Why haven't we won yet?

26 posts / 0 new
Last post
futility index
Offline
Joined: 4-08-07
Oct 21 2008 17:57
Why haven't we won yet?

What do people reckon is wrong with the anarchist movement if anything? And what actually is a low class-struggle period, how did it come about and how can it be overcome? (Also what is good to read about the last bit?)

Apologies if youve had these discussions many times but i need educating.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Online
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 21 2008 18:19

big questions!

well as to the 'anarchist movement,' i don't think there is one in any meaningful sense to be honest. there's a few hundred at most people in formal organisations, and maybe a wider milieu of several thousand identifying as 'anarchists' of some form or other. many of these 'anarchists' hold views diametrically opposed to each other. although this sounds like a pessimistic assessment, i think there has been a shift towards class politics since the decline of the summit protest movement, and there are tentative signs of co-operation between class struggle anarchists (and non-anarchists) around concrete projects, like Tea Break (although possibly i'm over-stating due to a pleasantly constructive meeting at the bookfair).

as to the low class struggle, the classic answer is we as a class haven't recovered from the defeats of the 80s, which were themselves a response to the victories of the 70s. as to how it can be overcome, i think we just have to start where we are - talking to workmates and friends, trying to organise and spread the idea that collective, direct action gets the goods while divided we are defeated, and agitating within struggles for them to spread across divisions of workplace, union, sector etc and to be controlled by the workers in struggle themselves (i.e. anarchist principles/tactics).

futility index
Offline
Joined: 4-08-07
Oct 21 2008 21:11
Joseph K. wrote:
many of these 'anarchists' hold views diametrically opposed to each other.

Why does this matter? The post-revolution scenario i imagine would involve a number of different social systems/microsocieties cooperating together. I cant think of any other possible scenario that wouldnt have this aspect and remain anarchist. Therefore, even if how a person wants to live after the state is dismantled is disagreeable, isnt the fact that they are looking to end the state common ground enough to work with them?

Joseph K wrote:
...agitating within struggles for them to spread across divisions of workplace, union, sector etc and to be controlled by the workers in struggle themselves (i.e. anarchist principles/tactics).

So basically if it aint broke? A problem I have with these traditional forms of organisation is that ive never really understood how we get from people striking to improve their lives under capitalism to wanting to end it. I see the class struggle as having two parts. Part A is a better material condition (wages etc) and almost all workers will move to get this through collective action if theres a tradition of it in their employment sector. Part B is a better psychological condition (having real control of your own life and the life of your community) and here lies the problem - the people that are conviced of the desireability and possiblity of A very often arent convinced of the desireability and possibility of B and what could be revolutionary collapses into reformism.

Why does this happen?

tigersiskillers
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Oct 21 2008 21:37
futility index wrote:
Joseph K. wrote:
many of these 'anarchists' hold views diametrically opposed to each other.

Why does this matter? The post-revolution scenario i imagine would involve a number of different social systems/microsocieties cooperating together. I cant think of any other possible scenario that wouldnt have this aspect and remain anarchist. Therefore, even if how a person wants to live after the state is dismantled is disagreeable, isnt the fact that they are looking to end the state common ground enough to work with them?

The problem is that the differences are often as diametrically opposed as Joseph K said, at least in the wider world of anarchists outside the formal organisations. While I don't think there's one true way to a new society or way such a society could work, there are plenty of people whose ideas about getting from here to there are confused, stupid, counter-productive and so on. On top of that, their ideas about what 'there' looks like are similarly confused, and sometimes (in my eyes) horrific.

Working on the basis of my enemy's enemy is my friend would lead to dodgy bedfellows. Anarcho-capitalists want to get rid of the state, as do so-called 'national anarchists' and primitivists. I wouldn't want to work hand in hand with any of them.

There's nothing wrong with working alongside like minded groups, but there has to be a degree of commonality there I think.

futility index wrote:

A problem I have with these traditional forms of organisation is that ive never really understood how we get from people striking to improve their lives under capitalism to wanting to end it. I see the class struggle as having two parts. Part A is a better material condition (wages etc) and almost all workers will move to get this through collective action if theres a tradition of it in their employment sector. Part B is a better psychological condition (having real control of your own life and the life of your community) and here lies the problem - the people that are conviced of the desireability and possiblity of A very often arent convinced of the desireability and possibility of B and what could be revolutionary collapses into reformism.

Why does this happen?

Perhaps the problem is the way reforms are won. If these struggles for better conditions are mediated through representatives - political parties, hierarchical unions etc then the status quo is reinforced. If they come about through genuine collective action then the door is left open for such struggles to get broader and deeper.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Online
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 21 2008 21:44
futility index wrote:
isnt the fact that they are looking to end the state common ground enough to work with them?

well in the extreme, some primitivist 'anarchists' want 98% of the worlds population to die off (some openly wish for it, others convince themselves it's an inevitable result of the 'inevitable collapse'). others think the major division in society is between doctors (who are 'murderous nazis'), and patients (anyone who disagrees with this "is automatically and undeniably a Nazi" too). there are a whole host of other mentals claiming the label. working with people because they share an abstract label when in fact they share no politics in common is a non-starter:

class struggle anarchist: how can we support the upcoming strike?
primitivist: WORKERIST RED FASCIST! you want to chain me to the factory and send me to the gulag! re-wild, the die-off of the empty vessel consumer-drones is no loss.
SPK member: you're all medico-NAZIs! you want to be healthy!! illness is a protest!
primitivist: well when we abolish all technology, and maybe language the remaining 2% of the worlds population won't live very long, so i'm not a NAZI.
class struggle anarchist: WTF!?!!?

i mean i don't expect an anarchist society to be homogenous, but neither will it be each to their own, it's not an individualist free-for-all; although i'd hope people who wanted to live wild in the forest could do so, if they really wanted to (i suspect it's a romantic dream of alienated urbanites more than a serious proposition). in short i'm not interested in building a successful 'anarchist movement' per se, but a successful workers movement, of which anarchist ideas and organisations will almost certainly play a part.

futility index wrote:
Why does this happen?

that's a massive question, since the reasons any particular struggle doesn't go beyond itself are likely to be to some extent unique in each case - there's no simple universal solution. a more pertinent question is how do we help such struggles spread, and go beyond themselves to take on a more revolutionary character (as has happened at some points in history)? i mean we're pretty much compelled by life as wage slaves to do 'Part A' anyway - and in my (limited) experience a lack of control is one of the first complaints even in this kind of struggle. as i wrote on another thread i can't find right now, the experience of 'A' creates the possibility for 'B' as workers discover through practice what they share with each other, and who it is who opposes them.

marx talked about the difference between class in-itself struggles and class for-itself struggles, the latter being a conscious assertion of our needs as a class, the latter being more defensive struggles. it also resembles the old philosophical problem of how to move from the particular (my problems with my boss) to the general (our class interests against capital). again, there is no easy answer, although i suspect the answer(s) will not be found by contemplation alone, but by trial and error, incorporating the lessons of history as much as possible so we don't have to re-invent the wheel. but as i say there are historical precendents for this movement from struggles to improve our conditions as a class, to struggles to abolish ourselves as a class, so it is a possibility, even if what worked in 1917 or 1936 is different to what would work today. and of course none of these struggles were 100% successful, or we wouldn't be having this conversation.

tigersiskillers
Offline
Joined: 7-08-06
Oct 23 2008 10:02

Joseph K always writes what I'm thinking, but puts it much better. sad

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Online
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 23 2008 10:14

maybe, but you have a better tattoo

fort-da game
Offline
Joined: 16-02-06
Oct 23 2008 14:02
Quote:
class struggle anarchist: how can we support the upcoming strike?
primitivist: WORKERIST RED FASCIST! you want to chain me to the factory and send me to the gulag! re-wild, the die-off of the empty vessel consumer-drones is no loss.
SPK member: you're all medico-NAZIs! you want to be healthy!! illness is a protest!
primitivist: well when we abolish all technology, and maybe language the remaining 2% of the worlds population won't live very long, so i'm not a NAZI.
class struggle anarchist: WTF!?!!?

Joseph K’s parody is not so far from the truth perhaps because it focuses on the point where social criticism attempts to define a new terrain; these arguments, to the extent that they exist, are absurd and/or repulsive because they are attempting to define an as yet not existing reality based on the limit of a subcultural preference.

However, in his account, the class struggle anarchist is given all the best lines but in fact he equally shares with the other anarchist-variants an unrealistic perception of future possibilities. The similarities between the anarchist varieties are not restricted to the shared adhesion to an abstract label; the problem for the class struggle anarchist as soon as he passes from critique of existing to conditions to proposing alternatives are of exactly the same magnitude as any other anarchist utopianism: romantic system building; a failure to understand human nature; unrealistic expectations concerning residual capitalist tendencies; unrealistic notions of social movement; unrealistic expectations concerning the potential rationalisability of social organisations; unrealistic expectations concerning the possibility of producing effects on others by distributing ideas...

The real issue within competing radical visions is located in the shared psychology of the social critic; most people are not social critics, they attempt to adapt to already existing conditions as best they can. They are not convinced by ideas of social/systemic change because they do not see how it will effect their lives – we should be quite clear here that most people in the world exist at the level of their individual personal relations, they do not respond, as social critics do, to the question of social relations.

Furthermore, whilst the productive relation is the problem of our existence it does not follow that it is also the solution. One of the advantages of other forms of anarchism over the class struggle-variant is that they talk about other aspects of human existence than the productive order. That element which we could broadly call spiritual, and which forms the greater part of human consciousness next to personal ambition, is entirely missing from class struggle politics and for this reason it remains reductive, two dimensional and unappealing.

None of this addresses the fact that no matter what opinions we hold it has precious little impact on events. It seems more and more likely to me that the idea of change will only really become distributed generally within ordinary social intercourse after social change has actually occurred.

Bob Savage's picture
Bob Savage
Offline
Joined: 15-01-07
Oct 23 2008 14:11
fort-da game wrote:
It seems more and more likely to me that the idea of change will only really become distributed generally within ordinary social intercourse after social change has actually occurred.

Sorry, you'll have to explain exactly what you're suggesting here. sounds quite vanguardist/leninist/whatever.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Online
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 23 2008 15:14
fort-da game wrote:
Joseph K’s parody is not so far from the truth

i could have gone back 5 years into the archive and found some quotes, but i couldn't be arsed.

fort-da game wrote:
However, in his account, the class struggle anarchist is given all the best lines

we also have all the best clothes.

fort-da game wrote:
romantic ... unrealistic ... unrealistic ... unrealistic ... unrealistic

yawn. did 'libcom' say this? to mistake some tentative suggestions about a future society on a thread inviting just that for "romantic system-building" takes a special kind of strawmanicide.

fort-da game wrote:
spiritual

lol.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Oct 23 2008 16:36

As far as I can see it fort-da game, you're saying that there won;t be a revoilution because people won't think one is possible and also that the kind of people that could make a revoluton would only exist after one had happened.

Zazaban
Offline
Joined: 23-10-07
Oct 23 2008 19:42
jef costello wrote:
As far as I can see it fort-da game, you're saying that there won;t be a revoilution because people won't think one is possible and also that the kind of people that could make a revoluton would only exist after one had happened.

Wow, that's the most optimistic thing I've heard all day.

fort-da game
Offline
Joined: 16-02-06
Oct 24 2008 09:54
Joseph K. wrote:
fort-da game wrote:
Joseph K’s parody is not so far from the truth

i could have gone back 5 years into the archive and found some quotes, but i couldn't be arsed.

My point was that it was not so far from the truth, so why should you not be 'arsed'?

fort-da game wrote:
romantic ... unrealistic ... unrealistic ... unrealistic ... unrealistic
Joseph K. wrote:
yawn. did 'libcom' say this? to mistake some tentative suggestions about a future society on a thread inviting just that for "romantic system-building" takes a special kind of strawmanicide.

It has little to do with what 'libcom' says; it is about the framing of a particular discourse which is defined as much by what it excludes of human nature as what it includes. You know that but you feel you must adopt a shrill attitude of denunciation and non-engagement rather than make arguments in favour of your ideas; Perhaps this is to buy yourself time, perhaps you really have no arguments; maybe you want to shut the doubts out you have about your own ideas.

fort-da game wrote:
One of the advantages of other forms of anarchism over the class struggle-variant is that they talk about other aspects of human existence than the productive order. That element which we could broadly call spiritual, and which forms the greater part of human consciousness next to personal ambition, is entirely missing from class struggle politics and for this reason class analysis remains reductive, two dimensional and unappealing.
Joseph K. wrote:
lol.

Why do you laugh out loud? Why do you reduce what I say to the single word, 'spiritual'? Do you think I am more of a believer than you? Do you think I have ' spiritual' beliefs? I can assure you I do not. The point is that many millions, if not billions of people do, and they will continue to hold such beliefs. Do you think the search for meaning in life is laughable?

fort-da game
Offline
Joined: 16-02-06
Oct 24 2008 10:16
jef costello wrote:
As far as I can see it fort-da game, you're saying that there won;t be a revoilution because people won't think one is possible and also that the kind of people that could make a revoluton would only exist after one had happened.

Not quite but I do think revolutionary organisations flourish in numbers after revolutionary opportunities have declined. I think the conditions for revolution are derived from people's desire for it. Consciousness is reactive to events and events always tend to occur beyond conscious control of them. However, by definition, what I think is not important beyond the discussions I am involved in... I do not foresee my ideas as having structural impact on human society in the way that you foresee the realisibility of your ideas.

I would also add here that I think we are sufficiently 'organised' by capital, that the potential for change is already coded into our (historical) situation and that any further 'organisation' is superfluous in the present. It seems to me that both voluntary organisation and consciousness of change are distributed when condtions are most conducive, and occur expressively, contemporaneously, with what is happening (or becoming possible) structurally. My evidence is drawn from my experience, from failures in relations and political projects... Are your ideas drawn from your actual experience, or what you would like to see happen?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Online
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 24 2008 10:17
fort-da game wrote:
My point was that it was not so far from the truth, so why should you not be 'arsed'?

sorry, seems to be a misunderstanding. the reason it's not far from the truth is it's basically a transcript of these boards 5 years ago, only i couldn't be bothered to go back and find actual examples.

fort-da game wrote:
You know that but you feel you must adopt a shrill attitude of denunciation and non-engagement rather than make arguments in favour of your ideas

i've engaged with you patiently at length on the other thread, so this simply isn't true, and the psychoanalytic speculations as to motives are therefore moot. fwiw i openly admit the doubts about my ideas, which is why for example my speculations about what an anarchist society would look like were couched in caveats.

fort-da game wrote:
the framing of a particular discourse which is defined as much by what it excludes of human nature as what it includes.

you'll have to specify what human nature you're talking about, what's been included/excluded etc. otherwise it's hard to distinguish your 'revolution is an unrealistic romantic dream, human nature prevents it, you'll just recreate capitalism...' from the tired old now-conservative former-lefties who opine in the pages of the bourgeois press.

fort-da game wrote:
The point is that many millions, if not billions of people do, and they will continue to hold such beliefs. Do you think the search for meaning in life is laughable?

not at all, absurd maybe. but i don't think introspection is a basis for politics. i'd like to create a world where people can give their lives whatever meaning they want; meaning cannot be found because it is not an objective fact, but subject-immanent. that reminds me, i've been meaning to read that Camus essay for years...

Anyway, yes, billions of people have spiritual beliefs. However, i agree that 'criticism of religion is the foundation of all criticism' - an opposition to capital that appeals to myth and superstition will fail, either by appealing to powers outside our own capacity to change the world or by delivering the class bound and gagged to the most charismatic myth-spinning orators. fortunately, people are fully capable of having spiritual beliefs and acting in their class interest at the same time, and we don't need to pander to their spirituality to make this happen.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Online
Joined: 14-03-06
Oct 24 2008 10:22
fort-da game wrote:
I think we are sufficiently 'organised' by capital, that the potential for change is already coded into our (historical) situation and that any further 'organisation' is superfluous in the present.

a spontaneist? a solfed comrade was victimised and nearly sacked the other day, but the bosses backed down after he and his supporters managed to organise widespread support for a strike. was this superfluous? working class self-activity only appears spontaneous from a safe distance. Claiming to be the voice of experience while others must be inexperienced idealists rings hollow, but once again chimes with the conservative schtick you've got going on.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Oct 24 2008 13:52
fort-da game wrote:
Not quite but I do think revolutionary organisations flourish in numbers after revolutionary opportunities have declined. I think the conditions for revolution are derived from people's desire for it. Consciousness is reactive to events and events always tend to occur beyond conscious control of them. However, by definition, what I think is not important beyond the discussions I am involved in... I do not foresee my ideas as having structural impact on human society in the way that you foresee the realisibility of your ideas.

People's desire for revolution leads to the conditions for revolution emerging but people don't organise until it is too late? Fair enough. What do you mean by conscious control? I don't expect to lead anything, I don't even really expect to change anyone's mind, I do hope to at least provide some help to anyone I can at whatever stage they are at in a move towards revolutionary politics.

Quote:
I would also add here that I think we are sufficiently 'organised' by capital, that the potential for change is already coded into our (historical) situation and that any further 'organisation' is superfluous in the present. It seems to me that both voluntary organisation and consciousness of change are distributed when condtions are most conducive, and occur expressively, contemporaneously, with what is happening (or becoming possible) structurally. My evidence is drawn from my experience, from failures in relations and political projects... Are your ideas drawn from your actual experience, or what you would like to see happen?

By relations do you mean personal stuff, because in that case I feel optimistic. Does that mean I can break up with capitalism like I break up with a girlfirend? I'll not take the analogy any further smile
My ideas aren't taken from actual experience because I've never been involved in a revolution. Communism, to me, is logical, it makes sense. I've seen enough of people to think that despite their many flaws and fuck ups they are all capable of being good and that the pressure of capitalism causes so many of the problems that makes them so unpleasant at times.

futility index
Offline
Joined: 4-08-07
Oct 25 2008 12:51
Quote:
...romantic system building; a failure to understand human nature; unrealistic expectations concerning residual capitalist tendencies; unrealistic notions of social movement; unrealistic expectations concerning the potential rationalisability of social organisations; unrealistic expectations concerning the possibility of producing effects on others by distributing ideas...

There is no 'human nature'. Developmental and social parameters influence our choices, but these parameters are culturally/socially relative. If you actually attempted to support these statements with evidence, you may find all you can say about human nature and its incompatibility with anarchism is based on (extremely generalised) observation of people in a toxic social situation (capitalism).

Quote:
we should be quite clear here that most people in the world exist at the level of their individual personal relations, they do not respond, as social critics do, to the question of social relations.
Quote:
They are not convinced by ideas of social/systemic change because they do not see how it will effect their lives

This is a flaw of anarchist propaganda rather than theory and is easily overcome. I'm currently working on a comic that contrasts the life of a worker in capitalism and a hypothetical anarchist society, libcom has the everyday manifesto, crimethinc's stuff has a strong individual perspective...

yoshomon
Offline
Joined: 19-06-07
Oct 25 2008 21:31
futility index wrote:
This is a flaw of anarchist propaganda rather than theory and is easily overcome. I'm currently working on a comic that contrasts the life of a worker in capitalism and a hypothetical anarchist society, libcom has the everyday manifesto, crimethinc's stuff has a strong individual perspective...

Then why, year after year, do only the same few people agree with you? What the actual effects been of, for example, Crimethinc selling 50,000+ copies of Days of War Nights of Love or the Anarchist Federation distributing x amount of newspapers?

futility index
Offline
Joined: 4-08-07
Oct 26 2008 12:45

All I was saying is that its easy to demonstrate how social change would affect individual lives. I'm not saying having propaganda with an individual focus is a massive step forward, but it is necessary.

Quote:
Then why, year after year, do only the same few people agree with you?

Fuck knows. Maybe there is something in fort da games' statements about the 'shared psychology of the social critic'. There is certainly a value system beneath the surface of communist logic...maybe changing those values is too difficult a task with the methods that are currently employed. What do you think is wrong?

miles's picture
miles
Offline
Joined: 21-09-08
Oct 27 2008 09:56

These are links to 2 articles the ICC wrote in 2000 entitled "Why the proletariat has not yet overthrown capitalism".

They try to draw (albeit briefly) a balance sheet of the workers movement over the last century to draw out the main lines of struggle / reflux and what caused either. Sorry I don't have time to give a better overview of them at the mo.

[url=Enter URL here]http://en.internationalism.org/ir/103/why-no-revolution-01[/url]

[url=Enter URL here]http://en.internationalism.org/ir/104/why-no-revolution-02[/url]

fort-da game
Offline
Joined: 16-02-06
Nov 6 2008 14:00
futility index wrote:
There is no 'human nature'. Developmental and social parameters influence our choices, but these parameters are culturally/socially relative. If you actually attempted to support these statements with evidence, you may find all you can say about human nature and its incompatibility with anarchism is based on (extremely generalised) observation of people in a toxic social situation (capitalism).

I am not making arguments about incompatibility, I am saying relations to concepts that are contained within theories such as ‘anarchism’ are extremely complex and cannot be understood wholly within the parameters of that value system. All undergraduates are taught that there is no human nature, it is a bourgeois shibboleth and theoretically concommitant with the economic necessity of flexibilising labour. If you have ever encountered a person at the edge of their physical and mental tolerances, tormented by the conditions of their existence you will understand immediately that there is a limit to what is human and that beyond it is the inhuman.

If you abandon the orientation point of human nature you have to give up a theory of alienation. You must then base your critique of capital on rates of exploitation from either a relativist/historicist position like that adopted by Theorie Communiste or perhaps something like Foucault’s concept of optimisation. In my opinion, historicisation is an extremely suspect manoeuvre – it is impossible to index an almost infinite variety of events and behaviours to a historical totalising process (which is only inductively identiable from changes in events and behaviours in the first place).

fort-da game
Offline
Joined: 16-02-06
Nov 6 2008 14:04
jef costello wrote:
By relations do you mean personal stuff, because in that case I feel optimistic. Does that mean I can break up with capitalism like I break up with a girlfirend? I'll not take the analogy any further

Yes, I mean personal relations but not experienced as such, I mean the totalisations of relations, the patterns that we find if we consider personal relations socially. You are familiar with the concept of commodity fetishism, therefore you will understand that whilst external pressures may contribute to the break-ups of personal relations, we cannot personally break with those external pressures. There is a hierarchy of determinations, and we tend to break, along ‘natural’ or obvious faultlines, with those who will be more hurt than we will by the breaking-off.

To underpin this briefly: If we think of the capitalist social relation as a kind of ‘hardware’ which supports an almost infinite number of ‘software’ applications at the level of relating, belief, behaviour but that these nonetheless carry the basic operating restrictions of the hardware, and thus express the social reality of the base within social interaction (in ohter words, whilst there is infinite variety, it is variety within the same type). I foresee communist society as functioning in the same manner with the ‘software’ communising existing social relations and instigating new ones. However, the issue is whether a communist ‘software’ (organisation) can run now within the capitalist operating environment.

fort-da game
Offline
Joined: 16-02-06
Nov 6 2008 14:12
Joseph K. wrote:
Claiming to be the voice of experience while others must be inexperienced idealists rings hollow, but once again chimes with the conservative schtick you've got going on.

On the question of experience, that was a genuine question and not a sneer. It is interesting to me, or very important I should say, what the background and context of statements are and how they are put together to form a worldview. I have no idea what you mean by conservative. I think there are conservative elements in human nature, people have a tendency to produce and respond to patterned behaviour – they identify with these patterns and seek to defend them.... I am not for this conservatism, nor am I against it. Are you contrasting conservatism with progressivism and identifying yourself with progressive forces?

Joseph K. wrote:
a spontaneist? a solfed comrade was victimised and nearly sacked the other day, but the bosses backed down after he and his supporters managed to organise widespread support for a strike. was this superfluous? working class self-activity only appears spontaneous from a safe distance. Claiming to be the voice of experience while others must be inexperienced idealists rings hollow, but once again chimes with the conservative schtick you've got going on.

Nobody has a safe distance from struggle – and anyway, if the action was union led it was not exactly self-activity in the workers’ own interest but only appeared as such after being mediated through politically derived values. I think this lack of immediacy is a problem. By coincidence, only a few days ago I shredded the documents relating to a similar event in my life. In this example my job was saved by the intervention of others threatening industrial action in my defence – this act was galvanised by disillusioned ex-union reps and not-union militants during a bitter and prolonged work to rule at RM. Strangely, that experience served to illustrate quite the opposite conclusion for me than the one you draw – perhaps this is because I was not being disciplined for being a ‘militant’ but because I was an incompentent, I don’t know. Anyway, for the first time I began to practically understand through this experience the communist critique of unions and by implication the flaws inherent within permanent organisations.

I would not say this makes me a sponti because spontenaeity is really only a set of untheorised occurences all of which are nonetheless bound within causal threads – things don’t ‘just happen’ but are subject to more complex relations in reproducing condiitons than we might at first expect, e.g. the Labour Party is not at all the party of labour (and in fact operates counter to its designation), unions of workers are not simply (or at all) unions of workers etc. Therefore we cannot naively claim that this organisation or this event is simply what it claims to be, or what we would like it to be, we cannot draw simple truths from this or that industrial action – we cannot allow ourselves the delusional luxury of faith in our particular modality of apperception. I would therefore say I am in favour of the critique of organisations (because no structure possesses its own actions and values) but I also think that there is nothing other than organisation.

Joseph K. wrote:
i've engaged with you patiently at length on the other thread, so this simply isn't true, and the psychoanalytic speculations as to motives are therefore moot.

Thank you for your patience. I have speculated about motivations because these play a role in statements, but I have not speculated within psychoanalytic terms, you have imputed this; my own motivations are not particularly different from anyone else’s. We crave connection and elective community within a social context where these are not decisive factors.

Joseph K. wrote:
fwiw i openly admit the doubts about my ideas, which is why for example my speculations about what an anarchist society would look like were couched in caveats.

If you doubt, why don’t you include this within your theory? Such doubts form the limits of projects, and it is at this location of analytic fraility where the most interesting investigations are possible.

Joseph K. wrote:
you'll have to specify what human nature you're talking about, what's been included/excluded etc.

The traces of human nature can be identified as that which is alienated in the reproduction of commodity-based society as well as that which is identified as being exploited by the same – the purpose of such indentifications is to locate the actual impact on real people’s existence by the processes which we are supposed to repudiate. This means of registering injury is lost in theories based on relativisation and historicisation.

Joseph K. wrote:
otherwise it's hard to distinguish your 'revolution is an unrealistic romantic dream, human nature prevents it, you'll just recreate capitalism...' from the tired old now-conservative former-lefties who opine in the pages of the bourgeois press.

I will not pretend innocence now that I am experienced. I will not pretend to be less intelligent than I am in order to adhere to a consumable propagandistic message. I am not tired. I am not conservative. I don’t know which ex-lefties you are talking about but the fact that I am raising these issues in this context suggests that I am proposing at least the possibility that objections to specific reified conceptions of communism can be included within a critique of conditions that has resonance beyond the demographic and numerical limits of this milieu.

I have never said either that human nature prevents revolution or that revolution is a romantic dream (but where it is romanticism I oppose it). My opinion is something like the maxim, ‘render unto caesar....’ in that I think that the class structuring of capitalist society is immune to voluntarist interventions and that only the actions of many millions of people may cause a significant impact but that these many millions will act only when they are forced to do so by structural alterations; it is at the point of their being changed by the changing of their circumstance that they discover class consciousness.

Joseph K. wrote:
Anyway, yes, billions of people have spiritual beliefs. However, i agree that 'criticism of religion is the foundation of all criticism' - an opposition to capital that appeals to myth and superstition will fail, either by appealing to powers outside our own capacity to change the world or by delivering the class bound and gagged to the most charismatic myth-spinning orators. fortunately, people are fully capable of having spiritual beliefs and acting in their class interest at the same time, and we don't need to pander to their spirituality to make this happen.

I find your use of the word ‘pander’ to be typically anarchist in its misanthropy, as if your beliefs were qualitatively different to anyone else’s – this is a good example of exteriorisation and typical of religious style thinking. Your understanding of other people’s values causes me to wonder at what level you see them as existing for themselves. Isn’t it more the case that all people are capable of acting in our class interest even though all of us, without exception, retain our ‘spiritual’ values, even those, or especially those, whose beliefs are focused upon ‘class politics.’

But anyway, as you imply, the tendency has been for ‘communist’ organisations to preserve consiousness at the level of mere faith at the base which is then directed as a strategic quantity as the leadership decides. Plainly, this is not acceptable and so it is that we must conduct critique – but what you quote on the foundation of criticism is also somewhat mythic at a number of levels: firstly, because search for meaning in life is not synonymous with religion; secondly, religion has proved its use-value as a frame of meaning in life and is not therefore simply an ‘error’; thirdly, all departures from religion including science and atheism were begun within religion and have not managed to break from the confines of its deepest structures (i.e. the structure of argumentation that we have inherited). In other words, we are all trying to escape religion but how far have we got from it really?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Online
Joined: 14-03-06
Nov 6 2008 14:38
fort-da game wrote:
To underpin this briefly: If we think of the capitalist social relation as a kind of ‘hardware’ which supports an almost infinite number of ‘software’ applications at the level of relating, belief, behaviour but that these nonetheless carry the basic operating restrictions of the hardware, and thus express the social reality of the base within social interaction (in ohter words, whilst there is infinite variety, it is variety within the same type). I foresee communist society as functioning in the same manner with the ‘software’ communising existing social relations and instigating new ones. However, the issue is whether a communist ‘software’ (organisation) can run now within the capitalist operating environment.

that's an interesting way of phrasing it. do you not think that successful struggles within capitalism produce (however temporarily) the kind of direct social relations between people that prefigure communisation? obviously these can't coexist in a stable way with capitalist ones, either being pushed through to communisation or dissipating as they achieve their limited goals or are defeated, but the future is not of a different dimension to the present, however much of a rupture is required to realise it.

edit: cross-posted with your response to me, but no time to reply now. will get back to it.

felix
Offline
Joined: 12-11-08
Nov 13 2008 10:06

"why haven't we won yet?"
methinks because we hang out with each other in the anarcho ghetto too much...
it's a lot easier to be the big winner of the debate and the leader when you're only talking to people that understand your basic premises very well and are elaborating details of it for lack of any real advancement in the struggle.
if we would bring our ideas to ordinary people in the streets more, not like a vanguardist coming down to the masses carrying the torch of truth, but as fellow human beings with a heavy critique, we'd activate more autonomy and social change.
but in general we're content to avoid society (because it's distasteful to us) and remain cloistered together, and so the commies with their bureaucratic bullshit end up getting credit for all the protests and selling more papers than the anarchists.
it's no big deal unless you're competing with them for that kind of 'influence,' but in the end it's really alienating to people to be treated like the communists treat them, and that authoritarian influence on anarchists is why we haven't won (in my humble opinion) ...yet.