It is a fact that lately certain anarchists have placed themselves in the Corbyn camp. As Freedom News admits, "lots of anarchists have decided they’re going to vote to try and get rid of the Tories".
The following article by a sympathiser of the CWO is printed as a contribution to debate.
It is a fact that lately certain anarchists have placed themselves in the Corbyn camp. As Freedom News admits, "lots of anarchists have decided they’re going to vote to try and get rid of the Tories"1 . Lest we be accused of taking seriously a few insignificant UK internet dabblers2 and Class War sensationalists in order to take a stick to a serious political movement for our own gain, let us include the case of a globally known anarchist, whose weighty contributions have added to the prestige of that political tendency. “Professor Noam Chomsky has claimed that any serious future for the Labour Party must come from the left-wing pressure group Momentum and the army of new members attracted by the party’s leadership. In an interview with the Guardian3 , the radical intellectual threw his weight behind Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that Labour would be doing far better in opinion polls if it were not for the “bitter” hostility of the mainstream media. “If I were a voter in Britain, I would vote for him,” said Chomsky, who admitted that the current polling position suggested Labour was not yet gaining popular support for the policy positions that he supported…But ahead of what could be a bitter split within the Labour movement if Corbyn’s party is defeated in the June election, Chomsky claimed the future must lie with the left of the party. “The constituency of the Labour party, the new participants, the Momentum group and so on … if there is to be a serious future for the Labour party that is where it is in my opinion,” he said.”
This does not mean that we are necessarily condemning all anarchists as if one or two fractions represented the whole, and we can be encouraged that certain anarchist organisations (like the Anarchist Federation and Sol Fed) have condemned in no uncertain terms what they see to be the error of lining up behind the Labour Party in any shape. However, there are grounds for saying that the general anarchist movement in the UK and elsewhere has done little to clarify the attitude to be taken to the reformist labour movement, one which we have unhesitatingly called a capitalist prison. Also, a little examination of highly visible anarchist groups like Class War and others reveals a highly biased perspective against the Tory party which fails to cast all bourgeois factions as equally reactionary, cogs within a machine which exploits and oppresses the working class. In their own words, directed at the present author;
_“Class War has a solidly 'They are all wankers' position my friend... but we reserve particular bile for the Tories...
So you are mistaken if you think that this is "anarcho -social democratic necrophilia"...._
And then we have the issue of the Class War Party which has in the past appeared on BBC television, breaking the abstentionist tradition by standing in the 2015 General Election. The move obviously opens the door to further non-principled actions of which the recent Vote Corbyn calls are a manifestation.
So even if the open call for a Labour vote, based on the supposed left credentials of J. Corbyn, is a step beyond what we usually are served up through the anarchist groups, the track record regarding the wider reformist Labour Movement and the attitude to the capitalist democratic process is not at all identical to that we uphold. Some, like the relatively prominent self-proclaimed anarchist David Graeber, have no issue with electoral participation. For him, it is merely individual and situational, he openly says it could be a good decision4
However, we are not simply content with condemning everything that moves. We can applaud those anarchists and others who have squarely rejected the Corbyn bandwagon. Even some clarity emerges from the Class War camp, on this matter anyway, “For us the Labour Party is a party of the System. Full stop. Therefore, as anarchists we totally oppose it as much as we oppose the Tories. Our task is to prepare for a long overdue revolutionary upheaval. “5
We can only encourage such elements to further examine the flimsiness of the positions they hold, not least regarding the capitalist left, the reformist labour movement and electoral participation in general. Theoretical clarity is no mere bauble. It is essential.
So, to reiterate, we are not at all saying that the anarchist movement in toto is simply an appendage of the capitalist state. It is a diverse arena whose healthiest elements may well play decisive positive roles in the struggle to come, but only if they can escape the pull of those forces which tie us to capitalism, its parties, trade unions, its theoretical confusions. Special mention could be made of the Anarchist Federation who have consistently rejected the Corbyn phenomenon and electoral participation in general, just to illustrate the point with a real example.
In one sense, the desire to play some sort of a role within the movements which attract significant working class support and channel the very real discontent which the trajectory of the capitalist crisis is brewing is one we can identify with. However, that participation, that intervention, can only be within precise limits which concede nothing to the snares and illusions hiding behind sugared phrases and “old men bearing gifts”.
For revolutionaries, withdrawal into isolated theoretical work (if that) is no solution. The point however, is not to commit political suicide, kneeling before the five-minute fashions and the momentarily popular, but to find ways to intervene as revolutionaries, defending revolutionary perspectives, on the difficult terrain which is presented to us by capitalism's trajectory. This may not yield immediate numerically significant victories but it can spread awareness that revolutionary organisation exists and sow a seed which may sprout when the next capitalist crash smashes against the conditions which maintain passivity and the safety nets of welfare and the ability to sleep walk through life are definitively jettisoned by a profit desperate capitalism.
We need to win over significant numbers to the revolutionary organisation because it is key to the success of the revolution and recognise that the numerically weak forces of today are insufficient.
We need an effective revolutionary organisation, one which has a clear perspective of rejection of all capitalist options and the goal of class wide proletarian organs, the workers own councils which can put our class firmly in the driving seat.
We need this organisation to be rooted in the class before the decisive confrontations that the crisis of capitalism is brewing. We communists are not daunted by the momentary condition of the working-class response. We know the capitalist class has no answer to the contradictions of its system and its resorting to massive debt along with attacks on our conditions is finite.
We cannot say when the dam will burst and the tables will be overturned, but we know there is only mounting crisis in store for us under capitalism and that the pre-constructed revolutionary organisation, fruit of patient intervention, has an essential role as a solid political reference point for a class driven by desperation into a fight back. A class dominated by illusions and misconceptions carefully grafted onto them by a ruling class. Amongst these misconceptions is the snare of democracy under capitalism, the parliamentary road to socialism, confidence in trade unions and the Labour Party which the NE anarchists and any others who have abandoned the abstentionist position to vote for the class enemy are fortifying.
Given an intense level of class struggle, we can get our message through to the class in general. But the precondition is we have a significant organisation built up in the preceding period.
We call on anarchists and others to abandon their support for the capitalist labour movement.
We call on all those who recognise the validity of the central revolutionary message, the one that contained all that was healthy in the previous revolutionary assault on filthy, blood sweating capitalism, the power of the workers’ councils. All who subscribe to revolution, to the impossibility of parliamentary socialism and such traps must consider smashing down the ideological prejudices and the past errors which divide us and make common cause in a revolutionary organisation that offers no support whatsoever to any capitalist faction, party or war and has no ambition to set up any separate power, but rather aims at empowering the clear majority of non-exploiters through the absolute power of the workers’ councils. Then we can build a society fit for humanity.
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
- 2 We could include here North East Anarchists and Sabcat the Anarchist Workers Co-op
- 4 Anarchist anthropologist and academic David Graeber talks about the choices in the upcoming UK General Election;
DAVID GRAEBER: I'm an anarchist, so for me, that means not telling people what they have to do. I think it's really your call….. I haven't voted but I'm not going to tell people not to. In fact, I think that often it can be a perfectly legitimate call.