'Marx for anarchists'

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Felix Frost
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Feb 3 2009 18:27
mikus wrote:
I'm not clear on exactly what the point of this is. If it's just an introduction to Marx's general ideas on the "critique of political economy", what's the point? There's already a million out there, none all that great but I'm not convinced that it'd be possible to do much better. Why not just refer people to "Wage-labour and Capital" or "Value, Price and Profit", or something?

Basically everyone posting on this thread seems to agree that Marx's political ideas are not very interesting, Joseph K even going so far as to say that they're social-democratic an statist. (I totally disagree but that's another topic.) So what you'd be left with would be an introduction to his critique of political economy. What about the other ones is wrong, and what would you guys do better?

I think the point of such a pamphlet would be to get anarchists interested enough to pick up "Wage-labour and Capital", the Pearlman texts etc, not to be a an alternative to such texts.

Incidentally, I started writing series of articles called "Marx for anarchists" about 15 years ago. (The first article started by stating that Marx's political ideas are not very interesting, before moving on to the concept of alienation.) They were suposed to be printed in a Norwegian anarchist fanzine, but the zine stopped publishing before I finished part one. From time to time I have thought about taking up this project again, but I have never gotten around to it.

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Revolting Rebel
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Feb 28 2009 09:14

I think if it can get beyond just replying to the anarchist, but trying to be a general introduction to Marx's ideas and the plethora of misconceptions from the vanguardists, republicans, and anarchists. If you think of it, they all agree on what Marx said. One of the greatest conspiracies of all time.

I think a section at the end like in the communist manifesto with the alphabet soup of false Marxists so when a movement does break out, and all the vanguardists rush in to take things over like they always do, the new people can have this pamphlet that explains what the hell is going on. I've seen the RCP and ISO crush movements around the country with their crazy antics that makes you wonder who they work for.

Although perhaps off topic, should consider looking at the critiques from post-modern thinkers as they tend to be a reworking of the debates between Marx and the other anarchists. Interesting enough, Derrida and others seems to suddenly "regret" the perceived "death of Marxism" as they now seem to be afraid of what that world will look like, now siding more with Sartre that Marxism is some kind of virus that must eat away at the unfreedom of capitalist society or the capitalist will run rampant and destroy us all. That is just my take on it though.

ajjohnstone
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Feb 28 2009 19:01

For all the criticism that the SPGB gets from some anarchist quarters this talk may be of interest . An imaginary conversation between Marx and Kropotkin at a hypothetical meeting between them.

The speaker concludes :-.

Quote:
This talk has been called "What Marx Should Have Said to Kropotkin". But neither Marx nor Kropotkin should be regarded as authorities, whose views should be accepted just because they put them forward. They should be regarded simply as two 19th century Socialists who made some interesting contributions to the development of Socialist ideas. Their views are not, and should not be regarded, as any more "authoritative" than those of any of us in this room. The case for a classless, stateless, moneyless, wageless society rests on the facts and on its own merits, not on what one or other great man may or may not have said or written.

I have done my little bit to draw the SPGB interpretation of Marxism and anarcho-communism closer at a trial website i set up here , Marx the Anarchist .

From a Socialist Standard review of Benjamin Franks’s book, Rebel Alliances :-

Quote:
In Franks’s scheme, we would be classified as a group practising “propaganda by word” with occasional forays into “constitutional activity” in the form of participation in elections. What we don’t do – and which all the anarchist groups engage in – is to participate, as a group, in “micropolitics”, local single-issue campaigns. We don’t necessarily dismiss all such campaigns as entirely useless but think it best to leave them up to the people directly concerned, merely advising them (if asked) to organise and conduct themselves democratically, without leaders and without outside interference from Leninist (and, indeed, anarchist) groups. As a group composed of people who have come together because we want socialism, we see our group’s task as to concentrate on spreading socialist ideas.
Caiman del Barrio
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Mar 3 2009 11:59

If this ever materialises I will literally buy 100 copies and throw them from a first floor window at the next student Trot march.

Anarcho
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Mar 3 2009 12:22
ajjohnstone wrote:
I have done my little bit to draw the SPGB interpretation of Marxism and anarcho-communism closer at a trial website i set up here , Marx the Anarchist .

From the article, "However, [Proudhon] was not a Socialist or Communist but an advocate of various cranky financial reforms in the context of a completely free market economy." Really? That would have came as a surprise to Marx, Bakunin and Kropotkin who all called Proudhon a socialist. It would have also come as a surprise to Proudhon as well, as he called himself a socialist (repeatedly). And no mention that Proudhon advocated workers' associations? That was a key aspect of his ideas. When the Paris workers started to turn their workplaces into co-operatives during the Commune, Marx was full of praise... but, yes, Proudhon was not a communist.

There are, of course, anarchistic elements to Marx but, surely, the fact that the mainstream of Marxism has been state socialist suggests that there are other elements, elements which are more obvious?

In terms of Marx's critique of political economy, though, his many insights need to be better known and built on. But any such introduction needs to bring his ideas up to date and explore those who have developed his ideas and made new contributions. Many in the post-Keynesian tradition have done precisely that.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 3 2009 21:56

Iain , I think you understand the SPGB well enough to know it has a clear definition of what they would describe socialism to be and it is not to be unexpected that we will not describe those with certain ideas as socialists if it conflicts .

The SPGB point is that we do have something in common with the Kropotkinists and other communist anarchists like Alexander Berkman or Murray Bookchin ( although he is now considered by many not to be an anarchist) i.e. those anarchists that stand for a classless, stateless, moneyless, wageless society based on common ownership, but not with the Proudhon, ( or Tucker, Warren ) , those who stand for the self-management of a market economy. The problem that aggrieves many members of the SPGB as one article stated is that the anarcho-communists seem to feel they have more in common with the Proudhonists, than with us when , after all , we both agree on the end (albeit differ on the means to attain the end and i feel that is of secondary importance at this point of time in history .What matters far more is what we have in common and what we disagree upon can be debated in comradely fashion ) !

The SPGB argument is that capitalism (or any property/class based societies in general) necessitates a state. Hence to bring about a stateless society which is what is meant by anarchism you need to get rid of capitalism ( and that logically entails getting rid of the need for money and the market as well , very much echoing to Cuno in 1872 “And since the state is the chief evil [for Bakunin], the state above all must be abolished; then capital will go to hell of itself. We, on the contrary, say: Abolish capital, the appropriation of all the means of production by the few, and the state will fall of itself. The difference is an essential one: the abolition of the state is nonsense without a social revolution beforehand; the abolition of capital is the social revolution and involves a change in the whole mode of production.”)

Proudhon was an opponent of government and wanted a society without one. But being in favour of features of capitalism and wanting to retain the money-prices-wages-profit system (what Marx called "commodity production") well , you know , in the eyes of the SPGB (and many anarchists ) that would not make him a socialist . He was against ground rent and interest but not against profit. And he was a bit of a currency crank with his ideas of a credit bank .He stood for a society of small-scale producers trading with each other without the interference of the state. His famous catchword "property is theft" was aimed not at small-scale property but essentially at landed property. He defended individual property against common ownership.
Proudhon was also against workers organising it trade unions, was against workers going on strike for higher wages.
Some would call him the first anarcho-capitalist rather than the mutualist that he was and the reformist he could also be accused of being . Proudhon possessed a popular programme which in essence involved a society of artisans. Proudhon was very concerned at the tendency of employers to exploit employees, and thought that if society was made up of artisans then no such exploitation would take place, each worker would own their own means of production, and would sell their products at the market rate, since the market is an unbiased process of checks and counters, this would tend to balance incomes and prices and provide an equitable system of commodity production and sale, but without the massive problems of class division and exploitation. There are people today who still believe this, Marx's well-known efforts to debunk it notwithstanding.

Well , as for definitions , like I said , the SPGB has theirs but the definition of "socialist", basically what it generally meant in the 1840s was anyone who wanted to reform society, in whatever way, so as to benefit Labour. That was indeed how it was used them and was of course one of the reasons why Marx and Engels called the manifesto they wrote for the Communist League of Germany in 1848 the "Communist Manifesto" and not the "Socialist Manifesto". Basically, it was much too broad a definition that included too many contradictory views I suppose the more appropriate word would be "social reformers".It is only on that basis that supporters of private property and the market such as Proudhon, could be called "socialist“.
But in todays world we should be more demanding on the labels we ascribe to people . The very words "socialism" and "communism" are connected with the idea that the means of production should be owned by society as a whole (or socially, hence "socialism") or by the whole community (or communally, hence "communism", ). And it is far better that people who are opposed to it are not called "socialists" or “communists“.

The difference between socialists and anarchists is not over the aim of abolishing the State as I have stated earlier but over how to do this. Anarchists say that the first objective of the workers' revolution against capitalism should be to abolish the State. Socialists say that, to abolish the State, the Socialist working class majority must first win control of it and, if necessary, retain it (in a suitably very modified form) but for a very short while just in case any pro-capitalist recalcitrant minority should try to resist the establishment of socialism. Once socialism, as the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by the whole people, has been established (which the SPGB has always claimed can be done almost immediately ), the State is dismantled, dissolved completely We are not talking years or decades or generations here , but as a continuation of the immediate revolutionary phase of the over throw of capitalism .

But to end with some Anarcho-Marxist quotes from Marx/Engels about the abolition of the State .
In 1844 Marx wrote that "the existence of the state and the existence of slavery are inseparable" - "The King of Prussia and Social Reform",
Again, as Engels wrote in a letter to Bebel in March 1875, "Marx's book against Proudhon and later the Communist Manifesto directly declare that with the introduction of the socialist order of society the state will dissolve itself and disappear"
Then, in a circular against the Bakunin prepared for the First International in 1875, Marx wrote: "To all socialists anarchy means this: the aim of the proletarian movement--that is to say the abolition of social classes--once achieved, the power of the state, which now serves only to keep the vast majority of producers under the yoke of a small minority of exploiters, will vanish, and the functions of government become purely administrative"
I'm sure you know them , Iain , and could add something to the context .

MT
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Mar 4 2009 08:28
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For all the criticism that the SPGB gets from some anarchist quarters this talk may be of interest .

The reffered site seems to be invalid. Any chance of getting the myspace article in other form? Thanks!

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888
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Mar 4 2009 09:39
ajjohnstone wrote:
The problem that aggrieves many members of the SPGB as one article stated is that the anarcho-communists seem to feel they have more in common with the Proudhonists, than with us when , after all , we both agree on the end (albeit differ on the means to attain the end and i feel that is of secondary importance at this point of time in history

Surely the means are more important now? Won't the end be more important... at the end?

ajjohnstone
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Mar 4 2009 20:15

For MT you can find the article also at
http://www.freewebs.com/socialistcommonwealth/marxtheanarchist.htm

888 , i think the question is , if we cannot agree our destination , the debate about what number of bus to take is a fruitless one .

radicalgraffiti
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Mar 4 2009 21:18
ajjohnstone wrote:
888 , i think the question is , if we cannot agree our destination , the debate about what number of bus to take is a fruitless one .

Stalinist claim they want the same destination as we do, so a shared destination is not enough if that is all we share.
The number of the bus or if we should get one at all matters if we don't want to end up the opposite side of town to our destination.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 5 2009 06:13

Mea Culpa , I did err .

I acknowledge the unity of means and ends and that means and ends are both primary. The SPGB does argue that ends and means cannot be separated and that they require to be harmonised otherwise the wrong means will inevitably lead to wrong ends

What I was searching for is the acceptance of comradely discussion and debate amongst those of us who do agree on the end but differ on the means to achieve it .

Quote:
“The Anarchist Federation's definition of “anarchist communist” society is almost indistinguishable from our view of socialism, i.e. moneyless, stateless with free access to goods and services. Perhaps, the main bone of contention is how we get there and here there are some real differences…No-one can be exactly sure which form the revolutionary process will take and it may well involve some of the things the Anarchist Federation point to. However, we in the Socialist Party believe that the potential use of parliament as part of a revolutionary process may prove vitally important in neutralising the ruling class's hold on state power. For us, this is the most effective way of abolishing the state and thus ushering in the revolutionary society.”
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/apr01/booksapr.html

The rejection of a lower communist phase with labour vouchers is something we have in common with Kropotkin and not with Marx. Thus I am sympathetic to Dietzgen when he says ( which contradicts an earlier statement of mine , I realise )

Quote:
"The terms anarchist, socialist, communist should be so "mixed" together, that no muddlehead could tell which is which. Language serves not only the purpose of distinguishing things but also of uniting them- for it is dialectic." Dietzgen June 9, 1886

And here

Quote:
"For my part, I lay little stress on the distinction, whether a man is an anarchist or a socialist, because it seems to me that too much weight is attributed to this difference. While the anarchists may have mad and brainless individuals in their ranks, the socialists have an abundance of cowards. For this reason I care as much for one as the other. The majority in both camps are still in great need of education, and this will bring about a reconciliation in time." Dietzgen April 20, 1886

The reconciliation is long over-due , methinks

Quote:
Stalinist claim they want the same destination as we do

As an aside , btw , perhaps one of the clearest expositions of what socialism is that I have read has actually come from Stalin himself and which can be read here . http://mailstrom.blogspot.com/2006/08/i-am-stalinist.html

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Aug 3 2012 19:17

wayne price sorta did a series on this recently. i bet it might eventually get made into a book. i've only read the first few chapters though so don't really know how good it is.

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Aug 3 2012 19:55

It is a book called "marx's economics for anarchists" or something like that. Thoughtcrime Ink is publishing it. I've heard some not-so-good things about it...

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Aug 28 2012 14:01

I think this project is interesting, but not sure why it has to be aimed at another tendency, when I believe the intent for most of Marx and Engels' project was for the consumption of the working class. I think Marx, as understood from his writings and not through his various filters like Lenin, Trotsky...or, at times, Engels, would be far more useful and not to mention, honest.

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klas batalo
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Aug 28 2012 16:15
Khawaga wrote:
It is a book called "marx's economics for anarchists" or something like that. Thoughtcrime Ink is publishing it. I've heard some not-so-good things about it...

thoughtcrime has already published one of his books, and they usually reprint stuff zabalaza reformats.

yeah i'm sorta ambivalent about the book and he is no longer a member of my organization, so i really don't feel like i have to defend him or his politics at all, though that was never really the case. in the end run he left cause of still never getting his way about national liberation, and now is trying to spread rumors to michael schmidt that there was a split where his small group of old beards was the revolutionary camp with everyone else being reformists. no such split has happened (other than 3 of their people leaving) and we are going modestly strong as one might expect, with four locals (boston, buffalo, providence, western ma)