A little critique and a call for opinions about Anarchism and its practice in modern times

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Indigo from Bue...
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Sep 11 2013 03:54
A little critique and a call for opinions about Anarchism and its practice in modern times

After reading a compañero’s account of his conversion to social democracy after his period of activism in the WSM of Ireland (See here: http://spiritofcontradiction.eu/rowan-duffy/2013/08/03/why-i-am-no-longer-an-anarchist), I cannot help but wonder about certain issues that affect the Anarchist milieu. It was interesting to read his whole account, with all his reasons properly supported and all the questions raised about the activities of that specific organization, but which can be applied to similar groups as well.

Given there was a critique of the platformist view, I find it even more pressing to raise these questions.

When reading about society and the revolution that workers would bring about after taking arms and fighting the State apparatus, the possible ways to pass from scarcity to redistribution of resources and the building up of production again in a more egalitarian way — there has never been (or at least it was utterly assumed and taken for granted, as far as I’m concerned) a possible scenario for the things that could occur should such revolution go astray. It’s as if things would go its natural course once the old system is buried and the new-found freedom is discovered and implemented by the vast majority of the population.

We are talking a situation in which people have resorted to autonomy and self-management to survive. I have seen that here in Buenos Aires, when in 2001/2002 popular assemblies swarmed the neighbourhoods and there was an urgent need to resist at the fringes of a crippled and corrupt State (more than ten years ago…). Yet, that was not a revolution, and those assemblies gave in to the powerful hand of the ‘popular State’, and ended up being co-opted by it, along with the majority of the groups that were at the forefront of self-organization.

Now, I have always wondered, what happens with the rest of the populace (the poor, the criminal, the mafiosi, the opposition groups)? I have always read they would simply come along and join the ranks or simply would not have much influence to exert, and eventually would see the bigger picture. And here I’m talking about the global South, which has a very different reality than the North. Would they sheepishly follow those who are the forefront of it all?

Let’s suppose that society revolts upholding the banners of land and freedom, of mutual aid and solidarity, of grassroots democracy and horizontalism; in short, of Anarchism. Are we to believe that such a state of affairs would last for long? I guess you can see that in many of the recent uprisings worldwide. The hand of the State and of oppposition forces is fierce on its crackdown, enough sometimes to even stifle these revolts.

Taken to a larger scale…I simply cannot reconcile the thought of revolt towards our ideals with the thought of a wide part of the population wishing exactly the opposite, and fighting as fiercely as us.

I suppose I may be a little jaded, and perhaps, since situations like the ones proposed are vast in their complexity, you could even call me naïve. But I’m talking of a revolt in a city populated by a large part of people immersed in blind consumerism and individualism, in neglect towards the other, in carelessness and debauchery. I’m not asserting we should have an answer to everything (or that we even do), but neither that we should leave things to their own fate or avoid a meaningful and constructive debate about them so as to establish ways to potentially deal with them should they ever occur as we may have foreseen them.

What would happen to all those who will insist in bringing the old status quo back from the dead, who would barricade in their wealth and power, and even request international intervention, be that military or else?

I believe that the proper organization from below, from the workers in their own environment, through intrasigent unions and with a grassroots perspective, could help tackle these issues, and help bring about the proper redistribution of wealth.

But I keep on wondering whether these simple objetives, fought for over a hundred years, are not merely lazily posed, with the thought that this will not occur in the immediate future, but in a hundred years, at that. Or, if ever.

Most of the compañeros would be absolutely against the resort to violence as a strategy in itself, and perhaps you may feel I’ve lost hope in the power of the people, but we are talking about a revolution or some political awakening in which we’d have the upper hand. Some may say it will be a gradual thing, but the truth is that in the meantime the conditions don’t get any better, or any more ripe.

I know we cannot impose Anarchism to the people, but merely show them there is another way, and that that way is based on human desires, equal to all, and not the designs of a particular party or State.

But every day I watch the passivity of the people around me, the absolut frustration that “all politicians are corrupt” and the subsequent suicide with blatant tints of conscious ignorance at the ballot-box, and it simply makes my stomach turn.

My biggest issue, if you will, with Anarchism is the constant idolizing of past events as if times had not changed one bit. The Spanish Revolution may have been a milestone, but it’s dead. Here in BA we had the “anarquistas expropiadores”, with the likes of DiGiovanni and others…but they are dead. The romanticism of theories, figures, events of yore leads us to a dead-end.

I think that there is this sense of barricading oneself in a particular frame of mind (be it platformism, individualism, or whatever) and not being open to all angles of perspective, which leaves us midway of actually accomplishing true victories, and even having desertions like Gavin’s, however supported based on his own conclusions out of his experience. Perhaps a new perspective may be needed, a more realistic one that encompasses not only our current needs, but also the plausible needs of the “afterwards”.

Also, I believe that the chances of success would rise considerably if the vast majority of people would engage in the struggle completely. That is harder to accomplish, given that we have our own lives to live, our own personal ambitions and desires, and that we want to enjoy life as any other person would, whilst fighting for our beliefs in the best way we consider fit. The problem that arises here and always is one of general concensus — and let’s not even talk about consensus with the rest of the population, whose degree of knowledge varies dramatically.

It’s not a critique per se, though I would like to hear your opinions. I know that one does what he/she can, but I think that if we want to bring the status quo down, we ought to be more radical. In the end, though, this may be more ‘utopical’ than the ‘utopia’ itself.

I think Gavin raised very important questions that, though speaking of a particular group, could very well apply to any other, in any part of the world.

To sum things up, I would like to know, please, whether any of you have ever wondered about these issues before, and whether you have come up with useful guidelines to implement, or simply let it all to sort itself out.

Thank you.

Indigo, from Buenos Aires.

loonyleftist
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Feb 27 2014 12:29
Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
When reading about society and the revolution that workers would bring about after taking arms and fighting the State apparatus, the possible ways to pass from scarcity to redistribution of resources and the building up of production again in a more egalitarian way — there has never been (or at least it was utterly assumed and taken for granted, as far as I’m concerned) a possible scenario for the things that could occur should such revolution go astray. It’s as if things would go its natural course once the old system is buried and the new-found freedom is discovered and implemented by the vast majority of the population.

I suppose that there would need to be some kind of people's militia--one that is actually made up of the members of the movement. It would seem to me that building such a society would take place in stages and not all at once. One municipality would be converted a little at a time with a militia to provide defense from violent opposition and mafiosos. A good thing to have would be foreign resources and assistance direct to the members of the movement from others sympathetic to your cause. This is why international solidarity among anarchists is so important. I believe in decentralization of control, but am completely for solidarity with other anarchists in other parts of the world.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
We are talking a situation in which people have resorted to autonomy and self-management to survive. I have seen that here in Buenos Aires, when in 2001/2002 popular assemblies swarmed the neighbourhoods and there was an urgent need to resist at the fringes of a crippled and corrupt State (more than ten years ago…). Yet, that was not a revolution, and those assemblies gave in to the powerful hand of the ‘popular State’, and ended up being co-opted by it, along with the majority of the groups that were at the forefront of self-organization.

At least the people in your area have experience with self-management. In the Buenos Aires case, it seems solidarity broke down and people became fearful because there was no militia in place to provide the necessary resistance. The sad truth is that most revolutions will require the use of paramilitary forces and some violence.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
Now, I have always wondered, what happens with the rest of the populace (the poor, the criminal, the mafiosi, the opposition groups)? I have always read they would simply come along and join the ranks or simply would not have much influence to exert, and eventually would see the bigger picture. And here I’m talking about the global South, which has a very different reality than the North. Would they sheepishly follow those who are the forefront of it all?

Well that society would have to figure out what to do with them. But if they take up arms against you, I say it is morally just for you to defend yourself equivalently. You would definitely still need jails to place criminals.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
Let’s suppose that society revolts upholding the banners of land and freedom, of mutual aid and solidarity, of grassroots democracy and horizontalism; in short, of Anarchism. Are we to believe that such a state of affairs would last for long? I guess you can see that in many of the recent uprisings worldwide. The hand of the State and of oppposition forces is fierce on its crackdown, enough sometimes to even stifle these revolts.

I think the key is to build them from the bottom up, one municipality at a time. And always have militia forces on hand to defend your territory. Of course, do not instigate an attack, but if your group is attacked, then all bets are off and you must defend yourself with a powerful show of force.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
Taken to a larger scale…I simply cannot reconcile the thought of revolt towards our ideals with the thought of a wide part of the population wishing exactly the opposite, and fighting as fiercely as us.

I think that the way to minimize that effect is to try to cut through the propaganda and win the hearts and minds of people. Show them what you can accomplish and turn them over to your side by providing them with what the state cannot.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
I suppose I may be a little jaded, and perhaps, since situations like the ones proposed are vast in their complexity, you could even call me naïve. But I’m talking of a revolt in a city populated by a large part of people immersed in blind consumerism and individualism, in neglect towards the other, in carelessness and debauchery. I’m not asserting we should have an answer to everything (or that we even do), but neither that we should leave things to their own fate or avoid a meaningful and constructive debate about them so as to establish ways to potentially deal with them should they ever occur as we may have foreseen them.

The best advice I can offer is this:

  1. Build solidarity among the community and presence through:
    • reaching out to the poor through charities like churches
    • education, outreach and propaganda
    • demonstrating that you are for the people's liberation
  2. Establish a militia group to provide for common defense
  3. Take direct action, either through democratic or other means to achieve your goals
Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
What would happen to all those who will insist in bringing the old status quo back from the dead, who would barricade in their wealth and power, and even request international intervention, be that military or else?

Allow them to participate, do your best to convince them and be as diplomatic as reasonably possible. But if they insist on military action against you despite your good-faith effort, you must return the favor.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
I believe that the proper organization from below, from the workers in their own environment, through intrasigent unions and with a grassroots perspective, could help tackle these issues, and help bring about the proper redistribution of wealth.

I agree.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
But I keep on wondering whether these simple objetives, fought for over a hundred years, are not merely lazily posed, with the thought that this will not occur in the immediate future, but in a hundred years, at that. Or, if ever.

I think you need to make them happen and see where it takes you. No one is smart enough to tackle every concievable issue on the drawing board. You have to actually go out there and try it. There are too many unknown unknowns: i.e. problems that you can't even predict will arise without actually implementing something.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
Most of the compañeros would be absolutely against the resort to violence as a strategy in itself, and perhaps you may feel I’ve lost hope in the power of the people, but we are talking about a revolution or some political awakening in which we’d have the upper hand. Some may say it will be a gradual thing, but the truth is that in the meantime the conditions don’t get any better, or any more ripe.

The use of violence as a primary strategy is probably not in the best interest of people. However, paramilitary forces will be required for common defense. Work through the democratic system if you can, but do not fear the use of violence to achieve your ends where the standard channels fail. I used to be in the "everyone will sing kumbaya" camp. But the truth is that the capitalist neoliberal state is a vicious adversary.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
I know we cannot impose Anarchism to the people, but merely show them there is another way, and that that way is based on human desires, equal to all, and not the designs of a particular party or State.

I agree. Your goal is simply to demonstrate this. And you can do so by starting small, and building upwards. As you have stated before, trickle-up democracy.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
But every day I watch the passivity of the people around me, the absolut frustration that “all politicians are corrupt” and the subsequent suicide with blatant tints of conscious ignorance at the ballot-box, and it simply makes my stomach turn.

Perhaps this is your chance to shine, and bring the people some education on the issues. It will give you an opportunity to win hearts and minds. It is important to have the people on your side if you must resort to paramilitary action.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
My biggest issue, if you will, with Anarchism is the constant idolizing of past events as if times had not changed one bit. The Spanish Revolution may have been a milestone, but it’s dead. Here in BA we had the “anarquistas expropiadores”, with the likes of DiGiovanni and others…but they are dead. The romanticism of theories, figures, events of yore leads us to a dead-end.

I agree. Things are pretty tough in the modern climate. Neoliberalism has overrun the political establishment. It might require a more forceful approach.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
I think that there is this sense of barricading oneself in a particular frame of mind (be it platformism, individualism, or whatever) and not being open to all angles of perspective, which leaves us midway of actually accomplishing true victories, and even having desertions like Gavin’s, however supported based on his own conclusions out of his experience. Perhaps a new perspective may be needed, a more realistic one that encompasses not only our current needs, but also the plausible needs of the “afterwards”.

And this is something you need to think about. Only you can decide what is best for the situation in your area.

Indigo from Buenos Aires wrote:
Also, I believe that the chances of success would rise considerably if the vast majority of people would engage in the struggle completely. That is harder to accomplish, given that we have our own lives to live, our own personal ambitions and desires, and that we want to enjoy life as any other person would, whilst fighting for our beliefs in the best way we consider fit. The problem that arises here and always is one of general concensus — and let’s not even talk about consensus with the rest of the population, whose degree of knowledge varies dramatically.

Yes. And this is why there needs to be a public outreach campaign. That is the primary goal before engaging the state in some kind of conflict directly. You must win over the people first, then things follow much easier from there.

Mr. Natural
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Mar 2 2014 21:27

Indigo, I find it embarrassing for libcom and the left in general that your long, detailed, impassioned analysis of events in Buenos Aires re-anarchism and the difficulty of organizing went without a reply until loonyleftist responded so generously.

I'm not going to make a detailed response, but attempt a short analysis of the situation that faces you, loony, and all of the left, and point to the solution.

You wrote of your desire for a situation in which a "society revolts upholding banners of land and freedom, of mutual aid and solidarity, of grassroots democracy and horizontalism, in short, of Anarchism." This description very generally fits all visions of left community from the many anarchisms to the Marx's and Engels's communism (Manifesto: "an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all").

But, Indigo, the left now has a well-established, centuries-old record of being unable to successfully ORGANIZE, and the population's passivity you mention (and the paralysis of the left) are a reflection of the globalization of the relations of a triumphant capitalist with a consequent mental as well as physical capture of the human species. We all now think within capitalism's mental arena as well as live and labor according to capitalist dictates. Human beings have become captive, passive, ignorant parts of this capitalist whole.

So we gotta do something about this shit, and I will now point to the ugly reality suggested by your post: nothing much is going on with the left anywhere. For that matter, there is hardly any left left.

I'll now suggest that the first step in getting organized is admitting that we have never known how. Lenin and the Bolsheviks accomplished miracles of sorts in overthrowing Tsarist and liberal rule, but they did this under conditions and with methods that killed any attempts at bottom-up, popular forms of governance. And then came Stalin, and the historical effects of Stalinism's mass-murdering perversion of Marxism cannot be over-emphasized. For one grave matter, Stalin's diamat took the revolutionary life out of Marx's materialist dialectic, and the dialectic is the means by which Marx and Marxism view life and healthy social systems as the organic, systemic processes that they are.

I'll also point to the shocking reality that I can't find anyone even willing to approach revolutionary organizing theory in these forums, save for discussing various tactics. But where is the Big Picture--How might the left organize its various forms of grassroots community in opposition to capitalism?

First of all, capitalism functions as a cancer of all forms of life--human and nonhuman. A global capitalism has captured nature's as well a humanity's labors and takes the energy for its being from the communities of life. Capitalism is unnatural. It manufactures a runaway, relentless profit that is taken from human and natural community, while life organizes communally to generate a sustainable, ecological energy surplus (profit) in order to create and maintain her many beings, communities, and the life process. Mother Nature is a commie, and the left must learn to organize naturally.

Capitalism's globalization represents its metastasis of life on Earth, and the left must respond by learning to organize in the pattern of life. Human perception sees life as a collection of separate things and fails to perceive the organization that brings those things to life.

The new systems-complexity sciences work with the organizational relations the left must learn and apply. These sciences were not available to Marx and Engels, who avidly engaged the science of their day, and modern leftists seem to have universally ignored organizational science. And we cannot get organized--coincidence?

The upshot of all of this is that a simple conceptual mental tool (a triad/triangle) has been developed from this science that models life's universal pattern of organization. This means that the materialist dialectic (life and society as organic, systemic processes) can now be provided with the ORGANIZATION that it has lacked, and that the materialist dialectic can now become "the science of the general laws of the [ORGANIZATION] motion and development of nature, human society, and thought." (Anti-Duhring)

The potential for Marxism/anarchism to scientifically organize now exists, but my experience is that the very concept of developing a revolutionary organizing theory based in Marxism and a vastly improved materialist dialectic informed by the sciences of the organization of life will be completely ignored. (Unless I harvest a few "downs.") I'm always ready to try, though.

My red-green, let's-get-organized best, Mr. Natural

paul r
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Mar 4 2014 02:42

Dear Mr Natural,
With respect, it would be helpful if you would by explain exactly what you are referring to by the "new systems-complexity sciences work with the organizational relations", and how it might be applied to our organizational problems.

Cheers,
paul r

Mr. Natural
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Mar 4 2014 20:19

paul r, Thanks for the interest. I'm always looking for an opportunity to explain how the new sciences of organizational relations open the door to the grassroots revolutionary organizing of all forms of left community--communism, anarchism, council communism, etc. These new sciences are in agreement with the Marxist materialist dialectic, which materialized a Hegelian idealist philosophy that correctly expressed the general state of life and society as dynamic, dialectical, organic, systemic processes.

The Santa Fe Institute is considered the center of this new systems-complexity science, but SFI was a shooting star that flashed across scientific horizons in the last couple of decades of the twentieth century and faded. SFI is conservatively respectable now, and seems to exclusively focus on the complexity that emerges from the revolutionary lower levels of self-organization, and it's this revolutionary scientific concept of self-organization that the left must learn. Life self-organizes into various forms of community, cells to organisms to the biosphere. But this self-organization into community that underlies the emergent complexities of life is now ignored by SFI, despite the observation by its Nobel laureate founder, Murray Gell-Mann, that "life is surface complexity arising out of deep simplicity." SFI abandoned the underlying, revolutionary pursuit of research into organizational simplicity, in other words, to exclusively pursue emergent phenomena, despite the essential inseparability of the concepts of self-organization and emergence.

So all living systems (and healthy human social systems must be self-organized as living systems) are self-organized forms of community in which a system self-organized from the bottom up by its parts engages the external environment to generate the energy and relations necessary to maintain parts and system. This is the universal pattern of life: self-organizing living systems maintaining a dynamic interdependence with each other and creating the life process.

It's that deep organizational simplicity to which Gell-Mann referred that I need to bring to the minds of leftists, and life's (and healthy social systems') universal pattern of self-organization has now been successfully modeled in the form of a conceptual triangle by the theoretical physicist, Fritjof Capra.

But now I face a big, big problem, paul r. Human perception sees life's things but is blind to their organization. Attempting to discuss organizational relations is a pisser--it represents a revolutionary paradigm shift for the human mind-- and I have yet been unable to find a means to successfully discuss a revolutionary organizing theory based in a conceptual triangle that brings the materialist dialectic and anarchism/communism to mental life. In fact, I haven't found a discussion of organizing theory anywhere.

So gimme a hand on this, and I'll grit my teeth and start a thread on Capra's triangle and using it for grassroots revolutionary organizing. I'd like you to answer a couple of questions that seem much too simplistic, but whose answer indicates some of the problems I try to understand and overcome in discussing organizational theory.

1: Look at a dog or your body. Does it have a lot of parts that are organized into the whole? Can you see this organization? Is it essential to the dog's or your being?

2: Assuming you agree then that life, the dog, and your body have an essential organization to which you are blind, is it comprehensible to you that human perception is reductive and partial? That we who must consciously organize our lives do not see organization or know how to organize? That human perception neglects the essential underlying organization by which matter comes to life and that we perceive life and society as a collection of separate things? This is the perceptual root of formal logic, which opposes life's dialectical relations.

So, does life have an organization? Can you see it? Marx made capitalism's organization visible. Might making life's and anarchism/communism's universal pattern of organization popularly visible and usable be worthwhile? Capra's triangle brings the materialist dialectic to life and use, but I have been unable to figure out some means of presenting organizational relations to the regular human consciousness.

So, paul r, if you have the time I would appreciate you wading through this verbiage and answering the "perception of organizational relations" question(s).

My red-green best, Mr. Natural

paul r
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Mar 4 2014 23:28

Dear Mr Natural,

I thank you for disclosing some of the sources of your thinking, and for inviting me to participate in your ambitious theoretical project.

While I share your interest in Hegel, Marx, and dialectics, as I'm sure do many others on these forums, at present the philosophical side of my interests lean towards exploring the critical realism (CR) of Roy Bhaskar and the CR-Marxist connection, and on the political-theoretical side, the relation between libertarian Marxism and class-struggle anarchism.

That said, although I consider theoretical and philosophical explorations important from both an intellectual and political perspective, they constitute only one aspect of praxis, i.e., theory-informed practice, and in many situations, these are not the most important ones. It is one thing to have a philosophically sound theory, and quite another to perceive its relevance to a particular concrete situation, let alone successfully apply it where and when needed. Obviously, the latter calls for knowledge of the facts and their background, plus insight, and practical wisdom (phronesis)as to how to proceed.

In specific situations, such practical knowledge, insight, etc. is not only in no way necessarily guaranteed by the possession of superior theory, but IMO can only be gained through a grassroots dialogical learning process with the people on the ground. This is the site of the real beginnings of a dialectics of organisation.

Cheers,
paul r

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Tyrion
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Mar 4 2014 23:44
Mr. Natural wrote:
But, Indigo, the left now has a well-established, centuries-old record of being unable to successfully ORGANIZE

I don't understand the basis for this statement. Though certainly not the case now, millions of people in the past have been involved in organizations that--at least nominally--were explicitly committed to socialist revolution. Surely this indicates that there is no centuries-old record of "the left" being unable to successfully organize. Regardless, perhaps it's less important how "the left" organizes than how the working class in general (however its members self identify) organizes in defense of its collective material interests.

Mr. Natural wrote:
Lenin and the Bolsheviks accomplished miracles of sorts in overthrowing Tsarist and liberal rule, but they did this under conditions and with methods that killed any attempts at bottom-up, popular forms of governance.

The Bolsheviks had next to nothing to do with the overthrow of Czarist rule, and the Vyborg District Committee in Petrograd even initially opposed the February strike wave. I disagree that the methods in overthrowing the Provisional Government killed any attempts at bottom-up, popular forms of governance. The October insurrection was organized through the Military Revolutionary Committee, which also contained anarchists and Left SRs alongside Bolsheviks, of the Petrograd Soviet--a body which the Bolsheviks had obtained a genuine majority in. Whether the actions of the Petrograd Soviet really reflected the will of the Petrograd proletariat is questionable, since it was largely controlled by its executive committee. However, I don't think it's accurate to view the organization of the insurrection as in line with the tyrannical methods adopted by the Bolsheviks almost immediately afterwards.

Mr. Natural
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Mar 5 2014 17:12

paul r, Thanks for your well-considered response, although you "escaped" my questions. I find it fascinating you are interested in Bhaskar's Critical Realism, for there is a largely approving chapter on Bhaskar, "Critical Realism and Marx's Process of Abstraction," in that book of Bertell Ollman's, Dance of the Dialectic (2003), that I keep recommending. Really, paul r, you gotta read Ollman if you want to understand Marx's materialist dialectic. You are committed to joining with others to create a better world, and now you gotta take a deep breath and somehow take the plunge and engage Ollman and a Hegelian dialectical philosophy which idealistically manages to express the living relations of nature and society that were then materialized by Marx.

Bhaskar also points to those questions that might have seemed banal to you, but whose answers illuminate a human perceptual problem that Bhaskar addresses. In fact, the theory of autopoietic cognition I endorse agrees with Bhaskar that human perception engages a real world, but filters it through our human mental structures. Here a reductive human consciousness arises from life's material self-organization, emerging from the extraordinary complexity of the brain, and this brain perceives the things humans must manipulate in constructing our world but misses the organizational relations that bring material systems to life. Life is community, and people cannot readily perceive the organizational relations of community.

I also want to point to Whitehead's process philosophy as another dialectical conception quite close to Marx's/Hegel's dialectics. The book to read on this is Anne Pomeroy's Marx and Whitehead (2004). Whitehead, like Bhaskar, also introduces a new vocabulary, and it can be quite thought-provoking to address dialectics from these different perspectives.

Now on to Capra's triangle, which models life's and viable human communities' universal pattern of organization. This triangle does not tell you what to do, but how to rearrange your reductive, thingifying mind to perceive your situation in its organizational relations and then design and activate various forms of alive, self-aware revolutionary community. And doesn't this match up with your comment, "It is one thing to have a philosophically sound theory and quite another to perceive its relevance to a particular concrete situation, let alone apply it where and when needed."

The triangle potentially enables you and grassroots organizations to "see" your situation in dialectical, living terms and respond effectively, just as you wished. But first you must take that step that everyone avoids: Do life's "things" have an underlying organization to which your perception is blind? Might understanding the universal pattern of organization of life's systems (which includes human social systems) be of value to we who must consciously organize our lives?

So please, paul r, answer the question: Do living and social systems have an underlying organization to which we are blind? Might we need to learn this organization in the design and creation of our social systems?

Tyrion, If millions of people have successfully organized against capitalism, where are they and their organizations? Educate me. To whom and what are you referring?

My red-green best, Mr. Natural

paul r
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Mar 5 2014 21:57

Mr Natural,

It sounds like you have gained privileged cognitive access to the nature of the underlying organisation to the "living and social systems" to which the rest of us are blind, and that you have achieved this through something called "Capra's triangle". Your claim that this and what you refer to as "new systems-complexity sciences work with organizational relations" are relevant to understanding self-organisation in movements for social change may well be true, but I cannot help recalling thesis 11 of Marx's Theses on Feuerbach

The original post which set up this thread articulated serious political reflections on real practical problems faced by those actually engaged in mass struggles in Argentina. I do not believe you have shown how the theories you refer to are helpful in this context. It is not as though there is a dearth of organising theory in the anarchist movement. I find the reflections on organising theorised by especifismo directly relevant and much more helpful:

http://anarchistplatform.wordpress.com/70-2/especifismo-anarquista/

Get real, Mr Natural!

Cheers,
paul r

Mr. Natural
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Mar 6 2014 18:53

No, paul r, You get real. I went to some trouble to intelligently reply to your posts and suggest a direction we might head in order to unpack some of the problems attendant to understanding dialectical and organizational relations and develop a popular approach to revolutionary organizing based in the sciences of the revolutionary organization of life.

I find it quite telling that you have now twice refused to answer a simple question: Do life's things have an underlying organization you cannot see that the left might have to learn if it is to successfully organize?

As for Marx's Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach, that is exactly the problem I was addressing. That philosophers and the left have only interpreted the world in various ways [and have always failed to transform societies into various forms of anarchism/socialism/communism]

So you try to hang me by the Eleventh Thesis when almost all of my posts focus on the means to bring a revolutionary organizing theory into practice and when you have refused to answer the simplest question leading in the direction of practice?

Is this really the best you can do?

paul r
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Mar 6 2014 21:00

Whatever...

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Khawaga
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Mar 6 2014 21:43
Quote:
Really, paul r, you gotta read Ollman if you want to understand Marx's materialist dialectic. You are committed to joining with others to create a better world, and now you gotta take a deep breath and somehow take the plunge and engage Ollman and a Hegelian dialectical philosophy which idealistically manages to express the living relations of nature and society that were then materialized by Marx.

I've read Ollman, several times. It's not helped me one bit in practical organizing on the ground. But it did initially start me on a path so that I could read Marx and that was great, but again I don't go around quoting Marx at everyone as if that is how we will change the world by spreading the gospel of the materialist dialectic, which in any case was a method of presentation of Capital, i.e. a method of how to present the complexity that is the capitalist mode of production. Some of the best, most successful and committed organizers I know haven't read a word of Marx. Some of the worst organizers I've met are Marx nerds.

Quote:
The original post which set up this thread articulated serious political reflections on real practical problems faced by those actually engaged in mass struggles in Argentina. I do not believe you have shown how the theories you refer to are helpful in this context. It is not as though there is a dearth of organising theory in the anarchist movement. I find the reflections on organising theorised by especifismo directly relevant and much more helpful:

This. In my day to day organizing especifismo has been much more helpful than all of the Marx I've read combined.

factvalue
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Mar 7 2014 14:18

Apart from alluding in God and the State to the self-organising properties of natural phenomena in such examples as molecular morphogenesis, about a hundred and forty years ago in the same work Bakunin also said: 'Science is the compass of life; but it is not life itself....What I preach then is, to a certain extent, the revolt of life against science, or rather against the government of science, not to destroy science - that would be high treason to humanity - but to remand it to its place so that it can never leave it again.'

It probably wouldn’t be too hard to find a strong correlation between the ‘revolutionary self-organisation of nature’ (a tellingly circular phrase) and the Chinese political system under Kublai Khan or the quantity of cheese eaten by the Rhododendron people of the planet Pnoop. Then later by a judicious enough cherry picking of features you could spend another happy few hours proving the opposite. But in the process it would probably be best to avoid convincing yourself that just because nature doesn’t have a voice to speak directly to us then this must mean that begging a question helps you organise better. Kropotkin likes cooperation and finds it in nature which proves.. what? Darwin likes Malthus and finds that in nature. Then social Darwinists say ‘see, society is like that because nature is.’

It’s unscientific to claim that we have arrived at THE true picture of ‘nature’. Science is neither dogma nor ‘nature’ but only models of nature drawn partly from measurement, partly from reasoning and partly from contemporary ideas about the social world. Is it really essential for a coherent and ethical organisation of society that ‘nature’ is on our side and that the quarks in the nucleus self-organise non-hierarchically? Should we follow their example and have no money system?

To answer your question ‘Do life's "things" have an underlying organization to which your perception is blind?’ yes, undoubtedly they do but by understanding nature’s things through such models as are provided by e.g. quantum field theory, I’m not blind to a large number of other ways in which they organise, as is a great number of other people. And I don’t believe for a moment that such scientific ‘paradigms’ (..hate that..fuzzy shit..) or ‘Capra’s triangle’ (spooky language..) can even play football let alone play a part in organising an anarchist communist society. Spooky mystic triangles can’t dribble. (A white horse makes two..)

Mr. Natural
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Mar 7 2014 16:31

Khawaga, You are correct that the direction of my posts has led away from the OP (which had been deserted until loonyleftist and I engaged it) and I'll leave this thread after addressing your and factvalues's posts. I've also had enough of this particular effort to get those who remain in a disappearing, disorganized left to consider organizing in the manner by which the rest of life organizes its communities.

You made an interesting remark re-Ollman, who "did initially start me on a path so that I could read Marx." Well, Khawaga, reading Hegel's philosophy of internal relations (world as internally related whole), its abstraction process and dialectical laws blew Marx's mind open (see 19-year-old Marx's letter to father) and enabled him to "read" society as the organic, systemic process that it is. Life, too, is an organic, systemic process, and the deepest value I consequently find in Ollman is his presentation of a Marxist dialectic rooted in actual, scientifically verifiable, living relations. The authentic materialist dialectic is thus "real to life," and that is radically, profoundly important. Ollman's itemized presentation of actually working the "mechanics" of the materialist dialectic, though, remains elusive of popular use, although a genius such as Marx could/would have internalized the dialectical process and relations, which became his Weltanschauung.

You then make a big but unfortunately now common mistake in trying to suck the life from the Marxist materialist dialectic by confining it to his method of presentation in Capital I--systematic dialectics. I'll offer Marx and Engels in a rebuttal from their co-written (Marx contributed a chapter), co-understood (every word was read by Engels to Marx) Anti-Duhring: "Dialectics ... is the science of the general laws of the motion and development of nature, human society, and thought."

Perhaps you would find Dialectics for the Twentieth Century (2008), co-edited by Ollman and Tony Smith, interesting. Tony Smith is a systematic dialectician, and the many essays presented contain numerous approaches to dialectics with various topics.

You write, "there's no dearth of organizational theory in the anarchist movement." I agree, but there sure is a dearth of successful organizing, and my unpopular conclusion is that in such matters genuine revolutionaries need to be open to new approaches such as bringing Marxism and the dialectic into the 21st century. What might be such an approach? Engels at Marx's graveside: "Science was for Marx an historically dynamic, revolutionary force."

You also correctly write that Marxism has never successfully organized, another unpopular point I frequently make, especially when I write that the entire LEFT has never successfully organized, save for brief, local events.

Marx and Engels would have been revising and refining Marxism as capitalism and science developed. Where are the modern Marxists? As Engels echoing Heine, bitterly remarked toward the end of his life, he and Marx had "sowed dragons but reaped fleas."

Well, maybe some Marxist fleas will hop to it one of these days, but they sure won't do so by sticking to old, failed formulae. Historical materialism and Marx's theory of surplus value (capitalism) remain valid, but the old dialectical, correct perception that the proletariat was destined to clash with the bourgeoisie has not resulted in a revolution leading to a left society anywhere. Marx and Engels would have acknowledged this failure and been fixing it a long time ago.

Mr. Natural

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Mar 7 2014 17:12

factvalue, The gist of your post was contained in the first paragraph in which your approval of Bakunin: "he preaches ... to a certain extent, the revolt of life against science," becomes your rejection of engaging the organization of life (and society).

I'm not familiar with the context within which Bakunin (whom I generally do not like) made his remark, but there certainly was a lot in 19th century science to oppose.

I do appreciate finally getting an answer from someone to my question and that you see that life has an underlying organization. So why be so quick to reject that organization as the manner by which we who must organize our lives must organize?

Yes, spooky mystic triangles can't dribble, so it's good that Capra's triangle is only abstract science, not spooky and mystic. The triangle is deeply, dialectically revolutionary in an age in which revolutionary thinking has disappeared. The triangle is spooky and mystic to you because you, like the rest of the left, won't engage the new sciences of life and society.

Well, thanks again at least for answering the question. Now you might reconsider your summary rejection of the organization of life and community.

Mr. Natural

factvalue
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Mar 9 2014 01:37

Crackpots abound these days, as ever, and they use all manner of tricks and gadgets to insinuate their way into honest debate, mistaking it for rhetorical gamesmanship rather than constructive dialogue. This started out as a potentially very useful thread topic, or at least one I would like to have seen develop, having grappled with such feelings many times, particularly recently. It now stands as a reminder of why both the experienced communist lag and the work-hardened scientific hand should never under any circumstances enter into dialogue with a pseudoscientist.

MN
You start with a mythical statement: there has never been any successful manner of organization in something called 'left'. You then proceed as if this were an accurate historical account of anything. Without further ado you amble down the well-trodden path of devising a hypothesis to explain these mythical events by postulating conditions that held ‘back then,’ namely our (‘left’s’) ignorance of the true self-organising principles of revolutionary natural phenomena and our failure to apply these wonders to organising, which is no longer the case, since we now have you to guide us. Without a hint of irony you then proceed to present your original mythical historical account as evidence - the only evidence - confirming your hypothesis. This type of 'reasoning' is absent from the procedures of science.

All kinds of crackpots have insisted that their ideas are already somehow part of legitimate science. But is there any branch of science that backs up your notion that we should be organising revolutionary movements via nonlinear mathematical laws in some unspecified manner? Crazies often behave like lawyers in gathering precedents out of context to build their irrefutable cases for their notions. But falsifiability is one way of telling a pseudoscience from a science: Is there any way in which you could foresee anyone producing evidence against your big idea, that is, how is your ‘idea’ to be put into practice in the real world?

By the way, priding yourself on having produced a question that no-one can answer doesn't show you off in the best possible scientific light, since scientists generally try to solve puzzles rather than produce unanswerable conundrums. Again, if you can never be wrong, you aren't doing science, you're doing pseudoscience. There are many ways to remain immune to criticism while avoiding doing any science, such as churning out vast quantities of vacuous nonsense laced with tautologies or making things so vague as to render criticism impossible, or you could try just ignoring any serious criticism that happens along, for example by employing your technique of answering certain of the softer criticisms without revising your position one iota, or you could even use the old 'who knows what might be possible in the future' shield to protect everything you say.

While you seem enamoured of all of these gambits, of all the wondrous bells, feathered rattles and whistles in the pseudoscientist's bag the one you seem to have a real thing about (and I must admit to having a bit of crush on it myself) is shifting the burden of proof onto everyone else. If all of us can't prove you wrong then obviously your 'idea' must be taken seriously as a real contender for THE explanation of the being and becoming of the history of all revolutionary lifeworlds or something or other. But although science produces laws it is not the same as THE law and not only is a theory not innocent until proven guilty, most importantly - and you should pay attention to this bit because it concerns you - not proving a 'theory' impossible is not the same as proving it possible.

The signature whiff of all pseudocranks is their belief that the arguments supporting their notions are not really that important. They always think their theory stands on its boldness alone. Complex systems theory may or may not have something to say about the world but what evidence is there for saying that it supports anything you claim, not that this matters to you in any way?

Unfortunately for all pseuds there is no burden on any group of people, especially one which has even a nodding acquaintance with logic, reason, aesthetics, virtue or the limits of the human lifespan, to consider every conceivable loony idea that bobs past, if it's to avoid being prejudiced. Sorry. There are more than two choices available to us. We don’t have to prove your idea wrong or admit it. It’s perfectly feasible to reject it on the basis of its lack of supporting evidence. That’s called science.