Anarchist society and logistics and "human resources"

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Vlad The Inhaler's picture
Vlad The Inhaler
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Jun 27 2018 12:20
Anarchist society and logistics and "human resources"

I dislike the term human resources but can't think of a better way to describe the concept right now...

I was thinking about the absolute basket case the Tories, and New Labour before them, have made of British services and infrastructure. I've been to the local doctor's surgery a few times recently and the complete chaos that is NHS organisation was completely laid bare. I don't use the trains but know plenty of people that do and they same the same of the rail. Privatisation has completely atomised and antagonised the whole infrastructure of our public services. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

My question, and one that has always bugged me, is basically how would a future fedarative Anarchist society deal with antagonisms between different collectives who may well have conflicting visions of the production and delivery of products and services (things which are still going to be very much in demand post Capitalism).

One of the things that always made sense about Statist Socialism was the "understanding" that in order to overcome these antagonisms (at least in the short term whilst society reconstitutes and reconfigures itself in the wake of a revolution) there would need to be some "neutral" arbiter (i.e - a workers state) that could coordinate and in some cases override or compel certain groups to not work a three day week, for example a group that happened to live and produce in an area abundant with the conditions and resources necessary for water purification because, damn it, we need clean water over here - we're working our asses off to provide you with good healthy food and stuff etc.

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Jun 27 2018 17:42

This is a very important problem, and I'd say it doesn't really have a solution. Rather, it goes to show why the traditional libertarian notion of an anarchist society – a network of autonomous, self-managed communes of producers, which establish links with other such communes through some unspecified mechanisms of "mutual help" – is a non-starter. As argued by Bordiguists, communism will require "a harmonious planetary planning of production and distribution of use values according to real social needs". This means that different production hubs (which can no longer be described as enterprises) will not be run and controlled exclusively by those who work in them according to their whims, but rather by society as a whole according to an agreed-upon plan.

(Interestingly, Bordiga was not a state socialist in the sense of believing that this social control of production on a planetary scale would require the continued existence of the state. He did believe, however, that it would be exercised in a centralized manner by some sort of meritocratic – and therefore unelected and unaccountable – "social brain". In this respect, his position is obviously vulnerable to even the most basic anarchist criticism, but the points he raised in his critique of enterprise socialism still stand.)

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Jun 27 2018 16:31

Not got time right now to answer your whole question, but wanted to make a quick comment on this bit:

Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
One of the things that always made sense about Statist Socialism was the "understanding" that in order to overcome these antagonisms (at least in the short term whilst society reconstitutes and reconfigures itself in the wake of a revolution) there would need to be some "neutral" arbiter (i.e - a workers state) that could coordinate and in some cases override or compel certain groups to not work a three day week, for example a group that happened to live and produce in an area abundant with the conditions and resources necessary for water purification because, damn it, we need clean water over here - we're working our asses off to provide you with good healthy food and stuff etc.

a lot of statist socialists say this type of thing. However at least when it comes to "revolutionary" socialist like Leninists or Trotskyists, this isn't actually valid. Because the end goal of revolutionary Marxism is the same as anarchism: a free, classless, stateless communist society. They only support a state as a transitional measure. So long-term this problem is the same for all types of revolutionary politics

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Jun 27 2018 17:10
Steven. wrote:
Not got time right now to answer your whole question, but wanted to make a quick comment on this bit:
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
One of the things that always made sense about Statist Socialism was the "understanding" that in order to overcome these antagonisms (at least in the short term whilst society reconstitutes and reconfigures itself in the wake of a revolution) there would need to be some "neutral" arbiter (i.e - a workers state) that could coordinate and in some cases override or compel certain groups to not work a three day week, for example a group that happened to live and produce in an area abundant with the conditions and resources necessary for water purification because, damn it, we need clean water over here - we're working our asses off to provide you with good healthy food and stuff etc.

a lot of statist socialists say this type of thing. However at least when it comes to "revolutionary" socialist like Leninists or Trotskyists, this isn't actually valid. Because the end goal of revolutionary Marxism is the same as anarchism: a free, classless, stateless communist society. They only support a state as a transitional measure. So long-term this problem is the same for all types of revolutionary politics

Well, sort of. The workers State as a concept is conceived, by Marxists, as being in essence the period of the process of the reconstitution, reconfiguration and transition from Capitalism to Communism, i.e - Socialism - Socialism defined as the phase of collective ownership and democratic management of the formally, although still vestigially, Capitalist society.

In that sense the typical Marxist would respond that their Communism (stateless, classless, moneyless society) is only possible once the very antagonisms between different hubs of production and service (as well as all other antagonisms derived from Capitalism) are eradicated. They propose to do this through central planning and to a greater or lesser degree diplomacy between hard to reconcile spheres and units of production.

Mike Harman
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Jun 27 2018 17:50

Have you read https://libcom.org/blog/insurrection-production-29082016 ? It tries to talk about logistics and planning during the early months of an insurrection in the UK. Unfortunately the original discussion there got derailed by a misreading that it was advocating compulsory living units, but the article is the most recent I've seen on this.

The other one I go back to is: https://libcom.org/blog/disaster-communism-part-3-logistics-repurposing-bricolage-22052014

Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
for example a group that happened to live and produce in an area abundant with the conditions and resources necessary for water purification because, damn it, we need clean water over here - we're working our asses off to provide you with good healthy food and stuff etc.

I think talking about water, food, electric etc. is important because these are actually the most fragile systems under capitalism. i.e. there are hundreds of millions of computers in the UK that can be kept going for years if necessary, but food and water could run out within days. Too often people focus on the complex durable goods not the ones that could have people dying within weeks.

First answer: don't the people living in that area also need clean water? In that case it's in their interest that there is clean water.

But also, at least looking at the UK, there's a lot of scope for greywater recycling and rainwater collection on a household/block/neighbourhood scale. while that technology exists, it's considerably more expensive than using mains water so barely anywhere installs it.

What it does is allow you to:
1. Reduce the amount of potable water used without actually cutting down on the actual volume of water used.
2. Reduce the quantity of waste water that needs to be processed

You can use grey water mostly for flushing toilets and watering gardens/crops. Mostly it relies on rerouting some plumbing and sticking big plastic tanks underground, so most people could learn to do it and help.

This would then put less stress on water tables and processing plants, although obviously would still need them.

And the other argument is to look at somewhere like Flint where a local aquifer has been bought up for bottled water and the relatively small in the scheme of things $90m to fix their system still hasn't appeared, while people are getting bills for dirty water. Or large populations still with no sanitation or reliable fresh water at all.

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Jun 27 2018 18:17

Thanks for the response (and links).

I think we're probably starting from slightly different premises. When I read Anarchist writings on this kind of thing it usually seems to skip over the difficult process of actually reaching a point where every Local has the skills and infrastructure to provide all of their own needs and hence has no great need to put in huge orders for skills and resources from other Locals that have them in abundance. To my mind this is a far more complex and drawn out process than some Anarchists would seem to want to admit. Until all Locals are able to meet their basic needs there are going to be power structures still very much existing between Locals which threatens the emergence of a new and as yet unimagined class system emerging between the more developed Locals and the "developing" Locals.

Mike Harman
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Jun 27 2018 19:27
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
Until all Locals are able to meet their basic needs there are going to be power structures still very much existing between Locals which threatens the emergence of a new and as yet unimagined class system

In the AWW article they talk about a 'local' being about 200 people. Let's say 2-500 people that's about the same as a city block or a housing estate. There is no way for a small unit like that to be self-sufficient (unless it's some kind of rural commune) so they would always need to co-operate at a broader level.

You'd have to try to agree a decision making process as early as possible. So let's take a town of 200,000 people including the surrounding countryside, that's 1,000 'locals' of 200 people each.

Decisions at the town-wide level might need a super-majority of individuals in a referendum sort of thing, or a super-majority of locals (and that might vary depending on the decision).

If you've got two towns (say a land-locked one with a train station, and a coastal one with good fishing but no transport links) and a dispute, then you might have to push decision making up a level to the regional confederation to arbitrate or something.

Or to put it differently the way to avoid counter-revolution is to have structures in place to balance conflicting needs and mediate disputes up front.

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Jun 27 2018 20:14
Quote:
My question, and one that has always bugged me, is basically how would a future fedarative Anarchist society deal with antagonisms between different collectives who may well have conflicting visions of the production and delivery of products and services (things which are still going to be very much in demand post Capitalism).

Are you asking how would we deal with the possibility that other collectives or communes will organise themselves according to different conceptions of a post capitalist society? If that is your question; all I can say right now is that we would obviously have to push communism as wide possible, by encouraging as much as production to be organised, on the basis of federalism, to meet societal needs, and thereby convincing others of the advantages of our social arrangement. There wouldn't need to be any force involved, unless these other collectives or communes (based on mutualism? collectivism?) become antagonistic and perhaps try to actively undermine our communes.

But your question also read as if as posing the what if scenario of collectives or communes having differing levels of demand for goods and services, which may pose practical challenges for society as a whole, and therefore lead to strife between them? If we found ourselves in such a situation, that would obviously be an incomplete revolution and the response I can offer is the same as the one above.

Your other comments seem to assume that anarchists are pushing for a kind of localism, while the 'state socialists' are the only ones who understand the need to go beyond that, or at least, to provide a 'neutral arbiter' to resolve the types of conflicts between collectives or communes that I think your suggesting is a possibility.

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Jun 27 2018 22:09
Vlad The Inhaler wrote:
When I read Anarchist writings on this kind of thing it usually seems to skip over the difficult process of actually reaching a point where every Local has the skills and infrastructure to provide all of their own needs and hence has no great need to put in huge orders for skills and resources from other Locals that have them in abundance. To my mind this is a far more complex and drawn out process than some Anarchists would seem to want to admit. Until all Locals are able to meet their basic needs there are going to be power structures still very much existing between Locals which threatens the emergence of a new and as yet unimagined class system emerging between the more developed Locals and the "developing" Locals.

This post is kinda evident of the conflation of anarchism with localism. While there are some who are probably guilty of a kind of localistic thinking, most anarchists in general do not idealise a future society consisting of locality based groupings of producers which are completely self sufficient and do not seek to federate between themselves (since they see no need for it). And such a society is not even possible nor desirable. For what its worth, you can probably find the closest to examples of proposals which leaves open the possibility for inequalities, and therefore conflict, between groupings in the historical collectivist tendency within anarchism*. Perhaps those are the writings you are referring to?

Once again, if we find ourselves in such a situation, we should not advocate and participate in the creation of a state. It would be a total misdirection of our time and effort. It's rather similar to some left communists, such as the ICC, who argue for a 'semi state', because they see classes as still in existence after the social revolution, simply because the ex capitalists whose property has been expropriated will act as counter revolutionary forces**.

*there's also the mutualists. I'm not excluding them from anarchism, but are they really worth considering?
**true, but that doesn't justify advocating and participating in the creation of a 'semi state'.

Mike Harman
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Jun 27 2018 22:09
Agent of the International wrote:
This post is kinda evident of the conflation of anarchism with localism. While there are some who are probably guilty of a kind of localistic thinking, most anarchists in general do not idealise a future society consisting of locality based groupings of producers which are completely self sufficient and do not seek to federate between themselves (since they see no need for it).

Yes it sounds like that to me as well. Also a variation on the 'free rider problem' or the 'tragedy of the commons' which generally start from the premise of isolated actors.

I might have contributed to this with the rainwater collection example, but with that was trying to point out that there are usually multiple solutions to the same issue (for enough clean water to meet needs) and that some will require centralised planning (construction of a new reservoir or desalinisation plant, federated organisation could do this, but they're large infrastructure projects), and some don't (water butts and watering fields with grey water) even though the end result (potable water supply doesn't run dry) might be exactly the same).

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Jun 28 2018 06:09

That would be the point of collective and horizontal decision making. The state is not accountable to anyone because it is the arbiter of accountability. It decides what can and can not be done through the law unilaterally while federations of communes are organized through the participation of each person involved. No decision effecting many, or all of those people can be made without the input of all effected.

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Aug 1 2018 17:57
Mike Harman wrote:
I might have contributed to this with the rainwater collection example, but with that was trying to point out that there are usually multiple solutions to the same issue (for enough clean water to meet needs) and that some will require centralised planning (construction of a new reservoir or desalinisation plant, federated organisation could do this, but they're large infrastructure projects), and some don't (water butts and watering fields with grey water) even though the end result (potable water supply doesn't run dry) might be exactly the same).

Coming back to this: I have now realised that I didn't really understand what you meant here in your distinction between 'centralised planning' and 'federated organisation'. When a similar topic was raised in another thread, you wrote that you weren't "sure centralisation vs. decentralisation is a good distinction to make here". But you then argue that:

Mike Harman wrote:
The process of deciding what and how much to produce is likely to require large-scale decision making, this can be various configurations of mandated and recallable delegates etc. but that's still centralisation in the sense that it's co-ordination upwards towards a central point - bottom-up centralisation but centralisation nonetheless. Doesn't mean everything has to go through that process, just the stuff that needs to.

Your use of the term 'centralisation' here is true to one of the multiple definitions provided, when e.g. you consult google, or wikipedia, or online dictionaries. But it basically ignores the meaning historically attached to concepts such as 'federalism' and 'centralism' within the socialist movement. From the anarchist pov, these are not only principles which inform the practices of workers coming together and creating organisations that suits their needs, but also underlie a significant difference between two different theories on the relationship between human beings and ideas.

What you have written, I am in general agreement with, but to raise "co-ordination upwards towards a central point" to a matter of principle which you call 'centralisation' is kinda mistaken imo. It's basically similar to silly marxists who argue in favor of "mass" action as opposed to 'direct action'. Perhaps, that is not what you are doing here but it still risks carrying on these conversations in which double meanings are attached to these terms.

Mike Harman
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Aug 2 2018 04:32
Agent of the International wrote:
But it basically ignores the meaning historically attached to concepts such as 'federalism' and 'centralism' within the socialist movement.

Right but 'centralism' and 'centralisation' are actually different words. I'm not a fan of dictionary quoting, but nevertheless going to do it here:

Google dictionary:

"centralism"
1. the control of disparate activities and organizations under a single authority.

centralisation:
1. "the concentration of control of an activity or organization under a single authority."
2. "the action or process of bringing activities together in one place."

So 'centralisation' and 'federalism' are absolutely not opposing concepts when you take the latter definition, because 'federalism' or 'confederalism' is the organisational principle and the level of 'centralisation' or the lack of it is just the level at which a particular thing happens within that structure.

For an example, web standards have been massively centralised in the past ten years. If you use internet explorer, safari, chrome, firefox, or opera, probably 98% of features work the same way, sites look and interact more or less the same. This is done by a standards body (https://www.w3.org/) which has various members that can both suggest changes and agree to adopt ones that are agreed (and it doesn't stop them doing stuff outside that structure). 15 years ago you'd have sites that would only work with IE6 - because IE6 supported completely different things to netscape and people wouldn't bother to build websites that worked with all of them.

Another example would be USB cables. Phone and tablet companies (and some other electronics now too like bike lights) have slowly standardised first on USB charging, and later on specific USB connectors - so that you can charge almost any phone or tablet with almost any USB charger and cable (except Apple which still requires proprietary connectors).

Again they haven't done that out of some communist impulse. It'll be 1. Saving $2 per phone not having to supply a charger and cable 2. Greenwashing about how not supplying chargers is good for the environement and re-use (not a lie, but pales in comparison to the phone, or dodgy chargers and USB cables that break after a year anyway).

However the general trend that more and more devices can use the same chargers and cables is good, and making it clear that federalism allows for large scale co-ordination and standards is worth doing against straw man takes against decentralisation and autonomy.