Anarchist communism - an introduction

Federazione Anarchica Italiana - Italian anarchist-communist group.
Federazione Anarchica Italiana - Italian anarchist-communist group.

A short introduction to anarchist-communism.

Submitted by Jacques Roux on October 25, 2006

Anarchist communism is a form of anarchism that advocates the abolition of the State and capitalism in favour of a horizontal network of voluntary associations through which everyone will be free to satisfy his or her needs.

Anarchist communism is also known as anarcho-communism, communist anarchism, or, sometimes, libertarian communism. However, while all anarchist communists are libertarian communists, some libertarian communists, such as council communists, are not anarchists. What distinguishes anarchist communism from other variants of libertarian communism is the formers opposition to all forms of political power, hierarchy and domination.

Anarchist communism stresses egalitarianism and the abolition of social hierarchy and class distinctions that arise from unequal wealth distribution, the abolition of capitalism and money, and the collective production and distribution of wealth by means of voluntary associations. In anarchist communism, the state and property no longer exist. Each individual and group is free to contribute to production and to satisfy their needs based on their own choice. Systems of production and distribution are managed by their participants.

The abolition of wage labour is central to anarchist communism. With distribution of wealth being based on self-determined needs, people will be free to engage in whatever activities they find most fulfilling and will no longer have to engage in work for which they have neither the temperament nor the aptitude. Anarchist communists argue that there is no valid way of measuring the value of any one person's economic contributions because all wealth is a collective product of current and preceding generations. Anarchist communists argue that any economic system based on wage labour and private property will require a coercive state apparatus to enforce property rights and to maintain the unequal economic relationships that will inevitably arise.

Well known anarchist communists include Peter, or Piotr, Kropotkin (Russia), Errico Malatesta (Italy) and Nestor Makhno (Ukraine). Kropotkin is often seen as the most important theorist of anarchist communism, outlining his economic ideas in books The Conquest of Bread and Fields, Factories and Workshops. Kropotkin felt co-operation to be more beneficial than competition, arguing in Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution that this was illustrated in nature. Anarchist communist ideas were very influential in the introduction of anarchism to Japan through the efforts of Kôtoku Shûsui in the early 1900s who corresponded with Kropotkin and translated his works. Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman (who were both deported from USA in 1919) became important proponents of ‘Communist anarchism’ and became especially critical of Bolshevism after they discovered its devastating reality first-hand in Russia, and after the Red Army's crushing of the Kronstadt uprising. They in turn had been influenced by German-born émigrée to the USA, Johann Most, who had earlier helped bring anarchist communist thought to Britain though his contact with Frank Kitz in London around 1880 (see Anarchist Communism in Britain for a full historical account).

Many platformists refer to themselves as anarchist communists, although other anarchist communists are uncomfortable with some areas of the Organisational Platform document, such as the issue of ‘collective responsibility’ as supported by Mahkno but opposed by Malatesta. While historically many anarchist communists have been active anarcho-syndicalists, many are critical towards those syndicalists who seek some form of self-managed wage system rather than its abolition, pointing out that any system which maintains economic relations based on reward of effort and exchange is not communist.

Modern day anarchist communists are represented in several organisations within the International of Anarchist Federations, including the Anarchist Federation (Britain). Platformist anarchist communists include the Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland) and the North-Eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists (USA). Many nascent Eastern European, Russian and Caucasian anarchist groups identify with anarchist communism and there is a strong anarchist communist current amongst contemporary Latin American and Caribbean anarchist organisations.

More information

Edited by libcom from an article by the Anarchist Federation.

Comments

Joseph Kay

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 15, 2011

don't want to edit this unilaterally as it's attributed to the AF, but this seems manifestly incorrect:

In general anarchist communists of all kinds are critical of some aspects of anarcho-syndicalism which considers workplace self-management by workers as fundamental to the aims (as well as the means) of achieving social revolution and still maintains economic relations based on reward of effort and exchange.

historically most anarchist communists have been anarcho-syndicalists (critically or otherwise), and anarcho-syndicalism is committed to libertarian communism, not 'economic relations based on reward of effort and exchange'.

could this be reworded something like 'many anarchist communists are critical of anarcho-syndicalism because they consider it....' ?

Steven.

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on May 15, 2011

These were meant to be our libcom introductions. I think it would be fine to edit it unilaterally and change the line at the end to say edited by libcom from a piece originally by the AF. I would say that sentence it might be better to change it to say critical of "some anarcho-syndicalists who consider…"

Joseph Kay

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 15, 2011

ok, i'll think about wording. i'm happy with something like that in there since it's a view a lot of anarchist communists have, i just don't think it should be presented as uncontroversial fact.

but out of interest which anarcho-syndicalists want "economic relations based on reward of effort and exchange"? i mean, there may well be self-identified individuals with such views, and i guess if your anarchism was mutualist and you pursued a syndicalist strategy that would be a form of anarcho-syndicalism. but is there any significant tendency that does that?

Steven.

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on May 15, 2011

I would say the parecon types, some of whom identify as anarcho-syndicalists, like Tom Wetzel perhaps

Joseph Kay

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 15, 2011

Yeah fair point. I'll change the wording now and leave a comment in the revision log

Submitted by Steven. on May 15, 2011

Joseph Kay

Yeah fair point. I'll change the wording now and leave a comment in the revision log

sorry that they let the side down!

Joseph Kay

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 15, 2011

well i think self-identification by individuals is a pretty poor threshold for critiquing traditions involving millions of workers over a century. but the point is that critique exists and is part of the reason for there being separate anarchist communist and anarcho-syndicalist organisations so it should be in the intro. but i don't think we can present as fact that "in general" anarchist communists are against anarcho-syndicalism, since the vast majority of anarcho-syndicalists are anarchist communists, and those that aren't (being charitable) are the kind of 'anarchists' who take state money (CGT etc). and as they're communists, they don't advocate self-managed wage relations but libertarian communism.

Steven.

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on May 15, 2011

Sure, I agree

AIW

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by AIW on May 15, 2011

Individualist Anarchists and Mutualists believe in individual ownership, as against the Communist Anarchists who see in the institution of private property one of the main sources of injustice and inequality, of poverty and misery. The Individualists and Mutualists maintain that liberty means "the right of every one. to the product of his toil"; which is true, of course. Liberty does mean that. But the question is not whether one has a right to his product, but whether there is such a thing as an individual product. I have pointed out in preceding chapters that there is no such thing in modern industry: all labor and the products of labor are social. The argument, therefore, about the right of the individual to his product has no practical merit.

Alexander Berkman, Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism, New York: Vanguard Press, 1929. CHAPTER 23

AIW

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by AIW on May 15, 2011

What distinguishes anarchist communism from other variants of libertarian communism is the formers opposition to all forms of political power, hierarchy and domination.

Are you saying that Council Communists support political power, hierarchy and domination? Why do they?

nastyned

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by nastyned on May 15, 2011

Regarding anarcho-syndicalism the trouble is term 'anarchist communist' is used in a couple of ways.

There is a tradition of anarchist communist organising separate from syndicalist unions, so in that instance it's factually correct to say 'anarchist communists of all kinds are critical of some aspects of anarcho-syndicalism'.

Then there's the fact most modern anarcho-syndicalists are in favour of creating an anarchist communist society so in that sense it's not.

I guess you need to be clear on which sense you're using the term in this article.

Joseph Kay

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on May 15, 2011

ned, if you can propose a better wording feel free to post it up! it's slippery for precisely that reason...

LBird

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 16, 2011

OP

What distinguishes anarchist communism from other variants of libertarian communism is the formers opposition to all forms of political power, hierarchy and domination.

AIW

Are you saying that Council Communists support political power, hierarchy and domination? Why do they?

In the sense that democracy supports 'political power, hierarchy and domination' this can be seen as true.

Clearly, even to elect a revokable, recallable, delegate is to give some form of 'political power' to someone, which is separate from the individuals who do the electing. This is why Libertarian Communists stress the need for vigilance towards all those that we elect into any position of power, including delegates, to prevent the emergence of a permanent 'hierarchy and dominance'. But human social relationships are political, so power and its dangers will be ever-present. So, it's not so much that CCs 'support' these things, but that they regard them as inescapable.

The starting point for all Communists should be the 'social', not the 'individual', whereas for some individualist Anarchists the starting point is the 'individual'. These ACs also reject 'political power' as being a temporary, class-based, state phenomenon, whereas CCs (and other LCs) see 'power' to be an eternal social phenomenon, not an attribute of some individuals or some societies.

In this sense, I see 'Anarchist Communism' as a contradiction in terms. That's why I would place 'Class Struggle Anarchists' in the 'Libertarian Communist' camp, and not in the AC camp.

"Opposition to all forms of political power, hierarchy and domination" can be seen as similar to "opposition to all earthquakes" - we all 'oppose' them, but 'ignoring' their reality is no basis for dealing with them. Pretending 'earthquakes' or 'power' are going to go away is a political mistake.

Submitted by Harrison on May 16, 2011

LBird's post sums up the differences between Council Communism and Anarchist Communism pretty well.

I'd just say that i personally am happy to call myself either; the theory is different, but the practice is very close. I also think that the aversion to 'political power, hierarchy and domination' is anarchist-communism's simultaneous strength and weakness.

For me, as a council communist, the real issue is retaining rank and file control over our structures. An anti-hierarchical ideology like anarchism 99% of the time coincides with this goal. The other 1% is when anti-hierarchical rhetoric is used to paralyse structures into unworkable forms, ensuring that essentially no-one (not even the rank and file) has control over them!

Submitted by nastyned on May 16, 2011

Harrison Myers

LBird's post sums up the differences between Council Communism and Anarchist Communism pretty well.

It looked like nonsense to me.

LBird

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 16, 2011

Harrison Myers

LBird's post sums up the differences between Council Communism and Anarchist Communism pretty well.

nastyned

It looked like nonsense to me.

Would you care to, err, expand a little on that, nasty? You might have a point, and I'm keen to learn (if you indeed do have one), but short of using a mystic ball or praying to the almighty, I'm not going to learn much from your terse (and a bit insulting) comment.

FWIW, I tend to agree with Harrison Myers' comments - I'm 99% happy with the stress on self-activity and direct action from SolFed and AF, but I regard the other 1% as a fundamental weakness for rank-and-file control of society. It's like having a 99% solid covering on a nuclear reactor - it's the 1% airgap that's the source of the danger...

If nastyned proves incapable of enlightening us all, could someone else criticise what I wrote, from an Anarchist Communist perspective?

I'd like to be very clear about why I disagree, at present, with AC.

Submitted by radicalgraffiti on May 16, 2011

LBird

The starting point for all Communists should be the 'social', not the 'individual', whereas for some individualist Anarchists the starting point is the 'individual'. These ACs also reject 'political power' as being a temporary, class-based, state phenomenon, whereas CCs (and other LCs) see 'power' to be an eternal social phenomenon, not an attribute of some individuals or some societies.

I really disagree with this, I think being a communist is the logical result of looking at the world from and individualist perspective, there is no individual without society, and there is no society with out the individual. Any perspective that ignores one or the other is incomplete.

As far as power goes, you seem to be defining it differently to others, and then comparing them as if the meant the same thing.

Harrison

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on May 16, 2011

rather than make this into an argument over CC vs AC, (a bit fruitless imo)
it is better to focus on what the actual differences are.

I would posit the main difference to be ideological confrontation of the concept of 'power' or 'hierarchy'.

The CCers have more of a theoretical concern over rank and file control of organizations. (not to say that concern isn't also present in anarchist communism, but it exists in AC as a derivative of anti-hierarchical ideology)

But i'm still highly sympathetic to AC, as it holds essentially the same practical views, despite arriving at them by a different route!

MT

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on May 16, 2011

Isn't the individual-society as something opposed a bit false dichotomy? Individualists are totally out of space just because of that, but I don't know of any AC claiming the opposite pole of this dichotomy. That doesn't mean I can't imagine there are such ;)

LBird

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 16, 2011

radicalgraffiti

...I think being a communist is the logical result of looking at the world from an individualist perspective...

I afraid you'll have to expand on this, rg. To me, 'being a communist is the logical result of looking at the world from a social perspective'. In historical terms, the 'individualist perspective' is the product of bourgeois society - but that's not to say we should throw the individual baby out with the capitalist bathwater.

radicalgraffiti

...there is no individual without society, and there is no society with out the individual. Any perspective that ignores one or the other is incomplete.

Yeah, I, and I imagine all LibCommers would agree with that. The problem is that AC seems to ignore the issue of 'political power', which is a central issue of any 'society' which is referred to in your statement.

That's the key difference between AC and LC - LC covers both individual and society, whereas AC only focuses on 'individuals' and disregards 'social power' ie. 'politics'.

radicalgrafitti

As far as power goes, you seem to be defining it differently to others, and then comparing them as if the meant the same thing.

Yeah, this seems to be the bone of contention. Can you say what you mean by 'power', if not something to do with social relationships? For me, power is about 'relationships between individuals', not about the individuals themselves.

Once again, I'm very sympathetic with Harrison Myers' views on the practical aspects. But I don't understand the AC position on 'power', which to me, on the surface, seems to be ignoring the obvious. Perhaps you can discuss this further, as I'm keen to understand, even if not agree.

LBird

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 17, 2011

Could nastyned or radicalgraffiti give me some feedback on my questions above?

Or failing those two, anyone sympathetic to AC with an interest in discussing these issues?

Or even Harrison Myers - although you're not an AC-er, could you outline the AC position on 'power', that seems to be so different to mine, according to radicalgraffiti?

nastyned

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by nastyned on May 17, 2011

Haven't we discussed this before? Am I right in thinking you're the person in favour of shooting sentries that fall asleep?

Have you read The Tyranny of Structurelessness? I think it talks about some of the point you raised.

As to the difference between anarchist communism and council communism I would say they are down to the political traditions they come from. One important point is the anarchists are federalists, whereas the council communists being Marxists came from centralised political parties. Though many councilists did end up rejecting parties I don't think they ever came up with a coherent organisational practice like the anarchists have.

LBird

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 18, 2011

nastyned

Haven't we discussed this before?

Well, no, we haven't. I've tried to promote some discussion on this issue of 'power' a few times, but the posters who politically disagree with me seem to be very reticent in explaining their position, rather just relying on either using abuse (apparently, I'm a 'leninoid authoritarianoid' or somesuch), or 'strawmanning' my position. Which, quite handily, leads me to:

nastyned

Am I right in thinking you're the person in favour of shooting sentries that fall asleep?

It's an old trick, beloved of tabloid-headline writers, of taking statements out of their context, to shock their more naive readers.

Let's see if I can do the same:

A militia unit of anarchists, including nastyned, decide to liberate one of their comrades who is being held under torture in a Nazi police station. Rather than employ the suicidal tactic of a daylight frontal assault, nastyned quite cleverly suggests that they wait until mid-night, let the dozy Nazi sentry fall asleep, sneak up and slit his throat, and gain access to the building and free their comrade, all without any friendly losses. nastyned proves his tactical genius.

Next day's headline? "nastyned in favour of knifing sentries that fall asleep!"

We both know that the 'facts' have been twisted to confuse the unwary. My 'sentry' statement was in the context of a discussion about 'democratic control of force' and your allotted scenario was in the context of an enemy sentry, but why bother with the full facts, when cheap shots are so much easier than making a substantial logical argument?

Well, let's leave all that sort of stuff behind us, eh? And have a comradely discussion.

nastyned

As to the difference between anarchist communism and council communism I would say they are down to the political traditions they come from. One important point is the anarchists are federalists, whereas the council communists being Marxists came from centralised political parties. Though many councilists did end up rejecting parties I don't think they ever came up with a coherent organisational practice like the anarchists have.

While I agree with what you've said above, it still doesn't address the issues surrounding 'power', and our different political positions on them.

Furthermore, you've quite rightly raised the additional issue of 'federal' versus 'central', which I think is a connected debate which we on this board should have.

And, perhaps to tease further, do Anarchists have 'a coherent organisational practice' beyond "an individual leaves a Workers' Council that they disagree with"?

Please take all this in the spirit it's meant: I'm really interested in trying to understand something I don't yet understand properly.

Submitted by Harrison on May 18, 2011

LBird

Or even Harrison Myers - although you're not an AC-er, could you outline the AC position on 'power', that seems to be so different to mine, according to radicalgraffiti?

well if i am not misinformed (i must admit i've not read that much AC or anarchist stuff)
it is derived from the phrase 'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely' (this quote was not made by an anarchist, but many anarchists hold to it)

This, when interpreted in an AC way, leads them to support assemblies and councils and the destruction of wage labour. individualists interpret it in crap-er ways.

In some ways this is good, because it provides a really robust buffer to leninism, but it has led to a lot of anti-organizational things (which, as nastyned mentions, have since been overcome by most organized ACs, by things like Jo Freeman's The Tyranny of Structurelessness)

tbh i prefer to view the assemblies and councils in more of a scientific way, than (what i perceive to be) the moralism inherent in anti-hierarchical thought, which is why I lean more toward CC.

ie. The proletariat as a class can only exercise it's class power collectively through the media of direct and delegate democracy. It is incompatible with bourgeois forms of democracy or militaristic structures which necessitate the creation of a bureaucracy who develop their own independent class interests and warp the character of the revolution.

My only real criticism of AC, is that there is a latent tendency toward anti-organisationalism. I don't really like Kropotkin's commitment to blanket decentralisation, which I think is a good thing for community and workplace power - ie. assemblies and councils - but not necessarily for production itself. I also think it has a possibility to instil an irrational fear of the higher delegate councils.

but as i've stated a thousand times, the conclusions that AC reach are totally compatible with CC, it is just a different body of thought behind it; the workers must carry out their own revolution through their own revolutionary structures. But as with CC, it has it's own quirks that have to be overcome. I wouldn't be surprised if they had already been debated and overcome by AC groups.

PS. i think this AC vs CC discussion should be split into a new thread by an admin

Submitted by nastyned on May 18, 2011

LBird

Please take all this in the spirit it's meant: I'm really interested in trying to understand something I don't yet understand properly.

Look, I don't know you from Adam but I had a feeling we'd had discussion before so I was trying to place you and the sentry thing was the thing that stuck in my mind.

LBird

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 18, 2011

Thanks, HM, for your proxy attempt to explain AC's view of power.

Harrison Myers

'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely'

Yeah, this point was made by the liberal Lord Acton, but I would think all Libertarian Communists, not just ACs, would subscribe to its political truth. But the real issue here is not 'power is dangerous', which we all agree on, LC and AC, but whether we go on to say '...and therefore must always be vigilantly controlled', as for LCs, or to say '...and must be abolished', as it seems to me that the ACs maintain.

I think you and I, and other LCs, agree with the former, hence our emphasis on elected, recallable, revokable, delegates. But that method of democratic accountability doesn't entirely remove the danger; it only lessens it.

Harrison Myers

...it provides a really robust buffer to leninism

I think the buffer to Leninism is workers' democracy.

Harrison Myers

...(what i perceive to be) the moralism inherent in anti-hierarchical thought...

Yeah, perhaps you're onto something here. 'Moralism' is no substitute for 'politics'. And where do morals come from anyway, to resurrect a debate from a few months ago?

Harrison Myers

...but as i've stated a thousand times, the conclusions that AC reach are totally compatible with CC...

While I agree with most of the rest of your post, this point is one I'm not sure about at all. Which is why I want this discussion.

Harrison Myers

PS. i think this AC vs CC discussion should be split into a new thread by an admin

No, I see this counterposing of AC and CC as entirely relevant to the OP.

For example,

OP

Anarchist communism stresses egalitarianism and the abolition of social hierarchy and class distinctions that arise from unequal wealth distribution, the abolition of capitalism and money, and the collective production and distribution of wealth by means of voluntary associations. In anarchist communism, the state and property no longer exist. Each individual and group is free to contribute to production and to satisfy their needs based on their own choice. Systems of production and distribution are managed by their participants.

The abolition of wage labour is central to anarchist communism. With distribution of wealth being based on self-determined needs, people will be free to engage in whatever activities they find most fulfilling and will no longer have to engage in work for which they have neither the temperament nor the aptitude. Anarchist communists argue that there is no valid way of measuring the value of any one person's economic contributions because all wealth is a collective product of current and preceding generations. Anarchist communists argue that any economic system based on wage labour and private property will require a coercive state apparatus to enforce property rights and to maintain the unequal economic relationships that will inevitably arise.

There's not a great deal there that most LCs would disagree with, at least within 'full Communism', but where's ACs views on purely political issues, as opposed to only economic ones, that the quote addresses? And avoiding politics means an avoidance of the dangers of power. It seems like 'head-in-the-sand' to me. Ignoring dangers don't make them go away.

I'll leave relevant examples of 'political' versus 'economic' till a later post, if the discussion continues.

mons

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by mons on May 18, 2011

On power and centralism/federalism, I think I've quoted this before but it's relevant here:

It is worth pointing out, at this stage, that we doubt if there is any intrinsic merit in decentralisation. as some anarchists maintain. The Paris Commune, a Congress of Soviets (or a shop stewards' committee or strike committee to take modern analogies) are all highly centralised yet fairly democratic. Feudalism on the other hand was both decentralised and highly bureaucratic. 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 . This period witnessed a considerable fall in production, due to a complex variety of factors which have been well described elsewhere.

from Maurice Brinton
I don't think I know what the supposed difference between federalism and centralism is to be honest, but total control from below seems the most important thing and maybe the centralism/federalism debate is a bit of a red herring? Equally, whether you regard it as the democratic wielding of power, or the abolition of it, isn't the substance pretty much the same so long as there is no decision-making body removed from the base?

MT

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by MT on May 18, 2011

good points mons, I have the same impression. but I would say that there is a reason for marxists to use "centralism" instead of "federalism" which may stem from the "party" concept. still, this is just my guess as I am not so good in this tradition.

LBird

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 18, 2011

mons

I don't think I know what the supposed difference between federalism and centralism is to be honest, but total control from below seems the most important thing and maybe the centralism/federalism debate is a bit of a red herring? Equally, whether you regard it as the democratic wielding of power, or the abolition of it, isn't the substance pretty much the same so long as there is no decision-making body removed from the base?

But isn't this the nub of the issue?

We can have total control from below and no decision-making body removed from the base and still have a situation where the 'higher level' err... mandate or instruction or fiat (call it what one wishes) is imposed upon somebody or some body against their own wishes.

For example, three Workers' Councils decide to co-ordinate their responses to certain issues (economic or political) by setting up a 'higher level' co-ordinating body. This body is elected, recallable, revokable and mandated, and all decisions have to be ratified by all the members of the three constituent Workers' Councils.

What happens if an overwhelming majority of members of two of the three, together with a large minority within the third, vote to do something which a small majority within the third disagree?

Workers within all three Councils have come together to make a decision on an issue that affects them all equally.

For LCers, I imagine that they would agree that the vote would be carried in favour of the policy desired by the overwhelming majority of the three bodies. The power to impose the policy would be with the 'higher level' Workers' Council.

But for ACers? I don't know. From what I've read, they would ignore the democratic vote, and the third Workers' Council would go its own way, to the detriment both of the other two Workers' Councils and many workers within their own Council.

This example might be very contrived, and I apologise for that. But I'm trying to give an example in which, as far as I can guess, based on what I've read from ACers (who seem to be opposed to democratic decision making), makes clear a difference between LC and AC, in contrast to Harrison Myers assumption that LC and AC are the same in practice.

This issue affects the way we look at 'federalism' versus 'centralism', too.

[edit]

Harrison Myers

An anti-hierarchical ideology like anarchism 99% of the time coincides with this goal. The other 1% is when anti-hierarchical rhetoric is used to paralyse structures into unworkable forms, ensuring that essentially no-one (not even the rank and file) has control over them!

Yeah, this is what I'm trying to show: when, using ACs political method, not even the rank and file has control over their own structures of workers' power.

[end edit]

mons

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by mons on May 18, 2011

But for ACers? I don't know. From what I've read, they would ignore the democratic vote, and the third Workers' Council would go its own way, to the detriment both of the other two Workers' Councils and many workers within their own Council.

This is a much better example than the shooting a sentry one! I presume - but this is common sense and not based on reading any anarchist-communist theory or anything - that if it was an issue that affects everyone then the third workers' council would have to comply, whereas if it were something where the workers' council going its own way wouldn't impact too much on others then they would do their own thing. Obviously there's a question of how and where you draw that line, but that's totally abstract and pretty irrelevant and something which will be worked out at the time.

Submitted by Harrison on May 18, 2011

mons

LBird

But for ACers? I don't know. From what I've read, they would ignore the democratic vote, and the third Workers' Council would go its own way, to the detriment both of the other two Workers' Councils and many workers within their own Council.

This is a much better example than the shooting a sentry one! I presume - but this is common sense and not based on reading any anarchist-communist theory or anything - that if it was an issue that affects everyone then the third workers' council would have to comply, whereas if it were something where the workers' council going its own way wouldn't impact too much on others then they would do their own thing. Obviously there's a question of how and where you draw that line, but that's totally abstract and pretty irrelevant and something which will be worked out at the time.

i made a post on this thread
http://libcom.org/forums/theory/cybernetic-communism-what-democratic-forms-will-working-class-create-14042011#comment-425051
which details how an existing scientific discipline (cybernetics) deals exactly with these sorts of problems. it has it all worked out from an abstract scientific perspective

Submitted by 888 on May 18, 2011

Harrison Myers

tbh i prefer to view the assemblies and councils in more of a scientific way, than (what i perceive to be) the moralism inherent in anti-hierarchical thought, which is why I lean more toward CC.

Scientific? Is that a joke? At least the notion that power corrupts actually has some scientific support in various psychological studies, as opposed to Marxist pseudo-science (the Marxist framework is often useful but when it calls itself a science it become ridiculous).

Anarchist observations on the nature of power don't fit into some pretty looking framework of thought - they are simple observations based on experience, but they can hardly be denied.

Bakunin

Nothing is more dangerous for man's private morality than the habit of command. The best man, the most intelligent, disinterested, generous, pure, will infallibly and always be spoiled at this trade. Two sentiments inherent in power never fail to produce this demoralisation; they are: contempt for the masses and the overestimation of one's own merits.

Submitted by 888 on May 18, 2011

mons

I don't think I know what the supposed difference between federalism and centralism is to be honest, but total control from below seems the most important thing and maybe the centralism/federalism debate is a bit of a red herring? Equally, whether you regard it as the democratic wielding of power, or the abolition of it, isn't the substance pretty much the same so long as there is no decision-making body removed from the base?

I agree, the debate is a bit of a red herring when debate with non-Leninist, libertarian leaning Marxists. Anarchists would tend not to describe a structure as centralised if the decision making power rested at the base, but some Marxists would view that as centralised. The differences are much clearer when arguing with Leninists...

Submitted by 888 on May 18, 2011

mons

But for ACers? I don't know. From what I've read, they would ignore the democratic vote, and the third Workers' Council would go its own way, to the detriment both of the other two Workers' Councils and many workers within their own Council.

This is a much better example than the shooting a sentry one! I presume - but this is common sense and not based on reading any anarchist-communist theory or anything - that if it was an issue that affects everyone then the third workers' council would have to comply, whereas if it were something where the workers' council going its own way wouldn't impact too much on others then they would do their own thing. Obviously there's a question of how and where you draw that line, but that's totally abstract and pretty irrelevant and something which will be worked out at the time.

The fact is that people's ideology will not determine the outcome in this conflict - indeed, they will contradict their beliefs when acting. Instead, their material needs will determine what they do. If the need is urgent enough they will force the dissenting council to comply.

Submitted by Harrison on May 18, 2011

888

Harrison Myers

tbh i prefer to view the assemblies and councils in more of a scientific way, than (what i perceive to be) the moralism inherent in anti-hierarchical thought, which is why I lean more toward CC.

Scientific? Is that a joke? At least the notion that power corrupts actually has some scientific support in various psychological studies, as opposed to Marxist pseudo-science (the Marxist framework is often useful but when it calls itself a science it become ridiculous).

Anarchist observations on the nature of power don't fit into some pretty looking framework of thought - they are simple observations based on experience, but they can hardly be denied.

Bakunin

Nothing is more dangerous for man's private morality than the habit of command. The best man, the most intelligent, disinterested, generous, pure, will infallibly and always be spoiled at this trade. Two sentiments inherent in power never fail to produce this demoralisation; they are: contempt for the masses and the overestimation of one's own merits.

The conclusions of that psychological study, which you have obviously missed in your haste to shout down marxism, was that humans have a general tendency toward situational behaviour. Not some inherent Bakuninist 'human nature' that suggest everyone given power will automagically do certain things.

I have never tried to deny the existence of such human tendencies, but it becomes a problem when they are elevated to the level of moral truisms that cannot be challenged because they lie at the core of an ideological body of thought which will fall over like a stack of cards should this happen.

Perhaps this is why you feel the need to be so uncivil in this discussion and use such angry rhetoric.

Can you not see that if 'all power corrupts' then the delegate systems we propose would be unable to function? By your reasoning, even the most committed revolutionary delegate would be unable to refrain from abusing their power, and would automatically do so up until the point they are recalled or rotated.

I am NOT saying that 'if we found the right leader, we could be emancipated', this is simply not possible because the proletariat's class interests cannot be refracted through anything other than assemblies, delegates and councils.

888

The fact is that people's ideology will not determine the outcome in this conflict - indeed, they will contradict their beliefs when acting. Instead, their material needs will determine what they do. If the need is urgent enough they will force the dissenting council to comply.

This is really ironic. For all your dislike of the 'Marxist Framework', you have just elaborated the most crude interpretation of Marx held to by the majority of the trotskyist left.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_determinism
Wikipedia

Economic determinism as understood by Marxism is the belief that economical laws determine the course of history. The law of economic determinism attributed to Marx's historical materialism is simple: self-preservation is the supreme instinct in man, and therefore the whole pattern of human conduct must always have been governed by the fundamental laws governing survival, a dialectical process between man and nature (see co-evolution)[citation needed]. This reasoning leads to the conclusion that all elements of historical consequence result from 'economic determinism', or man's effort to survive.

888

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by 888 on May 18, 2011

that humans have a general tendency toward situational behaviour. Not some inherent Bakuninist 'human nature' that suggest everyone given power will automagically do certain things.

Er, those two are the same, when you remove the exaggerations. Being in power is a situation. If there is a tendency for humans to do something in a particular situation, then that is in some sense "human nature", without having to make a strong argument about an all-determining human nature, which no one, including Bakunin, is trying to do. You've just constructed a ridiculous exaggeration of my position.

Can you not see that if 'all power corrupts' then the delegate systems we propose would be unable to function?

No, because the delegates don't actually have any substantial amount of power. Also, where did I say that all power corrupts totally, even the tinyest grain? If they only have a very small and temporary amount of power it's not going to have much effect.

Perhaps this is why you feel the need to be so uncivil in this discussion and use such angry rhetoric.

Sorry, I just find it absurd when people claim that Marxism is scientific. Also I said "the Marxist framework is often useful" - I don't dislike Marxism.

888

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by 888 on May 18, 2011

double post

LBird

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 18, 2011

888

If the need is urgent enough they will force the dissenting council to comply.

888, are you representing the AC view of 'power' here?

If so, I agree. But I agree, not because of 'force' alone, but because it will be legitimate force, the result of workers' democracy. To me, the third dissenting council should accept the vote until another is taken, while all the time having the right to organise their dissent from the majority. In other words, they would have the right to dissent in words, but not in action. Until they can overturn the vote by gaining support from the majority over all three participating Councils, they are morally bound to act with the majority. If they don't, the majority, as you say, have the right to force compliance.

'Power', in this scenario, comes from below and rests with the majority.

Harrison Myers

Can you not see that if 'all power corrupts' then the delegate systems we propose would be unable to function?

For once, HM, I really disagree with you - I think this is a fundamental principle for, not only liberals, but for Communists, too. We should aim to rotate shortlived delegate positions as much as possible. I think sortition is going too far, because we should elect people capable of doing the delegated task, rather than relying on chance, but rotating seems to me to be a good safeguard. Plus, as many workers as possible should get the chance to fill delegate positions, and short-term posts will help this spreading of necessary political and administrative skills.

Harrison Myers

By your reasoning, even the most committed revolutionary delegate would be unable to refrain from abusing their power, and would automatically do so up until the point they are recalled or rotated.

I don't think anyone is saying this, but why take the chance? I'm with the Anarchists on this one. Healthy fear of power seems a good principle - I just don't pretend that we can ignore 'power', as some Anarchists seem to suggest. We need to build political structures which will prevent abuse, rather than just being hopeful, or having faith in 'committed revolutionary delegates'.

LBird

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 18, 2011

888

No, because the delegates don't actually have any power.

888, I have to say that I find this opinion to be incredibly naive, and indeed dangerous for workers' control.

You seem to be suggesting that a delegate will be a mere robot - but even the strictest mandate will contain holes. And never underestimate charisma.

Words and ideas get interpreted by humans. Why do you think bourgeois lawyers have been making a killing for hundreds of years?

Or am I misunderstanding your position? If so, please correct me.

888

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by 888 on May 18, 2011

I changed that to say "the delegates don't actually have any substantial amount of power" - so generally it shouldn't be a problem, if we have safeguards like recallability and frequently rotated positions, etc. It doesn't make it impervious to abuse, but reduces the likelihood and extent a lot.

LBird

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 18, 2011

888

I changed that to say "the delegates don't actually have any substantial amount of power" - so generally it shouldn't be a problem, if we have safeguards like recallability and frequently rotated positions, etc. It doesn't make it impervious to abuse, but reduces the likelihood and extent a lot.

Yeah, I've just seen your edit!

I'm far happier with your latter position. Cheers.

Submitted by Harrison on May 18, 2011

888

Er, those two are the same, when you remove the exaggerations. Being in power is a situation. If there is a tendency for humans to do something in a particular situation, then that is in some sense "human nature", without having to make a strong argument about an all-determining human nature, which no one, including Bakunin, is trying to do. You've just constructed a ridiculous exaggeration of my position.

I don't think that is the case. Humans are conscious beings capable of objectively making decisions by theorising about a problem before acting. This also ties into my criticism of your simultaneous (but incompatible) materialist determinist position. You put a dozen or so people in the same material circumstances, and they may act the same. But their actions are the outcome of a conscious thought process which is only strongly influenced - not determined - by material conditions. In the same vein, there is also no human nature, only a conscious thought process influenced by material surroundings and other historical factors. It is merely mysticism to suggest otherwise.

If i haven't annoyed you too much, you might want to read
http://libcom.org/library/introduction-marxs-materialist-dialectic
which goes through it.

LBird

Harrison Myers

Can you not see that if 'all power corrupts' then the delegate systems we propose would be unable to function?

For once, HM, I really disagree with you - I think this is a fundamental principle for, not only liberals, but for Communists, too. We should aim to rotate shortlived delegate positions as much as possible. I think sortition is going too far, because we should elect people capable of doing the delegated task, rather than relying on chance, but rotating seems to me to be a good safeguard. Plus, as many workers as possible should get the chance to fill delegate positions, and short-term posts will help this spreading of necessary political and administrative skills.

Harrison Myers

By your reasoning, even the most committed revolutionary delegate would be unable to refrain from abusing their power, and would automatically do so up until the point they are recalled or rotated.

I don't think anyone is saying this, but why take the chance? I'm with the Anarchists on this one. Healthy fear of power seems a good principle - I just don't pretend that we can ignore 'power', as some Anarchists seem to suggest. We need to build political structures which will prevent abuse, rather than just being hopeful, or having faith in 'committed revolutionary delegates'.

Hi LBird, I think you may have misinterpreted me.

I am still proposing that we ought to be wary of power (if i wasn't i'd be a trot already lol), but not for reasons of 'principles' (moralism). Instead it ought to be derived from a class analysis; simply observing that it is impossible to represent the class interests of the proletariat through anything other than assemblies and delegate councils. This for me is one of the most important defining differences between AC and CC, which i am surprised you do not hold?

And i'm certainly not proposing that we place our faith in 'committed revolutionary delegates'!
My point was that certain delegates will be more reliable than others, hence we will need to recall them less, and they will therefore hold power for longer than those who are not reliable.
Faith is extremely unscientific :roll:

LBird

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 19, 2011

Harrison Myers

Hi LBird, I think you may have misinterpreted me.

Yeah, mate, I'm sure I have! I'm a serial offender who pleads guilty. I'm just a bit slow on the uptake. That's why I continue to ask (stupid?) questions.

Harrison Myers

I am still proposing that we ought to be wary of power (if i wasn't i'd be a trot already lol), but not for reasons of 'principles' (moralism). Instead it ought to be derived from a class analysis; simply observing that it is impossible to represent the class interests of the proletariat through anything other than assemblies and delegate councils. This for me is one of the most important defining differences between AC and CC, which i am surprised you do not hold?

Well, since I think both 'principles' and 'morality' derive from class position, I do think our wariness of power does derive from our proletarian state. As you say, the 'trot' experience really helps here!

So, for me, this seems to suggest that AC and CC should be very similar in pratice, although coming from different historical origins. That is, unless ACers see 'morality' as originating in something other than class (religion, for example?).

Harrison Myers

Faith is extremely unscientific

Now, there's a whole new thread!

I'm not sure Lakatos would agree, and separating out 'science' from 'religious faith' is far more problematic than one would think. But let's leave that discussion for another thread.

The main thing that I've learnt from this thread, if 888's views are representative of the wider AC view of 'power', is that we're all LibCom democrats (not 'individualists'), no matter what our other identifying tags, and so we should be able to work through our differences. Let's hope I'm right.

Submitted by WordShaker on May 19, 2011

LBird

But for ACers? I don't know. From what I've read, they would ignore the democratic vote, and the third Workers' Council would go its own way, to the detriment both of the other two Workers' Councils and many workers within their own Council.

This example might be very contrived, and I apologise for that. But I'm trying to give an example in which, as far as I can guess, based on what I've read from ACers (who seem to be opposed to democratic decision making), makes clear a difference between LC and AC, in contrast to Harrison Myers assumption that LC and AC are the same in practice.

If I could just nitpick here for a moment?

I can't speak for others, but in my opinion it is not so much that AC opposes democratic decision making, but that it takes the "tyranny of the majority" very seriously. Yes, that phrase has often been put up as a bulwark for the monied few, but the message of it remains important: that the majority, despite intentions, might well have proposed a course of action that could harm some or all of the workers in said councils. The usual proposed solution, then, is consensus decision-making, perhaps in a modified form, to make a sharp critical analysis of the issue and hit on all the points of the dissenters.

Tendency is also important. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I would think that anarchists of the platformist tendency, among others, would take a route similar to the LCers you described.

LBird

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 19, 2011

WordShaker

If I could just nitpick here for a moment?

Well, what you go on to say is not 'nitpicking' at all, but of crucial importance in any discussion of workers' democracy.

WordShaker

...it is not so much that AC opposes democratic decision making, but that it takes the "tyranny of the majority" very seriously.

Well, I would think any proletarian democrat would treat the issue of the 'tyranny of the majority' of being of the utmost importance, since we're all going to be in the minority on some issue or other. Our thinking should start with 'How do we protect our rights when we are in a minority?'.

I think this can be done with discussion, but we never seem to get round to discussing 'what is democracy?', because the debate always seems to halt at the 'authoritarian/individual' slanging match.

WordShaker

...that the majority, despite intentions, might well have proposed a course of action that could harm some or all of the workers in said councils.

Whilst this is true, you have to be very careful with this line of argument, because it is a central plank of conservative philosophy that the 'majority' are all thick and incapable of ruling themselves. That's not to say, of course, that mistakes won't be made (they will be made), but that we have to build safeguards into our democratic structures. And who defines 'harm' is a further consideration.

WordShaker

The usual proposed solution, then, is consensus decision-making, perhaps in a modified form, to make a sharp critical analysis of the issue and hit on all the points of the dissenters.

Yes, a stage of attempted consensus-building at a point of disagreement within the democratic process is one way of 'building safeguards' that I mentioned, together with widespread explanation to all within the Council of the minority's arguments, led by the minority itself (no 'the majority just "explains" the other position').

But we must be clear, that after attempts at consensus and reconciliation, and with due safeguards for minority dissent, including publications and propaganda against the majority position, that the will of the majority must take precedence. That is democracy. We are Communists, not individualists.

Consensus has its problems, too.

WordShaker

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by WordShaker on May 20, 2011

LBird

Consensus has its problems, too.

Right, of course, but the last thing we want is to slide down into top-down style democratic centralism. There always has to be an element of autonomy to the individual parts of any democracy and what the due safeguards will be to ensure that. As you say, it's something that ought to be hammered out through discussion.

LBird

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on May 20, 2011

WordShaker

...the last thing we want is to slide down into top-down style democratic centralism.

Given the scenario I've outlined, how can 'power from below' slide into 'top-down'? Unless your starting point is an elitist 'the thickos at the bottom will always fuck up', then once we proletarians start to organise from below, using the democratic methods we've all outlined on this thread, workers won't allow a 'top' to emerge.

WordShaker

There always has to be an element of autonomy to the individual parts of any democracy and what the due safeguards will be to ensure that.

Yeah, the third Council will have power or autonomy within its own orbit. It's when the third Council voluntarily joins togther with the other two Councils to solve collective problems affecting all three that 'autonomy', for these issues, is at a higher level.

WordShaker

As you say, it's something that ought to be hammered out through discussion.

Yep. These political views on 'power' will have to be commonly held amongst workers before the 'big day'.

radicalgraffiti

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by radicalgraffiti on November 8, 2012

can we change the picture that goes with this? i don't think a big picture of Kropotkin really represents anarchist communism vary well

Steven.

11 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on November 8, 2012

radicalgraffiti

can we change the picture that goes with this? i don't think a big picture of Kropotkin really represents anarchist communism vary well

quite right. Could you suggest a better one? (Not being sarky, just haven't got time now myself)

Ed

11 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on January 18, 2013

So I saw this picture and thought of you guys.. ;) is that better than the big picture of Kropotkin's face?

Marxist Hypocr…

9 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Marxist Hypocr… on June 26, 2015

Wow. That's some hardcore "Freedom is Slavery" collectivist nonsense right there.

Still, it serves as an excellent testament to the totalitarian oxymoron that is "Anarcho-Communism", and the self-delusion of the wannabe Dictators who go by that disingenuous misnomer.

Marxist Hypocr…

9 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Marxist Hypocr… on June 26, 2015

"then once we proletarians start to organise from below, using the democratic methods we've all outlined on this thread, workers won't allow a 'top' to emerge."

In other words, you think YOU'LL get to bet the dictator and nobody will ever challenge you because you spout empty platitudes about "the workerz". Pathetic.

Marxist Hypocr…

9 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Marxist Hypocr… on June 26, 2015

The conclusions of that psychological study, which you have obviously missed in your haste to shout down marxism, was that humans have a general tendency toward situational behaviour. Not some inherent Bakuninist 'human nature' that suggest everyone given power will automagically do certain things.

Sounds more like you're angrily railing against reality because it doesn't conform to the totalitarian Marxist dogma you DEMAND be imposed upon everybody until they learn t love it.

And, like all Marxists, you have no idea how human beings operate and just assume everyone will be your willing slave because every once in a while you'll coo some BS about "the people".

Chilli Sauce

9 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on June 26, 2015

Just terrible trolling. I mean, are you even trying?

EDIT: Wait, you've been a member of the site for a year? You've had a year to prepare for your big trolling debut and that's what you come up with?

Shameful. Just shameful.

Agent of the I…

9 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Agent of the I… on June 26, 2015

If you want to learn more about Marxist Hypocrisy 101's views, just do a quick google search on the name.

Ed

9 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on June 27, 2015

Ok, pack up guys, we've been rumbled! That dictatorship we were gonna sneak past with the old totalitarian oxymoron ain't happening with this sharpshooter around..