Anarchists have historically supported reforms, right?

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DekuScrub3's picture
DekuScrub3
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Feb 13 2015 19:03
Anarchists have historically supported reforms, right?

I hope this isn't so ignorant that people feel the need to jump down my throat. But anarchists have historically supported concessions from both capitalists (ie. wage hike at specific company) and the state (wage hike at federal level?), right?

Are there any good historical examples of prominent anarchists doing this? I'd just like to keep them in my pocket for when I run into the more-revolutionary-than-thou crowds who don't really support anything in the here and now.

boomerang
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Feb 13 2015 19:40

I'd say yes, but we care at least as much about how the reforms are won than we do about the reforms themselves. We want reforms to be won in a way that build class power, solidarity, and consciousness. When done in this way, fighting for reforms can build a bridge to revolution. Not that the reforms themselves are the bridge, but rather the power, solidarity, and consciousness we develop while we fight for them.

When reforms are won in ways that rely on electoralism, lobbying, petitioning, arbitration, etc., this maintains and deepens our dependency on external sources of power (the same sources of power that also oppress us), and it weakens our own power. It erodes the potential for solidarity and counters the developing of revolutionary consciousness. So while we might be happy about the reform itself, we'd see reforms won in this way as being as much of a defeat as a victory.

History... the entire anarcho-syndicalist movement is full of examples of fighting for and winning reforms from employers. I think general strikes have also been used by syndicalists to win reforms from the state, but I don't know specific examples.

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plasmatelly
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Feb 13 2015 21:24

Great post boomerang

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Feb 13 2015 21:28
boomerang wrote:
I'd say yes, but we care at least as much about how the reforms are won than we do about the reforms themselves. We want reforms to be won in a way that build class power, solidarity, and consciousness. When done in this way, fighting for reforms can build a bridge to revolution. Not that the reforms themselves are the bridge, but rather the power, solidarity, and consciousness we develop while we fight for them.

When reforms are won in ways that rely on electoralism, lobbying, petitioning, arbitration, etc., this maintains and deepens our dependency on external sources of power (the same sources of power that also oppress us), and it weakens our own power. It erodes the potential for solidarity and counters the developing of revolutionary consciousness. So while we might be happy about the reform itself, we'd see reforms won in this way as being as much of a defeat as a victory.

History... the entire anarcho-syndicalist movement is full of examples of fighting for and winning reforms from employers. I think general strikes have also been used by syndicalists to win reforms from the state, but I don't know specific examples.

Thanks!

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Feb 13 2015 22:23
boomerang wrote:
I'd say yes, but we care at least as much about how the reforms are won than we do about the reforms themselves. We want reforms to be won in a way that build class power, solidarity, and consciousness. When done in this way, fighting for reforms can build a bridge to revolution. Not that the reforms themselves are the bridge, but rather the power, solidarity, and consciousness we develop while we fight for them.

When reforms are won in ways that rely on electoralism, lobbying, petitioning, arbitration, etc., this maintains and deepens our dependency on external sources of power (the same sources of power that also oppress us), and it weakens our own power. It erodes the potential for solidarity and counters the developing of revolutionary consciousness. So while we might be happy about the reform itself, we'd see reforms won in this way as being as much of a defeat as a victory.

History... the entire anarcho-syndicalist movement is full of examples of fighting for and winning reforms from employers. I think general strikes have also been used by syndicalists to win reforms from the state, but I don't know specific examples.

sanest thing ive read on here for while.

boomerang
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Feb 17 2015 02:22

Aw, shucks... thanks. It's a nice little boost to get after getting way too drunk at a party on Friday, then crying/yelling/ranting about how the world is horribly fucked (while all other conversations stopped and all eyes on me), and spending the entire weekend feeling humiliated for making myself look like a psycho.

But credit really belongs to Solidarity and Maurice Brinton:

Quote:
Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the egalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others -- even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.

As for my little meltdown, I'm actually usually a relatively happy person, whether sober or (moderately) drunk... I recognize the world is horribly fucked, but for some reason manage to go on day to day feeling alright. But being too drunk can put me in a very bleak mood.

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Feb 17 2015 02:04

Reforms are a complicated problem for radicals. I think that as working class militants, we ought to push for them in ways that do all those things that Brinton points out above, but our politics should point out how 1. the reforms are limited, and 2. how most of the time they cannot even be won without, like, some real direct pressure (strikes, riots, occupations, takeovers etc.)

I don't know, but the Brinton quote sounds really close to activist-maoism in the content of it's suggestion, i.e. that if "the masses" just "get active" their instincts/material interests/whatever else will lead them to abolish capitalism. But this is ironic, because bad politics is often part of what confuses the proletariat in historical periods (WWI, Post WWI, Spain, etc.).

I don't mean to put words into anyone's mouths; I don't think anyone here is saying exactly this, but it's something I've been working through in my head recently and would love feedback.

boomerang
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Feb 17 2015 02:21

That's not how I interpret Brinton, but other than that, I agree with your point that we shouldn't expect the desire for libertarian-communism to just arise spontaneously during struggle. There needs to be people making the case for this, spreading the ideas, etc., and these efforts will be most effective if we're working together in an anarchist federation. I think the thing is, though, that it's only during struggle that the desire for libertarian-communism can really gain mass support.

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Feb 17 2015 10:33

Yeah, great post by boomerang.

Further along that line I'd say more generally that rather than "support" reforms in abstract what we do is participate in struggles for material improvements for working class people, and we do so using the ways which we think of the most effective: self organisation, solidarity and direct action.

Examples include things like the historical 8 hour day movement in the US or the anti-poll tax movement in the UK.

Whether someone just "supports" something or not I think is basically irrelevant as it doesn't really mean anything. What matters is what you do.

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Feb 17 2015 13:18

Yeah, great posts from Boomerang and Steven.

Quote:
Whether someone just "supports" something or not I think is basically irrelevant as it doesn't really mean anything

When I was younger I used to talk politics at work, to the point my managers knew I was a radical of some time. And a label like that can be very cute - you're an eccentric or an idealist. In any case, it never landed me in hot water.

Now, I'm older, I make an effort not to talk politics at work and I've got disciplined (and sacked) more than once trying to put those ideas into action.

And it cuts both ways. I once had a Trotskyist boss. Didn't f*cking stop him coming after the union at work when we brought up - not national issues, which he was fine with - but issues in our immediate workplace.

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Feb 17 2015 14:29

Did your Trotskyist boss think he establish 'socialism in one workplace'?

Spikymike
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Feb 18 2015 11:41

Some of the interpretations above of the now almost famous, and in my opinion valid, Solidarity 'principle' quoted seems to me to be only partially correct ( though it still leaves us to argue over which 'actions' are actually 'meaningful' in todays modern global capitalism). Still it would be worthwhile people here having a look at some of the arguments within the old UK Solidarity group particularly around the issue of the significance of the concept of 'self-management' as Brinton was on one side of a particular approach which certainly would reject any idea that working class struggle however independent would somehow automaticlly lead to revolutionary change without the active involvement of organised conscious pro-revolutionary groups. Plus as anarchist-communists and others, pursuing or defending a particular reform was never taken to be support or encouragement for 'reformism' that is as a path which could somehow involve a gradual transformation of capitalism into socialism, whether achieved through the accumulation of legislative reforms by electoral means or by some building up of socialist structures within the shell of capitalism through direct action (or a mixture of both). Plus it should be remembered that reforms are in practice the lifeblood of capitalism, even many of those actively pursued against it's ideological defenders, given capitalism's abillity to absorb and benefit from such through different phases of it's development.