Not a Communist But an Anarchist

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LBird
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Dec 19 2011 09:01
action_now wrote:
as i said prior, i reckon that the dichotomies drawn between individualism and communism are false.

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Railyon wrote:
I think your point is far from being individualist, but if it is, then so are mine.

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Melancholy of R… wrote:
I agree there's only the 'social individual' but that's pretty much the same as saying there's only the individual given human nature. The danger of putting society before humans…

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plasmatelly wrote:
…individualists free to farm alone….It's probably just a matter of language here that throwing up perceived differences.

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radicalgraffiti wrote:
i've said this before but i'm an individualist communist, i don't see how else you could be an individualist?

All these replies, even those ostensibly supportive of my earlier post, give me cause for concern that my points regarding the incompatibility of ‘individualism’ and ‘Communism’ are not being understood. That’s for me to remedy, of course.

Perhaps an analogy might help to explain my argument better.

If we take 100 pieces of lego spread out on a table. If we ask both the individualist and the Communist what’s in front of them, they both reply ‘100 pieces of lego’. Agreement so far.

But then I construct an aeroplane, and ask the same question. But now the Communist, being able to recognise a structure, replies ‘an aeroplane’, whereas the individualist still replies ‘100 pieces of lego’. They are both correct, of course.

Then I break up the aeroplane and construct a tank. Same question. Replies: ‘a tank’ and ‘100 pieces of lego’. Both still correct.

But it’s clear that the Communist, recognising a structure, can go on to discuss the relationships between the variously-placed bits of lego, and discuss their varying roles within the structure. The same piece of lego can be all of: a piece of lego, a part of a wing or nosecone, or a part of a turret or hull. Unfortunately, the individualist can only constantly recognise the first in the list: it’s always just ‘a piece of lego’. True, in some sense, but somewhat lacking if we try to analyse the wider roles of an aeroplane or a tank, their emergent properties, and the individual roles of each separate, but related, piece of lego within the wider, structural, role.

It’s no real answer to the problems related to the latter issues, of structure, to keep reiterating they’re all just ‘pieces of lego’.

Our problems are related to ‘social structure’, not just ‘individuals’. The roles of individuals within a wider socio-economic structure, and especially those concerning political power and economic exploitation, cannot be understood by looking merely at the individuals comprising those social structures.

So, to this extent, I can’t agree with those posters above who see this issue as ‘false’ or that it is resolved by claiming to be an ‘individualist communist’. The ‘individual’ and ‘society’ work at different levels of analysis. Communism is concerned with analysing exploitative social structures and the roles of individuals within those structures.

It’s the relationships between the individuals, not the isolated individuals in themselves, that is the focus of Communism.

Perhaps one more little example about structures.

If I was to fight an ‘individualist’, would they continue to refuse to recognise a structure, which is greater than the sum of its parts, and rely only on individual components?

If so, they would fight by poking their individual fingers at me, whereas I would construct a fist and use its emergent properties to win the fight.

Poke, poke, poke, poke… [the individualist is ahead on points]… right jab, right jab, fuckin’ swingin’ left hook to the face…oh dear, victory to the Communist, once again!

Individualist wakes up on the canvas. But will they learn?

I’ll leave some discussion of the importance of my second point to action_now, about ‘history’, until a later post. Suffice to say, it will locate the ideology of ‘individualism’ and its origins within a historical and social setting. ‘Individualism’ isn’t just what some individuals apparently think, that they thought it up all by themselves. ‘Individually’, of course!

edit - this is why I identify as a 'worker' (a structural category, in opposition to other structural categories, like bosses) and not as an 'individual'.

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Railyon
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Dec 19 2011 10:09

I understand what you're saying (at least I think I do), but in my opinion this is just a schism in theoretical basis; to me a scenario like plasmatelly described it wouldn't be far-fetched - it's not a question of either/or.

(Here's plasmatelly's post again:)

plasmatelly wrote:
Maybe a good example of individualists living within a free communist society would be those of the collectivised lands in Aragon in 30's Spain. Comrades wishing to work collectively were free to do so, individualists free to farm alone. Certain things created by the collectivists were free for use or access by individualist, such as entertainment. The key in this example for the purpose of the discussion would be the aspect of free association - an individualist was free to join or leave the collective.

I think what I want to say with this is that, yes, there is an obvious (theoretical) gap between both schools, but how would that play out in 'reality'? I think not as bad as some might think if people get their shit together.

Unless your conception of an individualist is a hermit extraordinaire who outright refuses to work with other people, I've got to agree with action_now on this; the dichotomy is false, and plasmatelly is equally right in saying that all people rely on a network of others. I don't necessarily think it is a critical feature of individualism to have 'no one outside his ego'.

I think a lot of it also comes down to socialization, and as I argued someplace else, individualism (as an 'ism') is a residue of capitalism and its atomizing effect on people and communities, and will gradually vanish post-rev.

LBird
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Dec 19 2011 19:20
Railyon wrote:
…in my opinion this is just a schism in theoretical basis; to me a scenario like plasmatelly described it wouldn't be far-fetched...

I think you’re wrong, Railyon, to categorise the opposition between two entirely different ways of conceptualising society (‘a group of individuals’ and ‘a specific exploitative structural relationship’) as ‘just a schism’. For the second way, the notion of ‘individual’ is meaningless. In our terms, one is either a ‘worker or a ‘boss’, not an ‘individual’. ‘Individual’ has no built in relationship to another ‘individual’.

I think this is brought out by your using of plasmatelly’s post, who ironically thought that they were supporting my position.

plasmatelly wrote:
Maybe a good example of individualists living within a free communist society would be those of the collectivised lands in Aragon in 30's Spain. Comrades wishing to work collectively were free to do so, individualists free to farm alone.

It’s very telling that the example is based upon a form of rural society which is, increasingly, disappearing from our earth. As capitalism develops, the notion of the ‘individual’ going off to farm alone loses whatever basis in reality it once might have had. It’s almost like a repeat of the mythical ‘West’, where there was always room for ‘rugged individualists’ to seek their own way.

I live in a society where almost no-one farms; where no-one even seeks to live on the land. Everyone is either a worker, small boss or large boss.

Railyon wrote:
I think a lot of it also comes down to socialization, and as I argued someplace else, individualism (as an 'ism') is a residue of capitalism and its atomizing effect on people and communities, and will gradually vanish post-rev.

This is far closed to my analysis. You’re right, that ‘individualism’ is produced by bourgeois socialisation: it is historically specific. What I can’t understand is why any Communists would claim to be ‘individualists’, like radicalgraffiti does, when this form of thinking belongs to a capitalist social structure, not a Communist one.

If the earth is a common treasury, how can any individual just go off and claim some of it for their own personal purposes, without any sanction by their society? Surely the say-so of the relevant social, collective, democratic authority, the local Workers’ Council, would be required? In other words, anyone wishing to go off and farm alone would have to first persuade their fellow Communists that it is an acceptable and reasonable move. And the continued ‘freedom’ to farm the land would be subject to continuing social agreement. Otherwise, how would this land differ from private property?

To me, as a Communist, it’s not a case of ‘an individual exercising their own freedom’, but rather ‘a worker seeking prior collective agreement’. If the worker can persuade the collective, then fine, then let them work the land while it’s not required for other social purposes.

I’m always surprised when this strange example is used, of the idea of someone going off on their own, and it being illustrated by 1930s Spain. FWIW, to me it smacks rather too much of right-wing US survivalism. I don’t wish to have a bit of an office, factory or other workplace for my own use. I wish to work in concert with my fellow Communists to achieve our collective ends.

I’m not an ‘individualist’. I’ve thought that ideology through and rejected it. I’m baffled as to why it still has such a strong hold on some Communists.

Anyway, thanks for your engaging with my questions, Railyon.

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plasmatelly
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Dec 19 2011 19:39

LBird wrote -

Quote:
It’s very telling that the example is based upon a form of rural society which is, increasingly, disappearing from our earth. As capitalism develops, the notion of the ‘individual’ going off to farm alone loses whatever basis in reality it once might have had. It’s almost like a repeat of the mythical ‘West’, where there was always room for ‘rugged individualists’ to seek their own way.

Yeah, sorry about that. You seem to have caught me at an awkward moment, libcom revolutions seem to be a bit thin lately, so had to resort to my emergency stock of examples of communists living with individualists. I'm pretty keen to replenish the shelves if you can provide me with some... hopefully non from Legoland! wink

LBird
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Dec 20 2011 09:16
plasmatelly wrote:
... libcom revolutions seem to be a bit thin lately... can [you] provide me with some... hopefully non from Legoland! ;)

This shitty society of ours is 'Legoland', mate!

Whilst the focus of most workers is on themselves as 'individuals' and their 'own' needs and wants, and they aren't yet able (or refuse) to recognise and study the 'structure' within which they find themselves, and then act upon that awareness to change the structure, then we'll all continue to be the 'lego pieces', subject to "The Man's" designs.

As to 'libcom revolutions', there hasn't ever been any. While I might admire the tremendous actions and sacrifices of workers during the events of 1936 in Spain, I think its real lessons for us, socio-economic and military, are almost entirely negative.

Militias made up of 'individuals'? Don't make me laugh. One of the real lessons, surely, was that the 'lego' approach to workers' fighting organisations was suicide. Analysis of structure was and is fundamental to military organisation and tactics, as it is to society. Anyway, my daughter's bought me Paz's Story of the Iron Column for xmas, and perhaps I'll be shown to be wrong.

Thanks anyway for the (attempted!) support, plasmatelly.

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Melancholy of R...
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Dec 20 2011 09:58
Quote:
If the earth is a common treasury, how can any individual just go off and claim some of it for their own personal purposes, without any sanction by their society? Surely the say-so of the relevant social, collective, democratic authority, the local Workers’ Council, would be required? In other words, anyone wishing to go off and farm alone would have to first persuade their fellow Communists that it is an acceptable and reasonable move. And the continued ‘freedom’ to farm the land would be subject to continuing social agreement. Otherwise, how would this land differ from private property?

I agree with most of what you've written on this thread, LBird, but I'd agree even more if you stopped using terms like Workers' Council and ‘a worker seeking prior collective agreement'. Not that I don't consider myself a worker in present Legoland, but definitely I wouldn't want to live in a society where the term worker had any meaning except as an archaic social term.

LBird
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Dec 20 2011 11:52
Melancholy of R... wrote:
I agree with most of what you've written on this thread, LBird...

That's good, mate!

Melancholy of R... wrote:
...but I'd agree even more if you stopped using terms like Workers' Council and ‘a worker seeking prior collective agreement'.

No problem! Just tell me the structural arrangements you hope to see in a Communist society. If not democratic Workers' Councils as the structure, within which we'll all participate in a collective unity of the democratic control of production, and within which, of course, no 'individual' minority of one will be able to 'dictate' to their comrades, and so will require 'prior collective agreement' to taking and using any part of our common treasury, what do you suggest?

Melancholy of R... wrote:
Not that I don't consider myself a worker in present Legoland, but definitely I wouldn't want to live in a society where the term worker had any meaning except as an archaic social term.

Of course, 'worker' as a structural term only applies to a capitalist society, where there is a division between politics and economics, and the class of 'workers' does the economic production but has no political control of the distribution of their collective product. 'Worker' is always opposed to 'boss'. So, you're correct, we'll need a new term to describe the newly emerged socio-economic-political actor within our Communist social structure. Any ideas for this term? Comrades, perhaps?

I know you won't suggest 'individual', since you seem to agree with me that that is a biological term which is twisted by the bourgeoisie within a capitalist socio-economic structure to play an ideological role to subvert our human nature as social, productive animals, and to lessen our understanding of ourselves and our society, and to prevent a democratic ethos from being part of our central ideology.

So, what do you suggest as the structural arrangements for Communism, and what terms should we employ for both the collective and individual units within that structure?

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Melancholy of R...
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Dec 20 2011 11:37

I like sisters and brothers myself. Always find it disarming when somebody calls me brother whether they're asking me for change or if an actual friend. Basically any word that starts the address as friendly and a reminder of the uniqueness of our unity in time and space, in other words, how extraordinary it is that our paths have crossed and how we can best use that coincidence for mutual benefit. In the same vein, I see globalisation and the Internet in those terms - more paths crossed, more mutual aid.

As for structure, I agree with you, but everybody needs to be a part of it, not just the 'producing' members. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

LBird
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Dec 20 2011 12:12
Melancholy of R... wrote:
I like sisters and brothers myself.

Well, mate, I'm quite happy to use the gender-neutral term 'mates'; but, given your preference for 'sisters and brothers', perhaps the use of 'mate' is a bit too incestuous!

You're right about 'disarming' and 'friendly': the emotional appeal of our terms shouldn't be underestimated. After all, we're all biological, emotional individuals, eh!

Melancholy of R... wrote:
As for structure, I agree with you, but everybody needs to be a part of it, not just the 'producing' members. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

Couldn't agree more! I have one-sidedly stressed us as 'producers', both because production is prior to consumption and because it's necessary to emphasise social production to our more 'individualist-inclined' comrades who seem to often ignore this natural fact for humans, but clearly our structures must reflect all aspects of economics and politics in a Communist unity. Furthermore, the vast majority of humans will be producers first and foremost, for most of their lives. But even if someone is totally unable to 'produce', they must have at least the same access to consumption, more if required.

I'm sure that a poet won't mind having to over-produce poetry for five-year-olds!

As you so rightly stress:

"From each according to their ability, to each according to their need."

Sisters, too, don't forget!