The Historical Failure of Anarchism

1996 Position paper written by Chris Day that was a part of the final conflict in Love & Rage over orientation and direction. In this piece, he emphasizes what he see as the programmatic weaknesses of anarchism and the need to look beyond it for answers.

In the Spring 1996 issue of Workers Solidarity (journal of Ireland's Workers Solidarity Movement) there is a review by Conor McLoughlin of Ken Loach's excellent film on the Spanish Revolution, Land and Freedom. The review concludes that:

"(T)he factors involved in the defeat of the revolution would take an article in themselves to explain, ranging from the military power of the fascists (and their outside aid) to the betrayals by the communists and social democrats, and this is not my purpose here. What is important is that the social revolution did not collapse due to any internal problems or flaws in human nature. It was defeated from without. Anarchism had not failed. Anarchists had proved that ideas which look good in the pages of theory books look even better on the canvas of life."

This quote neatly sums up the lessons that most anarchists seem to have drawn from the history of the anarchist movement. It also neatly sums up what is wrong with the anarchist movement. It is nothing short of a complete abdication of one of the most basic responsibilities of revolutionaries: the responsibility to subject the defeats and failures of the movement to the most thoroughgoing critical scrutiny. Instead it takes a historical experience that ended in a crushing defeat, makes excuses for that defeat and offers the faithful reassuring platitudes that, all evidence to the contrary, the one true path of anarchism is vindicated by the experience.

When anarchists encounter this sort of thing in other ideologies they never fail to tear it to shreds. Does Communism bear responsibility for the heaping piles of corpses produced by Communist regimes? Is Christianity to be blamed for the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Witch Hunts? Of course. We judge ideologies by their practical results in peoples lives not by their pie-in-the-sky promises. Anarchism in Spain raised the hopes of millions that a classless stateless society could be achieved in the hear and now, lead them to the barricades to make it real, and failed abysmally. The Spanish people were condemned to fourty years of fascist rule because of the failure. And yet while the anarchist movement of the past half century has produced an extensive literature extolling the momentary successes of the Spanish Revolution in the creation of peasant and workers collectives, there has been almost no serious effort to analyze how the anarchist movement contributed to its own defeat. Blaming ones political enemies (fascists, Communists, or social-democrats) for behaving exactly as one would expect them to behave only further confuses matters. Betrayal, after all, is only possible on the part of someone trusted.

The Responsibilities of Revolutionaries

This paper is not primarily about the Spanish Revolution. Rather it is an attempt to pose some serious and difficult questions that I believe anarchism has irresponsibly avoided. It is addressed to those in the anarchist movement who are serious about making an anti-authoritarian revolution. It is not addressed to those who do not believe that such a revolution is possible. It is not addressed to those whose political horizons extend no further than establishing either a "temporary autonomous zone" or a semi-permanent bohemian enclave. Neither is it addressed to those for whom being a revolutionary means affecting a more militant than thou pose. The anarchist movement is filled with people who are less interested in overthrowing the existing oppressive social order than with washing their hands of it. This concern with ensuring the passage of ones soul to anarchist heaven can range from the obsessive efforts to purify ones personal habits to the sectarian refusal to join any group or organization that shows any sign of being a product of this society.

I believe that an enormous amount of human suffering is the direct consequence of the fact that the majority of humanity does not have control over the decisions that effect their lives. I believe that people are ultimately capable of exercising that control over their own lives. Consequently the revolutionary overthrow of the authoritarian institutions and social relationships that stand in the way of realizing that control is a necessary undertaking. People who are engaged in that project are revolutionaries and as revolutionaries I believe we have certain responsibilities. It is neccesary to speak of three of those responsibilities before getting into some of the thornier questions this paper aims to address.

To Win Freedom

The strength of anarchism is its moral insistence on the primacy of human freedom over political expediency. But human freedom exists in a political context. It is not sufficient, however, to simply take the most uncompromising position in defense of freedom. It is neccesary to actually win freedom. Anti-capitalism doesn't do the victims of capitalism any good if you don't actually destroy capitalism. Anti-statism doesn't do the victims of the state any good if you don't actually smash the state. Anarchism has been very good at putting forth visions of a free society and that is for the good. But it is worthless if we don't develop an actual strategy for realizing those visions. It is not enough to be right, we must also win.

To Learn from the Past

People have been struggling for freedom forever. The single most valuable asset of the revolutionary movement is this experience. We are not the first people to grapple with the problem of how to make revolution and create a free society. We have an obligation to subject every chapter in the fight for freedom to the most searing analysis we are capable of. This is the only way that we can hope to avoid repeating the errors of the past. The anarchist approach to history, unfortunately, consists largely of looking for the lessons we want to find. The view of the Spanish Revolution critiqued above is a fairly typical example. This feel good approach to our own history (or to some imaginary prehistoric anarchist Eden) is generally coupled with a complete disinterest in the history of struggles that can't be neatly contained within our own ideological borders (however any individual might define them). The result is a sort of hagiology: a timeless procession of libertarian martyrs to be invoked in political debates. How many anarchists once they have read an anti-authoritarian account of some historical episode actually go and read accounts from other perspectives? If our history were an uninterrupted train of successes this certainty that there is nothing to learn from others would be a bit more defensible.

To Have a Plan

Finally revolutionaries have a responsibility to have a plausible plan for making revolution. Obviously there are not enough revolutionaries to make a revolution at this moment. We can reasonably anticipate that the future will bring upsurges in popular opposition to the existing system. Without being any more specific about where those upsurges might occur it seems clear that it is from the ranks of such upsurges that the numbers of the revolutionary movement will be increased, eventually leading to a revolutionary situation (which is distinguished from the normal crises of the current order only by the existence of a revolutionary movement ready to push things further). People who are fed up with the existing system and who are willing to commit themselves to its overthrow will look around for likeminded people who have an idea of what to do.

If we don't have a plausible plan for making revolution we can be sure that there will be somebody else there who will. There is no guarantee that revolutionary-minded people will be spontaneously drawn to anti-authoritarian politics.

The plan doesn't have to be an exact blueprint. It shouldn't be treated as something sacred. It should be subject to constant revision in light of experience and debate. But at the very least it needs to be able to answer questions that have been posed concretely in the past. We know that we will never confront the exact same circumstances as previous revolutions. But we should also know that certain problems are persistent ones and that if we can't say what we would have done in the past we should not expect people to think much of our ability to face the future.

There is a widespread tendency in the anarchist movement (and on the left in general) to say that the question of how we are going to actually make a revolution is too distant and therefore too abstract to deal with now. Instead it is asserted that we should focus on practical projects or immediate struggles. But the practical projects or immediate struggles we decide to focus on are precisely what will determine if we ever move any closer to making revolution. If we abdicate our responsibility to try to figure out what it will take to actually make revolution and to direct our current work accordingly we will be caught up in an endless succession of "practical projects and immediate struggles" and when confronted with a potentially revolutionary situation we will be pushed to the side by more politically prepared forces (who undoubtedly we will accuse of "betraying" the revolution if they don't shoot all of us). We will be carried by the tide of history instead of attempting to steer our own course. And by allowing this to happen again it will be we who have really betrayed the revolution.

The net result of the refusal to deal with what it will actually take to make a revolution is that anarchism has become a sort of directionless but militant reformism. We are either building various "counter-institutions" that resemble nothing so much as grungier versions of the social services administered by different churches; or we are throwing ourself into some largely reactive social struggle in which our actions are frequently bold and courageous, but from which we never build any sort of ongoing social movement (let alone a revolutionary organization).

The Theoretical Poverty of Anarchism

By the standards of these three responsibilities alone anarchism has been a failure. Not only has anarchism failed to win lasting freedom for anybody on earth, many anarchists today seem only nominally committed to that basic project. Many more seem interested primarily in carving out for themselves, their friends, and their favorite bands a zone of personal freedom, "autonomous" of moral responsibility for the larger condition of humanity (but, incidentally, not of the electrical grid or the production of electronic components). Anarchism has quite simply refused to learn from its historic failures, preferring to rewrite them as successes. Finally the anarchist movement offers people who want to make revolution very little in the way of a coherent plan of action. Projects, schemes, and reasons to riot abound -- but their place in a larger coherent strategy for actually overthrowing the existing order is anybody's guess.

Anarchism is theoretically impoverished. For almost 80 years, with the exceptions of Ukraine and Spain, anarchism has played a marginal role in the revolutionary activity of oppressed humanity. Anarchism had almost nothing to do with the anti-colonial struggles that defined revolutionary politics in this century. This marginalization has become self-reproducing. Reduced by devastating defeats to critiquing the authoritarianism of Marxists, nationalists and others, anarchism has become defined by this gadfly role. Consequently anarchist thinking has not had to adapt in response to the results of serious efforts to put our ideas into practice. In the process anarchist theory has become ossified, sterile and anemic. In the place of substantive political debate the anarchist movement has raised the personal quarrel to an art form. On the rare occasions that substantive issues are broached the response is invariably concerned more with the process by which they were broached or speculation on the character-structure of anybody who would question the received anarchist wisdom than with the political content of what has been said. This is a reflection of anarchism's effective removal from the revolutionary struggle.

Bakunin's brilliant predictions of the consequences of Marx's statism have not become the foundation for a developing anti-statist praxis, but rather a hollow chorus of "we told you so." One of the consequences of Marxism's "successes" has been that there has been greater opportunity to see its limitations. One of the consequences of anarchism's meager and short lived victories has been that many of our ideas have not been put to the test of practice. Once we are willing to accept that good anti-authoritarian intentions do not get us off the hook for the authoritarian consequences of anarchist incompetence it becomes possible to approach the whole historical experience of the revolutionary movement in a considerably less self-righteous frame of mind.

Once we acknowledge the historical failure of anarchism (which is not to repudiate our anti-authoritarian critique of other ostensibly revolutionary currents) we can begin the work of rebuilding a revolutionary libertarian movement.

Anarchism and the Revolutionary Movement

I believe that if we want to understand the moment we are in we need to understand ourselves as one part of a much broader revolutionary project of human liberation that everywhere around the world has either been defeated or is in retreat. The revolutionary movement is not defined by the embrace of a particular ideology, but rather by the objective movement of oppressed people resisting their oppression and fighting for a world free from oppression. Over time this movement has taken many twists and turns and has, at least ideologically, branched off in a number of directions. It has found expression through a variety of ideological forms (anarchism, marxism, feminism, revolutionary nationalism, liberation theology). At every moment in its history the revolutionary movement has contained the contradictions of the authoritarian society from which it is constantly being reborn. So its every theoretical and organizational expression has always contained both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, both liberatory and oppressive, both libertarian and authoritarian aspects and potentialities.

As anarchists we have tended to divide the left neatly into libertarian and authoritarian camps. I believe the terms of this division correctly identify the essence of the contradictions that constantly reappear in the revolutionary movement. But I also think that there has been a general tendency to make this division in a mechanical way. There is a tendency, for example, to view the split in the 1st International between Marx and Bakunin as setting the terms by which we analyze the whole intervening historical experience. As the inheritors of Bakunin's anarchism we uphold the good works of all anarchists since him and ritualistically denounce the actions of all Marxists in the same period. The consequence of this is to blind ourselves to the counter-revolutionary elements in anarchist theory and practice and the legitimate accomplishments of many marxists (or other "authoritarian" currents).

In opposition to this mechanical or scholastic approach I believe we should look at the whole experience of the revolutionary movement dialectically. We need to identify the aspects of anarchism that effectively crippled it as a credible revolutionary alternative to marxism. We need to examine when and how liberatory currents asserted themselves within marxism. We need to look at the various questions that distinguish various currents within the revolutionary movement. We need to look at these questions not simply in the abstract but in the real historical conditions in which they arose and developed. We need to look not just at the few times anarchists have played a significant role in a revolutionary situation but at all the revolutions of the past century.

Many anarchists, of course, have been willing to embrace particular episodes (workers councils in post-WW1 Europe, Hungary '56, the Shanghai Commune, France May-June '68, Portugal '74) in which explicitly anarchist forces were not major players, as part of the revolutionary libertarian tradition. Obviously this broadens the points of historical reference and is for the good. But the short-lived nature of each of these experiences means that by blaming the appropriate Stalinists or social-democrats for their betrayals, it is possible to avoid answering the harder questions sometimes posed more sharply by those episodes in which clearly defined libertarian forces did not participate.

Objective Conditions

It is practically anarchist dogma that every revolutionary situation has the potential to become an authentic libertarian revolution. On the basis of this position the failure of any situation to develop in such a direction is the consequence of the authoritarianism of the various ostensibly revolutionary organizations and parties. The suggestion that the "objective conditions" faced by various revolutionary movements account for the turns they took is routinely ridiculed by anarchists as simply making excuses for the crimes of those authoritarian forces. And certainly there is no shortage of cases in which the suppression of the workers movement, political executions, the imprisonment of dedicated revolutionaries, and so on have been dismissed with casual reference to the "objective conditions." But this does not mean that objective conditions haven't imposed insurmountable obstacles for the revolutionary movement.

Revolutionary situations do not present themselves to us only after we have made perfect preparations for them. They arise suddenly when the old order is unable to maintain its rule. It would be irresponsible in such situations not to try to carry out a thorough libertarian social revolution. But it isn't neccesarilly the case that it is always actually possible to win everything we want. In this case the revolution will be confronted with choosing between different kinds of compromises or half-measures in order to "survive."

The question that confronts revolutionaries is never simply whether the workers (or peasants) are capable of taking control of the means of production, and reorganizing production on democratic and libertarian lines (like the workers and peasants collectives in Spain). Nor is it even whether they are capable of establishing within cities and villages organs of self-government (as in the many cases of workers councils). From the Paris Commune to the Zapatista rebellion we know that these things can be done.

The question is almost always whether they can do these things over a prolonged period of time under conditions of war and general social breakdown. These are the conditions under which revolutionary opportunities are most likely to occur. It is precisely under these conditions that the limits of the revolutionary movement as a whole have revealed themselves.

Anarchists often like to pose the "social revolution" in contrast to the merely "political revolution." For the purpose of distinguishing real social upheavals from mere coup d'etats this distinction might be useful. But almost all the "political revolutions" so criticized in fact involved significant elements of social revolution. More importantly it is impossible to imagine a "social revolution" devoid of all the features of a "political revolution." A revolution is a struggle for power and is inevitably a messy affair. If we are not prepared for the fact that future revolutionary situations are going to present us with unpleasant choices then we are not really interested in making revolution.

Attitude Adjustment Time

I want to put forward here several connected propositions on the nature of the revolutionary project that I believe challenge some basic anarchist prejudices. The first proposition is that in a world characterized by gross disparities in the level of economic develoment as a consequence of imperialism it has simply not been possible to overthrow capitalism in most (if not all) of the imperialized countries. Revolutions in those countries have been of neccesity capitalist (and ususally state capitalist) revolutions that have swept away certain (horribly oppressive) pre-capitalist features of those societies and renegotiated the terms of capitalist exploitation.

The second proposition is that the achievment of a stateless classless society within the territorial limits of a single country (or otherwise defined territory) in a world of nation-states is impossible. Revolutions so confined to a national territory become national revolutions or are crushed. National revolutions can accomplish certain things but not others. The replacement of the old state apparatus with a new ostensibly revolutionary state is necessary to secure many of those accomplishments but we should have no illusions about such a state "withering away" on its own accord. It too will have to be smashed. One of the main things that national revolutions give people is experience in the process of making revolution and a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics of revolutions.

The third proposition (related closely to the second) is that a regular army can only be defeated by another army. Militias or other irregular forms of military organization alone, while capable of heroic resistance, will ultimately collapse before a regular army. The collapse of a national army (almost always precipitated by a military defeat) can create an opening for a revolutionary movement. But if that movement does not create its own army the old order will reconstitute its army or a foreign power will do it for them.

The fourth proposition is that only one class has the potential to overthrow capitalism -- the international working class. It must act in conjunction with other classes and social movements to win and the participation of those forces is crucial to carrying out the most thoroughgoing social change, but the working class organized as a revolutionary class is the only single force without which the overthrow of capitalism is absolutely impossible. The fight against patriarchy and racial/national oppression within the working class is necessary for achieving unity within the class.

The rest of this paper will deal with these four propositions in light of the history of revolutions in the 20th century.

Unequal Development

Capitalism is a world system. If certain elements of capitalism appeared initially in the relative isolation of particular national settings, they only came together to form what we would recognize as capitalism as the result of the unparalleled global integration of trade that began in the 15th century with the European conquest of the Americas and domination of the trade routes of the Indian Ocean, and the establishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and plantation complex. From its inception capitalism has enriched certain countries and enabled them to revolutionize production by looting and subjugating other countries to the economic needs of the ruling classes of the imperialist mother countries. Initially this relationship took the form of extracting wealth from largely self-sufficient societies. Over time it developed into a relationship of dependency in which the the imperialized countries were not only a source of raw materials but also crucial markets for finished goods. This dependency meant the deliberate destruction of the self-sufficiency of the imperialized countries. More recently certain imperialized countries have become centers of manufacture within a global market. Dependency on the imperialist centers has been maintained so far through control of developmental capital (the IMF and the World Bank) and the specialization of different types of manufacture in different countries.

The consequences of this unequal development for the project of anti-capitalist revolution are huge. Until recently the exploitation of much of the Third World was carried out through pre-capitalist economic forms (usually and imprecisely called semi-feudal) plugged into and subordinate to the world capitalist market. This meant that the antagonism between capitalism and the producers in much of the world took the immediate form of unequal distribution of land and the resulting super-exploitive landlord-tenant relations.

China is a good example of this. In other areas forced labor was used (as in many parts of Africa under colonialism) or plantation agriculture existed side by side with the peasant economy (as in Cuba). Capitalist forms of production constituted a small fraction of the economy and involved an even smaller fraction of the population. Moreover many of the capitalists involved in this small sector understood that the semi-feudal structure of the society and the domination of their country by the imperialists was an impediment to their own interests. They were potential allies of any peasant movement to seize the land and overthrow the landlords.

The Chinese Revolution must be understood in this context. It was overwhelmingly a peasant revolution that destroyed a very rotten old system, redistributed the land, and established China's relative economic independence from imperialist domination. Only once these fundamental tasks had been carried out did it even become possible for the Chinese Communist Party to talk about what to do with China's puny capitalist sector. The cities had been controlled by the Kuomintang and the only significantly industrialized region, Manchuria, had been under Japanese control. The industrial proletariat, such as it was, did not have either the experience or the organization to take matters into their own hands. Any move to do so would need the active support if not of the peasantry, then of the Communist Party.

Development of industry was crucial to solving a number of China's most pressing problems. The lack of transportation and communications meant that famine-plagued regions were difficult to reach with relief. Mass production techniques were neccesary to meet the huge demand for the most rudimentary farm implements (ploughs, carts) and to raise agricultural productivity sufficiently to break the constant cycle of famine. Superficially it might seem like this is an argument that a problem with social-structural causes (famine) required only a technological solution. But the social-structural causes (feudal land structure and dependency on foreign manufactures) expressed themselves significantly in the low technological level of agrarian China. The land could simply not sustain its then current population without a technological as well as a social revolution.

In this context the section of the capitalists who had sided with the agrarian revolution were crucial. They concentrated technical and managerial expertise without which the development of new industry would have been impossible. To simply exproporiate them would have meant to drive them into the arms of the Kuomintang. Could the workers who had worked under them take up the slack and run existing enterprises? To a certain extent. But it should be kept in mind that in the wake of a civil war many enterprises were operating sporadically and the workers with the technical expertise to run them weren't neccesarily easily found. More importantly the Chinese proletariat was hardly a mature class with a lengthy experience of common struggle informing its self-activity.

But the question wasn't simply one of running the existing enterprises, it was one of dramatically and immediately expanding the industrial base to forestall famine and for that the expertise of the tiny capitalist class was indispensable.

Time was of the essence. The expansion of industry was also neccesary to prevent the masses of landless peasants who had crowded the cities as a result of famine and war from returning to a countryside that wasn't prepared to absorb them. Furthermore there was a significant threat of foreign invasion or a U.S. backed Kuomintang invasion from Taiwan. During the Korean War MacArthur openly threatened to invade China.

Furthermore we need to confront the limited political capacities of the peasantry. Could the Chinese peasantry have abolished capitalist relations (wage labor in particular) and set about a non-capitalist process of development to solve their considerable problems? The peasantry had accomplished many things. On the village level they had taken over control of the administration of village affairs from the corrupt landlord elites and had carried out the dramatic redistribution of land. Leaving aside for the moment the crucial role of the Communist Party in these accomplishments we can note that this peasant control of administration extended to greater and lesser degrees upwards to the county or even provincial level. But as one moves up the hierarchy one encounters more and more reliance on the Communist Party cadres, and more and more reliance on educated cadres from non-peasant backgrounds.

We can interpret this fact two ways. On the one hand it is an expression of the ultimate dominance of the Communist Party and its regime by a relative handfull of intellectuals from middle-class or landlord backgrounds. On the other it is a simple reflection of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Chinese peasants were illiterate and that the literate supporters of the revolution (whether of non-peasant background or taught to read by the Party or the Peoples Liberation Army) were in the Party. These different ways of looking at the same fact are not contradictory. Together they reveal the class character the Chinese Revolution had and also why it probably couldn't have had any other.

The Council Communist Anton Pannnekoek in his 1940 article "Why Past Revolutionary Movements Have Failed" linked the inherently capitalist nature of revolutions in the periphery to the problems of the proletarian revolution in the imperialist centers. He argued that the underdevelopment of Russia meant that the capitalist revolution there could not be carried out by the bourgeoisie but rather by a new bureaucratic capitalist class drawn mainly from the intelligentsia. This new capitalist class leveraged the prestige of the thwarted proletarian revolution in Russia to dominate the the revolutionary workers movement in the West and thereby diverting the self-organization of the proletariat in the most adavanced capitalist countries. This is one way in which the unequal devlopment of capitalism has resulted in the unequal devlopment of the revolutionary movement. Pannekoek doesn't deal with the role of imperialist super-profits in effectively buying off at least a section of the workers movement, but that fact too must inform our understanding of why the 20th century has been characterized not by international proletarian revolution but by peasant-based national capitalist revolutions.

Only as an abstraction can freedom be absolute. In the real world freedom is always conditioned by the social context in which it exists. Freedom can not be defined simply in terms of the absence of constraint but must also refer to the power to make the decisions that affect ones life. It is impossible to rule a society if you don't understand how it works. So, in a hunter-gatherer society that sort of power depends on different things than it does in an industrialized society. A crucial feature of class societies is that they deny the exploited classes access to the things they would need to rule. Revolutions in a certain sense are the process by which an oppressed class obtains those things. But, because class societies inevitably combine old and new methods of exploitation, different oppressed classes are better positioned to make the revolutionary leap and to take control of society.

In the 13th century the technological level of society was such that one could perhaps imagine the peasantry taking control of society as a whole and establishing some sort of agrarian communism. In the 20th century it is an impossibility (though Pol Pot gave it a shot). The peasant is enmeshed in a global system of capitalism, the deeper workings of which are obscured from the vantage point of life in a small village. In contrast the urban worker is exposed in a thousand ways to the complex operations of the world system. The problem of course is that, as a consequence of the unequal development of capitalism around the world, it has been the life conditions of the peasant and not the proletarian that have fueled the major revolutions of the century. But precisely because the peasantry as a class is so poorly prepared to administer a capitalist society (even an underdeveloped one), that those revolutions have ultimately carried new minority ruling classes to power.

Anarchism in One Country?

The Spanish Revolution and its supression demonstrated in the starkest terms one of the central problems of anarchism. The Spanish Revolution was the product not simply of the global class struggle, but of its particular features in Spain. A particular chain of events reflecting the particular character and history of Spain lead up to the moment when the Spanish peasants and workers were able to seize control of the fields, factories and workshops. Every revolution arises from the failure of a particular state in a particular moment. In Spain the Republican government crumbled in the wake of Franco's military revolt. Power was lying in the street, and the anarchist movement, the most powerful force among the workers and peasants, took it.

I am emphasizing the particularly Spanish character of the Spanish Revolution to make clear the simple fact that while the Revolution was able to count on a certain amount of international solidarity, the conditions that had produced the revolution were not to be found elsewhere and therefore the prospects for the revolution to spread were limited. But that didn't mean that the Revolution took place in isolation. Italian and German fascism sent trroops, arms, and planes to support Franco's armies. The Soviet Union leveraged its support for the Republic for the creation and control of a counter-revolutionary regular army. If the Republican Government couldn't subdue the Revolution and the fascists couldn't drown it in blood there is no reason to expect that other foreign powers wouldn't intervene. Their short-term interests in retrieving control over exproporiated enterprises and their long-term interests in preventing the Revolution from becoming an international example meant they would have no choice but to intervene militarily.

There are basically two reasons it is impossible to create a stateless classless society within the confines of single country. The first is economic and the second is military.

The economic reasons are important. As discussed above capitalism is a world system. This means that no country is self-sufficient. Obviously some countries have more or less potential for self-sufficiency, but certain problems are effectively universal. Some countries, as a consequence of their population, simply could not hope to meet their own food needs. This is the case for many of the smaller more densely populated industrialized countries. Some countries, as a consequence of their underdevelopment under colonialism, don't have the means of producing manufactured goods (clothing, tractors, etc...) on which they depend. And practically all countries are dependent on at least a few strategic minerals that simply don't exist within their borders. Chromium, for example, is neccessary for all sorts of machine parts. It is concentrated largely in Southern Africa. Similarly much of the world is dependent on foreign petroleum.

The point here isn't that one can't imagine the eventual creation of a self-sufficient economy within a particular country, but rather that the economies that revolutionaries inherit are not self-sufficient and the severing of international trade (by either the revolutionary forces or by foreign powers) will have very disruptive consequences. These are two-sided. First, industries that depend on foreign materials will stop functioning and people will no longer have access to goods that are only available from abroad. Second, economic sectors that produce for the international market, will either cease to produce or will produce goods for which there is no domestic demand.

The situation of Cuba is instructive here. Many of the economic problems that confronted the Cuban Revolution would have been just as present if that revolution had a libertarian character. Cuba's economy was classically dependent. Sugar and tourism brought in the cash with which to purchase foreign goods including food, medicine, clothing, petroleum, and automobiles. In the intervening 37 years it is a scandalous consequence of the relations developed with the Soviet Union that Cuba has not converted its agricultural sector to become self-sufficient in food. The result is that Cuba now faces the same problem it would have faced then: how to make that conversion without access to foreign capital. The technology involved in growing, harvesting and processing sugar is not the same as that involved in producing rice or produce. It is not a simple matter to knock down all the sugar cane and begin growing grains and vegetables. It takes time to get a whole new kind of agriculture going. How are people going to eat in the meantime?

The practical answer inevitably is that dependence on the world market can only be reduced in steps. But so long as people are producing for the world market they can not be said to have smashed class society altogether -- they continue to be exploited by an international capitalist class. To make matters worse the refusal of parts of the world market to trade (as in the case of the U.S. embargo of Cuba) drives down the price that the goods will command on the world market. The only way to recover that lost profit (for there is no point in engaging in international trade if it doesn't generate profits that can be invested in making the country self-sufficient) is to raise the level of exploitation of the producers. Worse, the administrative apparatus of the revolutionary regime, whether it is called a "workers state" or "a federation of free collectives" is the body that must do the exploiting. Good intentions are feeble protection against the logic of the world market. How does the apparatus respond when the producers, entirely in the spirit of the revolution, say that they will not be exploited and go on strike?

This is precisely the dilemna that has confronted every revolution that has survived longer than a year. For avowed statists like Marxists it is not much of a dilemna. But for anarchists it is profound.

The second obstacle to the creation of a stateless classless society in a single country is military. Thoroughgoing social revolutions, even if contained in a single country, are a profound threat to the international capitalist order. Every such revolution that has not been crushed internally has had to face some degree of foreign military intervention. The motivations of the individual countries don't even have to be so farsighted as the maintenance of world capitalism. Often enough the revolution threatens foreign investments that the foreign power decides it must defend. Even when this is not the case the turmoil of a revolution can seem like a golden opportunity for a foreign power to establish or widen its foothold in a country.

There is no reason to suppose that if the Russian Revolution had taken a different course (if the anarchists had gotten their shit together, or if the Soviets had been able to resist subordination to the Bolshevik Party structure), that it wouldn't have faced invasions by 14 foreign powers in support of the Whites in the civil war.

It is impossible to repell a foreign invasion without a military force of ones own. Making war, even a war of resistance, has a certain authoritarian logic to it. War is about killing people and sending some people off to die so that others might live. It is, unfortunately, not mainly about killing the class enemy, but rather about killing the other oppressed people, often conscripts, who make up the enemies army. Even if one's strategy depends on mutiny or mass defections within the enemies army it will still be neccessary to kill people. The reason is simple. Soldiers mutiny or defect in significant numbers only when the threat of being killed in battle is plausibly greater than the threat of being shot for insubordination. This is the smart thing to do. Therefore armies maintain their internal discipline in part by convincing their troops that being shot for insubordination is a certainty. For an army to fall apart it must face some sort of military defeat.

Anarchists sometimes claim that decentralized, non-authoritarian structures are inherently so much more efficient than centralized authoritarian ones that these principles should be applied to military operations. This is the express route to anarchist martyrdom. If anarchist principles can accomodate turning groups of human beings into efficient killing machines there is a problem. But if they can't there is another problem. It is the second situation that we face: making war means compromising anti-authoritarian principles. In so far as a military forces has as its aim the defeat of other military forces within a given territory it is acting to create a monopoly on organized violence -- a defining feature of the state. Is it possible to create a truly anti-authoritarian military structure that corresponds with the relative decentralism of a libertarian society and that is able to defend that society from external (or internal) military threats? I will try to answer that question in the next section.

The Revolutionary Army

The anarchist movement has basically two major experiences with trying to organize its military power in defense of its revolutionary gains: in Ukraine and in Spain.

The anarchist literature on the Ukrainian experience is considerably less extensive than that on the Spanish experience, but a couple points are worth making about it. While the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (Makhvovists) conducted massive collectivization of land in the zones of its control, the Ukrainian peasantry was not heavily imbued with anarchist thinking. The Maknovist movement rose up as a result of the Brest-Litovsk agreement in which the Bolsheviks ceded Ukraine to Austrian and German Imperialism. But like the rest of the old Russian empire Ukraine was in the throes of a social revolution as the peasantry was seizing the land. The Ukrainian Confederation of Anarchist Organizations (Nabat) saw in this situation an opportunity to build under anarchist leadership a military force that might carry forward the revolution and expell the foreign imperialists. And that is precisely what they did before they were crushed by the Bolshevik Red Army.

The Ukrainian peasantry embraced anarchism in so far as the anarchist army could protect what they had won in the revolution. The Insurgent Army was a guerilla army. It operated within a region about 150 miles in diameter, populated by 7,000,000 people. In organization it stood midway between the sort of indigenous "bandit" formations that consistently arise from peasants in remote or unstable regions and what I will later define as a mature revolutionary army. It did not have the same worked out anti-authoritarian structure as the anarchist militias in Spain started out with.

Once the Makhnovists had defeated the White forces of Generals Deniken and Wrangel they were in turn defeated by the Red Army. The territory controlled by the Makhnovists was highly unstable. It was subject to periodic occupation by White and foreign forces. The tenacity of the Makhnovists resistance lead to the disintegration of the White forces and the withdrawal of the foreign ones. The Red Army was beating down and absorbing irregular peasant forces all over the former Russian empire. Makhno's proved the most difficult to defeat, but ultimately they too fell.

The military reasons are straightforward. Irregular forces like Makhno's can sustain themselves perhaps indefinitely in geographically remote hinterlands. But Ukraine was not such a region. The Brest-Litovsk agreement and the general social collapse of Russia created a momentary opening into which Makhno's forces stepped. But the consolidation of Bolshevik rule in the rest of Russia and the decision of the imperialists to abandon Ukraine meant the closing of that window. It is important to note that in spite of allthe anarchist slogans the program of the Maknovists in practice was not much different from that of later peasant revolutions (like the Chinese), namely: redistribution of the land, more or less voluntary collectivization, and expulsion of the imperialists (national independance).

If there is any doubt that the Ukrainian Revolution was limited in what it could hope to achieve within its own borders the words of the Nabat in calling for the creation of the Insurgent Army should settle the matter:

"4. With regard to the external attack on the social revolution by Western and other imperialist powers, the anarchists have always relied and will continue to rely not on the regular Red Army, not even on an insurgent war, but on the inevitable collapse of imperialism and its armed forces through the unfolding world-wide revolution"

It shouldn't be necessary to note that there wasn't anything inevitable about the collapse of imperialism on which the Ukrainian anarchists were relying.

The Spanish Revolution had a somewhat different character. Almost 70 years of anarchist education and agitation had prepared significant sections of the Spanish working class and peasantry for a libertarian revolution. When the moment came in July 1936 millions of Spaniards had in their minds what the anarchist reorganization of their society would entail. And they applied the same libertarian principles to the military formations they created: the militias.

The militias were drawn from various factories or neighborhoods or villages and each one had a distinct identity in accordance with its origins. The militias were organized into columns which in turn elected delegates that were to carry out some of the functions of officers, but without the automatic authority that officers commanded. The anarchists were not the only ones to organize militias. The socialist workers of the UGT, and the various parties like the POUM, also organized militias.

The militias, at least initially, were the picture of decentralism and non-authoritarianism. And the military consequences were disastrous. Anarchist accounts of the operations of the militias heavily overemphasize their occasional heroic victories and minimize their frequent defeats or simply blame them on the refusal of other forces to provide them with the arms they needed. But while the militias certainly fought courageously, their decentralism and lack of discipline was as much their downfall as the "treachery" of organizations that never should have been trusted in the first place.

Anarchists studying Spain should be careful about taking their own propaganda too seriously. The lack of internal discipline made for acts of tremendous stupidity from a military point of view. Militia members would regularly abandon their positions when boredom set in. The absence of any sort of unified command structure meant that every proposed coordinated military action involving different militias, let alone ones from different political tendencies, had to be discussed and modified and approved before it could be carried out. In this process crucial time was often wasted and military opportunities lost. When coordinated actions were carried out the modified plans were often greatly reduced in scale, often to the point of making them irrelevant. Militias jealously refused to share materiel with each other. Observers of all perspectives noted how militias of each organization took a certain delight in the defeats suffered by the militias of other organizations.

The simple fact of the matter is that wars can not be won in this way. Militias can play an important role in defending the gains of a revolution, in organizing irregular warfare within a circumscribed region, and in suppressing counter-revolutionary activity within the zone of a revolution. But without a regular army of its own the revolution can not hold back the advances of an invading army.

The reasons are simple and it is borne out by the whole history of military conflict. An army with a unified command going up against a "decentralized" force will set about to identify its weakest units and concentrate its first attacks accordingly. The decentralized forces lacking a unified command will be unable to quickly redeploy troops to the weak area in the way that a regular army can. Similarly when a coordinated offensive needs to be carried out certain troops will be put in considerably greater danger than others. In a decentralized structure such decisions are subject to rejection by the units most likely (or even certain) to take the heaviest losses. This means that the decentralized military structure can only deploy its most courageous or selfless units in such situations. Its not difficult to see how such a practice would result in the rapid weakening of the decentralized structure as it sacrifices its best forces or backs off from battles that can be won. Conversely the boldest units in a decentralized force are more likely to expend themselves in heroic but ultimately pointless acts of self-sacrifice.

There is a reason that the world is dominated by regular armies with unified command structures. It is not because the staes of the world simply find their authoritarian form more agreeable in spite of its comparative military inefficiencies. If that were so states would be constantly striving to obtain the benefits of decentralism in military matters (as they sometimes do in other matters in which decentralism is in fact more efficient). But the military remains the most centralized institution in any society, it authoritarianism the model by which less authoritarian institutions are judged.

One can of course conceive of a perfectly functioning decentralized military structure in which the grasp of military science is so evenly spread out that it makes no errors and goes on to win. But in the real world all such plans run into friction from the flesh and blood people who are supposed to carry them out. Wars are won not by those who concoct perfect plans, but rather by those whose plans are best able to absorb the consequences of their own imperfection. In military matters a reliable command structure enables the most rapid response to setbacks.

If we are ready to concede (as the Spanish anarchists ultimately did) that making war involves compromising anti-authoritarain principles we need to look at precisely what measures need to be taken to prevent those compromises from undoing the whole revolutionary project. It seems that there are a number of basic things here: the election of officers, the elimination of unnecesary social distinctions between officers and their troops, a commitment to developing the leadership skills of the rank and file in opposition to relying on officers from the old regime and the like. But these things can't hide the fundamentally authoritarian nature of an army: absolute subordination to the command structure, drills that psychologically prepare soldiers to take orders, the suspension of basic democratic rights in the course of military engagements and so on.

Recognizing the neccesity of an army doesn't mean accepting any old army. One of the central issues in te Spanish Revolution was the attempt to incorporate the militias into a new regular Republican army. Much of the impetus for this militarization came from the Communist Party, which by virtue of its connections with the Soviet Union, was prepared to dominate the command of such an army. The anarchist and POUM militias resisted this process in varying degrees. Ultimately most of the anarchist militias were either incorporated into the new army or broken up by it. One group that resisted militarization were the militias at the Gelsa front. Instead of joining the army they returned to Barcelona and constituted themselves as the Friends of Durruti. The Friends of Durruti played a pivotal role in the May 1937 events in Barcelona, calling on the anarchist forces to maintain their barricades when the CNT leadership was preaching conciliation with the Communists. After these events the Friends of Durruti issued a pamphlet "Towards a Fresh revolution" that analyzed the defeat of the Spanish Revolution and put forward proposals for its regeneration. Unlike anarchists today who see the Spanish militias as the model of anarchist military organization the Friends of Durrut had seen them in action and proposed in opposition to either the Republican army or an exclusive reliance on the militias the revolutionary army:

"With regard to the problem of the war, we back the idea of the army being under the absolute control of the working class. Officers with their origins in the capitalist regime do not deserve the slightest trust from us. Desertions have been numerous and most of the the disasters we have encountered can be laid down to obvious betrayals by officers. As to the army, we want a revolutionary one led exclusively by workers; and should any officer be retained, it must be under the strictest supervision."

In this quote there is the usual anarchist equivocations. The defeats of the militias are the result of betrayals, but the solution is a revolutionary army. We want the workers in control but we know we will need the expertise of professional officers. This is nonetheless a considerable improvement on the naive celebration of the militias that passes for anarchist military thinking today.

The question of the character of an authentically revolutionary army is important. The Friends of Durruti correctly identify the class character of the army and its command as crucial in determining its role in the revolution. So far we have spoken of the army entirely in its role as defender of gains already made by the revolution. The obvious next question is what role can a revolutionary army play in enlarging the revolutionary zone, in effect bringing the revolution to new areas. This would certainly have been a question if a revolutionary army in Spain had been able to defeat Franco's forces and take territory that had up to that point not been touched by the Revolution.

Historically many armies have started out with revolutionary objectives. John Ellis's Armies in Revolution, is a valuable treatment of much of that experience from the point of view of a military historian. Ellis argues that every revolutionary army from Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army to and including the Soviet Red Army was an army in the service of a minority class. He upholds the achievements of Makhno's Insurgent Army in the face of criticisms by the Bolsheviks. He doesn't treat the Spanish Revolution (perhaps because it offers no example of an authentically revolutionary army). Finally he points to the Peoples Liberation Army in China as the single example of an army that carried out the revolutionary class program of the oppressed majority, namely the comprehensive redistribution of land to the poor peasantry. I have argued earlier that the Chinese Revolution was ultimately a capitalist revolution, and I would argue that the PLA carried out, at least up until 1949, a program that was consistent with the common interests of the peasantry and the aspiring new capitalist class represented by the leaders of the Communist Party. In spite of these qualifications I would argue that the Chinese experience is still an important one from the point of view of trying to develop a revolutionary libertarian military strategy.

The Revolutionary Class

The problems posed by the Chinese experience are fundamentally the product of China's underdevelopment and the fact that the only class that can hope to overthrow capitalism, the proletariat, was almost absent from the Chinese political landscape. I have referred earlier to the problems posed by a class which developed historically under pre-capitalist conditions taking over a national economy that is already integrated into world capitalism. There is in anarchism a certain tendency in upholding peasant revolts to avoid their inherent limitations. Whatever the situation once was it should be clear now as the globalization of capitalism accelerates out of the control of any single national capital that the only class that has a hope to take on this system is the international working class. The overwhelmingly middle-class composition of the anarchist movement in the U.S., and the dogmatic invocation of the working class by the various marxist sects, make many anarchists reluctant to take an explicit stand in favor of a working class orientation. Instead the working class is seen as one of many points of reference or "identities" that taken together are going to carry out the revolutionary process. The pluralism of this position is its singular virtue. But by treating economic classes in the same ways that we treat ethnic or sexual identities we lose sight of the fact that it is capitalism that couples oppression with a profit-generating exploitation that fuels its constant and dynamic expansion into new territories and new areas of our lives (including ethnic and sexual identity).

Immigration and the transnational movements of capital are increasingly making the abstract notion of an international proletariat a lived reality for hundreds of millions of people. The rapid urbanization of the Third World increasingly means that it is the proletariat and not the peasantry in those countries that is best positioned to challenge neo-colonialism. The proletariat should not be viewed as a monolithic entity represented by a single party (a la the various currents of Marxism) but rather as a contested body whose unity is contingent on the freedom of its different parts to fight for their interests within it. The fight for womens liberation or the recognition of the rights of various ethnic groups then are not battles to be put off until after the proletariat seizes power globally, but are neccesary precursors to that seizure of power that clarify the revolutionary orientation of the proletariat.

Conclusion

I have sought in this paper to draw out some of the failures of the anarchist movement. I am not arguing here for the abandonment of a generally anti-authoritarian orientation, nor a modification of the ultimate goals of anarchism. I am arguing however that the viability of those goals is contingent on a number of factors and that anarchists have resisted facing these political realities with the result that anarchism has withered as a credible revolutionary alternative to the failed ideologies of marxism and the various nationalisms.

It is not clear to me that anarchism, as defined by its historical practice over the past century, offers an adequate framework for rebuilding the revolutionary project on libertarian foundations. It is clear to me that while the historical experience of marxism is invaluable, and while marxism offers important analytical tools for understanding the world we live in, that marxism as an overarching philosophical framework has proven to be irretrievably authoritarian.

There is a crying need for the development of a new body of revolutionary theory that breaks decisively with the dogmatism and political shallowness of anarchism as well as with the authoritarian essence of marxism.

Any new theoretical approach to the revolutionary project must confront not just the important historical experiences addressed in this paper but also the new conditions we face, in particular the new possibilities for building authentically international revolutionary organizations rooted in an increasingly mobile and international working class.

Taken from Love & Rage Archive

Comments

LBird
Dec 29 2010 09:15
Chris Day wrote:
If we are ready to concede (as the Spanish anarchists ultimately did) that making war involves compromising anti-authoritarian principles we need to look at precisely what measures need to be taken to prevent those compromises from undoing the whole revolutionary project. It seems that there are a number of basic things here: the election of officers, the elimination of unnecessary social distinctions between officers and their troops, a commitment to developing the leadership skills of the rank and file in opposition to relying on officers from the old regime and the like. But these things can't hide the fundamentally authoritarian nature of an army: absolute subordination to the command structure, drills that psychologically prepare soldiers to take orders, the suspension of basic democratic rights in the course of military engagements and so on.

Isn't this just the need for democracy, which seems to me to be the separating point between Communists of the Anarchist and Marxist tendencies?

Democracy is the compromise between the individual and authority; it allows the election of the skilled rank and file, thus eliminating unnecessary social distinctions.

But Democracy entails subordination [if not 'absolute', outside of the military] to the collective, the taking of orders from the elected rank and file, and the suspension of individual freedom [if not 'basic democratic rights' outside of the military], in the 'course of social engagements'.

In short, social freedom requires the democratic compromise of individual freedom.

Is it the case that both Marxists and Anarchists compromise a form of freedom? The one 'individual', the other 'social'.

I think the issue of 'military discipline' is a subset of the issue of 'social discipline'.

Chris Day wrote:
Conclusion

I have sought in this paper to draw out some of the failures of the anarchist movement. I am not arguing here for the abandonment of a generally anti-authoritarian orientation, nor a modification of the ultimate goals of anarchism. I am arguing however that the viability of those goals is contingent on a number of factors and that anarchists have resisted facing these political realities with the result that anarchism has withered as a credible revolutionary alternative to the failed ideologies of marxism and the various nationalisms.

It is not clear to me that anarchism, as defined by its historical practice over the past century, offers an adequate framework for rebuilding the revolutionary project on libertarian foundations. It is clear to me that while the historical experience of marxism is invaluable, and while marxism offers important analytical tools for understanding the world we live in, that marxism as an overarching philosophical framework has proven to be irretrievably authoritarian.

There is a crying need for the development of a new body of revolutionary theory that breaks decisively with the dogmatism and political shallowness of anarchism as well as with the authoritarian essence of marxism.

LBird
Dec 30 2010 17:36

No comments from either Anarchists or Marxists on this issue?

freemind
Dec 31 2010 13:22

An excellent and overdue analysis of the malaise facing Anarchism today!Leitmotif being that absolutes and dogma fail to take account of fluid circumstance and neccessarily leads to outmoded and irrelovent praxis.The inversion and total distortion of Anarchism as an ideology with no current relovence to the class is a natural concomitant of this and we face the real prospect of our once proud history being subsumed by fakirs unwittingly aided by the complacency and inertia of well meaning comrades.To adapt to circumstance is not to abandon revolutionary praxis-it is a revolutionary process of learning which if ignored leads inevitably to defeat and all it's consequences.

LBird
Dec 31 2010 14:12
freemind wrote:
...our once proud history being subsumed by fakirs unwittingly aided by the complacency and inertia of well meaning comrades

freemind, I'm not sure if you're commenting upon what I wrote, and further, if I count as one of either your 'fakirs' or just a 'well meaning comrade'!

LBird wrote:
In short, social freedom requires the democratic compromise of individual freedom.

What do you think of this position? I'm desperate to discuss this issue with 'class-struggle Anarchists', especially SolFed or AF.

You never know, I could become one, given my open mind and a decent conversation!

mons
Dec 31 2010 14:31

Could you rephrase "social freedom requires the democratic compromise of individual freedom."? I don't know what you mean by it I'm afraid.

LBird
Dec 31 2010 15:09
mons wrote:
Could you rephrase "social freedom requires the democratic compromise of individual freedom."? I don't know what you mean by it I'm afraid.

Well, as I went on to say, above...

LBird wrote:
Is it the case that both Marxists and Anarchists compromise a form of freedom? The one 'individual', the other 'social'.

I think the issue of 'military discipline' is a subset of the issue of 'social discipline'.

...I'm questioning which is the real aim of Communism: 'individual' freedom, or 'social' freedom.

It seems to me to be the latter. The reconciling factor is 'democracy'. 'Individual freedom' consists of the right to debate, disagree and vote on what constitutes 'social freedom'.

In the (narrower) context of the article, on the historic (especially military) 'failure of Anarchism' (if, indeed, the author is correct in that assertion), does 'democracy' provide a way out of the conundrum of individual versus social freedom?

But democracy implies subordination to a power outside of the 'individual'.

To continue the article's military focus, when militia members have freely elected a skilled rank-and-file member as an 'officer' (or some other, more acceptable term), aren't they aware of their social duty to obey that 'officer', for the pre-decided length of time of the officer's term of command?

In effect, each is choosing a rank-and-filer to have the temporary power to shoot them, if they, for example, abandon their post through boredom, thereby jeopardising the collective safety of all their fellow militia members.

Of course, that 'officer' can be removed at the next democratic meeting of the militia unit. And indeed, shot, if they have failed in their duty, in some way.

It seems to me that this debate is of far wider importance than the Spanish Workers Militias of 1936.

Therefore, to elaborate my statement, "social freedom (eg. the defeat of capitalism and introduction of democracy into the economy, for the coming generations) requires the democratic compromise of individual freedom (eg. the right of an individual to have a kip whilst on guard-duty)."

'Libertarian Communism' is not 'Libertarian Individualism', and neither is it 'Authoritarian Communism' - it's the 'Democratic Control of the Economy'.

At least, that's what I think Libertarian Communism is...

nastyned
Dec 31 2010 15:17

Class struggle anarchists aren't in favour of rampant individualism, they do see everything in a social context. But I don't think being in favour of democracy is a 'one size fits all' solution as though democracy has its uses it clearly has problems too.

LBird
Dec 31 2010 15:50
nastyned wrote:
Class struggle anarchists aren't in favour of rampant individualism, they do see everything in a social context. But I don't think being in favour of democracy is a 'one size fits all' solution as though democracy has its uses it clearly has problems too.

Well, nasty (if I may be so familiar), I agree with almost every word of your statement.

But, to me, the issue between us now is to discuss the meaning, safeguards and operation of democracy.

The pre-eminence of 'individualism' has receded into the background; it is a 'mere detail' of democratic rights.

As you say, 'class struggle', 'social context', 'democracy' and opposition to 'rampant individualism', are all 'social' factors.

One can't be a 'Communist', and place the 'individual' at the focus of our concerns.

But one can't be a 'Libertarian', without the liberty of democratic control by all individuals.

If I'm misunderstanding (or, indeed, misrepresenting) your views, perhaps could you elaborate on the other 'sizes to fit' you have in mind? Consensus?

But 'consensus' is no part of either SolFed's or AF's position, is it?

FWIW, I see 'consensus' as the tyranny of the minority.

MT
Dec 31 2010 16:08

perhaps you should define "consensus" first

freemind
Dec 31 2010 17:00

L-Bird
I was replying to the article and not you!As for your view on social freedom and democracy implying a compromise of individual freedom i don't accept the premise.
True libertarian freedom is a balanced synchronicity between the individual and the collective based on the utmost freedom of one as long as it does not endanger the liberty of all or threaten another.If by Democracy(poor phrase)you mean freedom then any true freedom would implicitly have this balance so rendering the argument meaningless.

mons
Dec 31 2010 19:54

I think you're asking whether anarchists accept that through democratic processes as a medium we can consent to 'submitting' our individual choice to the social good.

Practically, for me anyway, I'm with Maurice Brinton on this:

Quote:
The key question is whether the 'centralised' apparatus is controlled from below (by elected and revocable delegates) or whether it separates itself from those on whose behalf it is allegedly acting.

And so in, for example, a military situation, yes the individual might have to 'submit' to authority - but they would retain control over that relationship, so it wouldn't be genuine submission. I wouldn't necessarily call it democracy, but semantics aside I am with LBird that this kind of process enables the individual to 'submit' to the social without it being a problem.

Other anarchists may disagree, I don't know.

Less practically, I think most anarchists see individual freedom as the goal, but believe that can only be realised through social revolution and a communist society. Our personalities do not exist in isolation, but along with others, and it is only with others that they can be realised.

888
Dec 31 2010 23:03

Chris day is a Maoist fuckwit with no understanding of anarchism. The most pressing issue facing anarchists (and dictator loving leftoid twats) today most definitely isn't how to elect officers and form armies! And why does he shove that completely irrelevant history lesson about his beloved leader in the middle?

LBird
Jan 1 2011 11:39
mons wrote:
Practically, for me anyway, I'm with Maurice Brinton on this:
Maurice Brinton wrote:
The key question is whether the 'centralised' apparatus is controlled from below (by elected and revocable delegates) or whether it separates itself from those on whose behalf it is allegedly acting.

And so in, for example, a military situation, yes the individual might have to 'submit' to authority - but they would retain control over that relationship, so it wouldn't be genuine submission.

Yes, mons, I too agree with Maurice Brinton here: the 'apparatus' (whether a military or civil one) must consist of 'elected and revocable delegates', so that it can't 'separate itself'.

But this still leaves us with what I consider the central question:

Do individuals have to obey their 'elected and revocable delegates'?

The answer that is given to this question seems to me to define one's position:

Either 'No' - these consist of extreme individualists, who don't recognise any social authority, even one they themselves have participated in choosing, and can remove. These I would describe these as 'Individualist Anarchists'.

Or 'Yes' - these consist of democrats [the meaning of which requires discussion and clarification], who recognise the need for social organisation, but always recognise the danger of giving power to any authority (including an elected one), and so set in place structures within their democracy to prevent the emergence of a 'dictator'. In this group, I would include 'Libertarian Communists' (which, I think, includes 'Class-Struggle Anarchists' and 'Libertarian Marxists').

mons wrote:
And so in, for example, a military situation, yes the individual might have to 'submit' to authority - but they would retain control over that relationship, so it wouldn't be genuine submission. I wouldn't necessarily call it democracy, but semantics aside I am with LBird that this kind of process enables the individual to 'submit' to the social without it being a problem.

mons, your use of the phrase 'genuine submission' presents me with a problem: to me, individual 'submission' to an 'elected and revokable delegate' is 'genuine submission'.

That's why we have to ensure that our controls over those we give temporary power to are well thought out.

mons wrote:
Other anarchists may disagree, I don't know.

I'm sure some will. That's why I'm trying to differentiate between them . I'm a Libertarian Communist, and I think Class-Struggle Anarchists are, too. What unites us, I think, is a determination to control (as individuals through democratic structures) our inescapable 'submission' to a social power.

It's part of the human condition. We're social beings, socially created, who have to take collective power over our society. We're not isolated individuals. As individuals we're powerless, in the face of social forces.

mons wrote:
Less practically, I think most anarchists see individual freedom as the goal, but believe that can only be realised through social revolution and a communist society. Our personalities do not exist in isolation, but along with others, and it is only with others that they can be realised.

On this, I'm with mons.

LBird
Jan 1 2011 11:36
freemind wrote:
True libertarian freedom is a balanced synchronicity between the individual and the collective based on the utmost freedom of one as long as it does not endanger the liberty of all or threaten another.

Hiya, freemind, sorry for the confusion of my reply to your earlier post.

But, given your quote above, do you shoot the militia soldier who had endangered the whole unit by sleeping on watch?

I know I'm positing the question in a very direct way, and in the real world there would be other factors involved, but the question isn't really about 'shooting', but the issue of democratic authority.

What happens when 'balanced synchronicity' and 'utmost freedom' clashes with 'endangering the liberty of all or threatening another'?

I think a Libertarian Communist (including Class-Struggle Anarchists) would come down on the side of the latter (ie. 'all', or the social), whereas an Individualist Anarchist would come down on the side of the former (ie. 'utmost freedom', or the individual).

I'm not trying to catch you out, or anybody else. I suppose I'm trying to find out if 'Class Struggle' Anarchists are 'Communists', which implies the 'social' answer, not the 'individual' answer.

LBird
Jan 1 2011 11:50
888 wrote:
Chris day is a Maoist fuckwit with no understanding of anarchism.

Tell me more, 888, I'm keen to learn!

888 wrote:
The most pressing issue facing anarchists (and dictator loving leftoid twats) today most definitely isn't how to elect officers and form armies!

Yes, you're right, it isn't 'how to elect officers', but I suggest it is 'how to elect delegates'; and further, to discuss their powers and our social responsibilities.

I hope asking these question doesn't qualify me for 'dictator loving leftoid twit' status. Or his close cousin.

Anarchia
Jan 1 2011 14:39

re: Chris Day's Maoism - he's currently involved in the Kasama project, which is a bunch of ex RCPers mostly, who are trying to make Maoism relevant and cheerlead for the Nepali and Indian Maoists - http://kasamaproject.org/

radicalgraffiti
Jan 1 2011 14:56
LBird wrote:
mons wrote:
Practically, for me anyway, I'm with Maurice Brinton on this:
Maurice Brinton wrote:
The key question is whether the 'centralised' apparatus is controlled from below (by elected and revocable delegates) or whether it separates itself from those on whose behalf it is allegedly acting.

And so in, for example, a military situation, yes the individual might have to 'submit' to authority - but they would retain control over that relationship, so it wouldn't be genuine submission.

Yes, mons, I too agree with Maurice Brinton here: the 'apparatus' (whether a military or civil one) must consist of 'elected and revocable delegates', so that it can't 'separate itself'.

But this still leaves us with what I consider the central question:

Do individuals have to obey their 'elected and revocable delegates'?

The answer that is given to this question seems to me to define one's position:

Either 'No' - these consist of extreme individualists, who don't recognise any social authority, even one they themselves have participated in choosing, and can remove. These I would describe these as 'Individualist Anarchists'.

Or 'Yes' - these consist of democrats [the meaning of which requires discussion and clarification], who recognise the need for social organisation, but always recognise the danger of giving power to any authority (including an elected one), and so set in place structures within their democracy to prevent the emergence of a 'dictator'. In this group, I would include 'Libertarian Communists' (which, I think, includes 'Class-Struggle Anarchists' and 'Libertarian Marxists').

I would say that the delegates need to obey the delegates.

mons
Jan 1 2011 15:08

Yeah, LBird, I agree with what radical graffiti said.
The delegate's position is based upon free agreement and a strict mandate. If they stick to that, then yes the non-delegates should also stick to their agreement. But if they veer from it then the delegate should be revoked and replaced. If the people change their mind, then they could vote to recall the delegate even if they were sticking to their mandate I think, and re-mandate the same or a different delegate.
That's why I think it's not genuine submission; control remains with everybody, not with some separate person who we submit to. We freely agree that temporarily somebody needs to take on a role which gives them more power than us, but their role is determined by us and we have the right to recall.
But the question of whether it's submission or not is just semantic.

LBird
Jan 1 2011 21:53
radicalgraffiti wrote:
I would say that the delegates need to obey the delegates.

I presume you mean 'the delegated need to obey the delegators'? (if not, could you clarify, please?)

mons wrote:
Yeah, LBird, I agree with what radical graffiti said.

Yeah, I think I agree with both radicalgraffiti and mons (given my re-phrasing, as the original phrase, to me, doesn't make sense).

mons wrote:
The delegate's position is based upon free agreement and a strict mandate. If they stick to that, then yes the non-delegates should also stick to their agreement.

So, to take up the issue of the militias in the main article (to put some meat on the theoretical bones of our discussion), do you agree that, so long as there is a free vote for all unit members, and the vote is carried (say with a 90% majority), that the elected rank-and-file delegate to an officer's role has the power to have shot any militia member who falls asleep on duty?

Including any of the 10% who voted against the measure who commit the offence?

As I've made clear, this issue isn't really about shooting sleeping soldiers, but about the burden of responsibility of all individuals who participate in a free vote to obey the consequences of that vote?
Of course, as I've already made clear, we are talking about delegated authority, which all have a chance to disagree with, debate about, and vote on.

mons wrote:
But if they veer from it then the delegate should be revoked and replaced. If the people change their mind, then they could vote to recall the delegate even if they were sticking to their mandate I think, and re-mandate the same or a different delegate.

Yes, I agree. But what if the delegate is following a mandate by the delegators to impose a social decision - are all the delegators bound to comply with their own earlier decision, including those who, as individuals, voted against the delegate's mandate?

mons wrote:
That's why I think it's not genuine submission; control remains with everybody, not with some separate person who we submit to. We freely agree that temporarily somebody needs to take on a role which gives them more power than us, but their role is determined by us and we have the right to recall.

mons, your two sentences, to me, are contradictory (and to me, this is the nub of the issue).

In the first, you state that 'control remains with everybody'; then, in the second, you state that 'gives them more power than us'. These are contradictory, even given your caveats, which I share, that delegated power needs to be temporary, the delegate's role needs to be clearly defined by us, and that we have the right to recall.

I think I can sum this up by saying 'I fear delegated authority, but I think its problems are unavoidable and therefore need constant vigilance by the delegators'.

I think you and the others are saying 'I fear delegated authority, but I think its problems can be avoided by semantics'.

I apologise if I'm appearing rude, or mis-characterising your position, but I'm trying to get to the nub of the issue for Class Struggle Anarchists. It's pointless me (and, no doubt, other Libertarian Communists from a Marxist perspective) trying to find where we disagree if a straight answer can't be found to this issue.

I'd rather a delegate from SolFed or AF said that they don't agree with democratic solutions to collective issues, like, for example, the militia problem in the article.

To be clear, I'm not trying to beat someone in an argument, or trying to prove that Marxists are more correct than CS Anarchists - indeed, I don't know, which is why I'm asking what I regard as valid questions regarding democracy. I'm on this site because I find it, for the most part, very congenial.

I think I'm asking a rather straightforward question:

Do we all as individuals place ourselves under democratic authority?

And please, no-one go over the issues I've already agreed with (revokable delegates, mandates, etc.).

Sorry for the tone, but I'm getting tired (and I didn't get enough sleep last night).

radicalgraffiti
Jan 1 2011 23:55
LBird wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
I would say that the delegates need to obey the delegates.

I presume you mean 'the delegated need to obey the delegators'? (if not, could you clarify, please?)

i thought i wrote "the delegates need to obey the delegaters." i seem to have used the spell check without thinking.

LBird wrote:
mons wrote:
Yeah, LBird, I agree with what radical graffiti said.

Yeah, I think I agree with both radicalgraffiti and mons (given my re-phrasing, as the original phrase, to me, doesn't make sense).

mons wrote:
The delegate's position is based upon free agreement and a strict mandate. If they stick to that, then yes the non-delegates should also stick to their agreement.

So, to take up the issue of the militias in the main article (to put some meat on the theoretical bones of our discussion), do you agree that, so long as there is a free vote for all unit members, and the vote is carried (say with a 90% majority), that the elected rank-and-file delegate to an officer's role has the power to have shot any militia member who falls asleep on duty?

Including any of the 10% who voted against the measure who commit the offence?

As I've made clear, this issue isn't really about shooting sleeping soldiers, but about the burden of responsibility of all individuals who participate in a free vote to obey the consequences of that vote?
Of course, as I've already made clear, we are talking about delegated authority, which all have a chance to disagree with, debate about, and vote on.

i think shooting soldiers for going to sleep is a stupid idea. also your proposal that anyone who participates in a vote has to abide by the consequences of that vote seem to me to be an incentive to refuse to take part if you believe you may lose.

LBird wrote:

I think I'm asking a rather straightforward question:

Do we all as individuals place ourselves under democratic authority?

And please, no-one go over the issues I've already agreed with (revokable delegates, mandates, etc.).

Sorry for the tone, but I'm getting tired (and I didn't get enough sleep last night).

Delegates are normally people who have been chosen to perform specific tasks, like conveying the position of one part of the organisation to the rest of the organisation at a meeting, or editing the paper, or answering emails, not to give orders to other members.

prec@riat
Jan 2 2011 01:09

L-Bird, so your question is "if you decide to do something... (like freely elect someone to have some temporary power over you) ...and then don't do what you decided to do (like obey that temporary power)... do anarchists believe there will be consequences"? Um... YES... show me anyone who thinks otherwise (anarchists, communists, royalists, democrats, "individualists", etc.).

I agree with 888. Day's article makes many assertions and unfortunately doesn't source his assertions so I find this article largely a piece of unconvincing ex-anarchist Maoist apologetics / propaganda. Day is pretty wide of the mark as to what is "wrong" with "anarchism". In general I would argue that an obsession with form over content is what is wrong with much of anarchism ... and in that regard L-Bird is being rather classicly "anarchist" (i.e.- asking the wrong questions... or potentially worthwhile questions divorced from any context).

LBird
Jan 2 2011 06:30

radicalgraffiti and prec@riat, thanks for your answers.

But, after some sleep and waking early thinking about this issue, I think I've come to a temporary conclusion, which your latest answers have tended to confirm.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
...your proposal that anyone who participates in a vote has to abide by the consequences of that vote seem to me to be an incentive to refuse to take part if you believe you may lose.

This confirms my suspicions: that 'Anarchists' seem to think that an individual can 'refuse to take part' in society. I'm a Communist because I think that this is impossible. We are social beings, not 'isolated individuals'. We do have to abide by our inescapable social interactions. I just want them to be democratic, not imposed by a ruling class.

radicalgraffiti wrote:
Delegates are normally people who have been chosen to perform specific tasks, like conveying the position of one part of the organisation to the rest of the organisation at a meeting, or editing the paper, or answering emails, not to give orders to other members.

Again, it seems 'Anarchists' think that 'social orders' embodied in a delegate (arrived at by democratic methods), don't give orders to all members of the voting body. This is a rejection of democracy, and the triumph of individualism. As a Communist, I think delegates will have power, and that this power must be recognised and controlled. To pretend that power can be ignored, or that this power will stop at mere mechanical tasks, is dangerous for our future society (and indeed to me frightening - and it's a recipe for defeat in the class war).

prec@riat wrote:
...in that regard L-Bird is being rather classicly "anarchist" (i.e.- asking the wrong questions... or potentially worthwhile questions divorced from any context).

Well, I've given other 'Anarchist' posters plenty of chances, not just on this thread but also several others in which I've raised these issues, to answer my questions, but they haven't - well, not to my satisfaction. If I'm asking the 'wrong' questions, no-one has pointed out the 'right' or better-phrased questions.

To be a bit sarcastic, perhaps the Anarchistic militias in Spain should have told the forces of reaction that they were using the 'wrong' military organisation and tactics, according to the militias, even though the the Francoists were actually winning the battles (leaving alone the strategic political situation). Anyway, in light of this discussion I'll re-read some stuff on the Spanish revolution.

On a wider note, I've never really understood the argument that Anarcho-synicalism doesn't do politics.

But I think this is becoming clearer to me. 'Politics' is about 'social power', not simply individuals' wishes, and power involves social organisation and its attendent dangers.

As a Communist, I recognise the dangers of power, even that wielded by revokable delegates, and, as they say, 'fore-warned is fore-armed'.

I think Anarchists, at least of the type that are replying to (and those ignoring) my questions, are playing semantics. The 'social' is not a mere aggregation of individuals.

To sum up, 'Power' is a social phenomenon, not the attribute of an individual ('anarchist' or otherwise).

Given that position, I'm now beginning to doubt that this site is actually 'Libertarian Communist', at least in terms that I understand. Libertarian, perhaps, but not Communist, which recognises 'social' power. Although, I'm aware that I might revise that opinion in the future.

Thanks for your thoughts, anyway. Apologies for any impatience on my part. I'm genuinely interested in this issue, and think that I have learned from the exchange.

mons
Jan 2 2011 07:54

I think you're making massive sweeping abstract generalisations based on not much to be honest.
I'm willing to accept that in circumstances such as a military situation, the delegates would have real power over the people who elected them, and both electors and delegates could be subject to discipline. I don't want to answer the 'would an officer have the right to shoot someone who slept on duty?' thing, because I think it'd be fucking awful to do that and I really really hope people wouldn't decide that was the thing to do. If pushed, in theory probably yes, they would have that right. But I think it'd be fundamentally anti-communist in content - though not in form. Just as if in a directly democratic manner some place decided on some racist shit, the form might be communist (as in the the decision making-process happening in a workers' council or whatever) but the (racist) content is certainly not. Having said that I know nothing about military stuff.
When I was saying it is not 'genuine submission', all I mean is that it is qualitatively different from an authority figure being imposed from without, in a top-down way. The latter I regard as more 'genuine submission', because the people have no control over the delegate's actions or role. But that's just semantics.

People on this site are communists, not individualists. I think you are taking too literally the silly 'against all authority/hierarchy' 'anarchist' slogans.

Hope that's answered your question, though it's just my opinion. Sorry if you think I'm still dodging the question, that's honestly just through not knowing what your question is!

LBird
Jan 2 2011 08:39
mons wrote:
I'm willing to accept that in circumstances such as a military situation, the delegates would have real power over the people who elected them, and both electors and delegates could be subject to discipline. I don't want to answer the 'would an officer have the right to shoot someone who slept on duty?' thing, because I think it'd be fucking awful to do that and I really really hope people wouldn't decide that was the thing to do. If pushed, in theory probably yes, they would have that right.

And I agree with you. Simple question, simple answer.

mons wrote:
When I was saying it is not 'genuine submission', all I mean is that it is qualitatively different from an authority figure being imposed from without, in a top-down way. The latter I regard as more 'genuine submission', because the people have no control over the delegate's actions or role. But that's just semantics.

And I agree with you. To elect a delegate is to submit to an authority. The rest is just semantics.

mons wrote:
I think you are taking too literally the silly 'against all authority/hierarchy' 'anarchist' slogans.

But I'm forced to accept, given that the overwhelming flavour of replies have been of the " 'against all authority/hierarchy' 'anarchist' slogans" type, perhaps with the exception of your contributions, that I should take this position literally. It hasn't been the odd 'silly' individualist (and there has been plenty of opportunity for the 'sensible' Anarchist Communists to participate, to correct any misunderstandings I have or misstatements I have made), but the general thrust of replies, to this and other threads on the same issue.

mons wrote:
People on this site are communists, not individualists.

Unhappily, mons, I'm forced to draw the opposite conclusion, regarding the majority. For now, at least. I hope I'm later proved wrong in my stance - I'll be happy to be contradicted.

mons wrote:
Hope that's answered your question, though it's just my opinion. Sorry if you think I'm still dodging the question, that's honestly just through not knowing what your question is!

No, you've answered my question. And I agree with your answer.

My real problem now is that it took so long to produce.

I had hoped to have an affirmative answer quite quickly, and move onto a discussion of the tremendous problems (and unavoidable dangers) of delegated authority, which you so rightly point out.

That's the real issue - not silly slogans or semantics.

Anyway, thanks for your 'opinion' (your first quote above) - it's also mine. But then, I'm a Libertarian Communist, not a silly individualist.

freemind
Jan 2 2011 10:48

Happy New Year L Bird and other comrades!
I dont understand the hypothetical scenario about shooting the militia soldier who falls asleep while on watch and its application to the argument but i think that the whole argument centers on the notion of Freedom.Freedom as i understand it is absolute to the point that an individual can do whatever he wants as long as it does not infringe on the liberty of others.No one has the right to rape,murder,exploit or enslave another human being ergo freedom has natural boundaries.To say otherwise is laisse faire Capitalist ethos and as Libertarian Communists Anarchists would oppose this.Reason and Justice come into play here and replace Capitalist barbarism.The militia soldier scenario is subjective and depends on the circumstances of the moment but ultimately Anarchists are believers in Free Stateless Communism which gives the freest expression to individual expression possible within a societal context.I hope i'm not being pedantic here but for sake of space that is the answer in a nutshell.
Also in answer to other contributers i feel that the article in it's defence is a general appraisal of Anarchism's malaise and should be treated as such.Individualism and the Stirnerite fetish has stifled Anarchism and too often Anarchists have failed to grasp the complexities of organisation and failed to see that power and disciplined organisation in a libertarian sense is not the same as State or Authoritarian praxis.

LBird
Jan 2 2011 12:39

Happy New Year, freemind! Looks like the New Year has produced some replies that can be discussed, from a Libertarian Communist perspective.

freemind wrote:
Freedom as i understand it is absolute to the point that an individual can do whatever he wants as long as it does not infringe on the liberty of others.No one has the right to rape,murder,exploit or enslave another human being ergo freedom has natural boundaries.

I agree with your sentiments, as a fellow Commie, but I'd like to discuss what 'the liberty of others' actually means, from a Commie perspective. It has to be defined, it's not a 'common-sense', conservative opinion.

In a social group which uses freely elected, recallable, revokable, delegates with a mandate, if this 'social mandate' is agreed by only 90% of the electors, I would call that mandate the democratic 'liberty of others'. In this sense, I would argue that the 10% have to abide by that mandate, even if it impinges on a 'freedom' that that 10% see as an individual freedom, but the majority don't. The 10% (or even one individual within that 10%) must not 'infringe on the liberty of others'.

So for me, 'social mandate' = 'liberty of others'. I'd like your opinion on my definition of 'the liberty of others', and if you disagree, could you give me a different definition of 'liberty'. To be clear, my definition of 'liberty' is a democratic one, not an 'individual' one. But then, I'm a Libertarian Communist, not an 'Individualist'.

"...freedom has natural boundaries." Since murder, rape, exploitation and slavery are something I think all libertarians, even non-Communists, can agree everyone should be free from, they don't present a problem. But I think 'natural boundaries' would have to be democratically defined, and not just be the opinion of individuals.

In fact, I think our defined 'natural boundaries' would be an example of a 'social mandate'.

freemind wrote:
...ultimately Anarchists are believers in Free Stateless Communism which gives the freest expression to individual expression possible within a societal context.I hope i'm not being pedantic here but for sake of space that is the answer in a nutshell.

No, freemind, you're not being pedantic and your 'nutshell answer' is admirably concise! And one I agree with, I think.

Now, how do we define 'societal', as that is your (and my) limit to individual expression?

freemind wrote:
...too often Anarchists have failed to grasp the complexities of organisation and failed to see that power and disciplined organisation in a libertarian sense is not the same as State or Authoritarian praxis.

Ahhh, now we're cookin'! 'Organisation', 'Power' and 'Discipline' cannot be ignored, they must be socially controlled. But how?

freemind
Jan 2 2011 18:44

By the freedom of others i mean the freedom of people to control their environment and not be alienated from their labour so they can contribute to society and their fellow workers allowing them to perfect their intellectual and moral faculties for the benefit of humanity.
Societal to me means the ultimate collective will of individuals who share a common perspective based on the principles of liberty,solidarity and mutual aid.
Organisation,power and discipline are intrinsic within us all but must manifest themselves in a communist direction through the structures and libertarian institutions instilled in a new society.Revocable delegates and a class highly motivated by an Anarchist vision seeking to instill class empowerment and functioning libertarian structures would provide the dynamism for this.
Of course this is intellectual verbiage on my part and the modalities are far more complex in an actual revolutionary scenario and way beyond my remit and wit but these are classic Anarchist/Libertarian guidelines that depend ultimately on a highly class conscious and innovative class that seeks to relentlessly improve and innovate it's revolution from below.

Felix Frost
Jan 2 2011 19:47
LBird wrote:
I think Anarchists, at least of the type that are replying to (and those ignoring) my questions, are playing semantics.

The anarchists that are ignoring your questions are playing semantics?

Or maybe they are just ignoring you because most of the time it's very difficult to make any sense of what you are talking about...

mons
Jan 2 2011 20:10

LBird:
Well I'm glad you don't think I'm an individualist, but I really think you are making generalisations based on small, largely semantic, differences, and they happen to be wrong generalisations. I think many people on libcom think, for example, that some form of prison would be necessary in a communist society.
Clearly we don't believe in the unrestrained freedom of the individual to be a dick to others.

Communists are those who want to do away with class society and create a free moneyless stateless world. People aren't individualists just because they don't accept your terms of debate, which I think is the key problem in this discussion.

Also I'm not sure if you got radicalgraffiti's point. If you accept that the delegates need to obey the delegators as you say you do, then you have to accept that in one sense ultimate power does remain with the delegators. Having said that, I do agree that in exceptional cases such as military ones, while remaining right to recall, alter the mandate, etc. the delegate does have actual power over the delegators.

LBird
Jan 2 2011 22:09
Felix Frost wrote:
Or maybe they are just ignoring you because most of the time it's very difficult to make any sense of what you are talking about...

Do you really think it's 'very difficult to make any sense' of the question:

'Who sets the boundaries for individual behaviour, and how do they do it?'

If that's too difficult a question for us to at least discuss, are we really anywhere near ready to challenge the ruling class, its ideas, its organisation, in the attempt to re-make society to serve our class interests?

Fuck, we've got problems...

mons wrote:
If you accept that the delegates need to obey the delegators as you say you do, then you have to accept that in one sense ultimate power does remain with the delegators.

Mons, mate, think it through, logically.

IF, as you say, in one sense ultimate power does remain with the delegators, THEN in how many other senses does power (ultimate or otherwise) remain with the delegates? How do we control this 'non-ultimate power' - just fuckin' hope for the best?

Is everyone just keepin' their fingers crossed that "it'll all turn out OK"?

I would have thought that, for Anarchists especially, questions regarding 'power' and 'authority' and their control would be of the greatest importance.

And some answers, even more so.