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Anarchism used as an identity instead of social change?

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foxglove's picture
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May 13 2009 20:01
Anarchism used as an identity instead of social change?

I was curious to find out peoples views on the future of anarchism, in London it seems to me that Anarchy has transfigured into something distrubin under-pinned by capitalist values. Anarchy has a become a fashion, a way of dress, a clique. Anarchists are defining themselves through products and defining others through products too. If you don't dress like they do, do what they do, youcan't be part of the movement. It's like a kind of elitism. If you're renting and not in a squat, well then you really can't be an anarchist, according to these people.

It disturbs me that anarchists are acting on superficial and aesthetic judgements, it disturbs me becuase it can leave no futureof anarchism when it starts assessing the world in terms of capitalism, broadly speaking.

I unerstand how it may have evolved. At the recent G20 protests there were a lot of anti-capitalists and anarchists, these anti-capitalists drinking coke or wearing Eastpak rucksacks. I can see that anarchists would not want this hypocrisy diluting the movement but instead of sneering at these people or rejecting them, I feel that perhaps anarchists should try to make such people aware of the products they are wearing or drinking, that it doesn't have a good impact on the movement etc

It also seems to me a lot of anarchists have a fixed idea of anarchy too- which seems quite contradictory to me. It seems they want to keep it stable so they can cling to it as a form of identity, as something that is constant in a world perpetually in flux and a self perpetually in flux ? For example, class is something that had been used to divide us for the longest time and I believed anarchy was against it however I have encountered anarchists who go out of their way to shun middle class or upper class people who hold the same views as them. A person cannot help his background, but I feel as anarchists we should welcome these people, any people who want to be part of a social change. Not fixing anarchism as working class only or dreadlocks only or squatters only.

I'd love to hear some feedback about these thoughts, I'm sorry they don't cohere very much, I'm not used to writing!

Thankyou for your time

x

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May 13 2009 20:12

foxglove.
Anarchism as a fashion subculture is something that many on here feel strongly about. I think that you're right to highlight issues which are divisive within anarchism but I think you might want to rethink some of it.
Anarchism is about people taking control of their lives and not having to answer to bosses. To my mind that means we need to get rid of class because that is based upon one set of people imposing their will on others. It is a political ideology and as such people should follow their political beliefs and recognise that it is the system, not individuals that are responsible.

In terms of drinking coke I think you are foloowing the lifestylists to be honest.
I don't like coke so I don't drink it, but every drink company is based on exploitation of workers which is the real problem. All companies are based on this principle otherwise they go bankrupt. Starbucks, Macdonalds, coke etc are all capitalist companies that are actively involved in oppressing us. This is our problem, so while I think we can act against a company in a specific context, outside of any such context there is no value to choice of drink or any other product.

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May 13 2009 20:22

Hello jef,
Thankyou for your time in replying to me. I think I should have used your term to summerize my thoughts that is anarchism as a fashion subculture grin

I realise it wasn't very well thought out especially the class part. I didn't mean that I agree with classes or like the idea of upper or middle classes but I have been shocked by the hatred I've seen anarchists engage in to do with people from these classes supporting the cause. I feel maybe I've been naieve in thinking that anarchists should support and constructively challenge other anarchists. When I encounter a person from the middle class or upper class I don't act in terms of their class, for me it would be agreeing with the class system, I try to listen to the content more than the form so to speak

I only meant coke as an example. It was becuase I was a little, quite a lot, shocked at seeing anti-capitalists drinking coca cola especially as theres that whole issue with coke in india at the moment!, I felt like it was hard to resist getting angry, my freinds and I, were calm and discussed nicely as possible with people and asked were they aware that coke did this or that, and quite often they wasn't. I feel like that shared education is a valuable thing in the anarchist community. I would hope that someone would point out my hypocrisies to me etc

I hate to be stupid, but I'm a little lost about the last part of the sentance:
"This is our problem, so while I think we can act against a company in a specific context, outside of any such context there is no value to choice of drink or any other product."

Is that saying that we can't be aware of outside of demonstrations or meetings how anarchist are conducting themselves in the product they choose etc?

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May 13 2009 20:58

Hello,

Thanks for responding

I was aware that it contradicted after reading it. I find myself confused as to the correct action to take or the right way to be

I am disheartened when I see that anarchists use certain products etc and that is mak,ing a superficial judgement, I definately see that
but I feel that I'm unsure wether I should talk to people and make them more aware of the choices- not in a horrific preaching or self ritcheous way, but kindly or wether I should ignore this and be glad for the anarchist movement to have more support and not be picky about the support?

Thanks

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May 13 2009 21:06

I think that it would be irresponsible though to promote capitalism, it's not nessecarily about boycotting products to make a huge change, but about consistency with your morals. If anarchy is freedom, is being an anarchist is representative of a belief in freedom doesn't drinking products that undermine freedom of others as well as representing capitalism go against the ethic of anarchism? isn't that inconsistancy a bad representation of anarchism that makes that people part of the movement look flakey

it's like an animal rights protester using animal tested products

we can make better and informed choices about the products we use which is an example to others as well as a good representation of anarchism

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May 13 2009 21:13
foxglove wrote:
I only meant coke as an example. It was becuase I was a little, quite a lot, shocked at seeing anti-capitalists drinking coca cola especially as theres that whole issue with coke in india at the moment!, I felt like it was hard to resist getting angry, my freinds and I, were calm and discussed nicely as possible with people and asked were they aware that coke did this or that, and quite often they wasn't. I feel like that shared education is a valuable thing in the anarchist community. I would hope that someone would point out my hypocrisies to me etc

I agree that it is sometimes an amusing testament to the cognitive dissonance of anti-capitalist activists when they can't draw these connections, but is this really a problem in the anti-capitalist movement today? I was under the impression that they were quite brand conscious when it came to the products they buy and don't buy, the laughable irony is not that segments of their movement would patronize coke products but that they would patronize -any- product and still maintain that they are in fact anti-capitalist. A better moniker for them would be anti-big capitalist activists.

Although, I consider even this distinction to be trivia. It doesn't have much value in terms of class struggle, as it simply is another application of the "lesser of two evils" argument we here proffered throughout the anti-capitalist spheres (it's certainly not a homogeneous grouping of ideas). If Pepsi was responsible for marginally less exploitation than Coke would that warrant a recommendation to patronize Pepsi products as part of consistency in an anti-capitalist struggle? I understand that you're probably speaking about switching to products far less conspicuous (such as the organic juicer in the local market) but I think my example serves to illustrate the weakness of this position. Ultimately, you will end up supporting one capitalist industry or another so to make ethical consumerism part of your platform for protest doesn't really amount to any meaningful form of struggle.

I agree with Jef that you are actually agreeing with the "anarchism as lifestyle" proponents with the platform you're expressing. I understand quite well the horrible things perpetuated by Wal-Mart, but I will continue to buy their cheap goods as a way to sustain my own life. Does this make me any less of a communist? Just because I patronize Wal-Mart doesn't mean that my contributions to class struggle in my workplace are in anyway diminished.

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May 13 2009 21:21

I can see your point
I think this is one of the confusing elements of anarchism

Products, at present, are a part of life, at least while they are part of life we can choose the more ethical ones. Instead of drinking coke we could fill our own bottles with tap water. Instead of banking with HSBC we could bank with the Co-operative, instead of buying a mars bar make your own food, (vegan flapjacks! grin)

Boycotting coke and mcdonalds can change the nature or form of those social relationships. Like primark, they had to change thier trading policy or when American Apparel used the image of the Zapatista's, there was boycotts and they pulled the clothing line

And boycotts are effective! Think about when countries boycotted Africa over aparthied

I find nothing ethical about an anarchist or anybody for that matter eating from mcdonalds, but esepcially not an anarchist becuase anarchy represents freedom and mcdonalds is not freedom, for anyone or anything invovled

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May 13 2009 21:26

Hello Sheldon,

Thankyou for replying

I'm so embarrased I didn't realise the contradiction in what I said! grin
I undersnad that the products idea seems trivial and as yuo say will end up in supporting anotehr form of capitalism, but while capitalism is still here and we have to buy products, I feel we should be consistent with anarchy, at all levels, even this trivial one and buy ethically and responsibly as possible

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May 13 2009 21:31
foxglove wrote:
I can see your point
I think this is one of the confusing elements of anarchism

Products, at present, are a part of life, at least while they are part of life we can choose the more ethical ones. Instead of drinking coke we could fill our own bottles with tap water. Instead of banking with HSBC we could bank with the Co-operative, instead of buying a mars bar make your own food, (vegan flapjacks! grin)

Boycotting coke and mcdonalds can change the nature or form of those social relationships. Like primark, they had to change thier trading policy or when American Apparel used the image of the Zapatista's, there was boycotts and they pulled the clothing line

And boycotts are effective! Think about when countries boycotted Africa over aparthied

I find nothing ethical about an anarchist or anybody for that matter eating from mcdonalds, but esepcially not an anarchist becuase anarchy represents freedom and mcdonalds is not freedom, for anyone or anything invovled

I'm not making the case that anarchists, communists, or what have you should consume these products but merely that there is nothing revolutionary about what you're suggesting. It has nothing to do with class struggle, except perhaps when you reduce the discussion to such narrow parameters that you can deduce that it's useful. The adage "what would happen if they declared a war and nobody came" comes to mind. Yes, you can make the case that if nobody showed up when a war was declared that would be a very effective way to avoid said war. However, it's a hopeless simplification about the complexities that move segments of the population to engage in war. As such, that adage has no real revolutionary meaning to it. It has nothing to offer those engaged in class struggle, because it bases its statement on a condition of society that does not exist. In a word, it's nothing more than trivia.

Similarly, talking about boycotting certain capitalist products so as to minimize the ethical impact of your consumerism has no connection to class struggle. It does not usher in any real change, but if you would feel better about yourself by engaging in it then more power to you. It is dangerously misleading, and nauseatingly lifestylist, to ascribe any sort of connection with these consumer choices and class struggle.

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May 13 2009 21:32

Perhaps as well If I backtrack on what I said, it seems apparent to me now that being an anarchist is of corse part of an identity, an moral identity and so I want to represent anarchism in the best way I possibly can even throuh my small day to day choices as mentioned like water instead of coke or local produce instead of sweetcorn from thailand etc

But in doing this I feel hypocritcial as thouh I'm running my life as an organisation in itself,
the same way in which say Hannah Montana or High School Musical aren't allowed to publicy consume alchohol etc

If that makes sense?

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May 13 2009 21:39

I still don't know if I can agree that it is lifestylist

I worked for mcdonalds when I was younger, I was forced by the capitalist system to work for a company I detest. I'd be homeless had I not have accepted the job.
I was definately treated like a slave, I recall spending 8 hours pressing a coke or diet coke button and shovelling ice, not being allowed to speak to anyone, being watched on cctv incase we spoke, being abused by our manager.

that to me is very indicative of something to do with class. A middleclass person woudln't have to work like that in mcdonalds, or an upperclass person. It should definately be boycotted on the way it treats its staff alone.

I think I haven't made my point clear, I'm not prescribing that the products we use in the most importnat aspect of anarchism but that if we can't find a moral consistency then what can we hope for anything bigger? I think it definately starts with the small things like the products we choose.

Two of the AFED's aims and princles:
"As well as exploiting and oppressing the majority of people, Capitalism threatens the world through war and the destruction of the environment.

It is not possible to abolish Capitalism without a revolution, which will arise out of class conflict. The ruling class must be completely overthrown to achieve anarchist communism. Because the ruling class will not relinquish power without their use of armed force, this revolution will be a time of violence as well as liberation."

Mcdonalds is highly representative of this capitalism. I know they are an obvious target but in the conversations they are just an example not the be all and end all of my point.

To support mcdonalds is to support capitalism
To support capitalism isn't to support anarchism

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May 13 2009 22:01
foxglove wrote:
I hate to be stupid, but I'm a little lost about the last part of the sentance:
"This is our problem, so while I think we can act against a company in a specific context, outside of any such context there is no value to choice of drink or any other product."

Is that saying that we can't be aware of outside of demonstrations or meetings how anarchist are conducting themselves in the product they choose etc?

I would say choosing to drink a coke would have no political relevance even in a meeting or at a demo. When we are acting in a specific context then our actions might mean something. For example recent pickets of Subway over their sacking of a pregnant worker. Workers are acting against a company for a reason and directly asking other workers/consumers for support. Whether I drink coke at a demo or not will not affect whether the company murders trade unionists in Colombia or not. An organised campaign is different to a personal choice.

foxglove wrote:
Products, at present, are a part of life, at least while they are part of life we can choose the more ethical ones. Instead of drinking coke we could fill our own bottles with tap water. Instead of banking with HSBC we could bank with the Co-operative, instead of buying a mars bar make your own food, (vegan flapjacks! grin)

This is a personal, not a political choice. Choosing a better' capitalist might make you feel better, it might even make a minor difference but ultimately capitalism needs to exploit us and it will do so. If some companies play nice to get our business this doesn't change the fact that we have opposing interests.

Quote:
Boycotting coke and mcdonalds can change the nature or form of those social relationships. Like primark, they had to change thier trading policy or when American Apparel used the image of the Zapatista's, there was boycotts and they pulled the clothing line

A direct campaign can work if it is organised.

Quote:
And boycotts are effective! Think about when countries boycotted Africa over aparthied

Apartheid iirc was beset by problems for many reasons, there was a demographic problem in controlling the black population and the system worked against capital's best interests in many ways. South Africa also lost international support as part of wider strategic interests.
Apatheid is ended but the life of the average South African is hardly, if at all, improved. There is a tiny black middle/upper class, mostly drawn from existing cadres (so the people who were in charge of the blacks under Apartheid) who have profited massively. Apartheid has ended but bringing down that system hasn't improved lives because it wasn't brought down by a working class movement aimed at improving working class lives.

Quote:
I find nothing ethical about an anarchist or anybody for that matter eating from mcdonalds, but esepcially not an anarchist becuase anarchy represents freedom and mcdonalds is not freedom, for anyone or anything invovled

No company is freedom. We work because we have to. We are never paid the value of our work. Someone else, because they own capital (the restaurant) gets to make money from our work. Whether there is a big M on the outside of the restaurant makes little difference.

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May 13 2009 22:07

The ground keeps falling away with this grin

I think you're right, it does seem to be more a personal than a political choice
I can't help that feel though what I do personally, even the small things, are by just being part of society, political.

What can I do then? I feel as though there are certain products I can't avoid buying, food especially, toothpaste etc I feel I should choose these ethically, as yes it's definately part of capitalism, but it is exactly what you said, supporting the companies that play nice (avoiding corporations if possible). That seems to be the only option I can see

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May 13 2009 22:10
foxglove wrote:
I worked for mcdonalds when I was younger, I was forced by the capitalist system to work for a company I detest. I'd be homeless had I not have accepted the job.
I was definately treated like a slave, I recall spending 8 hours pressing a coke or diet coke button and shovelling ice, not being allowed to speak to anyone, being watched on cctv incase we spoke, being abused by our manager.

that to me is very indicative of something to do with class. A middleclass person woudln't have to work like that in mcdonalds, or an upperclass person. It should definately be boycotted on the way it treats its staff alone.

Thats a call to be made by the people who work there, like if workers in a particular franchise they were organising for better conditions, even went on strike, then they might call on people to boycott the franchise, and others owned by the same holder, to help win their demands.
If everyone boycotted McDs' tomorrow and they closed down, there wouldnt have been any kind of revolution, the ex-workers would simply be out of a job, but still living with the reality of capitalism, and being unemployed to boot.

foxglove wrote:
I think it definately starts with the small things like the products we choose.

This is the 'personal is the political' stuff that every earnest hardcore band in the 90s went on about. I was there, I believed it, but it doesnt hold water, doesnt address the real issues, in fact often distracts from them.

foxglove wrote:
To support mcdonalds is to support capitalism
To support capitalism isn't to support anarchism

By that 'logic', if you dont want to 'support capitalism' youd better never leave the house again. Did I 'support capitalism' earlier when I went round the corner to Tesco? No, I just needed a pint of milk. Me deciding not to shop in Tesco would be no steam off their piss. The people who work there becoming more militant and getting organised would.

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May 13 2009 22:38

Thankyou for everyone to the replies I've recieved
You've been helpful in helping my establish a little more what anarchism is about and defining it's aims. Ultimately making it a little less confusing

Thankyou for your time

I've only very recently become much more aware of things politically after a chance conversation with someone who directed me to mutual aid. So I'm trying to understand and explore the ideas of anarchism and part of that exploring is definately finding out the mis-beleifs I hold and mis-conceptions.

I'ts hard to find a starting point especially as different anarchist groups have different concerns. I'm very interested in the points raised that rather than boycotting tesco or mcdonalds it would be more effective for the workers to be active, what is this called and where could I find out more about it?

I also have a question about that too, supposing workers organised action, would they not simply be sacked?

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May 13 2009 22:35
foxglove wrote:
I worked for mcdonalds when I was younger, I was forced by the capitalist system to work for a company I detest. I'd be homeless had I not have accepted the job.

This is the system, McDonalds is a shit employer but the only way to improve conditions is for workers to organise themselves against their bosses.

Quote:
Mcdonalds is highly representative of this capitalism. I know they are an obvious target but in the conversations they are just an example not the be all and end all of my point.

It is a representative, not capitalism itself. It is important to remember that.
Anarchism ultimately aims to destroy capitalism, not merely a representative of it. It doesn't matter whether you had chosen one of any number of obvious targets or any company in existence.

For something to be effective it must have a goal and a means to achieve this. McDonalds don't know if I eat their food, they don't know why and as long as they're making good profits they don't much care. An organised action might make an effect, one person cannot.

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May 13 2009 22:43

I've only very recently become much more aware of things politically after a chance conversation with someone who directed me to mutual aid. So I'm trying to understand and explore the ideas of anarchism and part of that exploring is definately finding out the mis-beleifs I hold and mis-conceptions.

I'ts hard to find a starting point especially as different anarchist groups have different concerns. I'm very interested in the points raised that rather than boycotting tesco or mcdonalds it would be more effective for the workers to be active, what is this called and where could I find out more about it?

I also have a question about that too, supposing workers organised action, would they not simply be sacked?

I definately agree, I think I forget often that these compnaies are representations of capitalism. How does capitalism end?- I'm aware this sounds stupid, but I am trying to edcuate myself which is hard in essex grin

One person cannot count, I disagree, one person can affects other to change? I know it's not a huge or signifcant change but it feels like I'm being less complict.

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May 13 2009 22:46
foxglove wrote:
I'm very interested in the points raised that rather than boycotting tesco or mcdonalds it would be more effective for the workers to be active, what is this called and where could I find out more about it?

it's called class struggle, and there's loads of stuff in the library on this site. the Prole.info pamphlet Work. Community. Politics. War. is an excellent introduction (download the pdf - best looking class struggle propaganda out there).

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May 13 2009 23:01

Brilliant post comrade. However you have to understand anarchists (anarchist-communists)want to get rid of most private property and with that we get rid of the filthy middle and upper classes. beardy

The point about anarchism being a fashion is interesting too. I hate punk anarchos who know fuck all about anarchism, they just dress a certain way and say anarchy in the uk etc(although not all as punk brought many ppl into anarchism.)

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May 14 2009 05:36
foxglove wrote:
I also have a question about that too, supposing workers organised action, would they not simply be sacked?

This can happen, which is why workers need to be organised. If you refuse to do something at work then they can sack you and you have little recourse. If half of the people at the workplace all refuse together and are willing to support anyone that the boss picks on (which will always happen) then you're stronger. Even in an 'unskilled' job firing several workers is hard to cope with. If you lose ten workers the cost of replacing them and lost business while they are gone can be quite high, whereas if you lose one person that cost isn't so high. Also ten people can pciket the business causing further problems.

In terms of personal life you can stick to a couple of rules:
don't cross picket lines
don't be a manager or a boss.

I'm sure that there are others.

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May 14 2009 08:55

Hmmm.... the complete destruction of the capitalist model is our goal and most anarchists will tell you that this must come from those who work to maintain it; who are subjugated by the capitalist process, and spend the best years of their lives as slaves to the wage while tiny elites live in relative luxury. The reasoning behind this desire to destroy capitalism is that exploitation through structures of hierarchy causes death and hardship, degradation of the human spirit as well as destruction the environment that sustains us. We all know this already.

“It is our aspiration and our aim that everyone should become socially conscious and effective; but to achieve this end, it is necessary to provide all with the means of life and for development, and it is therefore necessary to destroy with violence, since one cannot do otherwise, the violence which denies these means to the workers.” (Errico Malatesta)

We are chained to profit culture and in effect are made powerless, having little or no control or say over how we should live our lives. This strips us of dignity and robs us of our spirit, keeps us degraded and makes shadows of our selves and we live out our lives never realizing our potential. Those in poverty are said to aspire to be like those rich elites as if this was the only thing we could do to make our lives worthwhile.

"Capitalism is a social cancer. It has always been a social cancer. It is the disease of society. It is the malignancy of society." (Murray Bookchin)

But when we talk of mutual aid and worker control of the means of production we are still talking about a system but one that does not see profit as the end game but rather sees collective enrichment through autonomy, of people working for themselves for their own collective benefit and according to their own desire and ability and by direct democracy. This is why traditional anarchism (for want of a better phrase) concentrates its efforts among workers and agitates in the workplace for this is the centre of exploitation.

To answer your question Foxglove, there are always fashions in every microcosm and in anarchism lifestylism also finds a home. I think some of the comments on here are not really following through however. Bookchin presented a case against lifestylism (Social Anarchism Or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm; 1995) arguing that lifestylists were merely indivualists out for themselves at the expense of the wider class struggle. A lifestylist is someone who concentrates on their own lives, their behaviour, what products they do and don’t buy. Sometimes it’s called the personal revolution.

I accept that this is what’s happening here and I agree that the personal revolution is self-limiting but ONLY if that is the extent of your revolutionary potential. I would strongly urge people to avoid companies and products that are clearly detrimental to us and our environment in the same way that I would strongly urge support for wild cat actions and similar activity in the workplace. My boycotting of certain companies and products has little effect (unless it becomes popular) but strike action that simply ends in negotiation and an improvement in wages and conditions has also had little effect because the boss remains in place as do the chains. Both are reforms. If a company improves its policy due to a boycott it still remains extant.

(Boycotts can work if they are popular but in the case of South Africa you refer to there was a symbolic victory only. The white ruling class relinquished visible power but in actual fact they remained the counrtry’s bankers and thus an economic apartheid remains to this day with white elites as the central benefactors.)

I accept that the comments on here suggesting that we need to concentrate on the wider struggle in the workplace are appropriate but I do not accept that as an excuse to suggest it doesn’t matter which products or companies we use ‘because they are all capitalists’. As anarchists we are people who make ethical judgments and I see no reason why we shouldn’t make judgments on what products we support on an individual level. Saying that such activities as boycotts might close down a company and result in the unemployment of workers are short-sighted for it’s like suggesting we should not have stood against Hitler for fear the stormtroopers and Gestapo would be on the breadline as a result. This is a personal choice and personally I don’t wish to contribute to the activities of certain companies but that is not the extent of my activity as an anarchist.

I always refer to anarchism as the long game in that I don’t see ‘anarchy’ as a static but an ongoing overcoming of obstacles. There is no state of anarchism per se - If we choose to organise our lives on ethical lines and minimise our support of corporations then that is important to our own development as anarchists who wish to support our fellow travellers. It is the development of a culture of mutual aid. But if we do not develop beyond this point then we are not anarchists but lifestylists.

Finally a lot of people just don’t know the facts about certain companies and, importantly, a lot of people cannot afford to buy products in all but the cheapest of places which are normally owned by the Wal-Marts of the world.

And thanks for being such an honest poster, I don’t think you contradict yourself, you’re just thinking out loud and trying to find things out - people seem to forget there are actual people behind computers rather than automatic statements which contradict their own beliefs.

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May 14 2009 12:31
back2front wrote:
My boycotting of certain companies and products has little effect (unless it becomes popular) but strike action that simply ends in negotiation and an improvement in wages and conditions has also had little effect because the boss remains in place as do the chains. Both are reforms.

But one can foster a certain spirit and belief in the workers who win the improvements, which can be seen by other workers and ultimately can have an impact on wider class struggle. The other one makes you feel a bit better. Theyre not equivalent. The Visteon workers have not really 'won', there hasnt been a revolution as a result of their stand, but its directly inspired struggle in at least two other places

back2front wrote:
Saying that such activities as boycotts might close down a company and result in the unemployment of workers are short-sighted for it’s like suggesting we should not have stood against Hitler for fear the stormtroopers and Gestapo would be on the breadline as a result.

Well, in my opinion your argument automatically looks suspect when you invoke the Nazis, for thats like suggesting that people who work in McDs' are like the SS, which I presume you arent trying to say. Id assume we see a difference between a Mcds' franchise and an arms company, for example.
What about all the GAP protests where SWP and some others actually had closing GAP stores as the object of the campaign, in 'solidarity' with sweatshop workers? At no time did those workers ever say they wanted GAP closed down, which would simply put them out of work, they wanted action here to help improve their conditions.
And how will we choose which companies to boycott? I have a really shit punk record from 1980-something with a list inside but it might be a bit out of date...
Forgive me if Ive misread, I understand that youre not arguing that personal lifestyle choices make a revolution, but are you arguing that they are a necessary foundation?

Fletcher
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May 14 2009 13:15
back2front wrote:
Saying that such activities as boycotts might close down a company and result in the unemployment of workers are short-sighted for it’s like suggesting we should not have stood against Hitler for fear the stormtroopers and Gestapo would be on the breadline as a result.

Comparing those who work for McDonalds or CocaCola with Hitlers Gestapo is lifestylist nonsense of the worst kind. Whether you work for McDonalds, CocaCola or the most right on trendy environmentally friendly company makes no difference, as you are still working for a capitalist and contributing to their quest for profit before human need.

Making choices about buying or not buying a particular product is not a political act, it is simply capitalist consumerism in action. Those who would berate people for using certain companies are completely missing the point. Capitalism WANTS you to take this approach. Pitting business against business is what it is all about. The quest for enhanced profits and competition is what drives capitalist markets.

The shareholders of CocaCola and McDonalds don't give a shit about what those companies produce or how they do it. Indeed if a mass campaign against McDonalds impacted their business then their shareholders would just invest their cash elsewhere. Perhaps in some new trendy eco vegan treehugging burger bar!

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back2front
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May 14 2009 13:47
notch8 wrote:
[
But one can foster a certain spirit and belief in the workers who win the improvements, which can be seen by other workers and ultimately can have an impact on wider class struggle. The other one makes you feel a bit better. Theyre not equivalent. The Visteon workers have not really 'won', there hasnt been a revolution as a result of their stand, but its directly inspired struggle in at least two other places.

One can also foster a certain spirit and belief by attempting to minimise association with corporations which can be seen by other people and ultimately have an effect on their struggle too. I have seen a lot of poeple over the years find an entry into the anarchist tradition by this very route, myself included, which is why I don't knock it. And to reiterate what I said before - it can become lifestylism but only if it is the limit of your definition of anarchism. It cannot be a replacement for agitation in the workplace along traditional anarchist lines. However if you want to build a culture based on mutual aid then you need to look at all aspects and one of those aspects, as an individual, might be to minimise your corporate support in whatever way you can and in spreading that culture offer an alternative vision that is based on caring.

No the Visteon workers didn't 'win' and yes they did influence struggle elsewhere but influencing struggle elsewhere can also happen in other ways as outlined even if on a smaller scale. Workplace agitaion encourages community struggle at the end of the day and that's where we might concnetrate our efforts ultimately.

Well, in my opinion your argument automatically looks suspect when you invoke the Nazis, for thats like suggesting that people who work in McDs' are like the SS, which I presume you arent trying to say. Id assume we see a difference between a Mcds' franchise and an arms company, for example.
What about all the GAP protests where SWP and some others actually had closing GAP stores as the object of the campaign, in 'solidarity' with sweatshop workers? At no time did those workers ever say they wanted GAP closed down, which would simply put them out of work, they wanted action here to help improve their conditions.
And how will we choose which companies to boycott? I have a really shit punk record from 1980-something with a list inside but it might be a bit out of date...
Forgive me if Ive misread, I understand that youre not arguing that personal lifestyle choices make a revolution, but are you arguing that they are a necessary foundation?

Ha, nothing like a drop of the bogeymen to stir the keyboard - No I'm referring to organisations which are inherently corrupt and that it's empty rheoric to defend such organisations just because workers might lose their jobs if you struggle against those organisations or attempt to shut them down. It's an extreme example of course and I'm not comparing McShite to the Nazis per se, just trying to illustrate the point strongly, because my revulsion of national socialism is similar to my revulsion of capitalism.

The same thing is arising with what you are saying about GAP. Are you saying that we should merely reform corporations in order to save jobs? Do I need the permission of Coke's workforce in order to decry their organisation? Have a look at climate change statistics, note Coca Cola's destruction of virgin rainforests to grow orange trees for Fanta (incidentally a drink invented for Nazis) for example . Note the role of virgin rainforests as carbon sinks and note that if climate change stats are right (99% of clinate experts agree, the other 1% uncannily seem to be on the payroll of energy corporations) then there are less than 10 years left to reverse a trend which could literally wipe out civilisation as we know it. This isn't an exaggeration. Not much point in fighting for workers rights if their homes and factories are under water.

Which companies to boycott? That's your choice in that it depends how far you want to take it. For most things I buy I want to know whether or not the company is involved in warfare, worker exploitation, animal exploitation, environmental destruction and tend to go for independent small scale companies as far as possible. Yeah sure they are still capitalists but even were we to achieve worker control there would still be factories creating goods but we would want to ensure they were not exploitative in any way wouldn't we so why not be practical and encourage models like that now rather than being abstract and altruistic? It's a personal choice but I believe it fosters a notion of caring which is something that many anarchists seem to overlook.

Personal choices can never make a revolution but they can help shape community notions of how we might want to see things working in future. I don't dimiss people because of their corporate compliance and nor do I think it is necessary per se that you have to tick all the right boxes so, no, I don't believe it is a necessary foundation. I just cannot accept people should be dismissed because they DO try to keep corporate compliance to a minimum which is what appears to be going on here.

So you have that punk record too, lol - was it Conflict by any chance...

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PartyBucket
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May 14 2009 14:06
back2front wrote:
notch8 wrote:
Are you saying that we should merely reform corporations in order to save jobs?

No, the point is to do away with capitalism, not decide to try to do away with certain corporations under capitalism, due to it having only the effects Ive mentioned. Although, I wouldnt have the same qualms about a concerted campaign against an arms factory that I might have about the GAP / McDs' campaigns that Ive said about.

back2front wrote:
So you have that punk record too, lol - was it Conflict by any chance...

No (but I do have Conflict records). Might be the Electro Hippies, or something worse!!

Fletcher
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May 14 2009 14:08
back2front wrote:
Which companies to boycott? That's your choice in that it depends how far you want to take it. For most things I buy I want to know whether or not the company is involved in warfare, worker exploitation, animal exploitation, environmental destruction and tend to go for independent small scale companies as far as possible.

Involved in warfare : How do you define this? Computer companies that make components, vehicle companies that provide parts, how far do you take it?

Worker exploitation : Well this is every company that exists.

Animal exploitation : Irrelevent to the discussion and an ill defined idea. Who decides what animal exploitation is? Eating them? Testing products on them? Hunting them for sport?

Environmental destruction/ Independent small scale companies : Independent of what? Not of capitalism. Small companies are often the worst when it comes to pay and conditions and staff turnover. Also small scale production is more wasteful of resources and energy than is well planned and large scale production.

Making these types of choices is not political and is not anti-capitalist.

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back2front
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May 14 2009 14:08
Liam_Derry wrote:
back2front wrote:
Saying that such activities as boycotts might close down a company and result in the unemployment of workers are short-sighted for it’s like suggesting we should not have stood against Hitler for fear the stormtroopers and Gestapo would be on the breadline as a result.

Comparing those who work for McDonalds or CocaCola with Hitlers Gestapo is lifestylist nonsense of the worst kind. Whether you work for McDonalds, CocaCola or the most right on trendy environmentally friendly company makes no difference, as you are still working for a capitalist and contributing to their quest for profit before human need.

Making choices about buying or not buying a particular product is not a political act, it is simply capitalist consumerism in action. Those who would berate people for using certain companies are completely missing the point. Capitalism WANTS you to take this approach. Pitting business against business is what it is all about. The quest for enhanced profits and competition is what drives capitalist markets.

The shareholders of CocaCola and McDonalds don't give a shit about what those companies produce or how they do it. Indeed if a mass campaign against McDonalds impacted their business then their shareholders would just invest their cash elsewhere. Perhaps in some new trendy eco vegan treehugging burger bar!

See my last post

No I was comparing organisations, please read the post carefully. To reiterate - companies like McShite are mega-exploitative - I refer you to the McLibel campaign for details - what I'm questioning is that to say we should let them, and similar transnational corporations, carry on regardless because we don't want anyone to lose their jobes is short-sighted because if these comapanies continue as they are continuing then quite simply we are fucked. There are finite resources on this planet. The wars going on in the Middle east are a resource grab so that dominant elites such as the US and their coporate backers can maintain their empire status. Abuse of resources has meant continual pollution to the extent that global warming is getting out of control which will result in flooding, freak weather patterns and disasters on the grand scale in coming years. These are the excesses of capitalism so shouldn't we try to curb the excess of capitalism before it threatens our very survival and then consider capitalism the philosophy at a later date? rather than hoping for some grand revolution might we not take practical measures within our own means without posturing over abstract concepts of puritanical forms of anarchy?

I'm not berating anyone for the choices they make. I'm saying I don't accept that people should be dismissed because they do make ethical judgements on where their money goes which is what appears to be happening here. I am saying that if this is ALL people do then it is lifestylism and nothing more.

We fight for workers rights and we are pleased when their wages and conditions improve though we are under no illusion about 'victory'. Similarily wouldn't you prefer a company to make drinks that didn't cause mass exploitation and enviromental destrcution in the process and while you're under no illusion that they are still capitalists you could be pleased about it?

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Joseph Kay
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May 14 2009 14:17
back2front wrote:
I want to know whether or not the company is involved in (...) worker exploitation

I suspect this is the difference here. all companies are involved in worker exploitation, by definition. that said, boycotts have been used successfully in the workers movement at times - eg the 1934 Damm boycott by the CNT - however this was against a backdrop of mass, militant struggles and called by an organisation with far-reaching support amongst the working class and peasantry. that's a far cry from the guilt-free consumerism you're advocating, imho.

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back2front
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May 14 2009 14:29
Liam_Derry wrote:
back2front wrote:
Which companies to boycott? That's your choice in that it depends how far you want to take it. For most things I buy I want to know whether or not the company is involved in warfare, worker exploitation, animal exploitation, environmental destruction and tend to go for independent small scale companies as far as possible.

Involved in warfare : How do you define this? Computer companies that make components, vehicle companies that provide parts, how far do you take it?

er that's what I said - it's a personal choice it depends how far you want to take it.... principally the manufacture and supply of arms...

Liam_Derry wrote:
Worker exploitation : Well this is every company that exists.

some are less exploitative than others so surely that's better?

Liam_Derry wrote:
[Animal exploitation : Irrelevent to the discussion and an ill defined idea. Who decides what animal exploitation is? Eating them? Testing products on them? Hunting them for sport?

Massive area that perhaps calls for a seperate post - as an illustration the current threat of swine flu is a result of exploitative factory farming on pig farms in Mexico and the US...

Environmental destruction/ Independent small scale companies : Independent of what? Not of capitalism. Small companies are often the worst when it comes to pay and conditions and staff turnover. Also small scale production is more wasteful of resources and energy than is well planned and large scale production.

Making these types of choices is not political and is not anti-capitalist.

Oh I would say that every act is a political act... to reiterate (again) would you prefer if your beer was made by a company that paid good wages to it's workers through participatory economics for example, used the best ingredients it could find, had minimal enviromnmental impact etc or would you prefer it came from any old crap company who treated its workers like shite, used the cheapest ingredients which were known to have health issues etcetc.

Dimissing every company because they are capitalist is short-sighted.

Fletcher
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May 14 2009 14:39
back2front wrote:
would you prefer if your beer was made by a company that paid good wages to it's workers through participatory economics for example, used the best ingredients it could find, had minimal enviromnmental impact etc or would you prefer it came from any old crap company who treated its workers like shite, used the cheapest ingredients which were known to have health issues etc etc.

I don't drink beer. I prefer Coca Cola.

back2front wrote:
Dimissing every company because they are capitalist is short-sighted.

Is it? Well then we better call off this whole anarchist/communist thing then.

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back2front
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May 14 2009 14:42
Joseph Kay wrote:
back2front wrote:
I want to know whether or not the company is involved in (...) worker exploitation

I suspect this is the difference here. all companies are involved in worker exploitation, by definition. that said, boycotts have been used successfully in the workers movement at times - eg the 1934 Damm boycott by the CNT - however this was against a backdrop of mass, militant struggles and called by an organisation with far-reaching support amongst the working class and peasantry. that's a far cry from the guilt-free consumerism you're advocating, imho.

Yes I'd accept that, but I'm not advocating guilt-free consumerism Joseph. In fact I am using a very basic logic. Anarchism is the long game. In practical terms we are going to get worker reforms on the road and we will keep fighting for reforms even though we know that this isn't victory. We improve things as go, we try to curb the worst excesses and we hope we will create a foudation for anarchist ideas. The boycotting of companies has the same remit, to curb the worst excesses, to expose the worst practices... and also in doing so you get a glimpse of what way you'd like things to run in future because we will still have companies making products but what's the point of them being controlled by workers if they are still wrecking the enviroment by exploitation of finite resources or pollution?