weaknesses, not to mention the peculiarities, of the Toronto left, as evidenced at the conference. After this comes a few short comments from the Toronto Liberation School collective, predictably unable to restrain itself from putting in its two cents' worth. The final piece is another short comment from Steve Izma, a socialist from Kitchener-Waterloo.


October 3rd, 4th, and 5th. St. Paul's Centre, 121 Avenue Rd., Toronto.

Friday, October 3rd
8:00 pm: Panel discussion on "The Formation and Transformation of Consciousness in Advanced Capitalist Society". This discussion will probe the means by which consciousness develops in advanced capitalist societies. Among the issues to be considered is the role of various social institutions such as the mass media advertising, and education, and the ways in which people accept, reject, or other-wise respond to the forces which seek to shape their consciousness.

Followed by a discussion period.

Saturday, October 4th
9:30 a.m;: "Feedback" from the "Watching" Committee. The watching committee is an innovation adapted from other conferences whose role is to provide some feedback about the process and political development of the conference while it is actually occuring. It is proposed that a dozen or so people be chosen from different parts of the conference (workshops, planning committee, chair people, etc.) who would then meet during breaks in the conference to analyze what is happening, what issues and questions have been raised, etc., and briefly present their perceptions to the conference as a whole. This is not a decision-making body.

9:40 a.m.: Panel discussion on common themes and problems in presenting political issues in a popular manner; based on the experiences of a number of groups operating in Toronto. As much as possible, each of the panelists will address themselves to a set of common questions based on the particular experience of their group.

Panelists: Toronto Committee to Liberate Southern Africa; Daycare Organizing Alliance; Women's Press; Brazilian Studies Group.

Followed by a general question/discussion period.

2:00 p.m.: Workshops: Participants to be divided into workshops to discuss further some of the questions raised in the two previous panel discussions.

Sunday, October 5th
9:30 a.m.: Feedback from the Watching Committee.

9:40 a.m. Workshops on the "Politics of Communication".

What these workshops will concern themselves with is not only the communication of politics, but also the closely related question of the politics of communication. The stress will not be on the technicalities involved in taking a picture or pasting up a newspaper, but on the political interrelation between form and content. The workshops will consider the implications of different answers to such questions as "Who are we trying to reach?" "What are we trying to say?" and "How do we say it?" They will also look at such related questions as "Why use a particular form of communication rather than others?" "What are the advantages and disadvantages of a given medium?" "How do we maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages?" "What presuppositions do we make about the audience or constituency in choosing a particular medium?" "What effect does this choice have on our ability to get our message across?" "What are the constraints or peculiarities of this form?"

Each workshop will be led by a resource person(s) either working in or familiar with the area under discussion.

The topics:

1. Uses of the Discussion Circle. Sandy Siegel.
The workshop will centre around the question of the role and value of consciousness-raising educational processes in the Canadian revolutionary movement. The application of the educational work of Paulo Freire will be discussed. The workshop will aim at developing an understanding of the analysis and method such an educational process involves and a discussion of both how and where it could be applied in revolutionary struggle in Canada.

2. Art and Posters. Don Carr.
This workshop will attempt to develop a critique of collectively produced art with an emphasis on the Atelier Populaire of Paris in May 1968 and the street art and mural movement of North America and Chile in the late 1960's and early 1970's. There will also be a brief investigation of the function of poster art in both capitalist and socialist society. We will also examine the role of the artist in today's society and the questions: "What can artists do to bridge the gap between their work and the wide public?" "What can the media do to interpret contemporary art in less esoteric terms, to increase its audience?" "How can artists bring the price of art-work within the reach of low-income people?" The purpose of the workshop would be to develop interest in starting an art-producing collective with a social and political direction which would include people of varied abilities (ie. artists, photographers, designers, printers, and others who could provide criticism.)

3. Film and Audio-Visual. Film League.
Using the film Forget it Jack as an example, this workshop will explore questions of the use of film and other audio-visual media as instruments in the development of political consciousness. The focus will be on the general problem of placing modern communications media at the service of the working-class in distinction to the way in which these media usually serve corporate interests. The interests which produce, promote, and distribute audio-visual materials at the present time will also be critically discussed.

4. Journalism. Bob Chodos.
The workshop will deal with the basic techniques of news writing and presentation, how they are used by the commercial press, and how they can be used to express alternative points of view. The concept of objectivity will be examined critically and the biases inherent in news style will be discussed. Selections of facts, ordering of material, use of terminology and layout will be examined as propaganda tools. Reference will be made to articles in the previous week's issues of the Toronto Sun, Globe and Mail, and Star by way of illustration.

5. Comic Books as a Popular Education Tool. Exploding Myths Comic Book Collective.

A discussion of comic books as used for Popular Education with members of the Exploding Myths Comic Book Collective discussing their experiences in producing comics on the food and housing industry. These comics were designed to analyze issues in a form that will have mass appeal and inspire political action. Discussion to include "How do you present an analysis of an issue in a visual and entertaining way?" "How do you distribute analyses to those you want to reach and how do you go beyond information to action?"

6. Materials for Children. Women's Press.
This workshop will examine such questions as how children of different ages develop, the uses of fantasy or realism, and how to get past obstacles such as parents, schools, and television. An attempt will be made to present information about materials that are available for use by radical parents, who want their children to be exposed to alternatives to the surrounding society.

7. Photography. Lynn Murray.
Can photography be an effective tool in doing educational work? Does photography have anything to say or is it limited to the world of objects d'art? The workshop will also look at various photographers' work and discuss their relevance to this society.

8. Theatre. Joyce Penner.

9. Pamphlets. New Hogtown Press.
New Hogtown Press, publishers and distributors of radical pamphlets in Canada, will discuss their experiences. The discussion will focus on such issues as why and how pamphlets can be useful, problems in reaching people you want to reach, and the differences between various kinds of pamphlets such as historical ones, those oriented to use in schools or universities, those dealing with immediate issues, and those dealing with more general issues.

10. Music. David de Launay.
This workshop will try to develop a perspective on how to see all music in a political context. It will be led by David de Launay, a professional musician working in Toronto. Much of the initial presentation will be done through recorded examples. Starting from these examples our discussion and debate can be kept concrete and centered on how to view music politically. Even more important, we will deal with how music is and can be used as a political force or tool.

2:00 p.m.: Feedback from the Watching Committee.

2:10 p.m.: Final plenary on the role of the left. In this session an attempt will be made to bring together some of the previous discussions. Hopefully this should include strategic formulations as well as specific proposals for inter-group co-operation, joint projects, and other possibilities. A key question should be what the left in Toronto can most effectively do at this time.

5:00 p.m.: Adjourn.

Note: The conference planning committee has suggested a number of general questions which they propose as a basis of discussion throughout the conference. These are:

How do we move from a critique of a particular aspect of capitalism to a critique of the system as a whole, in our popular education?

How do we best build on people's impulse for resistance rather than further strengthen the feelings of powerlessness, cynicism, and apathy generated by the system?

How does popular education fit into a larger political strategy?

Published in Volume 1, Number 1 of The Red Menace, February 1976.
Taken from web-archived version of The Red Menace website

Looking at the conference

An account of the Popular Education Conference held in Toronto over the weekend of October 3-5, 1975.

By Ashley Chester

How do average people become socialists?

How can the left break through its isolation?

How can intellectuals become revolutionary educators?

How does revolutionary education differ from the prevailing form?

These essential questions were raised by the Popular Education Conference held in Toronto over the weekend of October 3-5, 1975.

Organized by six Toronto based groups, it was intended as an opportunity for the local non-sectarian left to present its practice to a critical and collective scrutiny.

Friday's session opened with a talk by D'arcy Martin of the Development Education Centre. Two themes were particularly important -- the description of 'problem-posing' education as an alternative to 'banking' education and the danger of the left's isolation.

According to Paulo Freire, conventional education is based on the depositing or 'banking' of objective knowledge within the empty skull of the student. It is totally consistent with a social system that renders most people objects of an incomprehensible and uncontrollable leviathen.

The educator ignores the insights and experiences that might prompt people to learn in a systematic manner and assumes that his/her language is the only one that can describe reality. Dialogical problem-posing education seeks to restore the humanity of all involved by creating a truly egalitarian relationship between educator and student. The educator discovers with the students those dilemmas in their lives that can neither be understood nor changed with the concepts they had been using. Instead of providing broader conceptions she/he continually probes the students as they collectively struggle to develop the intellectual tools necessary to confront their own existence.

Martin generally confined himself to the critique of 'banking' education and the explanation of Freire's basic theory without dealing with the problems of applying it to our situation. He did not elaborate on the opposition of this pedagogy to the pedagogy employed by most Leninists and other exponents of 'scientific' Marxism, though he did decry the identification of propaganda with education.

The second theme, the left's isolation, was very much on people's minds. According to Martin, the Toronto left has both an obstacle and an advantage in the existence of a leftist culture. The fact that there are many leftists who meet each other frequently allows them to accomplish things that would be impossible if they were less numerous. However, they are not forced, as they otherwise would be, to make personal links with the working class. They are insulated.

Unless the Toronto left can link up with a strong progressive movement it is in a very dangerous position individually and collectively. Individually, its members can become cynical, disillusioned and can crack up. Collectively, it faces the threat of repression against which it will be powerless -- October, 1970 was not an aberration. Unfortunately there was little useful response to Martin's talk in the discussion period that followed.

Saturday's session began with a brief report from the 'watching committee'. Intended as a representative group of participants, the watching committee were to analyze the Conference as it progressed, summarize issues and questions raised, and suggest possible points of departures.

Their main criticism of Friday's session was that it did not develop what it means to work with people in a non-dogmatic manner, it was not specific enough in defining "our constituency", and it did not explore whether there is a "mass base for a socialist transformation", whatever that means. It seemed possible that some aspects of those questions would be broached by the Saturday morning panel -- representatives from Women's Press, the Toronto Committee for the Liberation of Southern Africa's Colonies, the Daycare Reform Action Alliance and the Brazilian Studies Group.

Frumie Diamond of Women's Press gave a straight forward account of her group's history and some of its problems. When first formed, the collective expected that manuscripts would be submitted which could then be screened. But now this process seems inadequate and the collective is considering the problems of manuscript development. Some of its future publications will likely be the result of collaboration with groups which have a specific need, such as for a daycare manual or a labour organizing manual.

Diamond also indicated that her group is aware of the fundamental question that has to be faced by those using print media: who reads what? Women's Press aims to get as many of its books into schools and libraries as possible, though that in itself raises the question of how to make a book "acceptable" without making it politically useless.

Further problems stem from the general ambiguities of the women's movement. Some of their publications have individualized history in an effort to reveal the role of women in it. Another example simply reversed roles while leaving intact the ideal of a middle class nuclear family.

Judith Marshall of TCLSAC listed three functions for her group -- education on the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, provision of material aid for these struggles, and the development of leverage within Canada that can assist these liberation processes.

TCLSAC provides speakers, films, and books and organizes visits from representatives of the various liberation movements. It has organized campaigns to provide material assistance to them, in the past having bought a ten ton truck for FRELIMO, and having raised $10,000 for Guinea-Bissau. At present TCLSAC is conducting a campaign to get an ambulance for Namibia's anti-colonialist organization.

Examples of the kind of leverage campaign TCLSAC sees as part of its function include a petition campaign that successfully pushed the federal government to recognize the revolutionary government of Guinea-Bissau, and the current campaigns going on to expose the role of companies such as Gulf Oil and Falconbridge in southern Africa.

In general, Marshall summarized her group's activity as "support for liberation groups elsewhere in an attempt to develop the struggle here". She noted the danger of encouraging a type of left "consumerism" in which concern and energy are diverted to the struggles of other peoples which seem more advanced or immediate than our own. In response to this problem three new committees are being developed to relate the work of TCLSAC to women, to the labour movement, and to schools.

The discussion that followed Marshall's presentation was the most critical of the day. Repeatedly participants questioned how TCLSAC can engage in anything other than propaganda. However Marshall fielded these queries confidently, indicating that it is her group's sensitivity to this problem that has led to the formation of its three new committees and has prompted greater attention to focusing on the links between struggles within Canada and those in southern Africa. For example, communication has been established between striking employees of Falconbridge in Sudbury and those working for the same company in Namibia.

One of the more salient points made in support of this kind of solidarity work is the effect of successes abroad on the already committed leftists within Canada; if it contributes to the development of "a culture of resistance" it is important. As for reaching beyond the more or less committed, one of the best suggestions came as an example offered by a member of the audience: the Quebec Conference on International Worker Solidarity. Apparently it began with Quebec workers discussing amongst themselves the various conditions and problems they face. It then proceeded to discussions of the same sort between Quebec workers and their counterparts abroad. As an example, ALCAN employees from Quebec met with workers from that same company's plants in Guyana. However, this kind of an event in itself presupposes certain conditions within the labour movement that may not exist outside of Quebec.

The other two groups represented on the panel both have a narrower educational perspective. Julie Mathien of the Daycare Reform Action Alliance, explained that her group was formed in response to an attempt by the Ontario government to decrease the staff-child ratio in daycare centres. It consists of parents, daycare staff, and other concerned activists and professionals. Initially it produced a video tape with the assistance of the National Film Board, which showed what the effect of the government policy would be by comparing daycare centres using the different ratios. The tape was a success as a tool in mobilizing the considerable opposition to the proposed policy change, and the government backed down.

One of the difficulties in this type of movement that Mathien noted, is that its focus on a government funded or subsidized service encourages an electoral strategy -- vote for a change, any change that promises action on that one issue.

At present the Alliance counts around twenty "very active" members, with a mailing list of over 200. It is not involved in actual daycare organizing but sees itself assisting other groups trying to start centres. It is also undergoing a period of reassessment now that the campaign around which it was originally organized has subsided.

The Brazilian Studies Group is essentially a research group. Its representative, Herbet de Sousza, described its aim as researching the specificity of neo-capitalism and the future of political struggle particularly in Latin America in light of the failures of the recent past. It prepares articles in Portugese, Spanish and sometimes English and French, which are distributed to around 400 activists or sympathizers in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and North America.

Speaking to the purpose of the Conference, de Sousza warned that "we can not be effective if we know only one side". Rather we must understand how people are educated in advanced capitalism, and what are our opportunities, where are the contradictions.

On Saturday afternoon conference participants were assigned to one of a half dozen workshops in which they were to discuss the questions raised in the previous panels. As a discussion aid the Watching Committee suggested five questions to be considered. Most of these were hopelessly broad for an afternoon discussion among people who hardly knew each other. In the workshop I attended everyone gave a short personal political history by way of indicating their particular interest in popular education. This was essential but time consuming.

Two questions were raised in our workshop that seemed important to me. The relationship between popular education and organizing was recognized as fundamental but perhaps for that reason it was skirted as being too difficult. The second, how to avoid reinforcing feelings of powerlessness and despair, was perhaps difficult beyond our experience.

Sunday promised to be the most fruitful day, with the morning devoted to a variety of workshops on the politics of different media of communication. The afternoon was to be a concluding plenary.

A film called Forget It Jack was used to explore the use of audio-visual media in the promotion of political consciousness. This film was not the most appropriate choice, being rather a fine example of straight forward, old fashioned propaganda. Produced by Jim Littleton with narration by Harry Brown, this film documents the case of Simcoe County hospital workers, members of the Service Workers' International Union, charged with an illegal strike. It was skillfully executed but its possible use was very limited. It may have given the facts to activists wanting to help the strike depicted but was of little use in developing political consciousness beyond this point.

Unfortunately the producer seemed unable to envisage any other form of political film making. He identified the workers with the union and ended the session with a patronizing little lecture on respecting the workers' i.e.. union: tradition.

Next, to the Theatre Workshop. It was conducted by Joyce Penner, director of Toronto Automatic Repertory Theatre Ensemble. If half the communications workshops were led by people as thorough and conscientious as Penner than the Conference was worthwhile. In the short time available she managed to indicate the theoretical and practical work that faces radicals seriously interested in theatre.

Quoting Brecht on "preaching to the converted", she defended the use of theatre to strengthen a nascent culture of resistance. But if it is not mistaken for a documentary form, the dynamism of theatre gives it even greater potential with an uncommitted audience. To achieve this potential it must be taken cut of the conventional setting.

Penner went on to discuss some of the methods of developing a theatre group. One of these is the 'open theatre' technique. A play or elaborated idea is treated merely as "words for action", which the company collectively interprets, revises, and forms into a theatrical whole.

Street theatre or guerilla theatre is another form that deserves reconsideration. If the group attempting it is cohesive, carefully rehearsed and clear in its political intentions it has a far greater chance of reaching an audience than a soap box orator.

Improvisation is also stressed by Penner, though not in its conventional sense. As suggested by surrealism, "automatic improvisation" is intended to strip away the actors' superficialities. Though "blocking" can be a problem she insisted that it can be overcome if the actors are serious about exploring the unconscious.

Returning again to Brecht, she endorsed his famous concept of alienation effect. To be revolutionary theatre must promote thought, not just indulge the emotions. It must avoid "sucking" the audience into an uncritical empathy; it should instead distance the political questions raised from the "life" of the theatrical characters. Signs of slogans or quotes, slides of historical events, a chorus commenting on the "action" have all been used to "break the spell" in order to make political questions inescapable.

As her group is still in the process of formation, Penner could only relate how it hopes to relate to audiences. She felt that prisons, schools, hospitals, unions on strike, tenants and housing groups might all be receptive to a theatre group. She stressed a dialogical relationship with such groups which would hopefully extend to teaching theatre to some of the potential audience. Fantasy as a vision of the future can raise important strategic and tactical questions.

Though there may be much to debate with some of Penner's notions, her theoretical richness and boldness of scope should serve as an example if not a goad to the 'independent left'.

The final plenary suffered the same problem as the earlier ones -- a lack of direction that could not be solved either by the best efforts of the watching committee or the chairpersons. The question to be discussed -- "what the left in Toronto can do most effectively at this time" - was premature to say the least. The floundering that occurred should have demonstrated that the basic level of unity assumed by that question just does not exist among the so-called independent or non-sectarian left in Toronto.

There was much hair-pulling about or status as "intellectuals", intellectual-workers, "petty bourgeois", or workers. There were pleas for some hair-splitting to ensure that further confusion be avoided, (e.g. lets define the working class).

Workerism came with facility to some, (you have to be part of working class life, whatever that is, before you can...) Economism was an easy answer to others, (why aren't we organizing around food prices). And there was the "craving" for "an organization" to be formed by the conference to look into all the problems raised by it. (Surely a mother to cuddle us is no more necessary than a father to discipline us.)

One phrase heard often at the conference was "non-dogmatic Marxism". People wished to distinguish themselves from the Leninist left but how? It seems that the distinction for many is not one of fundamental assumptions. Instead they seem content to hold views that are merely less rigid than those of the Leninists. Until people who call themselves "non-dogmatic" begin to explain what distinguishes them from Leninists then it will be just to assume that the distinction doesn't really exist.

In its own educational terms how should this conference be evaluated?

It was organized on the basis of certain conclusions that did not seem to be the result of any dialogical process between the organizers and the participants. That is not at all surprising. It is a commonly held assumption that anyone who has been to university or who has a job that is 'white collar' or who is radical, in fact, must be an intellectual. The corollary to that assumption is that intellectuals learn best in a conventional educational setting, i.e. the lecture and the seminar. Both assumptions are problematic.

One obvious conclusion from the conference is that a distinction should be made between intellectuals and intellectual-workers. Though the distinction is not discrete and it does not apply to artistic creation, I would argue that the latter have been educated to work in the assembling and distribution or dissemination of ideology; the former have been educated to be the theoreticians of that sort of production. The people involved in the immediate production of ideological offerings are not necessarily better equipped to develop a theoretical critique of their own production than are autoworkers. Nor are they necessarily more predisposed to do so.

Even the intellectuals who organized this conference to begin the development of that kind of critique need this kind of mixed experience to fully assimilate the implications of dialogical education.

By the end of the conference sufficient dialogue had occurred to make possible a guess at some generative themes that might be posed to the independent left.

How do we develop conscious practice when we are so deficient in our theory? How can we grasp the need or significance of theory when we have such limited practice?

The traditional left provides a 'religio-scientific' evasion to these questions and in so doing perpetuates authoritarian relations. But until we develop some serious efforts to cope with this dilemma, those same traditional concepts and methods will dominate us, and ours will be a poor confused relative of a practice we abhor.

Published in Volume 1, Number 1 of The Red Menace, February 1976.
Taken from web-archived version of The Red Menace website.

Our two cents' worth...

Assessment by Toronto Liberation School Collective on the Popular Education Conference held in Toronto over the weekend of October 3-5, 1975.

The Popular Education Conference raised more problems for us than it provided solutions. We consider that a mark of success, a step beyond the attitude, all too common on the left, that we have all the answers. When it comes down to it, we don't even know a lot of the questions.

The conference was a success to the extent that it posed problems, impelled people to evaluate their theories and their experiences, stimulated processes of critical and self-critical thinking.

At the same time, raising questions is not the be-all and the end-all of political activity. By itself, this can leave us wrapped in confused frustration, and indeed there were those at the conference whose experience was exactly that. One reason for this was that the conference itself was a poor example of problem-posing education. Despite all of our rhetoric about the need for new forms of political education, the conference was organized along rather traditional lines, although some attempts were made to develop a more participatory and reflective approach. (Perhaps we should consider the possibility that conferences are simply not suitable vehicles for the kind of collective self-education we are trying to develop.)

However, most of the problems of the conference had to do with the assumptions, experiences, and expectations of the people attending it and planning it. The original impetus came from a fairly wide-spread feeling on the independent left in Toronto that we were spending too much time talking to ourselves. How could we "reach" the working class? The answer, which was of course really no answer at all, was that we had to do "popular education". But how? What is popular education? How do you do it? None of us had answers that were very satisfactory.

Yet, there are after all many independent left groups and individuals engaged in a variety of different activities. It was hoped that bringing them together at a conference would result in a pooling of experiences and ideas.

The planning process for the conference took longer than anyone had initially expected. The problem was not with the technical details, but with political content and forms. To devise an agenda, arrange speakers, decide on topics, set up a balance between plenaries, workshops, displays, etc. meant making a series of political decisions, decisions about popular education as it was to occur at the conference and how it was to be presented at the conference. In effect, the planning committee had to develop a basic analysis of popular education before it could even set up a conference on the subject. With hindsight, it is easy to say that we were not terribly successful in working out a positive vision of what could and should happen.

But the shortcomings of the planning process cannot be attributed primarily to the planning committee, which in its politics and affiliations was fairly representative of the independent left in Toronto. The lack of political clarity among the planners of the conference, which is undeniable, was largely an expression of the political level of the left of which they are a part.

One thing that the conference served to emphasize was the fact that the independent left is not a homogenous whole. Yet it is frequently assumed, at least implicitly, that it is. But really the main thing that seems to bind it together, in addition to its general adherence to socialism (usually left undefined) is a rejection of the sectarian left. This rejection is more often than not not accompanied by any clear analysis of just what is being, rejected and why, or of what the alternatives are. Perhaps that is because the sectarian left is so obviously off base. It seems unnecessary to analyze its politics in a detailed way. But such an automatic rejection can have undesirable consequences. For one thing, it can lead to a tendency to reject large parts of the revolutionary socialist heritage simply because the sectarian left has loudly laid claim to it. This can cut us off from fruitful historical and theoretical lessons. On the other hand, a failure to analyze why the sectarian left is off base, why it is irrelevant, can and often does lead large sections of the independent left to continue accepting the basic assumptions and methods of sectarian leftism, even while rejecting its specific politics. The rejection is superficial, not based on a serious analysis of the root errors involved. For example, there are independent leftists who reject the various leninist parties that currently exist, but continue to accept various leninist formulae, like the need for a vanguard party, the transmission-belt theory of consciousness, the equation of education with propaganda, etc. Some of the specifics have been rejected, but the underlying assumptions remain. As long as there basic assumptions have not been rigorously dissected and examined, and either consciously rejected or consciously adopted, it is very difficult to construct a new politics that has a positive theoretical and practical basis.

This was a problem that was apparent at the conference. Beneath an assumed common purpose there lay an astounding hodge-podge of political conceptions that were rarely articulated, seldom discussed, and often not even thought out by those who held them. This in turn accounted for the fairly frequent and frustrating inability to find a common basis for dialogue. People were on different wave-lengths.

Yet this point should not be over-stated. Many people have worked out their politics in some detail, and many more have at least a gut-level under-standing of what constitutes good politics. Under different circumstances, this would have been enough to stimulate more solid political discussion than actually took place..

One problem was the rather passive, consumerist attitude of many of the people who came to the conference. People sat back, waiting to be educated. This again seemed to be at least partially due the format: there was far more discussion in informal get-togethers than there was at any of the plenaries that were supposed to "draw it all together". Of course, these informal discussions were part of the conference, but it is unfortunate that this process and its results could not have been generalized more. The fact that it wasn't stands as a challenge to our conceptions of popular education.

A cliched but important idea about the conference was that it had to be a moment in a process of political development. That it was, although the process proved to be less advanced than some of us had hoped. But the important thing now is that this process continue, that the questions raised there be pursued and discussed and re-defined and answered. Certainly the most encouraging result of the conference has been the amount of ongoing evaluation and discussion that it has provoked.

To reiterate some of the concerns that emerged:

What is the relationship between socialist groups and mass organizations at this time? What can it be?

The relationship between organizers and educators. Are they separate? Does this distinction imply political choices?

What is the relationship between solidarity work and organizing against capitalism in Canada?

What is the effect of mass culture on consciousness?

How can we integrate our theory and practice, to overcome the tendency for them to develop in isolation?

What can we do to assist the political unification of the independent left?

These are questions we all have to consider, carefully, thoroughly, and soon.

The Toronto Liberation School Collective

Published in Volume 1, Number 1 of The Red Menace, February 1976.
Taken from web-archived version of The Red Menace website.

Popular Education Conference (2)

By Steve Izma

The Popular Education Conference had a general characteristic which was quite refreshing and, in my experience, significantly advanced from left conferences of the last few years. In a manner more concrete than I am used to expecting the level of discussion was brought down to actual examples and practice quite in contrast to the sloganeering and shallow definition of terms that is typical of most formal intra-left gatherings. In many of the discussions we found ourselves at a level of description that demanded a much more precise use of language than I have come to expect in encounters among left people who have had no prior common practice.

For example, the term "working class" was nearly inoperative and was one of the first concepts to be challenged. It was necessary to talk about specific kinds of workers and their specific kinds of experiences, exploited situations, and world-views before any of our talk about strategies became comprehensible. We had to expand the area of analysis usually occupied by the "working class" to include other exploited areas of life, like consumption and education. People felt the necessity to redefine other terms, so often riddled with assumptions, such as 'consciousness', 'socialism', 'political organizing', and, of course 'propaganda/popular education'.

Part of the reason why were able to discuss these things so readily and so fundamentally (although, not fundamentally enough for some people at the conference) is the common but scattered experiences we have had over the last few years. Many of us have had to deal with the sectarian left, either within it or outside of it, and have been frustrated by its effects on ourselves, fellow left people, and anyone else in contact with such groups. There is no point in over-emphasizing this rather negative characteristic which gives us a basis for unity, but I think that as we have tried to come to grips with the problem posed by our experience with 'them', we come to some common conclusions more or less on our own and in isolation from most other 'independent left' groups.

These problems we discuss in various ways, but with essentially the same content: the question of a Leninist party; the building of non-authoritarian organizations; whether or not revolutionary democratic organizations start now or "after the revolution", and even, "how the hell can you have a dictatorship of the proletariat?"

Unfortunately, as a few people pointed out in the final plenary, our critique during the conference of the sectarian groups did not go beyond rejection of them. Not enough did we venture into the important area of constructive discussion around these points. I sense, but maybe I am just optimistic, that these discussions could lead to a more specific, clearer form of unity among us, at least in ideas (which is only a start) and perhaps in the development of some common projects.

But I don't think we should consider success merely in terms of more 'concrete' links among us as left groups. We must as well realize that this kind of discussion among people who have been involved in so many uncoordinated or unconnected situations can be crucial to developing our abilities to work in our own situations. Hopefully we will come back from discussions like this not only with a renewed enthusiasm for our own projects but also with new ideas and new strategies.

However, we are confronting problems not only in the nature of the links among ourselves as independent left groups, but also in the forms of communication we use for popular education. We can easily be critical of the simplistic rhetoric used by vanguard groups in their newspapers, pamphlets and posters, but how critical are we of our own language in the same media? Do we understand our own elitism when we use brief words to represent concepts which we ourselves have taken much work to understand? To what extent do our own words mystify or even 'dazzle' other people? Such habits are not much less manipulative than the rhetoric of you-know-who.

Crucial to our understanding of what kinds of language are appropriate is our notion of what the 'mass media' is all about. Not knowing or being able to agree about the nature of the group with whom we are communicating doesn't help us shape a relevant language. But there are many assumptions uncovered once we look into the area of mass media with as critical an eye as we have used for discussing class.

Why are we interested in developing a mass audience or winning away the audience of the mass media? Helping people see through the misconceptions and manipulations of the commercial media is a crucial liberating step. But attempting to do this by substituting ourselves as writers of mass media is quite another thing. Is there really such a homogenous group of people as 'the masses?'

I think, rather, that it is more important to challenge people's concept of themselves as part of such a 'mass'. This is not to de-emphasize class consciousness, but rather to help people build collective identities based on what is real and specific. Present concepts of mass that gloss over regional, cultural, sexual, and other distinctions and never detail the specific conditions of different workers and other people end up ignoring or causing people to ignore real needs and possibilities. This is manipulative rather than liberating.

Therefore, does the size of our 'audience' determine the particular form of media which we use? How can we communicate with any large grouping of people without continuing a use of the same form as the dominant/dominating media, that is, an authoritarian monologue. Even though we might not intentionally be manipulative through our dissemination of information, how do we overcome the condition that has been well established by present educational and mass media systems whereby information is passively accepted and consumed rather than actively understood or rejected in terms of one's autonomous experiences? How can this active learning process take place in the realm of one-way print media?

This is not an implication that print media be abandoned as a means of popular education. What it means is that written words need always be supplemented by interaction of writers with readers. Perhaps at this point, given the lack of effective periodicals for reaching beyond the circles of the left, the priorities should be interactions between the so-called educators and the people -- so that learning proceeds in both directions and that language and conceptualizations may be more realistically developed. In this case, writing would be a supplement to practice.

We generally agree on the ways in which these interactions should not take place. The elitist intervention of vanguard groups in strikes and other issues has often been more divisive than unifying. Our practice will probably be as small groups offering skills and resources and some exchange of ideas.

The strength of the left in situations like these will be in its versatility: the ability of the small groups to adapt their resources to the particular circumstances of each struggle. This is quite distinct from the sectarian strategies that reduce all struggles to a particular rhetoric, or emphasize particular areas of activity to be revolutionary, exclusive of all others.

The fact that the independent left already experiences a great variety of activity gives us an important basis for this versatile, more comprehensive practice. As we fully realized at the beginning of the conference, a serious problem is that these experiences are largely uncollated -- we don't know enough about what each other has done. But we need to see this variety as a positive aspect and not merely as a hindrance because of its fragmented nature.

It should be reassuring to look upon our range of experiences and see all that we have to draw upon; from workers' struggles in and out of trade unions, from activities in capitalist owned or state controlled factories and institutions right through to worker owned, occupied or controlled workplaces. Among our resources must be counted many research and educational groups, grant funded or not, because they can work to provide essential information for workers in industrial situations who have little extra time for such research.

It is quite likely that further conferences similar to the Popular Education Conference will be held. But the kinds of direct linkings that are needed among left people interested in these concepts cannot wait to be developed within such conferences. Nor should we wait for directives sent out by any coordinating groups delegated at such times.

Steve Izma lives in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. He is a member of the Dumont Press Collective.

Organizing in a small town

A group of libertarian socialists' account of attempting to initiate community organising projects in a small town in Ontario in 1976.


We spent one year living in a small central Ontario community where, with a core of town residents, we attempted, on a minute scale, the 'revolutionary' project discussed below.

The town, with a population of 5,400, survives on the long established tourist industry based around the lakes on which the town is situated. A majority of its working people are employed directly in service and recreation jobs related to the tourist trade, most on a seasonal basis, (in hotels, resorts, motels, parks, stores, transportation, utilities). The average income in the town is only two-thirds of the Ontario average. Tourist industry salaries average about $3000 a year. There are a number of small industries in the town, many new, making wood products, plastic pipe products, and paper products. Wages are somewhat higher in manufacturing, averaging $5000-$6000. Casual labour and construction. is also a major source of income, complementing the seasonal service and tourist trade.

The town is controlled economically and politically by the business elements who benefit from the tourist industry, old established families who have founded the town (these families still own much land in the area, as well as some industry and enterprise), and the managers of the manufacturing plants who run the factories for the U.S. multi-nationals which own them. These class elements are economically, ideologically, and socially integrated and exert a hegemonic control over policies, economic development, social service, and official institutional and cultural life.

Waged and salaried working people make up 80% of the town's population. These working people share a long tradition of rural living, a strong belief in self-reliance, individualism, and native independence as well as a long history of collective inactivity and deference to a visible and paternal ruling power.

We wanted to discuss our activity in this town from a critical perspective to help us reflect on our experience and to offer it in the newsletter as a contribution to the debate on the development of the revolutionary process in an advanced capitalist society.

In this account we will try to do four things: first, to describe our revolutionary vision of what we were attempting to create in this political project; second, to describe how we attempted to attain this vision/goal; third, to critically evaluate the process; and fourth, to raise and comment on some general political questions that hopefully can be dealt with in future issues of the newsletter.

Why Were We There?

Our intent in the long run was to participate in the recreation of a popular working class culture and the raising of the socialist/class consciousness of the working people of the town. To do this we moved into the town and immersed ourselves in the local working class community, in its daily life and contradictions. We lived, worked, shopped, played, and socialized in the community -- the struggle of the people was our struggle. We realized that were not there to lead the workers anywhere but rather, to understand the needs of the working class area and begin to articulate and act upon the realization of such needs within the community.

We accepted Wilhelm Reich's definition of socialist (class) consciousness and it guided us in our struggle. Reich puts forth the following as a response to the question "what is class consciousness?":

"The class-consciousness of the masses is not a knowledge of the historical or economic laws that govern the existence of the human being, but
1. knowledge of one's own vital needs in all spheres;
2. knowledge of ways and possibilities of satisfying them;
3. knowledge of the obstacles that a social system based on private property puts in the way of their satisfaction;
4. knowledge of one's own inhibitions and fears that prevent one from clearly realizing one's needs and the obstacles to their satisfaction....
5. knowledge that mass unity makes an invincible force against the power of oppressors."

Reich further states that the revolutionary liberation from capitalism is the final act which will grow from the fully developed class consciousness of the masses once the revolutionary leadership has understood the working class in every aspect of their life.

We wanted to be part of the process of people becoming aware of what was happening to them politically, socially, economically and culturally, of developing a critique of everyday life. We wanted to help people take power over areas of their daily lives, areas where they themselves expressed a need (e.g. raising their children, information regarding their rights in a capitalist society), etc. We wanted to assist them -- and ourselves -- to understand obstacles, both systemic and personal, that prevent realization of basic needs. And finally, we wanted to help people collectively work out alternative ways of meeting their needs.

What We Wanted to Create (The vision)

We tried to do all this by creating a working class "territory" or Centre where workers could come together. This centre would be an ongoing physical presence in the community, a place where different kinds of working people could meet, organize, discuss, and socialize. The centre was eventually to be control by the workers of the area themselves through a council of elected representatives.

The centre was to involve itself with the social, economic, and political struggles of the community. By building upon workers' self-activity and through the initiation of alternatives and education-al processes, an attempt was to be made to develop collectivity in the working class neighbourhood and create an increasing sense of community, and a new communal desire and ability to struggle for control over everyday life in every way and in every relation.

The centre was also to be an attempt to overcome the fragmentation, privatization, and isolation of people from one another that is so characteristic of advanced capitalist society. It was to be a physical, social, intellectual, and emotional focus, a space where critical and revolutionary self activity among working people could take root and begin to grow. From this space revolutionary action could develop in their work, home, and community, through which workers could become capable of creating and struggling for a new vision of how to realize their interests and needs.

What We Did

We will now discuss the centre in relation to three central themes:

1. the extent to which its activities, services, and programs fostered our revolutionary vision of helping working class people take control over various aspects of their lives;
2. its strategic and relevant linkages with the daily life and struggles of working people and;
3. the legitimacy as an existing town institution which it was able to achieve in relation to the existing power structure and ruling sectors, and townspeople in general.

For fostering control, developing linkages, and creating and maintaining local legitimacy were in turn the short -range goals upon which the ultimate creation of this "working class territory" rested.

Community Centre Program:

1. Information centre

Initially the community centre ran three kinds of programs. The first was an Information Service run by centre staff with community volunteers, on a drop-in and telephone basis. The Information Service was launched publicly as a new service to all residents of the town. Its advent was in keeping with current government and civic support for such information agencies at the community level in Ontario. Its presence was thus grudglingly tolerated by local establishment and social service mandarins, for there was no other such service to be had in either the town or district. We ran the information service mostly with our own labour, and the help of some neighbourhood people for over eight months, and received about 750 calls or drop-in inquiries. Most people called us either looking for jobs or wanting help with U.I.C. claims. The landlord-tenant act and labour code violations, welfare claims, workmen's compensation, inquiries about decent housing, babysitting were the other things most asked about. Through the information service, we wanted to do three things: first, to provide information to individual working people about their rights and the benefits available to them. In many cases working people didn't know their legal rights or the proper procedure for getting benefits. Second, we wanted to advocate for people unable to get what was legally theirs. Such was the arbitrary nature of oppressive economic and political power in the town that even when they knew their rights, many working people (especially the young and the old, as well as women and the disabled, in short, those in the 'weakest' power positions) had great difficulty in getting them. Third, and most crucially, we wanted to foster autonomous self-help groups around problems. Such groups could be actively involved in analysing and attacking the root of their difficulties together, eg. senior citizens' groupings, tenants' groups, mothers for day care, etc.

Through the Information service, we made contact and became familiar with the problems of many working people. We were also able to help many of them on an individual basis to become more aware and capable of realizing their rights.

Further, the Information service gave us legitimacy -- we had a reason for operating in the community on a day to day basis. It even gave us a legitimate pretext for soliciting establishment funds for our centre.

However, the Information service proved to be far less valuable (central) in creating links with working people in the process of systematically and collectively challenging power relations. For the Information service largely failed to draw people into the centre to discuss their problems, and was equally unsuccessful in providing a stepping stone from an individual to a collective approach to their problems. The diversity of problems covered, the wide geographical area the service related to, the importance of anonymity in the running of such a service, and the reluctance of people to come in person to talk to strangers about personal problems were a number of factors which contributed to this.

The one exception to this was with a number of working class mothers wanting day care facilities for their children. Our of the initial information contact grew a series of meetings in the centre which led to the establishment of a play-school co-operative run by working class parents for their children. This project became our second area of program involvement in the centre, one which opened far more valuable possibilities of links, action, and control than the first.

2. The Playschool Co-operative

The Playschool rooted us in the working class community allowing us to become involved in a collective alternative to one aspect of the everyday lives of working class families. Through it we established day to day relations with working people around a non-work issue of great concern to them. It also opened up the possibility of working with them around other areas of their daily lives. Further, through the operation of the Playschool, we established a trust and a familiarity that opened up other possibilities. The parents' expressed need for day care was partially fulfilled through the creation of this autonomous alternative to the existing nursery school. However it was originally seen as a short range project which would eventually lead to the establishment of a municipal day care facility.

The Playschool lasted over eight months and involved about thirty working class families. It attempted to achieve three goals: 1. the establishment of liberatory child rearing practices, 2. the encouragement of liberating, humanizing relations between the parents and the children, and 3. the establishment of a collective, creative alternative to the existing facility which was too expensive and served a different population (class): the children of professionals (doctors, lawyers) and ruling elements of the town.

The Playschool was organized co-operatively. Both the mothers and the fathers helped set up and maintain the program through day to day staffing, fund raising, participating on committees, and through the standing working group and executive which came from their ranks. One of our collective was the coordinator to assist the parents in designing and implementing the program.

The Playschool began during the summer in a public school gym. Through the summer project the parents became involved to the point where they saw the need and importance of carrying on the project on a more permanent basis. The parents demanded and received the upstairs of the town Community Centre which had been standing vacant for years. The parents organized support from a number of city councilors, some people on the Recreation Committee, and a couple of teachers to aid them in securing the Community Centre. They assembled en masse in the Director's office and pressured him to allow them the use of the facility for a nominal rent.

The principles of the Playschool program were developed through an ongoing educational process (discussion circles) with the parents. The transformation of the traditional social relations between parents and children was the 'visionary' aim of the Playschool. The coordinator and the parents worked out a program which was continually discussed and re-evaluated. It was based on following humanistic and liberating principles, on developing independence and creative ability among children on fostering sharing, co-operation, mutual respect, and non-sexist practices, a flowering of a sense of self worth.

The Playschool did gain some legitimacy in the town. One reason for this was that the participating parents included many long-time citizens of the town. Also, the existing nursery school wanted support in an appeal to the provincial government for a municipal day care facility. They saw the new Playschool as added proof of the need for day care. So they reluctantly supported the parents in their endeavour in exchange for their support in their government bid. Also, a few teachers in the high school contributed to our legitimacy by bringing the children into their classrooms to work on projects beside their high school students.

The Playschool gave people a sense of power over a part of their lives that had formerly been beyond their control. Both husbands and wives were involved in the Playschool process at some level, and it became an important experience for them. Through it they saw that collective action provided them with an alternative and a new sense of the possible for themselves, each other, their children, and the community.

3. Critical Education Circles

After the Information Centre and the Co-operative Playschool had been underway for a number of months, we organized a third program, regular weekly educational circles at the Centre. We saw this educational program as growing out of the first two, and in turn, deepening involvement and struggle in them; while at the same time opening up the possibility of transforming the very nature of the Centre itself.

The idea behind the critical education circles for both men and women was to provide a regular discussion context, where groups of working people could come together to begin to critically reflect on the nature of their lives, relations, beliefs and problems in a dialogue with other working people (i.e. with people who had objectively and in many ways subjectively the same experiences of life as members of a structurally subordinated class.) The learning process of the circle was based on the educational methodology of Paulo Friere and discussion content was informed by a locally specified Marxian analysis of power relations in the region at various levels from the political and economic to the realm of the personal. We were continually attempting to develop and reapply this analysis, from the time of our entering the town, in all aspects of the centre's activity. In short, then, we saw this kind of educational process as a vital dimension of all our work, i.e. as a way to transform what was initially as issue or project orientation among working people involved, into an understanding of the need for and a commitment to the collective self creation of a new and combatative working class community and culture.

Two groups functioned over ten sessions at the centre: the first with local working women from the surrounding neighbourhood. (Contact with the 13 women in the circle came from our previous work in the information service and the playschool). Discussion in the women's educational circle centred around family life in a general sense. Themes talked about included liberating principles and philosophies of child rearing (similar to those being established in the Playschool); relations between them and their husbands (questions of equality, sexism, economic support, etc.); emotions and the personal (fears, hopes, desires); and social questions (advertising, consumption, T.V., soap operas, and the role of the schools.) At the end of the first educational circle, the women decided to meet again in the new year to further discuss and try out new methods of dealing with their children day by day. Secondly, ideas developed in the circle began to filter into and reinforce the Playschool program through women who were involved in both. The women also agreed that they would like to meet with the men to discuss marital and personal relations together, in a first beginning attempt to solve some of the conflicts that were being brought out.

The second educational circle was conducted with a group of 11 working class men. Through the operation of the two centre programs we developed a friendly, informal relation with families touched by or involved in these projects. We were invited into their homes and came to share our leisure time with them regularly. So when it came time to organize the sessions, we went around to each home and personally explained what we wanted to do and asked people if they were interested. In most cases the men were willing to give the group discussions a try. Though we advertised in the town newspaper as well, all eleven participants came from this personal contact.

The men's critical education circle was then, in a sense, something new, for though we had worked with some of the men in the Playschool, this was the first attempt to bring them and other male workers from the town together in their own right, on a regular basis.

The topics for discussion over the ten weeks came from our own perceptions of what we saw and heard as key issues and problems affecting the day to day lives or workers in the town, and from the weekly suggestions of the group itself. We discussed such matters as the class, economic and political structure of power in the area; the nature of their work (feelings about bosses, frustration with authority, young vs. older workers, satisfaction derived or denied through manual labour, etc.); quality of community life (relations to friends and neighbours); changing family and personal life (relations with their wives and children); and general social issues (media, consumption, credit, advertising, welfare, inflation, big government).

Throughout the circle meetings there was a tension between a need to understand a particular situation/problem and a need to take action in a concrete and immediate way. The discussion circle originally stressed the former, but towards the second half of the sessions, as the process of group formation took place, concrete alternative forms of action for the group were placed on the agenda for preliminary discussion. The possibility of setting up a workers' community organization, a working group to co-ordinate the organizing of unorganized plants, putting out a newsletter, as well as setting up various alternative co-op ventures alongside the Playschool, such as a credit union or food co-op were all discussed.

However, it must be pointed out that our intention for this first critical discussion sequence was not to produce direct and immediate action. We wanted to stimulate a critical analysis by these working men of their everyday lives which would lead to the formation of a group having a collective understanding of the conditions they were submerged in as well as a common resolve to initiate alternative action which had a chance of seriously challenging the oppressive status quo in key areas. Previous experience in community organizing made us wary of immediate action around issues as a firm basis for building this kind of strong, sustained and organized working class presence and self-activity on a community level.

In its own right, the discussion circle was successful in providing an informal social basis for the creation of trust and solidarity among these men, something clearly lacking at the outset. Economic, social, and cultural differences between workers in the group (between skilled and unskilled, low and higher income earners, local, town, and new arrivals, and young and old workers) provided a real and formidable barrier against the likelihood of collective solidarity in action developing among them. Over the course of the sessions, primarily through what was usually animated and heated group discussion but also through beer and shuffleboard at the tavern after the meetings, and a number of parties in each others' homes, a sense of solidarity, common purpose, and commitment began to emerge.

The men's own evaluation of the process in the group can best attest to the progress made in it. For in their own estimation the circle had permitted them:
1. to break down the isolation between them which had led them to personalize responsibility for their situation and remain passive while at the same time faulting other working class people for not doing something to change things. They could now see that their problems were the same as other workers' and that the blame for them lay with the people who ran the town against them.
2. They also said their awareness of the nature of the forces against them and the reason for their situation economically and politically, locally and nationally, had been increased by the circle discussions and debates and, finally,
3. They felt they had found a group of men whom they could trust enough to act with to change things.

At the end of the sessions, plans were made to meet again after the new year to continue the process. Further, the men wanted to have occasional joint meetings with the women's circle to discuss common problems (the question of family responsibility as a block to militant social action, problems of how to talk to their wives about their feelings, etc.) Finally, group support was thrown behind the Playschool and a collective offer was extended to help on anything that needed work, eg., building more furniture and equipment, fixing up the centre, etc.


At this point, after a year of activity, the centre had to close. We must now evaluate its development. Unable to secure even a LIP or OFY grant from local authorities and running out of personal funds, we were unable to open the centre in January. We spent the fall fighting bill collectors and, with the threat of a court order over our heads, the collective broke apart and the centre program fragmented, then stopped under this continuous financial pressure. As well, pressure from ruling elements of the town extended from financial veto on government grants and community donations to continually trying to foil or discredit our projects in any possible (letters of support suddenly withdrawn, wild rumours about our personal lives, etc.) The experience of one year however, led us to a number of strong realizations about the work we were attempting.

In a positive sense the project and process we initiated with working people in the town allowed us to affirm through our own experience, the possibility of working class men and women coming together in order to: grapple with the social relations of everyday life in which they had previously been submerged; expand their understanding of the socio-economic structures which oppressed them; realize a growing sense of working class community out of a social world of isolation and division; and finally, to collectively struggle for control over their lives.

It was the emergence of this kind of potential for community and combatative self activity among the working people we knew, concretely shown in the manner outlined above, and in many other ways not mentioned, that was the significant political lesson learned from the project.

In a negative sense, our experience showed us the difficulty and slowness of. the task of fostering revolutionary consciousness and popular alternative culture among ourselves and working people. It showed how much time, energy, and resources were necessary and the deep level of personal commitment required for the task in any community.

For our own part, our estimation of what economic basis would materialize for the project was naive (government grants, local community funds, etc.) and our commitment, although sincere and not consciously short-term, lacked the kind of realistic resolve which only the experience itself has provided in hindsight.

In short, then, what the experience has taught us is that to work toward the creation of a working class territory or space in the way we still envision requires a degree of rootedness in the community and a level of financial independence which can best, and perhaps only, be provided through a collective decision by a grouping of political activists to live and work politically in one area, on a permanent basis. The creation of such a space then can proceed upon steady personal incomes and pooled resources derived therefrom, and out of a mutually binding commitment.

Further, our experience has shown us that without this kind of permanent stake in the creation of such a space for everyone concerned (toward the liberation of 'activists' as much as working class residents!) the risk of becoming either opportunistic (getting out when the going gets rough) or paternalistic (helping the workers with their oppression) is more than formidable despite the best intentions of the activists. And finally, though we do not believe that the lessons of the struggles won, the new understandings reached, and the experience in self activity gained were lost to the people we worked with; it still remains true that the closing of the centre ran the risk of increasing an already apparent working class cynicism about the possibility of meaningful social change. Political activists must be aware of this cynicism, put it in its proper perspective, but most of all originate a 'politics of hope' which will overcome it not reinforce it.

Political Questions

This year of activity allows us, we feel, to make some observations on a number of questions central to the issue of revolution and revolutionary process in Canada today.

Questions which we will try to comment on from our experience to open for discussion are as follows:

1. How do libertarian political activists intervene in the daily lives of working people?
2. How do such activists, once they have become rooted in this daily life, prevent reformism and co-optation from turning their efforts against them?
3. How do they maintain and sustain the level of struggle from its initiation over an extended period of time (like a lifetime)?
4. How do local struggles, once initiated, become integrated with and linked to a wider revolutionary movement?

The question of how to intervene to begin with must be answered in the light of a prior question -- intervention for what purpose? Our answer to the prior question must be "intervention for the purpose of taking part in the transformation of the totality of people's lives" -- for it is this life in all its aspects which is integrated within the capitalist structures of domination, and which is lived, despite the conditions which may stunt and limit it, for its own sake and as a unity by working class people.

To the derivative question "how to intervene?" the following answer can be given: By political activists collectively entering and positioning themselves in an ongoing way within the everyday lives of working people, alongside them as co-combatants in a struggle to 'change life' in the process of transforming capitalist society.

It is to this end that the notion of a territory or space has been presented as a setting where a new combatative working class self activity and critical culture could develop in opposition to the influence of the capitalist integration of daily life. From this space such self activity and critical culture could develop and extend into all areas of the terrain of daily life, into the home, the workplace, and the neighbourhood; and address both work and non-work issues in their full variety.

Our work outlined above at least pointed in this direction. Our centre provided a base, a space, where people could socialize and make friends across working class sector lines and begin to critically reflect on the nature of their experience, relations, beliefs, and problems. It was a place where, further, they could begin to get involved in collective self-help alternatives for themselves and their children; learning co-operation and gaining through the struggles they became involved in the confidence and experience necessary to increasingly exert control over their lives.

In short, the direction that the centre aspired to move in was toward the creation of such a space within which a sustained and organized working class presence in the town might have been forged; one capable of initiating an ever wider wave of hegemonic and militant oppositional action in any and all areas where their interests were denied at the local level.

Such a notion of a territory is not confined to the storefront centre we were involved in, but can refer to any space; the house of activists in an area, a community centre, a student residence building, or a union hall and eventually perhaps extended to whole streets, blocks, and neighbourhoods. For the tern refers to any physical area where the libertarian analysis and strategy of direct action outlined in this article is being carried out.

Let us turn to the second question, the problem of reformism and co-optation. Briefly, there are a number of ways in which this approach to direct action at the community level does differ from more conventional and well-known approaches to community organizing and as such does attempt to take into consideration and deal with the danger of co-optation in a more comprehensive and realistic manner.

1. First, the territory notion of community organizing differs in intent from liberal and certain left ideas of community organizing. The latter concentrates on organizing people primarily around issues or the provision of alternative services; the former, from the outset aims at becoming permanently integrated in the struggle to build a new way of life with working people. In the former orientation, struggle around issues and the creation of alternatives become steps upon which a new self activity, a heightened class and self-consciousness, and a new way of life based on socialist and human principles can develop in its own right.

2. In order for this kind of purpose to be realized, such a strategy of community intervention must be based on an in-depth class analysis of an area and the relation of class forces within it, i.e. an analysis which includes an understanding of the structures of control at every level of life and the limits to possibility such structures represent. Thanks to Marjalena Repo's well-known critique of the type of community organizing which was carried on without the benefit of such analysis, such an understanding of class forces need not be a lack in such community work but the basis of it. In so doing, we can proceed to overcome the contradiction between class analysis and community organizing, which Repo originally posed but which too many people have since reified and taken as a permanent barrier to organizing working people in a revolutionary way around non-work issues where they are living.

3. Armed with such an ongoing class analysis, a collective of activists in this setting must not only bring with them a good array of organizing skills but a real ability to relate to people on the basis of a working understanding and an action critique of existing capitalist social relations of all and every form within the bounds of a common everyday life. These relations include those of working class parents to their children; men to women; women to men; in and out of the family setting; sectors of the working class to other sectors; working people to authority whether of a class, economic, judicial, governmental, or social nature; working people to the 'educated' and to 'intellectual authority' including here ourselves as 'left educators'; in short, the relations in and through which authoritarianism, sexism, racism, status differentiation, deference, and inadequacy serve to cement the power and hegemony of capitalism in the lives of working people on a day to day basis.

4. Further, a group of activists must be prepared to move from such a political understanding and action critique ability. And they must move through a strategy which allows working people in a community to collectively work out and develop alternative forms of relating, thinking, acting, and being which are best suited to their own needs and culture (way of life).

5. In order to sustain such an ongoing action critique and a self creation of alternative forms of living, a critical education component, based on working people collectively reflecting on their daily experience of life under capitalism must be built into the inner workings of the direct action process. Such a critical education process, informal, yet effective once developed, can provide an ongoing means for working people to grasp the roots of their oppression however felt and experienced. It also can provide maximum opportunity for them to gain a working insight into the significant limits and ways beyond the various forms of immediate action they may become involved in as they struggle on a local level to realize their interests.

To summarize, in the town in which we worked; it was the relation between each of these five aspects of a libertarian strategy, worked out in many cases only partially and unclearly at the time, and their constant overlapping and reinforcing of a general progressive direction, which gave our approach its fullness and unique quality in meeting the dangers of co-operation. Through dialogue and debate, through socializing and sharing of leisure time, through common work projects and tasks, through the struggle around key issues, through helping each other out in hard times and sharing the good; an organic process tool: place which made the struggle for the lot of us less a question of a particular issue or an immediate demand and more one of the need to collectively strive to build a new and better way of life.

As to the question of sustaining struggle, we feel the development of the revolutionary process can only proceed if the blossoming of the revolutionary self-activity of working people as a cultural reality is at its heart. If this view of revolutionary process in Canada is in any way correct, then revolution will be an organic process renewing itself through the collective effort, imagination, and struggle of thousands and thousands of people. The self sustaining capacity of this revolutionary process, then, we see as integral to its daily operation. In short, in the process by which people fight for, build, and ever increasingly live revolution in their lives.

The human energy released through the realization of the collective human potential of working people must provide the self sustaining capacity of any revolution, as the struggle for a new socialist way of life intensifies. We glimpsed traces of this new energy and the possibility it can hold in the work we did in our centre. It is nothing more than the energy of new-found hope, imagination, friendship, creative power, and community, which a collective struggle to control one's own life can unleash out of a world of isolation, loneliness, cynicism, and despair.

As for the final question of the links and co-ordination of local struggles with a larger revolutionary movement, space does not permit much else than the stating of the question for discussion in future issues. However, we see the logical development of the notion of the working class space outlined above in the direction indicated by people like Schecter, Milner, and Roussopoulos of Our Generation; towards the emergence of forms of local neighbourhood control, the gaining of socialist hegemony over the public terrain of municipal politics, and the linking of local territories with larger regional struggles and coordinating structures.

Published in Volume 1, Number 1 of The Red Menace, February 1976.
Taken from web archived version of The Red Menace

Portugal 1975

Richard Swift on the Portuguese revolution.

By Richard Swift

The revolutionary process in Portugal is not one that lends itself very easily to a coherent political analysis. Political leadership is quickly thrown up by the creative energy of the workers and peasants and as quickly discarded as its usefulness to them wears thin. In many ways it recalls the French revolutionary process of 1789. Like the revolt of the first estate in France, Portuguese events started at the top with the revolt of the Spinola group attempting to engineer a neo-colonial solution in Portugal's African territories. As in France, this created a dynamic in which more and more demands on the revolution were being made from below. The strongest similarity with France is in this political process whereby a political grouping reaches power (the Girondins, Jacobins, or the Directory) just in time to see the alliance of social classes which created it broken down by the emergence of new needs and fresh polarizations which rob it of its initial social support. In Portugal this dynamic has caught up with the original Spinola grouping of officers, the alliance of Armed Forces Movement and political party moderates and radicals and most recently the Portuguese Communist Party and its military allies. The present 'coalition' government is being subjected to the same pressures.

Each new regime has promised its own form of 'normalization' to meet its own ends. For this purpose a whole arsenal of repressive legislation such as the Censorship Law and the Labour Relations Act have been created but seldom applied. This legislation has remained on the shelf and normalization' has not proceeded very far because the initiative has not rested with these governments. The initiative rested with those workers who have taken over and are running their factories, the peasants who have seized the large estates, the tenants who have occupied and are co-operatively running vacant housing, neighbourhood committees, and perhaps most importantly the soldiers' committees which have challenged the whole hierarchical concept of a traditional army. Each political crisis has meant a new gathering of strength for the working class. In the last year and a half, Portugal has become a vast laboratory of experimentation and apprenticeship for large-sections of the Portuguese people in learning to run their own society. Whatever political arrangements are finally arrived at, this self-activity and the confidence it has created have become an integral part of Portuguese working class experience. It will not be forgotten.

The growth of socialist consciousness is widely evident all over Portugal but particularly in the urban areas and in the south. After decades of acute censorship the signs of intense political debate are everywhere; posters covering walls and monuments, posters on the inside of banks (Banco de Atlantico), insurance companies taken over by their workers, mass demonstrations, socialist literature on sale in the streets, and groups of men gathering spontaneously to discuss current political issues. The Chinese technique of communication by means of wall posters has been widely adopted. In Lisbon's railroad station workers gather to read the latest rumours of fascist political maneouvering or the political position of one of the myriad left groups. After years of enforced 'apolitical' existence under the Salazar and Caetano regimes there is little of the reluctance to view life in its political dimensions which characterizes many of the countries where the bourgeoisie have been able to establish a more effective cultural and spiritual hegemony. Although there is a healthy mistrust of political parties, it is not rooted in the same apathy, cynicism, and feelings of powerlessness which impede working class self-activity in much of Western Europe and all of North America. The ruling groups of Portuguese society have been badly compromised by their years of collaboration with the fascist dictatorship and its policies of colonial aggression. They are having trouble regrouping politically, let alone establishing their credibility as the legitimate powerholders. In fact the traditional instruments of their legitimation such as the press and the electronic media have become an important force in the struggle for working class control. It is in this light that the struggle for workers' control in the newspaper Republica and the Catholic Radio-Renaissance should be seen.

Many events in contemporary Portugal take on spontaneous political implications. A New Year's Eve celebration became a spontaneous festival of the "blaze of freedom". A village discussion of the lack of daycare facilities leads to the occupation of the local manor house. A factory discussion on increasing the wage levels of the lowest paid leads to an attempted takeover of production. There is also widespread awareness of the international dimensions of the class struggle. The liberation struggles in Africa have exerted a powerful influence in Portuguese society. This can be seen both in the 'models of socialism' debate and in the sentiments of indebtedness to and solidarity with the liberation movements. Rallies in support of the Chilean resistance and the recent sacking of the Spanish embassy in Lisbon to protest Franco's ruthless policies of repression are recent examples.

The revolutionary process in Portugal has been badly distorted in a well-orchestrated campaign by the interna-tional press. The cold-war lenses through which the wire services see the struggle for Portugal have little to do with Portuguese realities. The scenario is familiar. Any advances by the workers' movement or democratization of the army are seen as part of a Moscow-run plot carried out by the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) to usurp the newly-won freedom of the Portuguese people. The campaign centres in the leadership factions of the Portuguese Socialist Party (PSP) who have become the major rallying-point for international capital. This campaign, mostly in combination with economic pressures from the European Economic Community, are aimed at forcing a moderation in the process of democratizing Portuguese society both economically and politically. The international bourgeoisie is greatly concerned that the April elections failed to provide a parliamentary channelling of revolutionary energies. As always the focal points for the development of workers' power in everyday life lie outside the field of parliamentary representation. The 'plot' theory they are using to explain Portuguese events takes advantage of the well-known Stalinist proclivities of the PCP. However, it is based on a vest overestimation of the Communists' strength.

This situation has been further reinforced by the Communist Party and their allies abroad who have been quick to identify the party's fortunes with those of the revolutionary process as a whole. This has led to a very serious misunderstanding of the very ambivalent role the PCP has played in this process. To be sure, the Communist tenure in power was one marked by vast conquests of power by the workers' movement. This is particularly true in regard to the cultural dynamization1 carried out by the Armed Forces Movement in some of the most socially backward rural areas. It is also true of the emergence of political debate inside the armed forces and the beginnings of the struggle for democracy there. The Gonsalves regime allowed the breathing space for these things to take place. However, as often as not, factory occupations, land seizures, strikes, and the building of institutions of political power in the neighbourhoods were opposed by the Party. The Communists plainly saw that they were losing control of the mass movement. Things were getting messy. The movement could not be used simply as an instrument of party policy. Working people were developing needs and aspirations of their own. Not only that, they were acting on them.

This is perhaps most clear in the struggles taking place in the nationalized industries. According to the Communist Party, once an industry had been nationalized, the workers in that industry ceased to have any 'class enemy'.

This by now covers over 50% of Portuguese enterprises. Authoritarian relations of production were to be allowed to remain intact even though private property in the means of production had been abolished. This is perfectly compatible with the bureaucratic collectivist model of eastern Europe where both production and society are con-trolled 'for the workers' by a caste of professional politicians and bureaucrats.2

However, workers in the nationalized sector, starting with the steel industry, began raising their own demands and creating their own forms of organization. Demands for control over work conditions, wage equalization and a greater say in creating production policy were all important issues to the workers. Workers' commissions and councils were formed. These organizations and their counterparts in the neighbourhoods, army, and rural areas, represent a very high stage in the process of creating a self-managed socialist society. Because they are rooted in production and the daily life of the people, their capacity for mobilization is much greater than that of the "Committees for the Defense of the Revolution" envisioned by the Communists to be instruments of mass mobilization. These committees were to have a strictly ideological function.

The 'models of socialism' debate has been an important part of the developing political situation in Portugal. There is considerable dissatisfaction in Portugal with both western European Social Democracy and the eastern European model of socialism. Even the moderate 'Melo Antunes' group of officers felt it necessary to dissociate themselves from both these forms in their political statements. The influence of FRELIMO and the other liberation movements on sectors of the army has meant that their conception of socialism is one with a heavy emphasis on popular democracy and participation. This influence as well as the strength of several neo-Marxist currents in the Portuguese left has made the 'models of socialism' debate a particularly lively one.

This debate is closely tied to the analytical controversy over what kind of society Portugal really is. One position states that Portugal is a 'third world' society within Europe. This analysis concontrates on the rural nature of the country, the Portuguese workers who are forced into the western European labour market, and the authoritarian political forms that have dominated Portuguese society. The other view stresses the semi-industrial nature of Portugal (Paul Sweezy recently pointed out that only one-third of the population is in the agrarian sector) and the European traditions of the Portuguese.3

While it is not possible at this point to identify clear political conclusions and strategies which flow from these different views, they obviously relate to the economic and social needs and possibiIities on which a socialist strategy will be based. One of the most obvious issues facing any such strategy is the severity of regional disparities in Portugal. The relationship between the 'internal colony' in north-eastern Portugal and the industrial belt running from Lisbon down to Setubal has been reproduced on a political level in the struggle between the anti-Communist north and the Lisbon-area 'red' belt. Such uneven development leaves room for much reactionary maneuvering as recent events all too clearly show.4

A survey of the revolutionarv groups on the Portuguese left reveals the success of those political organizations which have developed a dialectical relationship with the popular movements. Those Groups have been able to relate to and play an initiating role in the formation of workers' councils, to help bring about the expansion of workers' power, and to understand and even learn from the emerging needs and aspirations of the people. The Revolutionary Party of the Proletariat (PRP), the Left Socialist Movement (MES) and the League for Unified Armed Revolution (LUAR) have all played an important part at different times and in different areas in this process of developing workers' power. In this way these groups have been able to grow and become rooted in the working class.

Those groups which have fetishized their own organization and political 'line' and have attempted to use the workers' movement as an instrument of their own party policy have not fared as well. This is illustrated by the several Marxist-Leninist (Maoist) groupings which have emerged mostly since the coup. The collapse of their politics has reached such a point that the two largest Maoist organizations, the largely student based Movement for the Reorganization of the Proletarian Party (MRPP) and the Popular Democratic Union (UDP) have engaged in gunfights with one another. The Portuguese Communist Party (M-L) which has official Chinese sanction, has been supporting the 'Melo Antunes' group of officers and the right wing of the Socialist Party against Communist Party 'social fascism'. These forms of authoritarianism and sectarianism have impeded significant growth and creative political activity. Of these groups only the Popular Democratic Union is of any size or consequence within the working class.

The recent rise to power of a western-backed Social Democratic coalition has brought renewed pressure to reverse popular conquests of power. The polarization of the army is reaching a point where the differences between radicals and moderates are becoming clearer and clearer. Top officers in all three services have been pushing for the exclusion of politics from the barracks and the isolation of the soldiers' movement from the workers' movement. Radicals in the army have shown a high level of combativity in resisting this process. The recent formation of a rank-and-file soldiers' organization, "United Soldiers Will Win" (SUV), and the continued refusal of the internal security force, COPCON, to support these repressive tendencies, have provided poles of opposition to this 'normalization'.

The new assaults on the popular movement demand a more consistent and co-ordinated response from the left. To this end, several organizations including the LUAR, the MES, and the PRP have formed the United Revolutionary Front (FUR) to improve the organization and stimulate the combativity of the popular response. It is hoped that this will help fill the void created by the vacillation and manipulative policies of the PCP and the decline of its working class support and capacity for mobilization.

The mechanisms of international counter-revolution are by now well-known. The economic pressures, massive misinformation campaigns, and straight counter-insurgency efforts exert a powerful influence. Only popular mobilization on the widest possible basis can ensure a level of combativity necessary to defeat these forces. This can only be achieved by organization which is a tool of working class needs and aspirations. To reverse this and make the working class a tool of organization can only lead to cynicism and passivity. Only a working class which sees itself as the subject of history can ensure that Portugal will not be the Chile of Europe.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This article was written before the recent failure of left-wing military officers to seize power. The purges in the military and the press which have followed this ill-planned and defensive attempt are severe reverses for socialism and are likely to intensify the pressures for 'normalization'. The lack of co-ordination between the military and civilian left and the political vacuum created by the timidity and sectarianism of the PCP were obvious factors in recent events. The movement toward some form of social-democratic solution with authoritarian undertones will likely be accelerated.

There are, however, some factors that the new rulers must take into account in the long run. The intense politicization and "revolution of rising expectations" will create severe pressures for the Socialist Party both internally and externally. The internal tensions created in social-democratic parties elsewhere because of their failure to win concessions for their working class base within the framework of capitalism will be further intensified by Portuguese conditions. It is unlikely that an overtly authoritarian regime will emerge so that some room for organizing by the left will remain. In addition, the revolutionary left in Portugal are used to working in situations of extreme political repression, and at this point have over 20,000 weapons stolen from the military as insurance. But perhaps most importantly, the Portuguese working class has the experience and confidence gained through their own creative self-activity in struggling for control of society. This will be invaluable in buildina a working class 'culture of resistance'.

Published in Volume 1, Number 1 of The Red Menace, February 1976.
Taken from web-archived version of The Red Menace website.

  • 1. On the culutral dynamization program and other articles on Portugal, see Fred Strasser, "The Cultural Dynamization Program", Liberation, Summer, 1975.
  • 2. For a more detailed analysis of the creation of popular power and the struggle in the nationalized industries, look at Portugal: A Blaze of Freedom, published by Big Flame in England and available through Radical America (P.O. Box B, North Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A.) or from the Development Education Centre (DEC), 121 Avenue Rd., Toronto, phone 416-964-6560.
  • 3. "Class Struggles in Portugal", Monthly Review, Sept. 1975.
  • 4. For good background information on Portugal see Kenneth Maxwell, "The Hidden Revolution in Portugal", New York Review of Books, Apr. 17 and May 11, 1975.

Wage & price controls

A description of the 'incomes policy' pushed by the Canadian government and its effects on the working class.

By Professor Leo Panitch

Canadian working people have now joined the ranks of workers in other western capitalist countries who have been subjected to a statutory incomes policy. The Liberal Government's "anti-inflation" programme seeks to cut back on the bargaining freedom of unions. The situation is a grave one, implying as it does a governmental decision to use authoritarian measures to reverse the limited rights Canadian working people have struggles for to improve their lot in this unequal society. The Government is telling us, in the words of crude power politics, that they are making us an offer we can't refuse: "We'll put a few union leaders in jail for three years and others will get the message", the Prime Minister mockingly told a radio interviewer on October 26th. The message is indeed clear: We are being asked to cut off our own heads or the government will cut them off for us.

The questions that have to be answered in this situation are many. What exactly is an incomes policy? Why has the government introduced one at this time? What are the specific provisions of this Government's incomes policy? What coercive powers is the government taking to enforce this policy? Most important perhaps, what can unions and working people do to protect themselves and defeat the policy?

Incomes Policy in the context of a capitalist economy is designed to secure a lower rate of price inflation by reducing the rate of increase in labour costs. It is, in other words, a policy of wage restraint, based on the view that it is the push of labour costs which leads corporations to raise their prices. Although it is often presented -- and the Government's White Paper is no exception -- as an alternative to a policy of deflating the economy and creating more unemployment, incomes policy has come increasingly to accompany high rates of unemployment and cuts in government spending on social service to induce deflation. At the same time as the wage restraint legislation is going through the House of Commons, so is the Unemployment Ensurance Bill, where the Government is redefining the normal rate of unemployment as 5.67 rather than 4%. The incomes policy is not designed to reduce our current high rate of unemployment, but is based on a recognition of a fact -- evident thoughout western capitalist countries -- that apart from the political dangers involved in relying on unemployment alone to stop inflation, this will not be effective on its own.

But it is not merely inflation that the wage restraint of an incomes policy is designed to deal with. Governments introduce an incomes policy when the collective industrial power of workers threatens to redistribute the share of the national income from profits to wages and salaries. This can be seen clearly in the Canadian case, in terms of the Liberal Government's first attempt at an Incomes policy in 1969-70. One of the Commissioners of the Prices and Incomes Commission, George Haythorne, has explained why the attempt at an incomes policy was made at that time: "From 1957 to 1963 the share of Canada's national income going to profits and capital had risen steadily. The situation was reversed in 1964 when labour's share began to rise, a trend which continued until 1970. Given these conditions ... action to stabilise the economy was clearly required." ("Prices and Incomes Policy: the Canadian Experience 1969-72"; International Labour Review, Vol. 108, No. 6, Dec. 1973)

Under the impact of the Trudeau Government's policies, especially the creation of a great deal of unemployment in 1970-72, the trend of increasing national income going to labour was indeed reversed. The percentage of the national income accounted for by wages and salaries fell from 72.8% in 1970 to 67.0% in the first half of 1974 (see Appendix Two). Since the middle of last year however, the picture has changed. Labour's share increased to 69.4% by the end of 1974 and by the middle of this year rose to 70.8% while big business profits and interest fell to 21.1% by the end of 1974 and to 20.1% by the middle of this year. This shift, which has by no means yet carried labour up to the share it has achieved in 1970, has taken place because of an increase in the militancy of workers expressed in high wage demands and increased strikes. It has taken place in a context, however, where due to the world-wide capitalist recession, and especially the recession in the United States, Canadian corporations have convinced the Government, despite a higher rate of inflation in other countries, they cannot raise their prices to protect their profit margins if they are to remain competitive in the international market. They have convinced the Government of a squeeze on profits, which is not yet particularly marked, but which the Government is apparently determined to prevent occuring. Hence its new policy of wage restraint.

There is no doubt that a major attraction of an incomes policy is that it promises price control as part of the package. Public opinion polls in Canada as well as elsewhere show that workers are anxious to get off the treadmill of wages chasing higher prices and that many would in fact accept lower wage increases if prices were kept stable. Yet there is generally a major misunderstanding of what the prices aspect of this kind of policy entails. The policy operates directly on wages but only indirectly on prices. That is, the guidelines explicitly say that wages cannot rise above a certain figure. Prices may rise to cover increased costs, whatever those may be. There is in other words a norm for wages, but no norm for prices established in the policy. Rather than hold down prices and have wages adjust themselves accordingly, the point of the policy is to hold down wages and hope that prices adjust themselves accordingly. The advantage to corporations is clear -- they know in advance that their real profits won't decline due to the policy. Workers however have to buy 'a pig in a poke' -- they have to accept a ceiling on their increases to start with and then hope and pray that this is enough to cover their increased costs.

Thus the policy is in principle unbalanced between prices and wages. In practice, the situation is in fact much worse. First of all, the policy does not apply to a number of key elements in the cost of living even to the extent of keeping price rises in line with cost rises. Basic food prices, energy prices, interest rates are all exempt as is the cost of land, which in recent years has greatly pushed up the cost of housing, under conditions of a land speculators dream come true. Secondly, for even those prices which are supposed to rise only in relation to costs, the ability (and willingness) of the Government to make this stick is very limited. Whereas wage bargaining takes place in public, prices increases are decided behind the closed doors of boardrooms, and we only find out about the occurrence after the fact. There are in addition many means of fudging costs, especially for the 1500 large corporations the Government is dealing with, who each can employ as many high powered accountants for this purpose as will be available to the Anti-Inflation Board. The American multinational corporations that dominate the Canadian economy can easily increase the prices they charge for intermediary goods to their Canadian subsidiaries and thereby take their profits at home.

The Government has suggested that it will ease its price monitoring task by asking that a limited number of price increases be notified to the Government for examination before they take effect. We have yet to be told what items this will cover or how the Anti-Inflation Board, given its small size, will be able to investigate adequately corporate intentions in this regard. What we may in fact expect is indicated by the British experience where a similar notification policy operated from July 1967 to June 1970. Despite the Government's own estimate of 3 million price changes a year taking place in Britain at the time, only 2,162 price change notifications were received by the Government over the whole three year period, and of these 1,807 were accepted as notified. This meant that out of 9 million price changes the Government price control machinery either modified or rejected a grand total of 345 or 0.0004% (See Leo Panitch, Social Democracy and Industrial Militancy: The Labour Party, The Trade Unions and Incomes Policy, 1945-1974, MacMillan 1975). If the British Labour Government's price control was as empty as this, it is easy to imagine how "successful" price control will be under our own Liberal Government with its close financial, personal and ideological ties to big business.

The merely symbolic exercise in price control that the incomes policy involves has grave implications for workers who are subjected to the policy's wage guidelines. The 10% ceiling on increases is made up of 8% to match rising prices and another 2% to match the growth of output of the economy. There are two problems with this, the first is that the 2% growth rate figure is a low estimate and runs the risk that in actuality the economy will grow faster and the excess growth will go to profit, which the guidelines specifically allow for. More important, however, is the simple fact that at the moment the rate of inflation in Canada is not 8% but 11.3%, and if this situation doesn't change under the weak price controls, workers real incomes even including the 2% for productivity will fall by 1.3%, and they will get no share of the growth in output of the economy. It is only those workers who can make a catch-up case and obtain an additional 2% allowed by the guidelines, who will keep their heads above water at all. Those workers who managed to obtain real wage increases in the past, on the other hand, may find their future increases cut by 2%, leaving them with an 8% increase at best, including the productivity provision. If the rate of inflation doesn't improve -- they will suffer a real wage cut of over 3%.

There are some who believe that an incomes policy is designed to benefit the worst-off people in our society. They could not be more wrong. In its most general sense, the policy is designed not to redistribute income but to freeze the present distribution of income, since everyone is to get the same percentage increase whether their income is high or low. In a society as unequal as Canada's this means freezing a situation in which the top twenty percent of income recipients get about 50% of the total income, while the bottom 20% get only 2%, indeed the top 40% of individuals get 75% of the annual national pie, leaving the rest of us, the majority of the population with only the crumbs. (1971 data from Statistics Canada, Perspectives Canada, 1975, Table 7.3 page 156) To be sure, the Government provided a minor amendment to this freeze, allowing those workers with incomes below $6,000 a year to get as much as $600, while limiting those earning over $24,000 a year to a maximum increase of $2,400. Under the heavy criticism the policy was faced with when it was introduced, the Government said it would go further and allow increases which would bring low paid workers up to $3.50 an hour (or $7,280 a year) even if this involved more than a 10% increase. It is on this basis that the policy is supposed to benefit the lowest paid. This gesture would be laughable if the situation were not so sad. Apart from the simple observation that if the government really intended to benefit the low paid, it would give them $2,400 and give those earning over $24,000 only $600 a few other points should be made. First of all, the $600 (or $3.50 an hour) is not a guarantee of this amount but rather "permission" to get it. This is very nice until one remembers that workers earning wages that low don't necessarily have the power to get an increase that size. If you are poorly organized or unorganized, if you are working in a low profit and low productivity industry, the government may allow you to get a $6 million increase but that will do you no good. The amazing part of this, is that the government is suggesting to better paid workers that if they hold back on their increases, the lower paid workers can move ahead. Nothing could be more ludicrous. If workers in the higher paid industries accept the call to restrain their increases, does the money saved in these industries become transferred to workers in low paying jobs? Does the Government possess the means to transfer profits from, say, the car industry to subsidize low pay in, say, the textile industry? Even if the low paid workers submitted larger claims than the rest and they were endorsed by the board, the employers of the low paid would not be able to meet these claims unless the industry in question was also a high profit industry, which of course are not.

The situation is worse for public employees. The average annual increase for members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada between 1967 and 1974 was only 7% a year, while the average increase for all industries over this same period was 9%. This means that federal public employees are already getting a smaller share of the national income and the incomes policy is likely to exacerbate this situation. For the operation of incomes policies in other countries has shown that public employees are always the most strictly controlled, and are chosen by the government to set an example for the rest of the economy. Even in the case of its lowest paid workers, governments do not act in fear of upsetting "comparability" with private industry.

This is only one main way in which low paid workers obtain better wages in the existing society, and governmental "permission" to get higher increases has nothing to do with this. It is for low paid workers to follow a breakthrough made by a stronger and better organized group of workers. The incomes policy is designed to prevent this. If better paid workers really want to help low paid workers the way to do it is not to follow the government's advice, and restrain their wage increases, but to fight the incomes policy and offer low paid workers their experience in organizing effectively.

But if low paid workers are unlikely to do better under the incomes policy, it is precisely those at the other end of the scale who are likely to benefit most. Professional fees, executive salaries, board of directors payments cannot be controlled because these people set their own incomes. The Government's promise to restrain dividend increases is worthless not only because the guidelines allow companies to increase dividend payments to obtain capital on the stock market, but also because dividend payments could be paid out to the owners of corporations after the policy ends. A dividend payment may be deferred in other words, but a wage increase foregone is gone forever. What this suggests in practice is therefore much worse than the freezing of the distribution of income that the guidelines offer in theory. It suggests a redistribution of income toward the rich and powerful. We might quote in this context a newspaper report from Timmins, Ontario on June 28, 1974, during the last election campaign:

"Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau maintained his onslaught on Conservative prices and incomes restraint policies before a large noon-hour crowd here yesterday.
"Mr. Trudeau said the proposed ninety day freeze, followed by up to two years of controls, would take vast numbers of bureaucrats to administer. Even then, it wouldn't work he said:
"You can't freeze executive salaries and dividends because there are too many loopholes to squeeze through'.
"Mr. Trudeau said Conservative leader Robert Stanfield had already said he would not freeze the prices of farm produce and fish. He could not freeze the prices of U.S. imports or Arab oil, and he admitted he would exempt housing prices.
'So what's he going to freeze?' Mr. Trudeau shouted, 'Your wages. He's going to freeze your wages.' " (quoted in the Toronto Star, October 28th, 1975)

The Government is backing up this wage restraint policy with considerable legal powers. The Anti-Inflation Board (see Appendix One) will be able to examine any agreement, concluded or pending, and decide what the permissible increase is. If the Board can't get its report accepted "voluntarily" by the parties, or if the Cabinet decides to act against a wage claim even without a board report, the Government's "Administrator" may make an order prohibiting anyone from contravening the guidelines. He may require either an employer or a group of workers to pay to the Government a fine equal to the amount they received in excess of the guidelines and may even apply an additional fine of up to 25% of this amount if he feels the guidelines were contravened "knowingly". If the order of the Administrator is not complied with by an employer, a union, or an unofficial group of workers, they may be subject to a fine, on summary conviction, of up to $10,000 and two years imprisonment, or on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine of not less than $10,000 and five years imprisonment.

These are harsh penalties to go with a harsh and unjust policy, but they do not guarantee that the policy will in fact work. This is because wage restraint affects workers not as individuals but in their collective capacity as members of unions.. When the Government increases taxation, the worker faces the state on his own, as the increased taxes are collected by deduction from his pay slip, or indirectly via a sales tax added to the price of goods in the shops. Similarly when the government increases interest rates, the individual worker and his family are on their own in paying more for credit or higher mortgage payments. Incomes policy, however, only operates by acting on workers collectively, in that it seeks to modify the wage bargaining behaviour of their whole group, as expressed through their union. Thus the union is the direct object of an incomes policy.

In this situation there are distinct limits to what legal sanctions can achieve. A large strike in defiance of the law is always difficult to deal with, and fining or jailing strike leaders does not guarantee the end of a strike nor prevent the emergence of sympathy strikes. Moreover, the whole field of collective bargaining, even that of the top 1,500 employers in the country, is very difficult to police, and if no one pays attention to the policy, if workers don't police themselves, the laws against breaking the policy will be as generally effective as laws against jay-walking, unless the government either vastly expands its administrative and police machinery or begins to deny Canadians basic political freedoms such as the right to free association, free speech, and even the slightest resemblance of free collective bargaining. In other words, in order for legal sanctions to operate effectively, at least mass worker acquiescence in the policy is required, and for this to be created an invaluable ally is the union itself, which can legitimate the policy in the eyes of its workers. This is why almost all attempts at incomes policy, including the present one, have involved in the first instance an attempt to get voluntary union cooperation. This is why, even though the Canadian labour movement rejected such a voluntary policy in 1969, and again in Turner's "consensus" talks earlier this year, and yet again when this policy was announced, the Government is still trying to get union cooperation.

The Government strives for union co-operation because it wants the unions to be the agent of control, applying the policy to its own members. The Government seeks to get unions to do this by appealing to a common interest between workers and employers, by stressing an ideology of harmony between labour and capital. But in a society such as ours there is no fundamental harmony between labour and capital; there is an underlying conflict between employers and workers which lies at the heart of every wage negotiation. The union is created to be the representative of workers in that conflict, but what an incomes policy seeks to do is to get the union to put the wage restraint policy to union members, and to thereby administer the government's and employers' incomes policy for them.

When the government is successful in getting union cooperation, incomes policy can work in terms of wage restraint for a time. The American incomes policy reduced first-year wage agreements from 13.5% on the quarter before the policy was introduced in August 1971, to 6.4% by the end of 1972. This helped bring the wage and salary portion of the U.S. national income down from 74.5% in 1971 to 72.5% in 1973 while the percentage going to big business rose from 14.6% to 16.2%. Similarly in Britain in the 1960's, the incomes policy reduced the rate of wage increases by about 1% a year from what they otherwise would have been. This wage restraint was seen as well in the number of agreements that were not only reduced but which were delayed by government interference and board investigations.

The underlying conflict that exists between employers and employees does not go away under an incomes policy, however; indeed that conflict is intensified. And it is always unions, the direct object of the policy, who first begin to bear the brunt of workers' dissatisfaction with their position. This is inevitable since workers can do little about the political system, in an immediate sense, but can have a real and immediate influence on their unions. The discontent that boils up in the unions due to wage restraint is just beginning to be seen now in the United States. It has been seen very clearly in Britain, where the only periods in which union membership has fallen since 1945 was during the two periods when unions cooperated in an incomes policy, in 1948-1950 and 1966-67, the latter period falling by 2%. Together with this effect on membership, British unions experienced increased unofficial strikes and the defeat of union leaders who went along with the policy at union conferences. This led to a new and more militant union leadership which not only verbally opposed the incomes policy but led their membership in strike action against it and in the process reversed the wage losses experienced earlier. This led to a tremendous increase in union membership, and finally defeated the incomes policy. (It should be noted in this connection that no parliamentary government in the west that has introduced a compulsory wage freeze has been re-elected in the subsequent election, although the emptiness of these purely electoral victories was usually seen when the parties that won these elections themselves turned around and introduced incomes policies under pressure from business groups.)

The implications of this experience eleswhere is suggestive for the threat that Canadian workers now face. Unions and workers must be made aware -- and bring this point home to their employers -- that wage demands and agreements above the guidelines are not of themselves illegal. The exceptions allowed for in the policy -- higher wages to hold workers or attract new ones, the comparability clause, the exception for fringe increases for health and safety, or the elimination of 'restrictive practices' -- all leave the Board and the Government with a large task of interpretation in any particular case. This must be played to the hilt, not in the sense of going to the Board "cap in hand" for special consideration, but in the sense of realizing how difficult is will be for the Government to prove that anyone "knowingly" ignored the guidelines in most cases. Similarly, unions should give as little cooperation to the Board as possible. Under the voluntary incomes policy of 1969-72, the unions officially opposed the policy, but cooperated with the Prices and Incomes Commission on the 15 wage cases it examined. As the Commission itself noted, this permitted it to examine more cases than it otherwise could have done.

The Canadian Labour Congress has refused to endorse the incomes policy or anyone on the Board, and has put forward a ten point programme which calls for cheaper housing, higher old age pensions, full employment policies, regulation of oil and gas prices and supervision of corporations, to ensure that the money saved on wage restraint is in fact invested to create jobs. This shows the CLC's concern but it does not go far enough and implies that with a few changes the CLC might endorse wage restraint. Donald MacDonald, the Minister of Finance, has suggested the union leadership is opposing the policy in public but supporting it in private. This kind of statement may be designed to split the labour movement and certainly there is little evidence of this yet apart from Joe Morris' statement at first that the law would be obeyed and that the CLC's special fund established to fight the policy would not be used for strike support. This statement seems to have been retracted, but the danger remains, partly because some union leaders and especially some misguided New Democrats seem to believe that with a few touches the incomes policy can be changed from a capitalist policy to a socialist one. A little rent control here, a bit more price control there, and we will have turned one of the ugly sisters into Cinderella. What must be understood, however, is that an incomes policy has nothing to do with equality or economic planning nor, simply because the Government intervenes in the economy, does this mean that its action is somehow 'socialist'. The incomes policy does not seek to replace the capitalist market economy, it rather puts a lid on the market, primarily the labour market in order to back with the strength of the state the employers' resistance to wage demands.

If the Canadian labour movement does not undertake a militant response to the incomes policy; if it does not mobilize itself to take solidary action against the application of the policy to any one group of workers; if the CLC limits itself to some sort of vague educational campaign which politely criticizes the policy and does not lead demonstrations, withdraw from government boards, and provide aid to strikers against the policy, Canadian workers will not only suffer a loss of real wages, they will find their union organizations seriously disrupted and weakened by the policy. The capitalists have embarked on a policy of political con-frontation with Canadian workers and unprecedented restraints on their freedoms. The labour movement will have to respond politically as well with tactics and strategies that are also new and unconventional. If the confrontation is not met, we shall all lose.

Appendix One: Anti-Inflation Review Board

The Anti -Inflation Review Board-is the front line in the government's program to control inflation. The Board has two purposes. One is to sell the program to Canadian workers. Secondly, and much more importantly, this Board decides whether a wage increase or a price increase violates the government's program. When the Board finds a violation it tries to get voluntary compliance from the violator. If this fails the case is turned over to, the "Administrator" for legal action. The critical point to be aware of is that this Board has the power to determine which wage or price increases will be reviewed, and consequently on whom the "Administrator's" power to fine and jail can be brought to bear. Therefore, it has a lot of discretion. How it is likely to use this power can be
seen from the characteristics of its members.

The Anti-Inflation Review Board is highly "inflated" with business connections and corporate power. The Board members between them have held eleven corporate directorships. Jean-Luc Pepin, Board Chairman, appropriately enough headed the list with six of these influential positions. They were:
- Power Corporation of Canada Ltd;
- Canada Steamship Lines;
- Celanese Canada Ltd.;
- Collins Radio Co. of Canada Ltd.;
- Westinghouse Canada Ltd.;
- Bombardier Ltd.
Incidentally Power, the biggest Canadian Corporate Conglomerate, seems to have other ties with the Liberal government. Between 1968 and 1972 this powerful corporation received $10 million in federal grants (Ottawa Journal, May 17, 1973). Pepin, who joined the Board of Power after losing a safe Liberal seat in 1972, is just part of the close connection between the Liberal Party and the business world. As a past Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce he was undoubtedly a useful asset in the board room.

William Ladyman, the "Labour" representative on the board is also no stranger to the board. A retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a past vice-president of the CLC, he was reported by the Financial Post to have "a foot in the management camp" when he joined the Board of Directors of Polymer in 1966. Since then he got the other foot in by becoming a consultant to Great-West Life Assurance Co.; a director of Ontario Housing Corporation; Member of the Economic Council of Canada and Governor of Queensway General Hospital. By joining the Anti-Inflation Review Board, Ladyman is ignoring the CLC's and other labour leaders' condemnation of the government's program as only controlling wages. His acceptance of a position on the Anti-Inflation Review Board incicates that he has come all the way over to the management camp.

Other board members, Jack Biddell and Harold Renouf, have enough expertise between them to know that it is impossible to monitor prices, as both are accountants. Renouf is a past governor of the Canadian Tax Foundation, as well as a director of Associated Accounting Firms International, based in New York. Jack Biddell, President of Clarkson Gordon Ltd., an accounting firm, may have no mechanism to control prices but he has formed some novel ideas about controlling wages. Earlier this year he suggested the government "encourage company and regionally oriented unions" and discourage industry-wide bargaining as a way of clamping down on the power of big unions. (Maclean's pp. 29-31, April, 1975). While the logic of Biddell's argument is unclear, his anti-union sentiments are plain as day.

The remaining members of the Board are Claude Castonguay and Beryl Plumptre.
Both have a long standing association with the Liberal Party. During 1970-73, Castonguay was the Quebec Minister of Health and Social Affairs and was number two man in Bourassa's cabinet. During this period, he was the chief architect of the Quebec Pension Plan. He devised the machinery to channel pension funds into grandiose Liberal Party projects such as the James Bay Development. After leaving provincial politics in 1973, Castonguay re-entered the business world as a Corporate Consultant and picked up a directorship in I.M.A.S.C.O. Ltd. Beryl Plumptre's alliance with the Liberal Party goes back to the 1950's. Through her connections with the Pearson government she was appointed to numerous public positions. These included director of the Canadian Welfare Council. She also became President and Director of the Government sponsored Consumers Association of Canada, (created by the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs). On the basis of that job, she became Chairperson of the Prices Review Board with a salary of $40,000 a year.

These are the people who the government has chosen to sell Canadians the virtues of restraint. That the product to be sold is wage restraint is clear. The final insult is that people like Pepin will be paid $54,000 a year to tell workers earning $10,000 a year to "bite the bullet" and do their part to create the "just society" in Canada.

Canadian Workers must demand that the CLC and its component unions stay off the Anti-Inflation Review Board. The token representation of labour on such boards is not designed to facilitate the expression of workers intended to separate rank and file, and the heady world of the hope that they will confuse their own "success" with the success of the labour movement as a whole. Indeed, workers must press the CLC to withdraw its representatives from the other "public" boards on which they sit. The Government is much more likely to listen to the patter of workers feet on the pavement than the measured tones of Labour spokespersons in comfortable boardrooms.

Leo Panitch is active in the Ottawa Committee for Labour Action. He teaches at Carleton University in the Political Science Department. He is about to have a book published on incomes policy in Britain. The book, titled Social Democracy and Industrial Militancy: The Labour Party, the Trade Unions and Incomes Policy, will be released in February 1976 by Cambridge Press in England.

Comments from our readers

All I know is, if this is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist.

K. Marx
Highgate, England

If the whole of the Canadian electorate could miraculously be converted to socialist ideals at one fell swoop, there would be no reason to discuss strategy in the present context ....But such is not the case. In a non-revolutionary society and in non-revolutionary times, no manner of reform can be implanted with sudden universality. Democratic reformers must proceed step by step, convincing little bands of intellectuals here, rallying sections of the working class there, and appealing to the underprivileged in the next place. The drive towards power must begin with the establishment of bridgeheads, since at the outset it is obviously easier to convert specific groups or localities than to win over an absolute majority of the whole nation. Your publication can help to establish such bridgeheads.

P. E. Trudeau

I don't know much about politics, but I know what I like. I like the Red Menace. It's my kind of bag.

L. D. Bronstein

Red Menace #2 - Volume 2, Number 1 - Summer 1977

The Red Menace was a Canadian libertarian socialist publication put out from 1976-1980.

The Red Menace: A Libertarian Socialist Newsletter

Brief description of the politics, people and purpose behind The Red Menace, a libertarian socialist publication from Canada published from 1976-1980.

Who are we?
The Red Menace is a libertarian socialist newsletter published by a small collective of people living in Toronto and Hamilton. We call ourselves the Libertarian Socialist Collective1.

What do we mean by calling ourselves "libertarian socialists?" Partly, that question is answered more fully elsewhere in this issue and partly, we are still trying to work it out ourselves. But we share some fundamental ideas:

What do we believe?

We believe that capitalism, the social system we live under (in whatever bureaucratic, "mixed", social-democratic, or "free-enterprise" variation) is deeply and fundamentally destructive of individuals, relationships between people and societies. There may be times when it produces progress of some kind, but its overpowering reality is always its warping and crushing of the potentialities of human beings and societies. Our society and its advanced industrial base give us the possibility of creating a world of abundance in which human needs and creativity shape the future. Instead, capitalism gives us chronic poverty and economic crises, war, alienating and meaningless work, commercialized leisure, immovable bureaucracies, a deteriorating natural and urban environment, oppression of minorities (and majorities), chronic social and "personal" problems, sexual frustration, trashy culture - in short, a crazy, miserable world that seems to be going downhill fast, with no one in control.

For many, many, people, "that's life". That's the way the world is, and there's nothing we can do about it except try to make the best of our lot.

For us, that's not enough. We believe that people can make their own future if enough of them want to badly enough, and act together to do it. We want to overthrow the capitalist system and build a new world in which freedom and creativity can flourish, a world in which people are in control, in which they run things democratically and collectively. A libertarian socialist world.

Such an alternative vision of the future can never be legislated, decreed, or installed by a coup-d'etat. It is far too revolutionary for that, for it requires that people change themselves even as they try to change society. Consequently, it requires active participation from the vast majority.

Right now, of course, we are a tiny minority, not a vast majority. But we believe that our ideas are reasonable and exciting, with the potential to capture the imaginations of those who now put up with this society.

The Red Menace
Our purpose in publishing The Red Menace is to reach people with our ideas, to develop and clarify those ideas, and to give other people the opportunity to share their visions and experiences through its pages. Through it, we hope to make contacts with people who like our ideas, and to start working with those people. We would like to branch out into other kinds of activities directed at social change as well: The Red Menace is not an end in itself (although the enjoyment we derive from creating it is.)

If you are interested, please contact us.

We need your involvement
Thinking about society and how it could change is something that everyone does. It is not the exclusive province of a few theoreticians. We would like as many people as possible to contribute to this newsletter. We are especially interested in brief, to-the-point comments on specific problems; ideas, observations, etc. A couple of paragraphs or a page that offers a good insight is worth more than a long dry treatise that says nothing new. Nor does your contribution have to be "definitive": the tentative, the exploratory, is often the most fruitful.

Among the things we are interested in: articles about where you work, where you go to school, where you live, where you shop, where you play. Articles about political activities and organizations you are/have been involved in. Criticism and evaluation of what's happening on the left, in the women's movement, in society at large. Poetry. Observations about culture, everyday life. Book reviews. Artwork. Revealing anecdotes. Questions you don't have answers for. Questions you do have answers for.

  • 1. Formerly, we were known as Toronto Liberation School, and before that, as The Marxist Institute. The changes in name reflect changes in the nature and orientation of the group, but a basic continuity remains.

Introduction to Work and Daily Life in The Red Menace

We talk a lot about the working class, we socialists. So much so that we sometimes tend to forget that the working class is made up of actual people; people like those who live next door, like those who we see on the subway, like those we work with, drink with, sleep with. People different from us, but with hopes and fears not so different from our own after all.

We owe it to ourselves, as well as to that entire working class we try to champion, to take a fresh close look at the way we spend our lives (peculiar capitalist expression, to "spend your life"), at the way we work, have fun, form and dissolve relationships, learn, waste time, or talk politics. Our lives, after all are what capitalism, and socialism, and the death-struggle between them, are all about, The roots of our revolutionary beliefs are to be found in the experiences of our daily lives.

In the Red Menace, we would like provide a forum through which people can communicate what they feel about their jobs, and about the other things that happen to them every day. We think it is vitally important to analyse these things, to work out our own thoughts, and to share them with others. There can be no set format for this -- anything from a single paragraph, to a cartoon, to an incident that sticks in the mind, to a long essay could be useful. We ask our readers to send us their thoughts and perceptions.

The article which follows ("A Tale of Two Offices") is one attempt to come to grips with the realities of a particular work experience, that of large institutional libraries.

A Tale of Two Offices

An account of daily life and office politics viewed through the experience of working in two libraries with very different management styles. From the libertarian socialist newsletter, The Red Menace.

By Elaine Farragher

I have been an office worker for all of my working life; specifically, a library worker. I've worked in five libraries, in one as a part-time worker and in the rest as a full-time employee. All of these libraries have had their unique intrigues and goings-on, their own particular relationships and power struggles.

For the purposes of this article, however, I would like to single out only two of them, which for me represent two aspects of the challenge that office work presents to those seeking to bring about radical change.

Both are large institutional libraries with about the same number of staff, around 15. This is a fairly average number of people for an office. (Offices will probably never resemble the large assembly-line factories, for even the very largest offices are nearly always broken down into units and departments with distinguishing aisles and partitions between them).

I should mention that my experiences have only been with women, both as co-workers and as bosses, men still being fairly rare in library work, although this situation is slowly beginning to change.

The Work

Library work is very exact, picky work. Thousands of books must be made easily accessible by giving each book its own set of cards, classification number, cross references, etc., in numerous files which must all be arranged so that any little reference can be found at once. It all takes a very high level of organization and co-operation between sections of the library and between people.

A library itself is usually divided into three functions: the technical services department, which actually creates the files and catalogues for the books; the acquisitions department, which orders the books (frequently put under the technical services department); and the reference department, which guides users in their use of the library. Some libraries have a strict division between departments, with each staff member working only in one place. Other libraries rotate the staff between the different departments for the sake of both variety and flexibility.

Division of Labour

Library staff are sharply divided into two groups, librarians on the one side, and everybody else on the other. The non-librarians are mostly library technicians (this is what I am); in addition, there may be a secretary and/or a bookkeeper thrown in.

The library technicians are either trained at a technical or community college (as I am) or have simply received experience through working. The training programs are fairly new (six years), but now it is becoming more and more difficult to find a library job without having first attended a community college.

Librarians must have received a Master of Library Science degree.

The difference in pay between librarians and library technicians is considerable: technicians start around $8,000, while librarians get $6,000 to $10,000 more.

Although in the libraries in which I have worked there has been a pronounced split between librarians and technicians, this is not true in all cases. In some libraries, particularly the public libraries, the groups work together more closely and belong to the same union. The great difference in salaries, however, ensures that there continues to be a division between the two.

Some libraries also distinguish between clerk typists and library technicians. I worked in one such library as a clerk-typist, but I didn't find the division to be very significant.

The librarians possess a good deal of authority, but at the same time their authority is far from being clear-cut or absolute. They consider themselves professionals, but at the same time they are very much employees, responsible to their superiors and to those who control the purse-strings. Still, to the technicians, the overriding fact is the librarians' power over them. They have the power to hire and fire, and that is quite enough to make them your boss.

Some librarians are starting to feel threatened by the presence of increasing numbers of library technicians, since the technicians have been trained to do just about everything a librarian can do. Some smaller libraries are now being run by technicians, and in many libraries where both are present, there is a certain tension between the two groups. Librarians are jealous of their positions, while technicians want to be given more interesting jobs and more responsibility so that they can make use of the skills they have been taught. At present, technicians' jobs are mostly clerical in nature, a constant source of frustration and resentment.

Librarians and technicians both get two years of library training: But technicians take it at a community college which only requires a high school diploma for a prerequisite, while librarians need an Honours B .A. before they can be accepted into the Master of Library Science Program. The course for technicians stresses the practical: office management, materials, cataloguing, and computer application are among the courses taken. The training for librarians includes the same things, but the emphasis is more theoretical than practical.

The division of work in the library assumes a broader knowledge on the part of the librarian, not of library matters, but of the world as a whole. Since libraries have mostly to do with the organizations and diffusion of knowledge, it is assumed that the university education equips the librarian to deal more effectively with research questions.

Librarians are also the decision-makers. While the technicians can catalogue the books, the librarians like to decide whether the book should be put into one subject classification rather than another. Usually the judgements required on such questions are purely matters of opinion which matter little one way or the other as long as the book can be found and read. But these finer discretionary matters are considered to require the wisdom of a university education. Neither technicians nor most librarians really believe the rationale behind this division of labour. There is little doubt that technicians have all the skills needed to run a library. But the rationale behind the strict division of labour is highly advantageous for those who benefit from it, and so, since they have the power, it continues.

Two Libraries

There are two specific libraries that I particularly want to concentrate on. One represents for me the old traditional view of how to run an office and treat employees; the second has a more 'modern' approach which is becoming more common in the offices of today. They each present difficulties which must be understood, but the newer method, I believe, presents the more serious challenge to those interested in organizing and understanding office workers.

The libraries, which I shall call A and B, are both institutional libraries, but there the similarity ends.


Office supervision can take more than one form, as I have discovered. The most common and straightforward technique is simply the traditional boss-employee relationship. This is what exists in Library A, where things are very laid-down and definite. Lowest on the totem pole are Technicians 1 and Technicians 2. They in turn are supervised by Technicians 3. These in turn are accountable to the librarian in charge of their department, and these for their part are responsible to the Head Librarian. Everyone knows her place, has her own function, and never steps out of it.

In Library B, there is a different approach entirely, an approach that seems to be much more effective and also much harder to deal with. In this library, technicians are given a great deal of responsibility, and very little supervision. Technicians 1, 2, and 3 largely work together. The very distinction between is considered by most to be stubbornness on the part of higher management (outside the library) who control salaries in the library. If the Head Librarian had her way, everyone would be a technician 3. The set-up is somewhat egalitarian, by the normal standards. For example, everyone, with the exception of the head librarian, shares the two worst jobs: filing and shelving. The more interesting but heavy work-load jobs are rotated to a different person each year, a fair, but not entirely efficient system since a few of these jobs take a lot of training.

But the measure of egalitarianism that exists in job divisions doesn't lessen the contradictions of the work process as a whole: in fact, it aggravates them. The over-riding fact about Library B is the extremely heavy workload, and the immense pressure that is put on everyone to get it done. Moreover, because several of the jobs are shared, there is continual pressure to get the work done, not from the librarians in charge (as is the case in Library A) but from one's co-workers, from other technicians. This peer-group pressure is much more effective, and nerve-wracking, and harder to deal with, than any close supervision by librarians would be. If you are dealing with a boss who supervises your work, then it is normal to use whatever ways exist of resisting the pressure to do more work. You find ways of trying to lessen your workload, and you use them. But when you are dealing with your equals, you find yourself rushing frantically through whatever task you are doing as fast as you can so you can help out with the shared tasks. You don't want to let others down by saddling them with work you haven't done, and you also don't want to be thought of as someone who doesn't carry her share of the load.

As a result of this peer group pressure in Library B, people relate to work in a way that is very different from normal attitudes in a large institution or business. For example, people don't cheat on time by arriving late or leaving early, since there are always others around to see that you don't. Perhaps nothing will be said, but you always have the feeling that your actions are being noted and disapproved of. In no time, you internalize the pressure, the pervasive work ethic. It becomes a form of conscience. In Library A by contrast, to cheat on time, to leave early, to take long lunches, to avoid work, is one of the main objectives.

The same kind of thing holds true for sick days. In Library B, no one takes sick days unless they are really sick. Meanwhile, in Library A, it is generally agreed among technicians that to take a sick day when you are sick is to waste a sick day.

Boss-Worker Relationship (Authority)

An equal contrast exists in boss-worker relationships. In libraries, and in offices generally, there are two basic kinds of relationship. Most frequently, you will have the standard pattern of a boss who insists you know your place and stay in it. But in some cases, and Library B is an example, you will encounter the boss who doesn't want to seem a boss, the boss who simply wants her staff to form a big happy family, one, of course, in which the head of the family is deferred to by all the other members. In a library, the choice of pattern, or some variation of it, is almost entirely dependent on the attitude of the head Librarian. Even other librarians must yield to her when all is said and done. This power of the Head Librarian, the degree to which working conditions in a library depend on her, often means that when frustrations arise, they are blamed on one person, or on one's immediate supervisor, instead of on the system itself. For example, in Library A, everyone blames the problems that exist, such as boring work, widespread tension and general discontent, on the Head Librarian and her second-in-command. Office politics are dominated by the relationship between the two, who openly dislike each other and constantly blame each other for things that go wrong. The assistant always tries to get the rest of the staff on her side against the Head. Sometimes the terms of the situation are accepted as they are laid out, but on the other hand, there was a wide-spread and oft-repeated sentiment that "If they (the librarians) would all go away, we could run the library much better ourselves."

However, when you have a library such as B, where the Head Librarian has very liberalized, 'non-authoritarian' ideas, the situation is fundamentally the same as under the traditional approach. Orders may be coated with verbal sugar, but they are still orders. The Head Librarian is still responsible for the library and answerable to those who ultimately control it.

Thus, the Head Librarian in Library B dresses very casually, and loves to ask in a jovial voice how everyone is doing. But no one is fooled. She has the power to fire, and has used it when she hasn't liked how someone was doing. She keeps the work flow at such a constantly high pitch that no one has the chance to even breathe. She frowns on long vacations, is suspicious when someone takes a sick day off, and cannot be disagreed with, all just like any regular authoritarian librarian. Because of the prevailing myth of equality and friendliness, however, these realities are often shrouded in a dense fog.

In Library A the Head Librarian is in a way much easier to deal with precisely because she does not try to be a pal to her employees, and is in every way a strict authoritarian person. Plainly, she is the enemy, and everyone knows it and acts accordingly.

New Style, New Pressures

In Library B's 'egalitarian' system, everyone is given the opportunity to do whatever interesting job is around. But this, too, has its negative side. For now it becomes damning evidence of lack of initiative, drive, and ambition, if you do not seek out and ask to do more demanding work. And to lack these qualities, or seem to, is a mortal sin in the 'new-style' office of today, with its militant view of how work should be seen.

One incident can illustrate the pressures involved. In Library B there is Mary, a quiet, shy person who is fairly content with the routine work she does and who has never asked to be taught anything else. Even though she does her work well, her supervisor, a Technician 3, did not approve of her attitude and complained to the Head Librarian who gave Mary a month in which to change, or be fired. (One technician, whom Mary was especially friendly with, was even ordered not to talk to her!)

The line, therefore, is no longer "you must work harder for the benefit of the library", but "you must work harder for your own benefit." You must learn new things, take on more responsibilities, assert yourself, be decisive, and a go-getter. For the purpose of enabling the office worker to do just that, courses in assertiveness, leadership, and career planning are offered to the clerks and typists of the institution governing Library B. The Head Librarian frequently encourages the staff to attend. Ostensibly, this is seen as a push to get more women into the top positions of the institution, but the net result is great pressure to do more, take a greater interest and give more of your energy and psyche to work than you would otherwise be inclined to do.

Politeness and Decorum

One major way in which offices differ from factories is the facade of "civilized behaviour" which rules the interactions between employees and bosses, and among employees. Open anger and hostility are very seldom expressed. Even if your boss has screwed you royally earlier in the day, no matter how much you despise and detest her, at tea break or whenever, you make polite, superficially friendly, conversation.

In Library A, the hostility between librarians and technicians is at time very intense, but someone visiting the library would never for a moment suspect that the staff were on anything but the friendliest of terms. Nevertheless, although open rebellion or abusive language would be unthinkable, there are other ways to get around the facade of friendliness. (However, one avenue that is not open in an office, unlike a factory, is sabotage, since every discrepancy in records or files or correspondence can be traced back to a single individual.) In an office, indications of employee hostility often take a social form.

In Library A, for example, one practice, much disliked by the technicians, was the "afternoon tea break" when everyone, in two shifts, would gather into the staff room and have tea and cookies, the librarians discussing their concerns, while the technicians listened politely. (The mess from the afternoon tea was always cleaned up by one technician, Sarah, an, older woman who was in the lowest category of technicians even though she had been there 32 years and knew the library and every book in it heart. I once asked my boss why all the staff couldn't take turns cleaning up and the answer I got was that the technicians shouldn't expect change too fast since not long ago the staff room was for the librarians only who if they chose would "invite" one or two of the technicians in to join them. Such was the historical perspective of the library that the technicians were still supposed to feel privileged to join the librarians for tea!)

But change did come to the tea break, resulting in a 'tempest in a teapot' that helped challenge the all-pervasive myth of friendliness. Specifically, one new technician arrived who found it difficult to adhere very strictly to the traditions of politeness. If asked politely by a librarian if she would do something for her, Myrna would simply say "No" or ask "Do I have a choice?" At the tea break, Myrna would nonchalantly eat as many cookies as she felt like eating (everyone paid into a cookie fund) rather than just politely nibbling one or two. She sprawled comfortably on the couch, making no particular effort to squeeze over to make room for librarians; the librarians suddenly found themselves sitting at the table across the room. The attitude was a bit contagious; soon librarians, who were used to doing all the talking and having the technicians listen quietly and deferentially, found themselves competing with loud conversations among the technicians that sometimes reduced the librarians to listeners. In the social context of the library, it was a breath of fresh air, almost revolutionary.

At Christmas the librarians were driven past the breaking point by these developments. Before Christmas, library staff would receive boxes of chocolates from various users of the library. Traditionally, the boxes would be opened by a librarian and passed around. But Myrna simply opened the boxes by herself, ate as many as she could, and encouraged the other technicians to follow suit.

The librarians were furious. The assistant head librarian called a special meeting of librarians (only) to discuss the situation! At the meeting, the librarians voted to cancel the cookie fund so that there would be no more cookies at the tea break for the rude and selfish technicians to gorge themselves on!

To those of us who are accustomed to thinking of power struggles at the work place as involving strikes, sabotage, and walkouts, all this will seem like very small, childish stuff indeed. In Library A, however, it marked the breaking down of a pretense of the greatest friendliness, and the beginning of a much more overt understanding of the power relationships that prevailed. The unilateral decision over the cookie fund led technicians to demand that they participate in staff meetings and have a part in making these and much more important decisions about the work in the library. Ever since, a greater sense of polarization has existed in Library A, resulting in a tension around the work process and power relationships

The fact of a trivial incident taking on wider proportions is not unusual in an office environment. In any work place, in fact, it is the small, everyday, almost insignificant events which can be the most effective in bringing out ever-present discontentment and resentment. The little things are seized upon as representing general feelings, unarticulated and perhaps not specifically thought-out and defined. They are concrete manifestations of a general sentiment which suddenly becomes clearly understood when a small event crystallizes and illustrates the issues at hand. When one feels annoyed and silly that "such a little thing should cause so much fuss", it is because the little thing is far more than what it at first appears to be.

On the question of office decorum and politeness, it is interesting to speculate why this tradition has hung on for so long. There is no doubt that much of it has to do with 'middle-class' attitudes of 'niceness' and politeness. But what does middle class mean in this context? Office workers are after all also working class, working in a reality very different from the myths that underlie traditional office decorum.

Trust and Solidarity

In Library A, management was autocratic in the extreme. Technicians were never consulted, were given the most menial and boring jobs, were closely supervised, and were in general treated as the personal servants of the librarians. For example, every morning I was required to change my boss' date stamp, turn the page on her calendar, make sure her paper tray was well supplied, and had to carry the day's new books a few feet from the book shelf to a place where she could examine them with greater ease. What the technicians resented in this situation was not so much the work itself, but rather the lack of respect with which they and their abilities were treated. But on account of such treatment, there is a great deal of cohesion, trust, and solidarity among the technicians. If a technician makes a mistake in her work, she can trust another technician not to let the head librarian know, but instead to help her cover it up. Technicians confide to each other when they plan to take their sick days and what excuse they are going to give. In other words, the battle lines are draw. You know who your friend is and who your enemy is. Life is simple and straightforward.

In Library B, on the other hand, where the boss wants to see "a big happy family", the battle lines are confused and obscure. If asked, all the technicians in Library B will agree that the head librarian is really fair, friendly, and good to them. Yet one constantly hears mumblings that "Lena is giving a hard time about that" or "how does she expect me to do all this?" Yet , because of peer-group pressure, a technician has to be as fearful of another technician finding a mistake as of a librarian finding it, perhaps even more so. For the technicians realize that they are really the ones who keep the library running smoothly, and they feel responsible for it. It is not unusual here for one technician to lambaste another for a mistake she has made, and have no qualms about criticizing her in front of everyone else. In one staff meeting, one technician said that check-out slips for books were not being properly filed and that the other three technicians were being careless. I was shocked. Why couldn't she have approached the people individually without complaining to the head librarian? The result was tension, suspicion, and a closer watch by the head librarian on the front desk. But no one else seemed to think her action reprehensible.

I can only conclude from my experience of these two libraries that for solidarity to exist, the battle lines must be clearly drawn. Where they are not, entirely different contradictions can arise. Where they are, it is everyone's first instinct to resist exploitation. Where they are not it is more difficult. The worker who wants her job to have some meaning for her is the easiest one to exploit. She will work harder and longer to get the more interesting jobs so that the daily routine will not be so much drudgery. But this also puts her into competition with her fellow workers, and undermines solidarity.


It is interesting to note that in Library A, where there is a strong worker-boss polarization, there is no union. In Library B, where power relationships are more confused and more hidden, there is a union, although it is a large union that covers the entire institution of which the library is a part. (In fact, the only way I found out there was a union in Library B was that I noticed union dues were being taken from my pay cheque. I never saw any communication from the union, or met a union representative, or heard anyone talk about the union.)

However, in other libraries where I have worked, unions have played an important role, although a contradictory one. Specifically on the question of the work to be done, unions were often seen as instruments of keeping the worker doing boring and uninteresting tasks, through their insistence of a strict adherence to job descriptions, which kept workers from learning new jobs or from moving easily between tasks.

Office Workers & Class Struggle

Many of the people I have known in libraries, and in other offices, have resigned themselves to their life of nine-to-five, typing, filing, answering the phone, and taking orders. Whether or not they are married, hope to be married, or have decided to stay single, most know that their salary will always be needed and few have dreams of escaping (except the dream of winning the lottery).

More particularly, most library technicians have no hope of becoming more than they are since the field is a dead end. No matter how long you work, you can never become a librarian without going back for years of schooling. Many have a dream of getting their own little library somewhere to run all by themselves, which a few technicians have managed to do. But most technicians, in spite of their dreams and talk, do not really see a way out of their humdrum workaday life, and reserve most of their plan-making for what is going to happen after work. They are, in other words, very much like most other workers.

This should hardly be surprising. After all, office workers have been around for a long time, as long as capitalism with its need for records and correspondence has been around. But, although the tasks of office workers are closely linked to and necessary for the movement of industry, capitalism has always sharply separated the two groups. In their offices, office workers have also been separated from each other, often much the same way as a woman is in the home, under the thumb of a boss who is usually male (although this is not the case in libraries). Often, her skills are not nearly so important as her appearance and her ability to charm and flatter. As a result, office workers have been often left behind in the development of working-class consciousness, both as a result of their own identification with the boss and the boss' prestige, and because of chauvinism and prejudice on the part of union militants and organizers. They are, nevertheless, a section of society that the left ignores at its peril.

First published in Volume 2, Number 1 (Summer 1977 issue) of The Red Menace.
Taken from the web-archived version of The Red Menace website.

The Red Menace Interviews Prime Minister Trudeau

There is little doubt that the present period in our history is one of the most critical that the Canadian nation has ever lived through. Dominating public attention is of course the challenge to the very existence of Canada that the election of the Parti Quebecois has posed. But equally important are the twin economic dilemmas of inflation and unemployment, which have called into question the viability of the free enterprise system as we know it, and the whole range of social stresses and problems that are tearing at the very fabric of Canadian society.

During these troubled times, fraught with peril, the tiller of the Canadian ship of state rests firmly in the hands of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Prime Minister since 1968, who then as now dominates the clouded horizons of national politics. For a time, it appeared that the Trudeau administration might be in some difficulty, but in the course of the last year, it has become increasingly apparent that there is no other figure in our national life who has the stature to challenge the Prime Minister. There are currently no credible contenders for leadership within the Liberal Party, and it is clear that Tory Leader Joe Clark is unable to lead his own party, let alone a country.

So for better or worse, Pierre Trudeau is the captain of our national destiny as we sail into an uncharted future. What are the views of this often enigmatic man? How does he see the future of Canada unfolding?

We are fortunate in having obtained the transcript of a previously unreleased interview that the Prime Minister granted to free-lance interviewer Will Basically last month. It appears that the interview was mysteriously "killed" for "national security" reasons after it was recorded. This magazine, however, obtained a copy of the interview through a government source. After confirming its authenticity, we have decided to publish it here in the public interest. The picture of the Prime Minister and his views that emerges here is perhaps the frankest statement that has been made available to the Canadian public to this time. It should be of vital interest to all Canadians.


Will Basically: Prime Minister, you said that the free market society was passe and that we must move to a society with greater government intervention. Now you are saying that we have to rely on the market. How do you resolve that difference in your two positions?

Prime Minister: I did say that free enterprise is gone if indeed we ever had such a thing in the first place. Galbraith makes this point and I basically agree with him when he says that instead of many competing firms and a government as umpire so to speak, we've got Big Business, Big Labour and increasingly Big Government. What we need is a society where these groups can sit together and work out problems sensibly. Now this will be a society based on different values than the ones we have now. As Rousseau would say le volonte generale ... uh, the general will ... the good of all must prevail over the particular will. Now there are problems because a lot of people don't see it that way and they need a reminder and the free market society will tend to keep them in line.

WB: How would things be different in the "new society".

PM: Well take unemployment for example ... please! We face a real problem here. Basically people are suffering from a surplus manpower situation in as much as forseeable demand for increments to the stock of labour supply is increasing at a slower rate than entry into the job market. And this is tough for a lot of people.
Now some of these people are students coming into the job market for the first time and they are saying -- give us a high paying job or Unemployment Insurance. Well, instead of rushing in with a make-work scheme or welfare the government is saying -- if you can't find work here go somewhere else -- travel. But don't come begging for hand-outs.

WB: But what about people who can't afford to travel.

PM: Well, that is a problem and clearly something has to be done. But the situation is different now. We don't simply have a temporary slump which we can get out of by Keynsian pump-priming. We have a long-term moderate growth prospect with inflationary pressures -- we can't just pour in more money and hope for the best. What we are thinking of is something like this. We loan people money to look for work abroad and let them pay us back. We take this money and invest in transportation out of the country thus employing some of our surplus manpower. Eventually we can cut employment down to virtually nil. Now of course some countries may not want our surplus manpower.

WB: What do we do about that?

PM: Well if labour can't be sold it's because too much is charged or there's a glut on the market. The same situation applies to farm products like eggs or wheat or livestock. So that parallel between the two markets with their chronic over-supply problems made me think that the same solution applied to farm products could be used for surplus manpower. We could have a marketing board.

WB: You mean sell manpower just like wheat?

PM: Yeah, why not? We could project demand and issue positive and negative incentives for families to produce manpower units as the market for them rose and fell. I know it seems like a totally new idea but in a way it's been tried before. In many African countries government sold surplus manpower and it seemed to work pretty well. We could do the same and receive cash. Manpower could be provided at competitive rates and this would benefit the buyer. And owners of manpower would get badly needed food, clothing and shelter without the stigma of being a burden to society. Everybody would benefit. With the extra revenue we could cut taxes and thus stimulate the economy without having to resort to inflationary methods. If we ever ran short of manpower we could always buy some back -- but we'd only buy it when we needed it. Now of course even then we might find that the market for manpower units is glutted and so we would have to find other uses. Now we all know that one present cause of inflation is the high cost of food and we could use some of our surplus manpower units to help solve that problem. My thinking is along the lines of a transformation of manpower units into basic nourishment material. Many of our surplus population are relatively well-fed and tender especially students and others who come from middle class families. Many others would be better employed as fertilizer because the toughness of their flesh makes them unsuitable as food. They could however find real satisfaction however in returning to life, so to speak, as food for a happier and healthier nation. They would provide a cheap source of fertilizer for farmers and thus cancel out the decline in revenue resulting from lowered meat prices due to the entry of former manpower units on the market. And of course the money spent on welfare for these people could be used to reduce taxes for food processors and distributors thus cutting food costs. The government could help further by publishing recipes for the preparation of former manpower units as food and by advising how full nutritional value could be extracted from this exiting new food source.

WB: A lot of people will probably criticize this measure as an unwarranted interference by the gov-ernment in free enterprise.

PM: Yeah, well what are their solutions? I don't hear any useful suggestions from Broadbent or uh ... the frizzy haired kid who does the Diefenbaker imitations.

WB: Clark

PM: Whatever.

WB: Turning to Quebec ... what are your opinions on current developments there?

PM: Well, I think that the wish to go it alone is only held by a small minority. After all, this nationalism is really a regressive desire to return to the stone ages when savages huddled around fires in their own separate caves grunting curses at anyone who tried to join them. To be fair, I am not saying that this is what Levesque is actually proposing but it is implicit in his policy.

WB: What can we as ordinary Canadians do to counteract this trend?

PM: Well, I think that we need a change in our attitude to the nation. Confederation is not a dry legal document but a nation united by two languages which anybody can speak at least one of and sometimes more.

WB: And bilingualism is obviously the key to keeping this nation together.

PM: Right! Because this government has shown such determination to increase the number of posts in the civil service requiring the use of both languages it is now possible for French Canada to have more power than ever before -- certainly more than would exist in the banana republic Levesque wants to create. And now it is possible for any French Canadian boy or girl to grow up to become Prime Minister or at least understand him part of the time when he speaks on television.

It is also possible for French Canadians to travel across this country and still be able to use their native language when they travel on the federal transportation system. And when they buy their food at the supermarket they can read in French what it is and contains whether Post Toasties, Pop Tarts, Whip'n' Chill or whatever. Because of the Governments' firmness and decisiveness bilingualism has been made a reality for Canadians all across this country. The first thing they see when they wake up is their morning breakfast cereal with its contents described in both languages. Even very little children can learn that "Cric, Crac, Croc" is French for "Snap, Crackle, Pop". This is a very real way the struggle for the hearts and minds of the nation is being won on its cereal boxes. And lest I forget there are French language TV stations financed by the federal government. There movies originally produced in English are shown with French dubbing. When you have heard John Wayne speak French you have gained some idea of what bilingualism can mean.

Inspired by such a policy Canadians from all walks of life can unite behind a vigorous national policy of keeping things pretty much as they are right now. Let our slogan from Sea to Sea (or at least from Sea to the Ottawa River) be "Business as Usual".

WB: Do you think that the entry of Jack Horner into your government will help the cause of Confederation?

PM: Definitely. Quebecois will see that English Canadians no matter how bigoted, narrow-minded, parochial, and stupid can still appreciate and accept this government's policies as long as the rewards to them are carefully spelled out.

WB: Pursuing that last topic how do you see Mr. Horner's role in your cabinet?

PM: Well, first off we will have to provide him a place to sit. While Mr. Horner has not complained I think he feels a bit left out standing outside the Cabinet Chambers during meetings. As to his duties -- well, I think that he could play a strong role in Transportation and Energy policy. Specifically he could pack and carry Otto Lang's baggage for him when he makes one of his many airplane trips and he could turn out the lights in the Parliament Building when we have left thus emphasizing how greatly the government is concerned about energy conservation.

WB: Thank you Prime Minister for an interesting and instructive interview.

Tom McLaughlin

Bain Co-op Meets Wages for Housework: A Political Thriller

An account on a conflict between two factions within an apartment complex headed towards co-operative ownership.

By Ulli Diemer


When you first happen upon the Bain Avenue Apartments in Toronto’s Riverdale, a working-class area some two miles east of downtown, you get the sensation that they belong to a different time and place. There is something about them that holds the flavour of an earlier, quieter, more sensible era (even though such an era probably existed only in the clouded reminiscences of our grandparents), something about them that seems to stir the memory or the imagination. Built just before the First World War, the 260 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments at Bain are clustered around several tree-lined courtyards, each with its own name, which even the Post Office is compelled to recognize ("The Maples, The Lindens, The Oaks. . ."). There is a sense of scale here which is lacking in most larger developments, and a certain quiet charm which partly compensates for the genteel shabbiness that has overtaken the project over the years.

We can surely assume that for the working-class tenants who moved into the newly-completed project in the summer of 1914, this setting must have held forth the promise of a peaceful, prosperous, and stable future.

But it was never quite like that, of course, not then, and not now, and the last few years have been no exception. For several years, Bain has been the scene of constant battles, the latest of which, occurring in the early months of 1977, is the subject of this article. At issue was the future of the complex and its tenants; the struggle, marked by a rent strike, furious door-to-door organizing, stormy general meetings, and a large-scale referendum, pitted residents against each other in acrimonious dispute. This struggle, however, can only be understood against the background of the project.

History of Bain

The Bain Avenue Apartments were built by a group of Toronto philanthropists who described themselves as "not a company, but a cause" bringing about "a solution of a problem that vitally concerns both the community and the nation: better housing for working people." And if that praiseworthy ambition in no way conflicted with the continued enrichment of these corporate benefactors, whose wealth could after all be traced back to the labours of this same class of working people, then at least Bain did provide, over the years, somewhat higher-than-usual quality housing at lower-than-usual prices.

But the apartments changed owners, and grew noticeably older. By the 1970’s, little of the original concept survived.

In the fall of 1972, the Bain Avenue Tenants’ Association was formed to demand repairs and necessary maintenance. The association applied pressure to the owner, and started getting results, bit by bit. For example, by a remarkable piece of coincidence, two of the leaders of the tenants’ organization finally had long overdue repairs done in their apartments a few days after the organization was formed; other minor repairs followed. A visit by city inspectors, pressured in turn into noticing Bain Avenue, produced a substantial sheaf of work orders and a more systematic approach to the upkeep of the place, including repairs and the hiring of additional maintenance staff. The current landlord even made an excursion of his own into philanthropy in an effort to boost his sagging reputation: he brought Santa Claus to visit the children just before Christmas.

But any adults who might have been inclined to be swayed by this display of Christian beneficence soon found it was Scrooge who was lurking behind Santa’s beard. Suddenly, the employers of several Tenants’ Association members began receiving phone calls from the landlord, saying the activists had been "causing considerable management problems in the apartments" and were "bothering tenants". Simultaneously, all tenants received notices of a rent hike. Finally, after a year of acrimony, the owner began to issue eviction notices to tenants as their leases expired - with the idea of turning the development into a high-priced condominium.

City Ownership

Tenants responded by looking for alternatives to eviction: co-operative ownership, or city ownership. Eventually, an agreement was worked out whereby the City of Toronto took over the project as non-profit housing with $6-million CMHC funding, agreeing to transfer ownership to the tenants’ co-operative when it was satisfied that tenants could afford and manage the project independently.

If there had been initial doubt as to which alternative, co-operative or city ownership, was better, that doubt was gradually removed in the minds of most tenants as the City proceeded to demonstrate that it, at any rate, could not manage the project on its own. The single key event was the carrying out of renovations, which the city bungled so badly that the total cost of the mess is still unclear, although it is certain that between improperly done work, work not done, and contractors skipping town, tens of thousands of dollars were thrown away. Naturally, it all came out of the rent.

Meanwhile property taxes on the project leapt up because, as a city-owned enterprise, Bain was taxed at a commercial rate, $20,000 a year higher than the residential rate it would have to pay as a co-op. As if this weren’t bad enough, the city corporation actually forgot to pay Bain’s municipal tax bill on time, so that Bain had to pay a tax penalty - to the city! The City of Toronto Non-Profit Housing Corporation, one resident said accurately, "has the bankruptcy touch."

Rent Freeze

In this way less-than-delighted residents found themselves paying for the ’advantages’ of city ownership with rapidly rising rents. Rents went up 21 per cent, then 10 per cent. In October 1976 the third increase in a little over two years was announced effective February 1977; it was to be 18 per cent. To add insult to injury, Bain people found they weren’t protected by Ontario’s rent control legislation: marvelously, it doesn’t apply to non-profit housing.

With each new increase, tenants voted to go along: refusal would have meant giving up their plans for co-operative ownership and eventual escape from the city’s clutches and the accompanying cycle of rising costs. The battle wasn’t all negative by any means: it succeeded in producing a fairly cohesive community at Bain, well-organized, with clear goals, impatient at the city’s foot-dragging on the transfer of ownership, angry at the continued mismanagement.

For one group of tenants. however, the latest rent hike was the final straw which caused them to break decisively with the previously-shared goals. This group, consisting primarily of members and supporters of the Wages for Housework Group, began to organize for a rent freeze in the complex. Their position was that low-income tenants simply could not afford the new rents. (The latest increase put rents up to $193 for a one-bedroom apartment, $253 for a lower two-bedroom, and $266 for a lower three-bedroom. Uppers cost an extra $20.)

The freeze group advocated that tenants refuse the increase and continue to pay their rents at the old rate. They canvassed their position door to door, and then put it forward at a general meeting of tenants in December, solemnly promising to abide by the decision of the majority.

The general meeting left no doubt. With 142 of 400 adult residents in attendance - the best turnout at any general meeting ever held at the project - the vote went 120 to 16 against the idea of a rent freeze. Anger about the increase was widespread at the meeting, but most tenants felt that it was better to pay up now, to make some short-term sacrifices, in order not to jeopardize the long-term benefits they saw in co-operative ownership. It was generally accepted that the city would use a rent strike as evidence of "irresponsibility" and thus as grounds for refusing to go ahead with the ownership transfer.

With the defeat of their proposal at the general meeting, the freeze group rapidly changed tactics. They could not, they said, sacrifice themselves to the idea of future ownership for anyone’s sake, not when they faced immediate hardship. They turned out more literature, produced and printed by the Toronto Wages for Housework group, and resumed door-to-door organizing. If they could sign up 70 of Bain’s 260 units in support, they said, the freeze would go ahead anyway, in defiance of the decision taken at the residents’ general meeting.

On February 1, claiming 55 units signed up for the freeze and support from another 35 subsidized units (half the units at Bain receive rent subsidy and thus were not affected by the increase) they went ahead, paying their rent cheques at the old level. When the smoke had cleared and the rent cheques had been counted, however, their claims of support turned out to be greatly exaggerated. Only 26 units participated in the freeze.

Still, their action and accompanying media offensive did win them a good deal of sympathetic press coverage, including a strongly favourable front-page story in the Clarion, a newly-formed left-wing paper in Toronto.

The Residents’ Council, the elected executive at Bain, countered by setting up an emergency internal subsidy program to help those hardest hit by the rent hike, and by criticizing the tactics of the rent freezers as divisive and likely to fail. They argued that a rent freeze would pit the tenants against each other and against three levels of government simultaneously - a battle they couldn’t win.

Spokespeople for the freeze group, however, maintained that through united action it would be possible to hold off the governments and keep rents where they were. They pointed to a housing project in Montreal which, they said, had recently fought a similar battle and won. Increasingly, too, they criticized the concept of co-operative ownership itself. It served only to make tenants their own landlords, they said, leaving the basic problems of low-income housing unsolved. As an alternative, they now supported the status quo - city ownership - coupled with a strong tenants’ organization to protect tenants.

Supporters of the co-op idea responded by pointing to the long-term advantages. Co-ops in Toronto, they pointed out, were faring significantly better in terms of rent than non-profit housing or the private sector. To achieve this was worth some short-term sacrifices, they said.

Freeze Defeated

Co-op supporters, meanwhile, were also organizing door-to-door, against the freeze. The freeze, they said, jeopardized the whole project, since it meant that the rent bill could not be paid in full. The freeze, they said, was tantamount to deliberate sabotage of the will of the majority. Even more infuriating to them than the issue of money ("They’re ripping off all the other tenants" was a frequent comment) was the fact that the freeze group had sent letters to the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) asking them to hold up the transfer of ownership to the tenants, claiming that tenants did not really support co-operative ownership, and that the appearance of support for a co-op was due to "intimidation" by a "small clique" that controlled the Residents Council. Similar letters were sent to the City and Mayor.

The by now thoroughly acrimonious dispute came head at another very well-attended general meeting which voted by a large majority to issue eviction notices to those who continued to freeze their rents, with a two-week period of grace in which to pay up. The notices duly went out to the ten units still remaining on the freeze; all immediately paid up, and no one was evicted. The strike was over.

The Referendum

The freeze group, by now reduced to its original core of Wages for Housework people, still had another card to play, however. If they couldn’t bring down the rents, then they’d try to bring down the co-op. A delegation to City Hall was mobilized which persuaded the City to hold a referendum at Bain to see whether co-op ownership was really supported by the residents. The City was only too happy to oblige.

Another round of organizing by both sides ensued; Wages for Housework predicted that a solid majority would reject the co-op.

No such luck. In an 87 per cent turnout, the vote went 2-1 in favour of co-op ownership. And at elections for Residents’ Council, co-op supporters were once again voted into office.

Predictably, the results didn’t convince Wages for Housework. The group issued a press release claiming victory, then proceeded to demand that the City or CMHC overturn the results of the referendum they themselves had asked for. The City refused, CMHC has yet to reply. Few people doubt, however, that the transfer of ownership will go ahead as scheduled later this summer.

Co-op vs City Ownership

To my mind, there are two questions on which the events at Bain Ave. shed some light.

The first is the issue of city-owned vs. co-operative housing. There are a number of residential projects in the City of Toronto which for one reason or another find themselves in a similar situation to that faced by Bain tenants in 1974. Each of these has in turn debated the question of whether it is better to attempt to convert the project into a co-operative, or whether it is better to have the City take over as landlord under its non-profit housing program. The Bain experience is worth studying for answers, but it is not at all clear that the evidence points conclusively in the one direction or the other. On the one hand, City ownership seems to offer benefits and protection not available to those renting from a private landlord; on the other hand, city mismanagement can drive rents up even faster than the market does - at least as long as the market is held in check by Ontario’s rent control program, (due to expire next year). Co-operatives have a somewhat better track record for keeping costs down, but this can vary: in older developments, maintenance costs can be quite high. Co-operatives also offer greater opportunities for residents to make decisions about their project themselves, but ultimately residents’ control is greatly restricted by the fact that urban land continues to be controlled by the forces of the capitalist market, and by the fact that the co-op comes up at every turn against the totality of relations that dominate life and impose choices in this society.

On balance, the evidence appears to indicate that it is probably better to be in an already-existing co-op rather than in city-owned housing, but this does not necessarily mean that it is best to pursue the co-op route in a project where the alternatives have just been posed, and where the final objective is still years off. The reason is that the process of becoming a co-op is an extremely difficult one, laden with pitfalls and problems, as the people at Bain discovered. Becoming a co-op requires a great deal of time and energy from the organizers, mountains of legal work and endless financial planning. It requires, in short, that tenants form themselves into a disciplined corporate entity capable of dealing with the government bureaucracies which provide the necessary capital, and even, in a sense, that tenants become their own landlord. One of the main drawbacks of the process of becoming a co-operative as it took place at Bain was the way it channelled the energies of a significant number of active and politically aware residents into legal and bureaucratic activities, and in so doing helped to dissipate the political consciousness and energy that had been focussed by the battle with the former landlord. At Bain, the battle seems to have been worth it all now that the goal has almost been achieved, but the problems encountered along the way should be enough to make other projects think carefully before embarking on the same journey. A co-op is a strategy, but it’s not the strategy. It’s no sure-fire way to change the world.

It is ironic that one of the things counteracting the trend to depoliticization at Bain has been precisely the opposition to the co-op mounted by the Wages for Housework Group and their supporters, which drew many residents back into increased involvement with the affairs of the project, and made people think very hard about the goals they wanted to pursue.

The Role of Wages for Housework

The role of Wages for Housework in the struggle at Bain is the main question I want to pursue here, and it is one that appears to me to offer much more definite conclusions than the co-op vs city ownership debate.

I should make it clear at the outset that I am not attempting an evaluation of Wages for Housework per se, or of their general political demands. I am dealing here with the political role of the group in one particular struggle, a struggle, to be sure, which seems to say a great deal about the political perspectives and tactics of the group in general.

Prior to my becoming involved in the Bain situation, as a reporter covering the events there for a local newspaper, my attitude to Wages for Housework had been that the group had some valid ideas to contribute to the socialist movement, and that the payment of wages for housework would be a good thing if you can get them, (which seemed unlikely), but I disagreed with what I saw as the dogmatic narrowness of their political perspective. I had not, however, had any particular opportunity to observe Wages for Housework in action and had not formed any opinion one way or the other about their political practice. Nor would I have thought it appropriate, as a man, to deliver judgements in print on the strategies of a part of the women’s movement. But struggle at Bain involved men just as much as women - in fact, one of the main spokesmen of the rent freeze group was a man who actively works to support Wages for Housework, while some of the key people on the other side were women. And of course the issues concerned male and female residents equally.

I should also say that when I initially began covering the rent freeze at Bain, I was basically sympathetic to position of the rent freeze group.1 After hearing arguments from both sides, I was for a time a more or less neutral observer, and only gradually, after following events, reading literature, attending meetings, and interviewing people on both sides did I become increasingly critical of the actions of Wages for Housework and of the attittudes that seemed to underlie those actions.

The reason I became critical of the Wages for Housework Group at Bain was not primarily because of the stands they took on co-operative ownership and rents per se, although I did ultimately disagree with them. But it is possible for a reasonable person to believe that it would have been wiser for Bain residents not to have followed the co-op route, and to have rejected rather than accepted the rent increase. But that is not the issue.

The key point is that these questions were considered thoroughly by the residents of this working-class community; that both sides were presented to everyone living in the complex through leaflets, newsletters, door-to-door canvassing, and general meetings, and that after this lengthy and quite democratic process, the tenants came overwhelmingly to a decision in favour of the co-op option and against the rent freeze. Yet the Wages for Housework Group, which had earlier promised to accept whatever decision was made, chose to ignore the decision, to label it the result of "manipulation" and "intimidation" by a "tiny clique", to lie about events that had occurred and about their own support, and to attempt to use every means up to and including deliberate sabotage of the entire project, to get their way.

A number of points should be made:

First of all, the claim made by the Wages for Housework Group, and repeated elsewhere, that the struggle was between a group of poor tenants, especially women on social assistance struggling to keep their heads above water, and a group aspiring to become "middle-class homeowners" is false. In fact, fully half the tenants at Bain are poor enough to receive governmental rent supplements; nearly all the rest are working-class as well. A substantial majority of both groups of tenants were opposed to the rent freeze and in favour of the co-op. The dozen members of the Residents’ Council, the elected executive at Bain, (the "tiny clique") were drawn about equally from each group. Nine of the twelve were women, three of them single mothers.

Nor is it true, by and large, that the poorest residents were hardest hit. In fact, those residents whose income was low enough to qualify them for subsidies were not affected by the increase at all. Their rents remained the same; the increase was covered by an increase in their subsidy. Furthermore, those who didn’t qualify for subsidies, but who were hard hit by the increase, were offered and received an internal subsidy from the operating expenses of the co-op itself.

This is not to deny that the 18% rent increase was an unpleasant blow. But it was something that tenants walked into with their eyes open, a burden they deliberately chose to shoulder. The reason they did so was their decision to accept some reduction in their standard of living now in order to achieve co-operative ownership, which would reduce their costs in the long run, and bring them greater control over their living environment. (It should also be pointed out that rents at Bain after the increase are still equivalent to or lower than rents in Toronto generally.) Incidentally, the fact that 26 units out of 260 went on a rent strike on their own when all the other tenants had decided not to, meant that the other tenants had to pay more rent than they otherwise would have, in order to make up the difference in the total rent bill payable to the City. This caused some tenants to remark bitterly that it was a case of the middle class feeding off working people.

However, for many people at Bain, the key issue was not the economic one. It was rather that of control. Residents were of course interested in paying as little rent as possible, no doubt about that. And they thought a co-op would be the best way of achieving that goal. But through five years of doing battle with private and public landlords, and putting up with constant mismanagement, they had arrived at a very firm commitment to controlling their living environment collectively, even if it meant making some short-term financial sacrifices.

They didn’t want a landlord - they wanted to run the place themselves. It is only in the light of this determination that the struggle at Bain can be understood at all. Other issues were subsidiary, tactical questions. The thing that divided the majority of residents from the Wages for Housework Group was their diametrically opposed views on who should control the place.

While the majority were prepared to take on the risks and burdens that residents’ control might entail, the Wages for Housework group rejected the goal of controlling the place out of hand, characterizing it alternately as irrelevant to people’s real needs or as a utopian pipe-dream. They didn’t care who ran the place, as long as their rents didn’t go up: a short-sighted position even in its own terms, since most co-ops do have a better track record on rents in the long run. In making their case against the co-op, they deliberately and cynically played to people’s fears of taking over responsibility themselves by suggesting all sorts of problems that might arise2 - as if there had not been an incredible number of problems for as long as people could remember with both the private landlord and the city.

The Wages for Housework people seemed to have but one solution to every problem: ask the government to take care of things, whether by providing more subsidies, taking management of the project back from the tenants, or paying them wages for doing housework. And when they couldn’t convince residents to support their proposals, they actually turned to the various government bodies to ask them to overrule the decisions tenants had democratically arrived at. To people who wanted to take on responsibility for their community, they said the state should take care of things, like it or not.

Perhaps the most obvious contradiction the group landed itself in was on the question of the rent increase itself. The majority was in favour of putting up with the increase because it would allow them to proceed with the transfer of ownership, and thus in a few months rid themselves of the City housing corporation, which was causing the increase through its mismanagement. The Wages for Housework people wanted to fight the increase by rejecting the co-op goal, thus permanently leaving the control of the project in the hands of the same city corporation that was imposing the increases in the first place.

Because of their commitment to continued city control of the project, the Wages for Housework group had no qualms about ignoring any decisions that residents arrived at, or about attacking the decision-making process that produced these decisions, or about asking the government to ignore the residents’ decisions and impose solutions on them from the outside.

Thus, for example, the Wages for Housework people consistently denigrated the general meetings at which decisions were made at Bain, alleging that these decisions were imposed by the Council (executive). People who took part in general meetings were characterized as dupes of the Council. This, of course, was after a general meeting rejected their strategy by a 120-16 vote. Before that, they had had no criticisms of the meetings, which any of Bain’s 400 adult residents can attend, speak at, and vote at. Even after the general meetings were dismissed as charades by them, however, they continued to turn out for them and put their case, and then dismiss their defeats at them as the result of manipulation. It may well be that these meetings are not perfect examples of pure democracy, but the turnout at the crucial meetings was higher, for example, than the voter turnout for Toronto’s municipal elections, which took place around the same time. When you see that many working people, who have to get up for work the next morning, spending several hours - their entire evening - on several different occasions, in face-to-face discussion about the future of their homes, you can be fairly sure that you’re seeing a form of democracy that’s a cut above what is usually considered democratic in this society.

And indeed people at Bain are justly proud of the way they make decisions, of the way major issues are raised in literature put out before meetings, and through intensive discussion at meetings. Not surprisingly, many of them were indignant at the demand from Wages for Housework that decisions be made by referendum instead of at general meetings. They saw it as a step backward from the level of involvement and democracy they had achieved.

But of course Wages for Housework’s advocacy of making decisions by referendum only lasted as long as it took them to lose decisively in the referendum the city imposed on Bain after the group’s lobbying at City Hall. (The so-called ’delegations from Bain’ which were sent to City Hall included such luminaries as Selma James and Judy Ramirez, two leaders of the International Wages for Housework Committee, neither of them Bain residents.) Once they had lost the referendum, by a decisive margin, they were back off to City Hall and CMHC, this time with demands that the referendum results be ignored. In their most recent literature, the Wages for Housework people don’t suggest any kind of decision-making process at all - they simply demand that some government body - any government body - impose their will on what even they have to admit is the majority of Bain residents. (Ludicrously, they are now reduced to saying that "the outcome would have been different" if only more of their supporters, and fewer of their opponents, were living at Bain!)

Their refusal to make any concessions at all to the goals of democracy and residents’ control that most of the people at Bain have shown they care about a great deal seems to be traceable to the political theory that underlines their actions. The entire perspective of the Wages for Housework group apparently centres on a particularly vulgar form of economic determinism: the theory that people will only respond, and can only be organized around, issues that have to do with putting more money in their pockets. The theory says that people can’t be interested in something as abstract as controlling their own community so, therefore, they aren’t interested, and if they think they are, they’re just being duped. The Wages for Housework philosophy is well captured in the symbol they have themselves chosen, and which they used widely during their campaign at Bain: a hand clutching a wad of money.

The implications of their approach became very clear at Bain Avenue, where their campaign was based on exploiting people’s passivity and fears and on the latent demoralization born of the long, drawn-out struggles at Bain, rather than building on people’s strengths. At crucial moments, their appeal was always to the state to help them out. To the extent that their organizing produced any results, it succeeded only in pitting working class people against a few people on social assistance and a group of middle class activists. It was only their failure to win any significant support that kept them from destroying the solidarity that existed among the people of the Bain Co-op. In the process of trying, they showed themselves to be the epitome of the narrow political sect that is interested in nothing except its own dogma and self-aggrandizement. It is to the credit of the Bain community that they rejected the politics Wages for Housework offered them and in so doing developed a heightened sense of their own purpose and power.

  • 1. The rent freeze group, in fact, distributed the first article I wrote on the struggle (for Seven News, the local newspaper) with their own literature.
  • 2. For example. their literature played up the suggestion that if the old boiler for the apartments were to explode, residents would have to pay over $100,000 for a new one out of their own pockets. In fact, the boiler is covered by insurance.

What is Libertarian Socialism?

Description of libertarian socialism from the 1970s Canadian newsletter, The Red Menace.

By Ulli Diemer

We call ourselves libertarian socialists. But why the adjective? Why libertarian socialism? Is libertarian socialism any different from socialism as it is generally understood?

The problem, and the reason for the adjective, is that there exists no definition of socialism that is "generally understood". The dilemma of socialism today is first of all the dilemma of the meaning of socialism, because the term has been applied to such an all-encompassing range of persons, parties, philosophies, states, and social systems, often completely antagonistic to each other, that the very term 'socialism' has become virtually meaningless.

There are more variations of socialism currently in existence than there are varieties of soup on the supermarket shelves, more socialist parties with the correct line than religious sects with a monopoly on salvation. Most of the earth's people are now governed by states calling themselves socialist, states displaying among themselves the familiar antagonisms usually held to be hallmarks of capitalist imperialism, as well as every kind of social system presently in existence, from declining tribalism to advanced industrialism. Can there be any meaning worth salvaging in a label that has been claimed by Kautsky and Lenin, by Mao and Brezhnev, by Gandhi and Hitler, by Ed Broadbent and Karl Marx? Does the term connote anything more than "just" or "good" to its proponents, "bureaucratic" or "bad" to its enemies?

The temptation is strong to abandon the label entirely, to adopt some new term to indicate the kind of social change we propose. But to do so would be to attempt to side-step a problem that really cannot be avoided. For the terminological confusion is not accidental. Nor is it 'merely' a matter of words. It is rooted in the fact that the dominant social system always acts to integrate that which it cannot destroy -- movements, ideas, even words -- and therefore destroys them precisely by integrating them, by claiming them. It denies the very possibility of an alternative to itself, and proves this impossibility by absorbing the alternative and emptying it of meaning, by adopting new forms and new language which create the illusion of choice and change while perpetuating the same essential relations of domination. Since the main challenge to capitalism has always come from that which called itself socialism, it is hardly surprising that capitalist social relations have survived in half the world by calling themselves socialist. 'Socialism' has become another name for capitalism, another form of capitalism: in 'victory', socialism has been more totally buried than it ever could have been in defeat. Capitalism has dissolved the socialist alternative by stealing away its name, its language, and its dreams. We have to take them back, for without words there can be no concepts, and where there is no language of freedom, there can be no dream of liberation.

Consequently, we cannot simply abdicate the terminology of socialism and arbitrarily invent new labels. To do so would be futile, both because any new terms will be similarly sucked dry if they acquire popular recognition, and because the existing language of freedom refers to meanings and history that must be recovered from those who now suppress them by laying claim to them. Words such as 'socialism', 'revolution', 'democracy', and `freedom' do contain within themselves a critique of the existing order. That critique can be realized only by reconquering it and giving it new life, not by abandoning it and searching for another.

For this reason, we start with the term 'socialism' and precede it with the adjective 'libertarian', which begins to elaborate that term, and which simultaneously makes it a new term, by differentiating it from all the other 'socialisms'. Perhaps most important, the adjective 'libertarian' raises questions in the minds of those who encounter it, whereas the term 'socialism' by itself tends to let itself be taken for granted, to act as an uninteresting vessel which each person fills with his preconceived ideas.

And by raising questions, the term libertarian socialism initiates the first step in a process of criticism that must be applied equally to capitalism and to 'socialism' as it is "generally understood". This process of criticism has not yielded any finished results that can be presented as a comprehensive picture of libertarian socialism. Indeed, the very concept of critique stands in opposition to the idea of having finished results. What is presented here are some beginnings, some themes for elaboration. Most of the ideas presented here are not new, but neither are they generally accepted.

What is implied by the term 'libertarian socialism'?

· The idea that socialism is first and foremost about freedom and therefore about overcoming the domination, repression, and alienation that block the free flow of human creativity, thought, and action. We do not equate socialism with planning, state control, or nationalization of industry, although we understand that in a socialist society (not "under" socialism) economic activity will be collectively controlled, managed, planned, and owned. Similarly, we believe that socialism will involve equality, but we do not think that socialism is equality, for it is possible to conceive of a society where everyone is equally oppressed. We think that socialism is incompatible with one-party states, with constraints on freedom of speech, with an elite exercising power 'on behalf of' the people, with leader cults, with any of the other devices by which the dying society seeks to portray itself as the new society.

· An approach to socialism that incorporates cultural revolution, women's and children's liberation, and the critique and transformation of daily life, as well as the more traditional concerns of socialist politics. A politics that is completely revolutionary because it seeks to transform all of reality. We do not think that capturing the economy and the state lead automatically to the transformation of the rest of social being, nor do we equate liberation with changing our life-styles and our heads. Capitalism is a total system that invades all areas of life: socialism must be the overcoming of capitalist reality in its entirety, or it is nothing.

· Libertarian politics concerns itself with the liberation of the individual because it is collective, and with the collective liberation because it is individualistic.

· Being a socialist is not only an intellectual thing, a matter of having the right ideas or the right intellectual approach. It is also a matter of the way you lead your life.

· A politics that is revolutionary because, in the words of Marx and Engels, "revolution is necessary not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew."

· Because revolution is a collective process of self-liberation, because people and societies are transformed through struggle, not by decree, therefore "the emancipation of the working classes can only be achieved by the working classes themselves", not by a Leninist vanguard, a socialist state, or any other agent acting on their behalf.

· A conception of the left not as separate from society, but as part of it. We of the left are people who are subjected to social oppression like everyone else, who struggle for socialism because our own liberation is possible only when all society is liberated. We seek to bring others to our socialist project not to do them a favour, but because we need their help to achieve our own liberation. Cohn-Bendit's comment that "It is for yourself that you make the revolution" is not an individualistic position, but the key to a truly collective politics, based on the joy and promise of life, instead of on the self-sacrifice that is often the radical's version of the white man's burden.

· We of the left see ourselves as equal participants in the struggle, not as the anointed leaders of it. We put forward our socialist vision as part of our contribution, but we do not think that our belief in socialism means that we have all the answers. We deal with people honestly, as equals, not presuming the right to dictate what they shall think or do, nor presuming that we have nothing to learn from them. We have enough faith in our politics that we do not seek to manipulate people to our conclusions.

· As socialists we form organizations with other people who share our ideas. This is necessary and valid, but it represents a situation that we should continually try to overcome, not one that we should accept and even institutionalize in the Leninist mode. Socialism implies not only the withering away of the state, but also the withering away of the left and its organizations as separate entities. Power in a socialist society must be exercised in ways allowing the participation of everyone, not only those belonging to a given organization. This must be prefigured in the political forms and movements that emerge before the revolution. The ultimate goal of the left and its organizations must not be to rule society, but to abolish themselves.

· The most important component of socialist consciousness is critical thought. We must learn to think about everything critically, to take nothing for granted, nothing as given. Consequently, we do not want people to accept socialist ideas in the way they now accept, partially or completely, bourgeois ideas. We want to destroy all uncritical acceptance and belief. We think that a critical examination of society leads to socialist conclusions, but what is important is not simply the conclusions but equally and even more so the method of arriving at them.

· We base ourselves on the heritage of Marxism. This does not mean that we accept all the ideas of Marx, let alone of those who claim to be his followers. Marxism is a point of departure for us, not our pre-determined destination. We accept Marx's dictum that our criticism must fear nothing, including its own results. Our debt to Marxism will be no less if we find that we have to go beyond it.

· Nothing could be more foreign to us than the "traditional Marxist" idea that all important questions have been answered. On the contrary, we have yet to formulate many of the important questions.

· We have to try to maintain a balance of theory and practice which seeks to integrate them, and which recognizes that we must engage in both at all times.

· The centre of gravity of our politics has to be when we are, not in the vicarious identification with struggles elsewhere. Solidarity work is important, but it cannot be the main focus of a socialist movement.

· We don't know if we'll win: history is made by human beings, and where human beings are concerned, nothing is inevitable. But because people do make history, we know that it is possible to build a new world, and we strive to realize that possibility.

· "There is only one reason for being a revolutionary - because it is the best way to live."

Originally published in Volume 2, Number 1 (Summer 1977 issue) of The Red Menace.
También disponible en español: ¿Que es el Socialismo Liberalista?
Taken from the web-archived version of The Red Menace website.

Why the Leninists Will Win

A criticism of the failure of anarchists and libertarian socialists to seriously organize and how it cedes ground to authoritarian sects.

"We anarchists and Syndicalists - indeed all who believe that the liberation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves - were too poorly organized and too weak to hold the revolution on a straight course towards socialism."
- M. Sergven in the Moscow anarchist newspaper Vol'nyi Golos Truda, Sept. 16, 1918

"Most of the Russian Anarchists themselves were unfortunately still in the messes of limited group activities and of individualistic endeavour as against the more important social and collective efforts. . . honesty and sincerity compel me to state that their work would have been of infinitely greater practical value had they been better organized and equipped to quide the released energies of the people towards the reorganization of life on a libertarian foundation."

- Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment in Russia, 1925

The idea that capitalism in its present form in the United States will not endure is hardly to be disputed anywhere. The capitalist class itself debates only the precise mixture of state capitalism, social democracy, and fascism that will best serve to maintain and expand their own power and profits.

That debate is, of course, reflected in Leninist circles. While some maneuver for potential advantage in a developing social democracy, others are busy learning the skills of underground terrorism and urban guerilla warfare. The fortunes of there various groups will ebb and flow with the developing consensus of the capitalist class.

Thus, barring a major nuclear war, we face two possible futures. One, which I think less likely, would see a major uprising against a fascist tyranny, an uprising led by the political descendents of the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army etc. The other future, which seems more likely to me, would feature the electoral victory of a broad coalition that would have evolved from groups we know today as the Communist Party, October League, Revolutionary Communist Party, Socialist Workers Party, etc.

In a sense most important to us, of course, both futures would be identical: the working class would have no substantive political and economic power. There would be a lot of speeches about the working class, a lot of red flags flying, a lot of statues of Marx and Engels. There might (or might not) be some improvements in the conditions of ordinary working people. But there would be no real freedom. As the rock song of several years ago put it: "Say hello to the new boss: it's the same as the old boss!"

But what about us? How will the presence of those who believe that "the liberation of the workers is the task of the workers themselves" affect these two futures of Leninist victory?

Therein, as it is said, lies a tale.

About ten months ago (October 1975) 1 decided to move to the San Francistco Bay Area from New Orleans. I had spent a number of years working in a very small anarcho-communist collective (usually less than six people), and it seemed likely to me that nothing bigger was going to come along in New Orleans for longer than I wanted to wait.

One thing I expected to find here was a much higher level of class consciousness among ordinary working people than was (is) the case in New Orleans. I was not disappointed. There are always thousands of workers on strike here. Frequently they side-step their "leadership" and engage in militant struggle. One can even get occasional glimpses of a kind of primitive socialist consciousness.

But I also expected to find a large number (several hundreds) of people who understood anarcho-communist politics and who were eager to implement those politics in mass struggles. In my more hopeful moments, I saw the possibility of beginning to build a real movement for workers' councils, starting in the Bay Area and spreading across the country.

Of course, why should I expect this? It's not true anyplace else. I have to admit that there was a sizable hunk of romanticism in my "thinking" on this matter. The Bay Area was one of the hotbeds of student radicalism during the 1960's. I had seen some of the pamphlets published by the neo-Situationist groups in the early 1970's, and I assumed these Berkeley-based groups had been steadily growing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it seemed overwhelmingly obvious that given the class consciousness of ordinary working people in the Bay Area, even a small but active anarcho-communist group would quickly grow towards becoming a movement, constantly expanding, recruiting new people, launching new projects, showing up in the midst of every struggle with our basic idea: only the working class can liberate the working class!

Well, I found the anarchists, anarcho-communists, libertarian socialists, etc., if not by the hundreds at least by the score. I attended one meeting with more than 50 people present and a number of others with from 30 to 40 people present. Not bad for a start, right?

This would be a much easier article to write if I could just say that all those I met were simply assholes. Unfortunately, with only a few exceptions, they aren't assholes. They are people that anyone with our political views would be delighted to work with.

Except that that is the most amazing and sorrowful fact of the matter. The practical definitions of "political work" that I encountered among various libertarians here were simply stunning in their manifest idiocy.

Or perhaps my own understanding is simply too primitive. I think of political work, whatever form it takes, as something we do in order to win over millions of working people (our sisters and brothers) to the idea that we should all run our own lives. It is, or ought to be, clear that both elements are equally important: mass movements, no matter how massive, that are not libertarian will not liberate us; our ideas, no matter how libertarian, will not liberate us unless shared with millions of working people.

Instead, I heard arguments like these:

"Who needs a movement anyway? What we really need are more small affinity groups, a few close comrades operating on common politics and trust in each other. That's the only real egalitarian politics; big movements are authoritarian by their very nature."

If mass movements are authoritarian by their very nature, if we cannot build an egalitarian mass movement, then we are simply doomed. Small groups will never overthrow capitalism. Instead, the Leninists will do it and we will always live under some form of class society.

"Hell, it's not up to us to liberate the workers any more than it's up to the Leninists. The deepening of the current economic crisis will convince the workers that they must liberate themselves, without any help from us."

What is it up to us to do? Is our role that of merely sitting back and commenting on the latest trends in the economy? When we say that the workers must liberate themselves, do we include ourselves in that phrase?

"We cannot build a movement at all. Movements are built by millions of workers when they want to build them: a small group can't just command such a movement into existence."

It's true that movements by definition are built by millions of working people. But was there ever a movement that didn't begin when a small group decided it was time to begin?

"We can't simply go out and build a libertarian communist movement. First we should spend a year or two developing a common theory and building trust in each other."

How many times does it still have to be repeated: revolutionary theory comes only from revolutionary practice. Trust come only from mutual experience in common struggle.

"Anyway, we don't have to rush into building a united libertarian organization. It's not as if the Leninists are about to take over. They're always squabbling among themselves, committing one blunder after another, hah, hah."

One thing I've noticed out here: the libertarians all take endless delight in the blunders of the Leninists. Now go back and read the quotations at the beginning of this article: who had the last laugh in Russia?

"We should not publish a mass anarcho-communist newspaper in the Bay Area. It's too much work and besides, there's already a dozen left papers out here."

That is, we should scorn to reach working people with our ideas because we'd have to work hard to do it and, anyway it's not necessary since the Leninists are already reaching people with their ideas. (!)

That is what the libertarians in the Bay Area say; this is what they do: revolutionary psychotherapy, revolutionary computer programming, revolutionary book store, revolutionary radio, revolutionary film-making, revolutionary camping out at Lake Tahoe. revolutionary trips to Europe, and. most importantly, revolutionary study groups.

There may be dozens of these groups. some more serious in their studies than others. But they share a common pattern of social invisibility, They are, by and large, closed to new members as a matter of policy. Thus, even if a new person became interested in our politics and (somehow!) found out that one of these groups existed, they wouldn't be allowed to join. (!)

The reader will not be surprised, then, to learn that nothing is presently being done to build an anarcho-communist movement in the Bay Area. One naturally hopes that this will not always be the case, but it will be as long as the libertarians here resolutely refuse to accept their political responsibilities!

It is nothing but ego-puffing drivel to call oneself an anarchist, anarcho-communist. libertarian socialist. etc. and then sit back and wait for working people "out there" to liberate us. It is nothing but revolutionary nose-picking to sit back and wait for the capitalist class to arrange a convenient crisis and then give up its state power to the working class. It is positively criminal when we, knowing full well the intentions of the Leninists, do nothing except make wise-cracks while they gradually learn enough to take over from the old capitalist class and re-establish class society on a new and much more terrible foundation!

The grim truth of the matter is that when (not if. when) the present form of capitalism in this country is overthrown, the Leninists will win ... unless we overcome our own folly of fragmentation, passivity, and disorganization. The Leninists will win ... unless we develop confidence in our own abilities to organize a mass anarcho-communist movement. The Leninists will win ... unless we ourselves accept the responsibility of fighting to win!

Published in Volume 2, Number 1 of The Red Menace, Summer 1977.
Taken from web-archived version of The Red Menace website.

Libertarian Socialism

by Tom McLaughlin

Two models of "socialism" presently prevail. They are Social Democracy and Bureaucratic Collectivism. Both the former with its concentration on the welfare state and state intervention in the economy and the latter with its plan attempt to administer society according to a bureaucratic plan or plans and attempt to fulfill the needs of their societies for ever more capital and consumer goods. In both these societies there is a hierarchy that is not hidden by the formal democracy in Social Democracy or the rhetoric of Bureaucratic Collectivism.

Against these two models of society Libertarian Socialists have upheld the principle of self-determination which means not only the control of impersonal economic processes but the collective administration of society by all its members. This is not to be confused with forms of "workers' control" which decide how to implement decisions arrived at from above. Instead it means the democratic determination as well as implementation of the goals of a society.

Why is this important? Not because of any abstract democratic dogma. The collective self-management of society is required if certain needs suppressed in this society are to be realized. In general these needs can be described as reconciliation with nature both inner (desire for immediate gratification) and outer (the sensuous world).

Capitalism requires the endless accumulation of capital goods. Hence any object is a potential instrument for the creation of other instruments. Any quality it has that cannot be employed in the accumulation of capital is abstracted from or even forgotten. Thus capital accumulation requires a repression of outer nature -- it can have no worth of its own, it must be simply a source of tools and raw materials. This in turn requires a repression of inner nature -- urges to enjoy the sensuous outer world must be repressed.

Along with continuous capital accumulation occurs the production of consumer goods market but this doesn't result in the satisfaction of repressed needs. The consumer must be encouraged to be dissatisfied with the present supply of goods so that he/she can buy more. Thus the existence of an infinite possibility of fulfillment of consumer wants results in an endless dissatisfaction with the goods already possessed. And of course the consumer will have to continue his/her laborious toil to buy these goods.

This repression of needs must continue as long as capital accumulation remains unchecked. For under such a system it will not be possible to think of the objects produced except as tools to make tools. As objects to be used rather than enjoyed.

Furthermore the endless accumulation of capital reduces that shortening of the working day which Marx called the basic precondition of freedom.

Thus there is a very basic connection between the form of Libertarian Socialism -- self-management -- and its content -- the satisfaction of basic needs through the reconciliation with Nature. Only through the self-management of production will it be possible to produce objects to satisfy needs for enjoyment. At present these repressed needs are expressed in art and play.

In this society play and art have no utility as independent activities -- a source of freedom and a limitation. Art abandons any claim to shape this society for the freedom to create its own world where freedom and sensibility are united in an aesthetic form according to its own proper laws. The conflict that exists between a reason bent on domination and sensibility which must serve as a mere raw material is replaced by harmony. The aesthetic form is not imposed upon sensory experience but instead allows it to express truth that is suppressed in daily existence. However Art remains a contemplative activity for most people especially with its enshrinement in museums.

Play however is something that all can participate in at least in its early stages in childhood and in this period it is egalitarian as well. Each player in the simple childhood game takes his turn or plays in a circle. And like art play is performed for its own sake according to its own rules. However, to a large extent it is devolved as trivial, made into a contemplative activity (spectator sports) or comes to reflect a repressive society (card games are played for money and schools compete in hierarchically organized teams that vie for rewards.)

However play is a reconciliation between reason and sensibility. There are rules but they have no other aim than to provide enjoyment.

Both these activities prefigure a new society -- one where rules are freely chosen by those to whom they are applied and reason and sensibility are united. It is now more possible than ever before to construct such a society. It would mean that play could come into its own and be taken seriously for its own sake. The conflict between freedom and necessity would disappear as work could be performed as an enjoyable activity. In fact enjoyment of work would become a need. It would be performed in accordance with needs for objects of beauty and enjoyment as well as mere utility.

For such a society to be realized there must be a revolt against the present system whereby needs are reduced to the need for objects of mere utility in the cause of infinite capital accumulation imposed by hierarchical plans. In short there must be a revolt against bureaucracy -- the predominant trend of societal organization. While there is no evidence of a mass movement against bureaucratization, still we can observe the following trends:

1) The attempt to reduce all facts to a system of deductive equations is ultimately self-defeating. It can't be done even for natural scientific subject matter, is less possible for societies and is impossible under a dynamic capitalist economy where means of production are constantly changing.

2) Thus it is necessary to summon the resources of those who were to be administered in order to deal with shortcomings that must necessarily arise in the plan.

3) To do this throws the system of hierarchical domination into question.

4) Therefore the informal groups that are formed in factories, neighbourhoods, and all other places where it is necessary to respond to bureaucratization must be crushed but can never entirely disappear.

5) Any revolts against bureaucracy that have been internalized can create the conditions for a higher level of consciousness later. Revolts against monopoly capitalism led to the welfare state. Now this cushion against unemployment has led to a revolt against work and labour discipline.

6) This revolt against bureaucracy can become more universal as bureaucratization expands. Thus not only the industrial worker but the housewife, tenant, student must respond to bureaucratization. The revolt can encompass all aspects of daily life.

It should be pointed out that there is no guarantee that anyone group in this society -- including the proletariat wherever and whatever it is -- will necessarily be the bearer of the universal. The World Spirit owes us no favours. All that bureaucratization implies is that more and more the critique of anyone's particular condition can if pushed far enough lead to the critique of society.

The Crisis of Dialectical Materialism and Libertarian Socialism

by Mario Cutajar

If there is one sentence in all that has been written by Marx that summarizes his thought, it is this: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past". (The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, p.15). Constantly vying with each other are two processes: the attempt by human beings to change the world into a human world and the self-preserving inertia of this world they are trying to change. On the one side human life, the source of all meaning, a free consciousness bent on making its freedom real and on the other the sheer weight of circumstances that not only resist this freedom but threaten to turn human actions into inhuman results.

As long as people do not make history with the consciousness that they are doing so, the power of circumstances prevails -- "The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living". (ibid. p.15). History remains the captive of economic necessity and therefore loses its right to be called history since that word can only be correctly applied to a record of human achievement whereas history prior to liberation is a record of the rule of necessity. History proper begins when this rule has been broken, i.e., when history becomes the enterprise of free individuals acting collectively out of solidarity with each other. Till then men make history not as human beings but as objects blindly reacting upon one another.

Still even if they do it blindly, it is men and women who make history. Were it not for that there would be no hope of liberation. The rule of necessity would he permanent and freedom would not only be unattainable but also unintelligible.

Libertarian socialism starts from this simple but profound truth. People make their own history. Therefore oppression which has so far been the predominant theme of history is not a natural principle. And it is not a supernatural one either. What rules and oppresses one person is always another person. Of course it is in the interest of all oppressors to justify their actions on the basis of immutable natural laws or to disguise them as the actions of impersonal forces (Gods, nature, the market, machines and so on). But these forces by virtue of their very impersonality are neutral. The winds do not oppress, lack of shelter does. Machines do not go out of their way to injure or to stultify life, the ones who own them do. Oppression then is not inevitable, the world is not unchangeable because quite literally the world is what we make it.


Because the world for us is not so much the physical reality that surround us but its significance for us. By virtue of being given to us at all things are given to us as situationalized objects. We do not see abstract trees littering the landscape but this or that tree, close or far away, blocking our view or giving us pleasure, caught in a glimpse or observed leisurely etc. Thus while it may be impossible to actually move mountains through sheer faith it is quite possible to change the situation within which they are seen. And that for us amounts to the same thing. Situations can be altered radically -- the world can he turned upside down. But can it be turned upside down just by closing our eyes? Is that what we are saying? Obviously not, since when we close our eyes we know perfectly well that the world has remained the way it was. We know, in other words, that we have closed our eyes. If we try to deceive ourselves and start walking with our eyes shut the pain of bumping into things will rudely expose our deception. Hence our ability to change the world and our inability to do so purely through contemplation.

The originality of the Marxian idea is to be found in its simultaneous recognition of the creativity of the human subject and and the power of circumstances. As against those idealists who would reduce people to thought-objects Marx asserted the irreducible concreteness of human life. Human beings suffer and this suffering is unique to every person. It establishes irrevocably the reality of each individual and resists the attempt to drown individual experiences in the totalizing movement of history. In the sense that Marx emphasizes the materiality -- the "sensuousness" -- of the subject he is a materialist.

Nevertheless the word "materialist" is misleading. It hides the originality to which we have already alluded, namely, the attempt by Marx to go beyond both idealism and materialism. In his "Theses on Feurbach" and again in "The Holy Family" he makes it quite clear that he rejects "scientific" materialism. The materialists of the 18th century, with their mechanistic view of the subject as a passive receptor of data emanating from objects. failed to grasp the self-creative character of the human subject. Insofar as materialism liberated its adherents from the dreadful mythology of religion it was progressive: it expressed the experience of those who denied comfort and luxury yet knew all too well that the material world was far from being an illusion. As a partial truth therefore, materialism had its function to perform. As the truth, however, it turned itself into a mythology. True, "Materialism is indisputably the only myth that suits revolutionary requirements" (J-P Sartre "Materialism & Revolution") but it remains a myth and under certain circumstances a dangerous one.

These abstract considerations have very practical consequences. Marx was the first to point out that "The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator himself needs educating" (Theses on Feurbach III).

Why then has Marxism come to be associated with a doctrine that proclaims the overwhelming importance of objective circumstances? In part through propaganda. Capitalism being mechanistic in its practice is well suited to denouce opposing theories as mechanistic. Having made freedom precious by denying it it finds it useful to attribute its own sins to the doctrines of others. Still its task would have proved far harder than it has if Marxists had not been so anxious to justify their critics.

When Marx said in The German Ideology that "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas" he does not seem to have realized the extent to which this applied to him too. Even less did his followers. But Marx was quite adamant about this: "circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances" and "Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge ... a period of transformation by its own consciousness" (Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy). Certainly as Marx himself demonstrated so brilliantly we cannot judge the actions of the bourgeoisie by what the bourgeoisie thinks of them, or for that matter, by what the proletariat thinks of them. Are Marxists exempt from historical conditioning?

It would appear that they are not. The materialist conception of history applies to Marx just as much as it applies to Guizot and if it is correct it could only be proven so by the historical limitations of its discoverer. The problem is that the ideas of the ruling class are dominant precisely to the extent that they are universal. It follows that the most profound expressions of the ruling class -- those ideas that are most closely associated with its character -- will seem the most harmless and perhaps even beneficial. That is what allows them to become dominant. There is therefore a constant danger that revolutionary thought will become infiltrated with counter-revolutionary concepts absorbed from the surrounding milieu, a process that is facilitated by the alienation which the revolutionary, no less than the average worker, is afflicted with. It is only after these concepts have been re-exteriorized through praxis that they can be identified for what they are. Revolutionaries will then recognize that their activities have reproduced, albeit in a different form, the pre-revolutionary conditions that they were trying so hard to eradicate. By that time, however, it is quite possible that the original revolutionaries will have become imprisoned in the circumstances of their own acts. It is then up to other revolutionaries to learn from the lessons of those who came before them and avoid their mistakes.

It is in this peculiar situation that we find ourselves today. We realize now that starting with the later Engels (and to a smaller extent with Marx himself) the fine balance between idealism and materialism, subjectivity and objectivity, was upset. The original synthesis, delicate because it was a purely theoretical concept, disintegrated when the attempt was made to turn it into a practical, revolutionary doctrine. Whereas the original balance meant that a distinction was made between economic conditions and the meaning assigned to them by the human agent, the new ideology reduced all human acts to their economic foundation.

From this disintegration two different but ultimately related movements were spawned: in Western Europe, Social Democracy and in Russia, Leninism. Both viewed "men as the products of circumstances and upbringing". The difference was that in Germany circumstances seemed to be changing in the right direction without too much effort while in Russia they were changing erratically and offered the opportunity for intervention. In Germany Marxism developed into an evolutionist doctrine modeled on Darwin's theory and in Russia it developed into the doctrine of vanguardist revolution.

For a crucial period of time, these two movements together, comprised the world total of Marxist praxis. There was of course Rosa Luxembourg, who opposed both. However not only did she die before she had a chance to make a significant impact on the European revolutionary movement but there is also some indication that prior to her death she was on the verge of changing her attitude towards the Bolsheviks. (See Lukacs' "Critical Observations on Rosa Luxembourg's 'Critique of the Russian Revolution'". Lukacs has to be read with caution since his admiration of Luxembourg was eclipsed by his worship of Lenin. Nevertheless his suggestion that Luxembourg was changing her views is plausible. With the success of the revolution even anarcho-syndicalists went over to the Bolsheviks.)

What this meant was that Marxism had succumbed to that ideological trend which Edmund Husserl has called the "naturalization of consciousness": the view that consciousness is caused by physical objects. This and the related "naturalization of ideas" inevitably led to the belief that human behaviour could be reduced to the rigid and "exact" laws of nature. Previously the world was as God had intended it to be. The new ruling class however had no place for a deity so it replaced Him with nature, a secular God. The laws that govern billiard balls were thus extended to cover relations between human beings proving once again that things could not be other than they were.

Husserl had the insight to point out that this attitude was at the heart of what he called the "crisis of European man". In progressively reducing the embarassing contribution of the subjective to experience, the naturalist replaced the "life-world" (the world of actual, human experience) with a lifeless, abstract world composed of mathematical relationships. This extreme objectivism however ultimately rested on a subjective, ideal foundation. The attempt to naturalize consciousness and ideas is therefore self-defeating since it presupposes precisely the opposite of what it seeks to establish, namely, that consciousness and ideas, rather than being the products of a reaction between physical entities (physical sense data impinging on a physical receptor, the brain) are the basis of all experience. It is only after the world is presupposed to be governed by natural laws that such laws can be discovered. The presupposition itself cannot be discovered by the same method.

The spiritual barrenness of the Western world and the triumph of irrationalism were according to the idealist Husserl reflections of the poverty of naturalist thought. Science was able to provide a cure for diseases of the body but found itself incapable of curing the Western soul since it itself was a symptom of the disease. "In our vital need -- so we are told -- this science has nothing to say to us. It excludes in principle precisely the questions which man, given in our unhappy times (the mid-1930's) to the most portentious upheavals, finds the most burning: questions of the meaning or meaninglessness of the whole of this human existence". (Crisis p.6) As a solution Husserl attempts to construct a science of the "life-world". Not accidentally, some passages in this project read like paraphrases of Marx. Whereas Marx tied his hopes to radical action, Husserl believed in radical contemplation. Moreover, unlike Marx, he attributed the actual decay of Western civilization to the decay of thought; whereas for Marx the relation was the opposite.

Sartre, another phenomenologist, explicitly identifies naturalism as a form of bourgeois thought. In his early writings this identification was intuitive. Sartre did not become a Marxist till after the war but for a long time before that he regarded the bourgeoisie with revulsion. This revulsion made him allergic to all manifestations of bourgeois thought, the most hateful of which was the spirit of "seriousness" with which the "salauds" assured themselves of their own necessity. "Imbeciles", he writes in Nausea, "they make laws, they write popular novels, they get married, they are fools enough to have children. And all this time, great vague nature has slipped into their city ... and they don't see it, they imagine it to be outside, twenty miles from the city. I see this nature ... 1 know that its obedience is idleness, I know that it has no laws: what they take for constancy is only habit, and it can change tomorrow." Why? Because human beings are not what they are the way stones are. A pebble cannot be anything other than a pebble. Its progression from boulder to pebble to sand is totally determined by laws exterior to it. Not only that but its disintegration only has meaning to a human observer. The pebble is the slave of fate. By contrast the life of a human being becomes frozen into fate only at the moment of death. At that point all that one has done in one's life becomes all that one could have done. Before that point arrives however it is impossible to reduce one's life to a resultant of conflicting natural forces the way one can do for the path followed by a billiard ball. One may have no choice but to become a thief, for example, but the juncture of circumstances that force this decision on one must first acquire a pressing significance for oneself. The poor state of the economy and my persistent need for food and shelter are of themselves only abstract principles. Without the meaning I attribute to them they can never determine anything. It is in fact only in the light of my decision that they take on the character of determining circumstances. If I was caught and asked why I "turned to a life of crime" I could reply that my poverty was intolerable and that I could foresee no way to alleviate it other than through robbery. Poverty and lack of work would thus have acquired meaning through my thievery and not the other way round. And that is what distinguishes us fundamentally from billiard balls. The laws of nature determine the outcome of a collision between two balls a hundred years from now, whereas for specific human beings "prediction" must always be in the form of hindsight. That is why we are forever saying "I should have known" and always failing to know.

We understand then that by the simple virtue of being human we are in possession of the freedom to alter that very world which is constantly altering us. This freedom is what makes revolution possible and at the same time denies any guarantee for its success. Naturalism is an indirect attempt to relinquish this troublesome freedom, a self-deception aimed at hiding the utter lack of necessity in the way we behave.

Such a deception, tempting as it is under the happiest of circumstances, is even more tempting in a world where human beings do actually experience each other as objects. The naturalization of consciousness is preceded by the fossilization of everyday life: the two perpetuate each other. Revolt too can be naturalized: it occurs as a predictable reaction to the fetishization of the objective, to which is opposed the fetishization of the subjective -- "decadent." self-indulgence in everyday life and in art, romantic idealism in popular philosophy. Either that or in the case of Leninism classical materialism is taken to the extreme. The hippie and the Bolshevik might at first glance appear to be the antithesis of each other but they have one thing in common which brands both (ultimately) as conformists: the tendency to fetishize, the "religious" outlook. One can always of course distinguish between extreme subjectivism and extreme objectivism, solipsism and naturalism, but in practice they are merely components of a single, stable complex.

Nevertheless, of this complex what concerns us most is the authoritarian component. Disorder can in time correct itself, if only because it leaves individuals the freedom to reject it. Authoritarianism, on the contrary, only stabilizes itself with time. Libertarian socialism is defined first and foremost by the negation of political authoritarianism and theoretical determinism. It is this negation which is announced in the First Thesis on Feurbach. In the first thesis however this negation is purely "contemplative". The actual negation had to await the dissolution of classical Marxism itself.

If I have gone out of my way to discuss naturalism it is because of its disastrous effect on Marxism. We simply have to acknowledge that the principal bourgeois ideology during the early years of Marxism was not so much political liberalism -- which even then was well on the way to exposing itself as a deception -- but faith in the natural sciences and their objectivism. It was precisely because this faith was shared by all that we have to consider it the principal ideology of capitalism. It was this universality that gave it its effectiveness. And if today there is such a thing as libertarian Marxism it is because naturalized Marxism was a catastrophe that cannot be forgotten. For us this failure is the equivalent of the Holocaust in Jewish tradition, For better or for worse the conception of libertarian Marxism issues from the negation and transcendence of classical Marxism.

In the first Thesis on Feuerbach, Marx had lamented that the active side of sensuous activity, the subjective side of human experience, had been developed by idealism rather than materialism. The aim of Marx's own brand of "materialism" was, as we have noted already, to go beyond the limitations of both traditional materialism and idealism. Almost to this day however what Marx wrote in the first thesis remains true: the subjectivity of human experience has had to be championed not by Marxists-- who have all along been bent on denying it -- but by idealist philosophers like Husserl. So that when the Western world was plunged into a deep spiritual crisis, Marxism automatically excluded itself from providing any answers. How could it? From the perspective of a scientific materialist the crisis did not exist: diseases of the soul show themselves only to those who believe in souls and the communists only believed in matter. So the fascists took over and shot the communists.

Could it have been any different? I think not. Men make their own history: Marxists could have chosen to be libertarians from the beginning. But men make history under the power of circumstances and near the end of the last century the circumstances were more conducive to the brand of socialism they ultimately produced than to the kind we would like to see. Indeed, our being libertarians has a lot to do with the authoritarianism of our socialist predecessors. If they hadn't made a mess of things the would be less anxious to avoid their mistakes, the effects of which form the circumstances under which we make our own history.

For the early Marxists, materialism represented an ideology which the bourgeoisie had successfully used against the ancient regime, and which the Marxists, with some minor modifications, would use against the bourgeoisies. Plekhanov ("the father of Russian Marxism"), for example, viewed Marxism as "contemporary materialism". What he and other Marxists did not realize was that it was not enough to turn bourgeois thought against the class that had given rise to it. A genuinely socialist theory could only arise out of the active dissolution of bourgeois materialism. To merely "appropriate" the old thought would only lead to a perpetuation of the old system. Similarly it was not enough to take over state power. The objective was to smash it and build something different.

Now Marxism as Marx had conceived it did make a serious attempt to transcend the shallow materialism inherited from the Enlightenment. The problem was that to the degree that Marxism was anti-bourgeois (and not just anti-aristocratic i.e. anti-idealist) it was also idealist. A critique of bourgeois thought and reality would inevitably have to counterpose some form of subjectivism ("idealism'') against bourgeois materialism. The critique of bourgeois political economy, for example, is a critique: precisely because, not satisfied with examining the appearance of economic phenomena, it directs its attention to the thoroughly subjective lives of those responsible for these phenomena. Marx's critique demonstrated that underneath such objective terms as "value", "commodity" and "labour costs'' lay a world of human suffering towards which it was impossible to adopt a neutral position. Indeed if Marx's critique achieved anything it was the demystification of "objectivity".

But how could this theoretical critique be translated into a program of action? How could one attack bourgeois materialism when the idealism of the ancient regime was still a concrete ideological force"? This problem is simply the theoretical counterpart of a very practical question: what to do when capitalism, a hateful system. is consolidating itself against feudalism, an even more hateful system. If, as indeed seemed the case, socialism was not possible without a preparatory period of capitalism, then the correct strategy was to align oneself with the bourgeoisie in those countries where it was a revolutionary class and oppose it wherever it had consolidated itself.

But it did not work out that way. Even in those countries where the bourgeoisie was no longer threatened with a restoration of the system it had overthrown, bourgeois ideology still had a universal, revolutionary ring to it. This was especially true of those theories and values which were not overtly political. These could stay "undercover" longer than theories that could be linked directly to the new ruling class. In consequences it was not easy for revolutionaries to detect their real enemies. What could be more radical, in the face of a declining and therefore exceptionally embittered autocracy, than to affirm scientific rationalism, the theory of a new age? What could be more disreputable than the atheist belief in progress at a time when for reactionaries, civilization was disappearing beneath the waves? But that which is disreputable in a society is precisely what a revolutionary will go out of his/her way to promote.

So the revolutionaries fooled themselves. They accomplished in fact what bourgeois thought left to itself would never have done: the destruction of those humanist "prejudices" that were left over from the feudal era. Naturalist Marxism with its endless vituperation against the subjective and the "unscientific" lent the bourgeoisie a valuable weapon against its early enemies. If then Marxism, through German Social Democracy, eventually reconciled itself with that very society it had earlier vowed to overthrow, this was only natural, since this Marxism had been nothing more than the most radical form of bourgeois ideology: Marxists, so to speak, had merely played the part of Janissaries, shock troops preparing the way for the bourgeois onslaught ... All they asked, these Social Democrats, was that the workers not starve, a demand which capitalists eventually understood to be in their interest to accept. Once that was settled. the subsistence wage came to include not only the cost of perpetuating the physical power of the labourer but also his loyalty. The capitalists simply revised their accounts. Personally perhaps they still despised the workers and they increased wages only grudgingly. Still they increased them because romantic hatred could no more than romantic love compete with the profit motive. Starting with this modification the early and unstable form of capitalism evolved towards an equilibrium. A symbiotic relationship was set up between socialists and reactionaries: the former provided the motive power behind a set of stabilizing reforms, the latter supplied traction by putting up resistance.

In Russia this same naturalist Marxism encountered different conditions and consequently developed differently. In Western Europe, Marxism encountered a nascent and vigorous capitalism within which it was eventually integrated. In Russia, as the nihilist Tkachev pointed out, revolution was possible only as long as Russia was still a backward country. In other words revolution in Russia was possible precisely because there was no capitalism to speak of. Hence there was never any question of Marxism integrating itself into the structure that preceded it. Finding no capitalism within which to loose itself Russian Marxism had to invent something like it.

One ought to remember here that in Russia capitalism started too late to develop in the same way that it had developed in England and France. Had it attempted to take the latter's example it would have quickly fallen prey to foreign capital in much the same fashion as for example Latin America. The solution was supplied by the Bolsheviks: primitive accumulation under forced conditions. Superexploitation of Russian labour and autarchic economic development took the place of foreign investment and allowed the Soviet Union to become an independent industrial power.

In both cases Marxism objectified those tendencies it had internalized earlier. In the West it helped to develop the system it was born into. In Russia where Marxism was an import it recreated in a distorted form the Western milieu on which it had been originally reared.

Despite its authoritarianism the USSR is not a capitalist state. Neither was Lenin an "objective" agent of capitalism. Indulgence in such simple-minded schematism is appropriate to Stalinists not libertarian socialists. Bolshevism is imbued through and through with bourgeois ideology but nevertheless it remains a revolutionary ideology. To transcend it, rather than just negate it, we have to historically situate it without overlooking its uniqueness. Instead of doing this libertarian thought has for the most part been preoccupied with villifying it.

This practice more often than not ends in absurdity. It is for example fashionable today to make oneself respectable by claiming to be a "pure" Marxist. Pure Marxism can only exist however if Marxism is reduced to an abstract ideal. If in fact the villains by virtue of their villainy automatically excommunicated themselves as Marxists, then we have to admit of long that if the Nazis had been real Germans they would have stopped being Nazis.

If we give up trying to be respectable however we will view Leninism as the first attempt to realize Marxism. It failed. If there were any doubts about this while Lenin was alive they were dispelled by his successor. But without this failure, without Stalin, Marxism would not have grown up, would have effectively remained unaware of its deep neurosis. It is indeed tragic that this neurosis had to develop into murderous lunacy before it could be purged. The crimes of the past however can only be expiated by the good deeds of the future. One cannot simply dissociate oneself from them through a mere word. To say "I am a libertarian" is to take upon oneself the responsibility of diminishing the horrors of the past. In the same way to say that you are an adult is to admit that once you were an adolescent trying to become an adult. You may have made serious errors but without them you would not have grown up. "It is only those who do nothing who make no mistakes", said Kropotkin and he was an anarchist.

Unless we want all our heroes to be martyrs we have to learn that the world will not be changed without getting a few hands dirtied. Not enough ruthlessness and disorganization can betray a revolution just as much as too much ruthlessness and authoritarianism. We should give Makno, the Kronstadt sailors, the Spanish anarchists, the French students and all other libertarians their due and then we should note that they failed. To become a symbol is not enough. As it is we have enough saints and martyrs to fill a liturgical calendar. Of course there is glamour in tragic failure but only those who survive can appreciate it. For too long now libertarianism has been an outlet for those who can't accept the existing order but who at the same time can't be bothered with doing anything about it. They find in libertarianism a dream of unmatched purity which they take care to define in such a way as to make it unattainable (See "Why the Leninists Will Win" elsewhere in this issue). Then lo and behold, quietism becomes revolutionary. It is not at all surprising in fact that the various Leninist sects are still able to attract recruits. Anybody serious about radical social change can't help but notice that while anarchists have beautiful sentiments Bolsheviks are more likely to do something about it.

Which brings us back to that synthesis of object and subject that has been prominent throughout these reflections. Through this synthesis revolutionary socialism attempted for the first time to overcome the one-sidedness of materialism while at the same time avoiding the perils of romantic idealism. It should be recognized that libertarian socialism must start from this synthesis. One-sidedness in whatever form it occurs destroys the whole project. It is obviously a difficult error to avoid -- in view of the Bolshevik experiment it is very easy to say that one cannot be too subjective -- but then "the revolution is not a tea-party". Vanguardism ultimately oppresses the working class. Lack of leadership leaves it stranded in oppression. Bureaucratism stifles revolutionary tendencies. Pure spontaneism dissipates them. Rigid centralization is authoritarian. Lack of coordination and discipline is ineffective.

No movement can consider itself socialist that does not put in practice the synthesis that has eluded Marxism since that first thesis. Bolshevism failed by succeeding. Anarchism failed by failing. We'll see what we can do.

Portugal: The Impossible Revolution (Book Review)

Short review of Portugal: The Impossible Revolution, which is available in the libcom library here.

Reviewed by Fred Freedman

Every revolutionary struggle is accompanied by a flurry of "left" books on the subject. Portugal is of course no different. The problem is one of truth, interpretation, and who to believe. The left press is no less guilty of fraud and lies in reporting revolutionary events than the bourgeois press.

Phil Mailer's Portugal: The Impossible Revolution? is a clear analysis of the events in Portugal from April 25, 1974 to November 25, 1976 with a background chapter. It is clearly and simply written with little rhetoric. It is also openly libertarian, documenting the struggle of the Portugese people against both fascism and domination by Leninist parties whose picture of state power differs little from the fascists. The Portugese revolution is one of the three or four most important struggles for western leftists to understand and this goes a long way to shed light on the inevitable final battle that any successful revolution faces: the people vs. the parties. In Portugal this took on a special meaning, as the book makes clear.

The author, Phil Mailer, is an Irishman living in Portugal these past five years. He works with the libertarian paper Combate in Lisbon.


1977 list of groups and journals sympathetic to libertarian socialism.

Libertarian socialism hasn't swept the world (yet!) but libertarian ideas, literature, publications, and groups are to be found in an amazing number of places. If we are to turn these beginings into a full-fledged movement, we will have to establish more contact with each other, co-operate with each other, and learn from each other as we work to improve our ideas and our practice. Listed below are a few libertarian sources, groups, and publications. There are many more: the best place to find out about them is from Synthesis (see below). Here we have picked out some of the most significant ones, with some emphasis on Canada. We don't necessarily endorse everything these groups have to say, but we think they are worth knowing about. In future issues of THE RED MENACE we plan to mention others, and to describe literature of special interest to libertarians, as well as places to obtain hard-to-get books, pamphlets, etc.

P.O. Box 1858
San Pedro California 90733 U.S.A.
"An Anti-Authoritarian Newsletter for Citizen-Worker Self-Management Ideas and Activities" published by the League for Economic Democracy. Publishes correspondence and exchange from anti-authoritarians, and an extensive listing of anti-authoritarian groups from across North America and beyond. $4.00 for 10 issues, 40 cents for a sample copy.

186 Hampshire St.
Cambridge Mass. 02139 U.S.A.
A thoughtful and sensitive magazine carrying some of the best writing currently being done on the left, especially on"cultural" and other questions usually out of the purview of the "official" left. $10 for 10 issues.

Open Road
Box 6135, Station G
Vancouver, B.C.
Produced by an anarchist group in Vancouver, the Open Road carries news and information about anti-authoritarian communist developments throughout the world. Free, but donations welcome.

Our Generation
3934 St. Urbain
Montreal, Quebec
An anti-authoritarian quarterly journal carrying articles and analysis about political trends and strategy, especially in relation to Canada and Quebec. $7 per year. Also carries selection of pamphlets on radical social theory, urban questions and political movements.

Black Rose Books
3934 St. Urbain
Montreal, Quebec
Publisher of radical and libertarian books. Free catalogue.

Industrial Defense Bulletin
P.O. Box 306, Station E
Toronto, Ontario
Published by the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) Defense Local 2, the Bulletin tries to co-ordinate "defense and relief to members of the working class who are being persecuted for their activity in the class struggle". Also sells some literature.

P.O. Box 10638
Amsterdam, Holland
HAPOTOC ("Help a Prisoner and Outlaw Torture Organizing Collective") is a libertarian organization consisting mainly of prisoners. Their newsletter contains general articles as well as articles especially about prisons and repression.

c/o Dept. of Sociology
Washington University
St. Louis, Missouri 63130 U.S.A.
A radical philosophy journal.

P.O. Box 40256
San Francisco
Calif. 94140 U.S.A.
"If you're bored by shitless anemic leftists with their elitist manipulations and masochistic reforms - and if you're interested in creative and fun actions against a life of death - drop us a line."

Black and Red
Box 9546
Detroit, Mich. 48202 U.S.A.
Printers and publishers of some excellent libertarian literature. A complete list is available on request.

Philadelphia Solidarity
GPO Box 13011
Philadelphia, PA 19101 U.S.A.
The distributor in North America of London Solidarity's literature, as well as some of its own titles. They carry some first-class literature. Free catalogue on request.

New Hogtown Press
12 Hart House Circle
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario
A distributor and publisher of left literature. Not a libertarian group as such, but carries some good libertarian titles. Extensive catalogue av-ailable free.

Exchanges et Mouvement
B.P. 241
75866 Paris Cedex 18
Publishes a newsletter in both an English and French version that draws together worldwide information of interest to the libertarian left. Subscriptions 10F or equivalent.

P.O. Box 171
Postal Station D
Toronto, Ontario
A libertarian socialist newsletter. 75 cents a copy, or $3.00 for 4 issues. We are interested in making contact with people who like what we have to say, to see what we can do together.


Dear Red Menace:
I just saw your first issue. Although I don't much like the title, I do like the contents, in particular the article on your editorial policy. My particular hope is that feminists find in your pages a forum for grappling with the theoretical connection, if any, with socialism.
With hope,
Alison Sawyer

Dear Red Menace Friends,
We would like to exchange subs with you - saw your first issue and I find your questions, probes, plans really encouraging.
Margaret for the collective
at Liberation magazine

The following is a Red Menace Condensed Edition of a form letter that we have entered a relationship with:

Hi there!
I'm your first Re-invention of Everyday Life form letter! I'm laying right here in your hands talking to you with all the reified warmth & friendliness of a plumbing fixture because my files indicate that you have an active interest in social revolution &/or are a personal acquaintance. But before I make my special limited time offer just for you, Mr./Ms. Red Menace, let me explain the reasons for my existence:

I'm here due to a unique set of circumstances involving the human who (along with the post office box, publications, correspondence files & now myself, this letter) also just happens to be a member of REL. Before vacating his normal work-a-day existence for a chaotic month of summer travel, JNB was almost caught up on REL correspondence, & was dutifully pursuing a coupla projects. But the correspondence found in the box on his return seemed even more so of the two usual types: 1) letters & printed matter from other P.O. boxes who publish & mail things to each other as a form of revolutionary activity, & 2) notes from either faceless people or Boxes, (with no indication of who they are, or of what JNB might have in common with them), saying "What's REL?". ... I (this letter) will try to get JNB to continue to keep in touch with REL correspondents, but he'll probably have more interest in who they are than in lengthy discussions. He'll probably use me awhile for initial contacts... He'll still, however, want to continue a sharing of publications & mutual encouragement...

Re-Invention of Everyday Life
P.O. Box 282
Palo Alto, Calif. 94302,

To The Red Menace

Wow, neat, peachy keen, I just got my copy of Red Menace. What a thrill to know there is a sinister communist conspiracy of freaks and ordinary workers like me who will use plain language and short articles and all that great stuff.

But a few problems - what is wholistic, dialogical pedagogy, salient, nascent surrealism hegemonic? Answer - a group of lefties practising intellectual masturbation - talking to themselves.

In other words you are going to grind out every month or so a paper to argue amongst yourselves till you split off into your different groups. Do you seriously think you are saying anything relevant to what's going on in the world or saying anything that a worker, mental or manual, housewife, teacher whatever would bother reading? Do you think that except for a slightly different theoretical point of view you are different in any way from any other left group?

Or maybe you want to be like other left groups? Do you want to talk about what people should he doing or talk about talks people had where they talked about what people should be doing? Your workers centre, education conference and all that were all structured from above for an inner group that either got invited there or had the fortune, may Marx and the LIP bless us all, of being subjects in a fun little experiment for the kids from the big city.

I think the independent left should get together. So, have a party. Phone up everybody you know, have them phone up everybody they know and everybody brings their own. Most people will get drunk and/or stoned, some will get their rocks off, and we can all argue with each other about 1917 and what happened to the left.

Thank you
Peter Cassidy

Thanks for sending the first issue - we're encouraged!

Revolutionary greetings
Steve Landstreet
for Philadelphia Solidarity

Dear Bros. and Sis.,
Keep on conspiring.
Allan Moscovitch

Red Menace #3 - Volume 2, Number 2 - Spring 1978

The Red Menace was a Canadian libertarian socialist publication put out from 1976-1980.

Taken from

Introduction to this issue

As the article "What is The Red Menace?" (P.10 in this issue) makes clear, there are differing ideas about what The Red Menace should be. Part of the problem revolves around the desire, on the one hand, to make this newsletter a forum for the exchange of a broad range of opinions covering the spectrum of the libertarian left (which leaves the question of how to define "libertarian") and the desire, on the other hand, to make The Red Menace an expression of the views of the people working on it. One thing which we feel would be useful in dealing with the situation is to begin each issue with a brief introduction explaining some of the themes of the issue, the choice of major articles, and indicating how the collective evaluates important or contentious articles.

The publication of our first two issues brought us a good deal of favourable response, much of it from anarchists. Many seemed to assume we are anarchists; other people wrote to ask what, if anything, distinguishes our politics from anarchism. In an attempt to answer that question (for ourselves as well as for our readers) we are attempting to encourage articles on this and other basic political questions on the libertarian left. In this issue, there are several articles on the topic, from rather different perspectives. A member of the collective, Ulli Diemer, has contributed two articles, ("Anarchism vs. Marxism" and "Bakunin vs. Marx") which look at the roots of the anarchist/marxist split, and take up a number of general issues in the anarchism/Marxism debate. Diemer takes a pro-Marxist position, and argues that the rejection of Marxism by most present-day anarchists has more to do with the false identification of Marxism with Leninism, and with the failure of most anarchists to find out anything about Marxism before attacking it, than with any serious consideration of Marx's own views. He raises a number of points of disagreement with anarchism, but suggests that they can and should be overcome. Diemer's position substantially reflects the views of many members of the Libertarian Socialist Collective, but is not the group's 'official' position: at least one member of the collective, in fact, intends to write a reply to the articles for the next issue.

A diametrically opposed view is contained in P. Murtaugh's "The End of Dialectical Materialism: An Anarchist Reply to the Libertarian Marxists". Murtaugh essentially argues that 'libertarian Marxism' is either honest confusion, or deliberate opportunism, but in any case not a defensible political position. The Libertarian Socialist Collective categorically rejects Murtaugh's analysis, which we think displays an ignorance of Marx and Marxism that is unfortunately widespread among many people who style themselves anarchists. Nevertheless we welcome the way it confronts the issue frontally, thereby opening a discussion which we think can potentially be very fruitful. We are confident that libertarian socialism and anarchism are fundamentally in tune, but we think it important that misunderstandings and disagreements be confronted openly and vigorously. (It should also be noted that Murtaugh's article is not necessarily representative of anarchists generally - some anarchist comrades, in fact, objected to its publication because they considered it too unrepresentative.)

Our purpose in encouraging discussion on this and other issues is not of course to create division among people who are presently able to work well together; rather, it is an attempt to elaborate the basis on which unity between different kinds of libertarians is possible. We strongly believe that theoretical and strategic questions have to be dealt with critically and frankly, not swept under the rug for fear of the results. Questions of goals, strategy, and organization are central to any political movement. It should be possible - must be possible - for libertarians to discuss ideas and actions, criticize each other, and differ where necessary, without hostility and splits resulting. Hopefully we libertarians are mature enough to engage in the vigorous exchange of ideas without fracturing our movement.

A radicalism that is to be more than abstract rejection of capitalist society has to develop a radical critique of the way things are done in this society, and develop alternatives. One critical problem is that of technology: is there a liberatory way of using technology, or is most current technology inherently capitalist, suited only to hierarchical society whose relation to nature is that of domination? One of the most important attempts to develop an analysis of the liberatory potential of technology has been developed by Murray Bookchin. In his article on Bookchin Tom McLaughlin examines some of the directions that Bookchin has explored.

A specific example of an attempt to use technology in a liberatory way is the revolutionary radio station in Bologna: Radio Alice. Radio Alice takes its name from Alice In Wonderland, and has attempted to similarly invert language and logic in a subversive way. Last year, it was also caught up in an attempt to subvert the City of Bologna in a slightly more traditional way: when street fighting broke out, Alice acted as a centre of communication and co-ordination, with non-stop broadcasting of events on the streets as they happened. In this issue, we feature an excerpt from that broadcast.

The discussion of work and other daily life experiences begun in the last issue continues in this one with another article on office work, which discusses what it's like to work in a highly structured office environment.

A number of debates from the last issue are taken up again in this issue in the "Exchange" section (P. 18). Included are a response to Ed Clark's "Why the Leninists Will Win" entitled "Why the Leninists Will Lose"; a reply from the Wages for Housework group at Bain Avenue to criticism of them in the last issue, and a counter-reply to the charges they make; and a piece by Simon Rosenblum arguing for working in the NDP. (The collective is in complete disagreement with Rosenblum on this, but considers the question of the NDP an important one which should be discussed. Replies to Rosenblum, as well as to anything else in the issue, are welcome.)

Multiphasic Bureaucratic Follow the Leader Exam (with built-in Deception Detector)

by Larry Kisinger

Instruction: Select the one most non-commital answer.

PART ONE: Would you make a good Leader?

1. When I talk, people
(a) listen
(b) leave the room
(c) inspect their fingernails
(d) gaze at the ceiling
(e) I never talk
(f) I only talk to myself

2. My comrades are always telling me that I

(a) am intellectually advanced
(b) am ideologically advanced
(c) am sexually advanced
(d) have nice hair
(e) all of the above
(f) none of the above

3. People often come to me
(a) for advice
(b) for comfort
(c) for money
(d) to borrow something
(e) after they've gone to everybody else
(f) people never come to me

4. The most important quality in a leader is
(a) The ability to quickly grasp the significance of any situation at a glance, work out a detailed plan of action, and manipulate everbody into following it.
(b) To be able to complete a night compass course exercise at Ft. Benning, Georgia, without falling over a cliff or getting bitten by a rattlesnake.
(c) humbleness
(d) self-righteousness
(e) a big mouth

5. I am
(a) always right
(b) almost always right
(c) often wrong, but I seldom admit it
(d) always wrong, but I never admit it

6. People are always commenting that my eyes are
(a) filled with the steely light of strength and absolute determination
(b) evasive
(c) weak
(d) watery
(e) rheumy
(f) crazy-looking

PART TWO: Would you make a good follower?

1. The main responsibility for the administration of discipline should be left to

(a) the central committee at the local level
(b) the central committee at the district level
(c) the central committee at the regional level
(d) the central committee at the national level
(e) our Glorious Leader
(f) my Mom
(g) all of the above

2. The concept of "freedom of speech" is

(a) over-rated
(b) nice if the situation allows it
(c) a petty-bourgeois fetish
(d) hardly relevant in a well-led organization

3. The 'pursuit of happiness' means
(a) strictly adhering to the policies and cheerfully and diligently carrying out the orders of the central committee at the local level.
(b) strictly adhering to the policies and cheerfully and diligently carrying out the orders of the central committee at the district level.
(c) strictly adhering to the policies and cheerfully and diligently carrying out the orders of the central committee at the regional level
(d) Strictly adhering to the policies and cheerfully and diligently carrying out the orders of the central committee at the national level
(e) strictly adhering to the policies and cheerfully and diligently carrying out the orders of Our Glorious Leader
(f) all of the above

4. When a problem comes up I
(a) wait to see what our leader says about it
(b) wait to see what everybody else says about it
(c) stay out of sight
(d) pretend it doesn't exist

5. "Criticism/self-criticism" is
(a) a way of getting back at people
(b) a parlour game
(c) a kind of bloody show & tell time for grown-ups
(d) hardly relevant in a well-led organization

6. The Peoples' State will
(a) take care of the people
(b) take care of the leaders
(c) fuck over the people
(d) wither away

7. The "dictatorship of the proletariat" means
(a) the dictatorship of the Party
(b) the dictatorship of the central committee
(c) the dictatorship of Our Glorious Leader
(d) all of the above

8. When a person of authority says squat, I
(a) vote yes
(b) get confused
(c) vote no
(d) shit
(e) all of the above

Special Bonus Question

When I see a tall shiny pair of black boots, I feel like I want to
(a) stomp someone
(b) goose-step
(c) be stomped
(d) lick them


All blanks must be filled in, or this form will be thrown back in your face. Go back and check answers. Don't guess. Answer truthfully; this test has a built-in deception detector. Just relax and do the best you can. Pay attention. Don't worry, be happy. You will never see the result of this test, but they will go into your permanent record. When the bell rings, place your pencil on the desk and file silently out of the room.

Radio Alice: Radio in action in Italy

Elsewhere in this issue, Tom McLaughlin discusses Murray Bookchin's ideas on the liberating potentialities of technology. The following article focuses on a day in the life of Radio Alice, a free radio station in Bologna, Italy, that represents one attempt to turn modern technology in a liberating direction.

Radio Alice is interesting as an attempt to show that the act of creating a liberated society requires the transformation of the dominant technology and means of communication. The station was founded two years ago, in February 1976, by a political collective who took the name Radio Alice from Lewis Carroll's Alice because they sought to subvert reality in the way it was in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. They were especially interested in the politics of speech, and how speech itself reflects the worldview of the dominant reality. As a result, they attempted, through Radio Alice, to subvert the dominant mode of discourse and in so doing to show that it is not the only one possible.

The station itself is affiliated with no political group, although many of the members of the founding collective were formerly members of the autonomous left-wing groups that have played so large a part on the Italian scene in recent years. These groups have been distinguished by their refusal to accept the traditional leftist forms of organization, strategy, and leadership, by their militancy, and by their total opposition to the 'alternative' presented by the Communist Party, which they characterize as part of the system to be overthrown. The CP, incidentally, controls the municipal government in Bologna.

The events described in the following transcript must be understood in the political context of Italy today. While the country's rulers grapple ineffectually with a serious and chronic economic crisis, and while un-employment soars above the two-million mark, the ruling Christian Democrats cling to power through a governing coalition which excludes the CP but which survives only with the support of the CP, whose only stated goal seems to be a few seats in a government of national unity that is to save Italian capitalism. (See the interview with the Italian CP senator in this issue.) Meanwhile leftists battle police and the strong neo-fascists in the streets in violent clashes. Many compare Italy today to the Weimar Republic in the late 1920's.

The events leading up to those described in the following transcript were as follows: in March 1977 leftist and rightist students clashed in an angry but non-violent confrontation on the university campus in Bologna. Police invaded the campus, indiscriminately clubbing students, who then replied with paving stones and molotov cocktails. The result was a series of street battles stretching over several days. The campaign of police repression was accompanied by a continuous stream of abuse from the Communist Party directed at the insurgent students.

Radio Alice broadcast news of the events as they occured, often by airing telephone calls from militants who described events, called for assistance in a given sector, and reported police movements. The station was twice raided and closed down by police, but resumed broadcasting by switching locations and resorting to a transmitter powered by a car battery. Finally, the station was silenced and charges of inciting riot were laid against a number of the key militants. About a month after it was closed down, the station resumed broadcasting on an irregular schedule with a reduced collective of people.

(For more information about Radio Alice and the March events in Bologna, see the Winter 1977-78 issue of Radical America.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

RA: This is Radio Alice. Any comrade who knows anything about what's going on please give us a call here at RA, and we would really appreciate it.


Telephone: (panting voice) ... so listen, the police are charging from via St. Petronio, and also from via Zamboni, at the end. They shot some tear gas, then they lined themselves up at the end of via Zamboni, I mean close to the Church of St. Donato, close to ... they are there.

RA: Got it. Listen, where are the comrades now?

T: The comrades are in piazza Verdi, counterattacking, and also close to Economics; they have made one line, and they have also gathered some stones. Now listen, it should be said, perhaps ... I mean, you know ... that you should send as many comrades as you can to help us, because there are only a few of us now.


T: Fine. Maybe later on I'll drop in with some more news, or maybe somebody else will. Ciao.

RA: Ciao, thanks.


T: Hey, the police have entered the university zone. They've started spreading tear gas. And they've already reached the second traffic light on via Zamboni. The comrades are withdrawing to a place where they can rally together. They are not opposing the police. They are rallying, but they are not yet moving ahead, while at piazza Verdi the police are already spreading teargas. Now the rally is beginning to move and they are heading to the zone close to St. Donato. That's all.

RA: OK, ciao, thanks.


RA: There is an urgent message, it's very important: the people of the political-juridical committee should come here into our studio right away, or get in touch with us, anyway: it's much better if they come here.

T: .. so, comrades, the police are moving up. They've rammed into the barricades, marched onto piazza Verdi, and now they have occupied it. Now they are going down via Zamboni. The comrades are now between Economics and porta Zamboni. Anyway, we need news and information for our comrades. Those who know if the police have reached porta Zamboni, via Ernerio, or the streets in the ring around porta Zamboni, please call us immeditately, because many people are listening to the radio. We need to know it badly because we must set up new barricades, and organize everything. Anyway, they're moving up and they're using a lot of teargas.

T: ... so the university buildings have been emptied by the police and carabinieri, who have marched onto piazza Verdi from 3 sides: from via Zamboni, from via Riva di Reno, via delle Moline, and from piazza Oldobrandi. There has been very little or no resistance from our side because there was no fucking way. Those guys threw a lot of teargas bombs while they were still far away.

RA: Listen, where are the comrades now?

T: They've moved down along via Zamboni.

RA: What for? I mean what are they planning to do now?

T: Nothing, it's a complete defeat.

RA: A complete defeat?

T: Yeah, a slaughterhouse.


T: M is calling. The end of the world is underway here. Police are behaving more or less like at the theatre, you know. Wait a minute. Here's S. who knows what's going on better than me.

T: (S.) Well, the police are not gaining ground any more, they are not using tear gas now. It's probably because the wind is blowing the tear gas back towards them. Matter of fact, the wind is now blowing in our favour. We have nice sunshine too and plenty of fresh air.

T: (M.) Oh it's great, it's springtime.

T: (S.) The comrades were able to throw back the tear gas bombs before they exploded. You grab it from the top and then you throw it back at the police.

RA: Listen, where are you now?

T: All the people who started the rally are now around via Zamboni. But the rally hasn't started yet. They still have to decide. As of now the police are dug in around piazza Verdi, and we have a lot of very nice barricades that stretch all along the way down to the end of via Zamboni. Now l can hear the explosion of a bomb. I don't know what kind, a teargas bomb or something else. Anyway, things are going well now. The point now is that if we decide to start the rally we can move it to via. .. (noise), there are no police there, so we can. But those comrades who are listening to the radio, they can reach us of course from the side roads, to porta Zamboni, easily, and reach...

RA: That's OK, now, thank you. Ciao.

T: The comrades have tried somehow to resist, but because the police were throwing teargas bombs, and they had only stones, you know, they could not reach that far with their throws so they had to withdraw along via Zamboni, and now they have all gathered around the gate of porta Zamboni, and perhaps it's better that the rally does not start at all.

RA: Fine.

T: I'll call later on.
RA: Hey, listen ...


T: I just wanted to tell you that the whole area around via Petroni, piazza Aldrovandi, all the side streets, via St. Vitale and Strada Maggiore, is completely closed. So if somebody wants to get out of there, they should try a different way, that is, through the malls, and not to go to piazza Maggiore and the other small streets that lead to piazza Maggiore from piazza Verdi. I just wanted to tell you this because, you know, the police are right here and they're not letting anyone through. They stop and check everybody who shows up.

RA: OK, thank you, ciao.

T: Almost half an hour ago, maybe more, let's say at 4:30 or 5 p.m., during the first clashes, we saw some firemen in uniform and with helmets and oxygen bottles running away along via Zamboni while teargas was being thrown all around. Naturally we asked where they were going and what they were doing. "We are looking for, a telephone because they cut firehoses and we don't know how to put out the fire at the Cantunzein." Who cut the tire hoses'? "The police." This is what I heard with my small blue ears. Here's the other guy again.

T: (the other guy) Right now in via Rizzoli everything is still, but clearly, the cadres of the movement are not here. Three hundred and fifty of them, the toughest, went to Rome, so now the people who are arriving here are those who would like to do something but are a bit scared. That's why there are only slogans. Anyway, the situation is very tense.

RA: But, then, the police are in the middle surrounded by the comrades.

T: (woman) We were in via Rizzoli. At one point everybody started to run. Then in piazza Maggiore a comrade arrived saying that the police charged ordinary people, that is, passersby, children and senior citizens. He also said that the police, the special corps, got out of their jeeps and started to cudgel the people. This comrade was really pissed off. Then we ran into the house of a comrade living nearby. Now we don't know what to do.

RA: Thank you for the news. First some comrades phoned saying that the comrades were surrounding the police and that the situation was very tense. We don't know what the situation is now.

T: There were people running.

RA: OK, someone please phone us, telling us more precisely what's going on. We will see if it was a joke.

T: OK, ciao.


RA: This is always RA, don't despair. We are continuing to transmit the fragmented news we have. Right now, there is great confusion. Someone has asked if it is true that the police have sacked the Cantunzein. This is not true. They merely cut the tire hoses. Outside it is starting to rain. Inside, we will continue to transmit.



T: Herein via Rizzoli, at first the comrades encircles the police. It was beautiful, because they were moving forward, then sitting down, making fools out of the police, who were very bewildered. Anyway, about fifteen seconds ago they exploded ... wait ...

T: (another voice) It's very important Jesus fucking Christ are you there? Can you hear me? Yes, OK, I'm Bonvi. The situation is this, the wonderful thing is this, there were comrades of the Communist Party who came on their own, independent of the Party organization. They were sitting there in the piazza, becoming more excited and more resolute. At this point the police shot some teargas. Via Rizzoli is full of smoke. My office is becoming full of people who are taking shelter from the side roads. OK guys, be quiet . . . The situation is still very indeterminate, but anyway it is very nice. It seems to me that the people of the city are replying very well to this provocation by the police. Here is Gabriele, ciao.

T: Listen, it is important to understand that we have nothing against the policeman as an individual, but that we are fighting against policemen as an institution, as power...

T: (Bonvi) The most beautiful thing is that not only the "ultras" but the whole population, all the young people, also the teenagers, replying and not just to mess around but because they have had their balls and ovaries broken enough.

T: We agree. No one has ever fought against the police personally but for what they represent, for what they have to do.

T: This is the situation in piazza Verdi. The police have succeeded in occupying it. The comrades are barricaded near philosophy and behind the cafeteria. Both sides are shouting.

RA: I don't understand what you mean by both sides are shouting.

T: There is shouting from both sides. Or, at least, we can hear shouting from both sides and throwing of molotovs, etcetera. By the way it is likely that they have set fire to the faculty of law, but we don't know for sure. There is a lot of smoke coming from there. That's all I know.

RA: Thanks, ciao.

T: (voice of a man speaking angrily) Listen, we are a group of workers and we are trying to get organized and see if we can reach you and break your bones because we are fucking sick and tired of listening to you cocksuckers, that's what you are. Stop it, pigs! You should be ashamed, you are pieces of shit.

RA: It, instead of staying at home. you were here, you would learn that ...

T: Come on, why should I bother, since I've seen you at work (great confusion, a lot of swearing and insulting)

RA: Yet you don't know what's happening...

T: You assholes!

RA: We just got some news, something dependable. A mass rally is coming from the Ducati factory, we do not know what they have in mind, what they are planning to do.


RA: Wait a minute, say it again.

T: So, our comrades have just regained conrol of piazza Verdi, after a whole afternoon of fighting, the police have been pushed back. They could not get through and had to withdraw to the two towers. Apparently, at the two towers, they are gathering together again to go back to piazza Maggiore once more. That's all. Ciao.


RA: We have some more news. Apparently it is dependable. It seems that outside Porta St. Vitale there is a rally of workers, a rather big one, judging on what they said, so there should be two rallies of workers around now. We don't think they are chasing leftists, but that they are chasing cops.


RA: This is Radio Alice. We cannot use the telephone because the line is busy, but we want to talk to Radio Citta, here in Bologna, to see if we can make a joint broadcast about the riots. Every now and then we expect to receive news from the comrades who have gone into the fighting zones and who should still be there. They should call us if they can. Our number is 273459. Considering what's happening, I would say that the best thing to do would be this joint program.

T: One more message. We will soon give you some news about ... I mean some news about comrades in jail. We got this news from the Soccorso Rosso (Red Aid). A comrade has been beaten at the central police station. Ten comrades are 114 the prison of St. Giovanni. But later on we'll give more details. Just listen to what those pigs are doing. I mean, hang on...


T: (housewife) Today, in Piazza Maggiore, when the students were trying to get in, there were workers' pickets who did not let them through. This has been the most hideous thing the people of Bologna could do. I found that very loathsome. At long last I learnt from you that at least these people have started to do something, and this cheered me up a little bit. Because I was really sad, you know. Tomorrow I have to leave the city, but I was really sad. I was thinking that Bologna was fighting against her very children, see what I mean?

RA: I do.

T: Look, that really came as a. surprise, the biggest shame I've ever seen in my life.

RA: We too are glad to learn that the people of Bologna are now on our side.

T: (weeping) Right, otherwise it would have been truly sad. Look, my children are going to school, but it is sad. One lives in Rome, the other one is here in Bologna. So I happened to be here right on these days. Since the 8th, Woman's Day, when they beat that girl, since that day and the next one and so on I've been in the streets, but today I could not take it anymore. I wish you every luck. I'll call you again from Morano. Ciao, thank you!


RA: Cops are not the only ones who can bug a telephone - we can too, listen. We've been given this news. Our good old minister, Cossiga, the very honest minister of Police, has given a certain order, namely: the "blue meanies" should clean up Bologna gently and with a lot of tact, and should be very tough at Rome instead. This is the command given by Cossiga.


RA: Then it is of vital importance that Radio Citta get in touch with us. Radio Citta, please call the operator, number 10, and ask to be connected with our number. It is very important, we need to talk to them.

Radio Citta: We can tell you for sure that they have called exactly 180 soldiers in order to enforce "law and order" in this town. They have been brought to the "Minghetti" barracks. So far so good. There are 800 pupils from the Police School of Alessandria. Well, these pupils are kids around the age of 20, people with no experience at all, people who are now being sent inside a very harsh fight, thrown in it by murderous logic which has been seen so far only in "Westerns". The more a guy is likely to lose control of his temper, the better it is, they think, in order to spoil the image of a city like Bologna. We are asking for an answer to this situation from every democratic institution in Bologna, from every democratic force. And we are asking for it right now, while we, all the free radio stations in Bologna, keep on receiving requests for explanations. They come from people who are appalled and fucking angry, people who are demanding explanations of why the police are behaving this way, to know what exactly is going on, and what Bologna is being turned into.


RA: This is a joint transmission with Radio Citta. You were mentioning a message from eight comrades arrested by the police.

RC: Nine.

RA: Nine comrades in the prison of St. Giovanni.

RC: This is the message: "Ask about Isola Paolo and eight other people. Arrested without charges during the clashes yester-day,-they weren't even at the rally and they weren't armed. These are abusive arrests." And a note at the bottom, "a comrade has been beaten until he lost blood."

RA: Are these comrades in St. Giovanni?

RC: 1 don't know, but I think so. Anyway, I am not sure, but the message is reliable.

RA: It seems that the police want the Commune of Bologna to result. The police of Cossiga, of the state minister, of the minister for all seasons, of the control minister- the christian police, supported by the leaders of the Communist Party, leaders by now discredited by the response of their own militants - these police want it, want the Commune of Bologna. They will have it.


RA: Is anybody answering? Listen, all the comrades of the legal defence committee please phone the radio station, or rush here. Hello?

T: Hello.

RA: Listen, the police are here, we are RA. We are still waiting for our lawyers to come to let the police in. The police are trying to break the door down. I don't know if you can hear the noise from the radio. If you are policemen then you can break it down! (talking to the lawyers:) I told them that I would not open the door if they don't stop pointing their guns and unless they show me the search warrant. And since they haven't put their guns down I told them we are not going to open the door until our lawyers arrive. Please come, rush. They have guns, bullet-proof jackets and all that kind.of shit. Via del Pratello 41.

T: OK.

RA: Ciao - Listen, Mauro ... Hold it, our lawyers are coming. Alice! The police are at the door, leave the telephone Listen, this is RA, the police are behind the door... the police are behind the door with bullet proof jackets, guns in their hands and all that stuff. The police are at the door. Our lawyers are waiting. We positively refuse to let the police in until our lawyers are here because they are pointing guns and things like that. We cannot tolerate such things. OK - please, the comrades that are re-transmitting our program, please give us a signal via radio, I am listening. All comrades be in piazza Maggiore before midnight. Radio Citta please give us a signal. Radio Citta try.... There is a phone call. Hello Comrades, anyway, the situation is stable.

T: I am the lady…

RA: Lady we are waiting for the lawyers. The police are sitting down ... the police are still out there, waiting to get in, still with bullet-proof jackets and pointing guns. They said they would have broken the door down, and things like that ... did you see the movie - fucking cow, what is its fucking name? - the one about Germany. I got it - "The Lost Honour of Katrina Blum", they have the same identical helmets, the same identical bullet-proof jackets, the guns pointed at us, and things like that. It is really absurd, really unbelieveable, like in a movie. I swear it, if they weren't making all this noise, I would have thought I was in a film! There are four of us here at the radio station; we were all doing our job of counter-information, and we are waiting to see what the fuck the police are going to do. Right now they seem to be quiet. They've stopped beating the door. Maybe they thought it was too strong. Give me a record, let's put some music on ... pigs ... the telephone here is ringing all the time...


RA: The police started again to pound on the door. (voices) Alice! There are the police at the door - they're coming in! They are in! We have our hands up! They are in! We have our hands up!

Communists on Wall Street

Interview with Communist Party of Italy official on 'eurocommunism'

"Euro-communism" is the new doctrine of the Italian, French, and Spanish communist parties; the three largest non-governmental CP's. Just what is the new doctrine of Euro-communism, which has provoked a great deal of debate and speculation about the communist parties? As good an indication as any comes from the interview, reprinted below, with the Italian Communist Senator Eugenio Peggio, one of the leading officials of the Communist Party of Italy. The interview originally appeared last year (April 6) in the Roman paper La Repubblica.

Q: Senator Pecchioli, you are a Communist deputy, as is your colleague Boldrini. In early April you had a meeting in the Salomon Brothers skyscraper on Wall Street with generals, bankers, and industrialists representing corporations such as Chase Manhattan, Lehman Brothers, Mobil Oil, and Pan American. How was it?

Pecchioli: In the U.S. generals and bankers are particularily interested in Italian developments. This was their first direct contact with Communists. Naturally they had certain worries. Those who plan to invest with us understandably enough expect Italy to be politically stable, expect Italy to have a capable, effective government.

Q: How do these people see the role of the Communist Party of Italy?

Pecchioli: They see in the CPI a party, that can govern and stablise, a party that is capable of demanding the necessary sacrifices from the workers. At the same time I also sensed doubts and mistrust in our partners. A number tended to confuse our participation in the government with a seizure of power. We explained to them that in Italy the only possible government is a coalition government, and that the Italian constitution supplies all the necessary guarantees.

Q: Which political explanations did they ask you to make?

Pecchioli: They wanted to know in detail what the reasons were for the polemic between ourselves and the Soviets, in connection with the form of socialism that we want to build in Italy. One asked me why we still call ourselved Communists. I answered that we have a tradition and that the name is not important -- but that our name links us to the entire history of the workers' movement in Italy, to which we felt and will continue to feel strong ties.

Q: Which guarantees were asked of you?

Pecchioli: For example that the public sector in Italy would not be further enlarged. But our public sector is sufficiently large as it is. The problem is democratic planning, and that is a guarantee for those who want to invest with us. They have to know that our economic development is following specific goals, which will not be changed from day to day. Particular emphasis was laid on wage rates; we explained that these are only one aspect of the economic problems of Italy.

Q: And what did you say to the generals!

Pecchioli: We repeated that the entry of Communists into the government would not result in Italy leaving NATO. Of course our goal is the gradual dismantling of the blocs. But the military equilibrium must be maintained. Thus we accept military bases in Italy. One has to work toward the reduction of armaments, but on an equal basis.

Working in an office — for a while

An account of working in an office.

By Anonymous

One of the articles that particularly intrigued me in the first issue of the Red Menace that I received was the one on "working in an office". I feel that I would like to share my experience and opinions on this subject. Both my name and the place where I now work are held back, for obvious reasons. My present position is only a temporary one (it is the first time that I have ever worked in an office), but it would still be rather unpleasant to lose it at this time.

What Me Work
The first thing that strikes one about working in this particular office is how little actual work ever gets done. Productivity is absurdly low. The essential reason for this is that efficiency is punished. Extra work will be piled onto anyone who has finished their assigned work. If there is no extra work to be found, the supervisors will still express their severe disapproval of anyone who appears to be doing "nothing". Anything that is totally outside the bounds of the usual "work'', such as reading a book, is only rarely done (and usually only by supervisors). One secretary was sacked for bringing her knitting to work.

While most activities that might even vaguely hint at personal enjoyment are verboten, there are two methods of time wasting that are tolerated. The first is to literally do nothing, to sit and stare at the wall. Numerous people can be seen practicing this "yoga of the void" at various times during the day. This method of time wastage is tolerated because 1) it is impossible to maintain for extended periods of time and therefore not immediately threatening and because 2) the excuse can be raised that one is "thinking about the job".

The preferred method of time wastage is, however, not daydreaming but talking. The people in this particular office have evolved a system whereby they are able to spend at least 3 or 4 hours out of each day taling to each other about linoleum, the kids, hunting, insurance, insulation, the new car, the old car, etc. Some people seem to do nothing more with their day than make the rounds of other peoples' offices.

The result is an effective reduction of the work day. The problem, however, is the narrowness of the means of reducing it. To have to converse all day is close to being as oppressive and boring as having to work.

Another problem that results from this method of workday reduction, a problem at least for those who have to deal with this particular office, is that nothing ever gets done. There are no incentives and many disincentives against ever finishing anything.

The supervisors are caught in a quandary in their attempts to deal with this problem. On the one hand, establishing an incentive program to increase productivity would challenge their control over the office environment. People when they would work and when they would read or go shopping. The office disipline would be undermined. On the other hand, attempts to increase the office workload by pressure cannot succeed either. In the first place, the attempt to force the staff to work harder would involve a substantial increase in the workload of the supervisors themselves. The incentive to accept this burden is not really present given the present organizational setup. Also, the open hostility that such a move would provoke would destroy the buddy-buddy" system upon which the supervisors presently depend to get anything done at all. The result of increasing the workload would more likely be catastrophic breakdown than increased efficiency.

We're All Friends Here
Which brings us to another point. The pseudo-friendly attitude that pervades the entire office is probably necessary for the staff to effect their reduction of the working day. You can hardly spend hours talking to someone you openly dislike. The real attitudes of most of the people here can, however, be gauged from the fact that it is rare for people from the office to meet socially outside of work hours. From what I have heard this is quite usual in most offices.

The greatest source of pseudo-friendliness, however, is the manipulation practiced by the supervisors. This technique is their response to the "shirking" of the staff. It connects well with the eternal conversations, as one of their favorite ploys is to break into a friendly conversation and gradually move it towards work matters. The conversation often ends with a grand finale of work assignments to everyone taking part in it. All this is, of course, done with a smile.

This happy bubble of friendliness is often punctured by minor plots that swirl up from the depths. These plots are usually due to the efforts of either two people in similar positions vieing for a promotion, or the efforts of an immediate subordinate attempting to work his way up the ladder a little faster. The lowest levels of the hierarchy rarely take part in the plots. The probable reason for the refusal of secretaries to take part in such plots is that they have little or no hope of promotion. Lower level technicians are usually too insecure in their positions to dare to take part in any plots. After all, anything they say may be passed on to the person referred to.

A Finely Tuned Sense of Hierarchy
One thing that strikes anyone entering an office from another job is the well polished nature of the hierarchy. Certainly in other jobs there is a boss and usually a supervisor. The majority of people working in a place, however, tend to be of roughly the same level in the work hierarchy. In this office, and perhaps all offices, the ladder is minutely graded into a multitude of different layers. Titles and subtitles proliferate like rabbits.

The physical layout of the office gives mute testimony to the hierarchical nature of the organization. The offices of the high suits, the chambers of the gods circle the outside of the office. The advantages of highsuitdom are numerous. Windows; you can actually see the sun during the day. Doors; you can shut out the rest of the office and read or go to sleep. Walls that are not simply dividers; you can make those hour long phone calls to the wife or mistress without the nagging fear of being overheard. Private secretaries; to enhance one's sense of self importance and to run interference with anyone who would dare to call upon a god.

Next on the ladder come the assorted non-descript administrators. These are graded into a hierarchy of byzantine complexity, as are the high suits. Unlike the high suits, however, their offices are grouped in the centre of the building. They are formed by dividers and have no doors. They are, however, still private offices. It is harder for these people to goof off than it is for the high suits, but it is still not impossible. The assorted administrators have unlimited access to the general office secretaries, but not to the private secretaries of the high suits. Perhaps one out of ten are women (none of the high suits are female). While it is possible for these people to goof off in private they generally prefer the talkfest method of wasting time. Maybe it helps in promotions to be "sociable".

Next on the ladder come the "lowly technicians". These people are generally grouped two to an office. These offices are of about the same size and layout as those of the administrators. They are also, however, infinitely more crowded as the lowly techicians usually require some sort of working instruments and files. The office "toys", so prominant in the offices of high suits and administrators, are absent here.

Whether paperweights, potted plants and "cute" fans are really so terrible to lose is debatable.

Next come the lowlier technicians. These are generally tucked in small corners off the major through-fares of the office. This position has the disadvantage that goofing off in private is impossible. All the desks of the lowlier technicians are arranged so that they can be seen but cannot see who is watching them without contortions worthy of the rubber man in the circus. These people, and the lowly technicians are the real talkers of the office.

Somewhere near the bottom of the heap come the lowliest technicians. These are not true office workers at all, as they are really laboratory technicians. They are occasional visitors to the office, and a likely source of high blood pressure for the more finicky administratiors. Lowliest technicians wear blue jeans and blue jean jackets, track in mud from the field, laugh loudly at bad jokes (their own) and generally disrupt the genteel routine of the office. They refuse to treat the functioning of the beloved institution with the seriousness its exalted status deserves.

On about the same status level as the lowliest techicians (perhaps a bit above them actually) are the private secretaries. These are generally older women. Their desks are placed in the open, as a sort of block to anyone attempting to enter a high suits office. Because of the positioning of their desks, they have absolutely no opportunity to goof off in private. They do, however, link in with the talk rounds of the other people in the office. Their major difficulty is that they are not permitted to "go visiting" unless on a definite mission. The private secretaries generally appear to be busy most of the time. Whether this is appearance or reality is hard to judge.

Finally, at the bottom of the heap come the general office secretaries and the "front desk girls". There may be a status difference between the two, but I have so far been unable to observe it. The only apparent opportunity these people have to kill time by talking is if someone from the higher levels gives them the chance to linger in an office. Initiation of talk fests amongst lover level secretaries is held in extreme disapproval by the supervisors.

The Lunch Room Too?
One of the interesting things about the above mentioned hierarchy is that it continues outside of the office environment. Besides the obvious fact that the different people in different levels live in different neighbourhoods, there are also numerous other ways in which the layering makes its presence known. In the lunchroom, for instance, each level sits only with its own kind.

The lunchroom in the building where I work serves several different offices. What makes me suspicious that the situation I have described in my office is typical is the fact that the tables occupied by people from other offices appear to be segregated similar to ours. An interesting side note to this segregation is the recent presence of repairmen working in the building in the lunch room. Abot two days ago a sign appeared on the door to the cafeteria: "This facility for public servants only".

One can distinguish the various levels of the hierarchy by physical appearance. The high suits, for instance, are all male, usually older, more conservative in dress, more confident looking, fatter, and generally more "prosperous". They have the look of someone who has "made it". The assorted administrators have a hungry discontented look about them. The various levels of technicians are indistinguishable, except for the lowliest technicians. Their physical appearance has already been mentioned.

The tables in the lunch room are usually sex segregated. This is despite the fact that everyone would love to relieve the boredom by talking to someone of the opposite sex. During one coffee break, I counted 6 all male tables, 9 all female tables and 2 mixed tables. The mixed tables are generally either a lone female administrator or technician sitting with her own kind or one of the high suits "visiting" one of the more attractive secretaries.

And so on, and so on.

Possibilites for Change
The possibility for change, at least in this office, is limited by several factors. The first is, of course, the finely graded hierarchy. There are not two classes of worker in offices like these but many. This means that each class, except for the lowliest, feels that it has some stake in the status quo. I suppose that this is an old story.

The potential for breaking down the barriers erected by this hierarchy is limited. The chance of "promotion" serves to compensate many of the people working here for the meaningless routine they have to endure. People who ceased to believe in the desirability of the hierarchy would be more likely to walk out (and be replaced by a believer) than stay and struggle on the job. Any push by the lower levels to increase their privileges (such as people beginning to come late regularily, or reading while at work) would only result in a corresponding increase in the privileges of the upper parts of the hierarchy and a maintenance of the hierarchy.

Another important factor that limits the evolution of offices such as this one into functioning parts of a free society is the total uselessness of most of the work performed. The prospect for transformation is blocked because institutional "liberation" would go hand in hand with personal liberation, and more critical individuals would be likely to peck it up and leave for more satisfying work. They would, once again, be replaced by believers, by people who would likely act as a drag on institutional reform.

These limitations, put together, make me believe that it is impossible to approach government offices in the traditional style of "organizing". A government office is not a place, such as en electronics or automobile plant, a library or a construction company, where workers could collectively turn their labour into liberatory channels if they had control. Smell victories, within the context of such offices, can and should be won, but they should be seen in a total strategy, not of transformation, but of destruction. Our goal, as libertarians, should be to erode the legitimacy of certain institutions to the extent that they begin to have serious manpower shortages - shortages that occur as workers begin to leave for more satisfying work/play.

The fight to gain small privileges within the office should be seen as part of this process of delegitimization. This process has already begun, under its own dynamic. Our job, as libertarians, is to experiment with methods of speeding it up. As long as people continue to take such jobs seriously, they will continue to act as stabilizing forces within those organizations whose job it is to reintegrate threats to the system (e.g. welfare agencies reintegrate threats from welfare rights groups, environmental departments reintegrate environmental groups, city planning departments reintegrate neighbourhood groups, etc.). Work from within such government agencies is important only in so far as it is subordinated to the construction of an independent system of opposition groups and workplaces, groups and workplaces which cannot be reintegrated into the system of government.

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.

Words, words, words...

An assessment of the Left's often exclusionary and problematic use of language.

By Ulli Diemer

One of the most striking things about the left - or most of it, at any rate - is its habitual abuse of language. While this vice is by no means confined only to the left, it seems to take on some of its worst forms among socialists. The fuzzy, jargon-ridden language of leftist writing is perhaps' the most immediately noticeable thing about the left to the ordinary person, and it is one of the main reasons that most of what the left has to say is not even listened to. The problem is by no means a new one - Orwell wrote about it more than a generation ago, in essays like "Politics and the English Language" (which should be required reading for every socialist), in various reviews, and in 1984.

As Orwell, and a very few other political writers such as Paul Goodman have pointed out, abuse of language is not simply an incidental failing. Language is the form through which thoughts are (or are not) developed and communicated. The misuse of language implies the failure to think clearly, to analyse correctly, to communicate with others. (Alternatively, it may imply the deliberate misleading of others.)

The question of language is an important one in the development of critical thought, and I hope that it will be a continuing theme in The Red Menace. Here I would like to make a start by mentioning, a few common examples of the abuse of language which I find particularily irksome.

Concrete thought: Whenever leftists are about to get specific (rarely enough, to be sure) they seem to have an irresistable compulsion to preface their venture down to earth with 'concretely', or, 'to get down to some concrete facts', or 'we have to be more concrete'. Perhaps this is the curse of the intellectual, who can't do anything without first announcing that he is going to do it, then proclaiming he is doing it as he does it, and finally pointing out that he did it after it's over. l worry that such people will find themselves doing the same thing during their sexual activities and in the process driving their bed-partners 'round the bend. I also have visions of them thinking about chunks of concrete, not so far-fetched when you consider that many 'Marxists' do handle Marxian categories as if they were so many blocks of cement. The point is that while the intention is undoubtably good, and in keeping with Marxism ('All the propositions of Marxism, including those that are apparently general, are specific'. - Karl Korsch) the constant announcements of intention are wearisome, and the choice of imagery is poor. Unfortunately, all too many leftists forget that words do evoke images, and so they use them mindlessly, to produce writing that obscures meaning rather than making it more vivid. Take concrete (please!): if thought is really concrete, it will harden quickly, the last thing we want our thinking to do. We want our thinking to be specific, we want it to be precise, we want it to be fluid, we surely do not want it to be concrete. It's good to get down to particulars, to talk about the nitty-gritty. It is not good to wear out any given word or expression in unnecessarily announcing the obvious. Why don't we just practice getting down to specifics without first proclaiming that we are going to do so?

While we're speaking of construction materials... is it really possible that there are people calling themselves socialists who think that it's a good thinq for a political organization to exhibit a unity of steel? Or who think a party should possess monolithic unity? Do these people know what a monolith is? (Oxford Dictionary: 'monolith': 'a single block of stone'; 'monolithic': 'solidly uniform throughout, showing or allowing no variation'). And how about the Leninist's contribution to the theory and practice of S & M: iron discipline?

Rank and file: Phil Mailer points out in his excellent book 'Portugal: The Impossible Revolution' that the term 'ramk and file', so popular with trade unionists and socialists, masks an authoritarian conception, although many people who use the expression, having never thought about what it means, may not intend it that way. But 'rank and file' is a military term, referring to soldiers drawn up in rigid formation on the parade ground. It may accurately convey the ideas of those who think of themselves as leaders commanding their working class troops in the struggle, but it is a poor choice for those of us who have a libertarian view of working class organization.

Intervening: How many political groups describe their activity as 'intervention'? Too many, at any rate. Those who are fond of this word should pause to consider what it implies. The concept of intervention, whether or not the user realizes it, betrays a Leninist way of looking at class struggle. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines 'intervene' as 'come in as something extraneous'. This is precisely the Leninist conception of revolution, as spelled out in 'What is to be Done' and adopted by every Leninist party since. According to Lenin, the working classes cannot develop socialist consciousness themselves; it has to be brought to them 'from without', by the socialist intellectuals organized in a vanguard party. The party represents the objective forces of history, as uncovered by the method of 'dialectical materialism'. This view places the revolutionary outside of and above social and historical forces, and then has him 'intervening' in them. It is a conception that is fundamentally elitist, undialectical, and ahistorical. It is neither libertarian nor Marxist.

And, incidentally, all those 'Marxists' who use the term 'dialectical materialism' as a synonym for Marxism, who say that Marxism is 'dialectical materialism', might be interested in knowing that Marx never used the term. 'Dialectical materialism' is the invention of Plekanov, one of the key figures (with Kautsky and Lenin) in the vulgarization of Marxism. Plekanov coined the term for his interpretation of Marx eight years after Marx's death. Those who take their 'Marxism' (often without realizing it) from followers of Plekanov (even after his political split with Plekanov, Lenin repeatedly praised his exposition of Marxism) might do well to read Marx's criticism's of Plekanov's rigid dogmatism. They would do even better to read Marx himself, rather than his interpreters.

Finally, 'in terms of': If this expression once meant something, I don't know what it was. I am certain, however, that all those people - and they are many - who use the expression now don't use it to mean anything. 'In terms of has simply become the leftist's way of saying 'um' or 'uh'. Let's go back to saying 'uh'. It may sound dumb, but at least it doesn't sound pretentious as well.

Anarchism vs. Marxism: A few notes on an old theme

A piece taking on some misconceptions of Marxism commonly held by some anarchists.

More than one hundred years after the socialist movement split into warring Marxist and anarchist factions, there are signs, at least on a small scale, that people calling themselves anarchists and people calling themselves Marxists or "libertarian socialists" are finding ways of working together fruitfully. Questions immediately present themselves: To what extent are the old labels still valid? Have their meanings changed in the course of the last century? How solid is the new basis of unity? Have the old divisions been transcended?

But is it necessary to re-examine the old labels and divisions at all? Would it not be best to let sleeping polemics lie and simply concentrate on working together?

The problem is that a socialist movement - or libertarian movement: what terms can we validly use? - that hopes to develop has to confront historical, strategic, and theoretical questions. A socialist movement worthy of the name has to do more than get together for simple actions. It has to ask itself where it is trying to go, and how it proposes to get there: precisely the issues which sparked the fateful anarchist-Marxist split in the 1870's, and which kept the movements separated until today. Political question which are ignored do not vanish, they only reappear with all that much more destructive impact at a later date. They must be dealt with frankly.

But this does not mean that we are fated to barrenly re-fight old battles and re-live the splits and hostilities of the past. The world has changed a great deal since the 1870's, and the experience of the socialist movement during the past century has changed the problems we face immeasurably. Of no little importance is the re-vitalization of a Marxist current that is militantly anti-Leninist, and the re-emergence of an anarcho-communist movement which accepts (although not necessarily consciously) a good deal of Marxist analysis. There is a good deal of common ground on which we can come together.

It should also be acknowledge that while the differences between Marxists and anarchists have been real, it has been the case that too often in the past the disputes between them have generated more heat than light. A problem in many polemics is that each side tends to take partial tendencies of the other side and extrapolates them to be the whole, and in that sense misrepresents. A serious analysis has to go beyond the simplicities of black and white (black and red?) argumentation. At the same time, it is true that posing questions sharply generally implies a polemical tone, so we should not shrink back from polemic if this means that important questions will be glossed over or ignored.

My own position is pro-marxist, and is in many respects quite critical of anarchism. It is therefore imperative to note two things: One, that there are many positive things about anarchism which I leave unacknowledged, because I am attempting, in this, and the subsequent article ("Bakunin vs. Marx"), to criticize certain specific aspects of the total doctrine which I think greatly weaken it. I am not purporting to give a balanced evaluation of anarchism as a whole. Two: I am far more critical of the "Marxism" of most "Marxist-Leninists" than I am of anarchism. While I regard most anarchists as comrades in the libertarian movement, I consider the very expression "Marxist-Leninist" to be a contradiction in terms, and consider "Marxism-Leninism" to be an ideology that is diametrically opposed to the emancipation of the working classes.1

It is not possible to cover the whole anarchist/marxist debate adequately in one or two articles. What I propose to do here, and in the accompanying notes on Marx and Bakunin, is to concentrate on the most common and basic anarchist objections to Marxism, and to examine them briefly. These notes should be seen as just that - notes that make a few basic points. I hope that they will provoke a lively discussion that will make it possible to examine the questions raised, and others, in much greater detail.

The impetus for seeking a debate on Marxism and anarchism comes primarily from reading a number of recently published pieces on anarchism which all seem to display an astonishing misunderstanding and ignorance of Marx and what he wrote and did. (e.g. Bakunin on Anarchy, with the Preface by Paul Avrich and the Introduction by Sam Dolgoff; Mark Brothers' article on Anarchy in Open Road No. 4; the piece on Bakunin in Open Road No.2, and P. Murtaugh's article in this issue of The Red Menace.) All of these - and most anarchist writings - expend a great deal of effort in attacking something called "Marxism". In every case, the "Marxism" that is attacked has little or nothing to do with the theories of Karl Marx. Reading these polemics against a "Marxism" that exists mainly in the minds of those attacking it, one can only mutter the phrase Marx himself is said to have repeated often in his later years, only regarding the works of his 'followers': "If this is Marxism, than all I know is that I am not a Marxist."

If there is to be any dialogue between Marxists and anarchists, if the negative and positive aspects of the Marxian and anarchist projects are to be critically analyzed, then it is incumbent upon those who oppose Marxism, as well as those who support it or seek to revise or transcend it to at least know what they are talking about. Nothing is solved by setting up and attacking a straw-man Marxism.

And it is important to understand and know Marx not only because there are "libertarian Marxists" but because Marx is without dispute the central figure in the development of libertarianism and socialism. It is not possible to understand the development of any left-wing political movement or system of thought in the last century without knowing Marxism. It is not possible, in fact, to understand the development of any ideology in this century, or indeed, to understand the history of the last hundred years, without knowing something about Marxism. The political history of the twentieth century is to a very great extent a history of attempts to realize Marxism, attempts to defeat Marxism, attempts to go beyond or amend Marxism, attempts to develop alternatives to Marxism.

Anarchism is certainly no exception. It originally defined itself in opposition to Marxism, and continues to do so to the present day. Unfortunately, anarchists seem totally unaware - or unwilling to realize - that Marxism is not a monolith, that there are, and always have been, enormously different currents of thought calling themselves Marxist. Anarchist critiques invariably identify Marxism with Leninism, Leninism with Stalinism, Stalinism with Maoism, and all of them with Trotskyism as well. There is usually not a hint of guile in this remarkable bit of intellectual prestidigitation - your average anarchist simply thinks it is a universally accepted, established fact that all these political system are identical.2

This is not to say that it cannot be argued that all these political system are fundamentally the same, that their differences, no matter how violent, are secondary to certain essential features that all have in common. But the point is that it is necessary to argue the case, to marshal some evidence, to know a phenomenon before condemning it. One can't simply begin with the conclusion.

But the fact is that Marxism is not a monolith. Despite Murtaugh's uninformed assertion that "Libertarian Marxism is a rather recent development, as far as political theories and movements go", and despite the fact that the term "libertarian Marxism" is new - and unnecessary - the tradition goes back a long way. For example, Rosa Luxemburg - surely one of the central figures in any history of Marxism - was condemning Lenin's theories of the vanguard party and of centralized, hierarchical discipline three quarters of a century ago, in 1904. In 1918 - while many anarchists were rushing to join the Bolsheviks - she was criticizing the dictatorial methods of the Bolsheviks and warning of the miscarriage of the Russian Revolution. After her death there were other thinkers and movements that condemned Bolshevism as an authoritarian degeneration of Marxism: Anton Pannekoek, Karl Korsch, the Council Communists, the Frankfurt School, right up to the new left of the 1960's and 1970's. And even within the Leninist tradition there were thinkers who made contributions that challenged the hold of the dominant interpretation and helped to nourish a libertarian Marxism; for example, Georg Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci, and Wihelm Reich. A number of libertarian currents emerged from the Trotskyist movement in the 1940's and 1950's. Any liberation movement that proclaims itself the issue of a virgin birth in the 1970's, or that acknowledges only one thin anarchist strand as 'true' libertarianism through the ages, while cutting itself off - whether because of dogma or because of ignorance - from all other contributing currents, only impoverishes itself. Yet anarchists writing on Marxism seem to deliberately and almost perversely shut their eyes and ears to anything except the dominant Leninist tradition, and so manage always to reconfirm their own prejudices about Marxism.

All this does not prove of course that the libertarian interpretation of Marx is the correct one. But it should be possible to agree on a basic analytical point: if there is doubt about what Marx stood for, then it is necessary to read Marx, not to take the words of either his enemies, or those who claim, justifiably or not, to be his followers. Once this is accepted, and only then, is it possible to begin an anarchist/marxist dialogue on a serious level.

My own attitude to Marx is not unequivocally favourable. There are in my view serious questions to be raised about aspects of Marx's thought. Marxism, like everything else, must be subjected to criticism, criticism that may lead to transcending Marx, but not, I think, to rejecting him. "Marxism is a point of departure for us, not our pre-determined destination. We accept Marx's dictum that our criticism must fear nothing, including its own results. Our debt to Marxism will be no less if we find that we have to go beyond it." The essential point, however, is that the Marxian project must be the heart of any libertarian politics. It may possible and therefore necessary to transcend Marx, but to transcend him it is first necessary to absorb him. Without Marx and some of the best of the "Marxists", it is not possible to create a libertarian praxis and a libertarian world.

Finally in judging Marx's work, it is necessary to keep in mind that his writings and actions span some 40 years as a revolutionary, that he often wrote letters and made notes that represent partial insights which he was not able to return to and expand, that many of his works were polemics against particular doctrines and are one-sided because of that. It would be a mistake, therefore, to take each sentence and each quotation in the corpus of his work as finished holy writ, or to expect that his work is wholly consistent or that he thought the implications of all of his theories through to the end. Marx's work is an uncompleted, uneven, but enormously fruitful and brilliant contribution that must be approached as he himself approached everything: critically.

At this point, it is necessary to confront one of anarchism's tragic flaws, one that has made it incapable of becoming a serious historical alternative: its strong tendency toward anti-intellectualism. With a very few exceptions (e.g. Kropotkin, Rocker, Bookchin) anarchism has failed to produce proponents interested in developing a rigorous analysis of capitalism, the state, bureaucracy, or authoritarianism. Consequently its opposition to these phenomena has tended to remain instinctive and emotional; whatever analyses it has produced have been eclectic, largely borrowed from Marxism, liberalism, and other sources, and rarely of serious intellectual quality. This is not an accidental failing - there has been no lack of intelligent anarchists. But anarchists, perhaps repelled by the cold-bloodedness of some 'official' Marxist intellectuals, perhaps sensing instinctively the germ of totalitarianism in any intellectual system that seeks to explain everything, have been consciously and often militantly opposed to intellectual endeavour as such. Their opposition has been not simply to particular analyses and theories, but to analyses and theory as such. Bakunin, for example, argued - in a manner reminiscent of the medieval Pope Gregory - that teaching workers theories would undermine their inherent revolutionary qualities. What happens when a movement's leading theorist is explicitly anti-intellectual?

The result for the anarchist movement have been crippling. Anarchism as a theory remains a patchwork of often conflicting insights that remain frustrating especially to critical sympathizers because the most fruitful threads rarely seem to be pursued. Most anarchist publications avoid any discussion of strategy, or any analysis of society as it is today, like the plague. (Even one of the best anarchist publications, The Open Road, remains essentially a cheer-leader for anything vaguely leftist or libertarian. People organizing unions and people organizing against unions receive equally uncritical coverage; pie-throwing and bomb-throwing are seen as equally valid activities, and no attempt is made to discuss the relative strategic merits of the one or the other in a given context.) Most anarchist publishing houses seem interested in nothing except (a) re-fighting the Spanish Civil War, (b) re-fighting Kronstadt and (c) trashing Marxist-Leninists yet one more time. Even these preoccupations, which have become routine as to make anarchism for the most part simply boring, are not pursued in such a way as to develop new insights relating to the history of capitalism, the revolutionary process, or Bolshevism, for example.

Rather, the same arguments are simply liturgically repeated. Rarely is there any serious political debate within the anarchist movement, while polemics against the bugbear of "Marxism" (as essential to anarchism as Satan is to the Church) are generally crippled by a principled refusal to find out anything about what is being attacked. Arguments are mostly carried on in terms of the vaguest generalities; quotations are never used because the works of the supposed enemy have never been read.

As a consequence of its anti-intellectualism, anarchism has never been able to develop its potential. A movement that disdains theory and uncritically worships action, anarchism remains a shaky edifice consisting essentially of various chunks of Marxist analysis underpinning a few inflexible tactical precepts. It is held together mainly by libertarian impulses - the best kind of impulses to have, to be sure - and by a fear of organization that is so great that it is virtually impossible for anarchists to every organize effectively on a long-term basis. This is truly a tragedy, for the libertarian movement cannot afford to have its members refusing to use their intellects in the battle to create a new world. As long as anarchism continues to promote anti-intellectualism, it is going nowhere.

  • 1. On the other hand, I do not see all "Marxists-Leninists" as counter-revolutionaries, as many anarchists seem to do. Many (particularly Trotskyists) are sincere revolutionaries who do not understand the implications of the ideology they adhere to. The fact that "Marxism-Leninism" as an ideology is counter-revolutionary does not mean that every "Marxist-Leninist" is a counter-revolutionary, any more than the fact that Christianity is reactionary makes every individual Christian a reactionary. Nor are the political differences that divide the left always as absolute as they are made out to be. There are of necessity always gray areas, where, for example, anarchism and Marxism begin to converge, or Marxism and Leninism, or - yes - anarchism and Leninism. Life does not always lend itself to analysis by the categories 'them' and 'us', if for no other reason than that all of us have internalized at least some of the repressive baggage of the dominant society. All of us have something of the 'counter-revolutionary' in us.
  • 2. For example, Mark Brothers in his article "Anarchy is liberty, not disorder" in Issue 4 of The Open Road, uses the terms 'Marxism' and 'Marxism'Leninism' interchangeably, and is either unaware or doesn't think it worth mentioning that two of the three concepts he criticizes - the vanguard party and democratic centralism - are nowhere to be found in Marx, while the third, dictatorship of the proletariat, was given completely different meanings by Marx and the Leninists. Similarly, Murtaugh (The End of Dialectical Materialism: An Anarchist Reply to the Libertarian Marxists) knows so little about Marxism that he does not even know that neither Marx nor Engels ever even used the term "dialectical materialism,", which he blithely supposes "libertarian marxists" adhere to, and which he disposes of in four pages. (Dialectical materialism made its first appearance eight years after Marx died, courtesy of Plekanov.)

An ongoing debate

The Libertarian Socialist Collective clarifies their policy for The Red Menace.

In case you hadn't noticed, The Red Menace doesn't have a correct line on everything yet. (We're working on it, of course.) One of the things we (in the Libertarian Socialist Collective) are still trying to work out is the nature and purpose of The Red Menace itself. We do of course have certain guiding conceptions that we are working from, and we think that our newsletter is successfully developing a character of its own. But as we continue to publish, problems and issues arise that have to be dealt with.

The preparation of this issue was accompanied by an important debate over one question in particular - the question of printing submissions which we in the publishing collective don't agree with: a debate whose importance is by no means restricted to The Red Menace. Two articles sparked the controversy: 'The End of Dialectical Materialism: An Anarchist Reply to the Libertarian Marxists', and Simon Rosenblum's piece on the NDP. We in the Libertarian Socialist Collective (LSC) are in fundamental disagreement with both articles. Initial objections to printing the articles came not from within the collective, however, but from anarchist comrades who have been helping us produce the newsletter. Their argument was that the articles in question are not representative of The Red Menace's politics and, in the case of the article on the NDP in particular, are resurrecting tired debates which are of no interest or importance of libertarians developing their own politics. Most, but not all, of the members of the LSC reject this position. (Some readers may find it slightly ironic to see anarchists opposing the printing of 'An Anarchist Reply to the Libertarian Marxists', while the marxists favour printing it...)

The LSC's view is that The Red Menace should be a forum of dissenting views within the broadly defined boundaries of libertarian socialism. Generally, we are willing to accept the self-conceptions of those who submit articles: if they consider themselves libertarians, we will normally be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

We see The Red Menace as a forum for discussion and debate, and while we will certainly be making decisions about articles based on political considerations as well as on considerations of quality, relevance, and space, we want to be open to a whole range of different perspectives, whether we agree with them or not. Basically, we think that political development grows from criticism and debate, not from monologue, even if the message of the monologue is our own 'correct line'. For example, Rosenblum's article on the NDP expresses views that are widely held on the independent left in Canada. We strongly disagree with those views, but we consider it more useful to publish them and attempt to refute them, than to ignore them.

We also consider that we have a special obligation to print replies to articles published in The Red Menace. The letter from the Rent Freeze people at Bain Avenue in this issue ('Exchange') is an example. Based on content alone, this particular submission would have been rejected: it is politically retrograde, and deliberately dishonest to boot. But if debate on the left is ever to be shifted from its usual locale - the gutter - all of us must at least adopt certain basic principles: such as the idea that if you are going to publish a polemic against someone, then they should be given the opportunity to reply at reasonable length.

At the same time, we are not interested in abdicating editorial control over The Red Menace by simply printing anything that is sent in. Our primary purpose in publishing it isto develop and advance our politics. This naturally implies that a substantial proportion of the articles will represent the views of the LSC. It also implies that we will indicate editorially which articles we agree with, which we don't, and why. Beginning with this issue, we are publishing introductory comments on the major articles, in the front of the newsletter. Often we will take the opportunity to publish a reply to an article we disagree with.

We are also concerned with the overall balance and character of The Red Menace. We may not expect every article to express our views, but we do hope that it will be clear from each issue, taken as a whole, what we are about. In that sense, in setting priorities and designing the total package, we will attempt to exercise significant editorial control.

One aspect of this is that we do not want The Red Menace to be dominated by polemic and debate. We have other priorities as well. Thus, many articles of this nature will be restricted to the 'Exchange' section at the back of the newsletter, and the section itself will be kept at a reasonable size in any particular issue.

We are aware that our approach to this debate about the nature of The Red Menace is not the last word. Our friends in Kitchener may take the opportunity to state their views in the next issue. We are also very interested in knowing what our readers think.

Let us know.

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.

Bakunin vs. Marx

Ulli Diemer on some of the points of departure between anarchism and Marxist-Leninism.

By Ulli Diemer

I propose in this article to examine some of the most common anarchist objections to "Marxism". The issues I shall single out are all raised in the recent works cited in the preceding article (Anarchism vs. Marxism).

All of them were raised, often for the first time, by Bakunin at the time when anarchism first emerged as a self-conscious movement defining itself in opposition to all other currents on the left. Therefore I will concentrate primarily on Bakunin in the following discussion, and on some of his differences with Marx. While I realize that Bakunin is not the only interpreter of anarchism, I think this is a valid approach for a number of reasons: (a) it is not possible to cover everything and everybody in a short essay; (b) the Bakunin/Marx split was the formative event in the history of anarchism; (c) Bakunin is still the most widely read, quoted, and admired anarchist in the anarchist movement itself; (d) many of the key anarchist objections to Marxism originate with Bakunin, and these objections continue to be used today; to the extent that it is possible to call them into question, it is possible to call into question current anarchist pre-conceptions about Marxism and to inaugurate a genuine dialogue.

How do anarchists see the Marxist/anarchist split? What are their claims?

The following beliefs seem to be generally accepted by anarchists:

1. Marxists believe in the creation of a "peoples' state" or a "workers' state"; anarchists believe in the abolition of the state.
2. "Anarchists look to a society in which real decision making involves everyone who lives in it"; Marxism instead would set up "a few discipline freaks pulling the strings on a so-called 'proletarian' dictatorship."
3. Marx was an "economic determinist"; Bakunin "emphasized the psychological subjective factors in revolution." Marxism is the ego trip of intellectuals who try to fit everything into their "theory of byzantine complexity" - dialectical materialism - which is of "doubtful usefulness" at best and which mainly serves to make it possible for Marxist leaders to establish "control over the movement".
4. Anarchists believe that revolutionary organizations should be open, egalitarian, and completely democratic; Marxists on the other hand advocate "hierarchical, power-tripping leadership", as exemplified by the vanguard party and democratic centralism.
5. The original split in the First International between the factions headed by Bakunin and Marx came over the issue of authoritarianism; Marx and Bakunin expelled from the International on trumped-up charges because Bakunin opposed Marx's dictatorial, centralized regime over the International.
6. Marxism is "authoritarian"; anarchism is "libertarian".

What of these objections?

1. The peoples' state

Perhaps it is not surprising that it is widely believed that Marx originated this concept, given the number of "Peoples' Republics", "Workers' States", etc. in the world today that call themselves "Marxist". Both the Leninists who use the concept, and the anarchists who oppose it, seem quite unaware that it is nowhere to be found in Marx's writings. Marx, on the contrary, specifically rejected it. (See for example Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program.)

It is indicative of Bakunin's methods that he repeatedly accused Marx of advocating a "Peoples' State" (see for example Dolgoff, ed., Bakunin on Anarchy, Vintage, 1972), an accusation that in view of his failure to cite any evidence to support it (check the sources and see if Bakunin ever offers a single quote to back up his claims) and in view of Marx's and Engels' repeated and explicit repudiation of the concept, can only be interpreted as a deliberate fabrication on Bakunin's part. And it is hardly to the credit of several generations of anarchists that they have continued to swallow Bakunin's fictions on this matter without ever bothering to look for evidence to back them up.

Marx and Engels' position on the state, while not free of ambiguities and not above criticism, was quite different from what Bakunin claimed. It is spelled out most extensively in Marx's The Civil War in France, but is developed in numerous other works as well. What Marx foresaw was that during the revolutionary period of struggle against the bourgeoisie, the proletariat would use the state apparatus to crush the bourgeoisie: "to achieve its liberation it employs means which will be discarded after the liberation". (Marx, Conspectus of Bakunin's State and Anarchy, 1874-75). After the vanquishing of the bourgeoisie, the state has outlived its usefulness.

Marx pointed to the Paris Commune as being very close to what he had in mind; Bakunin too was enthusiastic about the commune, yet continued to accuse Marx of secretly holding very different views. This Bakuninist nonsense has been repeated by other anarchists as well. For example, the anarchist writer Arthur Mueller Lehning writes that "It is an irony of history that at the very moment when the battle between the authoritarians and the anti-authoritarians in the International reached its apogee, Marx should in effect endorse the program of the anti-authoritarian tendency.... The Commune of Paris had nothing in common with the state socialism of Marx and was more in accord with the ideas of Proudhon and the federalist theories of Bakunin. Civil War in France is in full contradiction with all Marx's writings on the question of the State." (quoted in Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 260).

This is a remarkable piece of doublethink. Marx's major work on the state is said to be "in full contradiction" with "all" his writings on the state!

What writings on the state is Lehning referring to then? We don't know, because he doesn't say. As always in anarchist polemics, we have to take him in faith. Certainly Lehning cannot be referring to the Poverty of Philosophy, written in 1847, or the Communist Manifesto, written in 1848, or the Critique of the Gotha Program, written in 1875, or to the private letters Marx was writing at the same time as the publication of The Civil War in France in 1871. All of these consistently maintain that the state is incompatible with socialism. Together they comprise most, if not "all" of Marx's writings on the state. But Lehning (and Bakunin, and Dolgoff, and Avrich, and Brothers, and Murtaugh, and...) know better. Somewhere, in some mythical world known only to anarchists, there are to be found Marx's real views on the state, the "People's State of Marx" (Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 318), which is "completely identical" with "the aristocratic-monarchic state of Bismarck". (Bakunin on Anarchy, P.319).

How does one refute an "argument" which, without a single shred of evidence, except racial predisposition ("as a German and a Jew, he (Marx) is from head to toe an authoritarian" - Bakunin in 1872) without a single quotation, attributes ideas and concepts to Marx that Marx repeatedly attacked?

There are two alternatives: either one swallows everything Bakunin, Dolgoff, and Co. say, on faith, because they are anarchists, or one takes the path of intellectual integrity, and tries to discover Marx and Engels' views on the state by reading what Marx and Engels said about the state.

If one takes the latter course, one might start by reading Engels' March 1875 letter to Bebel, in which he says "it is pure nonsense to talk of a free people's state: so long as the proletariat still uses the state, it does not use it in the interests of freedom but in order to hold down its adversaries, and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such ceases to exist. We would therefore propose to replace state everywhere by Gemeinwesen, a good old German word which can very well convey the meaning of the French word 'commune.'"

It is possible, of course, to argue that the use of the state by the proletariat in the brief transitional period is dangerous, and could lead to the establishment of a permanent state. It must be noted, however, that Bakunin himself envisioned a form of post-revolutionary state, complete with elections, delegates, a parliament, an executive committee, and an army. (Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 153) Anarchists are curiously quiet about this however.

Nevertheless, it remains a fact that in balance, the concern Bakunin expressed about the possible degeneration of the revolution proved to be a valid one, and that Marx for his part failed to give sufficient consideration to the dangers posed by this threat to a future revolution. This criticism, however, must itself be qualified in a number of ways; and it is certainly a far cry from the claims of Bakunin and the anarchists that Marxism was a theory that aimed at the subjection of society to state.

2. Dictatorship of the Proletariat .

A closely related question is that of the dictatorship of the proletariat, one of the most abused and misunderstood terms of all of Marxism. The question of the transition from capitalism to socialism, and Marx's view of it, is an extremely complicated one that cannot be covered in a few paragraphs. But the point here is simply to dispose of the grossest misunderstandings of the term, fostered by its appropriation by the Bolsheviks, and by the related fact that dictatorship has come to have a quite different meaning today than it had in Marx's time. As Dolgoff puts it, there was then a "loose sense in which the term 'dictatorship' was used by nineteenth-century socialists to mean simply the preponderant influence of a class, as in Marx's 'dictatorship of the proletariat'" (Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 12).

Or to put it more precisely, the dictatorship of the proletariat means the rule by the proletariat as a class, and the suppression of the bourgeoisie as a class. It is perfectly compatible with, and indeed presupposes, the most thorough-going democracy within the working class. The best brief exposition of the Marxian concept, and how it differs from the Leninist concepts of dictatorship, comes from Rosa Luxemburg's 1918 polemic against the Bolsheviks:

"We have always distinguished the social kernel from the political form of bourgeois democracy; we have always revealed the hard kernel of social inequality and lack of freedom hidden under the sweet shell of formal equality and freedom - not in order to reject the latter but to spur the working class into not being satisfied with the shell, but rather, by conquering political power, to create a socialist democracy to replace bourgeois democracy - not to eliminate democracy altogether.

"But social democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people, who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat.

"Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class - that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses." (Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution, Ann Arbor paperback, P. 77-8).

3. "Economic Determinism"

The question of Marxian materialism and Marx's emphasis on the relations of productions is again an extremely difficult one which simply cannot be dealt with intelligently in a brief article. At this point it is possible only to say that it raises difficult problems which have to be seriously analyzed. However, while a re-examination of Marx's theory and the admitted contradictions in it are on the agenda, it must be said that the typical anarchist portrayals of it and objections to it are ill-informed misconceptions that contribute less than nothing to the discussion. For example, Marx was not an economic determinist; he rejected economic determinism and what he called "crude materialism" out of hand. He did not attempt to reduce all phenomena to economic ones; it is necessary only to read any of his political works to know this.

As Engels says, "According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract senseless phrase." (letter to Joseph Block, Sept. 21-22, 1890, in Lewis Feuer, ed., Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, P. 397-398.)

Anarchists like Paul Avrich, however, have their own view of 'what Marx really meant'. See how Avrich crudely contrasts Marx's and Bakunin's views: (Bakunin) "rejected the view that social change depends on the gradual unfolding of 'objective' historical conditions. He believed, on the contrary, that men shape their own destinies..."

It is unfortunate that Avrich has never read, for example, Marx's third thesis on Feuerbach: "The materialist doctrine (of Feuerbach) that men are the products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are the products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men that change circumstances and that the educator himself needs educating." Or The Holy Family: "History does nothing, it 'does not possess immense riches', it does not fight battles'. It is men, real, living men, who do all this, who possess things and fight battles. It is not 'history' which uses men as a means of achieving - as if it were an individual person - its own ends. History is nothing but the activity of men in pursuit of their ends." (Bottomore, ed., Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, Pelican P. 78.)

4.5.6. The nature of the revolutionary organization; authoritarianism and libertarianism

These too are very complicated questions: it is impossible to do justice to either Marx's or Bakunin's views in a short and rather polemical articles that aims at challenging certain gross misconceptions rather than at evaluating and criticizing their ideas and practice in a rigorous and comprehensive way. It is necessary to understand, first of all, that the ideas of both Marx and Bakunin, as expressed in their writings, are in certain respects contradictory; neither Marx, nor certainly Bakunin, was totally consistent throughout his life. Secondly, the practice of both men was sometimes at variance with what they advocated. Neither was able always to live up to the standards set down. Both men displayed streaks of arrogance and authoritarianism in their own personalities.

Nevertheless, there remains a body of writing and practice that makes it possible to evaluate what Marx and Bakunin stood for.

I shall argue that a serious examination of the question yields the following points:

1. Bakunin deliberately distorted and falsified Marx's views on the issues under dispute.

2. The accusation that led to Bakunin's expulsion from the International, that of heading a secret society which aimed to infiltrate and take over the International, was true. (Since this seems to be accepted by most historians, this point will not be pursued. See for example Woodcock's Anarchism, P. 168, or Aileen Kelly's article in the January 22, 1976 issues of the New York Review of Books.) The only point worth noting here is that the "authoritarian" federal structures of the International that Bakunin protested against so vehemently in 1871 and 1872 were introduced to the International shortly before, not on the initiative of the General council of which Marx was a member, but on the motion of Bakunin's supporters, with Bakunin's active participation and support. It was only after he failed to gain control over the structures of the International that Bakunin suddenly discovered their "authoritarianism".

3. The charge of authoritarianism and dictatorial views can be directed against Bakunin with a great deal more justification than they can against Marx.

Bakunin's deliberate misrepresentations of Marx's views on the state were noted earlier. Bakunin was obsessed with the idea that all Germans held identically authoritarian views, and consistently attributed the views of some of Marx's bitterest enemies, such as Bismarck and Lasalle, to Marx. Marx's fury at this tactic is a matter of record. Bakunin, in many of his polemics against Marx, argues from the premise that Marx must obviously be authoritarian because he is a German and a Jew, who are by definition authoritarians and statists. (Because of selective editing, this is not evident in Dolgoff's Bakunin anthology.) Bakunin went even further, claiming that Marx was part of an international conspiracy with Bismarck and Rothschild. Such accusations are of course not worthy of reply, but surely they make it clear that it is necessary to treat the "facts" and arguments of the man making them with the greatest caution.

A similar disregard for the most elementary rules of evidence, not to mention decency, permeated most of Bakunin's polemics against Marx. He charged, again and again, that Marx advocated a universal dictatorship, that he believed in a socialism "decreed from the top down." He ignored Marx's lifelong insistence that "the emancipation of the working classes can only be the work of the working classes themselves," and Marx's intransigent opposition to the state. Nor did he attempt to support his accusations with facts or quotations. In reading Bakunin's caricature of Marx's views - the only "version" of Marxism most anarchists have bothered to familiarize themselves with! - readers will search in vain for one single quotation amidst the hysterical confusion of wild, unsubstantiated charges. There simply are none.

Almost as bad are those anarchists who lambaste Marx for his "advocacy" of "democratic centralism" and the "vanguard party." Is it really necessary to point out that these concepts were developed long after Marx's death, that Marx never belonged to an organization practising either; that he consistently opposed the tiny conspiratorial sects of his day; that he made it a condition of his joining the Communist League that they scrap their closed, undemocratic organizational forms; that he always, and angrily, refused attempts by socialists of his day to single him out for special honours or titles in the movement?

And has it been completely forgotten that one of Marx's chief themes in his criticism of Bakunin was the latter's eternal fascination with conspiratorial, manipulative, sectarian politics?

For there is, unfortunately for those who believe in anarchist fairy tales, a substantial body of evidence for the contention that Bakunin held precisely those "authoritarian" views which he brazenly attributed to Marx. Those who seek evidence of a penchant for dictatorial, Machiavellian politics will find a good deal of material in the writings not of Marx, but of Bakunin. (This is not to say that Bakunin consistently held such views; there are serious contradictions in his thought amounting to a basic polarity.)

Bakunin's advocacy of a post-revolutionary state, which continued most of the forms of the pre-revolutionary state, such as elections, parliament, army, etc., was noted earlier, and can be found, for example, in Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 153. Similarly, despite his much-vaunted opposition to any form of independent political action by the working class, one can find him advocating, in his letters, not simply political action, but working-class support and action on behalf of bourgeois political parties. (See for example Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 219.) And elsewhere, one finds him advocating that anarchists should run for Parliament (Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 218).

Nor are these merely products of his naive, youthful days, which are so often used to excuse some of his grossest aberrations, as for example when we find the 'young' Bakunin (at age 35) writing appeals to the Czar, while Marx, four years younger, is advocating the revolutionary overthrow of the state. No, these pronouncements, and many others like them, are issued privately at precisely the time that Bakunin is publicly proclaiming his opposition to Marxism because it advocates political action by the working class, and a transitional dictatorship of the proletariat in the immediate post-revolutionary period.

It is also worth contrasting Bakunin's proclamation of the principle, for the future anarchist society, of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his work" (my emphasis) with Marx, who held to the much more radical principle, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

Or consider Bakunin's Rules for his International Alliance, not a passing whim, but the organization to which he gave his primary allegiance while participating in the First International. Here is a sample, written in 1869: "it is necessary that in the midst of popular anarchy, which will make up the very life and all the energy of the revolution, the unity of revolutionary thought and action should be embodied in a certain organ. That organ must be the secret and world-wide association of the international brothers..."
"...the only thing a well-organized secret society can do it to assist the birth of revolution by spreading among the masses ideas that accord with the instinct of the masses, and to organise, not the army of the revolution - that army must always be the people, but a revolutionary General Staff composed of devoted, energetic and intelligent individuals who are above all sincere - not vain or ambitious - friends of the people, capable of serving as intermediaries between the revolutionary ideas and the popular instincts."
"The number of these individuals should not, therefore, be too large. For the international organisation throughout Europe one hundred serious and firmly united revolutionaries would be sufficient. Two or three hundred revolutionaries would be enough for the organisation of the largest country."

As the authoritarian Marx said of this libertarian idea: "To say that the hundred international brothers must 'serve as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and the popular instincts,' is to create an unbridgeable gulf between the Alliance's revolutionary idea and the proletarian masses; it means proclaiming that these hundred guardsmen cannot be recruited anywhere but from among the privileged classes."

When one sees the views of Bakunin and Marx side by side, it is difficult to remember that it is Marx, not Bakunin, who is supposed to be the father of "Marxism-Leninism" and Bakunin, not Marx, who is supposed to be the father of "anarchism".

Bakunin's authoritarian tendencies were at their most extreme at precisely the time that he was splitting the International. This was the time of his association with the notorious Nechaev. Most anarchists sources treat this as a passing aberration on Bakunin's part, and indeed he did repudiate Nechaev when he found out the true nature of his activities.

But the fact remains that Bakunin did enter into partnership with Nechaev, and under his influence wrote a number of tracts that displayed a despotic, Machiavellian approach to revolution that far surpassed anything he ever accused Marx of. The authorship of some of the pieces in question has been disputed, but the relevant point is that Bakunin allowed these pamphlets to be published bearing his name and actively worked to distribute them knowing they bore his name.

In these pamphlets, Nechaev and Bakunin advocate a new social order, to be erected "by concentrating all the means of social existence in the hands of Our Committee, and the proclamation of compulsory physical labour for everyone," compulsory residence in communal dormitories, rules for hours of work, feeding of children, and other minutae. As the "authoritarian" Marx put it: "What a beautiful model of barrack-room communism! Here you have it all: communal eating, communal sleeping, assessors and offices regulating education, production, consumption, in a word, all social activity, and to crown all, Our Committee, anonymous and unknown to anyone, as the supreme dictator. This indeed is the purest anti-authoritarianism..."

When one looks at Bakunin's views on authority and revolution in detail, it is hard to disagree with Marx's and Engels' assertion that Bakunin and his followers simply used the word "authoritarian" to mean something they didn't like. The label "authoritarian" was then, and remains today for many libertarians, a way of avoiding serious political questions.

The fact is that not all authority is bad; that in certain situations authority is necessary and unavoidable. As Engels says, "A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets, and cannon - authoritarian means, if such there be at all."

And some form of authority, i.e. decision-making structure, is necessary in any form of interaction, co-operation, or organization that is social rather than individual. In a socialist society, it will still be necessary to makes decisions about things; these decisions will necessarily reflect the will, i.e. the authority, of the majority. This is not a violation of collectivity, but an absolutely indispensable component of it. To say, as many anarchists do, that they reject all forms of authority, even that which is willingly accepted; even that which is the result of democratic decision-making, is simply to advocate either rule by a minority, or a return to the purest form of free-market capitalism, as is advocated by the "libertarian" right. No amount of talk about "consensus" or local autonomy or individual initiative will alter this fact. Consensus is not always attainable, because sometimes people do not agree. Then a decision-making process is necessary, and if it is democratic, the minority will have to accede to the majority. Autonomy and individual initiative can still have the fullest possible play, but this does not alter the fact that the authority of the majority has prevailed in the question at hand.

There is another aspect of Bakunin that must be confronted because, like his ill-defined views on authority, it has remained a part of the anarchist movement. Running through all of Bakunin's thought and subsequent anarchist thought and practice is a dark thread, an infatuation with violence, with destruction for the sake of destruction, action for the sake of action, distrust of logic, intellect, and knowledge, and a love for conspiratorial, tightly controlled organizations. For the most part, these things remained subsidiary to his - and his successors' - genuinely libertarian and humanistic instincts.

During the period of Bakunin's association with Nechaev, who was attracted solely by Bakunin's dark side, this aspect took over. Then, confronted with the realization of this dark side in practice, in the person of Nechaev, Bakunin shrank back in genuine horror. However, as Aileen Kelly notes, "even then he managed to integrate Nechaev's villainy into his own fantasies, writing to his astonished friends that Nechaev's methods were those of a "pure" and "saintly" nature who, faced with the apathy of the masses and intellectuals in Russia, saw no other way but coercion to mold the latter into a force determined to move the masses to revolution. Such reasoning, Bakunin concluded, 'contains, alas! much truth.'"

Kelly continues: "This grotesque assessment of Nechaev is very revealing. At a time when the gap between man's empirical and ideal nature seemed enormous, Bakunin, albeit reluctantly, concluded that if men do not wish to liberate themselves, it might be necessary for those with their highest interests at heart to liberate them against their will."

To Bakunin's credit, he continually struggled against the implications of this aspect of his thought. Always fascinated by all 'revolutionary' shortcuts, he nevertheless strove to remain loyal as well to his libertarian instincts, and it is this aspect of his remarkably polarized vision that he left as his lasting heritage. The anarchist movement he fathered has also been plagued by the same polarity, by the tension between real libertarianism on the one side, and the sometimes irresistible attraction of anti-intellectualism, terrorism, and conspiracy, on the other. The anarchist movement needs to come to grips with Bakunin's ambiguous heritage. And to do so, it also needs to come to terms with Marx.

Published in The Red Menace, Vol. 2, No. 2, Spring 1978, along with a companion article, Anarchism vs. Marxism.

Bookchin on Technology

Review of Murray Bookchin's Post-Scarcity Anarchism.

Murray Bookchin's collection of essays, Post-Scarcity Anarchism, provides an important challenge to Marxists who want a living Marxism.

He argues for a liberatory technology and describes inventions and scientific advances that make it possible. That it is necessary is shown by the ecological harm resulting from our present use of technology. He then argues that only a decentralized society will be capable of using the technology he proposes and locates tendencies for such a society in the development of communes, affinity groups, and other forms of positive opposition to centralized and bureaucratic society. At the end of the book he gives his impressions of the French General Strike of 1968 and his analysis of why it did not advance to the overthrow of the old society and the construction of a new one.

Let's deal with Bookchin's discussion of technology. First Bookchin argues that 19th-century technology brought a sense of promise that scarcity could be ended. "It seemed to the revolutionary theorist that for the first time in history he could anchor his dream of a liberatory society in the visible prospect of material abundance and increased leisure for the mass of humanity" (p.88). However to bring this about required planning for a long period of toil. Redistribution of wealth with little to distribute as Marx and Engels rightly saw would merely return us to the old struggle for survival.

Marxism's answer was a transitional proletarian state to plan the economy. The anarchists hoped without much evidence that this stage could be avoided and argued with strong evidence that it would be dangerous. According to Bookchin neither side really won the argument because the low level of technology would have caused problems for either a "proletarian state" or "mutual association". However while the problem was still being argued in such terms technology sped forward. While socialism was (and still is) glorified as a society where toil was ennobling, technological advances took place that allow for a reduction in the amount of labour necessary to do the world's work. Already the possibility of a greatly reduced amount of toil finds quantitative expression in proposals for guaranteed incomes.

"This quantitative approach is already lagging behind technological developments that carry a new qualitative promise-the promise of decentralized, communitarian lifestyles, or what I prefer to call ecological forms of human association".

According to Bookchin the open-ended development of technology, the breakdown of tasks to mechanical operations that machines can perform have occurred along with certain new features of machines.

1. They have the ability to correct their own errors; they are self regulating, e.g. thermostats and lights that adjust to darkness.
2. Machines now have sensory devices, e.g. X-ray machines and radar.
3. Machines can now exercise judgment, memory, and skill. Computers can remember facts, perform complicated logical exercises, and can evaluate routine processes.

Technological advances embodying these principles can be applied to virtually every form of toil. The present technology could be used to further existing tendencies toward centralization and bureaucracy. However it could have an opposite and happier consequence. Computers that once required miles of wiring and weighed 30 tons have been replaced by computers roughly as big as a bedside AM-FM radio.

Larger machines have been developed too. Rolling mills can be built that are a fraction of the size of the huge mills existing in Hamilton let alone the enormous mill planned for Nanticoke (23,000,000 tons production per year, more than the entire current Canadian output.)

The present system is geared to an international market. The new technology could not hope to meet such a demand but it could satisfy the steel needs of several medium-sized communities.

Multi-purpose machines have been developed as well. Drills can now use a range of gauges to drill holes of various thicknesses. Thus a variety of goods can be produced by using them.

An additional aspect of modern technology is the possibility it offers of a new relationship with nature. "Some of the most promising technologocal advances in agriculture made since World War II are as suitable for small-scale ecological forms of land management as they are for the immense industrial-type commercial units that have become prevalent over the past few decades". (p.115) This is true for such processes as the feeding of livestock and for farm machines.

Agriculture could continue to be agribusiness or it could become husbandry with the promotion of a variety of flora and fauna.

Regional resources could be used too. Old resources that now exist only in small amounts could now be of value again.

The present single source energy economy could be gradually abandoned as solar energy could meet 20 - 30 per cent of our energy needs and other forms could be applied as well.

The point is that this new technology would be less dangerous but would require a new society different not only from what exists but different from most currently envisioned. Such a society or rather societies would be decentralized using primarily the natural resources and technology available in the immediate area.

Production would be for smaller markets. Political units could more nearly approach a size allowing for face to face contact.

Man could regain respect rather than fear of the natural environment as the daily evidence of his dependence on it would be part of an ecological society — one that encouraged diversity as not merely the most pleasant but also the most efficient form of agriculture. If "many ecologists now conclude that we can avoid the repetitive use of toxic chemicals such as insecticides and herbicides by allowing for a greater interplay between living things" then the form of agriculture best suited to our needs requires not the domination of nature but more of a partnership with it.

What does this mean to Marxists? Marx was the greatest critic of technology. He wrote unsurpassed analyses of the technology of his day and revealed modern technology to be an alienated form of human labour that could be used to reduce toil rather than adding to it.

However this technology required the centralization of production in his view and the disciplining of the working class and one-man management. An individual performer of a musical instrument he said is his own conductor but a symphony requires a conductor. The analogy between the craftsman and the factory was thus very clearly drawn.

This analogy was not lost on the Leninists who brought one-man management to its apogee. Unfortunately, while Marx may have had some justification for his conclusions based as they were on the most advanced research then existing present-day Marxists have no reason for following this path. Instead Marxists must take up Marx's task of the critique of technology and see if it can take a liberatory direction. The Frankfurt School and Herbert Marcuse especially have criticized technology under capitalism but always with the assumption that the closed system of instrumental reason that it tries to create can succeed or at least prevail indefinitely. There is no hint in Marcuse or Habermas that systems theory as a means of domination could be self-defeating. Instead for Marcuse the critique comes from outside the system. For Haberman the process of rationalization is checked if at all only by the presuppositions of communication that imply a normative content to speech. Rather a feeble hope! An a priori argument for the inviolability of language.

If Marxists want to develop their theory to take account of the new needs and possibilities of technology, they must admit that if this theory is not exhausted on this topic it remains to be developed. As good a place as any for them to start it remains to be developed. As good a place as any for them to start in gaining knowledge for their arsenal would be Post-Scarcity Anarchism.

After praising the book a few words of criticism may be in order.

For example Bookchin believes that such a thing as an ecological breakdown would occur. "Ecologically bourgeois exploitation and manipulation are undermining the very capacity of the earth to sustain advanced forms of life". (p. 36). "The contradiction between the expoitative organization of society and the natural environemnt is beyond co-optation: the atmosphere, the waterways, the soil, and the ecology required for human survival are not redeemable by reforms, concessions or modifications of strategic policy" (p. 38). While technology can't solve all the problems it creates it is possible to adjust human expectations to accept a deteriorating ecology. In Los Angeles there are smog alerts and the acceptance of an environment that has been barbarized is already far advanced. Thus an ecological crisis no more than an economic crisis is purely objectivistic. It depends to a large extent on political criteria. What do people expect; what can they be forced or persuaded to tolerate? Further one needn't have a blind faith in science to expect that some attempts can be made to adjust us to a worsening environment through technological manipulation. Moreover Bookchin does not emphasize the possibility of economic crisis. Not a breakdown: such a thing never happened and never will happen. The economy is of course no longer the unregulated chaos that was under competitive capitalism. But now that the state has to step in to regulate the economy it creates tensions that it may not be able to resolve. However Bookchin emphasizes the problems of prosperity and unfulfilled expectations rather than the tensions due to economic crisis which the state must both regulate and exacerbate.

Post-Scarcity Anarchism
Murray Bookchin
Black Rose Books, Montreal

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.

Some thoughts on organization

By P. Murtagh

What is the type of organization that we, as anarchists, libertarian socialists and libertarian Marxists, should be working towards? What should be our immediate organizational goals? It is not enough to simply deplore the present lack of serious organizational work amongst anti-authoritarians. Some sort of concrete plan must be set forward to deal with the circumstances we find ourselves in.

In order to find out what sort of plan we should put forward we should first take a long hard look at the present state of our movement in this part of the world. In doing this we should neither overestimate our strength by labelling every decentralized protest movement anarchist or libertarian (often these movements are merely temporarily decentralized as various authoritarians are working mightily to take them over). Neither should we overestimate the strength of our opponents to the extent that we advocate imitating their propaganda style and organizational forms slavishly. This is not going to gain us the recruits they presently make; all it will do is attach us as a tail to the commie dog. And doom us to eternal marginality! I feel that we should recognize the inherant limitations, in our context, of the commie style and concept of revolution.

To deal with the most obvious fact first, the romantic idea of The Revolution (do we always have to capitalize it?) as a gigantic street fight is ridiculous in the extreme. In the first place the present military forces in North America are too strong to be defeated by military insurrection. The most that such a frontal assault on the state could produce is more repression. Second, should an insurrection succeed by some miracle (molotov cocktails and 303s against Phantom Jets — fat chance!) we would be confronted by the fact that our societies (Canada and the U.S.) are hardly of the type that could survive the chos involved in a civil war. Perhaps five per cent of the population have any access at all to self sufficiency. Revolutions are not glorious events where everyone goes out singing the Red Flag, shoots the police, hangs the boss and immediately takes possession of all the wealth of the world in pristine mint condition. They are long, bloody, destructive, and, above all, chaotic events. Just think what wouId happen if the majority of people no longer had Safeway and McDonald's to gently nurse them. No rhetoric please about "people will work these things out". They'd starve. How many millions are you willing to see sacrificed to the glorious future? Also, stop and consider what the first response of starving people is — THEY WANT A STRONGMAN TO SAVE THEM. Finally, I don't think that any reasonable person could deny the fact that the atomic umbrella that our empire has built up to supposedly protect itself against the Russian empire is also trained on us. Do you expect to put up a barricade high enough to stop a missile?

Second, we have to recognize the main barrier to non-insurrectional revolution (this is not equivalent to non-violent revolution) is the inability of liberatory organizations and actions to build up a competing system. We do not live in a capitalist society where the ruling class reacts to threats to its hegemony by either repression or bribery. We live in a managerial society where the inner dynamics of the competing and co-operating bureaucracies drive them to integrate threats, to turn them into means of strengthening themselves (though repression is still often used). Our response to the ruling class should be not to try to push them with demands (they love it), but rather to build up links between the various isolated struggles. A new system should be built. Food co-ops should be linked to strikes. The mostly urban based left should re-investigate its relationship to the countryside. ETC, ETC, ETC.

The building of such links should be intermediate level goal. We have to get ourselves together first, but this eventual goal should be kept in mind. We cannot imitate the commies and set up our organizations with no other goal than to put pressure on the ruling class, especially since the jackpot that supposedly comes at the end of this process, the big time revolution, is probably impossible. Such organizations will either be marginalized or will be integrated a la the Communist parties of west Europe. The commies, if they do consider 'links' necessary, think that the function of link should be reserved to the party alone. This should not be our goal also. The links between struggles will not be built just because a group intervenes with theory. We must proceed to gather the technical resources that these links will need. This is a question that should occupy our thoughts now, not at some in the future. What exactly will be the resources that various struggles will need to link up? Transportation? Radios? Computing power?

Anyway, moving from the future into the present, what is the present state of the anarchist movement in our part of the world? Our organizations that span localities such as the SRAF or the IWW (I realize that the IWW is not 'exactly' anarchist, but it is close enough to be counted as libertarian) comprise perhaps 1000 members, at a liberal estimate. Other organized anarchists, and other libertarians, comprise perhaps double that amount, once again at a liberal estimate. A pretty poor showing in a population of over 200 million. The number of convinced anarchists who are not members of formal groups comprise perhaps ten to fifteen thousand. I think that these figures point out an immediate task. What is the matter with the two large scale organizations? Why do the majority of anarchists refuse to join them? Even more importantly, why are the vast majority of anarchists unorganized? I don't believe that it is because they are all individualist anarchists.

I would like to deal with the latter question first. One of the great reasons why the majority of anarchists are unorganized is th that many anarchists consider that any specific anarchist organization is somehow 'counter-revolutionary', an imposition on the people. Organizational libertarians have failed to criticise this position thoroughly enough. This is perhaps the most important 'theoretical' task of our movement. It was good to see the article 'Why the Leninists Will Win' in the last issue of the Red Menace as a beginning of this criticism. While the non-organizational anarchists may refuse to help us in practical work they still read anarchist literature. Perhaps we can persuade them of the contradiction of refusing to work on specifically anarchist projects while working in organizations controlled by far less savory groups and individuals as many of them do.

As to those unorganized anarchists who are afraid to declare their anarchism because of possible loss of jobs, harrassment, etc., I feel that they should not be allowed to act as brakes on the more militant members.

Now, as to the main organizations in North America, the SRAF and the IWW, it seems that their main problem is the fact that they offer little in the way of organizational resources to groups affiliated or to members. Each city or locality is almost totally self-contained. The accumulated experience and resources of long term groups are not made available to neophyte groups. The result is an immensely high rate of turnover and mortality in newly formed libertarian groups. The local narrowness of the member groups of these organizations has to be overcome. At the present time we should not be thinking so much of expanding the presently existing grroups as of forming ones in new localities.

With all of the above in mind, what are the concrete tasks that we should be thinking of at the present time? The first task is probably the correction of the lamentable state of our press. The libertarian movement does not have a North American paper, even though it has dozens of magazies. The appeal of magazines is inherently limited. Our goal should be the establishment of a weekly (if possible) newspaper, enjoying wide newsstand distribution across North America. The most likely candidate for such an organ is the Open Road, published out of Vancouver. Its present publishing frequency is far too infrequent (4 times a year). Serious attention should be paid to increasing its distribution to the point where it can begin to publish more frequently. If necessary, this may mean giving consideration to the idea of canvassing the libertarian movement for funds for the support of full time staffers for the Open Road.

The second task is probably the establishment of a serious program of publication of various materials, utilizing a press and other materials that are our own and are not dependent on some government grant. Maybe such a thing already exists. If it does, however, its existence is mostly unknown to the general North American libertarian movement.

Which brings up still another point. Just exactly what is the state of our present resources? What materials, printing resource, speakers, advice, knowledge, etc. do the various isolated N.A. libertarian groups have available to help each other? Too little interchange of a practical nature has taken place between groups. This should be one of the immediate tasks also. The establishment of a serious program of touring speakers should be uppermost in our minds at the present time.

Many of the above tasks are already being thought about in a disjointed fashion amongst libertarians. Some are even being acted upon. The problem is that the action undertaken by isolated groups falls into a void the minute it goes beyond their local horizons. Believe it or not, we do have trans-local groups (the SRAF and the IWW). While criticisms can certainly be made of these groups, it is still incumbent on libertarians to make them from within the organizations it question. It is useless to carp and complain from the outside, while refusing to help in the transformation of these organizations into effective organisms.

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.

Why the Leninists will lose

By C. Dunnington

It is useless to use the threat of a victorious American Leninism as a goad to our greater activity. Leninism, in all its present variants is incapable of definitive victories in advanced capitalist society. Its practice has historically been that of militant reformists or inititators of primitive capitalist accumulation. It has been the absence of a capitalist class capable of organizing society that has allowed for its occasional successes. In this country and elsewhere their myths, the International Communist Movement, Maoism, etc., are already in advanced states of decay. Ten years of the "left" in this country have shown that there is nothing in the repertoire of the "vanguard parties" that the dominant society in one way or, another does not already possess. Leninism has no critique and nothing to offer that would deny bourgeois legitimacy.

Not since the Russian Revolution has a Social-Democratic party been brave enough to use the slogan "All power to the Soviets". Contemporary Leninism is unable to do it in this country because: a) most of them still live in the Fantasyland of "national liberation struggles" and "socialist states" whose social practice has nothing to do with the overthrow of capitalism, b) conflict with anti-authoritarian socialists leads them to emphasize their Party form as the principle positive element (!!) separating their "revolutionary" political reformism and trade-unionism froin that of conventional bourgeois groupings, c) the essentially manipulative outlook of the vanguard parties causes them to regard the councils as only another means to its organizational ends and so far, to overlook their significance. None of these conditions, however, can be considered permanent. The Leninists, while more encumbered by their ideological baggage than the "libertarian" socialists, are showing signs in Europe at least of shedding some of it.

Today's Leninists are capable, however, of sabotaging genuinely revolutionary social movements in advanced capitalist countries: a case in point being the activities of the PCF in France during 1968. The Leninists are able to beat heads and confuse people with their "transitional demands", "united fronts" and other vacuities drawn from their inexhaustible larders of catchphrases - but the Leninist parties and splinters are hardly the major problem the revolutionist movement has to face. The greatest difficulties are in the areas of empirical analysis, in the organization of theory and in the theory of organization.


Only a social movement can bring about the transformation of society along anti-authoritarian anticapitalist lines. Such a movement must be brought to constitute itself out of the present conditions by the demonstrable truth of our analyses and by the applicability of our ideas if by anything we do. We can build and coordinate our organizations, but we cannot "build" a social movement (these thoughts are analogous to those expressed by P. Mattick Jr. in Synthesis 3).

The movement must have its theory, and while it is unlikely and even undesirable that we (who?) be its only formulators, this is no reason for the laissez-faire eclecticism which presently characterizes so much of the "libertarian left". Organizations must be created on a far larger scale than presently, but upon what basis?

A simple consideration of one or more of the present libertarian ideologies as adequate (or the truce born of the failure to agree on an ideology) is an invitation to disaster. Like the rest of the so-called radical left the anti-authoritarians are captives of traditions whose days are long passed. Anarchism, Syndicalism, Council Communism, these are dead ideologies because that is the only kind of ideology there is. The theory which does not continually reassess itself, the body of thought which considers itself completed, has already consigned itself to the graveyard of ideas. How quickly this comes to pass can be discerned by the speed with which the Situationist ideology has become moribund, attended to only by atavistic sects. This is not to say that these schools of thought have nothing to offer or that there are not currents within them giving the promise of something new and better. But, until people are willing to admit that all the present formulations are inadequate, that the project of human emancipation must be rediscovered in the present against the backdrop of the defeat of anarchism, council communism and situationism, they will go nowhere.

Theory does indeed derive from practice but one needn't be so parochial as to think that one can only theorize about things he has personally committed to action. In addition to the task of developing a critique of the movements of the previous epoch, there is a wealth of experience generated by the last ten years of struggle that remains largely unknown, unanlayzed and unincorporated into the thought of the anti-authoritarian socialist movement as a whole, much less into the consciousness of the public at large. There has also been considerable development on the theoretical plane which should be assessed by the movement generally. Even the capacity of the anti-authoritarian socialists for empirical research is grossly underdeveloped when compared to that of the conventional left: our intelligence gathering function is at present inadequate.


The creation of a large organizational framework is a necessary concommitant to a social movement if the latter is to succeed. It must, however, be of such a quality that the movement is able to regard it as its own, to retake and transform them, as it comes into its own. Otherwise it must try to reconcile itself with the movement OUTSIDE and risk being a de facto party.

The need for a large organization notwithstanding, the question of organization is not one that can be answered quantitatively. Size is not the only criterion for effectiveness. The failure of the largest libertarian organization in history, that of the CNT-FAI was due neither to its insufficient size nor to its insufficiently "libertarian" outlook, as if libertarianism can be conceived on some absolute scale. It was rather the failure to trasform its praxis and its incapacity to analyze the situation in which it found itself. I submit that the problem of the absolute sovereignty of the base (its insurgence) and of developing a thouroughgoing and flexible analytical capacity are still at the core of our difficulties. Any viable revolutionary organization is going to have to be capable of handling complex debate and continuous mutability.

It is of course evident that we do not have as yet a large organizational framework. It is the unfortunate product of the era of small groups (or the era of large-organizational incapacity, whichever view one wishes to take) that the role of small groups in the revolutionary process has tended to be realized out of proportion to their real achievements. The Petofi Circle and the Situationist International were able to spark revolts, but neither was able to prepare the ground for a protracted social insurgency of sufficient quality to readily change its tactics and reassess its theoretico-practice characteristics that are prerequisites to success. Such groups will always lack staying power, whatever their initial usefulness. The heroic days of the Promethean groupuscules are at an end.

In the way that such a metaorganization might come about, I feel that a functional or organic development is the most well-reasoned. Rather than postulate "an organization" and then squeeze the parts to fit, it would seem meet to have the functions (information gathering, theoretical-informational, journalistic, gatherings for discussions and activity, etc.) come together and establish the most reasonable framework in order to coordinate their activities. In this way the organization would be constituted on an already practical and collective footing. Thus, it would not be the traditional "loose alliance", nor would it be a gathering under the hegemony of the initiatory group. The metaorganization can only be of a real value, of something that small groups recognize that they cannot do for themselves, for it to provide a sound basis for a viable large organization.

Published in The Red Menace, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1978.

Everything you wanted to know about sects but were afraid to ask

By Jimmie Higgins

..Let me warn any of you with dirty minds that this discussion is about organizations--not orgasms. I have borrowed freely from the following: Murray Bookchin's classic essay, "Listen Marxist!", Paul Cardan's writing for Solidarity (London), Greg Calvert and Carol Neiman, "A Disrupted History: The New Left And The New Capitalism", Michael Schneider, "Vanguard, Vanguard, Who's Got The Vanguard?" Liberation May and August 1972, and Michael Velli Manual for Revolutionary Leaders (A superb satire compiled and edited by Lorraine and Fred Perlman of Black and Red 1972). I wish to thank Andrea Walsh, Simon Rosenblum, Ray Larken, and Barbara MacAdam for their suggestions and criticism. All responsibility for errors, misconceptions, etc. in this article belong to them.

..All the old crap of the thirties is back again — the shit about the "class line", the "role of the working class", the "trained cadres", the "vanguard party", and the 'proletarian dictatorship". We are witnessing a Lenin revival. What makes matters worse is that some of our friends are participating in this new Lenin renaissance — they claim to be making an uneasy peace with Lenin but history reminds us that the workers at Kronstadt also made an "uneasy peace" with Lenin. Most of us have experienced the difficulty of carrying on productive discussion in public meetings without being afflicted by a plague of Trotskyists, Maoists, etc., all happily "intervening", all of them convinced that all questions are closed, that they have all the answers, and that their task is to share their wisdom with the less fortunate. Of course, all the sects are not equally bad and for some strange reason, the best and the worst are usually versions of Trotskyism.

Before getting on with this article, I would like to share my favorite sect story. I arrived in New York City to do graduate work and, as I approached the main entrance to the university, I heard a fellow yell, "Eighty per cent unemployment in Seattle. Form a Labor Party. Read the Bulletin." The Bulletin, I soon found out, was the organ of the Workers' League and the soothsayer was named Harvey. A large aircraft company had recently shut down a plant in Seattle and the unemployment rate had reached approximately fifteen per cent — how Harvey blew it up to eighty per cent, I never found out. Needless to say, I was somewhat taken back and amused by Harvey's sloganeering and decided to have a little fun with him. I approached and denounced him as a revisionist. The unemployment rate in Seattle was ninety-two not eighty per cent, I claimed, and he should know better than to spread capitalist lies! An hour later, I had registered and as I left the building, I heard Harvery screaming "Ninety-two per cent unemployment in Seattle. For a Labor Party. Read the Bulletin." Then there was the incident in the Guardian where one group denounced another for opportunism. It seems the accused had quoted Stalin simply in order to take advantage of his popularity with the Anmerican working class!! Someday, a collection of sect funnies will be published. Let me suggest a title: "Communist Infantilism, A Left-Wing Disorder". The cover would have a picture of Lenin naked in order to show that the emporer has no clothes but possesses sharp teeth.

....The greatest tragedy of the present impasse is that the reversion to Leninist forms and Maoist rhetoric has stifled much of the life-affirming content of the New Left and has warped its sense of personal and public values. The return to dogmatic rigidity and life-denying values which colours the present (hopefully transitory) period is indeed unfortunate when one realizes that ever greater numbers of Americans are searching for a meaningful political alternative to both the sterility of their private personal existence and the impotent quadrennial spectacle of the humpty-dumpty politics of the ballot box.

However tinged with utopianism (strategic romanticism and tactical adventurism), the twin conceptions of "participatory democracy" and "parallel institutions" formed the key notions of the New Left before the late 1960's. The New Left had accurately intuited that an organization is likely to make a revolution in its own image. If we cannot transcend the vales of repressive civilization in our living and thinking, in our loving and acting, if we cannot develop a revolutionary life-style or mode of behavior which transcends the social norms of bourgeois society, then we cannot make a revolution. A good society can only be measured by the quality of individual lives and the quality of human relationships, and the revolutionary process must establish these values as primary. Leninism is incompatable with the life-affirming and libertarian values which a socialist movement must represent, and with a movement in which individuals develop the self-consciousness and self-reliance which makes them act as part of a determined and clear headed force which develops socialism out of the womb of capitalism.

During the 1960's, the bankruptcy of Leninist practice clearly revealed inself in the inability of the Leninists to deal creatively with the life-affirming, libertarian, and creative elements of the youth cultural revolt. Either the search for new life forms and new modes of self-expression were treated as "petit-bourgeois self-indulgence" or was channelled into "hatred of the ruling class". Nothing separated sectarian left organizations, in the eyes of young people, from the moth-eaten and rotten instituions they met on coming into the social world. And now a word from Leon Trotsky: "There are people who only succeed in remaining revolutionists by keeping their eyes shut. ("Introduction to "the First Five Years of The Communist International"). After years of positive development, the 1960's ended in what Marx called "all the old shit." Indeed, as he remarked, "the first time is tragedy, the second time farce."

The recent growth of the "new communist parties'' brings with it the new party discipline which bears no trace of subjective liberation; it brings us, not a "new man" but a new left-authoritarian personality. Efforts to oppose the Bolshevik type of party with a different conception of political structure are branded as "anarchism, spontaneism, or ultra-leftism."

The social relations behind class consciousness are social relations between leaders and followers, social relations of subordination and control. They are dependence relations. What is meant by class conscious masses is people who submit to the will of a revolutionary leader, people who cannot dispense with subordination, control, and managers. Class consciousness is a euphemism for the mass psychology of dependence.
- Michael Velli

The Leninist "industrial cadre" never gets around to learning about any of the particular needs, desires and problems of their fellow workers. As a result of their perspective, their objective stance in relation to the working class is one of moralism — an attitude of "nagging the workers." The debate continues: to bore from within the unions or to bore from the outside. Meanwhile the effect on working people is the same — boring! Their slogans such as "smash the state apparatus" and "distroy the machinery of capitalist domination" may be politically correct in a formal way. But since, in those slogans, the act of "destruction" determines the form of the political agitation and propaganda, their immediate effect, from the subjective and mass-psychological point of view, is only to arouse anxiety and defensiveness within the working class. One wonder how anyone could believe them when they say socialism develops not only the material productive forces but also the creative imagination of the masses when they themselves articulate their political beliefs as if they were reciting a liturgy. For instance, the dazzling esthetic appeal of the dictatorship of the proletariat! Marx (who was hardly a "cultural Marxist") was able to capture this development in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Lois Bonaparte:

The tradition of all the dead generation weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of a past to their service and borrow from their names, battle cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world. hiatory in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language.

..Why does Marxism-Leninism "thrive"? Part of the reason lies in the fact that modern society is geared towards crushing any attempt at self activity and at autonomous thinking. We are always encouraged to rely on others to choose and decided for us, and to provide the answers to all our problems. Many people, especially among the youth, are deeply disillusioned with the values of this society. Yet a number of them join Leninist organizations or become Jesus freaks or followers of some guru. This is not so surprising, considering the fact that in all of these outfits all the answers are provided. The disciples are relieved of the need to decide or choose for themselves. The Party line — or the word of the Master — does it for them. They are no longer burdened by the resposibilities of decisions to be made. A deep feeling of insecurity attracts people like a magnet towards any closed system of ideas which will relieve them from anxiety in the face of the unknown.

..Other Leninist recruits have such a bad conscience about their bourgeois or petty-bourgeois origins that they make a fetish of self-denial and cultivate a martyred look as though they were bearing the cross for the entire working class. Revolutionary politics must not become the last refuge of neurotic rigidity and of the need for security. For as Wilhelm Reich pointed out many years ago: "In our thinking we must learn to go through changes. This is to be distinguished from lacking convictions. Our adherence to organization and transmitted ideas can get in the way of seeing the living reality and we must learn to recognize that.'' Socialists should begin to understand their role as an active, self-conscious, intentional minority, as radical catalysts rather than as a vanguard leadership. Mistakes will be made but as Rosa Luxemburg declared: "Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee. "

. The Leninist sects are essentially part of the problem, not part of the solution. Fortunately, as Todd Gitlin has been quoted as saying American society continues to make radicals more rapidly than the radical movement turns them off. No matter what the number of left sect, we would rather fight for what we want (even if we don't get it in our lifetime) than fight for what we don't want ... and get it.

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.

Obscenity Exposed

By Ulli Diemer

This January, a St. Catharines man who operates a chain of sex stores was found guilty of "possessing, displaying, and selling obscene sex aids." Police presented more than 200 pieces of evidence in court, including dildos, vibrators, crotchless panties, and candies, candles, and key chains shaped like genitalia. The trial once again raised the whole question of what is "obscene" and what effect suppression has in creating the need and desire for that which it is supposed to suppress.

But the most interesting thing about the trial was the evidence of the police officers who made the arrest. Each was asked by the defence lawyer why he considered the objects seized to be obscene. And each one in turn replied that these were not the kind of things sold by Eaton's or Simpson's.

This, it must be admitted, is a criteria for judging what is obscene and what is not that is as profound as it is simple. It neatly and effectively slices through the impenetrable legal and moral tangle that has surrounded obscenity cases for so many years, and gives us a foolproof standard which, while it may appear to be arbitrary on the surface, actually represents what Hegel might have called the unfolding concept. It contains, in fact, the perfect unity of form and content, as well as the synthesis of quantity and quality.

Consider the root of the word 'obscene.' Literally, it means off scene. Something that is not seen or spoken of. Something taboo. Eatons and Simpson's are the crystallized essence of capitalist social relations (in the case of Eaton's Crystal Palace at Yonge and Dundas in Toronto, this is true literally as well as figuratively.) In this society of the commodity, "there is no vision except the dominant vision, no thought except the dominant thought, and reality except the dominant reality." There is nothing but Eaton's and Simpson's. Thus everything that is not Eaton's or Simpson's is obscene, in both meanings of the word: off scene, non-existent, not allowed to be spoken of, taboo, and indecent, pornographic, lewd, an affront to society's (i.e. Eaton's) moral standards. As always, capitalism's underlying philosophy

The end of dialectical materialism: An anarchist reply to the libertarian Marxists

P. Murtagh's 1978 critique of libertarian Marxism from The Red Menace.

By P. Murtaugh

Words I teach all mixed up in a devilish muddle,
Thus, anyone may think just what he chooses to think;
Never, at least, is he hemmed in by strict limitations.
Bubbling out of the flood, plummeting down from the cliff,
So are his beloved's words and thoughts that the poet devises;
He understands what he thinks, freely invents what he feels.
Thus, each may for himself suck wisdom's nourishing nectar;
Now you know all, since I've said plenty of nothing to you!

from 'On Hegel' by K. Marx

Libertarian Marxism is a rather recent development, as far as political theories and movements go. I suppose that a truly dedicated historian could dig up the bones of various defunct political groups and individuals who held similar views during the last two hundred years. Even the ever invoked shade of Karl Marx is dredged up, and once again we are treated to the spectacle of 'what Marx really meant'. This time though with a difference; through a libertarian Marxism. A Marxism that essentially reduces down to anarchist politics tied to Marxist philosophy. Is this mixture viable? I would say no, and the following paragraphs are my reasons.

What is libertarian Marxism? From my conversations with those who subscribe to this set of ideas it seems to me that there are basically two sincere reasons why people become libertarian Marxists and one insincere one. The sincere ones first.

People often move from 'pure' Marxism to libertarian marxism because of the obvious sterility and brutality of standard Marxist-Leninist practice. The first reaction is disgust with what their fellow Marxists have made of socialism. It is only later that these people work through the theoretical justification for their particular brand of Marxism. The problem is that in moving from a Marxist position to one of anarchist politics they meet not an organized serious anarchist movement, with its own theoretical apparatus but a fragmented, disorganized collection of small groups and individuals. In this vacuum libertarian Marxism grows as an alternative to the emptiness and vagueness of present day anarchism in this part of the world.

Other people approach libertarian Marxism from another direction, through anarchism. These people become fed up with the state of the present day anarchist movement and opt for libertarian Marxism, in the hope that it will provide some sort of coherant theory and guide to practice. This tendency has always been present in the anarchist movement, and is most particularity evident in those times and places where the emotional 'gut-feeling' idea of anarchism holds strong sway (i.e. the idea that theory, tactics, a plan, organization, etc. are unimportant and only a strong hatred of oppression is needed for the overthrow of the system). In these cases it is an inevitable reaction of anarchists to borrow their theory from the Marxists, in the hope of providing some sort of coherance. This particular borrowing has always disappeared when individual revolt turns to mass revolt and when anarchism ceases to be the resort of bohemians and becomes a mass movement. In such cases the anarchist movement has inevitably thrown up its own theoreticians — of equal calibre to those of the Marxists.

Now, we come to the clincher — the insincere reason why some people become 'libertarian Marxists', or any other flavour of Marxist for that matter. One of the things that Marxists fail to realize when they sit down to spin philosophy is that their insight that, in a class society, systems of thought also have a class character also applies to their own pet theory. For every theory of society is likely to be accepted by a particular class of people and not others, and every theory of society has certain objective effects if its acceptance becomes widespread. The effects of the widespread acceptance of Marxism are so obvious that only a blind man could fail to see them. Over fifty years of the bloodiest tyranny the world has ever seen gives ample proof of the nature of practical as opposed to theoretical Marxism.

Just as the theory of liberalism acted as a front for the rise of the capitalist class (and just as liberalism was not the only ideology suitable for this rise), so the theories of Marxism provide ample cover for the rise of a new ruling class. To serve such a purpose a class ideology must have certain characteristics. One, it must provide the oppressed class with a myth of the justice and rightness of the present set-up. Marxism's cover of abstractions about the 'proletarian dictatorship' obviously serve this function. Second, it must provide the ruling class with an acceptable 'moral' justification for their actions Class societies that are founded on nothing but naked power don't tend to produce the type of rulers who have a good survival rate. Morale is an important factor in the survival of any society, especially morale amongst its leaders. Once again, the function of Marxist rationalizations in this area are too obvious to be mentioned. The final important characteristic that a class ideology must have is that it very possession must itself make a substantial difference in the very nature of the person possessing it. While 'libertarian' Marxists may be able to escape the first few charges, it is this aspect that betrays certain of them as what they really are. Perhaps I should try to make what I am saying a little clearer.

Most class ideologies are really not one but two ideologies. There is one ideology for the rulers and one for the ruled. To be brief and simplistic, under feudalism there is honour (and all the other ideological baggage of the lords) and salvation through meekness and obedience (and all the other Christian and patriarchal baggage). Under capitalism there is efficiency and justice. For the capitalist his system is best because it is efficient. The 'freedom' it provides suppossedly ensures the optimum allocation of all possible resources. The process of becoming a businessman is also a long process of initiation into the correct knowledge i.e. the rules of a certain gamble. In his most unguarded moments the successful businessman will readily concede that the huge chance factor proves that 'justice' plays little role in alloting rewards in capitalism. The intelligent conservative position (what used to be called liberal) is precisely this — freedom produces efficiency. To the working class, however, the justification for capitalism is that it somehow embodies justice, that 'hard work is rewarded'. The strenth of this conviction can be gauged by the fact that immense popular indignation can be whipped up against the unemployed or those on welfare, but anyone who tried to suggest that old age pensions should be cut would find himself on the quickest possible road to political oblivion.

Now, how does the possession of Marxist theory serve to divide people into rulers and ruled? A good idea can be gained by comparing the attitude of rank and file Marxists to 'what are the basic ideas of socialism' to the attitude of the leadership. To the average rank and file socialist socialism is about justice, equality, freedom, love — very simple and human ideas and ones capable of being expressed in plain language. If the average socialist does know anything at all about 'dialectical materialism' it is usually only the vaguest most mechanical bit of theory learned from popularizing tracts that his leadership thinks is proper fare for the rank and file. The socialism of the rank and file socialist is instinctive and not overlaid by a massive weight of theory. Usually he or she cares little for all the oppressive volume of tracts and theorizing turned out by the leadership. Your average Maoist cares more for the fairy tales of how happy are the workers and peasants in the Peoples' Shitworks and Prefabricated Outhouse Man-ufacturing Plant in Shitsang Province than he does for all the attempts of Maoist professors to prove the intellectual brilliance of Mao's thought.

Now, dialectical materialism is a very subtle and complicated system of abstractions and a method of mental calculus for manipulating the events of the world. Its successful practice usually requires the ability to quote obscure biblical texts at the drop of a polemic. Its use also requires the attainment of the mental habit of refusing to ask simple questions in ordinary English (or whatever language you speak). This sort of knowledge and habit is not picked up in a day. It usually requires a period of years of study — which means the leisure or infinite determination to make leisure to study. Whether the doubtful usefulness of dialectical materialism in solving practical problems is ever shown to be real or not (it certainly does provide all sorts of convenient methods of confusing issues, so it may be 'practical' after all, in a twisted sort of way) the fact is that its addition to the ideological baggage of the socialist movement has certainly made the self definition of various people, usually intellectuals, as 'revolutionary leaders' immensely easier. The immediate response of most non-intellectuals to a barrage of senseless words is "gee whiz are you ever wonderful Mr. Professor". The natural respect that people show for knowledge is easily taken advantage of by various charlatans who know well how to give the appearance of knowledge. Some, perhaps a majority, of people are convinced that anything they cannot understand must be really brilliant.

"... took a book of logarithyms, photographed a page at random, shone it high upon the blackboard, with the overhead projector.
Thirty seven, forty seven, from the Ampex Corporation.
Gleaming in its chromium plating, from the Ampex Corporation.
And they thought that he was very clever,
For they could not understand his logarithms."

-from Hiawatha's Lipid

The content of 'dialectical materialism' consists of unproved and unprovable assertions, along with enough obvious truisms to give it the air of plausibility. An argument about its 'correctness' could likely go on forever without any successful conclusion. The point is not whether this or that particular assertion is correct or not. The point is what the result of accepting a theory of byzantine complexity (with equally byzantine disagreements as to what is 'real' dialectics as the usual result) is on the socialist movement that accepts this theory as the truth. I would submit that it encourages the penetration of a certain type of individual into the socialist movement — the type who will procede to establish his control over the movement because of his presumed 'intellectual brilliance'. I think that the history of all Marxist movements show that I am right. I would be interested to see if any Libertarian Marxists can answer this charge. That Marxism is bifocal, like other class ideologies (Marxism for the masses versus Marxism for the leaders) is a charge that is not simply a personal attack or 'intellectual baiting', but an important question that will have repercussions on the type of movement we are going to build.

I do not consider that everything that Marx said was wrong, and I do not consider that all libertarian Marxists are sinister conspirators. Yet I would ask the sincere libertarian Marxists to consider the results of what they advocate. The theoretical discipline that they acquired while they were Marxists is needed in the anarchist movement. Their energies would be better used in the building of a coherent anarchist and modern theory than in trying to drag the rotting corpse of Hegel into the movement. I also do not consider that all intellectuals are somehow 'evil' and ever ready to take over a movement for socialism. I feel that our movement must do its best to attract the sincere seekers after truth among the intellectuals. We must, however, never allow any particular priesthood of 'those who understand to come to dominate the movement. I feel that we must abandon systems of thought that encourage such priesthoods if we are to attract the type of intellectuals who will be of the most benefit to the anarchist movement.

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.

Bain Ave. controversy

A reply to an account on a conflict between two factions within an apartment complex headed towards co-operative ownership.

Note: The last issue of [i]The Red Menace carried an article entitled Bain Co-op Meets Wages for Housework. The article was a report on the political polarization that took place at Bain Ave. apartments, involving groups of tenants with sharply differing views of the future of the project, and was strongly critical of the role played by the Wages for Housework rent freeze group in the dispute. Printed below is a response to that article written by the three principal organizers of the rent freeze group. It is followed by a reply from Ulli Diemer, the author of the original article. The Red Menace asked representatives of the Bain Ave. majority to respond to the submission from the rent freeze group as well, but their response was not ready as of press time.[/i]

To the editor,

After reading Ulli Diemer’s political thriller, "Bain Co-op Meets Wages for Housework", we must say it is a fine piece of fiction. However sometimes the truth is more exciting.

We apologize for being so busy during the struggle that we forgot to read the "Libertarian Handbook on Working Class Behaviour, sec. 4 — Tenants." The managers of the Bain Co-op are also angry that so many people ignored their circulars on "How to Pay Rent Increases". Your articles is useful however, for amplifying a number of misconceptions that the Co-op managers and assorted leftists here pushed, in order to stop the struggle. But you were able to out-do even them — for they knew, that they could never sell such a cornucopia of inaccuracies and distortions here at Bain. Since the points that we could take issue with are so numerous, it is best to isolate a few themes you chose to dwell on.

a) Perhaps the most amazing part of your analysis was the idea that the tenants were at fault for being interested in "putting more money in their pockets". You obviously feel that we would be better off trading in our standard of living for the Co-op’s offer of "community control". Maybe you think we should organize next for an even greater increase — that would really impress the government with the Co-op’s management capability! Ironically, that is exactly the track record of our Co-op leaders during the last two years. But as a fellow tenant said at one of the rent increase meetings, "What good is ownership if I can’t afford to live here". Records show that between January 1977 and October at least 50 units have been vacated at Bain, and more are still moving. And we will be getting another increase of between $11 and $32 in a few months, the 4th in only three years.

For you to tell us, as tenants and workers, that we should not care about money, or organize against an 18% rent increase because we ’’walked into it with our eyes open" is an incredible piece of arrogance. Exactly what kind of identification with tenants do you or your magazine claim to have? What do you think past struggles at Bain or by tenants elsewhere have been about? Do you think that tenants fought against evictions, for rent control, and for better maintenance so that we could pay through the nose in a Co-op? Where have you, as a so-called community reporter, been for the last 15 years? Why is it OK with you for workers in the factory to want more money, while here, in the community, money becomes a ’vulgar’ thing. You are asking us to subsidize the left’s ideal of "community control" with our free labour. The co-op like yourself feels that money and more work are no object whatsoever for tenants. If we want better maintenance, either we pay more or we live in a slum, unless we make up the difference with our own free labour, shovelling side walks, repairing leaky faucets, and building the "co-op spirit". And all the while, Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation pockets $350,000 a year in interest payments from Bain tenants. This is really what Co-op and government "Non-profit" housing are all about. We are sorry to inform you that money is still our only defence against more free work for the State. Shutting up and waiting to see if the co-op — after more than 2 years of stalling — was really going to stop skyrocketing rents here was something we damn well were not going to do. We wanted affordable housing, good maintenance, and to keep our hard-earned money in our pockets. If that’s asking too much, then there isn’t a bit of difference between you and Trudeau telling us we are "living too high off the hog" and to lower our expectations!

b) One of your main obsessions was the composition of the group of tenants who were organizationally active, and the role Wages for Housework played in the struggle. Spiced with comments like, ’this group consisting primarily of members and supporters of WFH...’ or ’now reduced to its original core of WFH people,’ etc, your objective presumably was to portray the tenants who were active in our struggle as small in numbers, and part of WFH only. Does it not seem odd to you that there was such a massive reaction from the Co-op governors, the City of To-ronto, and last but not least — yourself? Or perhaps you could explain how a handful of tenants could possibly keep a struggle going for 6 months? In any case, you personally watched 137 tenants vote against the Co-op at the May ’77 referendum on ownership here at Bain - a vote that was clearly against the control of our money and lives by either the Co-op or the government. We know, and we suspect you know, that your attack on Wages for Housework and the struggle here, is nothing more than a clear trashing of the many tenants who do not happen to share your ideas on how to fight for their needs.

Certainly Wages for Housework was involved in the struggle from early on. However it was a development far less mysterious or conspiritorial than you would have us believe. A tenant, who was in our already quite rebellious group opposing the increase, simply offered the resources of the Wages for Housework Campaign — both in terms of technical help, and also their experience, in making other fights for money and against unpaid work. No one thought this was odd — especially as most of the tenants who were active were also women (a situation which happens to be common in tenant struggles everywhere). Neither were there any cries of ’outsiders’. If you jog your memory as a community reporter, you may recall that help from outside groups and individual tenants was common in all the major housing battles like South St. Jamestown and Quebec-Gothic. Then as now, it was welcomed and needed to win. Solidarity among tenants wherever they live, is not our invention.

Also, in contrast to your idea that we had some sort of monolithic organization taking orders from WFH — quite the opposite was true. We made group decisions on possible routes of action, and no decision prevented any tenant from making their fight in anyway they pleased — in fact, a number of tenants expressed their opposition to the Co-op on their own, which was something we always welcomed and encouraged. Perhaps this is why you saw the ’tactics’ so far removed from your own and the left’s rigid ideas of tenant struggles. Your conception of women’s leadership and the role of Wages for Housework at Bain is clearly rooted in the traditional position that those with less power should submit to those who claim to represent ’the majority’. But when they do, their own specific interests are always lost. You say, for example, that ’of course the issues (of high rents, etc.) concern male and female residents equally’. In fact, the women were in the forefront of the struggle precisely because it effected them more. Not only do women with a second job have only half the money of men, but full-time housewives know that rent increases mean still more housework - more budgeting, bargain-shopping, and soothing family tensions which always mount up quicker when money is tight. Your comments claiming that tenants with subsidies — most of whom are women - are ’not affected’ by rent increases because of increased subsidies is also wrong. Not only do they feel the increased poverty of their neighbours, but they themselves are further ’in the hole’, as future wage increases simply mean a lower subsidy. Subsidized tenants, in fact, were among the most active organizers of the rent freeze.

What lies just beneath the surface in your article is not simply your objection to the role of Wages for Housework here (which you did not do much to find out about anyway), but rather the fact that you, like the Co-op managers could not stomach a struggle led by women which broke all the rules in the book because ’democracy’ was the instrument of the more powerful Co-op forces against us.

c) Much of your thesis seems to rest on a rather dogmatic notion of "community control", and of course, the unquestionable virtues of "the democratic process". Had you bothered to include a few minor facts such as the wave of door-to-door visits by the Co-op office staff and council members telling tenants that supporting the rent-freeze would surely mean their eviction and/or loss of their rent subsidies — it might have put that vote against the rent-freeze in a more realistic perspective. Many tenants simply did not want to show their support publicly after having been intimidated. Who, after all, meets them at the Co-op office if they want something done, or if the rent is late? You might also have mentioned the fact that our so-democratically-elected council here at Bain had only 13 people running for the 12 positions, and about 45 tenants out of 400 voted them in. Or perhaps you might have explained why the Co-op managers frantically lobbied ward aldermen to change the rules set for the referendum on ownership immediately after the City committee had arbitrated a compromise between the Co-op and the tenants’ organization. Had the rules agreed upon been used, we would have won the vote with 37% of the tenants against the Co-op. You also conveniently described the Co-op meeting to evict tenants withholding rent as having "voted by a large majority to issue eviction notices". In actuality, although 120 tenants attended the meeting, most were disgusted with the affair, and the vote was only 57 to 23 - hardly a blazing majority of the Co-op. And finally, why if you and the Co-op are so concerned about the City of Toronto being the cause of our high rents, did the Co-op council decide to forgo action against the City for the misuse of $300,000 — over the constant demands of tenants to do so for at least one and one-half years? Had you included these and other points, it would have of course been dificult for you to write your article at all. But for us here, it was precisely this kind of "democracy" and "community control" that we opposed. It was, in fact, our struggle for affordable housing that was trying to bring back tenant control — control that we had won in the past here at Bain by fighting back against the City.

You would have us, instead, ’form a disciplined corporate entity capable of dealing with the government bureaucracies which provide the necessary capital, and even in a sense, that tenants become their own landlord’. If you can’t beat them, join them, right Ulli? The Co-op has always been quite cozy with the governments (while at the same time putting on airs of opposition of course). And this ownership deal was too good for the Co-opers to refuse. The City politicians would help the Co-op by changing the rules, and issuing eviction orders for the Co-op, and the Co-op managers would become the proud owners of Bain Ave., while many of us would be forced to move out. In return, the Co-op would of course, enforce rent increase, and generally keep the tenants from making any demands.

It was also quite useful to keep us split from the other City of Toronto Non-profit Housing tenants, who at that time were at the boiling point over their own rent increases — and watching Bain Ave. very closely. You certainly mystify the State, Ulli - which for you can only be in Ottawa or in some corporate office. But is was quite clear that for us as tenants at Bain, the actions of the Co-op put the State right at our doorsteps. Tenants here were not as confused about that as you are. At the rent-freeze meeting, a tenant who had seen landlords at Bain come and go, asked whether the speaker for the Co-op was ’working for the City’. Other tenants quite seriously wondered whether a red flag would go up in the courtyards after the Co-Op took over. And we were quite right in associating the Co-op managers and the left with the State — for their position in the name of Co-op ownership and ’community control’ was austerity, high rents, and free labour or forced eviction.

It is incredible to us that you underwrite this position simply because of the supposed ’democratic process’ that was going on at Bain. Trudeau got elected democratically no? And as a Canadian Native put it at a Co-op general meeting, ’For our people, democracy is best demonstrated by the activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police against us’. If we were expected to wait to fight until the ’will of the majority’ let us, whether at Bain or elsewhere, then not only the tenants here, but also women, blacks, native peoples, and others would be waiting in vain for the go-ahead.

Finally, where does the Red Menace stand in this controversy between the tenants and the Co-op managers at Bain? From the slogan on"your back cover, "Capitalism is icky", it seems that like Ulli, you are not about to get your hands dirty with "vulgar things" like the struggle by workers for money. And maybe like the Co-op, you also long for a little hide-away subsidized by the free labour of the workers and tenants. If so - TOUGH LUCK!

For the Tenants Voice
Linda Jain
Francie Wyland
Steve Oltuski

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.

Ulli Diemer replies to Wages for Housework

A reply to a letter disputing an account on a conflict between two factions within an apartment complex headed towards co-operative ownership.

Ulli Diemer replies:

The reply from the "Tenant’s Voice" refers to my article as "a fine piece of fiction" and as "a cornucopia of inaccuracies and distortions". However, the reader will look in vain through the reply for any indication of just which facts in my article are supposed to be untrue or distorted, since the "Tenant’s Voice" addresses itself solely to my real and imagined conclusions rather than to the facts I cited to support them. I suggest that readers go back and compare the reply with my original article: they will find that the central facts I cited there are not challenged in the reply, but simply passed over in discreet silence.

Where inaccuracies and distortions do appear, however, is in the reply from the "Tenants’s Voice". I will leave most of these for later refutation by the Bain majority; here I just want to take up a few items that specifically misrepresent key aspects of what I said.

The reply states I advocate that tenants "form a disciplined corporate entity capable of dealing with government bureaucracies which provide the necessary capital" and ... "that tenants become their own landlord". "If you can’t beat them, join them, right Ulli?" they say. In fact, however, the quotation they cite has been blatantly taken out of context. It actually appears, as anyone can verify by checking the original article, as part of a discussion of the potential problems of co-ops, and is specifically made as a criticism. In the passage in question I state, among other things, that the Bain experience "does not necessarily mean that it is best to pursue the co-op route", that in a co-op "residents’ control is greatly restricted by the fact that urban land continues to be controlled by the forces of the capitalist market", and that "one of the main drawbacks of the process of becoming a co-operative as it took place at Bain was the way it channelled the energies of a significant number of active and politically aware residents into legal and bureaucratic activities". To tear part of one sentence out of that discussion, deliberately misrepresent it, use it to make it appear that I am an apologist for the very things I am drawing attention to and criticizing and use this as a pretext for launching into a long diatribe against my supposed views — views I have specifically rejected in the very passage the quote has been taken from — well, I think this kind of tactic speaks for itself.

Elsewhere, they attribute to me the view that "tenants were at fault for being intested in ’putting more money in their pockets’ ", that "we should not care about money", and that "it is OK ... for workers in the factory to want more money, while here in the community, money becomes a ’vulgar’ thing". Nowhere did I say or imply anything of the sort. What I did say was:
(a) that "residents were of course interested in paying as little rent as possible ... And they thought a co-op would be the best way of achieving that goal.";
(b) that the Wages for Housework stance was "a short-sighted position even in its own terms, since most co-ops do have a better track record on rents";
(c) that if necessary residents were willing to make some short-term financial sacrifices in the expectation of benefitting financially in the long run, and that this was a valid decision, and;
(d) that the Wages for Housework position is a "vulgar form of economic determinism" because it is based on the premise that people will only respond, and can only be organized around, issues that have to do with putting more money in their pockets.

It is this last point that is the key to the elitism of Wages for Housework. They think they have discovered the key to the class struggle, and insist on fitting everything onto their Procrustean bed. (The Trotskyists have essentially the same approach with their fetishization of correct "transitional demands" and "correct slogans".) Let us be clear: there is no dispute at all about the importance and validity of economic demands, whether in the workplace or in the community. What is under dispute is Wages for Housework’s insistence that money is the only thing around which it is permissible to organize, their arrogant belief that working class people cannot be interested in anything except money, and their demonstrated determination to actually sabotage working-class struggles that refuse to stick to the narrow goals Wages for Housework has predetermined for them. In this respect, Wages for Housework appears as a degenerated version of Leninism. Where Lenin proclaimed that the working class could by its own efforts attain only a narrow economic consciousness, and added the corollary that it was the role of bourgeois intellectuals to bring socialist consciousnss to it from the outside, Wages for Housework accepts the original proposition but adds a new corollary: the theory that it is the role of middle-class radicals (born-again under the all-encompassing rubric of "housewife", which conveniently erases all class distinctions) to make sure that the working class does not transcend the supposed economistic limits of its consciousness.

Where this thinking leads became rather clear at Bain: Those residents who share the objective of forming a co-op — the vast majority — are characterized as the enemy, even though they are far more representative of women, the poor, and the working class (the group Wages for Housework claims to represent) than the rent freeze group.

The rent freeze group is played up because it is said to be led by women who are taking on "management" or "the co-op". (The terms are used interchangeably, and it is stated, quite falsely, that "the Co-op managers would become the proud owners of Bain Ave.") Never mind that the co-op consists of all residents, who all share ownership equally and that major decisions are made at face-to-face meeting anyone can attend: the residents, we are assured, are manipulated by the executive. Who is on the executive? Twelve people, nine of them women, three of them single mothers on social assistance. They pay the same rents as everybody else. Never mind, they are not representative. How did they get on the executive? Well, they were elected, but elections are just bourgeois democracy: Trudeau was elected, and he isn’t representative. But wasn’t the decision not to hold a rent freeze made at a well-attended meeting, after a great deal of leafletting, convassing, and face-to-face discussion, by a 120 to 16 vote? Yes, but the leafleting by the pro-co-op group massively defeated again in a referendum where 87 per cent of residents voted by secret ballot? Ah yes, but that’s voting, and that’s bourgeois democracy, and that doesn’t count, remember? The government shoud intervene to impose the will of the minority on the majority. (But isn’t the government itself the main example of bourgeois democracy? Never mind, let’s not go off on tangents...) Besides, the people who favour the co-op want (collective) ownership of their homes, so they can’t really be working class or poor, since we all know homeowners are bourgeois. Everybody knows only tenants are really working class, and even then only if they agree with Wages for Housework...

Thinking like this can’t be argued against. But then maybe it doesn’t have to be.

Ulli Diemer

Published in Volume 2, Number 2 of The Red Menace, Spring 1978.

Red Menace #4 - Volume 3, Number 1 - Winter 1979

The Red Menace was a Canadian libertarian socialist publication put out from 1976-1980.

Taken from

Introdcution to this Issue

Fortunately for the collective, the rate of publication of the Red Menace does not indicate the rate of activity of the group.

The bright side of things is that our experience with the last two issues has helped us isolate the factors that prevent the Red Menace from appearing more often. As a result, the magazine will likely appear more often and more regularly in the future.

The most important article in this issue is the Statement of Principles in the centre. This was discussed exhaustively by the group and represents the most detailed expression so far of our common position. We encourage people to send us their comments and criticisms of it. Groups wishing to undertake common work with us should note that this document is the basis on which we would undertake such collaboration.

The other articles speak for themselves. The anarchist/Marxist debate continues with a reply by Sam Dolgoff to Ulli Diemer's comments in the last issue as well as several articles and letters. In future issues we will not devote as much space to this topic, so please make your letters to the point and do not repeat arguments.

We hope to see you again in three months. Meanwhile, back to faceless conspiracy.

A Political Statement of the Libertarian Socialist Collective

Winter 1979

This statement should not be seen as a comprehensive analysis, or as a substitute for one. It is a sketch of the most basic outlines of our politics and their fundamental orientation, and a indication of the basic political criteria for membership in the LSC. The discussion regarding the nature of socialism, in particular, is only an attempt to indicate some of the most basic pre-conditions and principles of socialism, as we see them. They are an absolute minimum, in no way an attempt to elaborate on the creative possibilities that will be able to emerge in a socialist world. We see this statement as a beginning, nothing more.

1. Women and men make history, but they do so in circumstances not of their own choosing. Their activities, the lives they lead, shape society, but the nature of their activities and their lives has already been shaped by society. All societies in existence are class societies, societies based not on freedom but on the organized unequal distribution of power and wealth.

2. The fundamental basis of all class societies is the relations of production: the relations people enter into to satisfy material needs, to produce and reproduce life itself.

3. In all countries in existence the fundamental relation of production is wage labour, the sale and purchase of labour power. This relation presupposes and determines the relation of capital, and the existence of two basic classes: the class which owns and controls the means of production, and which lives from the profit it derives from that control, and the class which to survive must sell its ability to work and produce, its labour power: the working class.

4. Tied to that fundamental relationship is the whole network of relationships which taken together comprise the totality of social life: political, cultural, psychological, sexual, and so on. These relations in turn react upon and change the relations of production.

5. The result is a class society in which the vast majority of people have no control over the decisions that affect their lives, over their activities at work, over the general development and use of their productive and creative powers. Their own powers are alienated from them, and produce results alien to them and opposed to them. Their human powers become things, commodities that have a value only insofar as they have a value for capital.

6. The alien power that stands opposed to them is increasingly centralized and integrated into the framework of the state. In a number of countries, this dynamic of capitalism to increased centralization of power has taken the form of a state-dominated society in which the capitalist class itself has been swept away. Whether the term capitalism still applies to such societies is perhaps debatable. What is not debatable is that these societies are still class societies based on wage labour in which the fundamental relations of production and domination typical of traditional capitalism still exist. Ironically, some of these states were created partly through the efforts of a working class aiming at the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Their inability to carry the revolution its successful conclusion, the creation of socialism, resulted in the most concentrated expression of capitalist alienation: their own revolutionary efforts ended by producing results alien to and opposed to them.

7. The tendency to an increased role and power for the state is a world-wide phenomenon. The different forms it has taken at different times and in different countries are all indicative of the universality of the general trend. The experiences of different "socialist" and "communist" countries such as the USSR, Yugoslavia, China, etc., of social-democratic regimes, of fascism, of liberal welfare-state capitalism, of "revolutionary" third world regimes, make it clear that world-wide forces are involved. In underdeveloped countries in particular a centralized authoritarian state has frequently emerged, often under the control of regimes calling themselves "socialist" or "revolutionary" to carry out the tasks of capital accumulation that traditionally was seen as the role of the bourgeoisie.

8. Capitalism is a world-wide system which can only be overthrown on a world scale. Socialism in one country or a group of countries is impossible so long as economically or militarily significant capitalist nations or multinational corporations remain in existence. This is not to say, however, that significant progress toward socialism is not possible in particular countries or areas prior to a world-wide revolution. As even a failure such as the Popular Unity government in Chile demonstrated, a leftist or left-social-democratic government can be a great advantage for a working-class movement, in the way it adds to the momentum and possibilities of a popular movement, in the way it represents the increased strength of the movement, in the way it creates international repercussions and an international example. Such achievements can be the basis for moving on to further victories, if the movement remains aware that it has to keep moving ahead, if the movement does not come to see this step along the road as a goal.

9. The basis of capitalist society (including the so-called "socialist" countries) is wage labour. People who sell their labour power, and who have no significant control over the work they do, whether or not they produce surplus value, whether their collars are blue, white or pink, together comprise the working class. The working class has a central role to play in the struggle for the overthrow of the society based on capital, because it is in direct daily contact with the exploitative core of that society, and because its numbers and collective strength give it a unique position of power at the controlling centres of society.

10. In the revolutionary overthrow of the social system based on wage labour, the working class plays a crucial role but the participation of many other sectors of the population is vital as well. Housewives, children, pensioners and non-working-class people such as farmers, students, professionals and other members of the petty-bourgeoisie have important roles to play as well. Revolution must be the work of all oppressed people, not the working class alone. This is especially true in countries where the working class does not comprise the majority of the population.

Libertarian Socialism
11. The aim of the revolutionary overthrow of existing society is socialism. However, to call oneself a socialist today is meaningless unless one specifies what one means by socialism. We define ourselves as libertarian socialists. The socialist perspective, as we see it, implies a total critique of human society as it is presently constituted. Socialism means a total transformation of life and social institutions - a project of collective self-transformation. It means a thorough critique of authoritarianism, hierarchy, and bureaucracy, of capitalist technique, forms of organization, and technology, of the orientation to the environment that attempts to dominate and manipulate it rather than living in ecological harmony with it. Socialism means recognition of the centrality of creativity, play, art, and sexuality. It involves awareness of all forms of social life, struggle against all forms of oppression and repression, work on developing alternatives in the process of the struggle itself. Libertarian socialism implies the following:

12. The idea that socialism is first and foremost about freedom, and therefore about overcoming domination, repression and alienation that block the free flow of human creativity, thought and action. We do not equate socialism with planning, state control, or nationalization of industry although we understand that in a socialist society (not 'under' socialism) economic activity will be collectively controlled, managed, planned and owned. Similarly, we believe that socialism will involve equality, but we do not think that socialism is equality, for it is possible to conceive of a society where everyone is equally oppressed. We think that socialism is incompatible with one-party states, with constraints on freedom of speech, with an elite exercising power 'on behalf of' the people, with leader cults, with any of the other devices through which the dying society seeks to portray itself as the new society.

13. Libertarian politics concerns itself with the liberation of the individual because it is collective, and with the collective liberation because it is individualistic.

14. An approach to socialism that incorporates cultural revolution, women's and children's liberation, and the critique and transformation of daily life, as well as the more traditional concerns of socialist politics. A politics that is completely revolutionary because it seeks to transform all of reality. We do not think that capturing the economy or the state lead automatically to the transformation of the rest of the social being, nor do we equate liberation with changing our lifestyles and our heads. Capitalism is a total system that invades all areas of life: socialism must be the overcoming of capitalist reality in its entirety, or it is nothing.

15. Being a socialist is not only an intellectual thing, a matter of having the right ideas or to the right intellectual approach. It is also a matter of the way you lead your life.

16. A politics that is revolutionary because, in the words of Marx and Engels, "revolution is necessary not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew."

17. Because revolution is a collective process of self-liberation, because people and society are transformed through struggle, not by decree, therefore "the emancipation of the working class can only be achieved by the working classes themselves", not by a Leninist vanguard, a socialist state or any other agent acting on their behalf.

18. A conception of the left not as separate from society, but as part of it. We of the left are people who are subjected to social oppression like everyone else, who struggle for socialism because our liberation is possible only when all society is liberated. We seek to bring others to our socialist project not to do them a favour, but because we need their help to achieve our own liberation. Cohn-Bendit's comment that "It is for yourself that you make the revolution" is not an individualistic position but the key to a truly collective politics based on joy and the promise of life, instead of on the self-sacrifice that is often the radical's version of the white man's burden.

19. We of the left see ourselves as equal participants in the struggle, not as the anointed leaders of it. We put forward our socialist vision as part of our contribution, but we do not think that our belief in socialism means that we have all the answers. We deal with people honestly, as equals, not presuming the right to dictate what they shall think or do, nor presuming that we have nothing to learn from them. We have enough faith in our politics that we do not seek to manipulate people to our conclusion.

20. As socialists, we form organizations with other people who share our ideas. This is necessary and valid, but it represents a situation that we should try continually to overcome, not one that we should accept and even institutionalize in the Leninist mode. Socialism implies not only the withering away of the state, but also the withering away of the left and its organizations as separate entities. Power in a socialist society must be exercised in ways allowing the participation of everyone, not only those belonging to a given organization. This must be prefigured in the political forms and movements that emerge before the revolution. The ultimate goal of the left and its organizations must not be to rule society, but to abolish themselves.

21. The most important component of socialist consciousness is critical thought. We must learn to think about everything critically, to take nothing for granted, nothing as given. Consequently we do not want people to accept socialist ideas in the way they now accept, partially or completely, bourgeois ideas. We want to destroy all uncritical acceptance and belief. We think that a critical examination of society leads to socialist conclusions, but what is important is not simply the conclusions but equally and even more so the method of arriving at them.

22. We base ourselves on the heritage of marxism. This does not mean that we accept all the ideas of Marx, let alone of those who claim to be his followers. Marxism is a point of departure for us, not our predetermined destination. We accept Marx's dictum that our criticism must fear nothing including its own results. Our debt to Marxism will be no less if we find that we have to go beyond it.

23. Nothing could be more foreign to us than the "traditional Marxist" idea that all important questions have been answered. On the contrary we have yet to formulate many of the important questions.

24. We have to try to maintain a balance of theory and practice which seeks to integrate them, and which recognizes that we must engage in both at all times.

25. The centre of gravity of our politics has to be where we are, not in the vicarious identification with struggles elsewhere. Solidarity work is important, but it cannot be the main focus of a socialist movement.

26. We don't know if we'll win: history is made by human beings, and where human beings are concerned, nothing is inevitable. But because people do make history, we know that it is possible to build a new world, and we strive to realize that possibility. "There is only one reason to be a revolutionary - because it is the best way to live."

Socialism and Socialist Strategy

27. We have much to learn from previous revolutionary efforts, from their successes or failures, but none of these efforts have been ultimately successful. There are no socialist countries or "workers' states" (deformed, degenerated, or otherwise) in existence today. All social, political, and economic systems in existence are oppressive and exploitative, and must be overturned. All states must be overthrown, including those that now call themselves socialist, such as the USSR, and its bloc, Yugoslavia, Cuba, China, Albania, Mozambique, etc. There are significant social and economic differences between countries, but these are differences within the oppressive system built on wage labour.

Nevertheless, the differences between countries and types of social structures are important, and our political attitudes will take them into account. For example, liberal democracy or social democracy are preferable to fascism or military dictatorship. A regime promoting literacy, modern health care, and economic development is more progressive than one offering nothing except corruption and social decay. Internationally, we support the efforts of nations to gain independence and resist imperialist domination, even though we do not support the regimes of these nations or the programmes of the national liberation movements. In other words, our opposition to all existing regimes and social structures does not mean abstention from all political choices prior to their overthrow. The fact of their sameness does not blind us to their differences.

28. We reject social democracy and social democratic organizations, but we may support reforms of various kinds. However, we never see them as ends in themselves, but always as part of a process leading to revolution.

29. We oppose a parliamentary or reformist strategy for bringing about socialism, but at times it may be tactically correct to participate in elections, or parliaments, as part of an overall strategy.

30. In cases where socialists are elected, they must be strictly subordinated to the program and decisions of the organization as a whole. The normal freedom to disagree belonging to members of an organization is severely restricted in their case, because they are public spokespeople for the organization. Elected representatives who do not follow the decisions and policies of the organization must be recalled and/or expelled. The same holds true for people holding posts in other political or labour bodies after being elected as members of the group. The group must be consulted before any member runs for a political position.

31. Because revolution must take place in all spheres of life, revolutionary activity must also take place of all fronts: economic, political, social, cultural, ecological, etc. Socialist activity is not merely a matter of political or workplace organizing. Forms of 'extra-parliamentary' action such as community and workplace organizing are necessary forms of socialist activity although they are not of themselves revolutionary.

32. The process of advancing to socialism involves many people in many different activities, and for that reason alone cannot be primarily a matter of elections or preparing for elections. But it is possible that in a country such as Canada, a liberal democracy, at a certain point in the process, socialist candidates will win a electoral victory. This would be an occasion for working people to implement the socialist program - i.e., continuing the struggle both outside and inside parliament. It is extremely likely that in such a situation the forces of reaction would discard bourgeois legalities and attempt to destroy the socialist forces by any means available. Such an attack will be resisted by whatever means necessary that are consistent with socialist principles. In principle, however, the possibility of a relatively peaceful transition to socialism cannot be absolutely ruled out. It depends largely on the actions of the bourgeoisie.

33. Socialism is not state ownership of the means of production. It is not the extension of the role of the state. While society will not be stateless immediately after a socialist conquest of power - although the bourgeois state must be immediately dismantled and destroyed - the nature and activities of the transitional state apparatus will be radically different.

34. The first task of the transitional administration is to co-ordinate the defeat and repression of the bourgeoisie and its allies and agents, internal and external. It is not the primary agent of the reconstruction of society on socialist lines - this can only be the work of the people as a whole, working directly through the organizational and social forms they find appropriate.

35. The second task of the transitional state is to participate in its own dismantling as social, political, and economic life is organized on a radically different basis.

36. While there cannot be blueprints for the socialist future, it is possible to talk about certain basic pre-conditions and principles. Foremost among these must be direct popular control of social life: workers' control and management of the workplaces, community control of the community, students' and staff control of the schools, etc.

37. At the same time, because none of these things exist in isolation, there must also be found ways of making sure activities and institutions are accountable to society as a whole - e.g. a workplace must also be responsible to the community in which it is situated and its environmental, economic and social needs, and to the needs of the economy as a whole.

38. Therefore representative institutions deriving their mandate from and answerable at every point to, the different constituencies e.g. workplace, community - will also come into existence.

39. Organizations such as workers' councils will have key roles to play, but theirs will not be the sole role. Not everyone works, so other organizations will also be important to give everyone a say on the different levels of societal organization.

40. Socialism implies no fetish of centralization. In some things there will be a great deal more co-ordination and planning, but in many cases decentralization is often more efficient and/or suited to peoples' needs. In many areas of life, there is presently too much control and intervention. In many cases therefore, the advent of socialism will mean less control and interference, and the expansion of individual freedom and the increase of group activity outside any official or state control.

41. The creation of socialism implies the broadest political and individual freedom and democracy. This includes freedom of the press and other forms of communication, and the freedom to form various political parties and groups - a socialist pluralism. It will be necessary to ban only the parties of the extreme right and those actively working to restore bourgeois society. And even this ban can be progressively eased and finally removed as the socialist transformations proceeds.

42. Canada's position in the world capitalist system is largely defined by its relation to the United States. Canada is largely dominated by the United States, and this creates various economic, cultural, and other ramifications in this country. We therefore oppose the U.S. imperialist domination of Canada, and see the opposition to it as a component of the struggle for socialism. At the same time, we recognize that in some areas, such as the Caribbean, the Canadian state and Canadian capital themselves play an imperialistic role and we oppose this in the same way as we oppose imperialist penetration of Canada. We also recognize that the same processes of capitalism have also produced serious distortions and exploitative relations in Canada itself, for example in relation to Quebec or the Maritimes. The struggle against these inequalities is also a component of the struggle for socialism in Canada.

We reject the idea that Canada is a colony, and we reject the idea that U.S. imperialist domination is the 'primary contradiction' (a valueless concept at any rate) or that it is necessary to form a 'national liberation' movement in Canada. The effort to make Canada independent is a subordinate part of the overall struggle for socialism. Our international perspective is not that of nation against nation, but of class against class.

43. We recognize that Quebec is a distinct national entity within the Canadian state, and we thus support Quebec's right to self-determination. At the same time, we do not pre-suppose that Quebec ought to separate from Canada. We see no necessary reason why Quebec's national aspirations cannot be meet within the framework of Canada, should the people of Quebec choose that option. In Quebec, as in Canada, we are opposed to any form of nationalism, such as that of the Parti Quebecois, which claims to supersede class questions.

44. We support unions and the organization of unions insofar as they defend the interest of workers. At the same time, we recognize that unions have a dual role: they also increasingly function to discipline workers and integrate them into capitalist production in exchange for recognition and certain economic gains. We therefore recognize that in many ways unions do not serve the interests of workers, and we reject the view of unions as actual or potential vehicles of revolutionary organization. The struggle of workers is increasingly directed against unions as well as against management. We do not see a workplace strategy as being directed at capturing union office, or at bringing about changes in unions. The problems of unions are structural - a product of their role, and that of the contract, in guaranteeing consistent production - and are thus not solvable by changing leaders or by bringing about greater democracy. We do not rule out the possibility, in specific circumstances where the union has become an issue in a given workplace, that socialists will participate in organizing elections or will even run for office on the local level. But we see this as an exceptional circumstance, not a general or long-term strategy for workplace organizing.

45. We support the self-organization of people into unions, co-operatives, community and tenants' groups, women's liberation group, etc. At the same time, these organizations often tend to be partial and inclined to reformism. We support and participate in their activities, but we always strive to connect their activities to the concept and activities of a larger movement toward socialism.

46. When participating in larger organizations, common fronts, etc., we put forward our ideas. We do not seek to hide our affiliation or beliefs, or to manipulate or seize control of groups. If we participate in the running of such groups we do so on the basis of having been chosen by people who know our politics. We loyally work to support the activities decided upon even if we favoured other options, unless they are clearly reactionary. We do not seek to substitute ourselves for reactionary leaders, but to democratize the organizations to the fullest possible extent, to involve as many as possible directly. In a strike, or any action, our objective is to facilitate its development, not to bring it under our control or to get it to adopt our 'line'.

47. We think that revolutionary organization is necessary. We see the role of such organizations as being largely to educate, to provide a common focus, theme, and analysis for the movement, a pool of resources, a means of co-ordinating activity which can be useful at certain points in the struggle. We do not see the organization as playing the dominant role in a revolutionary movement or crisis, or in the post revolutionary period. Historical experience has shown that working people create their own institutions and forms at such times, institutions that transcend party lines: the Paris Commune, the soviets thrown up by the mass strike movement in Russia, the factory councils, the workers' councils of the post-World War I period and of Hungary in 1956, the collectives of revolutionary in Spain, the worker/student action committees of France in 1968, the drive to create non-party forms in Portugal in the 1970s. Historically, the role of parties has usually been to retard the revolutionary process in moments of crisis because they attempt to take it over, "lead" it, and determine its pace. If a revolutionary organization is to assist the revolutionary process, it must place itself at the disposal of broader movements, especially in times of crisis, rather than attempt to place the movement at the disposal of its strategy.

48. We reject the idea that consciousness develops through a progression of pre-determined stages ("trade, union, political" etc.) and the idea that socialist consciousness must or can be brought to the working class from the outside.

49. The crisis of the working class movement is not a crisis of leadership, but a crisis of the self-consciousness of the working classes.

50. Leadership is not a institutionalized function in a movement, but a practical reality that can change from one day or one hour to the next, and almost certainly will change in many mass movement or dynamic situation. The attempt to institutionalize leadership in a particular organization can only result in putting a brake on the development of the revolutionary process.

51. The concept of a vanguard and its supposed monopoly of "revolutionary consciousness" is fundamentally false. It indicates a narrowly intellectual stress on formal ideas which fails to understand that consciousness is reflected and worked out in all aspects of life. Consciousness can and does differ in even the same person from time to time and from issue to issue. The left has no monopoly on consciousness: while the left understands the necessity for revolution, it does not necessarily completely understand what this entails and how it is to be brought about.

52. We reject terrorism everywhere since it is a dead end. We particularly condemn random terror (e.g. hijacking) which does not even discriminate between enemies and ordinary people. Terrorism stems from the belief that revolution is an impossible ideal, whereas we believe it is possible if the majority of people believe it to be a practical action.

53. We support civil liberties and oppose the erosion of liberal democratic forms in the direction of greater authoritarianism. We oppose bourgeois democracy, but we do so because it is not truly democratic, not because we propose to replace it with dictatorship. We seek to establish a society which is far more democratic than any existing now. In a socialist society rights such a freedom of speech, of association, of assembly, of the press, of religion, freedom to form political parties and associations, will be guaranteed. Their exercise will be protected against not only legal but economic sanction. Rights such as freedom of the press, for those who criticize the status quo as well as those who favour it, will be actively supported in ways making it possible and not merely legally permissible to exercise them.

54. We seek the replacement of liberal electoral "democracy" by forms of participatory, direct, and representative democracy that extend political power to everyone. We seek the extension of direct popular control to all parts of the economy and all social institutions.

Internal Organization and Membership
55. To be a member of the Libertarian Socialist Collective (LSC) it is necessary to accept the program and principles of the group. Disagreement with specific programmatic points is acceptable as long as the group feels sufficient basic agreement exists, and as long as the member is willing to abide by the points in question in doing political work with the group. In addition to this "Political Statement", prospective members should be in basic agreement with the political direction and approach of the group, as exemplified by The Red Menace and the practice of the LSC. If differences are felt to be unbridgeable, a member may be removed from membership by majority vote upon notice of at least one meeting being given.

56. The fundamental organizational principles of a socialist organization must always be the greatest degree of democracy, meaning active control by the membership, and the greatest degree of openness compatible with the legal confines it is working under.

57. The organizational principles of the group include the greatest possible degree of autonomy for members and local groups in undertaking activities, so long as these are compatible with the basic principles and program of the organization, and as long as actions decided on by the organization as a whole are carried out.

58. Since the activities and membership of the organization encompass more than one locality, the membership may propose and set up such central and co-ordinating bodies as are necessary. Such bodies are subject to the complete control of the membership.

59. Programmatic minorities have the right to exist and organize within the organization, as long as they remain within the basic principles of the organization, and as long as their factional organization does not interfere with their political work as members.

60. Minority viewpoints may not be presented, explicitly or implicitly, as the viewpoint of the organization.

61. Political differences within the organization are not secret - political debate with the organization is public.

62. Members of the organization are expected to participate in the activities of the group and are expected to attend meetings regularly.

63. Members may not belong to any other political party or league, or to any organization exercising centralist discipline over its members.

What is Important?

It is necessary to demolish the monstrously false idea that the problems that workers see are not important, that there are more important ones which only "theorists" and politicians can speak about.

In issue number three of Worker's Power a school teacher asked the question: why don't workers write? He showed in a thorough manner that this is due to their total situation in society and also to the nature of the so-called "education" that is dispensed by the capitalist schools. He also said that workers often think that their experience "is not interesting".

This last point appears fundamental to me and I would like to share my experience on it, which is not that of a worker but of a militant.

When workers ask an intellectual to talk to them about the problems of capitalism and socialism they find it hard to understand that we accord a central place to the workers' situation in the factory and in production. I have often had occasion to present the following ideas to workers:

- The way in which production is organized in a capitalist factory creates a perpetual conflict between workers aid bosses around the production process.

- The bosses always use new methods to chain workers to the "discipline of production"

- Workers always invent new ways of defending themselves.

- This confilict often has more influence on the level of salaries than negotiations or even strikes do.

- The waste which results is enormous and for greater than that resulting from economic crises.

- Unions are always out of touch with and most often hostile to this kind of workers' struggle.

- Militants who are workers ought to spread all the important examples of this struggle outside the enterprise where they occur.

- Nothing is changed in this situation by the simple "nationalization" of factories and "planning" of the economy.

- Socialism is therefore inconceivable without a complete change in the organization of production in factories, without the suppression of the bosses, and the institution of workers' control.

These expositions were both concrete and theoretical — that is to say that each time they gave real and precise examples, but at the same time, far from being limited to description they tried to draw general conclusions. Here were facts of which workers evidently had the most direct and complete experience, and which also had profound and universal importance.

However, one could say that the listeners spoke little, and it appeared they felt deceived. They had come there to speak of or to hear important things, and it seemded difficult for them to believe that the important things were those that they did every day. They thought that they would be told about absolute and relative surplus value, of the decline in the rate of profit, of over-production and under-consumption. It seemed unbelievable to them that the evolution of modern society was determined more by the actions of millions of workers in all the factories of the world than by the grand economic laws, hidden and mysterious, which are discovered by theorists. They even disagreed that a permanent struggle between workers and bosses exists and that workers succeed in defending themselves; however, once the discussion got under way, what they said showed that they themselves fought such a struggle from the moment they entered the factory to the moment they left it.

The workers' belief that the way they live, what they do, and what they think "is not important" is not only something that prevents them from expressing themselves. It is the most serious sign of ideological servitude to capitalism. For, capitalism could not survive unless people were persuaded that what they do and know concerns only then, is unimportant, and that important things are the monopoly of the big shots and the specialists in various fields. Capitalism tries constantly to drum this idea into peoples' heads.

But it must also be said that it has been strongly aided in this task by workers' organizations. For a very long time trade unions and leftist parties have tried to persuade workers that the only important questions concern either wages in particular, or the economy, politics and society in general. This is already false but there is worse to come. That which these organizations took to be "theory" on these questions and that which increasingly passed for such in the eyes of the public was not linked, as it should have been, to the experience of workers in production and social life, but became a so-called "scientific" theory increasingly abstract (and increasingly false). Certainly only the specialists — intellectuals and bosses — can and do speak of such a theory. The workers must simply keep quiet and try hard to absorb and assimilate the "truth" that the latter feed then. We thus reach two conclusions. The intense desire that many workers have to expand their knowledge and horizons, to gain a conception of society that will help them in their struggle is destroyed from the start. The so-called "theory" set before them seems to be in most cases a sort of higher algebra, inaccessible and frequently containing a litany of incomprehensible words that explain nothing. On the other hand, the workers have no verication of the content and truth of such a "theory", its demonstration appears, they are told, in the fourteen volumes of Capital and in the other immense and mysterious works possessed by the learned comrades in whom we must have confidence.

The roots and consequences of this situation go very far. It originates in a profoundly bourgeois mentality: just as with the laws of physics, there are said to be laws of economics and society, "laws" which have nothing to do with the experience of workers. Rather, they are the property of the scientists and engineers who know of them. Just as only engineers can decide how to make a bridge, similarly only the engineers of society — leaders of parties and unions — can decide on the organization of society. To change society is thus to change its "general" organization, but that does not affect in the slightest what happens in the factories, since that "is not important".

In order to move beyond this situation it is not enough to say to workers: speak, it is up to you to say what the problems are. It is necessary to demolish the monstrously false idea that the problems that workers see are not important, that there are more important ones which only "theorists" and politicians can speak about. We can understand society, but still less can we understand society if we do not understand the factory. There is only one way for this to happen: the workers must speak. To demonstrate this must be the first and permanent task of Workers' Power.

Originally published in Pouvier Ouvrier, the monthly supplement to Socialism ou Barbarie, No. 5 , (March, 1959); reprinted in Cornelius Castoriadis, L'Experience du Mouvement Ouvrier: Proletariat et Organisation (Paris: Union Generale, 1974). Translated by Tom McLaughlin.

Working in a Supermarket

Observations on working as a "carry-out" in a supermarket.

I am working as a “carry-out” in a supermarket. It's an extremely boring job. My job is to push carts of groceries to the parking lot for the customers, unload them, and then return with the empty carts. A moving belt between the market and the parking lot, non-stop if it's really busy. The 'product' is our service — which actually serves nobody but the profit system.

Yet our service is more than a meaningless and absurd “pseudo-product”. It is a purposeful device of consciousness-manipulation. What? This sounds paranoid? It is hard to believe that a being who is regimented in the organized life of the commodity society and assimilates its mentality can ever revolt against the system. But this is exactly the concept ingrained in all of our institutions today — including the supermarket. Through participation in institutionalized activities — which are always permeated by bourgeois values — people are forced to believe that the existing reality is the only reality and thus commodity society secures for itself survival.

We have always been talking about a “critique of everyday life” as a way of refreshing our sensitivity towards humanity in a people-killing culture. Now I find it urgent to write something about the supermarket as I see it, as a member of grappling with my immediate everyday life.

The most significant feature of the supermarket for me is that it is a reflection of the larger society's hierarchy, it is a miniature entity of authority-relations.

First of all, the job classsifications are so structured that everybody is related to others either by domination or subordination or both. Not only is this self-evident of private ownership, assuring the position of the owner as the head (I happen to work in a supermarket that is not part of a chain and thus the big boss is less abstract), but the whole hierarchy structure from the boss down adheres to the management's concept of efficiency. Of course this concept of efficiency is based on an arbitrary division of labour, and reinforced by a merit system: one has more merit the higher up one is in the hierarchy, and this, in turn, corresponds to the degree one is willing to submit to the hierarchial establishment and its mentality.

This formal structure gives rise to two crucial aspects of the working life: the nourishing of the bossing ethic — that is human relationships based on domination and/or subordination — and the submerging of peoples' consciousness into this process so completely that they take this social reality to be the only possible frame of reference. One has to give up one's own judgements of any human relationship and in fact learns to repress the slightest awareness of sharing in order to be successful in this game. Yet also important and reinforcing of the bossing ethic is the fact that the boring and unfulfilling work aggravates a tendency in every individual to shift the burden onto his or her co-workers. And this is only possible when one attains a certain prescribed level in the hierarchy which legitimizes this bossing around.

The lowest grade - the underdog - are the carry-outs whose work is most unfulfilling and, in fact, deadening. Both because of their position in the hierarchy and in the division of labour as the last part of the production process, there is no one below that for them to boss.

Above them comes the temporary section workers, section workers on a trial basis whose work is to put stock up on the shelf. They do not have a permanent section to work on and work when and wherever they are needed. They have one of their legs in the carry-out world which means they only work on the sections when the business is quiet and enough carry-outs are stationed at the front. They have the privileges and are supposed to learn to manifest this privilege of shifting the burden of carry-out to the carry-outs when helping at the front. They are supposed to help with packing and call for carry-outs when the customer is ready to go. But as I have said, they have one of their legs in the underdog world. When it is real busy they have to do carry-out too.

Next comes the permanent section workers who are “responsible” for a particular section. They stock shelves all the time. The difference between the carry-outs and the section-workers (both permanent and non-permanent) is not in terms of money, just power. The section workers are able to avoid the deadening work of a carry-out. This does not mean, however, that the section work is fulfilling. They value their privilege as section workers because they have a greater chance to work alone and thus lessen the sense of being bossed around all the time.

On top of these “boys” are the section managers who are directly responsible to the boss. They are quite a different world of people, totally absorbed by the bossing ethic. They are the mini-boss because they cannot but see themselves as part of the pillar of the hierarchy. They are responsible to keep the “boys” in line and to.straighten up their discipline. Not only do they train the “boy” to do the work but also refresh their sense of responsibility to the rules of the bossing game.

The super-boss is of course, the owner himself and as the name implies, his work is to boss around.

This is the main body of the supermarket (except for the women on the cash register). The whole structure is a hierarchy with many miniature hierarchies inside systematically co-ordinated. The individual reaction to this structure is to see oneself inherently competitive with others, manifested in one's degree of attained power to dominate. So the carry-outs always seek to go into the section work. The non-permanent section workers then hope to became “responsible” for one section under the section managers and so on.

Every individual's attitude towards the bossing game may be a bit different but one thing is for sure: one is always either victim or executioner. The different attitude is a result of one's position in the hierarchy and one's past experience (e.g. family background). So the big boss’ and the miniboss’ attitude is much less obscure. Their position in the hierarchy which was probably achieved after a long time in the bossing game, and their way of perceiving their position is clearly seen in every little bit of their ethical judgement..

To illustrate the combined effect of position in the hierarchy and past experience on one's attitude towards the bossing game, I'll describe the situation of two immigrants.

First is a new immigrant from Lebanon who is working as a carry-out. Very probably it is because of his experience as a humiliated new immigrant that he exemplifies the most illustrative personality of a captive being. He never refuses any work passed onto him; he even rushes for wok; he simply accepts his position as an underdog.

The second one is an old immigrant from a Carribbean country who has moved to the status of a mini-boss and who shows the worst of all bossing attitudes and being bossed. This may probably be a result of the same experience of a humiliated being who tries to reassure himself by humiliating others. Bear in mind what Fanon has described in “Black Skin White Mask”: the phenomenon of some blacks who are trying to be more white.

Another thing which is very revealing is that the bossing attitude is most expressedly manifest in the section workers. They are the ones who most despise the carry-outs. This is probably because of the fact that they have just begun to “enjoy” the privilege which the bosses have alotted to them and thus try to flourish their newly acquired sense of responsibility. Of course, there is the fact that it is the best and most legitimate way of getting away from the boring work of carry-out. One very revealing example: a high school ninth-grader who works as part-time has recently been “promoted” informally by being sent to work in a section. He is really overjoyed in ignoring his ex-fellow carry-outs and bosses them to do carry-out. He also never forgets that he's an “in” person among “in” section workers. One can also observe his hyper-awareness of his new status-symbols: the duster and personal price stamp of a permanent section worker.

It's sad enough to see a ninth grader trying to be a boss. Yet it is even more terrifying to realize haw completely our society is organized along this principle of authority; along the idea that the purpose of one's social activities is to dominiate. More than that, how many people accept this idea and thus worsen the situation by upholding the authoritarian structure through their own activities. Thus, the structure becomes self-sustaining.

Then, the point I want to make is clear and simple. Capitalism has never totally depended and is now probably far less dependent on its open oppressive law and order machine. We know by just looking around that our sense of reality comes mainly from the social activities we participate in. The managers of capitalism in exerting their power over the organizations of our social activity, succeed to a certain extent in manipulating our consciousness.

The supermarket is a case in point. The employees below the management level are all young people in their teens, either working part-time after school or full time after quitting school (only to find it the same boring life). These people have grown up in similar environments of one institution or another, disciplined along the line of the larger social discipline — notably the family and the school. To work in the supermarket, or any other workplace, is only to magnify the detail of authority since the work “job” in our society means to young people, a more calculated responsibility. It becomes the next stage towards total adaptation into the regimentation of the established reality. Therefore it is not just a problem of making more pocket money for the part-timers, or shooting around before getting into a better job for the full-timers, it is very much a part of the conditioning of young people into the smooth functioning of the machine of modern capitalism and their acceptance of its underlying principles. To see carry-out and shelving as necessary to make a living and to be willing to put up with the long hours of boring work just to refresh oneself in nightly entertainment and weekend drinking (whether this is refreshing or refreshing for what? is also interesting to ask) is almost to accept life as it is, to accept one's being dominated by the system.

The service mentality has become a science. One of the stupid things about bourgeois sociology and the social sciences in general is their superficial perception, always followed by claims of intellectual neutrality and objectivity. That is why they call the post-industrial society a service-oriented society, meaning by it that the service industries have become dominant in the commodity market. By not probing into the deeper implications of the nature of “service” in our society they have already made the value-laden assumptions of a status-quo morality . All that is left for the bourgeois world to do, already well-practiced at theorizing social reality in its own image, is to “fit” people into the only existing reality. Some customers didn't really want us to carry-out for them; their fate was to find a service forced on them. As to those who have already integrated into the existing world of things, they merely approve the service with an ever-decreasing praise, becomimg less and less aware of the nature of the service. It never occurs to them that it is based on the degradation of a human relationship between us and them into a commodity relationship between this disintegrating being — the carry-gut as a dying object of a production process — and the customer who falsely believes that he or she is consuming something in a completely normal fashion, as much a part of the universe as the sun going up and down.

I don't mean to be pessimistic and say that every one of us working there is a puppet being hopelessly conditioned. In short, I don't mean social determinism; the very fact that we are human, having a history of history-making convinces me against any kind of determinism. I understand history-making in the sense that we are capable of transcending the social environment shaping us, plus the fact that I see everywhere within every one of us a seed of rebellion against the dehumanizing nature of our society. The mere fact that carry-out or section work is a deadening job has made us rebel against it in one way or another. I see co-workers pissing around or working for just one day and then quitting or taking lots of time to do anything, thus slowing down the whole efficient process, and so on. Of course, more is needed for a revolution but I think this is the starting point. To be aware of the deadening nature of our social activities and to see how it has created its own antithesis in every street corner and workplace is very convincing.


West Germany: Censorship and Repression in the Model State

In West Germany, repression is now 'democratically' sanctioned and seen as a model for other countries to adopt.

By Mario Cutajar

Last September, Nappo and Kunkel, two Frankfurt actors who play the part of clowns on a well-known TV show for West German children, decided to go out for a snack. Since the filming session was scheduled to continue they kept their full costumes on. They hadn't finished their meal when 20 policemen carrying drawn machine pistols swooped down on them. Somebody had phoned saying there were “suspicious characters” lurking about. Identity papers revealed the obvious. But the police didn't waste time on apologies. Instead they commended the people of Frankfurt for being “so suspicious”.

This is what is referred to in Europe as the Model State, a description Germany first started to enjoy in the days of Bismarck. The difference between now and then is that today there is no embarrassing Kaiser to poison the admiration felt by other governments for the “strong” state. The descendants of the Social Democrats which Bismarck suppressed are now in power suppressing today's Red menace, and doing a better job of it. They no longer do things autocratically in Germany because repression is “democratically” sanctioned.

The most notorious example of democratic repression is the Berufsverbot. Passed in 1972 this law (literally a "profession ban") is designed to exclude from the public service all those suspected of disloyalty to the Constitution. Since then 4,000 people have either lost their jobs or been refused employment because of it. More important, however, is the intimidating effect these 4,000 cases have had on the rest of the civil service and on those looking for a job. (There are almost one and a half million unemployed in West Germany). In one case a Munich student was refused employment as a grammar school teacher because he supported the "medium-term" political platform of the Social Democratic Party (SPD)! According to the student the Bavarian Ministry regarded the term "class society" as applied to West Germany in the programme as "anti-constitutional". Suspicions that the Berufsverbot was being used exclusively against the left were not allayed when the Mannheim administrative court ruled that the aims of the neo-fascist National Democratic Party are not anti-constitutional. This is just as well since any ban on fascists in the public service would have seriously debilitated the civil service which, after the Second World War, absorbed the bureaucracy of the Third Reich intact.

There are currently 15 "intelligence" services protecting the West German constitution. What information they collect is their own business: it could be your signature on an anti-Berufsverbbte petition, your membership in Amnesty International or a commune or simply the fact that you seem to read a lot of left-wing books. German librarians recently complained that the "intelligence services seem to be unusually preoccupied with library borrowing lists. However, unlike our own RCMP, the German secret police don't have to step outside the law or even to keep their disruptive operations secret.

This is partly true in the area of radical publications. Legislation passed two years ago (paragraphs 88a and 126) makes punishable by a sentence of up to three years the (i) distribution, (ii) displaying or making accessible in an way, (iii) producing, subscribing, delivering, storing, offering, or announcing material that recommends any of seven categories of unlawful acts. These acts range from disturbing the peace in special cases, to murder and sabotage. This law becomes even more draconian when coupled with paragraph 129 which threatens the founders of "criminal organizations " with up to five years imprisonment.

These laws had hardly been passed when the police started raiding left-wing bookstores. Ten bookstores in five cities were raided. The ostensible reason for the raids was that these stores supported a criminal organization (para, 129) by selling copies of Revolutionarer Zorn (para. 88a), a newspaper put out by the underground Revolutionary Cells and sent anonymously to various left-bookshops. However, during the raids the police seized not only this paper but also 30 different titles, none of which is officially forbidden. As well all the apartments and shops that were raided were sketched and photographed, samples of typewriter script were made and, most ominous of all, subscription lists, correspondence and publisher files were seized. Readers will notice the similarity between these tactics and "our own" Body Politic raid.

In an even more blatant case, Gerd Schnepel, the bookseller and ex-manager of a left publishing house, was sentenced to two years imprisonment for his part in the publication of The Struggle Against Annihilation Imprisonment. Though a largely documentary book on the practice of isolation, imprisonment and sensory deprivation in West German jails, the court concluded that this book "insults" the state and the judiciary system and "poisons" the political atmosphere in West Germany. Following the verdict, the court explained that "political opinion" was not the issue. Significantly, the law here existed even before paras. 88a and 126 came into effect. It would appear, in fact, that the USSR is far from being the only country where you can go to jail for "anti-state" activities.

In another case the printers of a newspaper called Info-BUG (Info Berliner Undogmatischer Gruppen) were arrested for printing a "megaphone for terrorist organizations." Yet of the 400 articles that appeared in the period referred to by the public prosecution, only 12 were statements from illegal groups and these appeared in a paper that had often criticized the politics of these organizations. Moreover, AGIT publishing-house, which prints Info-BUG, has done jobs for groups as varied as the Postal Workers' Union and the Protestant Church.

Nor is it just the printers and sellers of "poisonous" material that are threatened. One truck driver was arrested for transporting books and letters from West Berlin to West Germany. In each case, what is important is not the actual arrest but the self-censorship each arrest teaches other people. Because, as Rheinland-Pfaltz prime minister Vogel put it, a terrorist sympathizer can be anyone "who simply says 'Baaader-Meinhof Group' instead of 'Gang'".

The extent of the censorship being sought may be glimpsed from the actions of the police. As Pastor Ensslin found out after he stated that his daughter's death in Stammheim prison looked more like murder than suicide, the German State doesn't like its version of the Truth questioned, let alone contradicted. After Ensslin made his statement the public prosecutor in Stuttgart started prosecution on the grounds of "defaming the state" and "injurious slander".

The Stammheim deaths highlighted two other aspects of the current wave of repression: the cooperation of the press with the police, and the ability of the police to obtain whatever laws they deem necessary. When Baader, Raspe and Ensslin were found dead in their cells the German press immediately pronounced "suicide" as the verdict, this, despite any confirmation whatsoever of the allegation. Later they followed with a stream of sensational and often contradictory findings. During the Schleyer kidnapping Der Spiegel even bragged about the co-operation of the press with the government. "That the chancellor and his government feel so close to their subjects is certainly thanks to the understanding commentary on their actions by the German press." The police for their part are quite conscious of their relations with the press. Writing in the professional magazine Die Polizei, a high ranking officer explained that cultivating good contacts with universities and academies and "especially the cultivating of good connections to the press" is part of the "field work". Other field work: confusing demonstrators "by spreading rumours" and "telephone calls to irritate certain groups of disturbers".

The police must also have "good contacts" with the federal parliament. All measures resorted to are either already law or else pass into law sometime after they are used. A good example of the latter was the Kontaktsperregesetz (Contact Barrier) Law, making it legal to deny a prisoner all contact with the outside world (no newspapers, no radio, television or letters, no visitors by either relatives or lawyers and no contact with other prisoners) when there is danger to life or freedom from a "terrorist organization". This law was passed in Parliament within a record three days. At that time, it had already been in effect for a month, i.e. from the time that Martin Schleyer was kidnapped.

These aspects of the situation in Germany were illustrated in conjunction with each other at the massive Kalkar demonstration which took place at the end of last September. The demonstration, described by its organizers as a "festival with stands and games" was called to protest the building of a fast-breeder reactor." Though it was destined to become the largest demonstration held in Germany since the War, this was despite the combined efforts of the press and the police. The press, for example, predicted a bloody confrontation a month before the demonstration. The government helped by spreading rumours that "some groups" planned a violent confrontation, Not surpringly therefore, "the largest possible show of police" was to be mobilized. Four days before the demonstration, the township director announced special restrictions which included the prohibition of articles of camouflage (scarves and masks) and a ban on vehicles of all kinds (including sanitary vehicles) accompanying the march. Meanwhile, the SPD (the majority party in North Rhine Westphalia) formally prohibited members of its youth organization from taking part, warning that the Young Socialists could not be "so naive as to think that they can make peaceful citizens out of political criminals." Likewise the German union federation called on its members not to attend.

On the day of the demonstration the police had so many road blocks that it took 17 hours to drive 300 miles. All participants (more than 50,000) were searched, some more than once. They were photographed both from close up and on Videotape. Plastic raincoats, scarves, gloves, lipsticks, screw drivers, first aid kits, note books, snacks "you pigs don't need to eat") were some: of the things the police confiscated as "passive weapons". Eventually; the march started. It was over so quick that those at the head of the march were leaving as those at the end were arriving. The press credited the police with preventing a "bloodbath" that had never been more than a media creation. Complaints against the methods used by the police were silenced by turning these methods into law. Needless to say all the pictures and information gathered at Kalkar was fed into the police computers, of which there are 30,000. In Germany today there are at least 200 pieces of information (from shopping habits to political tendencies) stored about every person living there.

As the economic and ideological crisis of Western capitalism intensifies and the "experts" put forward conflicting "solutions", the state will increasingly fall back on purely coercive measures to maintain social "peace". This process will depend on the speed with which liberal ideology disintegrates. At some point, we may have already passed it, words like "restraint' and "cooperation" cease to perform their mystifying function. Restraint is a vile term in a country where in the same period that wage controls were in effect corporations were making record profits and inflation was as uncontrollable as ever. Under such conditions "co-operation" means leaving the door open for the burglar.

Germany's example will be followed elsewhere The technology and the methods are eminently suited for export to other Western countries. Canada is already involved in a massive arms deal with West Germany. A lot of the armour being bought has little use for anything other than the control of civilians. And as the RCMP revelations have confirmed in recent months, the RCMP is quite adept at doing semi-legally what the German police nowadays do legally. Moreover, within the context in which they took place, these revelations have only strengthtened the RCMP by making more people aware of its presence, the only reply from the government being a proposal to legalize "dirty tricks". The secret police are most effective when their existence is public knowledge and their powers self-defined.

What is happening in Germany, therefore, has more immediate relevance to us than would appear at first sight. If today our press celebrates the efficiency of the German police in the months to come it will have little trouble congratulating our own force. "Our cops are tops" will then reverberate with a new and quite sinister meaning.

Hiearchy of Salaries and Incomes

The official ideology's justification of hierarchy does not coincide with either logic or reality.

By Cornelius Castoriadis

1. For several years now and especially since May 1968, the idea of self-management, of the effective control of production by workers, has ceased to be a utopian concept held by a few individuals and small groups, and has become a topic of frequent and animated public discussion as well as the programmatic position of such an important labour union as the CFDT. Even those who up to now were the staunchest opponents of self-management are gradually being reduced to defensive positions (such as "it isn't possible right now", "not absolutely", "it depends what you mean by it", or "we must test it first").

Someday it will be necessary to examine the reasons for this change. For the time being we can note that this is the destiny of new ideas in all fields, particularily in the social and political sphere. Their adversaries start by saying that such ideas are absurd, then say that everything depends on what meaning is given to them, and end up by saying that they have always been strong supporters. We must never forget that such a purely verbal "acceptance" of an idea is one of the best ways of robbing it of its vital energy. If those who up to now were its strong enemies suddenly adopt an idea and take on the job of putting it into practice, we can be sure that, whatever their intentions, in the vast majority of cases the result will serve to emasculate it. There is strong evidence that modern society possesses an unparalleled virtuosity in the art of co-opting and sidetracking new ideas.

But in the case of self-management other important factors have aided its acceptance by some business leaders and politicians — something that no one could have predicted.

These factors relate to the profound crisis of the modern industrial system, the organization of work and the techniques that correspond to it. On the one hand it is more and more difficult to make workers accept tasks that are strictly limited, brutalizing, and totally uninteresting. On the other hand it has long been apparent that the division of labour pushed to absurd lengths — Taylorism, the attempt to fix the workers' tasks in advance down to the smallest detail in order to better control them — has passed the point where it benefits the business enterprise and now creates enormous difficulties at the same time as it intensifies the daily struggle in production between workers and those who would impose the system on them — a conflict which becomes more and more evident, for example, in strikes over working conditions.

The bosses say that this conflict cannot be reduced by granting wage increases, and faced with the collapse of the dream of complete automation, they are led to consider the introduction of some partial modifications in working conditions. Hence the projects and attempts at "job enrichment", autonomy of production teams, etc. Opinions may vary as to the real meaning and possible results of these efforts. However, two things are certain: such a process once started could very well achieve a momentum which might not be controllable by the capitalists and the state. On the other hand, since the present organization of society sets precise limits to such efforts, they will not affect the power of the hierarchical bureaucracies which really run every business, however small, and even less will they challenge basic relations of power in society. Without a fundamental change, all modifications inside the business will have only a very limited significance.

In any case there is only one way to combat this dilution of the idea of self-management by the powers that be. We must make it as clear as possible, and draw out all the implications. Only in this way will we be able to distinguish the idea of a collective management by producers, the control of society by all men and women, from its empty and misleading caricatures.

2. In all discussions of self-management one fundamental aspect of the organization of business and society is hardly every mentioned: hierarchy of power and of wages and incomes. However, as soon as one thinks of self-management beyond the limits of a production team, the hierarchy of power, and the chain of command as it now exists are necessarily called into question, and therefore so is the hierarchy of incomes. The idea that true self-management of an enterprise could co-exist with the present power is a contradiction in terms.What meaning could we give to the term "self-management" if we still had the same pyramid of power with a minority of bosses at different levels managing the work of a majority of workers reduced to following orders? In what sense could workers really run production and the enterprise if a separate group of bosses kept the power to make decisions in its own hands? Above all, how could workers take an active interest in the progress of the enterprise and feel that it vitally concerned them — failing which, any attempt at self-management would be defeated — if, on the one hand, they are condemned to passivity by having to maintain a system of leadership that makes the final decisions by itself, and on the other hard, the economic inequality finally persuades them that the progress of the enterprise is not their concern because it benefits only a small part of the personnel?

Similarity, in a much widen context the progress of the enterprise is affected in a thousand ways by the economy and society, and thus the self-management of an enterprise cannot have any real meaning unless organizations of workers and the rest of the population assume those functions of coordination and planning that are now in the hands of those who wield economic and political power.

3. Certainly the existence of a hierarchy of power and income is presented as justified by a host of arguments. Before discussing them we note that they have a clearly ideological character: on the basis of unstated assumptions they attempt to justify with only an appearance of logic a reality with which they have little connection. They submit reality to the last few decades' official ideology, an ideology currently decomposing and no longer coherent. It can no longer invoke values that no one accepts, and is incapable of inventing new ones. The result is a mass of contradictions: thus in France we have Gaullist "participation" alongside the absolute and uncontrolable power of the president of the Republic. Similarity, the arguments used to justify bureaucracy contradict each other, are based on different and incompatible assumptions, or lead to conclusions diametrically opposite to what really happens.

4. The crux of the official ideology's notion is the justification of a hierarchy of income based on a hierarchy of power, which in turn is defended as based on a hierarchy of "knowledge", "qualifications", "talents", "responsibilities" or the "shortage" of specialized skills. One can see immediately that these scales do not coincide or correspond with either logic or reality. There can be a shortage of garbage collectors and an oversupply of teachers; great scholars have no responsibility while workers with very little "knowledge" have a daily responsibility for the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Furthermore, any attempt to make a "synthesis", to "balance out" these different criteria is necessarily arbitrary. Finally, it is even more arbitrary to use such a scale, even if it were justified to a given differentiation in incomes. Why should one year of school or a diploma be worth 100F and not 10 or 1000? But let us look at the arguments one by one.

5. It is said that the hierarchy of power and incomes is justified by a hierarchy of knowledge. But in the business enterprise as in society at large it is not those who are most knowledgeable who give orders and earn the most money. It is true that the majority of the hierarchy have diplomas. But setting aside the fact that it is ridiculous to identify knowledge with diplomas, it is not the most knowledgeable who ascend the ladder of power and incomes but those who are most skillful in the competition that occurs within the bureaucracy running the enterprise. An industrial company is practically never run by the most learned of its engineers: he is most often confined to a research bureau. And in society we know that scholars, important or not, have no power and earn only a small fraction of the income of the director of a medium sized firm. Neither in an enterprise nor in society are power or high incomes given to those "who have the most knowledge or "technical skills", rather, they are determined by the ability to survive in the struggles between cliques and clans (a talent that has no economic or social value except for him who possesses it) and by the links one has with capital (in the western countries) or the dominant political party (in the eastern countries).

6. What has just been said sheds light on the argument justifying hierarchy on the basis of differential skills. As soon as we consider the differences in hierarchy and salary that are really important — not those between an assembly line worker and a tool maker but those between manual workers and the top management of an enterprise — we see that what is rewarded is not the ability to do a good job but the ability to bet on the right horse. But the official ideology claims that the hierarchy of incomes corresponds to a very specific skill, the ability to "direct", to "organize" or even the ability to "conceive and sell a product". However, it is evident that these skills have no meaning except in the present system. "The ability to direct" in its present sense only has meaning for a system that separates and opposes order takers and order givers, those who work and those who direct the work of others. It is the present organization of a company and of society that creates and requires the task of "directing" separate from the collectivity of workers and opposed to them. The same thing applies to the "organisation of work". This is no less true for the "ability to conceive and sell a product", for only to the extent that society depends on the creation of artificial needs does such a function and the corresponding skill have meaning and value.

Furthermore, these functions are not accomplished by individuals. Groups of ever greater importance and impersonality are charged with the "organization" of work and production, with publicity and sales, and even the most important decisions concerning the enterprise (investments, new manufacturing processes, etc.). The most important point is that in a large modern enterprise — just as with the state — no one really leads: decisions are made after processes so complex, impersonal and anonymous that most of the time it is impossible to say who decided what when. One could add that there is an enormous difference between the way things are supposed to happen and the way they actually occur, between the formal and the real processes of decisionmaking, just as in a work place there is a difference between the way the workers are supposed to do their work and the way in which they actually work.While a decision may be formally taken by an administrative committee,in reality the decision is already made behind the scenes or is altered by those who have to execute it.

7. Arguments in favour of hierarchy based on responsibility have no more weight than any of the others. We must start by asking in what cases can responsibility really be localized and assigned? Given the increasingly collective nature of production as well as other activities in modern society, these cases are extremely rare, and are not found in general except at the lowest levels of the hierarchy. Furthermore, there is no connection between the logic of the argument and what really happen. A railway crossing guard or an air traffic controller have the lives of hundreds of people in their hands each day but they are paid less than a tenth of what the bosses of the railways or Air France earn, even though the latter do not have the direct responsibility for any lives.
8. It is hard to take seriously the hierarchy of salaries based on a relative shortage of skills. As long as such a shortage exists it can push the wage level of a given category higher than it was before, but it cannot go beyond certain narrow limits. Whatever the relative "shortage" of factory workers and the relative "surplus" of lawyers, the latter will always be paid more than the former.

9. Not only are all of these arguments illogical and out of touch with what really happens, but they are incompatible with each other. If one takes them seriously, the level of salaries corresponding to "knowledge" (or even to diplomas) is quite different from that corresponding to "responsibilities" and so forth. The present system of payment try to make a "synthesis" of the factors supposedly determining rates of pay by means of an "evaluation" of work accomplished in such and such a job or such a place (job evaluation). But such a synthesis is a gross mystification: one can neither measure each factor taken separately nor add them up, except in an arbitrary fashion (with "adjustments" that do not correspond to any objective datum).It is by now absurd to measure knowledge by diplomas (whatever level of quality of the course of the education system). It is impossible to compare responsibilities except in some cases that are banal and without any importance. There are drivers of passenger trains and freight trains: how many tons of coal are equal to a human life? Hare-brained measurements established for each factor are added to oranges and apples with the aid of coefficients which correspond to nothing but the imagination of those who invent them.

The best illustration of the mystifying character of the system is furnished by the results of its application. One would have thought that after two centuries of nonscientific determination of incomes in industry, that job evaluation would have overthrown the existing structures of incomes. It is difficult to believe without knowing, why it is that enterprises have income levels which miraculously correspond to the discoveries of this "new" science. However, the changes effected by the application of the new method have been minute — which shows us that the method has been adjusted in order to change the system as little as possible, as well as to give it a pseudo-scientific justification. Furthermore, job evaluation has not diminished the intensity of conflicts over absolute and relative income that occupy the daily life of enterprises.

More generally we can never insist too much on the duplicity and bad faith of all these justifications that always reduce factors relative to the nature of work into base differences of incomes — despite the fact that by far the least important differences are those which exist among workers, and the most important are those between the mass of workers on one side and the different categories of bosses (political or economic) on the other side. But the official ideology thereby attains at least one result: for no logical reason, and contrary to their own self-interest, the workers themselves seem to attach more importance to the small differences that exist between them than to the enormous differences that separate them from the top ranks of the hierarchy. We will return to this question later.

All this concerns what we have called the ideology of the justification for hierarchy. There is a discussion that seems more "respectable", that of academic or marxist economic science. We cannot give a detailed refutation here. Let us say simply that if on a coal-burning locomotive, you get rid of the engineer; you do not "lesssen" the product (transport) "a bit", you wipe it right out; and the same thing is true, if you get rid of the fireman. The "product" of this indivisible team of engineer and fireman obeys an all-or-nothing law; there is no "marginal product" from the one that you can separate from that produced by the other.The same thing holds true in a single shop, as well as throughout the whole of a modern factory, where the jobs are strictly interdependent.

For Marxist economics, incomes are determined by the "labour theory of value", that is, they are equivalent to the cost of production and reproduction of this commodity, which under capitalism is labour power.

Therefore, differences in the level of wages earned by skilled workers and unskilled workers must correspond to the differences in the costs of forming these two categories of work. (The main factor being the training of future workers during their "unproductive" apprenticeship years.) It is easy to calculate that, on this basis, the differences in income levels would scarcely exceed the proportion of 1 to 2 (between work absolutely devoid of any skill and work that requires 10 to 15 years training). However, this has little to do with reality, either in the western countries or in the east (where the hierarchy of incomes is practically as blatant as in the west).

We must emphasize that even if the academic and Marxist theories offer an explanation of income differences, they cannot furnish an adequate justification. For in each case hierarchy is accepted as a given fact, unchallenged and unchallengable, when it is really nothing but the result of the continued existence of the overall economic and social system. If skilled work is "worth" more, this, according to the Marxist conception, is because a workers' family has spent more for his education (and theoretically must "recoup the costs" — which means in practice that the skilled worker must in turn finance the education of his children). But why were they able to spend more, something that other families could not do? Because they were already privileged with regard to income. All that these explanations say is that if we start with a hierarchical differentiation, it will continue to perpetuate itself by these mechanisms. Let us add that in academic economics, incomes supposedly correspond to the "marginal product of work", ie., that which is "added" to the product in an hour or work by an extra worker, (or, the amount subtracted from the product by getting rid of one worker.) Without entering into the theoretical discussion of the concept — we can easily prove its untenablility — we can immediately see its absurdity in the case that interests us, the different payment of different skills starting from the point where there is a division of labour and interdependance of different jobs, which is generally the case in modern industry. If, since it is increasingly true that society as a whole and not individuals pay the costs of education, it is reasonable for those who have already benefited at the expense of society by gaining an education that trains them to do more interesting, less painful work, to demand further that they should also obtain a higer income.

This concerns profound sociological and psychological factors which determine individuals' attitudes to the hierarchical structure. It is no secret, and there is no reason to hide it: we find with many people an acceptance of and even support for hierarchy that is just as strong as that found in the privileged strata.

It is even doubtful that workers at the bottom of the bureaucratic structure are more opposed to hierarchy than others (the situation is complex and varies with the times).We must seriously examine the reason for this state of things. This would require a long and difficult study which could have to be made with the greatest participation of the workers themselves. Here we can only give a few reflections.

We can always say that it is true that the official ideology of hierarchy has penetrated all sectors of the working class; but we must ask how it happened since we know that in France as well as England the working class movement was strongly egalitarian. It is also true that the capitalist system could not have continued to function, and above all could not have taken its modern bureaucratic form, if the hierarchical structure had not only been accepted but supported and "interiorized"; it was necessary for a considerable part of the population to agree to play the game for the game to have been playable. Why does it play this game? Partly, no doubt, because the modern system, the only "meaning for existence" that society is capable of producing, the only bait it can offer is consumption, and hence an income that constantly rises. To the extent that people take this bait — and for the present almost everybody seems to take it — to the extent also that illusions of "upward mobility" and "promotion" and the fact of economic growth make them see the upper echelons as levels that they try and hope to reach, they attach less importance to differences in income than they would in a static situation. One is tempted to conclude from this factor that there is what we could call a freedom to create illusions about the real importance of income differences present in the majority of the population; recent surveys have shown that in France people underestimate the difference in incomes to a fantastic extent.

But without doubt there is a deeper factor more difficult to formulate which plays the main role here. The triumph of the gradual bureaucratization of society has also and necessarily been the triumph of an imaginary representation of society — in whose creation everyone shares to some degree — as a pyramid or system of hierarchical pyramids.To be blunt, it seems as if it is impossible for man in modern society to imagine a society whose individuals are really equal in rights and obligations, where the differences between individuals correspond to something other than the differences in their positions on a scale of command and incomes. And that is due to that fact that no one can think of himself as something in his own eyes (or as the psychoanalysts say, establish his "sense of identity"), except in terms of the place he occupies in a hierarchical structure, even if it is one of the lowest positions. In fact, one could say that this is the only way that modern bureaucratic society leaves open for people to feel that each one is someone — by holding onto a last vestige of apparent self-determination, even as all standards and sources of meaning are emptied of any meaningful content. In a society where the objectives as well as the manner in which work is performed have become absurd, where there are no more truly living collective activities, where the family shrinks and breaks up, where the mass media and the rush to consume reduce everything to uniformity, the system cannot offer people anything to hide the emptiness it creates in their lives except that ridiculous bauble, the place they eoccupy in the bureaucratic hierarchy. It is therefore far from incomprehensible that many cling to it,and that occupational and professional rivalries are far from disappearing.

perspective we must try to see to what extent this hierarchical representation of society is wearing out and being put into question.

Originally published in CFDT Anjourd'hui, No. 5 (January-February, 1974), reprinted in Cornelius Castoriadis, L'Experience du Mouvement Ouvrier: Proletrariat et Organization (Paris: Union Generale, 1974). Translated by Tom McLaughlin.

Radical Newspapers

A radical newspaper succeeds to the extent that it engages in dialogue with its readers and community, rather than in preaching.

By Ulli Diemer

1. Rather than speak of a radical or socialist newspaper, it would be more precise to speak of a radicalizing newspaper.

2. “Radicalizing” refers to two dialectically related processes: radicalization of the community (or workplace, etc.) which the paper serves, and the radicalization of the newspaper itself. Neither of them can be radical, because radicalism is not a state of being (a state of Grace) but a state of becoming.

3. Since the newspaper is a medium of communication, a radical newspaper must embody a radical approach to communication. This means challenging the conception of a newspaper itself, challenging it in two different aspects: the content of what is communicated, and the way in which the communicating is done.

4. To begin with the word: newspaper. A newspaper supposedly relates “news”; events which have newly happened. But which of the countless events happening are news, which aren’t? “Event” is itself a concept that is tied to one world-view: for some, for example, the rise of the capitalism is one of the major events of world history, for others, there was no such event. Many newspapers restrict themselves to isolated, sensational events and thereby ignore most of the really important events, which are not daily “hard-news” occurrences. What is selected, what is passed over? Why? Who decides?

5. Selection implicitly involves interpretation of what is important and why, and therefore fractures the myth of objectivity, since events are not “objectively” important. (How could they be, on a planet which is itself unimportant?) One cannot say an event is important without saying to whom it is so, and why.

6. Interpretation goes beyond selection. It involves the presentation and interpretation of selected events in some kind of a structure of meaning. Different world-views will see the same events in very different ways.

7. We are generally aware of how capitalist newspapers approach “news”, and what interests are served by their selection and analysis of it. The common mistake on the left is to assume that it is necessary only to reverse the bias, to select and interpret from a socialist viewpoint rather than a capitalist one.

8. The result is a left press that is a little more than a mirror image of the capitalist press. Readers are lectured and harangued; “lessons” are pointed out in the best manner of authoritarian pedagogy; and fantastic tasks are barked out as orders: “Bring INCO to it knees!” “Oust the generals – Workers to power!”, “Stop the Oil grab!”, etc.

9. What is ignored is the way communication occurs. Real communication should be dialectical, both in the sense of being a dialogue, and in the sense of leading to the transformation of those participating or listening.

10. Capitalist communication naturally is not intended to be of this kind. The fundamental content of capitalism, and thus the basic message of the capitalist media, is the apparently inevitable alienation of social life. We are and can be nothing but passive spectators as forces and events beyond our control unfold. The media may tell us that events are unfolding as they should, or they may be critical in matters of detail, but in no case do they allow us to view ourselves as subjects rather than objects. Their own structure as well as their content is part of the same message of passive acceptance in which freedom evaporates because the existing world is the only possible one. We can relate to newspapers only as consumers because (so we are told) that is the inevitable, technologically given nature of modern mass media. The actual content it reports, whether it be truth or lies, is thus in a very real sense secondary: “Within a world really on its head, the true is a moment of the false.”

11. “Left” papers that approach communication in the same way largely negate their content through their form. The readers do not participate in the communication. The message of powerlessness is ironically also conveyed: the setting of impossible tasks is not very different from saying that change is impossible.

12. A radical newspaper can only be truly radical to the extent that it succeeds in involving its base actively in the paper, and to the extent that it actually (not rhetorically) become a part of the fabric of the community (workplace, etc.) and its struggles.

13. A radical newspaper is not something that exists, therefore, but something that is always in the making, always becoming. A newspaper will become more radical, in its structures and relationships, as well as its content, as the community become more radical. Its radicalism is always partial, never complete.

14. This is not to say that it cannot be ahead of much of the community, but it is to say that one is not leading if no one is following.

15. A newspaper succeeds in being radical to the extent that it succeeds in going to the roots of alienation, to the extent that its base moves from passivity to activity.

16. The condition of both radicalism and freedom is activity, and the condition of free or radical activity is critical thought.

17. A radical newspaper therefore has two primary tasks: to encourage critical thinking, and to encourage self-activity.

18. These in turn require access to information.

19. Critical thought and self-activity cannot be encouraged by telling people what to think or what to do. It occurs only when people think for themselves and decide on their action themselves. If a newspaper is to have a role, it must therefore be a means of communication, organizing, and action for people, not the vehicle through which ‘radicals’communicate their message to the people.

20. A radical newspaper must seek to involve people in the newspaper itself, not necessarily as ‘journalists’ but in selecting and creating the content. Only in this can it respond to the needs of the people.

21. A radical newspaper must become part of the more general self-activity of the people. The people must see it as their own paper, and must consider it as one of the weapons they use in their own struggles. Whether this happens is not primarily a matter of how radical the paper is (i.e. whether it is ‘too far left’) but of the quality of its radicalism (i.e. whether it succeeds in involving the community in itself, and itself in the community.)

What Might a Radical Newspaper be Like?

1. Well designed, well-written, interesting. Important not only to make the paper appealing in itself, but indicative of its politics. If a message can‘t be interesting or well-written, there is something wrong with the message or the person giving it.

2. Honest. We have to tell the truth, even when it hurts. This means not only that we don’t lie, but also that we don’t delude ourselves.

3. Critical. We don’t just repeat the old dogmas, we think and write critically

4. Specific. We cannot deal in abstract theoretical fulminations. Certainly we will analyze and theorize, but the basis of the paper, and our analysis, must be specific events.

5. Concerned with daily life, not just with ‘political’ issues.

6. Balanced in content, catering to the whole person and a whole range of interests.

7. Willing to admit mistakes.

8. A sense of humour.

Science fiction is more than just Buck Rogers

Like most modern literature, science fiction is concerned with the alienated human condition, yet it articulates this concern in a distinct manner, as a form of literature concerned with the implications of the problems engendered by industrial society.

By Gregory Renault

1. All facets of everyday life under modern capitalism feature aspects of repression, dominance and reification in constant tension with and opposition to other aspects, the struggle for autonomy and creativity. This dialectic of domination and liberation is readily seen in struggles of national liberation, class conflicts, the politics of the family, and movements for sexual liberation, to cite the more prominent contemporary arenas. Though usually treated as mere ideology or even propaganda, the cultural sphere is another equally important area of our experience filled with the conflict and tension which result from dehumanized life in bureaucratic capitalism. Cultural politics engaged in the service of human liberation begin with the exploration of this dynamic, tracing out the salient forms and functions of cultural contradictions, and relating them to society as a whole.

2. While mass culture theory from Tocqueville on has always been informed by politics, never claiming to be value-free, both radical and conservative forms alike have been marred by a tendency to reduce mass culture to something other than the discrete form of cultural expression that it is. In distinct contrast to bourgeois high culture, divorced from explicit acknowledgment of its social and historical sources by the general social division of labour, mass culture is always seen in relation to the social, and hence the political.

Conservative critics attempting to retain the purity of Western civilization react strongly to the defilement of their intellectual preserve. For them, mass culture is simply one facet of the general shift to a mass society heralding the decline of excellence in favor of democratic equality, the individuality for uniformity. Quality of life is equated with the necessary scarcity and limited access to the fruits of civilization endemic in aristocratic orders; culture is preserved only by denying it to the majority, and class hierarchy is defended in the name of Truth.

The social change opposed by culture critics like T.S. Eliot, Ortega y Gasset and F.R. Leavis, and viewed ambivalently by liberals like J.S. Mill is initially embraced by radicals. What conservatives view as the extinction of enlightenment by the barbarism of mass society, radicals characterize as the extension of previously limited privileges in the revolutionary moment of the newly ascendant bourgeois class. Extension of political rights and cultural participation are progressive measures accompanying the new forms of class oppression. An ambiguous development however, industrial capitalism's liberatory ideology is used to prevent the actual realization of its own ideals. But in its attempt to translate these bourgeois ideals of freedom, equality and democracy into actual social relations, the socialist tradition also denied the integrity and autonomy of the cultural realm. Enshrined in the Marxist subsumption of political-ideological superstructure under the technical base, cultural activity is seen as a mere reflection of the more important economic relations, and is relegated to sterile propaganda.

The conservative and radical views of mass culture simply cannot came to terms with the vitality of popular thought. From the aristocratic perspective, "democratic culture" is a contradiction in terms, for by its very nature culture is only accessible to the few; for the radical, ideology is false consciousness perpetrated by the culture industry, and culture becomes merely a weapon to be utilized in class warfare. As either non-serious entertainment, or as propaganda, the net effect is the same: the denial of the whole symbolic realm of meaning where the purpose and significance of everyday life is continually constituted and (re)defined.

3. Instead, culture is a form of praxis. This remains true even when folk-generated popular culture is replaced by the domination of the market and the commodity form in mass culture. Undoubtedly an aspect of the attempted integration of particularity (as a source of negation) into a bureaucratically administered form of capitalism, mass culture retains the ambiguity of ideology, which speaks the truth even as it attempts to disguise it.

Mass culture is a historically specific form of social signification, predicated on the technical, economic and cultural transformations brought about by industrial capitalism. The colonization of the cultural sphere begins in earnest with the transition from competitive to monopoly capital: work relations are rationalized by "scientific management"; concentration and centralization of capital gives rise to the corporation, with application of the detailed division of labor to management producing specialized marketing agencies; mass consumption is pushed via new media advertising images into previously safe areas of life; family relations and character structures crumble under the onslaught of the market and in response to the increase of direct state intervention into the affairs of everyday life.

Yet institutions of social reproduction are not merely agencies of social control; they are also the site of social
(self-) constitution. The very technical and social changes brought on by the rise of industrial capitalism permit the (albeit abstract) extension of access to culture. Cheap, mass-produced newspapers are one of the first manifestations of the transition from popular to mass culture engendered by capitalism; out of the publication of the early era grew the book trade, and the rise of the novel as both entertainment and art form — a tension between edification and enlightenment retained within other, later forms of mass culture. The market also permits the rise of professional writers and publishers, even as it subjects culture to the unseen hand. The new literacy required by capitalism at the same time universalizes thought.

The transition from competitive to monopoly capitalism marked by the advent of rationalized mass production, mass consumption and media mass culture retains this cultural dialectic. Appropriation of popular culture's literary formulas into mass culture is paralleled by the erosion of bourgeois high culture, even as subjectivity in general retains an ambiguous ideological tension between affirmation and negation of contemporary life. The Six-Million Dollar Man may affirm literally the mechanical dehumanization we all figuratively feel, and portray as natural and desirable the use of unrestrained power by the state; at the same time it overtly recognizes the reduction of life to an instrumentalized subservience whose only expression is both quantitative and monetary. The reverse is the case for New Wave music, from the start an ambiguous revolt which partook of the very elements against which it struggled, but now co-opted by jaded aesthetes who, in the rush to catch the latest market-managed "counter cultural" fad, rob it of its authenticity by ripping it from the social context within which it derives relevance as a gesture of frustration and resistance.

4. Thus, even as the form of mass culture dialectically combines formulas with originality, its content combines repression with disclosure, identification with estrangement, and affirmation with negation. The examination of one form of mass cultural literature, science fiction, reveals its specific location in this cultural dialectic.

Science fiction as an identifiable genre emerged as an essentially ambivalent reaction to the process of developing industrial capitalist society. Its two thematic poles reflect an unease with the new historical changes which were to permeate other mass cultural forms as well: on the one hand, it glorified scientific and technological progress and embraced the new industry and its concomittant social forms; on the other hand, the negative reaction to the alienation accompanying industrial capitalism portrayed the change as regression rather than progress, via romantic critiques based on a longing for earlier, simpler times. Like all mass culture formulas, science fiction combines general archetypes and literary forms (utopias, fabulous voyages, gothic romance) with specific cultural materials rooted in the immediate historical context; from this it derives its particular themes and fictional strategies (alien encounter, questing scientist, distopian satire, evolutionary fable, alternative universe).

Like most modern literature, science fiction is concerned with the alienated human condition, yet it articulates this concern in a distinct manner, as a form of literature concerned with the implications of the problems engendered by industrial society. It particularly utilizes a tradition of themes and devices which create common writer/reader expectations in the context of a strong reception dialectic unique to this form of mass culture (sf fandom). That is, production and consumption are mutually influenced to an extent far greater than in other forms of mass culture, which tend towards a sharply bifurcated active/passive, top-down manipulation of the consumer. But in science fiction, fandom — the network of institutions (newsletters, correspondence, conventions, formal awards procedures) which provide means of reader-writer communication — substantially affects the nature of the production-consumption dynamic. While this tends to enhance the insularity of the sf community, it also makes the literature more responsive to the desires of readers by giving fans (some of whom in turn become writers) an active input into the process of cultural creation; the overall result is that science fiction is fairly responsive to social change.

Science fiction also employs a literary approach which powerfully enhances fictional distance to comment indirectly upon society. Unlike the traditional novel, the science fiction setting is ontologically different from our world (regarding space and/or time), yet there remains aesthetic and thematic continuity for interest and intelligibility's sake. The narrative must utilize literary conventions in order for it to make sense to the reader (and in this respect sf is backward, only recently having discovered "modernist" inventions); likewise, regardless how exotic the setting or characters, the issues it deals with must be relevant and interesting to someone living here and now.

But while the imaginative worlds of realistic fiction are based on actual contemporary or historical societies, those of science fiction (and modern fantasy as well) are definitely not, being set on other planets, in the future, in alternative universes, and the like. Science fiction is thus particularly able to vicariously reintroduce in its content those "alien" features — the Other, or the Different — so often denied by the one-dimensional mechanisms of exclusion prevalent in our society. The result is to make science fiction essentially social: though fiction, its narrative style, and thematic emphasis are realist in a manner which permits effective, oblique social comment. The retention of some basic rules of the scientific world view as well as the traditional conventions of aesthetic coherence, forces the thematic focus back upon our world. (In fantasy, science is replaced by magic: the specific focus upon contemporary problems then gives way to romantic escapism.) Thus, in the imaginary worlds of science fiction. "fiction" twice removed comes full circle to comment on everyday life under capitalism.

5. Abstractly considered, the form of science fiction reveals a tension between structures of enlightenment and edification: the content of science fiction reveals a dialectic between mimesis and escape, between realism and imagination; while its ambiguous social function features a parallel tension between ideological affirmation and critical negation. Considered historically, the development of science fiction's major phases reveals the dimensions of form, content and social function in their concrete ambivalence.

The period of science fiction's emergence in the 19th century is characterized by formal reliance upon mainstream literary techniques and the novel form, while its themes emerge in romantic reactions like Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, the early "scientific romances" of H.G. Wells, as well as the technocratic adventures of Jules Verne. Still a part of the literary establishment, and not yet fully mass culture as we consider it, the emphasis tends towards the critical pole, exploring themes of knowledge as power, the dangers of science, as well as developing critiques of class society (The Time Machine) and imperialism (The War of the Worlds).

The second period occurs with the development of mass culture proper, in the cheap, mass produced pulp specialty magazines of the 1920's in the U.S. This period, also featuring the rise of mass advertising and consumption as salient characteristics of newly transformed American life, featured equally drastic changes in form, content and social function of science fiction. It emerged for the first time as a distinct literary entity in the "scientifiction" of Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories, formally shifting from novel to short story, thematically shifting to an emphasis on inventions themselves, rather than their social effects — a complete reversal in both areas. Postwar boom and optimism in the new phase of capitalism are reflected in the ideological themes of the period: imperialism, seen in the perpetual conquest of foreign planets; racism, seen in aliens thinly disguised as non-whites: sexism, seen in the male protagonists, with women (when they appear at all) as decorative objects or rewards. Ironically, the birth of science fiction as an independent cultural entity is achieved at the cost of literary excellence as well as critical content.

John Campbell's Astounding in the 1940's marked a qualitative shift in form and content again, though not in social function. Growing reader-writer sophistication, and an emerging self-conscious attitude fostered by the fandom phenomenon led to an emphasis away from gadgets as ends in themselves, and towards literary considerations in story construction: a tendency (which continues today) of growing reapproachment between science fiction and mainstream literature. This third phase was further altered by a parallel shift from short story back to novels again, following the explosion of mass market paperbacks in the 1950's. However, though the craftsmanship improved, the themes remained ideological. Overall, they reveal an ahistorical ethnocentrism, with the institutions and values of capitalist America projected throughout the universe as natural and eternal — bourgeois abstraction on a grandiose scale. Science fiction reflected the faith in scientific progress, and the optimism prevalent in the U.S. at its height as a global capitallist power, even as cold war paranoia crept in via fear of aliens, blobs and the like.

Since the 1960's science fiction has become "legitimate", entering the academy, as well as the work of mainstream writers such as Burgess, Lessing and Pynchon. It has also become more sophisticated, approaching literary quality from its own side (even while retaining its character as mass culture). What was called the "new wave" marked a culmination of previous developments, an experimentation with literary style and language, but also featuring a critical reversal of science fiction's previous ideological perspective. The most recent return to the critical pole of the continuum is this time a self-conscious one: writers such as LeGuin, Brunner and Delaney incorporate reflections on science fiction into their critiques of social, economic, political, sexual and psychological alienation; more than ever, the unique structures of the science fiction form are being utilized to critically extrapolate and explore new social relations. The most recent shift in science fiction reveals a case of one form of mass culture which has partially transcended its initial thematic and political limitations.

6. Science fiction novels such as LeGuin's The Dispossessed, Delaney's Triton or Russ' The Female Man actively contribute to the ongoing self-criticism of the science fiction community, as well as to the critical consciousness of our society. Current science fiction as a form of mass culture may not be a socially pervasive as television or rock music, but it certainly partakes of the same socio-cultural dynamic. Concrete investigation of science fiction's elements and their socio-historical development, reveals the ongoing dialectic of domination and liberation which characterizes life in modern capitalist society, demonstrating that mass culture shares that drive to humanize our world which is usually characterized in only political terms. Cultural politics is thus an essential part of the struggle for full human liberation.

An Interview with Karl Marx

A reporter for the New York World interviews Karl Marx in 1871 about the goals and organizational methods of the First International.

The fact that Marx wrote little on questions of organization has made it easier for 'socialists' and 'Marxists' of all stripes to claim that their particular organizational prescriptions were the logical complement to Marx's theories. We reproduce here an interview which Marx gave in 1871 in which he deals with the organ-ization of the First International.

I came immediately to the purpose of my visit. The world, I said, appears to be in the dark concerning the International; it hates the International without being able to explain what it actually is which it hates. A few, who believe that they have penetrated more deeply into the darkness, claim that the International is Janus-headed, with the good-natured and honest smile of a worker on the one face and the murderous aspect of a conspirator on the other. I asked Marx to lift the secrecy which surronds this theory. The scholar smiled amusedly — so it seemed to me — at the idea that we had such fear of him.

My dear sir, there are no secrets to reveal, began Marx, in a very polished form of the Hans-Breitmann dialect, unless it be the secret of the human stupidity of those who persist in ignoring the fact that our Association does its work in the open and that it publishes exhaustive reports of its activities for all those who want to read them.You can purchase our Statutes for one penny, and if you spend a shilling, you can purchase brochures from which you will learn almost everything about us that we ourselves know.

I: “Almost” — that may be true. But is it not perhaps precisely that which I don't know which is the most important? I will be completely open with you and put the question as an outsider must put it: Does not the generally negative attitude to your organization itself prove more than the ignorant ill-feeling of the masses? And would you, after everything you just said, still allow me this question: Just what is the International?

Dr. Marx: You only have to look at the people who comprise it — they are workers.

I: Yes, but soldiers are not always representative of the government which disposes over them. I know several of your members, and I will gladly believe that they are not the stuff of which conspirators are made. At any rate, a secret which one shared with million people would not remain a secret. But what if these people are only tools in he hands of a bold cabal — and I hope you ill forgive me if I add — one not always fastidious in its choice of means?

Dr. Marx: There is nothing to prove that this is the case.

I: And the last uprising in Paris?

Dr. Marx: First of all I would ask you to prove that there was any kind of a conspiracy and that everything which occurred was not simply the inevitable result of the existing circumstances. And even if we assume that there was a conspiracy, I would still ask you to prove to me that the International Association took part in it.

I: The presence of so many members of the Association in the Commune.

Dr. Marx: Then it could just as easily have been a conspiracy of Freemasons, for their individual part in it was not small by any means. I really would not be surprised if the Pope did try to push the whole uprising onto their account. But let us try to find another explanation. The uprising in Paris was carried out by the Parisian workers. The most capable workers must therefore have been the ones who led it and carried it out; yet the most capable workers are also members of the International Association. But nevertheless, the Association need not be responsible for their actions in any way.

I: The world will look at it through different eyes. People are talking about secret instructions from London and even about financial assistance.Can it be maintained that the allegedly open activity of the Association rules out any secret communications?

Dr. Marx: Has there ever been an association which carried out its work without having confidential as well as open communications? But to speak of secret instructions from London as if it were a question of decrees in questions of belief and morals, emanating from some centre of papal rule and intrigue, would be to completely misunderstand the nature of the International. This would presuppose a centralised form of government in the International; in reality, however, the organizational form of the International gives the greatest scope to the working class; it is more of a union or an association than a centre of command.

I: And what is the purpose of this association?

Dr. Marx
: The economic emancipation of the working class through the conquest of political power. The utilization of this political power for the realization of social goals. Our goals have to be all-encompassing so that they may include all the forms of effectiveness of the working class. If we had given them a particular character, then they would have met the needs of only one section of the working class, the working class of only one nation. But how could one induce all people to unite for the interests of a few? If our association did this, it would not have the right to call itself an international. The Association does not dictate any particular form of political activity; it only demands that all this activity be directed toward the same final goal. It comprises a network of subsidiary organizations which stretch throughout the world of work. In every part of the world special aspects of the general problem emerge; the workers take these into consideration and work to solve them in their own way. The associations of the workers cannot be identical to the last detail in Newcastle and Barcelona, in London and in Berlin. In England for example the working class has a choice as to how it will develop its political strength. An uprising would be a stupidity in a country where the goal can be reached more quickly and surely through peaceful means. In France the numerous repressive laws and the deadly antagonism between the classes seem to make a violent solution to social divisions necessary. Whether such a solution will be chosen is a matter to be decided by the working class of that country. The International does not presume to dictate in this question, or even to advise to any extent. But it does express its sympathy for every movement and goves them assistance within the framework of its own rules.

I: And what is the nature of this help?

Dr. Marx: Let me give you an of the forms which the movement for emancipation employs most often is the strike. Previously, if a strike broke out in any country, it was strangled by the importation of workers form other countries. The International has almost brought an end to all that. It receives information concerning the intended strike and passes the information on to its members, so that these will immediately be made aware that the place in which the struggle is being carried out is taboo to them. In this way the manufacturers are forced to depend only on their own workers. In most cases the strikers require no other help. Their own dues or collections in other unions with which they are closely allied provide them with provisions. If however their situation has become difficult and if the strike has received the sanction of the Association, then they receive assistance from the common funds. The strike of the cigar workers in Barcelona was brought to a successful conclusion in this way. But the Association is not interested in strikes in themselves, even if it supports them in certain circumstances. From a financial point of view it cannot gain anything from a strike, but it can easily lose. To put it concisely: the working class remains impovershed amidst the general prosperity and immiserated amidst luxury. Their material poverty cripples the workers morally and also physically. They cannot count on any help from the outside. Consequently it was for them a matter of pressing urgency to take their cause into their own hands. They have to change the relationships between themselves and the capitalists and landlords, and that means changing society. That is the common goal of every known workers' organization; the Land and Labour Leagues, the trade unions and the associations for mutual aid, the consumer and productive co-operatives are only means for achieving this end. The task of the International is to bring about a truly genuine solidarity between these organizations. Its influence is becoming noticable everywhere: two newspapers spread its views in Spain, three in Germany, the same number in Austria and Holland, six in Belgium and six in Switzerland. Now that I have related to you what the International is, you can form your own opinions about the alleged conspiracies of the International.

I: Some people believe that they have detected elements of positivism in your organization.

Dr. Marx: By no means. There are positivists among us, and there are positivists who do not belong to our organization but who are also active. But this is not a result of their philosophy, which wants nothing to do with the ideas of popular power, as we understand it, their philosophy aims only at replacing the old heirarchy with a new one.

I: It appears to me that the hoped-for solution of whatever kind it may be, will be achieved without the violent means of revolution in our country. The English method of agitating at public meetings and in the press until the minority becomes a majority is a hopeful sign.

Dr. Marx: In this respect I am less hopeful than you. The English bourgeoisie has always shown itself ready to accept the decision of the majority as long as it commanded a monopoly at the polls. But you may be surer that as soon as it finds itself in a minority in questions which it considers crucial, we will see a new civil war.

Translated from the German by Ulli Diemer.

This interview with Karl Marx was conducted by R. Landor on July 3, 1871 and was published in the New York World on July 18, 1871. The only available copy of the interview is a German translation, in Marx-Engels Werke, Vol. 17, pp. 639-643, which has also been published in Gesprache mit Marx and Engels, Hans Magnus Enaensberger (ed.), Insel Taschenbuch, Frankfurt, 1973, Vol. 2, pp. 375-382.

The Proliferation of Neo-Primitives

Neo-primitives prefer an imaginary past to the work of creating a different society.

By Ed Clark



Human beings look for the easiest solution to any problem they may face. This is as true for the problem of abolishing class society as it is for the problem of securing food, clothing, shelter, etc. Since what appears at first glance to be the “easiest” solution is usually so badly misleading as to be useless, it often takes a long time before people give up the “easy” answer and begin to make real process in solving their problems.


The “easiest solution” to all human problems was summed up by Walt Disney: “wishing will make it so:” This answer requires no physical and very little mental work. Anyone can do it in their spare time. Whether you use it to invent Gods and Devils or to explain how class society will be overthrown, it remains equally useful and always available. Of course, it does have one tiny little shortcoming. it doesn't work.


Whenever class society finds itself in serious difficulties, the “easiest answer” comes forward with renewed strength. In its official clothing, it seeks to convince people that their unhappiness is their own fault. What what concerns us here is how the “easiest answer” puts on a “revolutionary” costume.


What does the wishful revolutionary wish for? For reasons that are not clear, he* usually has some distorted version of the past that he wishes to re-create. Since real primitives often have a myth of a “Golden Age”, I choose to call our contemporary wishful revolutionaries Neo-Primitives.


Beginning with a vision of human freedom (instead of some ideas based on an examination of social reality), our Neo-Primitive proceeds to the construction of a theology. Those who support class society become devils; those who oppose it become saints. Even those who say they oppose class society readily slide into the grip of the devil; thus the detection of heretics becomes a major task. The Neo-Primitive is all too ready to respond to communication with excommunication.


The vision of our contemporary Neo-Primitive revolutionaries demands the destruction of science and technology in all its forms — their “Golden Age” pre-dates the machine. They regard science and technology as authoritarian by their very natures. They are “tools of the devil” (class society).


The Neo-Primitive revolutionary (like true primitives) has a basically passive attitude towards his social environment. He views “trying to make a revolution” about the same way a true primitive would view “trying to command the gods.” His bold rhetoric of “burning factories” translates into furtive shop-lifting at best.


The notion that human beings can act on a rational basis (“know what they're doing”) is heresy to the Neo-Primitive. He worships the looters in New York City's recent blackout as “real revolutionaries”, even though the looters themselves thought they were just stealing. If the looters had made a conscious political decision to loot, the Neo-Primitives would have condemned them as aspiring egocrats.


Living in a technological society, the Neo-Primitives inevitably generate a sever internal contradiction. Unless they are willing to withdraw into some rural paradise (like the Amish in Pennsylvania), they find themselves using all of the technological “tools of the devil” to preach the anti-technological faith. They publish newspapers to denounce the whole idea of newspapers as a form of communication. They write pamphlets and circulate books to condemn the idea of writing pamphlets and circulating books. They form organizations based on the premise that all organization turn into counter-revolutionary gangs. In short, at every turn, they subvert their own project. They find, as so many have in the past, that wishing does not make it so after all!


Some of the Neo-Primitives are aware of this contradiction and are self-critical enough to invite us to judge them by their practice. Taking them up on this offer is a risky proposition (given their ever-present impulse to excommunicate but why bother? Now that a small but growing number of people are beginning to reject the “easiest answer” and really try to figure out how to build an egalitarian mass movement and construct a classless society, is there anything to be gained by trying to drag the Neo-Primitives kicking and screaming into the last quarter of the 20th century? It is a shame, of course, to see otherwise admirable people waste their time and energy in visions and theology. Perhaps the best we can hope is that when a libertarian revolution is made, the Neo-Primitives will choose a life of freedom over their dream of freedom.

Ed Clark
Oakland, Calif.

Ten Theses on the Proliferation of Neo-Primitives: (A reply to W.B. Jeffries' “Ten Theses on the Proliferation of Egocrats”, published in the Fifth Estate, September 1977)

Some of my Best Comrades are Friends

The left’s sloppy use of language indicates sloppy thinking.

By Ulli Diemer

In matters of language, I tend to be a conservative.While I am not opposed to linguistic change per se, it is my sense that most such change represents intellectual laziness and decay. Most current changes in the English language are in no sense improvements or even the result of misguided attempts to bring about improvement, but simply destructive assaults. To say that these assaults are usually thoughtless rather than premeditated is not to excuse them but to understand their nature, for the degeneration of language is a major symptom, as well as a cause, of the degeneration of thought. Imprecise writing and speech are the clearest possible indications of imprecise thought, and those in the forefront of linguistic destruction are usually those who would have the most to lose if the habit of thought were to spread. My attitude to language is therefore that of the pedant, as Bertrand Russell once defined him: “a person who prefers to have his facts correct”. A pedant is also someone who prefers to use language correctly, and in that sense we are in desperate need of pedantry.

It is clear that an integral part of a conservative-yet-radical attitude to language (Progressive conservatism?) must be opposition to the introduction of jargon. But it is also necessary to be sensitive to the abuse of established words which results in their becoming jargon. When this occurs it sometimes becomes necessary to reluctantly abandon words that have stood us in good stead for a long time. (A related problem occurs when the generally understood meaning of words changes drastically: it is virtually impossible to use the term “dictatorship of the proletariat” any more, for example, because “dictatorship” has taken on a very different meaning in the twentieth century, while “proletariat,” now has no meaning for most people.)

An example of a word which is probably necessary to give up on is “comrade”. It used to be a good work, but it has fallen on hard times, and I think it doubtful that it can be rehabilitated.

“Comrade” has become one of the typical bullshit words of the left, its use usually recognizable as humbug posturing as fellowship and solidarity. “Comrade” is no longer part of our normal vocabulary but rather one of the special buzz-words we trot out (no pun intended) on certain occasions, occasions on which we are being less than candid. Its usage today is markedly different from what it was originally. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “comrade” as “mate or fellow in work or play or fighting, (an) equal with whom one is on familiar terms.” As this definition makes clear, “comrade” was at one tine an easygoing, informal term of address that was commonly used throughout Europe in referring to ones’ fellows. As such, it easily became part of the socialist vocabulary, where people were bound together by the normal ties one felt towards ones’ fellow workers, and additionally by the special ties that were implied in socialist comradeship. But gradually the meaning of the word changed — significantly, the change was directly linked to a change in the concept of “party”, shared their ideas and who were in some way working to realize them. Much later, in the 1960’s, we used “movement” in the same sense. With the growth of the Second, and even more so the Third, International, however, “party” came to have a much more official, institutional meaning. No longer did it connote something broad and non-exclusive. Now one was either in the party or not in the party; if one didn’t have a membership card, one was at best a “sympathizer” or a potential recruit. The word “comrade” was now used exclusively to refer to members of The Party, and, ironically, as it came to be more and more associated with socialism, it increasingly fell into disuse among ordinary people as they worked or played together.

Nevertheless, the word still had real life as long as there was real life in the socialist movement, but as that hardened and decayed, the word “comrade” was emptied of content too, until only the shell remained. Instead of the easygoing fraternity it once signified, “comrade” is now an official term, a title, devoid of personal content. (Certainly one does not address one’s friends as comrades.) It is objectionably exclusive in its clear statement that only fellow members of the organization, not ones’ fellow workers are comrades. (It has always been almost exclusively a male term as well.) “Comrade” is rarely used in speech, almost never as the term of direct address it once was. (It may still be used in speeches: “Comrades...”) Its normal application is now in written communication, sometimes as a salutation in letters, but more commonly, ironically enough, in referring to ones opponents, in polemics “Comrade Dumbfuck seems not to have grasped Lenin's analysis of as it applies to _____.”

It is a sad end for such a fine word to come to, but there is nothing we can do about it now except to give it a respectful funeral.


Another word whose meaning we would do well to examine is “demonstration”. It is surely a sad commentary on the political creativity of many of those who aim to create a whole new world that they are normally able to conceive of only one single political tactic, a tactic which is supposed to fit all situations: the demonstration. No matter what the issue, the knee-jerk response of the left is nearly always to “call a demonstration”. What this indicates is not only a lamentable lack of imagination, but a lack of understanding of what a demonstration should be: demonstrations have their place, to be sure, but they are hardly the magic bullets of the class struggle.

As the root of the word, whether “demonstration” in English, or “manifestation” in German or French, should make clear, a demonstration should demonstrate something, show something, manifest something. Preferably, one would think, it should demonstrate the strength and unity of the demonstrators, and oppressiveness of the establishment, the possibility and desirability of radical alternatives. What many demonstrations really demonstrate, however, are the weakness, insignificance, and divisiveness of the left, the left’s sterile approach to politics and change, it’s inability to offer any alternative except abstract slogan chanting. If that is what a demonstration is going to be, if that is how it is going to cone across to the ordinary people who witness it as onlookers, then it would have been better not to call it. Let us have fewer but better demonstrations, demonstrations that show something worth demonstrating.


A. S. Neill tells the story of “the young devil in hell who rushed to his master in great perturbation.
'Master! Master! Something awful has happened; they have discovered truth on earth!'
The Devil smiled. ‘That's all right, boy. I’ll send someone up to organise it.’”

The story could as well be about the left. The most overused word in the socialist vocabulary, and the most uncritically applied concept in the socialist world view, is “organize”. For most socialists, “organize” is just a synonym for political activity generally. “Organizing” is the only conceivable form of political activity.

Now, it is certainly true that all life and all social interaction involve some kind of organization or structure, whether we are aware of it or not. In that sense, everything is organized. But that is not the sense in which the left uses the word, and indeed in that sense it would be meaningless to talk about organizing something, since everything is already organized. (Perhaps one could speak of re-organizing...)

But the left uses the concept of organization in a much narrower sense. The dictionary gives us a fair definition: “organize: give orderly structure to”. Probably the clearest indication, however, comes from the workplace context, where, to both trade unions and the left, an “organized” work-place simply means a unionized one. Used in this sense, “organization” is an ideological concept both because it betrays a very restrictive and bureaucratic view of class struggle, and because it invariably accepts the proposition that such “organization” is necessarily a good thing.

Unions (to continue with this example) certainly play a role in protecting workers’ basic rights, but, as anyone who has ever worked in a unionized workplace can testify, unions are in many ways negative phenomena which play a disorganizing role among the workers. Because unions are highly bureaucratic organizations tied to contracts, official grievance procedures, paid full-time staff, pre-established routines, and very strictly defined limits, and because they jealously guard their monopoly as the only “workers” organization allowed in the workplace, they constantly and necessarily act to thwart the independent struggles and forms of organization of the workers.

As Jeremy Brecher has pointed out in Radical America (Vol. 7, No. 6) the prevailing view on the left is that the working class is organized “to the extent that it is enrolled in formal organizations, particularly trade unions and radical parties. The possibility that such organizations might represent the disorganization of their members — their inability to initiate and control their actions themselves — is not apparent from this point of view. Any activity not originating with such organizations is by definition “spontaneous”.

It is this conception that underlies the left’s drive to “organize”. The advancement of class struggle is seen as lying in the building of traditional organizations with structures, meetings, leaders, and programs. (Let me stress here, before the organizational fetishists come howling after my scalp, yelping “spontaneism, spontaneism” — whatever that means — that I am not opposed to forming organizations. I am opposed to the view that equates progress toward socialism with forming organizations. The fact is that one of the key factors preventing the development of collective consciousness and activity is the way in which capitalism atomizes people in their work, their living arrangements, all aspects of life. It is only when people are able to come together that change becomes possible. Organizations which perpetuate the atomization of people, which do not allow collective action to develop, which bring people together as units of a mass, are not, radicalizing organizations. The hard fact is this: people “organized” in a bureaucratic trade union have developed little more collectivity than people organized into a ball park by a football came.

The result of the left’s peculiar bias is that everything else tends to be ignored, subordinated, or subsumed in the organization-building fetish. It is no wonder, then, that the struggle for socialism, as we engage in it, is in practice a narrow one, despite our theories and our intentions. The struggle to — for example — achieve sexual liberation, to raise free and happy children; to drive authoritarianism out of the schools, to create a different culture, to transform daily life, is not primarily a matter of forming organizations, although organizations will undoubtedly play a role of some kind.

Why does the left have this bureaucratic fetish? (The anarchists are obviously not included in this critique: they have an equally stupid anti-organizational fetish which abstractly rejects organization. Neither position contains an analysis of the role of formal organizations, of their hows, whens, and whys.) I think it has a great deal to do with the traditional socialist stress on planning. The main problem with capitalism, according to this view, was seen as its inability to plan. Socialism was a historic leap forward because it would substitute a Plan for “capitalist anarchy”. (Trotsky, for example, insisted to the end of his life that the Soviet Union was more progressive than the capitalist countries because it had a Plan.) This attitude was applied, more or less, to all areas of social life. After the revolution, there would be no more of the miserable chaos of capitalism where everything was left to chance or to the desires of the most powerful: Socialism would organize the hell out of everything, and in so doing bring justice to the world. The underlying motives were good in many ways, but the resulting perspective was fatally narrow. (The ultimate destination was The Organization: The Party.) A free society requires a great deal of organization, but freedom also involves recognizing where organizing is not appropriate. In the meantime, we should not always assume that “doing politics” means “organizing”. There are other forms of activity, other ways of raising consciousness.

The Destructive Urge

Marxism's greatest discovery is that it cannot prescribe any science of revolution, any fail-safe program. On the contrary what it provides is a new question, a new responsibility to make a choice..

Demystification can be construed as a terrorist practice.

The desire to reduce illusions to ashes proceeds from both a hatred of illusion and the sheer aesthetic joy of witnessing the conflagration. For the hatred for the bourgeois is aesthetic as well as moral. The bourgeois is a pig not just because he exploits but even more so because he is bourgeois, a conceited bastard who refuses to recognize the utter contingency of his existence and social position, a man who believes he is as neccessary to the universe as the law of conservation of energy.

"The selfish misconception that induces you to transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason, the social forms, springing from your present mode of production and form of property - historical relations that rise and disappear in the progress of production - this misconception you share with every ruling class that has preceded you." Marx's statement is meant to be more than a philosophical observation. It is at the same time a declaration of war since the bourgeois is only proved to be conceited if he is actually made to disappear. Having escaped the anguish of his freedom by pretending to be a manifestation of the eternal he is reintroduced to his anguish through the naked strength of the revolutionary movement.

Revolt thus begins as the affirmation of contingency, as an urge to test things by trying to break them. All we know in the beginning is that the world of the bourgeois is a fabrication. For our part we yearn for the concrete and the concrete is what doesn't burn, the ashes left after the fire. Thus Marxism begins as the "ruthless criticism of everything existing." The spirit of revolt makes its first appearance as nihilism.

Nihilism is the beginning. It is therefore infantile in both senses of the word: it is both an unavoidable first step and inadequate as a permanent relation to the world. We have as yet only an automatic reaction to a vague yearning for the real. Between yearning and gratification there is not rational mediation. The yearning itself is left unquestioned, shielded from the "ruthless criticism" that it subjects everything else to.

At some point this blind search of the real must become aware of its blindness. Childhood stands outside itself and recognizes its inadequacy. Prolonged beyond this point nihilism, like childhood, becomes grotesque, its original youthfulness turned into a pathethic mimicry of itself.

"Thus nihilism must either degenerate or else mature into a genuinely revolutionary attitude."

Thus nihilism must either degenerate or else mature into a genuinely revolutionary attitude. Philosophy proceeds in the same way: the process of doubt must at some point become a process of discovery. The skepticism which liberates us from our illusions must give way to the more arduous but fruitful investigation of experience. Else it becomes an excuse for new illusions. In a similar fashion nihilism by refusing to situate the urge to destroy within a context of conflicting possibles avoids the risk of failure that must attend any project undertaken in the real world. In a backhanded way it eliminates the contingency it pretends to celebrate.

The revolutionary attitude on the other hand demands that the urge to destroy be subsumed within the project of creation. Bakunin's equation of the two (the urge to destroy is a creative urge) is simply bad faith; an attempt to avoid the dirty task of transforming one into the other. The urge to destroy has to become the urge to create and the urge to create has to become a conscious project.

An urge becomes a project when it takes cognizance of the resistance the world offers to it and attempts to define its goal as the object and conclusion of a calculated plan. The plan is never final, of course, but the attitude of planning is always there: the world is viewed as a heterogenous mixture of obstacles and tools, allies and enemies. The plan is never final, because one's actions change the world constantly necessitating a fresh estimation of probabilities with every step. The project contains within it the possibility of its failure; that is why it is a project, a leap towards an object. Planning does not remove this possibility, it merely attempts to reduce it starting first and foremost with the act of planning itself which translates the undifferentiated resistance of the world into an obstacle and thus into a lack of tools. By virtue of this simple operation the resistance offered by the world becomes overcomable since the obstacle at least defines the tools for its overcoming. These may not be available but at least the task of fashioning them or discovering them (although stone is both a stone and a potential hammer head) is a practical one.

The creative attitude may thus be defined as an instrumentalizing approach to the world. This is not the same thing as the technocratic approach. Creation demands recognition of the free consciousness behind the project. Which project to undertake and what means to use in order to objectify it remain forever open questions. By contrast the technocrat sees the project as a given, something which in a sense already exists since it does not originate in any human currently living but rather something imposed by the future on the present. Production has to be doubled, socialism has to be "built": the plan rules.Within the creative project, however, the plan itself always remains an instrument, the unification of all other instruments. Paradoxically by denying the human authorship of the plan, its arbitrariness, technocratic reason dooms itself to irrationality, to a permanent discrepancy between the plan and reality. Instruments only exist in the presence of an instrument-maker, a being who can make of himself an instrument but is always more than just an instrument, a free consciousness. Once this being is obliterated. instruments return to their inert state, the hammer-head resumes its existence as a stone. Likewise the technocratic plan fails the moment it ceases to be an instrument and starts to rule. Production is doubled and tripled but socialism is never built.

"Instruments only exist in the presence of an instrument-maker, a being who can make of himself an instrument but is always more than just an instrument, a free consciousness."

The creative attitude takes the instrumentalizing of the world to the limit and regards itself as another instrument. Men make history but they make under circumstances that existed prior to their being in the world. The recognition of both circumstances and one's ability to change them is the meaning of instruments. They are, if you like, the ever-renewable traces of the meeting between subject and object.

Within this context nihilism emerges as the other side of the technocratic approach. Ultimately both deny the existence of an instrument maker. The technocrat does it by giving instruments autonomy. Nihilism achieves the same thing by denying the very existence of instruments.

We started by giving nihilism the status of a genuine need. We recognized in it the unavoidable beginning, the first attempt at appropriating reality. These first trashings about are not without result. The resistance they meet and against which they are directed elucidates the structure of reality while at the same time illuminating the as yet uninterrogated urge to destroy. The analogy with childhood provides further insights into this process. Childhood reveals enough of the world to force its own transcendence, the "loss of innocence". But this loss can be experienced or adapted to in two ways. What one has learnt can be used to postpone adulthood indefinitely or it may form the basis for maturity. In each case the break with childhood is unavoidable but how it is lived, as infantilism or maturity, is a choice.

Nihilism proceeds in this manner. Its yearning for the real is fulfilled. The world is revealed and with it the fact of its inhabitation. Reality, it turns out, is social. One's urge to destroy contradicts or reinforces the urge of others. But this discovery of the projects of others immediately deflates one's own urge. The urge to destroy so far accepted as a given is revealed as a choice. The urge to demystify must itself be demystified. In the processing of exposing others to their own contingency one learns the contingency of oneself. The primacy of the urge even if the urge is to destroy is revealed as an escape from contingency, a denial of one's freedom. Or to put it more simply, to be "ruled" by any passion is no more than an attempt to escape the necessity of choosing which particular passion to be "ruled" by.

Hatred for the bourgeoisie is no more "natural" or inevitable than is the existence of the class one hates. Nothing can "rule" my life, not even the revulsion I feel for those who in practice do run my life. This revulsion too is my creation as we discover in those moments of self-doubt when we feel we are taking things "too seriously". We look to our feelings to take over the automatic guidance of our lives only to discover that the moment these feelings are charged with this responsibility they collapse under its weight. I choose to be a revolutionary and to let my hatred for the bourgeoisie sustain me but there come days when my hate seems exhausted, when I can contemplate not being a revolutionary without the slightest feeling of guilt. In such moments I conjure to myself all the things that usually make me angry. I say to myself "Remember imperialism, remember your own frustrations, recall the smug faces of the pigs and the nauseating toadying of the press." My rage creeps back and once more I'm a revolutionary "as I cannot help but be". I evade absurdity. Christians are deeply aware of this process. They recognize that religious fervour, the "losing of oneself in God", is an exotic experience that in everyday life one has to rely on faith, a conscious commitment. The same can be said of long-time lovers. Indeed I have the same experience as I write this article: the frenzy that moves me to write sometimes fails me and I have to continue in an arduous and deliberate manner until the next bout. Absurdity or anguish are thus the proof of freedom.

Thus nihilism, which starts as the affirmation of freedom, must in order to maintain this affirmation go beyond itself. The passion that drives me to reject the obscene self-deception of the bourgeois otherwise becomes my own self-deception, my own way of establishing a "place in life" as secure and eternal as that of the bourgeois.

If I overcome nihilism I face the difficult incompletable task of constructing a revolutionary project. I subject myself to the constant uncertainty that goes with any project. Each step of the way it is necessary to make choices that are in themselves never necessary. How is capitalism fought? Should I join a party? If so which one? If not what do I do? Do I start my own party or do I act on my own? How can I be most effective on my own? These questions are necessary, I cannot avoid asking them. But each particular answer is never the necessary answer. The choice not to join a party is never final as is any other choice.

But I can also choose to deny the necessity of choosing. This is bad faith, a deliberate confusion of one necessity with another. Because it is true that each particular choice is not necessary but choice itself is not a choice. In bad faith I claim for myself a freedom I actually do not have - the freedom not to be free -so as to better suppress the freedom I do have.

This is what it means to make nihilism a profession. The damnation of others becomes my own salvation, my own way out of freedom. I jeer at the bourgeois, the bureaucrat and the Leninist even as I make of my jeering a safe occupation. I attack others for stifling freedom while I stifle it in myself.

Earlier we noted that nihilism's bad faith lies in its emphasis on the "urge". In other words nihilism chooses to limit itself to an emotion thus avoiding coming to grips with the world. It negates while at the same time refusing to transcend thus exposing its negation as a false one. It attacks capitalism but refuses to draw up a program for its destruction preferring instead to act from a distance, for the "outside".

This is typical of emotional states in general, what Sartre characterized as "magical" reactions to the practical problems of everyday life.

In the magical states one escapes the tensions that characterize the world of everyday life. The endless search for and comparison of possibilities is avoided through the reduction of the world to a non-utilizable whole. For example: I am late for an appointment. There is nothing I can do about it because the time I reach my destination at this point depends entirely on the speed of the subway train and the distance that has to be covered, a mathematical relation. At each station it is possible for me to check the time. But I avoid doing so since I find looking at the clocks unbearable. I act as if not looking at the clocks will somehow make time irrelevant to my situation and prevent me from being late. My not looking is thus a magical gesture, a symbolic destruction of the complex world in which time exists and in which I am late. For this I substitute a world which in Sartre' words "requires nothing of me" since it is a world devoid of any instruments. My subsequent ability to act as if time did not exist, an ability I do not "really" have, compensates for an ability I did have but which I chose to forego, namely, the ability to start my journey earlier and be on time. Had I started out early time and the speed of the train would have been devices in my favour, guarantees of my punctuality. As it is they have became insurmountable obstacles.

In Sartre's words:

"All ways are barred and nevertheless we must act. So then we try to change the world; that is to live it as though relations between things and their potentialities were not covered by deterministic processes but by magic."

Emotion is consequently a "transformation of the world" but it is a useless transformation since it is achieved through a transformation of the perceiver.

"To put it more simply, since the seizure of one object is impossible, or sets up an unbearable tension, the consciousness seizes it or tries to seize it otherwise; that is it tries to transform itself in order to transform its object."

The clocks, and time in general, are unaffected by my refusal to consider them even though this refusal creates for me a more habitable world. "Such are the limitations of my magical power over the world: I can suppress as object of consciousness, but only by suppressing consciousness itself."

Clearly emotions are only one step away from bad faith. They are always escapes, "low-energy" states we fall into when our resources -- perceived or otherwise -- are not adequate to overcame obstacles in our paths. Under such conditions we find it convenient to forget both the "real" determinism of the world and our equally real freedom to adapt to it, i.e. we forget the orderliness on which we normally rely to achieve our ends. As the example illustrated whether the world's determinism hinders or makes possible our freedom depends on our choices. In the emotional/magical state, however, I claim a freedom I do not possess, an exemption from the rules to which I am not entitled. Determinist as it is the material world still allows choices. In this sense I am free: how I submit to the operating pattern of the world in general and subway trains in particular depends entirely on me; it is my freedom. But in an emotional state I claim a superior freedom: that of actually defining the choices available. This freedom is a fiction. Only a God could have it. But it serves to evade the real freedom and responsibility I really do have.

This distinction between two sorts of freedom is vital because it explains why it is possible to escape from freedom in the name of freedom. Actual freedom demands that one interiorize the rules. These rules are at once the resistance to one's projects and the condition for actualizing our freedom. The lawfulness ("resistance") of matter is what makes flight possible but which at the same time makes it require effort. This contact with the determinism of matter is what we refer to when we use the expression "to dirty one's hands".

Conversely "purity" is abstention from choice, an emotional belief in the power of one's intentions. This is the purity of nihilism. Howevver, nihilism goes further than an implicit negation of the utilizable world. The negation is made into a system. Further: the urge to destroy is already an act of destruction the moment the urge is given primacy. Nihilism is consequently a circular system. The attitude is its own end. To be a nihilist is already to have liquidated reality.

Nihilism directs its negation at the world but is concerned with the negation of the consciousness from which it emanates. One transforms oneself in order to transform the object: the emotional destruction of the world is the destruction of oneself. For all its violence nihilism leaves the world untouched.

In Marxist terminology nihilism is an ideology. But we are dealing with an ideology that is not autonomous but which inhabits other currents, a particular way of adapting to existing reality that actually perpetuates that reality. We should speak, in fact, of alienation. Nihilism represents the separation of emotion from its source and the subsequent domination of the latter by the former. The differences between this form of alienation and religious alienation are less important than the similarities. Religion arises out of the necessity to deny the misery of this world. Adaptation in the case of religion consists of transcendance toward God. The world as such is negated: its only a preparation for what is to come, a not quite real manifestation of a genuine and infinite reality. Nihilism simply dispenses with the transcendence. Or rather it is unable to carry out the transcendance after the negation. Having liquidated reality nihilism stands hypnotized by its own gesture. The demystification of God is completed only to be replaced by a new form of alienation. The revolt against all Gods turns on itself and makes revolt as such the object of worship. It is not accidental that the devel is portrayed in Goethe's Faust as spirit of negation.

The spirit I, that endlessly denies. And rightly too; for all that comes to birth is fit for overthrow, as nothing worth; Wherefore the world were better sterilized;

Satanism too is an escape, an attempt, paradoxical as it may be, at personal salvation. It is far more heroic than religion of course. If nothing else destruction is a form of self-assertion while religion is a pathetic debasement. When one's back starts to brush against the cold, hard wall the choice is between falling on one's knees or striking at everything within reach. A feeling of intense exhiliration must accompany the latter: one has lost everything and this loss has been turned to advantage. Amidst the sordidness of this world, outside the unending cycle of manipulation, there is a moment of purity. Seule la revolte est pur, Simone Beauvoir once said. The act of rebellion guarantees that the rebel has nothing to lose, not because he does not possess anything, but because the act of rebellion severs him from whatever he possesses. Sainthood and nihilism necessarily intersect for in the end both advocate the purity of sterility. But as we noted earlier this state of purity doesn't last long. It cannot because it is an unstable state, like the highpoint of a jump. Gravity never relinquishes its hold; matter is an adversity that only a material force can overcome. The devil is only clean in that short moment in which he defies God. After that he becomes Mephistepholes the professional cynic who actually requires God to maintain his identity. As Goetz discovers in Sartre's The Devil and the Good Lord both absolutes are impossible. "There is no difference between the Devil and the Lord personally -- I choose man."

What does it mean to choose man? It means accepting the necessity of dirtying one's hands. It means making compromises between the Devil and the Lord so as to be better able to beat both of them. In short humanism demands that nothing be sacred not revolt and not even man. Nihilism has to be reduced to a device. Like violence it has to be denied any intrinsic value, negative or positive. Indeed nothing has value but only received it from human action. Consequently what appears to be sordid - the manouverings, the manipulations, the compromises - only this has any value. The rest is meaningless.

Nihilism has to lose its virginity and become humanism.That is what it comes down to.This transcendence, however, can never be complete. It has to be renewed constantly. Degeneration is a constant threat; hence the lapses of the revolutionary movement into adventurism. As Sartre has pointed out the magical side of the world is an everpresent existential structure. It only takes a slight "nudge", an obstacle, to precipitate consciousness into an emotional relation with the world. Emotions are in fact a component of our perceptual system. They help us detect difficulties, as when anger, for example, notifies me of the presence of a barrier to my plans. The question is whether one gives way to a fit, the infantile reaction, or whether the notice of difficulty serves to put in motion a plan for its overcoming.

Similarly the critique of nihilism seeks not to eradicate the phenomenon but rather to integrate it within a larger project.

Marx provides a good example of this process of integration. Thus in his early writings the purpose is almost entirely destructive. "Criticism aims not to refute but to destroy," he says. It is "a hand-to-hand fight, and in such a fight it is of no interest to know whether the adversary is of the same rank, noble or interesting -- all that matters is to strike him."

Soon, however, he has to go beyond criticise and into politics. For in the end "the arm of ciritcism cannot replace the criticism of arms. Material force can only be overthrown by material force." It is necessary to procure instruments ("arms") to change criticism into a plan of action."Revolutions need a massive element, a material basis." Intentions left to themselves are useless. They must become strategy. Or as Marx announces in the lst Thesis on Feuerbach subject and object must unite.

By the time the Communist Manifesto is written the initial nihilism has become a subterranean current. Airy "criticism" has become "class struggle". The result is overpowering. Perhaps the earlier writings are more "profound" but they are one-sided, the speculations of a radical philosopher. In the Manifesto we are listening to a mature revolutionary. The violence is no longer verbal, it is a "material force". Ruthless criticism has been translated into a systematic plan for the destruction of capitalism. The earlier rage has not disappeared; the Manifesto is written with a venomous pen. But rage is not given autonomy for in the end the force of the manifesto stems from its confidence. It is this which "haunts" the bourgeois, his summary reduction to a historical moment. Personal hatred for the bourgeois animates an impersonal attack on his class. This synthesis is the sign of maturity since it demonstrates a willingness, to plunge into the "thick" of things, a recognition as well as acceptance of the demands of matter. There is no illusion that human freedom can ever mean freedom from these demands. On the contrary human freedom begins with their recognition, hence the materialist conception of history.

Marxism thus appears on the scene as the coming to age of the revolutionary idea. But this hard-won maturity is not a permanent achievement. For the transcendance of nihilism occurs in the actual process of revolutionary action. It is consequently something that must ever be renewed. Regression to infantilism is always possible. It is in fact a possibility that permanently haunts the revolutionary project, a possibility that of necessity becomes more tempting than ever when revolution seems cut off from the present by insuperable barriers.

This is the secret of Marxism: the theory is as open as the history it intervenes in, as unfinished as the subjects who undertakes to realize it. The dialectic is the life of the subject himself. It exists in the world only through the existence and contingency of the subject. This contingency of the subject -- the utter lack of necessity for his existence and its meaning - this radical freedom is what denies any transcendance, any choice, the permanency it might otherwise have. That first thesis on Feurbach is both the beginning and the end of Marxism: the transcendance of the subjective/objective duality is a permanent task, life itself. It has taken Marxism a hundred years to rediscover this truth. This rediscovery may appear to some as a "crisis" of Marxism or as Lichtheim bemoans in Marxism the dissolution of the unity of theory and practice. But in fact this "unity" is animated entirely by those who live it. Outside of this relation it disappears, making it futile to look for it even inside the writings of Marx. Marxism's greatest discovery is in fact that it cannot prescribe any apodictic "science" of revolution, any fail-safe program. On the contrary what it provides is a new question, a new responsibility to make a choice. It allows to see the world behind the mystifications that are set up to obscure it. But behind the mystified world we find a world that is infinitely more complex in comparison because it is made up entirely of our choices. Thus Marxism leads us along the tortuous path of its development only to leave us with a burden. The theory of demystification is itself demystified. But this is not death. It is the further maturing of a mature theory. It is one more step away from the nihilist origin.

In this period of rediscovery, however, the process is easily mistaken for a crisis. This is understandable. Marxism became a guide instead of a question because its practitioners could not accept the burden it would otherwise have put on them. The task Marx set himself and his followers was gargantuan. It was easier therefore to make what was in fact a task, a theory requiring realization into the beacon that illuminated the path to victory. Today, therefore, when we are starting to see Marxism as a problem - as it has always been -- it is tempting to see it as a failure. This is the same temptation as existed at the beginning, the same relinquishing of responsibility.

There will never be a theory that will tell us what to do. The best theory will only help us narrow the choices but choices will always remain the chasm between us what we make of ourselves. But this is not a justification of nihilism. For as we observed earlier nihilism evades freedom and must consequently always be considered a regression.

I was a psychic for the FBI

The parapsychology con game.

Para-review investigates parapathology

P.T. Barnum, that past master of the con game, would have had some interesting insights into the modern hocus-pocus, like “parapsychology”, that so many seemingly rational people in this obsessively rationalistic age have swallowed hook, line, and sinker. To be sure, parapsychology and similar superstitions flourished in earlier times as well, but it is only in the recent past that psychics have sought (and in a few interesting cases, received) the endorsement of scientists, who have themselves become icons of superstitious faith for many people. This has put the whole game on a different level. It has enhanced the credibility of parapsychology for many people, and it has helped to make it a lucrative profession for a few.

It has also given our culture some classic monuments of stupidity, and gullibility, suitably emblazoned with the name of “Science”. And most important, perhaps, it has engulfed the whole wretched psychic carnival in a sticky, and virtually impenetrable morass of fraud and foolishness, rumour and conjecture, error and confusion. Trying to make sense of what is happening in the never-never-land of parapsychology is virtually impossible. And if any chance you do succeed, you find that you would have understood the operations of the psychic miracle workers a lot sooner if you had looked at parapsychgology as, a case study in applied sociology, illustrating the old motto: “Never give a sucker an even break”. It might well be the motto of the career “psychic”.

In fact, poor Barnum must be kicking. himself right now in that Great Circus in the Sky. He was born a century too late. Nowadays, there are more suckers about than old P.T. could have wished for in his fondest dreams. And today's sophisticated suckers have a lot more money to spend than the simple country folk of Barnum's day ever did.

Imagine what heights he could have risen to in today's world. Guru Maharaji Barnum. There would have been no stopping him.

But I like to think that Barnum wouldn't have done it. I think he had too much integrity, and I think he might have been out of his depth in a world where society and the circus are one and the same. His was a simpler world. When you were being had by P.T. Barnum, you knew you were being had. You could go home afterwards, shaking your head, feeling a bit sheepish, your pocket-book empty, but your self-respect and identity still fundamentally intact. Barnum was after your money, not your soul.

The humbug of the 1970's seems to be different. What a “psychic” like Uri Geller plays the old shell game with you, he is after your soul. The game is played for keeps, and that makes it vicious and totalitarian.

Parapsychology is so confused and contradictory that it's difficult to get a grip on it anywhere. As an example, look at the two articles, of October 27 and February 11, both of them breathlessly (and mindlessly) favourable, that The Varsity was somehow suckered into carrying this year.

In them, sprouting up like so many toadstools, you'll find magic mushrooms (of course), faith healing, ESP, people who can bend metal without touching it, levitation, messages from various dead saints (curiously, all of them Greek Orthodox), Kirilian photography, attempts by the CIA to read minds, and a conspiracy between the Rockefellers and the Rochschilds, entered into in 1888, to control the English and American governments “all through the 20th century” (“Oddly”, says one of the articles, “both the Birchers and the Weather Underground have published documentary exposes of this ‘conspiracy.’”) You'll find contact with UFO's, white magic, black magic, bioenergetic fields, Timothy Leary, and the hint of an “occult Watergate”. (This at least is probable, to judge by the regularity with, which alleged evidence for paranormal phenomena disappears.) You'll even find things that go bump in the night. And you'll find all this nonsense compared in importance to the Theory of Relativity and the Quantum Theory. These two particular articles have no mention of teacup reading, astrology, talking plants, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the Bermuda Triangle, or the tooth fairy. But then space was limited. Another thing you won't find in these articles,or any other parapsychological literature, for that matter, is a single solitary shred of hard evidence. And that is not for lack of space.

This is not to say that I think that all of these things are equally nonsensical. I am prepared to entertain the possibility that some of them, like ESP and UFO's, may in fact exist. But I am saying that at present no evidence exists, that the way they have been investigated is generally laughable, and that the case for them has been weakened by the way most of their proponents have uncritically lumpec together anything “occult” as equally probable.

Yet the people who like to entertain themselves with this kind of thing have managed to make so much noise that many people are under the impression that there is in fact evidence for some parapsychological occurrences, even if most of them are transparent quackery.

This is understandable. Confusion, deliberate and otherwise, is the hallmark of parapsychology. Its practitioners are remarkably adept at shifting ground. So-and-so is exposed as a fraud? Ah, well, but you should see such and such. A psychic failed in a set of tests? Oh, but he succeeded in somebody's living room last year. Psychology Today says Uri Geller is a fraud? Never mind, The Berklely Barb says he's for real.

Obviously, it is impossible to refute all of the claims of parapsychology. It's rather like trying to disprove the existence of Santa Claus. Every year, tens of thousands of men claiming to be Sanfa appear in the department stores of North America. Any particular Santa who has been investigated has turned out to be an impostor. But no one in their right mind is going to investigate all of them. So one of them may be for real, for all we know. Nevertheless, most adults would place the burden of proof on those who would try to persuade us of his existence, Let them produce a jolly fat man with eight tiny reindeer and a house at the North Pole, and who'll have him throughly checked out. Then we'll talk. Otherwise, forget it.

That would be the common-sense approach.

Common sense does not apply to parapsychology. If there are thousands of people running about claiming to be psychic, we are expected to believe that some of them are the real goods, even though no given psychic is ever able to do anything paranormal under controlled conditions. As near as I can make out, this reasoning (if that is the word) is justified by some sort of strange interpretation of the law of averages. Along the same lines, if we picked a number of apples from a bushel which we had been assurred was full of good apples, and found that every single one we examined was thoroughly rotten, presumably the parapsychologists would have us conclude that by the law of averages there must be some apples somewhere in the bushel that perfectly edible. This kind of logic is beyond me.

So in this article I propose to concentrate on one particular alleged psychic, Uri Geller, a former Israeli stage magician who now claims that his feats are for real. He is a likely choice because he is acknowledged to be one of the top superstars (or “superminds”, as the devout like to call them) in the psychic big leagues. He has been featured on radio and T.V., had books written about him, been tested by scientists. If his claims can be shown to be fraudulent, then it is clear that claims of lesser psychics, resting on much flimsier foundations, are placed in question, to say the least.

Geller is the subject of a book by a professional stage magician, James Randi (“The Amazing Randi”) entitled The Magic of Uri Geller. Randi's book is a devastating expose of the way Geller has hoodwinked many well-meaning but credulous people.

Geller, as many people know, claims to be able to perform a wide variety of psychic feats, such as bending spoons and keys, sending and receiving psychic impulses over distances, reproducing drawings that have been sealed in envelopes, starting stopped watches, and the like.

Randi explains how Geller is able to perform his feats using the techniques of the performing magician, techniques which have no “paranormal” component to them whatever. He also cites numerous occasions on which Geller has been caught while resorting to trickery. In fact, Geller left his native Israel when the press courts there exposed him as a fraud, ending his profitable career there as a psychic. Included in the Israeli accounts are descriptions from former assistants and his former girlfriend of the way Geller planned and rehearsed the tricks he used to create his psychic illusions. In fact, his former chauffeur now performs many of his tricks!

The explanations of how the various tricks are done are interesting, although most of them have been described In the literature of magic before. But especially fascinating, and frequently hilarious, are the accounts of how Randi and other magicians have themselves imitated Geller and done “Gellerisms” to prove how easy it is to fool those who have presented themselves a sauthorities in the field. For example in 1975 Randi presented himself as a bona fide psychic from Canada (Randi was in fact born in Toronto) to Psychic News, a leading psychgic newspaper in England. He went to their offices, and proceeded to give the “experts” a demonstration of his powers they found so convincing that they featured Randi on the front page as a new “discovery” with marvellous powers. There was no possibility of deceit, they assured their readers!

Around the same time, Randi also performed in a laboratory at the University of London's King's College before a committee of eminent scientists headed by Nobel Prize Winner Maurice Wilkins, co-discoverer of DNA. Although they knew in advance that Randi was a performer who would try to trick them, he was able to do a whole routine of Gellerisms so effectively that they didn't know what he had done until he explained it afterwards. They were later happy to endorse his contention that an investigation of apparent paranormal phenomena is useless unless a qualified conjurer is present.

Randi also paid a visit to Professor John Taylor, a mathematician who has authored a splashy book on parapsychology entitled Superminds. Taylor's contributions to the “science” are nothing short of comical. For example, he has discovered something called the “shyness effect”: the fact that psychics are often unable to bend spoons, etc. through psychic means while being observed, but are able to do it when they're not observed. In fact, Taylor has let “psychics” he was testing take spoons home with them and bring them back bent, never doubting for a moment that the cutlery had been bent by psychic brainwaves. Pandi performed a whole series of “Gellerisms” for this “trained observer” without him being any the wiser.

The so-called scientific controls used to test psychics are in fact nothing short of a scandal. Randi's book is sprinkled with examples. For example, there is the famous “steel room” in which Geller was tested at one point, which was not soundproof, which was not checked for bugs, which had a large unguarded hole on one side, and the lock of which was found to have been tampered with. Or the tray of cutlery which Geller was to bend, which was left unguarded in his dressing room! Or the fact that during tests Geller's assistants are allowed to roam at will among the props used for the experiments. Or the fact that Geller's mentor, Dr. Puharich, holds several patents for microelectric devices for the deaf, which are designed to be implanted in the mouth or elsewhere on the body, to receive messages which are not audible to others! Or the fact that during tests Geller's every whim is catered to, that he is allowed to run about at will, refusing or postponing attempts at any test, returning to abondoned ones, and in general doing everything he can to misdirect attention.

The reports of test results reveal not only a lack of basic experimental skill, but a considerable lack of candour as well. Randi cites a number of examples of dishonest reporting of key tests.

The whole question of authenticiation has been hopelessly, and deliberately muddied by his followers and by Geller himself. For example, he claims to be able to reproduce drawings in sealed envelopes without looking at them. In fact, he has been able to do this trick only under informal uncontrolled conditions which lend themselves to fraud. Under controlled conditions, he has never been able to do it. Yet in boasting of this ability, Geller will claim that he has been rigorously tested! The situation is similar for all of his feats. Not a single one of Geller's alleged psychic feats has been performed under controlled conditions that meet scientific standards. In fact, Randi has a standing offer to pay $10,000 to Geller or any other person who can perform a single paranormal ad under controlled conditions. There have been no takers.

The handful of scientists who believe in Geller (notice that you rarely hear anything about the vast majority who don't) have been severely criticized for their lack of experimental skill, and for their inability to devise acceptable ways of testing psychic phenomena. This is no surprise, as Randi points out. Most of them have come from fields, such as mathematics and physics, that have had nothing to do with the phenomena they have been investigating. They have been no more qualified to investigate these phenomena than you or I, or my grandmother. Yet they have assumed, with the arrogance typical of scientists, that they are infallible, and incapable of being fooled. They have ended by making fools of themselves.

In the process of doing so, they have also managed to junk most of the basic rules of scientific method, and to construct a whole set of “special” rules for investigating parapshcyology. One of these rules is that psychic phenomena can only occur in an atmosphere where the “sensitive” feels trusted. This means, for example, that a psychic like Geller who claims to be able to deflect compasses may not be searched for magents. It also means that suspicious people are not allowed to be present. It is because professional magicians give off “negative vibrations” that Geller absolutely refuses to have them present while he performs. (it has nothing to do with their being uniquely equipped to detect trickery, of course.) Yet Geller has performed in the presence of Randi and other magicians when he has not known who they were. On those occasions, he has produced “paranormal events” without noticing any “negative vibrations”, with the result that at those times, he has been caught using. trickery.

But the proven use of trickery is of no concern to the scientists who have investigated Geller. In fact, they have constructed another “scientific rule” that actually justifies it. According to them, the psychic, because of his need to be trusted, feels compelled to cheat whenever he can. In other words, when he does tricks without being caught cheating, they are proof he is psychic. And when he is caught, that's also proof he is psychic.

The parascientists have similarily turned failure into its opposite. They say that the fact that Geller's stunts often fail is proof of the fact that he is not a mere performer, for a performer would succeed every time! Thus, for example, the fact that Geller was unable to do anything on the Johnny Carson show (Carson, a former magician himself, made sure that conditions were tightly controlled so that there was no room for cheating) is proof of the erratic nature of psychic phenomena! A refinement of this insight was developed in a series of experiments in which astronaut Edgar Mitchell attempted to transmit psychic messages from the moon. The experimenters failed even more often than one would have expected from the law of averages. They immediately proceeded to claim a “significant” “negative success” because their results had deviated from the average!!

It should be apparent by this time that reason plays no role in the investigation of psychic phenomena. Consider, for example, the logic of investigators who are perfectly satisfied that Uri Geller is a psychic because he can perform certain feats in their presence. They are unwilling to admit that Geller might have tricked them, even though The Amazing Randi, for example, can perform identical, and even more difficult feats in their presence under more tightly controlled conditions using mere trickery without them being able to detect that trickery. Yet they are unwilling, of course, to maintain that Randi is also a psychic.

There is an amusing story in Randi's book that sums up the psychic circus beautifully. It concerns a young psychic James Pyczynski who appeared on a radio program hosted by Long John Nebel. He was reported to have uncontrollable supernatural powers, which had resulted in paranormal events happening in listeners' homes when he appeared on an earlier program. Listeners were asked to call in if strange things started happening to them while he was on the air.

For the next hour, the switchboard was flooded with reports. The calls only ceased - and quite suddenly, at that - when Randi joined the broadcast, revealing that Pyczynski was his assistant, and that the whole thing had been a hoax to prove a point.

We may safely assume, however, the most of the listeners learned nothing from their experience. The precedents are there. Some years ago, Margaret Fox, one of the founders of modern spiritualism, confessed that she had been a fraud. Most of her followers simply refused to believe her confession.

We can go even further back for another historical parallel, to the time of early Christianity, when Tertullian proclaimed what has ever since been the ultimate canon of faith: Credo quia absurdum. I believe because it is absurd. In these words is captured the very quintessence of the irrational in its glory - unblushing, majestic, and self-satisfied beyond redemption, Unreason proclaims its kingdom. “Nothing remains” as Bakunin once said, “but the triumphant stupidity of faith”.

The Magic of Uri Geller
The Amazing Randi
Ballantine Books

We Can Learn to Live Free

Give the human race a little credit. We can surely learn to live free, neither dominant nor submissive.

By Ed Clark

Dear People:

I would like to reply to some of the ideas expressed by P. Murtaugh in “Some Thoughts on Organization”. In spite of the disagreements I have with some of his ideas, I thought it was a serious attempt to talk about real problems — and I hope your publication will print more articles like it.

Comrade Murtaugh attacks the romantic idealization of “The Revolution” as a gigantic “street fight”. He advances three arguments against insurrection: (1) the military apparatus of the state is too strong; (2) a complex and technologically interdependent society cannot survive the chaos of an insurrection — that is, millions of people will starve and the survivors will demand authoritarian rule; and (3) the capitalists/bureaucrats will not hesitate to use nuclear bombs to stop an insurrection, even at the risk of their own lives.

The first and third arguments oversimplify, in my opinion, a much more complex situation. Insurrection is not simply a military event. If you presume a situation in which tens of millions of working people are “raising hell” about all or nearly all aspects of class society, this kind of ferment will not stop at the edge of a military base or the outer wall of a police station. The loyalty of armies and police is not necessarily permanent and unchanging. There are many historical examples of armed forces turning against their officers and in favor of the insurrection. The people who serve a class society with weapons are under a tremendous strain during periods of insurrection; they must engage in mass murder of unarmed civilians. The number of people who can kill a lot of people over a long period of time is not large — most will balk at some point. This is even more true when speaking about “pressing the nuclear button”. Even if the order is given, will it be carried out? And if done once, with all the horror known, could it be done again? I would not, of course, argue that insurrection must be victorious — most insurrections lose — but only that the outcome cannot be predicted by adding up tanks on one side and rifles on the other.

As to the effects of an insurrection on a technologically complex society, we don't have too much evidence. However, we can look at earthquakes, hurricanes, and other disasters and see how quickly a technological society can recover from massive disruption. Technological societies possess large surpluses which are available for use during a disaster — that is, technological societies don’t have famines following crop failure, just higher prices. Further, again presuming a situation where tens of millions of working people are willing to engage in insurrection, is it reasonable to believe they’d be willing to restore class society in order to get the subways running again? Particularly when the subway workers already know how to get them running again? People who’ve lived all their lives in a class society are naturally prone to prefer a dominant/submissive relationship to all the others and this is something that will doubtless persist for at least a generation or more after a successful insurrection. But give the human race a little credit! For the most part, we’ve stopped burning witches. We’ve stopped believing in ghosts. We can surely learn how to live free, neither dominant nor submissive.

Finally, what is the alternative to “The Revolution”? Comrade Murtaugh can only bring up the old chestnut about building up a new society within the old society. And only he knows better than that! For the most part, we are not going out to try and make a living by scratching in the dirt (“re-investigating our relationship to the countryside”) any more than we are going to fly by flapping our arms. A little network of alternative economic institutions threatens class society just about as much as “off- Broadway” theater threatens Broadway theater. And did Comrade Murtaugh say something about Food Co-ops? In the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the largest supermarket chains began as a food co-op and is still called The Co-op. It has bosses and workers, just like Safeway.

People no doubt do have a lot of romantic illusions about “The Revolution” and such illusions are fair game for Comrade Murtaugh and everyone else to attack. But, please let us have an end to even worse illusions about building a new society within the old society. If we are going to use the word “impossible” to describe social, events, this fits the word perfectly.

After all this criticism, some words of praise are in order. Comrade Murtaugh's suggestion for a North American libertarian newspaper that would appear frequently and be widely distributed has considerable merit. Speaking personally, I would be certainly willing to do whatever I could to assist such a project. However, it's only fair to add that I know of no serious group that has committed itself to this project. of the groups that Comrade Murtaugh mentioned, the IWW has its own paper and would probably be unwilling to put much effort into another paper; SRAF is very disorganized and probably incapable of putting any meaningful effort into a new paper; and the Vancouver Open Road people like their present format and would probably be unwilling to give it up in favor of a smaller, cheaper, but more frequent publication. It is possible that the newly-formed Anarchist-Communist Federation may be willing to undertake a North American paper (members of their Milwaukee affiliate have suggested such a paper in the recent past). Or perhaps an informal coalition of groups and individuals in the U.S. and Canada might be able to get together and set up such a paper. However it turns out, I think a lot of people are beginning to see that such a project is needed...and that usually means that it will, sooner or later, be implemented.

For a life without bosses,

Ed Clark

The Leninist Facade

In direct oppostion to what Marx advocated, the Bolsheviks tried to institute socialism without democracy. The damage to the socialist movement resulting from this was immense.

By Leonard Wallace

Some sixty-one years separates us from the October Revolution of 1917 when the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin made their successful bid for power. Since that time the debate has never ceased in defence of or criticism of the takeover, but there is little attempt by socialists to give a Marxist theoretical criticism of the revolution. The early publication of the ill-fated Julius Martov's State and the Socialist Revolution, a reply to Lenin's State and Revolution, is still perhaps the best exert example of a socialist critique of Leninism. In short it shows that the socialism of Lenin was a facade and that not only a gulf, but a veritable ocean separates Lenin and his followers from Marx and his co-worker Engels.

There are a number of opposing ways in which most view the rise of Leninism. On the one hand we have those, such as the anarchists, who assert that Leninism and the managerial bureaucracy of a state capitalist Soviet Union is the natural development of Marxism. Others develop this theme in the defense of the revolution by claiming that Leninism was indeed a “higher” development of Marxism in the "age of imperialism" (usually asserted by most Leninists). Both views carry the single thread that Marxism was inevitably tied to Leninism — a belief which has become widely accepted simply because of force of habit. But, as Maxim Gorky forewarned: "A belief based on force of habit is one of the saddest and most harmful phenomena of our time — as in the shade of a stone wall everything new grows slowly, become stunted, lacking the sap of life." (My Apprenticeship).

What must be done amongst serious socialists is to review the main tenets of Leninist theory and compare them with the socialism of Marx. Such a review must not be constructed as a call for return to purist dogma but for a thorough understanding of Marx's views on the socialist movement. As such it provides a damaging critique of today's Leninist movements — a critique they cannot face.

One of the main issues of contention centres around the very role played by the socialist movement/party. To Marx, the socialist revolution could only be achieved by the "self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority in the interests of the immerse majority." (Communist Manifesto). Communists/socialists did not pose as a separate party opposed to the interests of the other working class organizations and did not proclaim themselves to be its official leadership. The movement would grow out of the understanding the working class gained of the class positions they held. Objective class interests would be formed paralleled by the growth in subjective consciousness — a class consciousness. In the struggle against capital the workers, aware of their class situation through their real life experiences would become a "class for itself" (German Ideology) and it would be their "mass instinct" (Engels to Friedrich Sorge, 1894) which would show them that they must build their own party. As such, "so that the masses may understand what is to be done. Long and persistent work is required." (Class Struggle in France).

What many socialists and anarchists have failed to understand is that the critical element of class consciousness amongst the working class must be established for the revolution to be successful. When dealing with events of the Russian revolution, the Spanish civil war or the May uprisings in France 1968, many fail to note that what is lacking is a clear socialist consciousness/class consciousness — of the working class aware of itself as a class, aware of its immediate interest and its historic neccessity to establish socialism. Such consciousness entails a belief in what socialism is and how to achieve it — call socialism the abolition of wage labour, a classless society, ending of alienation and the society of the spectacle, or the radical transformation of everyday life. Socialists were, in Marx's view, the advanced sections of the working class. They did not lead the revolution but pushed all other sections of the proletariat forward and revealed the general movement of society and the social forces in conflict.

Lenin had, as early as 1902, rejected this belief when in his famous What is to be Done? he advocated the need for a secret party of "professional revolutionaries" since "the working class exclusively by its own efforts is able to develop only trade union consciousness." The minority elite of revolutionaries was to lead the workers and it was the party alone which could establish and exercise the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in the so-called "interests" of the mass. As Lenin proclaimed at the 10th Party Congress, only the communist party "is in a position to unite, educate, organize ... and direct all sides of the proletarian masses and hence all working masses.'

Marx continually stressed in his own writings and through his work in the International Workingmen's Association that the proletariat, by its own efforts would seize state power by itself and in its own interests. The revolution could not be willed by a few individuals as Michael Bakunin believed and cannot be led by a Blanquist elite. Lenin on the other hand, did not understand the prerequisite of a class conscious majority. As reported by John Reed, Lenin had stated: "If socialism can only be realized when the intellectual development of all people permits it, then we shall not see socialism for at least five hundred years." Only after the Bolshevik power was deeply entrenched and a new managerial bureaucracy was being built did Lenin concede that certain "cultural" work must be done. Not realizing that socialism cannot be built without socialists the Bolsheviks and their followers may well have put the socialist movement back some five hundred years.

But perhaps the most controversial aspect of Marx's thought centres around the term"dictatorship of the proletariat", taken by both anarchists and Leninists alike to mean the iron-willed dictatorship of a small clique or party of those "educated" in socialist dogma. Yet never did Marx or Engels look upon this dictatorship as a form of state or government, but rather as the social structure of state power in the immediate transition to socialism. As early as 1848 in the Communist Manifesto Marx concluded that very first step in the revolution was to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class — the "establishment of democracy".

The proletariat, being the immense majority, would seize the state power and machine" (Eighteenth Brumaire). The state machine did not mean a state itself but the "Bureaucratic and military machine" (Marx to Kugelman). While in previous revolutions the bureaucracy and military would simply be handed over to the new regime, it was the duty of the working class to cast them aside and dismantle them "at the earliest possible moment". (Civil War in France) . As the young Marx had commented in the Critique of Hegel 's Philosophy of the State, the bureaucracy caused the state to seemingly stand above society while in reality it was the "imaginary state behind the state" and thus possessed the very "essence" of the state.

The working class, in Marx's construct, seizes state power and lops off its worst sides. Through this "dictatorship" of the majority workers use the organized force they wield to abolish the capitalists as a class and thereby negating themselves as a separate class (for without a capitalist class there can be no working class). As the class system is abolished and classes cease to exist there is no need for a state as an instrument of class oppression and its vestiges will die leaving an administration controlled by the people themselves.

Lenin showed a serious misunderstanding of this. In the State and Revolution he assumed that the state itself would be "smashed". This left him open to charges, by social democrats, that his "anarchist tendencies had come forth, but Lenin proposed to smash the state only to replace it with a centralized "workers' state". The dictatorship, rather than giving free reign for all tendencies to appear through the establishment of the fullest democracy as advocated by Marx in regards to the Paris Commune, would suppress all oppositional faces. Furthermore this dictatorship would establish "socialism" and then lead to the development of "communism" despite the fact that neither Marx nor Engels ever made such a distinction but only commented on the lower and higher phases of communist society. That Lenin's vision was truly distorted is confirmed by his definition of socialism: "Socialism is nothing but state capitalist monopoly made to benefit the whole people." (The Threatening Catastrophe and How to Fight It). In a short time the dictatorship exercised by the party would proceed with this socialism despite the workers. At the 10th Party Congress Leon Trotsky put it this way: "The Party is obliged to maintain the dictatorship ... regardless of temporary vacillations even in the working class ... The dictatorship does not base itself at every given moment on the formal principle of a workers' democracy." And as the guns of the Bolsheviks thundered at Kronstadt where workers and sailors demanded elementary democracy Lenin put forward the view that "Soviet Socialist Democracy is in no way inconsistent with the rule and dictatorship of one person (10th Party Congress.What a charade of Marxism!

Much of Lenin's thought proceeds from the proposition that socialism is a distinct developmental stage apart from communist society and that the state must be smashed only to be replaced by a new form. In that instance "All citizens are transformed into hired employees of the state, which consists of armed workers." (State and Revolution). The state thus becomes the absolute capitalist. In Anti-Duhring, Engels made it clear that the proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into state property. But, in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, abolishes the state as state." And as Paul Lafargue noted in his reminiscences of Marx, Marx himself promoted the triumph of the working class which would "establish communism as soon as it has achieved political and economic leadership of society."

It is undeniable that the Bolsheviks during the course of the revolution in Russia had a large following in certain urban centres, but one must, nevertheless, understand the objective circumstances of the time. The Provisional government was weak and corrupt, the Russian army lay in defeat, communication was in chaos, millions starved. The Bolsheviks promised "Peace. Bread and Land", a strong central government and the convening of a constituent assembly. Such promises appealed to certain sectors of the population and the Bolsheviks consequently appeared revolutionary, but there was nothing inherenly socialistic about the demands put forward. By constituting themselves the state power the Bolsheviks filled the void for political power and authority and thus pushed forward Russia's bourgeois/capitalist revolution and administered a growing capitalism when the bourgeoisie was too weak to do so itself. As a result, state capitalism was raised to the level of party and state ideology as Leninists, until this day, unabashedly and deliberately confuse socialism with state control.

There are not the only differences between Marx and Lenin, others exist concerning the very materialist conception of history. This review, as stated in the begining, is not a call for dogmatism and the quoting of "sacred" texts, but it is enough to see that Marxism-Leninism is a contradiction in terms. It is from this comparison and the mistakes made within the movement itself that socialists and the critics of socialism must learn to tear away the myth from Marx in order to discover him.

Problems with Red Menace Method

Your attempts to develop a positive alternative to DiaMat Marxism and Marxist-Leninist sects suffers from a polemical method which reproduces the very problem you want to get away from.

By Greg Renault

Red Menace:

I have just finished your third issue (Spring 1978) and am fully sympathetic with your attempts to formulate a non-authoritarian socialist theory and practice. I offer the following comments as constructive criticism.

It strikes me that your attempts to develop a positive alternative to DiaMat Marxism and Marxist-Leninist sects suffers from a polemical method which reproduces the very problem you want to get away from. That is, your last issue seem to consist mainly of a series of one-sided abstract debates whose intention is libertarian but whose execution is partisan at best, and often mystifying or even unfair. Such an approach is clearly self-defeating for a libertarian project. Here are two examples, chosen from Ulli Diemer's three articles.

(1) The article on leftist jargon ("Words, words, words...") raises an issue crucial to socialist practice. Clarity of terms (concepts) and of expression (syntax) is necessary for the left's communication and education, as well as far precision of social analysis. Jargon such as Ulli points out badly needs to be pruned. The verbal baggage of the left, heritage of infighting and persecution, needs to be critically re-examined, and cleansed of unnecessarily ambiguous, mystifying, or authoritarian terms. While such is clearly the intent of the article on language, it is executed in a manner which sees to encourage, not critical reappraisal, but abstract dismissal.

For example, while the term "concrete" criticized in the first third of the article is surely abused often enough, it is one component of the dialectical pair (antimony), 'abstract-concrete". The use of such antinomies as analytical tools is part of the valuable Hegelian heritage preserved in Marxian analysis, and the use of the term "concrete" implicitly acknowledges this, attempting to relate empirical (concrete) examples to general (abstract) theoretical frameworks. Instead of indicating how the term could be constructively used in leftist analysis, Diemer presents the abuses alone in a negative light, implying that the term's use should be stopped altogether.

(2) The polemic against anarchism in the following two articles ("Anarchism vs. Marxism" and "Bakunin vs. Marx") is even less constructive. First of all, Diemer is concerned to present a more "faithful" reading of Marx to counter the vulgar generalizations he claims anarchists use in their denunciation of Marxism. I question the relevance of this method of rationalization through dual exegesis: Marx did not use the term "capitalism" (following the form of Ulli's critique of "dialectical materialism"), but that certainly does not limit the effectiveness of the term's descriptive power, or mean that it cannot be used by "Marxists".

In other words, the issue is whether or not mere Marxology is sufficient (or sometimes even necessary at all) to deal with problems or controversies in socialist theory and practice. Somehow, the analytical, explanatory powder of a theory seems more important.

Secondly. Diemer argues for a plurality of Marxes ("...his writings and actions span some 40 years...") to counter the monolithic generalized theory criticized by anarchists. Fine, I say, this is a first step towards a critical appraisal of Marx's complex and sometimes contradictory work. However, in his polemic against "anarchism", Ulli committs the same sin he accuses them of - that of ignoring differences and contradictions, lumping everything under one grossly over-generalized label whose essential characteristics are not even clearly defined. Further, if he argues a plurality of interpretations of Marx against simplistic over-systematization of one "Marxism", how can he consistently argue for a "correct" reading at the same time?

Finally, the manner with which the argument is conducted has the function of reducing the issue to an either-or choice between two hypostatized alternatives abstracted from both their historical development, and from the relation of theory to the development of capitalist society. The issue is presented as a case of incorrect with the correct answer presumably determined by accurate quotes rather than relevance in explaining contemporary capitalism. While I prefer the "libertarian" reading of Marx myself, I have no delusions about its being anything but an interpretation, that is, a specific emphasis on certain parts of the text to the exclusion of others. Ulli's interpretation, is in part conditioned by the abuse of Marxism as ideology by the Soviet Union and by Western Marxist-Leninists, a historical burden that must be critically dealt with by any socialist movement today - yet no reference is made to this important context conditioning his choice of interpretation. Most importantly, the issue of the controversy, "abstract term vs. abstract term", is presented as though it could be decided without any reference to the society the theory is supposed to explain and help change.

I submit that the task facing socialists sincere about working towards human liberation is not one of repeating old formalist debates concerning the "right" interpretation of Marx or the a priori "correct" theoretical solution, but one of (a) the theoretical interrogation of social reality via a critical appropriation of our radical heritage and a continual testing of new concepts in concrete analyses, and (b) practical attempts to develop tactics and strategy for human liberation on all levels of experience. From this standpoint, I found the article about office work, despite its limitations, more relevant than the question of Bakunin's unethical scholarly or political practices.

It strikes me that might be slightly problematic attempting to achieve human liberation via repressive means. By the same token, the aims of contributors to this newsletter must in good faith be reproduced in the journalistic methods they use in writing. I have taken Ulli to task (the loudest but by no means only offender) in the hope that my criticism will be of assistance in your ongoing self-constitution.

Greg Renault

Bakunin vs. Marx

The debates between Bakunin and Marx transcend petty personal squabbles and embody two diametrically opposed tendencies in the theory and tactics of socialism, the authoritarian and libertarian schools respectively.

As pointed out in my introduction to Bakunin on Anarchy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1972), the clash of personalities between Marx and Bakunin was not the essential element in their running controversy during the congresses of the International. The debates transcend petty personal squabbles' and embody two diametrically opposed tendencies in the theory and tactics of socialism, the authoritarian and libertarian schools respectively, the two main lines of thought that helped shape the character of the modern labour and socialist movements.

Unfortunately, Ulli Diemer's articles Anarchism vs. Marxism and Bakunin vs. Marx (Red Menace, Spring 1978) really do not deal with the main issues involved in the debates. A discussion of these issues is beyond, the scope of this paper. I limit myself to correcting the more glaring factual errors and distortions. I also express my deep appreciation to the comrades of Red Menace for granting (Unless otherrwise specified, all quotes are Diemer's.)

The very fact that there is still, over a century later, a debate between Marxism and Anarchism on fundamental principles proves that Marx was not, and could not possibly have been the "central figure in the development of libertarianism. Neither Marx or Engels ever claimed that they were "central figure in the development of socialism". According to Engels, the "central figures", the founders of socialism, were the "utopians" Saint Simon, Fourier, and Robert Owen, who formulated the leading principles of socialism, as Marx himself acknowledged in a letter to his friend Wedemeyer. (See Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. Marx even praised Proudhon's What is Property as the first "truly scientific analysis of capitalism," anticipating Marx's later findings. (See J. Hampton Jackson's Marx, Proudhon, and European Socialism.) Marx, who minimized the role of the individual in history, would certainly have rejected the notion that " is not possible to create...a libertarian world..." without him.

Whether Marx or Engels did or did not use the term "dialectical materialism" does not invalidate the fact that they WERE dialectical materialists and that there is a fundamental indissoluble connection between dialectics and Marxism. For Marx and Engels the dialectic method was not only a theory but a LAW OF NATURE. Anyone who questions this connection is not a Marxist. Engels emphasizes this in his preface to the second edition of Anti-Duhring — a work written with the full approval of Marx:

" ..Marx and I were pretty well the only people to rescue conscious dialectics from German idealist philosophy and APPLY IT TO THE MATERIALIST CONCEPTION OF NATURE AND HISTORY ..." (emphasis mine)

Engels devotes three whole chapters to dialectics, even trying to demonstrate the validity of the dialectic method to chemistry and mathematics.

Only one who is almost totally ignorant of anarchist literature could assert that "with very few exceptions, anarchism failed to produce a rigorous analysis of capitalism, the state, bureaucracy, or authoritarianism..." A bibliography of such works could easily fill several volumes. For example, Max Nettlau's bibliography of anarchism compiled over half a century ago has been immeasurably enriched by later works. While there is sufficient Marxist literature on capitalism, there is almost nothing on such crucial questions as the state, bureaucracy, federalism, self-management and other forms of social organization which even modern Marxists deplore. They are trying to drastically revise Marx's naive and erroneous views on these vital issues.

Bakunin did not "deliberately fabricate" the accusation that Marx believed in the "People's State". Bakunin criticised Marx for this in 1870 and 1872. He could not be expected to forcee that Marx would condemn the "People's State" THREE YEARS LATER in 1875 in his Critique of the Gotha Program. The Critique was published AFTER Bakunin's death about a year later. But this error does not invalidate Bakunin's prophetic indictment of the "Workers' State" which Marx and Co. DID champion.

The assertion that the Marx and Engels "...position is spelled out most extensively in Marx's Civil War in France is in flagrant contradiction to everything Marx and Engels wrote before and after the Paris Commune. To establish this extremely important point, I quoted Franz Mehring, Marx's disciple and authorized biographer in my Bakunin on Anarchy. I strongly suspect that Diemer ignored this quote because it decisively refutes his argument. Here it is:

"..The opinions of the Communist Manifesto could not be reconciled with the praise lavished by The Civil War in France for the vigorous fashion in which began to exterminate the parasitic State ...Both Marx and Engels were well aware of the contradiction, and in a preface to a new edition of TheCommunist Manifesto issued in June 1872 they revised their opinions... after the death of Marx, Engels in fighting the anarchists once again took his stand on the original basis of the Manifesto... if an insurrection was able to abolish the whole oppressive machinery of the State by a few simple decrees, was that not a confirmation of Bakunin's steadfastly maintained standpoint? (Karl Marx, pp. 452-3)..."

Diemer's assertion that Marx and Engels "consistently maintain that the state is INCOMPATIBLE with socialism…" (my emphasis) is not correct. For them, the "workers state", the TRANSITION toward full realization of communism, IS COMPATIBLE with socialism. Diemer himself states correctly that. Marx and Engels believed the proletariat must "use the state" to achieve the liberation of the proletariat. "The state employs means which will be discarded after the liberation." As if means can be separated from ends: Diemer does not write that Marx and Engels proclaimed the necessity for the "workers' state" not only to crush the bourgeoisie, but also to institute socialism:

"...the proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to CENTRALIZE ALL INSTRUMENTS OF PRODUCTION IN THE HANDS OF THE STATE... centralization of credit... by the State. Centralization of communication ... and transport by the State. Establishment of industrial armies by the State..." (Communist Manifesto) (emphasis mine)

There is therefore no foundation for the assertion that for Marx and Engels, socialism is not compatible with the state, and still less that they were "in intransigent opposition to the state..." It is significant that they proclaimed the same views thirty years later in 1878. "... the means of production are... transformed into state property... (Anti-Duhrinq, Part 3, Chapter 2 - Theoretical). Solidly basing himself on their writings, Bakunin, in this prophetic quote, defined the authoritarian character of Marxian "socialism":

"...labour employed by the state such is the fundamental principle of authoritarian communism, of state socialism ... after a period of transition ... the state will then become the only banker, capitalist, organizer, and distributor of all its products. Such is the ideal, the fundamental principle of modern communism... " (quoted in Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 217)

Since Diemer grudgingly concedes that "...use of the state in the transition period is dangerous and the concern of Bakunin about the possible degeneration of the revolution is valid..."further comment is unnecessary.

On page eleven, Diemer takes exception to Bakunin's remark that Marx "as a German and a Jew, is from head to toe an authoritarian." On the next page he flatly contradicts himself. "Both Bakunin and Marx displayed considerable arrogance and AUTHORITARIANISM" (my emphasis) With respect to Marx there is ample evidence to substantiate this accusation. I challenge Diemer to PROVE that Bakunin was either arrogant or authoritarian.

The greatest historian of anarchism, Max Nettlau, the foremost living authority on Bakunin and his times, Arthur Lehning, and Bakunin's contemporary, the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist Anselmo Lorenzo — all of them at one time or another, deplored Bakunin's anti-semitic streak and his anti-German prejudice. But Diemer, intent on white-washing his hero, Marx, and discrediting Bakunin, deliberately hides the fact that Marx was also anti-semitic and prejudiced against Slavic peoples. (on anti-semitism see Marx's On The Jewish Question). Max Nomad (Political Heretics, pp. 85-86) tells how Marx insulted Lasalle:

...calling him the "Jewish Nigger' and Baran Itzik". Marx wrote about the Croats, Czechs, Pandurs and "similar scum" and demanded the complete "annihilation" of those "reactionary races". Marx even justified the subjection of eight million Slavs to four million Hungarians on the ground that the Hungarians had more "vitality and energy"..."

Economic determinism constitutes the essence of Marxism. It is clearly defined in this celebrated passage from Marx's Critique of Political Economy:

" ... the economic structure of society always forms the real basis from which in the last analysis, is to be explained, the whole superstructure of legal political institutions, (the state) as well as the religious, philosophical, and other conceptions of each historical period..." (In another place, Max Eastman's introduction to the Marx anthology Capital, he quotes Engels)"...with the same certainty with which, from a given mathematical proposition, a new one is deduced, with that same certainty, can we deduce the social revolution from the existing social conditions and the principles of political economy..."

Notwithstanding his anti-slavery sentiments, Marx in his polemic against Proudhon, tried to justify slavery in America on the ground that it was an economic necessity, arguing in line with his theory of economic determinism, that slavery was progressive plase in the evolution of society:

"...slavery is an economic category like any other. Slavery is just as much an economic pivot of bourgeois industry as machinery or credit... without slavery, North America, the most progressive of countries, would be turned into a primitive country. Abolish slavery and you will wipe America off the map of nations..." (quoted from Poverty of Philosophy in Handbook of Marxism; International Publishers, 1935, p.357)

Marx's attitude is justified by the editors of.the Handbook... on the grounds that while slavery was an economic necessity in 1847, when the North was industrially backward, the development of industry in the 1860's made slavery economically unnecessary. The question, How progressive is a country whose very existence depends on slavery? never occurred to Marx. In his polemic with Duhring, thirty one years later in 1878, Engels repeated that "the introduction of slavery in Greece", was both an economic necessity and "a great step forward."

How Diemer, in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, can insist that "Marx was not an economic determinist", supporting his argument with two long quotations from Engels, which in no manner whatsoever, invalidate their theory of economic determinism, is difficult to understand. (see Anti-Duhring p.202)

To back up his charge that Bakunin was expelled from the International in 1872, because Bakunin's secret Alliance conspired to "take over the International", Diemer cites George woodcock's Anarchism page 168. (There is no reference to this on page 168 or anywhere else). He also cites Eilleen Kelly, an ignorant, scandal monger whose review article in the New York Review of Books is on par with Diemer's irresponsible allegations. Diemer's assertion that "most historians" think that Bakunin was guilty is false. All responsible historians insist that Bakunin and his close comrade James Guillaume were expelled in a rigged congress packed by hand picked "delegates" who "represented" non-existent sections of the International.

Marx's friend Sorge, residing in the United States, sent Marx a dozen blank credentials from non-existent groups which Marx distributed to his stooges. Seraillier, Secretary for France, in the General Council, also came to the Congress with a handful of credentials which could not be verified. Of the five members of the Commission of Inquiry chosen to investigate the charges against Bakunin and other libertarian members of the International and report their findings to the Congress, one, Walter (whose real name was Von Heddeghem) was a Bonapartist police spy. The Commission reported that "... the secret Alliance did at one time exist, but there is INSUFFICIENT PROOF OF ITS CONTINUED EXISTENCE..." (my emphasis) Nor could the Commission prove that the Alliance established rules opposed to the rules of the International when it did exist. Roch Splingard, a member of the Commission submitted a minority report contending that Bakunin was being indicted on insufficient evidence. He declared that "...I am resolved to fight the decision before the Congress..."

On the last day of the Congress after over half the delegates went home, the Marxist clique staged a successful coup to kill the International by moving its headquarters to New York. Nearly all the delegates, including Marx's strongest supporters, refused to accept the decisions of the Marx-Engels cliques. They joined the Bakuninist sections of the International, not because they agreed with their anti-statist, anti-parliamentary political action policies, but because they demanded the complete autonomy of the sections irrespective of different political or social ideas. They revolted because the phony Congress enacted a resolution giving the Marxist dominated General Council power to expel sections and even whole federations from the International.

Marx's authorized biographer, Franz Mehring noted that the Congress of the International "...which the General Council in New York called for in Geneva, drew up ... the death certificate of the International..." while the Bakuninist counter-Congress which also took place in Geneva was attended by delegates from all sections and federations of the International - the Marxist congress consisted "mostly of Swiss who lived in Geneva... not even the General Council, was able to send a delegate..." (Karl Marx, pp.495-496).

Bakunin did NOT try to dominate the International. In his Letter to La Liberte (Bakunin on Anarchy p.278) Bakunin declared

" ..since reconciliation in the field of politics is impossible, we should practice mutual toleration, granting to each country the incontestable right to follow whatever political tendencies it may prefer or find suitable for its own particular situation. Consequently, by rejecting all political programs from the International, we should seek to strengthen the unity of this great association solely in the field of economic solidarity. Such solidarity unites us while political questions inevitably separates us..."

There is no reference to a post-revolutionary state in any of Bakuamin's anarchist writings (there is none on page 153 of my Bakunin on Anarchy given by Diemer.

There is not one shred of evidence to back up the charge that Bakunin ever wrote that " ...Marx was part of an International conspiracy with Bismark and Rothchild..."

The motion to invest the General Council with more power was NOT made by Bakunin but by Marxist delegates. Bakunin voted for the motion because it was presumably directed against the resolution of the bourgeois delegate. In an article titled Mia Culpa (I am guilty) Bakunin admitted that he had made a serious mistake.

It is true that Bakunin, in anarchist opinion mistakenly, advised Italian members of the Alliance to became deputies in the government, as a temporary measure dictated by extraordinary conditions. Bakunin acknowledged that it constituted a violation of anarchist principles. But to stress this contradiction as the essence of Bakunin's doctrine is a gross distortion.

The question of whether Bakunin was a collectivist who advocated that workers be paid according to the amount they produced and not according to need is discussed by his close associate James Guillaume. (Bakunin on Anarchy , p.157-158) Bakunin was not in this sense a collectivist. Nor was Marx a strict "communist" for whom payment according to need would prevail in the final stage of communism, and payment according to work would prevail during the socialist transition period.

In connection with secret societies Bakunin's well known predilection for the establishment of tightly organized hierarchical organizations, for which he worked out elaborate rules in the style of the Freemasons and the Italian Carbonari, can be attributed partly to his romantic temperment and partly to the fact that all revolutionary and progressive groups were forced to operate secretly. Bakunin's secret organizations were actually informal fraternities and groups connected by personal contact and correspondence, as preferred by his closest associates who considered that his schemes for elaborate secret societies were incompatible with anarchist principles.

For anarchists intent upon guiding the revolution in a libertarian direction by libertarian means, the question of how to stop authoritarians from seizing power without instituting a dictatorship of their own becomes increasingly complicated. Bakunin understood that the people tend to be gullible and oblivious to the early harbingers of dictatorship until the revolutionary storm subsides and they awake to find themselves in shackes. He therefore set about forming a network of secret cadres whose members would prepare the masses for revolution by helping them to identify their enemies, fostering confidence in their own creative capacities, and fight with them on the barricades. These militants would seek no power for themselves but insist increasingly that all power must derive and flow back to the grass-roots organizations spontaneously created by the revolution.

Because Bakunin tried to organize this secret organization he has been regarded by some historians as a forerunner of the Leninist Bolshevik dictatorship. Nothing can be further from the truth. Lenin would agree that an organization exercising no overt authority, without a state, without the official machinery of institutionalized power to enforce its policies, cannot be defined as a dictatorship.

Bakunin used the terms "invisible collective dictatorship" to denote the underground movement exerting maximum influence in an organized manner. According to the rules of his secret Alliance;

"... no member... is permitted even in the midst of full revolution, to take public office of any kind, nor is the organization permitted to do so ... it will at all times be on the alert, making it impossible for authorities, governments and states to be re-established..."

The question of the relationship between revolutionary minorities and mass movements, like the problem of power, will probably never be fully resolved. But it is the merit of Bakunin, and the libertarian movement as a whole, that it endeavors to reduce its built-in defects to a minimum. There is no point in scolding Bakunin. If he did not have foolproof answers he did ask the right questions and this is no mean achievement. Our critics would be better advised to came up with satisfactory answers.

In his remarks concerning Bakunin's relations with the ruthless, amoral terrorist Sergei Nechaev, Diemer reluctantly admits that "...Bakunin did indeed repudiate Nechaev when he found out the true nature of his activities..." Recent research by Michael Confino, (Daughter of a Revolutionary) conclusively proves that Nechaev, NOT BAKUNIN was the SOLE author of the most notorious document in socialist history: Rules That Must Inspire The Revolutionary (better known as Catechism of the Revolutionary). During his brief association with Nechaev, Bakunin is accused of writing together with Nechaev, or under his influence, "...a number of tracts that displayed a despotic Machiavellan approch to revolution..." Diemer writes that in these pamphlets Nechaev and Bakunin advocate a new social order, to be erected by (he quotes from the pamphlets) "...concentrating all the means of social existence in the hands of Our Committee, and the proclamation of compulsory physical labor for everyone ...compulsory residence in communal dormitories, rules for hours of work, feeding of children ... etc.

Diemer, to be sure unintentionally, omits vital information and makes factual errors which must be corrected. He does not identify the pamphlets in question, nor the source of the quotation. The quotation is not part of any of the pamphlets. It comes from an article in Nechaev's periodical Narodna ja Raspravy (The People's Vengence) Spring 1870. An editorial note attached to the article reads"

...those desiring a more detailed exposition of our principles should read our article, The Communist Manifesto, which outlines the practical measures necessary to attain our aims...

Nechaev himself wrote the article and edited the paper. Bukinin took no part in writing the articles or editing the paper. In any case, the measures advocated by Nechaev in his Catechism and other writings are in flagrant contradiction to everything Bakunin ever wrote or did. (source. Michael Bakunin and His Relations With Sergei Nechaev - in French - edited with introduction and notes by Arthur Lehning: International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, 1971, p. XXVIII )

The charge that Bakunin "...was infatuated with violence is false. Bakunin insisted again and again that destruction must be directed not against persons but against institutions:

"it will then become unnecessary to destroy men and reap the inevitable reaction which massacres of human beings have never failed and never will fail to produce in society..." (Bakunin on Anarchy, p.13)

Diemer's remarks about Bakunin's attitude toward the problem of authority does not remotely resemble his views. It was precisely in regard to the theory and practice of revolution and the nature of authority which ranks Bakunin as one of the greatest revolutionists in the history of the socialist movement. Bakunin did NOT reject "... all forms of authority..." for example: I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots I consult the bootmaker, concerning houses, canals or railroads, I consult the engineer... for science as well as industry, I recognize the necessity for the division and association of labor. I bow before the authority of specialists because it is imposed upon me by my own reason. I give and receive such is human life. Each directs and is directed in turn. Therefore there is no fixed and constant authority, but a continual exchange of mutual, temporary, and above all, voluntary authority and subordination..." (God and the State)

" ... a certain amount of discipline, not automatic, but voluntary... discipline which harmonizes per-fectly with the freedom of individuals, is, and ever will be, necessary when a great number of individuals, freely united, under-take any kind of work or collective action. Under such curcumstances discipline is simply the voluntary and thoughtful coordination of all individual efforts toward a common goal..." (Knouto Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution)

In the days of the old International many socialists of both camps, Bakunin included, then believed the collapse of capitalism and the social revolution to be imminent. Although this was an illusion, the debate they conducted on fundamental principles has remained pertinent and in many forms, still goes on. To many others at the time - as a French political scientist, Michel Collinet, has pointed out - the issues discussed by the authoritarian Marxists and the libertarian Bakuninists seemed to be merely abstract speculation about what might happen in the future;

but the problems which then seemed so far-fetched, he says "...are today crucial; they are being decisively posed not only in totalitarian regimes, which relate themselves to Marx, but also in the capitalist countries, which are being dominated by the growing power of the'state..." (Le Contrat Sociale, Paris, January-February 1964)

Collinet lists the basic points in question: How can liberty and free development be assured in an increasingly industrialized society? How can capitalist exploitation and oppression be eliminated? Must power be centralized, or should it be diffused among multiple federated units? Should the International be the model of a new society of simply an instrument of the State or of political parties? At the Congress of Lausanne in 1967, the Belgian delegate, Caeser de Paepe, raised just such a question regarding ...the efforts now being made by the International for the emancipation of the workers. Could this not". he inquired, "result in the creation of a new class of ex-workers who wield state power, and would not the situation of the workers be much more miserable than it is now?

A well researched, thoughtful, objective discussion of these always fundamental questions involved in the controversy between Marx and Bakunin - especially now when 19th century socialist ideas are being re-examined, - is sorely needed. Regretfully, Diemer's articles add nothing to the clarification of these perennial problems and only obscure the issues.

The Continuing Debate

We should subject both Marxism and anarchism to a critical analysis, and thereby start to provide the basis for a libertarian revolutionary movement that relates adequately to the needs and problems of today.

By Ulli Diemer

Before the discussion of anarchism and Marxism which began in the last issue of the Red Menace and which continues in this one is carried much further, it seems worth-while to pause and re-examine its purpose. Where is this debate heading? What is to be gained by continuing it?

My view is that we have little to gain if we — Marxists, anarchists, or whatever — view Marxism and anarchism in black and white terms, if we see the one as absolutely ‘correct’ and the other as absolutely wrong’. If we enter the discussion with this attitude, we are likely to produce little more than mutual denunciations which may be morally satisfying but which rarely convince anyone. It is still possible to produce useful analyses given this — though few seem to be forthcoming — but there seems little point in attempting a dialogue with each other.

What we should be doing is subjecting both Marxism and anarchism to a critical analysis, and thereby start to provide the basis for a libertarian revolutionary movement that relates adequately to the needs and problems of today.

I tried to make this point at the start of my two articles in the last Red Menace, although perhaps I did not make it as well as I should have. It is certainly true that my articles were themselves one-sided, and for this the criticism that Greg Renault makes in his letter is at least partially justified. Nevertheless, it was necessary to be one-sided, given what I was attempting to do: i.e., to respond to the very one-sided view of Marx and Marxism that nearly all anarchists hold. One of the main problems of the anarchist approach, one that emerges very clearly in the articles and letters from anarchists printed in this issue, is that it does tend to pose everything in very moralistic, black-and-white terms. I tried to point out in my articles that there has been more than one interpretation and more than one strain of “Marxism”, and I indicated my view that there is a great deal of common ground between this libertarian interpretation of Marxism — which I argued is the only one consistent with Marx’s own writings — and other forms of libertarian thought, including anarchism. Dolgoff et al, however, will have none of this. They will not have the purity of their doctrine tainted with the idea that there might be any common ground at all between anarchism and any form of Marxism. This purist attitude is maintained by simply ignoring, by never acknowledging, the existence of any non-Leninist, non-Stalinist interpretation of Marxism. Some of the most important figures of the Marxist tradition — Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Korsch, Anton Pannekoek, the Frankfurt School, William Reich — are consequently simply dropped from history. Anarchists never mention them. A complementary approach is taken to Marx: his own works are rarely looked at (references are usually to interpreters writing after his death) and where they are, they are given the most vulgar Stalinist interpretation possible.

By thus insulating itself, anarchism tends to become a closed system to which nothing is ever added and from which nothing is ever taken away. This closed system is maintained in turn by a closed, self-perpetuating system of logic. Essential to this system of logic is a blatant double standard. Thus, the actions or writings of anyone who ever called himself a “Marxist” are charged to Marx's personal account, and held to be am essential part of the Marxist tradition, even though these actions or words may be in direct and demonstrable contradiction to Marx’s own position. The actions or writings of any inconvenient anarchist, on the other hand, are simply dismissed as being extraneous to anarchism. So, for example, the fact that there were Communists in the government of republican Spain (Spain is to anarchism what Russia is to Leninism) is taken as clear proof of the essentially statist nature of all forms of Marxism. The fact that the leaders of the anarchists were also members of the same government is dismissed as a ‘mistake’, or as irrelevant because they weren't ‘real’ anarchists. And the fact that the Marxist POUM opposed that government just as much as the most bonafide, pure, ‘real’ anarchists is conveniently ignored in discussions such as these.

This kind of attitude is hardly enlightening, and it tends to provoke a polemical and one-sided response. When this kind of blatant nonsense is being peddled, it necessarily becomes a priority to challenge it, even though one’s purpose is not at all to engage in a sterile and tedious battle of quotations and historical references. As long as fantasies and distortions prevail, it is impossible to come to grips with the real issues. Marxism, in particular, can only benefit from the most rigorous critical analysis - requires such an analysis - an analysis to which anarchists potentially have a great deal to offer, but the analysis cannot take place when it is a caricature of Marxism which is given currency.


Sam Dolgoff’s portrayal of Marxism is such a caricature. This is particularly unfortunate because Dolgoff is an outstanding revolutionary militant whose excellent work on anarchist collectives in Spain, in particular, indicates that he could contribute significantly to a real critical analysis of Marxism and its problematic areas if he was not so blindly dogmatic on the topic.

Nevertheless, most of his comments do represent serious misunderstandings or distortions, and thus they have to be dealt with, at least briefly:

Dolgoff is at pains to prove that there is “a fundamental, indissoluble connection between dialectics and Marxism”, and that Marx and Engels were materialists. In this, at least, we have no quarrel. To me, dialectics is the essence of Marxism. What I was trying to illustrate in the short footnote which attracted Dolgoff's extended ire is that anarchist critics are almost invariably unfamiliar with Marx’s own writings. The blithe use of a term, “Dialectical Materialism”, which was introduced after Marx’s death by one of his major perverters, as if it was employed by Marx, seems to indicate that the people using it are not overly familiar with Marx’s writings.

The inability — or unwillingness — to distinguish between Marx and his ‘followers’ (several of whom moved Marx to announce, a century ago, that “I am not a Marxist”) seems to be congenital among anarchists.

It lies at the root of Bakunin’s claims that Marx advocated a “Peoples’ State”, a claim which Dolgoff says was not a fabrication. (Dolgoff’s logic here is beyond me: he seems to be saying that the charge was not a fabrication because Marx’s denial came after Bakunin's accusation.) What had happened was that some of the German Social Democrats introduced the concept, and Bakunin, believing as he did that all Germans were the same, concluded that Marx accepted it as well. The fact that Marx have never advocated such a thing in his life, that he attacked the concept once it came into circulation, and that he rejected Bakunin’s claims to the contrary (well before 1873), made no impression on Bakunin.

Dolgoff suffers from the same inability to distinguish between Marx and Marx’s interpreters. Trying to prove that The Civil War in France does not represent Marx’s real views on the state, although the book is Marx’s major work on the topic, Dolgoff launches into a long quotation from Franz Mehring which he says “decisively refutes” my arguments. The trouble with Dolgoff's ‘decisive’ quotation, however, is that it is at best irrelevant. The fact that Mehring, writing after Marx’s death, thought that The Civil War in France contained the wrong view on the state may be interesting, but it says nothing about Marx’s views. Dolgoff’s presentation of the Mehring quote is also less than honest. Dolgoff refers to Mehring as Marx’s “authorized” biographer, as if this somehow made Mehring’s views more authentic. But Mehring's “authorization” came not from Marx, who was long dead, but from the leaders of the German SPD, the very people Marx so vigorously attacked over their views on the state. Moreover, Marx had been quite specifically critical of Mehring’s own views, including his views on the state. Mehring, as one of the leading figures in the SPD, was at pains to justify the SPD’s position and to downplay Marx's criticisms. He is hardly a reliable source when he proclaims that Marx didn’t really mean what he said.

It would unproductive to reply to Dolgoff’s many claims point by point, so a few more brief comments will have to suffice:

The idea that socialism implies the abolition of the state is repeated countless times in the works of Marx and Engels. It is one of the essential concepts of Marxism. The fact that they advocated the use of the state by the proletariat during the transition to socialism may very well be problematic, it may very well be dangerous, but it in no way alters the fact that for Marx and Engels socialism only existed when the state ceased to exist.

Economic determinism: How many times is it necessary to say that there is a difference between materialism and a theory that reduces everything to economic phenomena? In his inability to understand this difference, Dolgoff is not joined by many other anarchists, incidentally. Bakunin, for example, called Marx’s Capital a “magnificent work” and worked to translate it into Russian, while Kropotkin alleged that Marx had stolen his economic theories from the anarchists!

Dolgoff, because he is not a materialist, fails entirely to understand Marx’s analysis of slavery. As Dolgoff knows very well, Marx hated slavery. What Marx did, however, was to show that slavery was rooted in material conditions and that a purely moralistic opposition to it was impotent. To say that something is bad is not an analysis. In the same sense, Marx repeatedly said that capitalism had been “progressive”. Is there any doubt that Marx nevertheless opposed capitalism?

Dolgoff challenges a number of my references. Readers may turn to page 168 of Woodcock’s book for themselves, and the comment concerning Rothschild is reproduced in the footnote below. Of more interest, however, is Dolgoff’s denial that Bakunin himself advocated a post-revolutionary state. It is of interest because the denial illustrates the typically magical anarchist attitude to reality: the belief that changing the word changes the reality. For the point is that Bakunin advocated precisely such a state, complete with parliament, cabinet, army, police, etc. but gave it a different name, and thus managed to persuade himself that he had done away with it.

This attempt to do away with the reality by changing the word also characterizes the anarchist attitude to revolutionary organization. Anarchists may persuade themselves that a “network of secret cadres” who will be the “General Staff” of the revolution and who would serve as “intermediaries between the revolutionary ideas and the popular instincts” is a strictly benevolent structure which would serve the interests of the people and never oppress them.

The Bolsheviks once persuaded themselves of the same thing; they were all once as “sincere” as Bakunin’s “Secret Brotherhood”. And to put Bakunin’s naive prescription that members of his alliance would never be permitted “to take public office” into perspective, it is necessary only to recall that Stalin held no public office whatsoever until 1941.

Bakunin on Marx and Rothschild

Bakunin on Marx and Rothschild
“Himself a Jew, Marx has around him, in London and France, but especially in Germany, a multitude of more or less clever, intriguing, mobile, speculating Jews, such as Jews are every where: commercial or banking agents, writers, politicians, correspondents for newspapers of all shades, with one foot in the bank, the other in the socialist movement, and with their behinds sitting on the German daily press — they have taken possession of all the newspapers — and you can imagine what kind of sickening literature they produce. Now, this entire Jewish world, which forms a single profiteering sect, a people of blooksuckers, a single gluttonnous parasite, closely and intimately united not only across national borders but across all differences of political opinion — this Jewish world today stands for the most part at the disposal of Marx and at the same time at the disposal of Rothschild. I am certain that Rothschild for his part greatly values the merits of Marx, and that Marx for his part feels instinctive attraction and great respect for Rothschild.

This may seem strange. What can there be in common between Communism and the large banks? Oh! The Communism of Marx seeks enormous centralization in the state, and where such exists, there must inevitably be a central state bank, and where such a bank exists, the parasitic Jewish nation, which. speculates on the work of the people, will always find a way to prevail ....”

Source: Michael Bakunin, 1871, Personliche Beziehungen zu Marx. In: Gesammelte Werke. Band 3. Berlin 1924. P. 204-216. [My translation - UD].

Bakunin on Bismarck and Marx
“the People's State of Marx and the aristocratic-monarchic state of Bismarck are completely identical in terms of their primary domestic and foreign objectives ....Like Bismarck, he [Marx] is a German patriot.”

Source: Sam Dolgoff, ed., Bakunin on Anarchy, P. 319-320.

Letters to The Red Menace #4

What Bakunin said

Red Menace:

Your issue discussing the Marx-Bakunin dispute complains that anarchists merely talk around Marxism, rather than getting down to Marx's actual words and intent. But you then violate this stricture yourselves by not actually facing what Bakunin himself said. I am hoping that you'll print these following quotes, so as to provide your readers with at least a slice of Bakunin's critique and social vision.

“The leaders of the Communist Party, namely Mr. Marx and his followers, will concentrate the reins of government in a strong hand. They will centralize all commercial, industrial, agricultural, and even scientific production, and then divide the masses into two armies — industrial and agricultural — under the direct command of state engineers, who will constitute a new privileged scientific and political class.” 1873.

“The Dictatorship of the Proletariat... In reality it would be for the proletariat a barrack regime where the standardized mass of men and women workers would wake, sleep, work and live to the beat of a drum; for the clever and learned a privilege, of governing: and for the mercenary minded, attracted by the State Bank, a vast field of lucrative jobbery.” 1869.

“The programe of the International is very happily explicit: the emancipation of the workers can only be gained by the workers themselves. Is it not astonishing that Marx has believed it possible to graft on this never-the-less so precise declaration, which he publically drafted himself, his scientific socialism? That is to say, the organization of the government of the new society by socialistic scientists and professors - the worst of all, despotic governments! 1872.

“No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom.” 1872.

“We who are Materialists and Determinists, just as much as Marx himself, we also recognize the inevitable linking of economic and political facts in history. We recognize, indeed, the necessity, the inevitable character of all events, but we do not bow before them indifferently and above all we are careful about praising them when, by their nature, they show themselves in flagrant opposition to the supreme end of history... the triumph of humanity... by the absolute free and spontaneous organization of economic and social solidarity as completely as possible between all human beings living on earth.
... The Marxists do not reject our program absolutely. They only reproach us with wanting to hasten, to outstrip, the slow march of history and to ignore the scientific law of successive evolutions. Having had the thoroughly German nerve to proclaim in their works consecrated to the philisophical analysis of the past that the bloody defeat of the insurgent peasants of Germany and the triumph of the despotic states in the sixteenth century constituted a great revolutionary progress, they today have the nerve to satisfy themselves with establishing a new despotism to the so-called profit of the urban workers and to the detriment of the toilers of the countryside...
... Mr. Engels, driver on by the same logic, in a letter addressed to one of our friends, Carlo Cafiera, was able to say, without the least irony, but on the contrary, very seriously, that Bismark as well as King Victor Emmanuel II had rendered immense services to the revolution, both of them having created political centralization in their respective countries. I urge the French allies and sympathizers of Mr. Marx to carefully examine how this Marxist concept is being applied in the International.” 1872.

“To support his programme of the conquest of political power, Marx has a very special theory which is, moreover, only a logical consequence of his whole system. The poitical condition of each country, says he, is always the faithful expression of its economic situation; to change the former it is only necessary to transform the latter. According to Marx, all the secret of historic evolution is there. He takes no account of other elements of history, such as the quite obvious reaction of political., juridicial and religious institutions on the economic situation. He says: 'Poverty produces political slavery, the State.' But he does not allow this expression to be turned around to say, 'Political slavery, the State, reproduces in its turn, and maintains poverty as a condition of its own existence, so that, in order to destroy poverty, it is necessary to destroy the State!'” 1872.

“Either one destroys the State or one must accept the vilest and most fearful lie of our century: the red bureaucracy.”

“Freedom without socialism is privilege and justice, and socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.”

In a subsequent letter I'd like to go into Bakunin's actual words on his programme for federative communalism and a world-wide federation and industrial parliament based on revolutionary industrial unions.

Gary Jewell
Delegate, IWW Defense Local 2

Critical distance

Dear Friends:

The articles by Ulli Diemer were excellent and I wholeheartedly concur with his position on the relationship between Marxism and anarchism. (The same old tired rhetoric in Murtaugh's piece provided a nice foil for his analysis) Further, his characterization of the uncritical editorial policy of THE OPEN ROAD was right on target.

It appears from the quality of Diemer's articles that libertarian Marxism has established a critical distance between itself and the Marxist tradition and in particular, the dark Leninist side of that tradition. Now it's up to Murtaugh and the anarchist movement of which he is a part to establish their critical distance from the Bakunist tradition and, in particular, the dark Nechaevist side of that tradition, best represented in our own day by the Red Brigade terrorists, the Baader-Meinhoff gang, and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Anarchists must make a choice between their real libertarian impulses and their tendency towards anti-intellectualism, romanticism, terrorism, and conspiracy. For starters, they might do well to read Murray Bookchin's “Challenge the Icons of Anarchism” in THE OPEN ROAD, No. 5, Winter, 1977-78. But, as Diemer points out, the anti-intellectualism of most anarchists is the major stumbling block preventing them from overcoming their uncritical past.

One can only hope that many anarchists will break with their uncritical past and join with libertarian Marxists to become free and equal partners in a new left libertarian movement.

David Bean
St. Catharines

Point of order

Dear Comrades:

Just two points now. In your first [actually second -ed.] issue you publish an article on 'dialectical materialism', attempting one of the eternal neo-Marxist tries at redefining it. In the next issue you attempt to counter an attack on it by saying that it is not part of your politics. At least this is I assume the obscure reference to Plekenov meant. Ten to one as soon as the issue is forgotten you will start using the term again.

Second, as a point of order, you nowhere answer the charge that I put forward. I did not state that Bakunin was a saint and Marx was a devil. I did not say that some anarchists do not have some pretty stupid ideas (as do some Marxists). I am not a Bakunist and neither is the anarchist movement. This was most definitely stated as far back as the Congress of St. Imier in the 1800's. I would like to put the charge of ignorance back in your lap. You obviously know little about how widespread the opposition to much of Bakunin's politics was amongst the anarchist movement. You also do now know (or you deliberately disguise). the fact that many non-anarchists walked out on the International because of Marx's conspiracies against the anarchists. One thing I have got to hand to Marx: he was smart enough not to try and make a principle of conspiracy as Bakunin did. If anything, I agree with Malatesta that I am not a Bakuninist because Bakunin was too much of a Marxist.

What I did state was that the adoption of 'dialectical materialism' (or any 'correct interpretation' of Marx's philosophy, whatever you might like to call it) will have a certain effect on the socialist movement. To answer what I said you have to answer this charge, and answer it on some other basis than name-calling (ie., "anti Intellectualism”) .

Anyway, to get off the argument I really enjoyed the article on the use of 'lefty language'. I hereby cross my heart and hope to die if I ever use the word 'concrete' again (as I have in the past). This one especially struck me as I have to work with a trotskyist who is on the executive of the local union of the unemployed (as I am.) This fellow cannot open his mouth without spouting off rhetoric, and 'concrete' is one of his favourite words. Usually he doesn't even use this word right, as trots, in my experience, attempt to reduce the program of every organization they enter down to holding a demonstration and supporting the NDP. Therefore all the analysis of an organization has to be reduced down to "concrete demands”ie slogans for the demonstration. It doesn't matter how abstract these slogans are — as long as they can fit onto a placard. Concrete becomes a synonym for short.

In solidarity
P. Murtagh

Read before attacking

Dear Friends:

Congratulations on a great issue. 'Especially appreciated were the articles by Ulli Diemer on anarchism and Marxism. They shed quite a bit of light on the differences between the two, as well as clarified the actual theories of Marxism and the truth about the Marx-Bakunin split. I wonder if any anarchists will take the article seriously and read Marx before attacking him.

P. Murtaugh, it seems, contents himself with little knowledge of the writings of Marx, yet proceeds to attack him regardless. He charges that Marxism is “bifocal” having separate ideologies for the masses and the leaders. If Murtaugh had read Marx and not accepted the claims of the “Marxist-Leninists” so gullibly, he would have realized that the “Marxism for the leaders” is not Marxism at all. The leaders have abandoned nearly all of Marxism except the name, as has been documented amply. He would also realize that “Libertarian Marxism” is not “a rather recent development”, but the Marxism of today, a logical conclusion of the Marxism of yesterday.

Martin Deck
Face To Face: Letters

Dear Red Menace:

I enjoyed Vol. 2, No. 2 and it was in many ways one of the best magazines I've seen lately. Important points seemed to be the commitment to being non-sectarian within the libertarian left, and the need for an intelligent analysis leading to concrete social change. Nonetheless I have some criticisms.

Coming from a socialist anarchist background I would have liked to have seen the anarchism/marxism issue well worked out. However none of the articles on this issue was constructive at all. There seems to be little point to the historical aspects of the Marx vs. Bakunin feud except insofar as either or both can help us take the world we have now and move it toward liberation and socialism. If you have such analyses deriving from whoever it would be more useful to publish them than this sectarian bickering.

Thank you very much though and please enter a subscription for me.

Bill Coleman
Dear Red Menace:

About a month ago, a friend sent me a copy of your paper (the Spring 1978 issue). Great stuff! I particularly liked "Bakunin vs. Marx", "Words", and "Everything you wanted to know about Sects". One thing for sure your articles show a hell of a lot more original thought than those in the papers of the sectarian left. You've also got a sense of humour.

I have to disagree with P. Murtaugh when he says in his article "Some thoughts on organization" that insurrectional revolution in Canada is impossible and could never succeed. I think that non-insurrectional revolution is a contradiction in terms. I can't think of any successful revolution in history that didn't involve an armed uprising against the old regime and system. He's just kidding himself if he seriously believes that the ruling class won't react "to threats to its hegemony by either repression or bribery". It uses both even now when there is no threat of revolution. I personally know of cases where bosses have tried to prevent unions from organizing their employees by bribing the organizers with pay raises, promotions, etc.

As regards repression, what about police brutality at the Fleck strike (to name just one), the shooting of the mill workers in Montreal, and the military occupation of Quebec in October 1970? Isn't that repression? Revolutionary insurrection is quite possible in industrial societies. It almost happened in France in 1968 and in the north of Ireland the Provisional IRA has been fighting a revolutionary war against Britain since 1969. P. Murtaugh is right when he points out that there is bound to be a lot of hardship and suffering among the people in the course of an insurrection. Unfortunately, that's part of any revolution. The only alternative is to put up with this system.

Right now, despite unemployment, inflation, shitty working conditions, racism, etc. Most people are still pretty satisfied with the system. Conditions aren't bad enough yet that people are pissed off enough to overthrow the government and have a social revolution. However, I think that time will come sooner or later however long that may be.

Peter Flosznik

Red Menace #5 - Summer 1980

Introduction to this Issue

WHEN SOMEONE WROTE IN to ask what we're doing now that we no longer publish the RED MENACE, we figured it was time for another issue.

The fact is we don't have the resources to come out more frequently. The RED MENACE is a paper without either staff or advertisers. Funds and labour are donated by volunteers, of which there is a very small pool. Each issue is consequently an event unto itself, more like putting out a book than a magazine.

We mention our difficulties both as an explanation for why the RED MENACE has not yet developed beyond an annual event and, in a more positive vein, to encourage readers to send suggestions, preferably from their own experience, about how this could be remedied or at least turned into an asset.

READERS SHOULD NOTE THAT putting out the RED MENACE is not the only activity of the Libertarian Socialist Collective (LSC). The collective meets every two weeks to discuss issues raised by the members. Over the past year most of these discussions have centered on socialization and women's liberation. More recent topics have included electoral politics, the Afghanistan crisis and housing co-ops.

An ongoing concern is the relation between libertarian theory and the group's structure and practice. Our discussion on socialization had a direct bearing on this. It helped us understand how leftists tenaciously hold on to their early obsessions by converting them into left-wing hang-ups; chief among these being Programme, Organization and compulsive Action. The LSC is not finished with its soul-searching about these things but we have managed to widen the boundaries of the discourse.

Beyond discussion the activity of the group is no more than the sum of individual efforts, which is inevitable when the group is this small.

THE BULK OF THIS ISSUE is taken up with two articles on the 'socialist' bloc.

XXX, a member of our collective, visited the Soviet Union in the fall of 1978. He presents here a first-hand account of what he saw and heard while he was there. Richard Swift's article, on the other hand is an attempt at showing how popular and strikingly profound criticism of the regime finds expression in cynical humour.

The two articles complement each other. XXX's article shows the Soviet Union as a schizophrenic world where official reality can be relied upon to always be the inverted image of lived experience. This is what Swift calls the "cynicism from above". Swift then goes on to describe how this bureaucratic cynicism engenders its own demystification in the form of a mass humour that forces the official ideology to become explicit and thus show itself for what it really is.

Swift suggests that, because of its ability to demystify, this "cynicism from below" has a liberating potential. As XXX's article indicates, however, it may also serve another function, namely, as a safety device that allows people to adapt to otherwise intolerable circumstances.

Kay Cole's article on fashion is intended as a begining rather than the last word on the subject. In insisting that fashion is not just a mode of exploitation but also a medium for self-expression, Cole challenges the rigid dogmatism that has conditioned the left's view on the subject. We hope readers will extend this discussion.

And lastly, Eric Glatz's article on prostitution provides an overview of the various feminist positions on this issue. Sketchy as this article might be we are printing it here because we feel this issue raises important questions on the theory and strategy for women's liberation. Again we welcome discussion.

Arms and the Woman

The modern revolutionary movement must destroy this opposition of pleasure-activity, sensitivity- lucidity, conception-execution, habit-innovation.

By Jeanne Charles

One of the symptoms of the weakness of the revolutionary movement today is that it has not yet reached the point of giving birth to a qualitative and autonomous expression of revolutionary women. It is known that the degree of development attained by the forces of negation in existing society finds its unequivocal, decisive and obvious manifestation in the relations between revolutionary men and women and in the manner in which the direct and natural relation of the sexes in conceived.

The division of roles of the sexes in alienated society, inherited from feudal society and the first stages of industrial society, can be schematically defined in this way: femininity concentrates the anti-historical tendencies of alienated life (passivity, submission to nature, the superstition that follows from this, repetition, resignation), masculinity its pseudohistorical tendencies (a certain degraded taste for struggle, arrogance, pseudo-activity, innovation, confidence in the power of society, rationalism). Femininity and masculinity are the two complementary poles of the same alienation. In modern industrial society, these two poles tend, in losing their material bases, to blend into each other to constitute the specific traits of the modern proletarian, where the differences between the sexes are less and less marked.

In all epochs, and according to the nature of those epochs, men and women have never constituted two pure types. Whatever their sex, individuals unite, in various ways, the character traits and behavior of the two sexes. Nevertheless, femininity has up till now always been the dominant trait of the alienation of women, and masculinity that of men. But fundamentally, it is the traits of the old femininity which reappear at present in the generalized passivity of the reign of the modern economy, although femininity and masculinity, freed from their material roots, are recaptured arid used indiscriminately by the two sexes, as modes of spectacular affirmation.

While in alienated society woman and man find themselves more and more on a plane of equality (except in the cases where patriarchy still prevails) because the woman cannot find in her male companion - who is as unarmed as she is - an admirable and all-powerful protector; in the modern revolutionary movement, in contrast, the woman begins by being sharply confronted with her old femininity in the face of the domination of a certain theoretical prestige. Because, for the individual who is not involved in theoretical activity, theory appears as an "ability to write," to "think," a product of intelligence, an individual creation full of mystery. This is the spectacle effect; the fetishism of theory for those who find themselves outside it. The woman often finds herself forced to admit that she has "not yet written anything," and that she has no active role in the elaboraion of revolutionary theory, in apparent contrast to certain of the men she sees. In matters regarding theory, her first impulse is to rely on men, who seem to her "more qualified" than her. She ends up distrusting her own thought, paralyzed by external criteria. When she happens to penetrate unexplored terrains, she stops short, thinking that if it hasn't been done before, it must have been because it wasn't worth the trouble. Her thought, when in spite of everything she manages to have some, remains a dead letter: the woman never on her own follows through to the practical consequences of her thought. Often, she judges an individual very quickly, making a pertinent, perceptive critique, even before her male friend or friends; but in her passivity she stops there. When it comes to practical consequences, she hides behind men. Her reflections and her critiques are made in private, leaving masculinity to attend to putting them into practice.

But in this way she deprives herself of a direct grasp on her social environment; she never directly influences anything and thus cannot become a theorist. For theory is the critique of daily life; it is the operation of each individual conducted in this daily life; it is a succession of renewed and corrected interventions in relations with people (which are also the effective terrain of alienation) and, what amounts to the same thing, it is also a series of interventions in society. Theory is an undertaking of revolutionary transformation that implies that the individual theorist accept his own un-interrupted transformation. Theory lies therefore in the comprehension of and action on blocks (individual and social-historical).

If men have an apparently preponderant place in the revolutionary movement, it is because many among them enter the revolutionary struggle with the character traits of masculinity - that is to say, in reality, with as few aptitudes as women, and with the same unconscious complacence regarding their character traits as women have regarding femininity - which can create illusions, since the practice of theory demands imagination, real struggle, confidence in oneself and in the power of the individual, aptitudes; which the masculine character possesses in a degraded form. To convince oneself of this hidden misery of the modern revolutionary movement, it suffices to note that femininity would not be allowed to exist in it without the assent of masculinity, or at least would not be tolerated for long. Feminine passivity has its flip side in masculine activism. Up till now, it is primarily the passivity that has been noted, because it is, the most glaring contradiction in a movement founded on the autonomy of individuals.

Women are only colonized by the spectacle of theory insofar as they are totally exterior to theory. And it is not the example or the intervention of men, themselves largely colonized by this spectacle, that can precipitate women's demystification, that can make them comprehend in vivo what theory is. Henceforth, the passivity of women must be criticized, not superficially because they don't write or don't know how to express themselves autonomously, but at the root, because they don't have any direct and practical efficacy; notably in their relations with others. Equally, it must no longer suffice for a man to "express himself" abstractly. His writings and his thought must directly have concrete effects. Masculinity and its activism must no longer have as a foil femininity and its passivity.

There is an obvious complacence present in the maintenance of these roles. The alienated individual is reluctant to root out what he has repressed; and since masculinity and femininity are complementary, they have all the solidity of natural and inevitable phenomena. In the refusal to combat these roles, there subsists in fact the global acceptance of alienated society. Those who claim to be revolutionaries say that they want to change the world and their own lives. But in reality these individuals hope that they will be changed by a revolution. They thus remain passive individuals, ready to adapt themselves, if they have to, but who fundamentally fear all change. They are quite the opposite of situationists.

The resolution of the deficiencies of revolutionary practice at the beginning of the new epoch now passes directly through the resolution of the deficiencies of revolutionary women; which is to say, also through the supercession of a certain limited masculine practice which has up till now accommodated itself to these deficiencies and their maintenance. It is an urgent objective for the critique of daily life to definitively destroy the inequality of the sexes in revolutionary activity; that is to say, to destroy the respective roles which both sexes establish in alienated life, the character structures of femininity and masculinity and the limitations that they impose on revolutionary experience.

There are two principal types of women in the revolutionary movement: the most numerous at present are the women provided with a protector.They are admitted into the revolutionary milieu with the traits of femininity, because they are presented by a man. The others present themselves: they are admitted as the result of a prestigious past which they have participated in, or for an ideology which they have assimilated well. These latter are admitted with the traits of masculinity, as men are.

Some of these women say absolutely nothing in public, contenting themselves with making remarks in private that they wouldn't otherwise dare to make; or they don't open their mouths except in response to the futile sort of questions that are believed to be the only ones that can be asked of them; or again arbitrarily thrown into "theoretical discussions," anxiously watching out of the corner of their eye for the approval of their protector, they won't dare admit their ignorance of the subject, and entangle themselves in the confusion of their thoughts, or repeat what they've heard said, their difficulties in this domain seeming shameful to them; others openly display their insufficiencies, finding excuses for themselves in the difficulties they have in writing - but only in writing, as an inexplicable calamity - implying that they nonetheless think admirably; or perhaps they recognize in this a feminine defect, and fancy themselves protected, supposing that their honesty guards them from any more direct critique; still others express themselves by means of aggressive demonstrations toward men, to show that they aren't under any man's thumb and that they think autonomously. Each time, it is their colonization by, the spectacle of theory which paralyzes women.

Thus, for the moat part the only relations which remain to women are amorous ones. There they flaunt their sensitivity, ranting in private against theory as being something cold and abstract, and lauding "human relations." Women are often recognized as having greater sensitivity and subtlety when it comes to judging people. In addition, men, having a certain minimum of practical exigence, are considerably more prudent when it comes to critiques that will entail practical consequences. They prefer to admire their female companion for such a capacity, which they claim to possess only in a lesser degree - they had to repress it - and thus justify their relation with this woman: the passivity and public non-existence of the woman must be compensated by a greater hidden richness, and the monogamic justification of the couple is this complementarily of the man and the woman. If sensitivity is still an attribute of femininity, it is because theory is not understood for what it is, since men who are considered to be theorists are considered to lack sensitivity; whereas in fact theory includes the practical application of this sensitivity and this subtlety.

The modern revolutionary movement must destroy this opposition of pleasure/activity, sensitivity/ lucidity, conception/execution, habit/innovation, etc. The femininity/masculinity opposition corresponds to a reified stage of human development.

The individuals colonized by the spectacle of a revolutionary theory are in fact colonized by the need to appear autonomous; they are subject to appearance. As long as theory continues to be understood as a product of intelligence, as the individual faculty of "thinking" and of "writing," and as such, as a possible source of personal prestige, men will continue to want to "express themselves" at all costs and women will lament not being able to imitate them.

It is now a matter of understanding theory for what it is. It is essential that women (and men) no longer accept one's acts being in contradiction with one's words, and no longer accept the existence of critiques without consequences. It is essential to restore to subjectivity all its rights by giving it practical follow-through. No one should be able to be lucid about others without being lucid about himself, or lucid about himself without being lucid about others. The modern revolutionary movement must become unlivable for masculinity and femininity. It must judge individuals on their life.

This article, originally entitled "La critique ad mulierem," is from the Chronique des Secrets Publics. (Volume 1, June 1975).
Centre de Recherche sur la Question Sociale
B.P. 218
75865 Paris CEDEX 18 France

Translation: Ken Knabb, Bureau of Public Secrets, P.O. Box 1044, Berkeley, CA 94701 USA. No copyright, June 1975.

Back in the USSR

Impressions from a trip to the Soviet Union.

During a three week visit to the Soviet Union last summer, a member of our collective had the opportunity to speak with Soviet citizens and observe, briefly, life in the Soviet union today. His article isn't meant to be a comprehensive survey of the Soviet scene but rather a presentation of attitudes, ideas and situations that he encountered.

His trip consisted of a cruise from Helsinki to Leningrad, where he spent a week and a half, a journey to Riga, the capital of Soviet Latvia, and then return by ship to Helsinki.


The whole centre of Leningrad, which has a population of approximately four million people is beautifully preserved. Unlike the rest of Europe there are no modern glass, 20-storey monstrosities to ruin mile after mile of pastel coloured l8th century palaces, institutes, museums, stores and apartment buildings. The Nevsky Prospect, Leningrad's main street, is bustling and lively. It's the only place where I was hustled, by (unpleasant hooking) young men who wanted gun and jeans. On the Nevsky I encountered the only beggar I was to see for three weeks, an old woman in a wheel chair who was successfully collecting coins from passers-by.

There seemed to be small movie theatres all over the place, tucked into apartment buildings or over stores, with simple signs out front "KINO" and a list of coming attractions. Again on the Nevsky, a large theatre with a painted sign advertising "Blue Water, White Death", an old American film about sharks.

On the streets you'd come across lineups, 10, 20 maybe 30 people in a line-up to buy apricots or tomatoes. Down side streets you'd go past apartment buildings where every window was full of plants; and behind the apartment buildings there would be a small park, with playground equipment and benches. In fact there seemed to be quite a large number of little parks all over.

In "Dom Knigi", House of Books, the largest bookstore, there are a wide variety of, among others, anti-drunkenness posters to be purchased. Outside the store is a beautiful canal (the city is full of canals) at the other end of which stands the Martyr Czar Cathedral. Built in memory of a Czar, I believe Alexander III, who was assasinated on that spot, the Cathedral is a classic fairy-tale mixture of spires and multi-coloured onion domes.

The west was not forgotten in Leningrad. In our hotel, a Chargex-Visa sign was attached to the front of the check-in desk. At the entrance to the hotel dining room was a sign urging guests to "Come and see our show" at the foeigners-only "Dollar" bar in the hotel. The accompanying photograph showed a chorus line of young women in silvery bikinis.

On the streets I was constantly amazed to see young men wearing American flag shirts, stars and stripes T-shirts and military jackets With "U.S. Air Force" crests on them. Young people are crazy about American culture and styles.

Our Leningrad guide, Antonov, was a young man who came across as fairly honest. In my time there we got to be reasonably comfortable with one another and on my last night in Leningrad we got together in the hotel bar to do some socializing.

We started off when I asked him why most of the people I'd met seemed to have very little interest in politics. In his opinion that wasn't very surprising, people had to devote all their energy to the struggle for adequate housing, clothing and food, so people felt they had no time for politics. He felt that the dominant mood in the Soviet Union today was discontent. People, as he put it "are tired of not getting the food, the clothing and the goods they want. People have rubles but there are no goods to spend them on. In general, workers are better off than professionals, however they still aren't getting enough. Workers get only 50% of what they want and intellectuals only 20% of what they want. "My experience is that things are gradually getting worse and that the economy is slowly going to grind to a halt".

Which of course led to the next question, what's the problem with production? Different people had different perspectives m the problem. Antonov felt clear that one of the main reasons was the fact that the Soviet Army is the largest in the world. "How do you know?" I said. "I was in it" he replied, and added, "Now, let's change the subject", and that was the end of that.

I asked if there were many gays in the Soviet Union. He was quite taken aback, why was I even interested, what an odd question and so on. After explaining that a lot of leftists in Canada felt the question of gay rights was very important he still seemed surprised but willing to discuss it. As he presented it, there are certainly gays living in the Soviet Union but they are not very public about it; although it is not completely socially unacceptable, it is seen as something of a sickness. Two of the women who lived in the flat he shared with another couple were gay. They were quiet and tried to please everyone. A friend of his who travels in those circles reported that the son of Yuri Andropov (head of the KGB) was gay. The son, Sergei, is protected from harm by his father, and is surrounded by people who like to have some sort of connections with power.

Antonov related an anecdote about a prominent Soviet author who had been interviewed on West German Television. When asked about gays the author replied that he felt sorry for them. The interviewer responded by saying that this was a narrow way of looking at gays. The author then asked "If your daughter was gay how would you feel?" The interviewer, upon reflection had to admit that he would be quite unhappy. "So", concluded Antanov, "it is normal to have this outlook about gays."

It was my turn to change the subject and I did with a question about Brezhnev:

What do people think about him? Antonov felt that in what he had to say he was speaking for the students. They were required in every subject and on every question to learn and approach all subjects on the basis of what Brezhnev thought or once thought about them. They found him very tiring.

We finished our evening with a discussion of travel in Western Europe as he had escorted Soviet tour groups to Italy and Germany. He observed that just as in those countries, the Soviet Union had prostitutes and pimps. For the most part they worked the tourist trade and interestingly, often have a connection with the KGB for the passing along of information.

One evening, I was out for a stroll and came across a theatre showing the film "Leningrad Blockade". The film was in colour and of recent vintage. It attempted to portray the history of the blockade (Nazi forces laid siege to Leningrad for 900 days during World War II) through the lives of a nurse, a captain, the Party chief of the city, the generals involved, leaders of a factory party committee and an architect. In the background was Stalin, portrayed as a fatherly, wise, and resolute leader. You would never think that Krushchev had once portrayed Stalin as a less than savoury character.

In one notable little scene a friend comes to visit Stalin who is working late in his Kremlin office. A brief chat about how their respective sons are doing at the front and then the friend asks Stalin, "Why weren't we prepared for war?" Joe replies that they did the best they could and after all who could know that Germany would fight on two fronts?

Aside from the very sympathetic portrayal of Stalin, the other aspect of the film worth further study were the central characters who were uniformly leaders or professionals, workers receiving all the bit parts. Another Soviet film, Dersu Usala, (actually a Soviet-Japanese co-production) casts a czarist officer as one of the two central figures. Sensitive and intelligent, he is quite a contrast with the boorish lot who constitute the party of soldiers under his command. Sixty years later Soviet film makers seem to be developing sympathy for the formerly badly abused czarist officer corps.

I should say before I go on to a description of the next conversation, that people would not speak frankly with you unitl they had had a few days of contact. They would discuss nothing of substance in the hotel (unless they were in the bar when loud music was playing) and on the street, conversation would stop if any person came too close. This sort of behaviour, which seemed common, induced a mild paranoia.

I met Nadia and Inessa in a coffee shop in Riga. They were both clerks in small shops and were both members of the Communist Party youth organization, Komsomol Although initially reticent to talk about anything but western music and life style, we were able to have an interesting discussion one evening down by the Riga docks.

It started out with their comments that my clothing seemed to be very sturdy and well made which broadened into comments that "Everything is better in the west". I vas a bit taken aback, given that they were young communists, and after pointing out that in Canada we didn't have completely free medical and dental care as they had in the Soviet Union, I asked if things weren't improving in the Soviet Union.

They said that things were improving but that the west was also improving, so the Soviet Union would never catch up. "Almost everyone thinks that, although you can't say it". "At our Komsomol meetings we have to say things are better here than in the west but we don't believe it."

Apparently most discussion at the meetings centres on work with very little if any time spent on political analysis. They felt that they couldn't speak freely, as an open expression of opinions could lead to hardship and reprisals. They were in Komsomol, like the majority of their fellow members, because all young people are required to be members. The only exceptions are those singled out as bad students or bad workers.

Pursuing this matter of reprisals resulting from free expression of opinion I asked who exactly decides what can and cannot be said. "The higher-ups, the state personnel".

Which led to a question about class structure and a firm statement that there are no classes and therefore no class contradictions in Soviet society.

"Well then, who makes the most money?"

In their opinion, chiefs of firms make the most money, about 400 rubles a month (the official average is 158 a month). I tried to determine whether or not managers were able to pass on their "class" status. Nadia and Inessa both had heard that the children of managers were able to get into university, whether they were able to pass competitive exams or not, through bribery. Although the children of managers were not necessarily destined to become managers, they did have an excellent chance of getting a good job.

As far members of the communist party the only real privilege they knew of were the special stores. Apparently both military officers and communist party members had access to these shops which did not offer bargains but did offer no lineups. After a few weeks in the Soviet Union one understands why a store without line-ups is a treasured privilege.

The last real chance I had for a lengthy conversation came with a couple I originally met in a park. Young and wellspoken Vlad and Alexandra were both members of the communist party.

After a few get-togethers I felt that they were becoming more relaxed and so I asked them what they felt were the long term prospects for the Soviet economy.

They were both convinced that although things were bad now they were going to get worse. Wages were low and rising slowly, prices however were rising steadily. Not only were officials declaring increases for certain item but a constant undeclared round of price increases was going on in the stores.

In their opinion the fundamental problem of the economy was the centralization of decision-making in Moscow. All decisions they emphasized, are made there even for the lowest administrative levels. Decisions were not made by the people affected by them.

"On paper we have all kinds of democracy but really there is none. After all, one cannot even speak freely."

I asked then what did they speak about at their party meetings. They agreed between them that for the most part their party meetings consisted of discussions about work and how to increase production. As to political analysis they did little or none for the political line came down from above. "When we go to conferences we can't really say anything. When the leaders speak we have to applaud whether we agree or not."

As for Brezhnev they considered him to be just a "big talker". However they felt that a personality cult was being built around him that was potentially dangerous.

I asked why they were in the Communist party if things were so bad and its leadership, at least Breshnev, was discredited. After a brief survey of reprisals taken against open political dissenters, jail, loss of work or vacations, none of which they were ready to face, they said that in the end one still had to do something even at a minimal level. As for those people in open opposition to the regime they expressed respect for their bravery. Characterizing them largely as intellectuals, they said that there were great numbers of oppositionists in jail.

It is possible that this crushing of desire for social change is what is driving people back to the church. Both party members, they were regular church goers and suffered no penalties for it. Every year they observed more and more young people going to church if only to get married.

I was assured after some probing that there were neither classes nor class contradictions in Soviet society. As Alexandra said, "There are no landlords or big property owners now but the state is very rich and we have little."

The Alexander Nevsky monastery in Leningrad is a quiet retreat. It has a very large, very well maintained and still active Russian Orthodox Church.

It has two graveyards. The first, closest to the entrance, has the graves of many well-known Russian authors, composers and cultural figures. Inside the monastery itself is a smaller graveyard. It is apparently set aside for war heroes and notables from the Communist Party. The graves have fences around them in the Russian fashion.

It is silent and peaceful and disquieting. First you notice one marker, born 1890, died 1935, then another, 1901-1932, another 1892-1936 and so on until it strikes you that almost a third of the markers you see are for purge victims. Its the same in other places, memorials to the heroes of the revolution museums, etc.

When Stalin buried both the revolution and the revolutionaries, he left a society with a lower level of political awareness and development than we have even in North America.

We can hope for upheaval in the Soviet Union but even with what appears to be a perceived and real drop in living standards I don't think it will happen too soon. I hope I'm wrong.

Cynicism From Above, Cynicism From Below

The state bureaucracies of Eastern Europe are unable to accept any challenge to their right to decide and control.

By Richard Swift

The Nature of the System

The battle for popular control of society and its institutions has traditionally been identified with the Left of the political spectrum. However, the current structures and practices of state socialism[1] in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union have cast doubt on the traditional identification. There Marxism, once a living part of working class experience, has been ossified and manipulated to justify whatever policy helps maintain and reproduce the existing relations of domination. This has resulted in a myriad of clever evasions by some on the Left. For others it has meant a very basic crisis of definition. It has forced the latter to think in new ways about political power and its relationship to economic power. No longer can the abolition of private property in the means of production be seen as a sufficient condition to guarantee working class sovereignty. Direct and indirect forms of democracy need to be evolved for both state and economy.

Similarly it is necessary to reconsider the categories and language that Marxism has used in analyzing society and developing its politics. The inversion of Marxist language and categories into an ideology against popular control makes this a fundamental task. The critique of “Marxism-Leninism” that is being made in a very practical sense by the people living in state socialist societies provides us with an excellent starting point.

The problem of how to define and effectively criticize existing state socialism is a difficult, yet crucial, one for the left. Many socialists are haunted by the fear of playing into the hands of anti-communism and the forces of reaction. This tendency to always glance over one's shoulder has resulted in a failure to appreciate the importance of the democratic opposition in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Opposition is judged more on its political shortcomings than on its courageous stand in the face of monolithic power. Little account is taken of the political context in which the opposition must struggle. There is a general failure to understand that the priority of this struggle must be the creation of a space where political life and the debate about the meaning and purposes of socialism can begin again. The fundamental questions this opposition is asking about Marxism cause a good deal of discomfort amongst Marxists of various political stripes. Yet a clean break with the Soviet precedent can only be achieved by supporting the democratic opposition without ideological reservations.[2] Only with practical political support for the democratic opposition will there be a chance of renewing the old vision of a socialism where democracy is a principle and not just a tactic. The popular distrust (and hostility) which already exists towards Marxism, in both East and West, marks this as a critical problem.

An honest self-examination by Marxists must come to terms with the fact that the directives of oppression in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are drawn from the arsenal of socialist ideas and values. It is useless to bemoan betrayal, revisionism and deformation. Certain tenets of Marxism in general, and the Bolshevik tradition in particular, have proved highly adaptable in administering what Ferenc Feher has called “the dictatorship over needs”.[3] The state socialist tendency (traceable in part back to Marx) to glorify the achievements of capitalist efficiency in production, science, and technology are central here. These are held to be neutral phenomena which may serve socialism as well as capitalism. The emphasis in state socialist economy thus becomes a rather productivist concept of growth with the capitalist inefficiencies removed. Work (wage labour) is the ultimate official value. The capitalist methods (hierarchy) and technology of production reproduce relations of domination but in a different context.

With the capitalist autocracy in economic production retained and a market system based on some degree of consumer choice removed, there is little space for popular needs to merge in the process of economic planning. Growth and the abolition of the private means of production are seen as enough to guarantee socialism. Any considerations of ecology and a self-managed division of labour tend to get lost in the shuffle.

The decisive failure has been the inability (unwillingness) to develop democratic forms in either the economy or political life. This has led to a situation where needs are bureaucratically determined and prioritized from the top down. The model is one of a hyper-rationalistic[4] society with no dysfunctions emerging either through messy conflict or dissent. The result is a socialist version of the rather Germanic myth of a perfectly ordered, conflict-free society. That the whole thing is a myth, with conflict, dysfunctions and dissent simply not officially recognized, does not seem to dampen technocratic enthusiasm. Typical problems include imbalances in production between consumer and capital goods, high defense spending, shortages, a black market and low productivity. Although the economy in state socialist societies has superceded the particular forms of capitalism (the central role of the market, private appropriation of wealth, labour as commodity) this has failed to achieve the more profound vision of Marx, a rupture in the rule of capital over man. This radical rupture would assume a collectively decided purpose behind an economics defined by human need. Such a purpose is a precondition for a society where money doesn't talk.

In the sphere of politics the situation is even more dismal. The ambiguous legacy of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”[5] especially when combined with older forms of autocracy (Czarism, oriental despotism and the byzantine traditions of Imperial Austria) has proved tragic for the Left. Not only has state socialism failed to extend those democratic freedom won in the bourgeois era, it has failed to even maintain them. A statement by the left opposition Praxis group in Yugoslavia indicates the importance of these freedoms and criticizes the apocryphal dismissal of them as singly bourgeois illusions.

"The basic civil rights and liberties are the great achievements of the past democratic revolutions. They are necessary — though not sufficient — conditions of a free life in any society. A critique of these rights which rejects or disparages them as merely “formal” “abstract” or bourgeois is not only devoid of historical sense, but, in the context of societies which have not only not overcome this “bourgeois” level but have not even approached it, also expresses an aggressive obscurantism.”[6]

Again the more profound elements of the Marxism critique have been buried under the usual scientistic cant about the necessity of iron discipline and the “leading role” of the party. The party-state dominates all social groups and the institutions of civil society, destroying their autonomy and capacity for self-government. The ideological rationales from apologists are as ingenious as they are torturous. The populations are held to be immature and in need of the firm guiding hand of the party at the helm. The ubiquitous influence of the Central Intelligence Agency and “enemies from abroad” are seen to be everywhere capable of destabilizing state socialism even after three decades of its existence. These old tired arguments pretend that the crisis in socialism does not exist. Criticism destroys the unity of world progressive forces and plays into the hands of anti-communism. According to this schema, world politics is reduced to a morality play with easily identifiable good guys and bad guys. Those who are on the receiving end of this type of logic cannot be blamed for becoming cynical about official Marxism and its scientific pretensions. A perpetual state of emergency is used to put off forever a process which Marx hoped would result in the abolition of political power as such. Relations of subalternity,[7] new alienation come to dominate in all aspects of society-production, the press, the army, trade unions, the party - commandism is the order of the day.

Analytic Controversies

The decisive issue of the nature and direction of state socialism[8] divides much of Western Left opinion. This is not the place to evaluate the many worthwhile contributions dealing with this problem. It is important, however, to locate the misleading and superficial tendencies in the analysis associated with different critical schools. While interpretations vary widely there is a general unwillingness to go to the root of the matter.

Domination in all its most important aspects has destroyed any progressive impulse in state socialism. But domination varys greatly in both means and ends. To define it principally in the ways in which it is similar to capitalism misses the point. Yet there is a constant effort to observe the new realities in terms of the old. Whether one evaluates state socialism positively or negatively, the crucial questions asked have to do with the role of the market, whether a new class with a relationship to private property is emerging, or if this or that reform is moving in the direction of capitalism or socialism. The ecomony is the major preoccupation. There is an almost universal insistence that state socialism is a transitional form of society — in movement either forward toward socialism or backwards towards capitalism, This use of the word “transition” is rather tautological and far from the original Marxian idea of a self-destroying transitional state. The predominance of analytical catagories developed under the conditions of capitalism blocks the possibility of investigating state socialism as a new form of domination with a stability and dynamic of its own is consistantly missed.

“Repressive tolerance is a luxury state socialist bureaucracies cannot afford.”

One analytical tendency assumes that the old categories applicable to capitalism are directly transferable to the analysis of the new type of social formation. A return to capitalism (Maoism) or a form of state capitalism (unorthodox Trotskyism) is the direction in which these analyses lead us. What is ignored is the specificity of capitalism and the centrality of the plan under state socialism and its role in overriding popular needs and their articulation. Emphasis is placed instead on the economic rights and privileges of the bureaucracy, ignoring the fact that the roots of domination in state socialism lie not in the economy but at the centre of the political system. The analysis of this tendency in its calculations never really comes to terms with the socialist demogogy of the legitimating ideology in state Socialist societies.

Those schools of socialist thought which do recognize the primacy of the political tend to do so in a superficial manner. The system’s basically healthy direction must overcome some unhealthy blockages which are of a political and hence derivative nature. Bureaucracy (orthodox Trotskyism) or bureaucratic attitudes (mainstream Eurocommunism) are seen as predominately political distortions of a more or less socialist economic structure. A new ruling class cannot consolidate itself without the traditional bourgeois relationship to private property. The crucial point that both these analyses overlook is the fusion of political and economic forms of domination in state socialism. This leads to underestimating the deeply entrenched political and economic interests of the bureaucracy and to an overly optimistic prognosis about its overthrow. The root of the failure lies in the inability to critically analyze the theory and practice of Bolshevik democratic centralism with its tendencies towards hyper-rationalistic planning, social engineering, and politics based on management and administration rather than working class power. A careful reconsideration of these assumptions is too threatening. It is easier to see the problem as one of bad rather than good leadership, cynical bureaucrats rather than dedicated revolutionaries — instead of questioning the fundamental divisions between conception and execution and ruler and ruled.

Western Marxism has paid far too little attention to what the opposition in state socialist societies have to say about their own circumstances. The main current amongst democratic oppositionists is to look at their societies as unique social formations with a logic of their own which cannot be defined principally in terms of its relationship to capitalism. Absolute control of the political arena is essential for the state socialist ruling class to legitimate both its economic and political policies. In this context the struggle for democratic freedom has a different meaning than it does under liberal capitalism. There formal political democracy (although absolutely essential for working class struggles) may serve to mask the main relations of domination which lie in the monopoly power that transnational corporations exercise over the economy. The ideological struggle is much more concentrated under state socialism where there is no separation of public (political) and private (economic) spheres. The battle for autonomy and for decision making space by both the intelligensia and the working class has a significant and threatening impact on bureaucratic perogatives and power. Repressive tolerance is a luxury state socialist bureaucracies cannot afford[9]. It is in this sense that it is important for the Western Left to appreciate the limited program (rights to independent trade unions, freedom of religion and national cultural rights, freedom of the press, opinion, and association) of the democratic opposition in Soviet-type societies. The issues cannot be defined in relation to a capitalism creeping in through the back door but as the political dynamics of a new social formation.

Conservative critics of state socialism have been no more successful than the Left in penetrating the ideological veils that surround state socialism. Too often their perspectives are clouded by a desire to discredit socialism and the peculiarities tend to get lost in the dust of domestic political battle. The convergence school which stresses the continuity of statist and technocratic tendencies under both capitalism and state socialism does so only at the cost of ignoring the specificity of each system. While it is true that there is no decisive contradiction between international capitalism and state socialism[10] (although there is plenty of vigourous competition, particularly in the area of international power politics), the rulers of each system depend heavily on a perceived contradiction to legitimate their power. Real differences underpin this political offensive on each of their parts. Here two different ideas of democracy, albeit a rather prescribed democracy, are the crucial issue. The Soviet system grants limited economic rights (a guaranteed living at a certain level and the right to work) while liberal capitalism grants limited political rights (formal universal franchise, freedom of assembly, press and opinion). In both systems these rights are constantly in danger of being eroded and can only be effectively defended by working class struggle. Yet the rulers and ideological priests of each system trumpet the meager freedom that they each allow as compared to the sham freedom of their competitors. In this sense they perform services of mutual reinforcement.

The totalitarian school analyses state socialism with the main emphasis on the terrorist control of the state over every aspect of social life and individual decision. In contrast to liberal society where the state is constitutionally restrained and the rights to property provide a bulwark against state encroachment — the state under socialism is seen as having almost totally unimpeded control of society. This view runs up against the realities of periods of resistance and of liberalization which dot the history of state socialism.

If the totalitarian theorists are right, we should be facing a period of ever increasing state control. Yet in many state socialist countries there has been a definite extension of the political indifference area. A greater latitude in cultural and personal matters marks the present era in comparison to the ideological inquisitions of the Stalin period. Physical liquidation as the normal course for dealing with opposition has been curtailed. In countries such as Hungary and Poland there have been both economic liberalizations and a greater toleration in intellectual life. The system has proved neither immune to internal conflicts nor totally insensitive to pressure from the grassroots. The spectre of revolt, particularly spontaneous workers revolt, is one the bureaucracies must all live with.[11] Political process, albiet the exclusive preserve of an elite, still goes on and as the case of Czechoslovakia proves, can spill over its banks and infect public sentiment.[12]

Nowhere is the limited effectiveness of state socialist 'totalitarianism' so obvious as in the realm of consciousness. Despite an elaborate network of institutions engaged in the work of censorship, news management, and the production of official viewpoints through culture and ritual — the monster of consciousness remains at large.[13]

The quality of state socialist propaganda is often quite laughable. In comparison with its Western competitors, who provide a view of a way of life based an a seductive (if ultimately impoverishing) consumer culture, state socialist propaganda is overtly political and very clumsy. While the journalists of Time and Newsweek present an American mythology to the world, their Eastern counterparts write and broadcast not for the public, but for the censor. It is upon him that their continued livelihood depends. One of the censor's basic principles, a basic principle of all forms of absolutism, is that there is no news but good news.* The credibility gap engendered has not only discredited the regimes in question, but the Marxism which they use to justify themselves.

* This principle has been modified somewhat in the case of Polish and Hungarian liberalizations. Here criticism may be allowed in individual cases although they must never be generalized into a critique of policy or society.

The Monster of Consciousness

The visitor to Eastern Europe in particular is struck by the degree of western influence especially in the cultural universe of everyday life. Western cultural styles are increasingly tolerated as the old Stalinist puritanism collapses. Coca Cola, blue jeans, western music, Hollywood film stars, melt into what appears as a mindless glorification of corporate consumer culture. Window shopping threatens to outstrip football as the most popular spectator sport.[14] Things Western carry such status that a quick profit may be turned by selling a Levi-Strauss label to adorn a Polish made shirt. Even May Day was celebrated in Budapest with a punk rock concert in 1978. The old cultural conservatism of Eastern European and Soviet Marxism is no match for the latest fads and fashions from the West. This superficial evidence of a failure in the battle for hearts and minds mirrors a deeper malaise that infects all levels of state socialist societ. The situation was eloquently described by the Polish socialist Wlodzimierz Brus when he gave the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Lecture in 1976.

“The gift of liberty is like a horse handsome, strong and high spirited. In some it arouses the wish to ride; in many others on the contrary it increases the desire to walk.” - Massimo d'Azamlio 1848

“Deprivation of freedom, even in its present day forms which are 'soft' compared with the Stalinist period, destroys the roots of human creativity and initiative, and stifles the ability to make intelligent choices. In consequence a deep contradiction persists between 'mine' and 'theirs', the latter meaning what is supposed to be common ownership. The official ideology, by contrast, incessantly preaches the theme of social integration, based upon what is allegedly 'all power to the people' and on mass participation in economic decision-making. The ideology cannot, of course, be abandoned — it is, after all, the regime's source of legitimation — but since it is in striking contrast with observable reality it naturally contributes to a breakdown in social morality and it leads to cynicism and frustration. Too often the natural outlet for these deep social contradictions finds its expression in pursuing strictly egotistic interests, in developing an admiration for bourgeois patterns of success in general and of consumerism in particular and these are met, in practice but obviously not in words, with far greater approval by the Party leadership than activities which are closer to the socialist ideal but carry a threat to the regime. From the side of the political elite there is undoubtedly an element of rationality in this encouragement of bourgeois individualism in its several manifestations.”[15]

The backwardness of the masses is a self-fulfilling prophecy for the bureaucracy. An atomized and depoliticized population is much easier to control than a militant and class-conscious one. If aspirations and desires can be channelled into the world of private achievement then the political power and policies of the elite are safe, at least in the short-term, the limited possibilities for private material improvement tend to intensify the conflicts between groups in society as well as those between the individual and society. The social decomposition caused by consumerism without consumption (at least in anything approaching the levels achieved by industrial capitalism), has effects on the level of individual psychology; in Hungary, the country which has gone furthest down the road to what Brus terms 'enlightened socialist absolutism' these effects are particularly striking. In 1977, 20,000 people tried to kill themselves and 4,500 succeeded, giving Hungary the highest suicide rate in the world.

Despite significant divergences in policy due in part to levels of popular resistance and in part to different cultural and political traditions, certain common features stand out throughout the different state socialisms. The strict control of informatics is one of these. Another is the purely formalistic use of Marxism in analysis and its public presentation in monotonomously predictable and highly stilted language. This type of Marxism Leninism becomes so elastic that seemingly any policy can be included as a socialist one. Miklas Haraszti reports in his study of the sociology of work in a Hungarian factory that the piece work system is defended as being the ideal form of socialist wages, the embodiment of the principle 'from each according to his capacity, to each according to his work.' This alteration of the old communist ideal ' from each according to his ability to each according to his need' is the work of a Hungarian expert in 'management science'. The labour 'exchange' program which brings workers from all over Eastern Europe to the labour starved factories of East Germany is universally acclaimed as an example of the highest achievement in socialist internationalism. In fact the system differs little from the oppressive guest worker system which operates in Western Europe. Barrack conditions and cultural alienation are the defining characteristics. In a similar but more sinister vein, political rhetoric is used to justify the suppression of dissenting views. In the German Democratic Republic left opposition theorist Rudolf Bahro is arrested as an imperialist spy. In Czechoslovakia the human rights Charter 77 is officially portrayed as a 'cynical and cold blooded act calculated to cause chaos in a peaceful country'. Record work achievements are seen to be a consequence of working class 'disgust the endeavour of the renegades who concocted the squib "Charter 77"'. All this comes from a booklet entitled In the Name of Socialism compiled by the Czechs from official sources to influence foreign public opinion.

The crude justifications for almost any policy of economic rationality or political repression in Marxian terms tends to undermine the very socialism in whose name it claims to speak. Its contrast with peoples' everyday experience creates an enormous credibility gap and an ideological vacuum. To prevent this vacuum from being filled by an effective political critique from below the party state must resort to further bureaucratic fiats. If concessions are granted it is almost always in the area of the economy but seldom in the expansion of political and cultural rights. The underlying principle which must never be questioned is the party's unchallenged right to decide and control what is written, said, and, where possible, thought.

A former Polish censor, Tomasz Strzyzewski, who recently defected to Sweden has revealed the scope and extent of censorship in his country. Although the word 'censorship' has been eliminated by the office of Censorship, the activity is still pervasive. The Central Office of Control of the Press, Publications and Theatre is a major institution — almost a ministry with its president, vice-president, its departments and services. All books, plays and the entire press is checked preventively — that is before they appear in public. Such matters as foreign affairs, economic relations with the West, the democratic opposition and the measures taken to curb it are very strictly controlled or in the latter case, barely mentioned at all. There are blacklists of major intellectuals and writers whose names and the titles of whose work are strictly proscribed. The system operates through 'interventians' by the Central Office but most frequently through the self-censorship of press and media journalists.

According to Strzyzewski this form of news and culture management represents more than simply lack of confidence in the citizen. “More than lack of confidence... it is the government's contempt of the citizen that this is all about. It is possible that at a certain time, the government may lack confidence in a fraction of the population; but it is not possible to be afraid of everyone all the time. No, it is a question of contempt, since the aim of censorship is not to convince, but to manipulate everybody all the time. Cynicism, that's the operative word.”

If this is true in Poland, with Hungary, one of the most liberal countries in Eastern Europe, it is acutely the case in Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic or the Soviet Union itself. The cynicism of the rulers gives rise to a cynicism of the ruled. This shows most clearly in things like sabotage, alcoholism, absenteeism, low labour productivity, a refusal of available forms of participation and a generalized sense of disdain about the institutions of administration and those who control them. A cynicism from below is in an important sense a healthy development. State socialism and its managers have shown long ago that their socialism is merely rhetorical. They have made a laughing stock of any idea of a society cemented by moral incentives or socialist community. Attempts at socialist renewal such as those in Poland in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, or the various left opposition tendencies have been vigoursously discouraged. Replacing the self-blame of consumerism ('you are what you possess') with the structural and more political blame of cynicism from below is a healthy social symptom. It is a necessary if not sufficient condition for change. It is a negation of the negation.

One of the most ingenious forms that cynicism from below attains is that of the joke. A lively political humour has developed under state socialism which explodes the pretensions and constituting myths of the planning elite. Where the space is missing for an organizational resistance, irony becomes a most important weapon for creating an autonomous psychic space. Laughter is the widespread and entirely understandable response to party-state authoritarianism. The bitterness of the humour gives it a sharp political edge. It clearly marks the failure of bureaucracy (hopefully inevitable) in regimenting popular consciousness.

Political jokes touch practically every aspect of life under state socialise. The tension between ideal and reality provides a fertile ground. The legitimating ideology of official Marxism-Leninism is turned on itself in a manner which reveals the hollowness of its claims. In some the privileges of an elite supposedly committed to equality are revealed.

Breshnev's mother comes to visit him in Moscow. He picks her up in a chauffer driven Rolls.
M. "Son, where did you get the car?"
B. "It comes with the job Ma."
She notices his fine new suit.
M. "San, where did you get the good cloths?"
B. "They come with the job Ma"
They arrive at Breshnev's penthouse apartment. 'It comes with the job Ma'. Fine furniture - 'comes with the job'. The mother thinks for a moment - 'I'm glad to see you are doing so well son, but what will happen to you if the Communists come back?'

Other jokes poke fun at the scientific nature of the 'correct line' ideology of administration.

Q. What is it when you have too much food in the country and no food in the city?
A. A Bukharinite right deviation.
Q. What is it when you have all the food in the city and none in the country?
A. A Trotskyite left deviation.
Q. What is it when you don't have any food anywhere?
A. The correct application of the party line.

Similarly the pompous boasts of socialist efficiency come under fire.

Socialism comes to the Sahara. They have their first five year plan. Nothing happens. They have their second five year plan. Same thing. Then during their third five year plan they begin to run out of sand.

What's twelve yards long and eats potatoes?
- A line-up in a Polish meat store.

The institutions which possess a monopoly of top down political power are held up to ridicule.

At school the teachers are taking up a collection for the party in Ethiopia. Everyone is supposed to bring in five kopeks the next day. Everyone dutifully brings theirs except for young Franz. Franz explains:
'My father says that Ethiopia is a long way away, we don't get much news of it, how do we even know they have a party there.'
A week later another collection is taken up this time for the trade union in Ethiopia. Everyone brings their five kopeks except Franz. Again Franz explains.
'My father says that Ethiopia is a long way away, we don't hear much about it, how do we even know they have a trade union there.'
A week later another collection is taken, this time for the starving millions in Ethopia. Everyone brings their five kopeks except for Franz who brings fifteen kopeks. He explains:
'My father says if they have starving millions in Ethopia they must have a trade union and a party.'

Or the predictability and boredom of official pronouncements are caricatured:

Comrade Breshnev is addressing the Party Congress when a security agent passes him a note saying that a spy has infiltrated the congress. There was a brief pause while the security agents assured Breshnev that if he continued his speech they would keep a close watch and nab the culprit. Breshnev continued and soon out of the coner of his eye caught sight of a short dark man being led away by two hefty KGB agents. Breshnev was much impressed by the efficiency of the KGB being able to pick a spy out of the thousands in attendance at the Party Congress. He was curious as to how they had been able to do it so quickly, and queried the KGB agent in charge after finishing his speech. The agent proudly replied that it was simple. They had followed the teachings of comrade Lenin who had taught that 'the enemy never sleeps.'

The supposed final advent of communism and the almost forgotten 'withering away of the state' are other tempting targets for popular honour. With the utopian dimension of communism buried so deeply by the banal productivist realities of existing state socialism, this is a particular popular theme for wry reflection. No where else is the gap between theory and practice quite so obvious.

Breshnev decides that now that more than six decades of socialist transition have passed since the Russian revolution it is time to estimate how far the socialist world is away from the final goal of communism. This is an important theoretical and political issue so that it is necessary to set up a special study commission of leading party ideologues. The commission holds six months of intense investigation before reporting to the Party Congress that they are one hundred kilometres from Communism.

Breshnev is frankly puzzled. What can this answer possibly mean? He decides, enough of these ideologues, let's ship the problem out to the Academy of Sciences to look at. Another six months and the answer comes back the same, one hundred kilometres. Breshnev is both confused and annoyed. The best brains in the country have only been able to come up with incongruous answers. He decides to give the problem to the Rand Corporation to see if a capitalist think tank can handle it with more efficiency.

He waits a year until Rand submits their final report. The answer is again the same — one hundred kilometres. Breshnev is beside himself. How can this be — one hundred kilometres from communism? He calls together all those involved in the study and demands to know what methods they used to reach this conclusion.

The head scientist pauses for a moment and then begins to explain:

Scientist: "Well, Mr. Chairman, we feed various kinds of data into our computer bank — material on production, consumption, gross national product, trade figures and indices for measuring scientific progress..."

Breshnev: "Yes ...yes...very good."

Scientist: "And then we feed in a quote from comrade Lenin which was that 'Each five year plan is a step towards Communism.'"

Cynicism itself (particularity the cynicism from above) is caricatured in others:

The foreign sales administration finally promotes Comrade K to a job which will allow him to take promotion trips abroad. On his first trip he goes to Copenhagen and sends back a telegram saying. 'I choose freedom'. This causes great consternation in the administration and promotes worries of new restrictions to be imposed by the central committee.

On Monday morning the party secretary sees Comrade K in the hall coming to work as usual. The surprised secretary stops him and incredulously asks him what he is doing there. K replies that he is going to work.

"But what about your telegram saying that you choose freedom?" the secretary demands.

K grins at him: "Faith, Mr. Secretary, faith."

In a similar vein the ritualistic ceremonies to celebrate the fraternal relations between the peoples of Eastern Europe and those of the Soviet Union are satirized:

The week November 7 - 14 is declared 'the week of undying friendship' between the peoples of Czechoslovakia and those of the Soviet Union. Appropriate official ceremonies are planned. Posters announcing 'the week of undying friendship' are put up. A Czech citizen paints under one of these, 'O.K., one week but not a day longer.'

The real tragedy in the bankruptcy of state socialism is caught in the distinction between capitalism and socialism that is widely adhered to:

'Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man and socialism is the complete opposite.'

These examples provide a flavour of the very practical critique of Marxism-Leninism which has developed in the popular culture of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. They should provide a hint to us that the conception of socialism represented by the Bolshevik tradition is a spent force. It is useless to hold to the position that 'Yes there are criticisms but still it is better than capitalism.' The mistake here is mixing up different with better (or if this naked ethical imperative is bothersome, 'historically progressive'.) Reform of this tradition will not do, a fundamental rethinking is necessary. This is a precondition to replacing a political culture of restraint with one of imagination.

We are left with the problem of what is needed to supercede cynicism from below. This poses the necessity of a new vision of socialism to replace the old. Cyncism tends to fill the vacuum left by a failure of vision. This is as much a problem in the West as it is under state socialism. In either case it is necessary to restore popular control to the centre of the socialist project.


1. The term 'state socialism' is used here to indicate the countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. While the institutional pattern described is to a large extent applicable to Third World socialism there are significant divergent features as well — forms of direct democracy, levels of participation, etc. The problems of, and possibilities for, Third World socialism differ radically and some options closed long ago for Soviet type socialism remain open in the Third World. This is not to discount a certain similarity of triumphalist style and strong internal and external pressures to adopt the Soviet model.

2. Those leftists who choose to support only the explicitly Marxist currents in the opposition will increasingly face a serious dilemma as even the Marxist currents have been forced to find a new political vocabulary to express their dissent. The discredited categories of Marxism-Leninism prove inadequate.

3. Feher, Ferenc; 'The Dictatorship over Needs', Telos #35, P.31 - 42. Feher is a participant in the Budapest School of Marxism which emphasizes the role of human needs in defining the socialist project. (See Agnes Heller's Marx's Theory of Needs, Allsion and Busby.) Feher and other members of the Budapest school have been forced into the Hungarian diaspora as a consequence of their opposition to a system which determines needs from the top down.

4. Hyper-rationalism has led to an increasing anti-rationalism on the part of certain sectors of the opposition. This is most true of the relatively isolated opposition in the Soviet Union itself. Solzhenitsyn, despite the realism of much of his work, is the most obvious example here. Hyper-rationalism can also been seen in the Soviet choice of the psychiatric apparatus as a means of repression against dissent. If the system is close to scientific perfection, those who oppose it must be mentally unstable as they could have no possible rational grounds on which to stand. 'Story of a Workers' Group', Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, Vol. 2, No. 1, P. 2. This is perhaps the logical conclusion of 'current line' politics.

5. The phrase had a limited application and radically different meaning for Marx. Dictatorship in the twentieth century has transformed the meaning of the word. As Fernando Claudin points out: 'Marx and Engels in their theory of socialist revolution equated democracy with socialism and preached the struggle for democracy as the principal axis of the struggle by the proletariat to achieve its own class rule.' Claudin, Fernando; Eurocommunism and Socialism, New Left Books, p. 95. London, 1978. The phrase 'dictatorship of the proletariat is an unfortunate and dangerous baggage for the Left.

6. Belgrade Praxis Group, 'The Meaning of the Struggle for Civil and Human Rights', Telos #35, P. 186 - 191.

7. The phrase comes from Rudolf Bahro's excellent work on state socialism and indicates the dependent social relations cemented by state police methods which permeate over level society. Bahro's book, The Alternative is a Marxist expose of the contemporary circumstances of the German Democratic Republic. Since his arrest in late 1977 he has disappeared completely from sight. The official press claim he is guilty of espionage.

8. The term is used here reluctantly to take into account both the system's self-consciousness as socialist and its departure from the original definition of socialism as the self-government of associated producers. Other fruitful investigations of the phenomena described it variously as bureaucratic collectivism (Carlo, Antonio, 'The Socio-Economic nature of the U.S.S.R.', Telos #21) or drawn parallels with oriental despotism (Bahro). While it is tempting to follow Fernando Claudin (op. cit.) in dismissing Soviet-type societies as not socialist because socialism is impossible without democracy, this is somewhat unsatisfactory. It provides a useful evasion for socialists in that it fails to take into account the elements that make up and legitmate the new social formation and are in fact drawn from the socialist tradition.

9. A young German writer who used to write for East German Cabaret but now lives in the West recently commented in a Der Spiegel interview: 'In the East political cabaret is supposed to change society, but it is not allowed to say anything; in the West it is allowed to say whatever it pleases, so long as it cannot change anything at all.' Meszaros, Istvan, 'Political Power and Dissent in Post-Revolutionary Societies', New Left Review #108.

10. Jimmy Carter recently showed the limits of his human rights campaign at the time of the trials of the Helsinki monitoring group in Moscow. According to Carter, "We have expressed our displeasure in a very moderate way.... I have not embarked on a vendetta against the Soviet Union. We cannot interfere in their internal affairs." Montreal Gazette, 21 July 1978. Increasing east-west economic co-operation including the extension of western credit (with its accompanying pressures) should be seen as part of an overall attempt to co-ordinate Western stabilization policies with Eastern growth policies.

11. Examples of working class revolt have occurred most recently in Poland and amongst Rumanian miners.

12. In a system of closed but relatively stable politics there is often great speculation on the differences over policy existing at the higher levels of the party apparatus. It is very difficult to evalute what real differences do exist. The Prague Spring proves that change can come from within the party apparatus. However, it is a common tactic of powerholders in state socialist societies to strike a fashionably liberal pose (in private) and point to the possibility of greater evils in justifying their policies. This is quite easy to do in countries where the Stalinist past still casts along shade. Geography and the real possibility of Russian intervention provide useful rationales in Eastern Europe. An atrophied sense of possibility is a definite asset for a group of men whose vision cannot extend beyond keeping things together and themselves in power until they die.

13. The title of a surrealist tract.

14. Window shopping is also the only effective way to deal with periodic shortages in a wide range of goods.

15. Brus, Wlodzimierz, 'The Polish October: Twenty Years After, The Socialist Register 1977. Merlin Press.


Even though the fashion industry has made dress oppressive one should not discard it completely, or at least only an appropriate occasions. Do we really all want to walk around looking exactly alike in dull green pajamas and peak caps?

By Kay Cole

One day last winter on a typically slushy day, I walked to my doctor's office and observed the sign on her door: "Please remove rubbers before entering."

Dutifully, I removed my red-rimmed rubber boots, left them on the mat outside the door, and entered, self-consciously, in my stocking feet. Immediately I was confronted with four or five other women in the waiting room who were not in my humbled condition. They all had their boots on. But all their boots were leather, good leather, the kind with two-to-five inch heels. Even the receptionist was wearing high leather boots. Evidently the sign was meant to apply only to those who were either male or gauche enough to actually wear leak-proof rubber boots in slushy weather. The sign did not even say "Remove boots before entering." No, only the material rubber was specified as being necessary to remove.

However, my feelings of humility were somewhat put into perspective a couple of weeks later when a gigantic slush storm decended on the city, coupled with a great thaw which turned the sidewalks into streams and rivers and the streets into lakes. Slushing home from work I watched with pure enjoyment and pleasure as those unfortunates (men included) who were not wearing high rubber boots like me, leapt precariously from one relatively dry spot to another, or resignedly walked through deep puddles with misery etched on their faces.

This is certainly not the only time I have been struck by the sheer impracticality of people's apparel. Seeing a highly fashion-conscious woman bravely stalking forward on four-inch heels always fills me with a strange combination of admiration at her prowess, and contempt at the utter silliness of it.

Dress — the way people cover and decorate their bodies — is, as I see it, a form of self-expression. Fashion is the way each person conforms to the manner of dress of his/her society or segment of society. Some people, perhaps leftists in particular, have confused the two. We have tended to see any attempts — particularly on the part of women — to be elegant, or feminine, or simply attractive, as surrenders to the world of sexist, objectifying fashion. Any undue or apparent attention to one's apparel is looked on with suspicion, and thoughts of “bourgeoisification” are never far from people's minds.

Fashion is not a recent phenomenon or one unique to western society. Throughout the ages and in all or nearly all cultures people, especially women, have been expected to conform to the modes of dress prevalent at the time. Usually it is the women who are expected to decorate and disfigure their bodies. But sometimes, though more rarely, and usually less inconveniently, it is the man. That this is in large part a sexual action, like birds in plumage, designed to attract people to each other — or to signal that the wearer is not available — seems fairly evident.

It can also be a lot of fun.

Men and women both have always enjoyed dressing up. Changing one's appearance for special occasions or just for the fun of it has always been an indulgence for men and women both, except for those for whom poverty precludes any frivolous activity extraneous to the immediate struggle for survival.

Unfortunately, sexist attitudes and the manner of women's dress have been inextricably linked. Women tottering precariously on bound feet, or on platforms or high-heeled shoes, are made to seem vulnerable and the men thus strong and protective. A waist made tiny by organ-mutilating corsettes gives a woman that breathless but dainty quality which is physically incapacitating, and is also attractive to the sexist man of certain cultures.

Fashions in the western world today are a little less of a physical burden, but much more of an economic one. Since fashion has been made the business of those with a profit motive, what used to be a sometimes oppressive but often enjoyable indulgence, has reached near the heights of absurdity. The speed at which hemlines rise and fall, at which skirts flare or straighten, or shoes become fat or skinny has became so predictable that each woman who wants to be “in” now takes for granted that each year she will have to buy a complete new wardrobe. Advertising introduces new “needs” and reinforces the belief that everybody who is anybody is improving their appearance and their relationships by buying these new products, "carefully researched" by "people who care".

To some, this may seem doubtful. How many women really slavishly follow the dictates of fashion to such an extent as that? To find out, all one really has to do is take a stroll downtown in any large city at lunchtime and observe. Also observe the number of stores and boutiques catering exclusively to the office crowds and obviously doing a good business. Also if one has a job in one of these offices in the big cities, one quickly realizes that it is not the "bourgeoisie" who buys all these expensive clothes, but frequently those who can afford them least, the clerk and typists and receptionists. Immigrant women factory workers certainly have neither the time or the money to indulge in the latest fashion trends, but most of then I'm sure would like to and their children certainly do.

In a great many offices, especially those of the large finance companies, dressing in the latest fashions goes along with the job and it's hard to get away with dressing simply and cheaply. Indeed, I've often thought that a good union demand for some offices that are unionized would be a clothing allowance so one doesn't have to spend one's hard-earned wages on clothes to come to work in. At the very least they should be tax deductable.

Beyond a doubt, the fashion industry has made what should be a pleasant and interesting activity, i.e., the art of self decoration, into a chore and a drag. It's no accident of semantics that we now refer to this chore as the "dictates of fashion". Men and women both are afraid not to conform to what the media say "everyone is wearing". They may not like the new styles, or more often than not, they probably don't suit them, but not to wear then would mean being "old fashioned" and "out of date". Women, naturally get picked on far more than men because their role as objects gives the male (and female) designers in the fashion industry endless angles to exploit. And of course fashion is only one aspect of "keeping up with the Jones", for which consumerism prepares people from childhood. In suburban middle class society, having a well-dressed wife is analogous to having a new model car. It's a mark of success, of having "made it", and its often essential to advancing in one's career.

But even though the fashion industry has made dress oppressive one should not discard it completely, or at least only an appropriate occasions. Do we really all want to walk around looking exactly alike in dull green pajamas and peak caps? Do we never want to draw attention to ourselves? Perhaps we should all wear brick and cement camouflage in order to blend in with our city surroundings. Islamic women in this sense have the right idea. They don't want to draw attention to themselves so they cover up with long black robes with one eye peeking out. In their society it is permissible for men to attack any woman not so smothered. (Judges, lawyers and police in rape cases world probably support this fashion in our own society.)

Unfortunately, in our sexist society, women justifiably do not want to be too obvious in a crowd, but they do at the same time want to be attractive and so they try to blend in, in an attractive way. Thus the desire to conform in dress style.

For styles of dress to become matters of freedom and choice rather than matters of social dictate and camouflage, society will have to change fundamentally. Women will have to be free of the fear of being potentially harassed or attacked by any passing man, and fashions in dress have to be torn from the web of profit and commodity production. Until women can exist freely in a non-sexist society, it will naturally be impossible for women to be free about expressing themselves sexually or otherwise through dress.

But that does not mean that women must do what Islamic women do and hide from men altogether.

The seeds of change have already been planted. Same women and men are already stepping out of their uniforms into their own creations. But in this, as in other cultural activities, we have a long way to go.

Dress, television, dance, movies, bingo nights, music, decoration, are all elements of popular culture, most of which (music and movies are the exceptions) are ignored politically by those who advocate liberation and which tend to be put down in the social microcosm of the left because of the inevitable bourgeois elements. Some of us boast that we "never watch television" thereby proving that we are on a higher level of consciousness and have no need of such passive forms of entertainment. We prefer to sit passively in endless meetings instead. Dance is restricted to jumps and hops accompanied by ear-jarring music, while the often more interesting folk and square dancing are disdainfully left to our parents. Most of us are embarrassed to open our mouths to sing, preferring to leave one of the most enjoyable of group activities to the "experts" on our records.

Presently the left - at least in North America - considers a woman (or a man) who dresses up as bourgeois or at least as curiously aberrant, allowing themselves to be objectified. The left woman, coming home from work and changing out of her office or factory uniform before joining her "comrades" must carefully choose her clothing if she feels in a particularly dressy or creative mood. Make-up is definitely out, even though it can be a lot of fun. Fancy blouses are OK if they are not too new and are accompanied by the inevitable blue jeans. Flouncy peasant skirts are becoming more acceptable as long as they look hand-made, and especially if they are made out of cast-off clothing or scraps. Necklaces are generally OK but iffy, and other jewelery, such as bracelets and broaches are darn right risque.

Even though women have been the more exploited sex in the world of fashion, men have been much more restricted in the variety of their dress: witness the suit. Lapels and tie may have gotten fatter or skinnier, but that is about as much leeway as is allowed in men's fashions. That stiff collars and neck ties are now virtually extinct everywhere but the business world and the classier restaurants must be a great relief to many men, but it is not enough. That they should still be restricted essentially to shirt and trousers (jeans) in a subdued variety of colours and texturres, means that there is still much room for improvement. When men can wear skirts in hot weather, things will really have gotten somewhere.

Reaction against aspects of the western fashion industry is natural for those who consider themselves "liberated", but too many altogether deny that dress plays any role in their lives at all beyond staying warm, keeping off the sun and staying legal. But there is no question that even the most blase of people do pay attention to what they wear and are conscious of how they appear however they may try to suppress this consciousness. Recently, my housemate and I were preparing to go to a party, when to his horror he discovered that the holes in his only pair of blue jeans had become big enough to be indecent. The only other possibility was a pair of dress slacks reserved exclusively for family obligations such as weddings and certainly not to be worn in the presence of real friends. Nonetheless he had no choice and was forced to walk into a room full of blue jeans to a suitable chorus of admiring wisecracks.

Jeans are a good example of how the dictates of fashion - in this case, the extremely fashionable fashion of pretending not to care about fashion at all - can lead to impoverished creativity and the suppression of common sense. They are not always the most comfortable apparel, especially when new, and they can often restrict movements if they are worn too tightly as they very frequently are (worn too tightly in men, they can also inhibit the production of sperm cells.) They are very bad in snowy conditions since they are not at all water resistant. They often shrink, disintegrate into rags quickly and on top of it all are quite expensive. Yet the are by far the most popular apparel worn today, especially by the young, the left and the self-consciously unfashionable, so popular as to be almost a uniform. One redeeming feature is that they are somewhat sexy and to this I would attribute their rise and stay in popularity.

Ideally, dress should be free speech. It should articulate what that person is into, how that person sees herself, today or generally. What fashion does is restrict that freedom of speech, mold everyone into the same acceptable pattern of dress.

Dress is a statement that can mean different things in different contexts. If a friend of mine, accustomed to wearing jeans and sandals walked in wearing high-heeled shoes and lipstick, I would be surprised and would wonder what had happened to her. My boss at work would probably say she now wants to grow up and "be a lady". I would probably say that she has either sold out or is mixed up or has gone around the bend.

Attractiveness isn't an absolute. What society today might find attractive, an earlier or later or different society may find downright ugly. The important thing about such things as make-up is the context in which it is placed. It isn't inherently bad or objectifying to wear makeup, but to women who are trying to free themselves from the sexist, objectifying nature of today's society, make-up has become a symbol of false femininity, and a woman wearing makeup today is making strong statements about her attitudes and position in society, consciously or not.

There are really only a very limited number of considerations which should be given to the choice of clothing. Clothes should be comfortable and should not restrict movements. They should be easy to take care of (though this restriction could be sacrificed in favour of a particular effect.) They should be economical (could also be occasionally sacrificed.) They should be flattering to the wearer. They should provide the wearer with suitable protection from the elements. And they should (in this society anyway) cover up strategic parts of the body, although the way this is done can often make the body sexier than stark nakedness anyway.

But in a society where one's choice of clothing is wrapped up in so many other considerations and causes, we have to decide how best to cope with the restrictions imposed by them. Giving the matter some thought would be a good way to start making our choices free and more sensible.

Prostitution Rights

Decriminalization takes prostitution from the jurisdiction of the criminal code. It means private sexual acts between consenting adults are placed outside the realm of criminal laws.

By Eric Glatz

With the exception of a rural area of Nevada, prostitution remains illegal in every state of the US. In Canada it is illegal in all provinces and municipalities to my knowledge. Illegal or not, it exists as an informal institution in every metropolitan area. The selling of sexual services represents a viable market in Canadian and US societies regardless of the criminal stigma attached to it and the consequences of engaging in it. Any analysis of prostitution requires the consideration of historical, economic and social factors which all contribute to our view of prostitution.

Our sexual mores, social attitudes, laws and our economic systems work on several levels; often behaviour that is not tolerated in public, is accepted, even encouraged, in the private areas of our lives. For us to look at prostitution it is necessary to consider the delicate balance between the public and private areas of our lives. We should also remember that when an issue as volatile as prostitution is a focal point, it tends to ellicit gut-level reactions. Even from a highly rational investigator.

Woman as a commodity in a market controlled by males is a feminist issue. This arrangement is often identified as being sexually exploitive and potentially harmful to the woman. Prostitutes have been viewed as oppressed by economic hardship, thus causing them to sell their bodies to men, by laws which punish them and not their customers, and by the violence of pimps who take a large cut of the money prostitutes earn. Prostitutes have also been glorified by male society as being "the only honest women." Prostitution then, as a feminist issue is subject to stereotypes, as it is as a kind of "scholarly subject" or as a moral issue.

Kate Millet in the "Prostitution Papers" stated, "Prostitution provokes gut-level feelings in women precisely because it reveals so starkly fundamental and tacit assumptions about women's relations in a patriarchal society. It reminds us that we are defined by our sexuality: i.e. wife, spinster, lesbian, whore; and it reminds us that most women are dependent on men for social survival and that most of us in one way or another secure our survival in exchange for the commodity that men want most from us. Feminists see this sexual objectification as dehumanizing and degrading — with the ultimate degradation experienced by women who sell their bodies to earn a living..." Prostitution becomes an uncomfortable issue not only for MP's, clergy, citizens, police, the political left etc., but for feminists as well. Many feminists feel that if historical and current sex roles are seen as oppressive, prostitution is the most oppressive sex role of all. However, the problem with this question is that, to a certain extent, it arrises out of a femrinist ideal rather than present reality. In initially thinking about prostitution, the earnest feminist envisions the best of all possible worlds. One where there is no sexual exploitation or no power hierarchy based on our sex roles. But this thought process does not provide any real answers to the fact that currently prostitutes are arrested and jailed. The current prostitution laws in Canada or the US favour the customers who in most cases are not even charged. The police agencies use dubious and illegal entrapments to arrest prostitutes, wholly ignoring the right to privacy.

The element of choice becomes obscured, not only by adherence to social ideals, utopic views and neglected realities but because very little research has been done on prostitution by women and without patriarchal bias. Available information tends to reflect the mores of the researchers. What must be done is that feminists and the left have to acknowledge that women do make choices to survive and that whether a woman chooses prostitution at one dollar a minute or that of clerk-typist at three dollars an hour our response must be consistent. With the best of intentions we can postulate on how we believe a woman's situation is discriminatory. We can work to gain legislation which will open up better options for women . This would make a woman's current role more bearable. And we should fight long and hard to make these changes. But when a woman decides we must not annul her choice. To do so is reverting to a paternalistic attitude and would in reality be an anti-feminist position. The issue of choice in prostitution is an understandably difficult yet important concept to accept. To view prostitution with "pity" is to negate prostitutes' individual self sufficiency and potential for power and change. This has been made clear in recent forums where prostitutes and feminists have spoken and worked together.

Prostitution asks that we consider prostitution beyond the boundaries of stereotypes. That realistic and comprehensive information be studied. That the issue not be reduced simply to avoid conflict.


The American Prostitutes' Rights Movement was begin by Margo St. James and others in California to protest the hypocrisy of laws that control female sexuality, particularly prostitution. COYOTE (Call off Your old Tired Ethics ) started as WHO (Whores, Housewives and Others) to develop a union of women — both prostitutes and feminists to fight for legal changes. The short term goals of COYOTE are decriminalizing prostitution, with the long term goals being to free women in their sexual roles. Margo St. James insists that COYOTE is not just an organization — "it's a political concept."

There are constitutional proportions to this Prostitutes' Rights Movement. These would be equal protection under the law, the right to individual privacy, free speech, the right to due process, freedom from cruel punishment, and the right to due process.


Current prostitution laws are under attack because they discriminate against women, especially poor women who tend to be the targets of all law enforcement activity. Also, poor and black women tend to be denied access to hotels, bars or apartment that cater to prostitution and are forced to work the streets where arrest rates are high. Poor women must then end up dealing with many of the street and criminal risks involved in prostitution, especially the prejudices of the police. Where there are no solicitation laws, police will arrest women on vagrancy or loitering laws.

Some courts consider prostitution to be a victimless crime, as is the case in Detroit where a traffic court judge has been letting prostitutes go free. Still, this means that the governmental bodies are regulating the behaviours of consenting adults — behaviours which are really private agreements. This control of private acts violates our right to privacy, as well as a human being's right to control his/her own body.

Because prostitution is a victimless crime, police have used entrapment to fulfill the law. Prostitution rights lawyers argue that court decisions regarding "a constitutionally protected zone of privacy surrounding areas of the body" (US Supreme Court) are precedent for removing prostitution's criminal stigma.

Equal protection under the law is raised because in many areas only the woman is identified as the law breaker. Thus, the Adam and Eve story is repeated in laws and their enforcement. Furthermore, this unequal enforcement has a lot to do with the fact that Canadian Parliament and US Congress are dominated by males.

Arguments against decriminalizing prostitution usually claim that "the moral climate of the community will be affected." Or, that "Prostitution will lead to other crimes and help proliferate them." However, research shows no clear-cut connection between prostitution and criminal behavior. The issue of change in community standards due to repeal of prostitution laws fails to take into consideration that sexual behaviour for money already exists in most communities and the customers taking part in this enterprise are in many cases the same individuals that run the communities.

Specifically, what is meant by prostitution decriminalization? Decriminalization takes prostitution from the jurisdiction of the criminal code. It means private sexual acts between consenting adults are placed outside the realm of criminal laws. It would essentially bring the informal practice of tolerance of sexual behaviour out in the open, without spending millions of dollars, endless energy prosecuting and incarcerating prostitutes.

Legalization, predominantly not favoured by prostitutes' rights advocates, is the governmental regulation of prostitution. The argument against this is that under legalization the state replaces the pimp and would collect a great deal of revenue from "the industry of sexual work." Legalization should be viewed as taking away the self control from prostitutes.

Decriminalization is the least restrictive alternative.

The Good and the Bad

What are the contemporary differences between serious anarchists and serious libertarian Marxists? It is the present historical situation that is relevant, since after all we cannot go back and change the past.

By Ed Clark

Praise first: your paper takes theory seriously enough to write about it coherently. To my knowledge, that is unique in North America!

And you believe it is important to overcome the differences between anarchists and libertarian Marxists, to reunite the red and the black after a century of bitter disunity. I agree.

But is it really reasonable to expect this to happen as a result of bringing up all the ancient squabbles? Are people who emotionally identify with Marx or Bakunin going to admit that the other guy was right? That seem so me to be what you're asking, a hopeless request if there ever was one.

What are the contemporary differences between serious anarchists, like the North American Anarchist-Communist Federation, and serious libertarian Marxists, like yourselves? To me, that is much more to the point than endless reruns of the split in the First International! It is the present historical situation that is relevant, since after all we cannot go back and change the past. "The dead oppress the living", wrote Marx, and this is as true of those historical figures themselves as of anything else. It is we the living who will unify or fail to unify, not the ghosts of dead revolutionaries.

Once we put aside emotional identification with corpses, serious anarchists and serious libertarian socialists share a lot of common political ground. They use a lot of the same concepts; they analyze events and come up with similar conclusions. There are differences, some of them serious. There are also a lot of minor differences of style, which people could learn to live with provided the major differences were overcome. It remains to be seen whether anarchists and libertarian socialists think unity is important enough to make a serious effort to overcome these differences.

There is a very good example of this in Point 29 of your Political Statement: "We oppose a parliamentary or reformist strategy for bringing about socialism, but at times it may be tactically correct to participate in elections, or parliaments, as part of an overall strategy."

I submit that this is a case where the anarchists have been far more "Marxist" than the Marxists. Although your point is solidly rooted in Marx's own writings, Marx, after all, had an excuse — the idea was new in his time and had not been tested. But now, a century after Marx's time, we have hundreds of examples of all kinds of would-be revolutionaries trying every possible approach to participation in capitalist electoral politics — with uniformly disastrous results! Even some of the Spanish anarchists tried it - and it destroyed them as a revolutionary force just as effectively as it has destroyed scores (hundreds?) of Marxist parties. Thus contemporary anarchists, learning from history in the way Marxists are supposed to be able to do, say clearly: no participation in electoral politics. But you, as nominal Marxists, simply ignore all these bad experiences and say "it may be correct."

And, worse, you don't even attempt to explain why you think this. I've read every issue of The Red Menace and, unless my memory is faulty, I can't recall where you've ever even discussed the "question". For example, under what circumstances could it be correct to participate in capitalist elections? How do you "recall" a parliamentary representative who goes off on his own? How do you keep your parliamentary representatives from being bought off? How do you keep them from using their access to the media to develop a solid reformist faction within your movement... to the point where the real revolutionaries in your organization are simply expelled? This bullshit has happened over and over again, and you know it! What in hell makes you think it would be different if you did it? Unless you want to try and pass yourselves off as some kind of revolutionary saints; totally immune to the corrupting influences of capitalist politics (which would be a curious position for Marxists to take), I don't see how you can avoid the conclusion that if and when you try it, you will end up as fucked over and fucked up as everyone else who's tried it.

As I said, I think this is an example of the real differences that need to be resolved if the red and the black are to restore the old alliance. I believe reunification is possible - but there is clearly a long way to go. It will be instructive to see who's willing to make the trip.

for a life without bosses,
Ed Clark

So be It

Rejoinder from Sam Dolgoff.

By Sam Dolgoff

In my reply to Ulli Diemer's two articles — Anarchism vs. Marxism and Bakunin vs. Marx — I confined myself only to correct the most glaring factual errors and distortions because the articles were largely irrelevant to the main principled issues involved in the debates between Marx and Bakunin. As far as I was concerned, my reply closed the debate because further discussion would serve no useful purpose.

Unfortunately, Diemer's reply in the last issue of The Red Menace (Winter 1979) instead of providing a solid base for discussion contains new factual errors and distortions. In justice to the readers, I must again ask you to grant me only enough space for a short and final rejoinder. I list the more important errors:

1) I repeat, Bakunin did not "deliberately fabricate" the accusation that Manx believed in the "People's State". Marx condemned the "People's State" in the Gotha Program, 1875, first published in 1891 by Engels, 15 years after Bakunin died. An unavoidable error does not constitute a "deliberate fabrication"

2) Mehring stated that there is a contradiction between Marx's analysis of the Paris Commune (The Civil War in France) and his opinions in Communist Manifesto (1848) and in writings written after the Commune. Diemer claims that Mehring misrepresented Marx's views, that there is no contradiction. But a reading of both the Manifesto and Civil War... as well as later writings (Anti-Duhring, resolutions of the Hague Congress of the International (1872), even the article titled Interview with Karl Marx in the same issue of the Red Menace fully sustains Mehring's remarks. Obscuring the issue by downgrading Mehring is a cheap debater's trick.

Mehring was not an opportunist. He was a revolutionist who together with his close comrades Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebnnecht, Clara Zetkin, and other revolutionaries fought against World War I and the reformist branch of the German Socialist Party. Furthermore, the chapter in Mehring's biography explaining Marx's Capital, was written by Rosa Luxemburg. Contrary to Diemer's assertion, Mehring was authorized to write his biography of Marx, not by the German Socialist Party, but by Marx's daughter Laura Lafargue.

3) No amount of doubletalk can camouflage the fact that Marx and Engels were misled by their fallacious theory of Economic Determinism to defend slavery as a progressive phase in the evolution of society and that this constitutes an endorsement of slavery — anti-slavery sentiments to the contrary notwithstanding.

4) It is crystal clear from Diemer's own quotation (prominently displayed in his article) that Bakunin's diatribe against Marx, Rothchild, and the Jewish bankers on the ground that the centralization of the state as proposed by Marx would be dominated by a "parasitic Jewish nation", predjudiced as it is, does not, as Diemer asserts, constitute an international conspiracy between Marx, Rothschild and Bismark. A conspiracy is a deliberate, planned alliance. Speculation about what might happen in the future does not constitute a conspiracy. An anology, however false or true, is not a conspiracy.

5) Quoting out of context is another debater's trick. Thus, Diemer quotes only extracts from Bakunin which back up his argument and deliberately omits quotations which decisively demolish his contentions. The quote omitted reads:

...while Marx is a democrat, an authoritarian socialist and a Republican, Bismark is an out-and-out aristocratic, monarchical Junker...the difference (between Marx and Bismark) is therefore very great, very serious... (considering) Marx's lifelong dedication to the cause of the social democracy ...there is no agreement or reconciliation possible between Marx and Bismark..." (Bakunin on Anarchy p. 315)

Bakunin's charge that ONLY the "out-and-out cult of the state", unites Marx and Bakunin, does not, in view of the above, quote, even imply the existence of a CONSPIRACY between both of these deadly enemies.

6) Diemer does not seem to grasp the vast difference between a political party bent on the monopoly of power and a movement whose sole purpose it is to forestall the usurpation of the Social Revolution by ...making it impossible for authorities, governments and states to be reestablished..." '

Diemer's example of Stalin (disciple of Lenin, the architect of the totalitarian state) far from negating Bakunin's position (outlined in my report) actually re-enforces his argument. Nor does Diemer's contention that Stalin did not hold public office until 1941 (while exercising de facto dictatorship at all times) invalidate Bakunin's points.

Diemer's diatribes do not provide an adequate basis for meaningful discussion of serious problems. I have neither the time not the inclination to continue this fruitless polemic. So be it.

Sam Dolgoff

P.S. Kropotkin NEVER "...alleged that Marx stole his economic theories from the anarchists..." He severely criticised Marx's Capital. There is no statement accusing Bakunin of conspiring to take over the International to be found on page 168 of Woodcock's Anarchism. I suspect that Diemer does not quote him because there is none.

The Last Word

“The old man in London” and his critics.

It seems to me that Dolgoff is shifting ground — he is not disputing most of the points I made, but is introducing red herrings and quibbling over terms.

1. When you make something up which isn’t true and which has no basis in fact, it seems to me that you are deliberately fabricating.

2. Dolgoff thinks Mehring’s interpretations are correct; I don’t. The point is that you can’t quote Mehring’s interpretations as evidence of what Marx thought, especially when Marx had published his own different views, which can easily be referred to. I don’t accept the idea that Mehring knew Marx’s mind better than Marx himself did.

Nowhere did I suggest that Mehring was “an opportunist”, or that he was not a revolutionary. I just think that he was wrong in this matter. Beyond that, I pointed out that Mehring’s so-called “authorized” biography was certainly not authorized by Marx. I find it fundamentally dishonest for Dolgoff to base so much of his argument on the views of the German SPD leadership group, including Mehring, when it is well known that they were greatly at odds with Marx over a number of important issues, including that of the state. They are on record as believing that “the old man in London” was out of touch in his insistence on the revolutionary abolition of the state.

And further on Mehring, Marx himself is on record as having been quite critical of Mehring in particular. He called his future “authorized” biographer a “liar” and a “reptile”. Hardly a recommendation.

3. The point bears repeating: it is perfectly consistent to say that a historical relationship, such as slavery or capitalism, was a progressive phase in the evolution of society, and to still be opposed to it. This was Marx’s position — I think quite correctly — and only a non-Marxist moralist would see this as an “endorsement” rather than as part of what it is: an analysis.

4 & 5: “This entire Jewish world, which forms a single profiteering sect ...a single gluttonous parasite, closely and intimately united not only across national borders but across all differences of political opinion...” This sounds rather like a conspiracy to me. The point, however, is not the word “conspiracy” but the fact that Bakunin attributed common goals, interests, and ideas, to Marx, Bismarck, and Rothschild.

6. Dolgoff does not seem to grasp the vast difference between what people say and what they do, between their intentions and the way their intentions work out in practice. It is not a question of whether Bakunin intended to head a secret dictatorship (althought he certainly did advocate one) but whether his conspiratorial, centralized structures would have resulted in one regardless of his intentions one way or the other. This was the point of my reference to Stalin: certainly not to compare him to Bakunin, as Bruce Allen seems to think, but to show that Bakunin's injunction against holding public office is meaningless, since even Stalin held no public office. The movement has no need of self-appointed or any other kind of saviours, not even well-intentioned anarchist ones.

Ulli Diemer

The Quoting Urge

A reader submits a collection of quotes from Bakunin.

I promised some quotes from Bakunin on his social theory:

"The co-operative workers' associations are a new fact in history. It is possible and even likely that they will someday transcend the limits of towns, provinces, and even States. They may entirely reconstitute society, dividing it not into nations but into different industrial groups, organized not according to the needs of politics but those of production ... when the free productive associations voluntarily organize according to their needs and special skills, they will transcend all national boundaries and form an immense world-wide economic federation. This will include an industrial parliament supplied by the associations with precise and detailed global scale statistics; by harmonizing supply and demand the parliament will distribute and allocate world industrial production to the various nations. Commercial and industrial crises, stagnation, waste of capital, etc., will no longer plague mankind; the emancipation of human labour will regenerate the world."
- 1866 Revolutionary Catechism

." is absolutely necessary for any country wishing to join the free federations of peoples to replace its centralized, bureaucratic, and military organizations by a federalist organization based only on the absolute liberty and autonomy of regions; provinces, communes, associations, and individuals. This federation will operate with elected functionaries directly responsible to the people; it will not be a nation organized from the top down, or from the centre to the circumference. Rejecting the principle of imposed and regimented unity, it will be directed from the bottom up, from the circumference to the centre, according to the principles of free federation. Its free individuals will form voluntary associations, its associations will form autonomous communes, its communes will form autonomous provinces, its provinces will form regions, and the regions will freely federate into countries, which, in turn, will sooner or later create the universal world federation."
- 1866 National Catechism

"Our aim is the creation of a powerful but always invisible revolutionary association which will prepare and direct the revolution. But never, even during open revolution, will the association as a whole, or any of its members, take any kind of public office, for it has no aim other than to destroy all government and make government impossible everywhere...It will keep watch so that authorities, government, and States can never be built again…"
- 1869

You published some anti-Jewish remarks by Bakmin in his critique of Marx and Rothschild. Bakunin made some introductory remarks is his related "Study on the German Jews" (1869):

"I begin by begging you to believe that I am in no way the enemy nor the slanderer of the Jews. Although I may be considered a cannibal, I do not carry savagery to that point, and I assure you that in my eyes all nations have their worth. Each moreover, is an ethnographically historic product, and is consequently responsible neither for its faults nor its merits. It is this that we may observe in connection with the modern Jews that their nature lends itself little to frank Socialism. Their history, long before the Christian era, implanted in them an essentially mercantile and bourgeois tendency..."

G. Jewell

Flogging Away

A great many anarchists adopt a critical stance to Bakunin's legacy as well as towards the anarchist movement generally. Our rejection of Marxism is not monolithic.

Since this issue has been literally flogged to death I wish to make only two points. One is that a great many anarchists myself included, adopt a critical stance to Bakunin's legacy as well as towards the anarchist movement generally. Our rejection of Marxism is not monolithic. Many anarchists openly recognize that Marx made some very important contributions to revolutionary thought.

In giving the impression that anarchists, generally, view Marx and Marxism as the incarnation of all evil, Ulli is setting up a straw man that can easily be knocked down.

He does the same thing in portraying anarchists as "advocates of a secret network of cadres" which concludes with his matching Bakunin up with Stalin. In over five years of involvement with the anarchist movement I have only met one anarchist who liked this idea on organization and he dropped out of sight quite some time ago. We anarchists overwhelmingly advocate federalism as the basis for organization just as Bakunin did in most of his writings.

The Red Menace can be a great paper but not if its writers continue to engage in the kind of vindictiveness which underlies an identification of someone like Bakunin with a butcher like Stalin.

For Anarchist Communism,
Bruce Allen
St. Catharines

Useless Pastime

Let's get down to the business of really discussing the issues: the role and nature of the State, trade unions, feminism, nationalism, sexuality, etc.

It was Otto von Bismark, I believe, who said, "...the International is dead; but woe be to the crowned heads of Europe should red and black ever be reunited." Unfortunately, old Otto's fears are yet to be realized. It appears from the current debate in The Red Menace that both anarchists and marxists are more interested in scoring debating points against their opponents; in arguing over the correct interpretation of the sacred texts; in defending the integrity of their favorite revolutionary "saint", than in dealing with the substantive issues that have separated these two schools of thought and action since the split in the First International.

Yet, while I feel that the polemics are futile, I am be no means neutral in the debate. While I am not anti-marxist, I do feel that many of the anarchist criticisms of marxism are legitimate. On the other hand Ulli Diemer does not even venture to critique anarchist ideas concerning the state, society, the individual, organization, revolutionary activity, etc. He merely criticizes anarchists for criticizing Marx, for being anti-intellectual, for being moralistic. His chief concern seems to be to "prove" that Marx and not Bakunin is the real libertarian; the Bakunin was just an anti-Semite and an anti-German and, therefore, his criticisms of Marx are invalid; that Bakunin not Marx was the real forbear of Lenin (as if it really mattered). Diemer seems to be concerned with the allegation that the anarchist critics of Marx have not read Marx. Yet when confronted with critics who have obviously read Marx, and use quotations to back up their comments, Ulli merely backpeddals claiming that these critics have mis-interpreted Marx and that what Marx really meant was...

Let's face it, comrades, none of us really meant when they wrote what they did. We interpret these teachings in the light of our own personalities; our own preference. This is why the debate, anarchism vs. marxism, is a useless pastime. There is no resolution. I am not going to stop being an anarchist, not because I think that Marx was full of shit, but because in the light of history I think the anarchists were right more often than not. (Bakunin's almost prophetic description of what the marxist dictatorship would look like, whether or not Marx actually subscribed to these views attributed to him, is a case in point.) Nor does this mean that I reject the left-communist tradition of Pannekoek, Gorter, Korsch, Ruhle, etc. These individuals contributed a great deal to an understanding of society as it exists and the vision of how society could be transformed. Genuine revolutionaries should draw upon all of these revolutionary traditions.

Let's get down to the business of really discussing the issues: the role and nature of the State, trade unions, feminism, nationalism, sexuality, etc. and the lessons that past revolutions have for all of these points. And let's try to do it without getting into a battle of quotations from sacred texts. Just because Marx, or Bakunin, or Lenin said thus and so doesn't make it true. What do we think about these things? What lessons do we draw from past revolutions? What can we do to put our ideas into practice. Let the dead bury their dead!

In Solidarity,
Michael J. Hargis


You can't blow up a social relationship.

A reply is in order to the letter from David Beam in your latest issue. In it he classifies the Red Brigades, the Bader-Meinhoff urban guerillas and the SLA with anarchism. This is an inexusable and apparently conscious distortion of the truth. Both the Red Brigades and the Bader-Meinhoff group are Marxist Leninist. They make no pretentions to being anarchist. Nor did the SLA when it emerged so dramatically in 1974. The adoption of situationist and anarchist beliefs by Bill and Emily Harris took place only after their imprisonment.

His parroting of the bourgeois media in referring to the Bader-Meinhoff guerillas as a "gang" places him squarely on the other side of the class struggle. While the Marxist-Leninist ideology, the urban guerilla strategy and the ruthless use of violence by the members of the Bader-Meinhoff group must be condemned, one is objectively placing oneself on the side of the West German state by not simultaneously attacking its own terrorist practices. If any group deserves the term "gang" in this respect it should be the people responsible for the "suicides" in Stanheim.

With regard to the general question of terrorism and anarchism, I suggest that people read a new pamphlet from Australia entitled "You Can't Blow Up a Social Relationship: The Anarchist Case Against Terrorism". It gives an excellent analysis of why terrorism should be rejected while maintaining a revolutionary perspective. It also is indicative of the views of a very large segment of the anarchist movement which unfortunately does not get the attention it deserves in respect to this critical question. In North America, this pamphlet is available from the newspaper Fifth Estate, 4403 Second Ave., Detroit, Michigan 48201 for one dollar.

On another matter, it should be stated that Ulli's admission that his critiques of Bakunin and Anarchism were one-sided was badly needed. It's unfortunate that he felt a one-side critique was necessary in response to what he perceives as the one-sided way anarchists view Marx and Marxism. A balanced critique would have been much more convincing. It would also have helped make the presentations of the different views on this question more constructive.

By Bruce Allen

Manchester Calling

The Red Menace: very stimulating reading.

Thanks for the three issues of The Red Menace which I found very stimulating reading. I'll pass them round our Manchester group and do a short write up for our internal newsletter. Your political statement in the last issue seems to show that our politics are very close, although you will notice certain differences of emphasis with our own statement 'As We Don't See It'.

I'd like to make a few brief comments on three areas of your statement which I feel need some clarification.

Your criticism of Parliament and parliamentary elections seems to be based on their inadequacy as a democratic form and underestimates their ideological value in legitimising class rule and in branding direct class struggle as undemocratic. I would expect libertarian socialists today to take a principled stand against these institutions.

Your position on trade unions and trade unionism is a bit unclear to me. At one point you appear to say, correctly I think, that trade unions today are not only NOT potentially revolutionary but in fact more or less part of the state and management apparatus and inadequate even as a means of self defence. However, in the next breath you talk of supporting "the self organisation of people into unions" and "participating in their activities" etc. Of course, we should attend union meetings and speak out, but our 'participation' should be aimed at taking struggles outside of union control and union boundaries. It is not possible to do this and be a union official level.

Lastly, your attitude towards 'national liberation' whilst clear in theory seems contradicted by your support for a possible new capitalist nation state in Quebec (and elsewhere?). Your inability to apply your theory boldly in practice is perhaps a result of the difficulty in separating certain struggles for cultural diversity from their attachment to outmoded nationalist and patriarchal concepts. It is an area our own groups needs to do more work on.

I hope we can maintain a dialogue, either independently and/or as part of the international discussion. journal promoted by the French group PIC detailed in our newsletter.

Yours fraternally,
Mike Ballard

Letters to Red Menace #5

Why 'consciousness raising?'

Raised consciousness

Why did Ulli Diemer end his article "Some of my best comrades are friends" with a phrase like 'consciousness raising'? That should have been one of the first terms he debunked. At first I thought he was kidding.

Chip Clements

Canada's pride

One of the nicest things about my brief visit to Canada was finding Red Menace in the Alternative Bookshop in Montreal. I particularly liked Ulli Diemer's articles on Marxism and Anarchism, as the connection between the two have been of concern to me recently, and I felt he helped clarify several important points. I also found the thoughts on organization helpful; as a radical feminist trying to bring about desperately needed reforms e.g. in the abortion situation, while keeping much larger, libertarian goals in mind, the question of how to organize looms large. Finally, the cartoons were very funny - the "sensuous hippos" had me in stitches.

I enclose $5 for a subscription plus postage to New Zealand. I look forward to receiving the paper and wish you all the best.

Christine Dann

P.S. I'll recommend Red Menace to as many N.Z. friends/acquaintances as possible.

What happened to the Red Menace?

I know you don't publish RM anymore, but I'm writing to see if you've maintained some collectivity and to see what you're up to.

We enjoyed RM very much when it lived, and we were sorry to see it go. What are your energies applied to now? Toronto seems like it has a good deal of positive energy. I know several good, energetic people who either live in or around there and the fact that you could put a paper of RM's bulk and quality out regularly indicates either a substantial community or a small band of absolute fanatics.

Ron Linnille
for Black Rose