The physical and armed attacks on the protests following George Floyd’s murder, both by right wing groups and state forces in the USA make it essential to discuss concretely what we mean by revolutionary change and the communist program. This becomes even more urgent given the rising class tensions generated by the presidential elections. Regardless of the election outcome it is almost certain there will be an increase in violent physical attacks on sections of the working class. Everything possible must be done to defend people from these attacks. The maximum possible unity of the working class in the face of both the right wing militias and the state forces must be sought. But the idea, held by some, that this growing ‘war’ on the streets can somehow lead to revolutionary change is a dangerous fantasy.
It’s only necessary to look at recent history in Syria to understand just how dangerous such an outlook is. There was a mass mobilisation of the working class against the corruption of the elite, against the lack of democracy, against poverty and unemployment. However, when those protests came under armed attack by the state’s thugs the protest movement was not prepared, organisationally or politically, to control the armed fight back. The people who were ready to exploit the gun battles were gangster’s, sectarian groups, foreign states and above all, the Syrian state itself. In these circumstances all avenues for the working class to pursue its own discussions, its own initiatives were shut down. The man with the gun now ruled and the gun was not in the hands of the working class movement precisely because no revolutionary working class movement yet existed and such a movement cannot be built overnight. Hundreds of thousands of dead and displaced working class people and the stabilisation of capital’s dominance were the only outcome.
Now in the USA the benefits to the ruling class from stoking their ‘culture wars’ are all too clear. At this point the two main tendencies on the political left have left us in dead-ends. The electoral road of democratic socialism has failed at the first hurdle. ‘Insurrectionism’ leads us into a suicidal attack against the repressive arm of the state by ignoring the productive power of the working class. And so, in these exciting yet dangerous times, how and in what ways do revolutionaries orient ourselves?
In terms of the current moment, we are at the peak of the objective unification of our class through global supply-chains, means of communication and migration. Capital’s crisis and the attempts of the ruling class to manage it increasingly lead to a process of disintegration of this objective unification. Yet in the midst of this historical social crisis, the working class around the world is going into its battles without a utopia, without a program. To comrades who will be quick to remark that, ‘the program emerges out of the movement, not the other way around’, we respond by saying that we are at the point in time when steps towards a program and a pragmatic vision of revolutionary rupture, itself become a necessary propelling force for the movements of our class. The alternative easily turns into the nihilistic violence seen in Syria or to a paralysing despair.
At this point we need to relate a pragmatic program to take over the means of production with the actual working class struggles. In the political confrontation with reactionary tendencies within the working class we have to make clear that only this collective step by workers is a radical break with ‘the elite’.
The question of a program is simple. During the Covid crisis the working class has seen that essential work in the form of agriculture, the energy, communication and transport sector, the manufacturing of useful goods and the care and health work makes up 30% of current social activity, which includes the intellectual labour in research units and labs. Much of the rest is useless, harmful, parasitic or purely market-related activity. We have seen that this relatively small section of the working class was able to keep us alive and we base our program on this fact. The take-over and defence of the means of production and the re-employment of everyone within the essential sector could allow an immediate reduction of the working day to three hours per day per person. We can also see that the general skill level of the working class in combination with modern means of communication can take over the productive function of the state and the market/money-relation: issues that concern whole regions can be discussed and decided upon by grass roots structures; resources and consumer goods can be allocated rationally without having to be ‘doubled up’ in the form of a monetary equivalent.
This is not communism. The radical reduction of working time is a necessary precondition to develop the social capacity to tackle the big social problems: how to transform the organisations of struggle (strike and neighbourhood assemblies, liberated zones etc.) into organisations of social decision-making; how to change the harmful way we produce our lives; how to undo the strict division between intellectual and manual labour; how to end the devastating separation of town and countryside and global unevenness of development. This is a necessary transition period that used to be described as the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, but we might prefer to call it differently today. It is the enforcement of the general obligation to engage in socially necessary work so that we can all work less. The core working class will have to enforce this against the socially atomised gang members, against the lefty commentariat and NGO poverty pimps, against the small shop-owners, and of course against the bankers, lawyers and law-makers.
The class subject
There is no class program without a class subject. There are three main segments of the working class who, due to their social position, will have to be the main driving force in a revolutionary transition. During recent months these segments have not only confirmed their objective significance as those who work in order to keep us all alive, but they’ve showed their subjective potentials by stepping forward in struggle. Here we talk about the so-called ‘tech workers’ (intellectual/engineering workers), who embody necessary productive knowledge; the essential ‘mass workers’, who embody both productive power; and the ‘marginalised working class’, who prove that they can turn desperation into collective emancipatory violence. The recent struggles of these three segments show their capacity and limitations:
We saw Google and Amazon programmers going on strike largely for ‘political’ reasons: against the impact of their companies on the climate; against the military use of their software products; against the treatment of manual workers in the companies’ warehouses. We saw doctors coming forward and speaking out against the government’s Covid-19 regime. However, as long as these intellectual workers remain isolated from the reality and struggles of manual workers they will remain in their philanthropic bubble and produce only abstract ‘technological fixes’ for deeper social problems.
During the Covid crisis we saw 400 strikes in the US alone, primarily of manual mass workers of the essential industries. We don’t know much about them in detail, but they demonstrated the flip-side of the immediate experience of collective power in bigger and essential workplaces: the tendency towards self-management and sectorial isolation. Without deeper connections to the general intellect of the ‘tech workers’, and without the pressure of marginalised workers who demand the socialisation of productive capacities, this segment of the working class tends to end up in sectorial self-confinement. The trade unions will function to broker sectoral ‘bail out’ deals with the state that tries to separate the productive backbone of society from the more marginalised and precarious proletarian fringes.
The uprising after the murder of George Floyd was carried by a mass of working class people who didn’t act as a collective workforce. A mixture of students, informal workers, precariously employed and socially atomised segments of the class. We found a similar composition during the Arab Spring or the square occupations after the 2008 crisis. We see a readiness to confront the state and inventiveness in the streets. We see that this segment is fragmented in class terms: the professional elements tend to promote themselves as speakers, the marginalised workers depend on the middle-class infrastructure (churches, mosques, NGOs) for survival. Without the productive power of the essential workers the violence turns in on itself. It will be a hard political struggle to unite this segment around a communist program.
We can see the mutual dependence of these segments in terms of being able to carry through a revolutionary transition. We can see that they form not more than 30 to 40% of the working population. We can also see that these three segments are mirrored globally in the form of three main regions: the advanced industrial areas, where productive knowledge and the production of the means of production is centralised (US and Europe); the manufacturing regions of mass production (Asia); and the regions of extraction of raw materials and exploitation of labour power (Africa, South America). This global division of labour means that the takeover of the means of production is itself a global struggle.
The need for organisation
What does all this mean for us as communists? We have to be able to develop a program that formulates in pragmatic terms what the take-over of the means of production entails. Here, driving a wedge between state-employed workers who engage in productive labour and the bureaucratic and repressive state apparatus will be a challenge. The take-over requires the dismantlement of the repressive state force primarily through an ‘economic choke hold’ and armed defence of the means of production. It requires the expansion of the take-over along the international supply-chain, through the spread of political hope for emancipation. This program will be formulated differently for each of the three segments and global regions. In some regions the emphasis will be on ‘peace, bread and technology transfers’, in others the closure of unnecessary industries and radical reduction of labour time will be in the foreground. A program of insurgent take-over of the means of production will have to point out their specific functions and limitations to each of the three main segments of the working class.
We don’t believe in the tricks of transitional demands, but we think the slogan ‘everyone works, everyone works less’ can be used in the coming wave of company closures and redundancies. We not only defend our jobs, we want to work less at full pay, according to the level that social productivity has reached. Let the bosses and the state worry about the pay. This can be a line of intervention. We have to start a workers’ inquiry that poses political questions to our co-workers: Is our work socially useful? If not, how could that be changed? What would it take to keep our company running? What knowledge do we lack? What other workers here and abroad do we depend on? How would the state react? These questions have to be combined with concrete ideas about how we can fight back against the current crisis attack of the employers and the state. This will only be possible if there are independent, rank and file structures or organisations within workplaces.
All this needs organisation – a communist party, in the sense of a living strategy for the self-emancipation of the working class. An organisation that is rooted amongst the tech workers without pandering to their intellectual loftiness. Amongst the productive mass workers without ending up fostering their trade unionist sectorialism. Amongst the poor without fanning their insurrectionist illusions and populist tendencies. We have to point out that social power doesn’t lie in the besieged government building, but in the productive fabric of society. We need to analyse the concrete struggles and find the advanced points where the divisions between these three segments are called into question. We have to break the weakest links. We have to research militantly how uneven the productive knowledge and resources are distributed amongst the class and counteract this through political strategy. We have to be rooted in the day-to-day struggles without losing sight of the program. We need to judge every proposal and activity of the left whether they prepare and unify the working class for the take-over or whether they deepen the belief in identitarian solutions and state representation.
In the current moment the reactionary forces want to draw us into a culture war and armed confrontations – a type of struggle in which the working class can only lose. We have to re-group and re-root our work. We want to work towards a pragmatic revolutionary program in close connection to the concrete local working class lives and struggles. If you feel similar, get in touch.
Completely agree with the
Completely agree with the need to get more rooted and build an organisation, but surely drawing up the program is the easy bit? It's one thing to have a sense of what you want to do and it's another to have the ability to actually do it. There's a ton of left groups out there with specific plans and stuff but the working class basically ignores them all. How do you see yourselves overcoming the situation the rest of the left has found themselves in?
a more rigorous analysis and
a more rigorous analysis and a better program is all we need! one more footnote and better internal discipline and the revolution is ours! what a sick fucking joke...
One more direct action and
One more direct action and occupied town square and the revolution is ours!
If it was a joke it would
If it was a joke it would funny! This text addresses a pretty concrete situation in the US where, based on the mass experience of recent months, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people discuss how to react to the possible threat of violent confrontations with the far-right during the upcoming months.
Many of these comrades subscribe to 'revolutionary' politics in the widest sense, from anarchists to the communising milieu. This text wants to say the opposite from 'the revolution is around the corner'. We want to say that without strong bridges between the three segments of the class we mention, without developed international links which can only be created in concrete struggles and without a political program that can only emerge in an interaction between political organisation and day-to-day struggle 'insurrection' is suicidal. Step back from the brink, get rooted.
Come on, we would not have dug ourselves in for the last six years in west London - a 'strategic location for us' - and tried to create small spaces of workers' collectivity through workplace groups and solidarity networks if we thought that "a more rigorous analysis and a better program is all we need! one more footnote and better internal discipline and the revolution is ours!" But for us, who focus on 'concrete organising' a lot, a major danger is that the perspective of 'revolution' is either lost or becomes something like a quirky attachment - like with many anarcho-syndicalist organisations.
This is why we wanted to provoke: we are in a historical moment, this is a phase of deep crisis and the revolutionary left has no clue what 'revolution' could look like. We wanted to provoke our own millieu: there will be a transition phase, meaning, the enforcement of the general obligation to engage in socially useful work to drastically reduce the working day. The covid lockdown has shown that this is possible, but hardly any group on the revolutionary left has tried to politicise this fact inside the class - and related it to the actual working class subjects (the three segments we mention).
And yes, a bit of discipline can't do no harm!
Another short response from
Another short response from the US:
Reply to the "sick fucking
Reply to the "sick fucking joke" (Badger) posted by AngryWorkersWorld:
You're right - it's not funny to repeat the miserable mistakes of 100 years ago, with "libertarians" declaring they want to create a "communist party". Putting "communist party " in lower case letters doesn't make it any better. Like the Leninists of Unity and Struggle you link to , you just want to parade your specialist revolutionary role by organising an organisation. Programs are for TV watchers.
AWW refers to Unity and Struggle's sad little contribution "How do we stop a coup" . In ItsGoingDown it's given the quaint title "How Could Everyday People Stop a Coup?"- a peculiar version of "ordinary people", a patronising attitude because people are both ordinary and extraordinary, everyday and critics of the everyda. It's as populist as Trump's use of "the people". (see this, if you haven't already seen it: https://dialectical-delinquents.com/war-politics/why-should-we-belong-to-the-people/ But that's IGD for you.
The good bits of U and S's text don't really add to Gelderloos's pretty excellent critique (https://fr.crimethinc.com/2020/10/04/preparing-for-electoral-unrest-and-a-right-wing-power-grab-an-analysis ). But it subtracts from it by coming out with all sorts of "shoulds", which take away from the independence of readers. E.G. "Against calls for passivity
and nonviolence, the left should celebrate and spread resistance, linking it with the long history of labor and freedom movements in this country....The general approach should be to establish a narrative of popular resistance to a Trump coup, power to the people, etc. Knowing the Right will try to goad protesters into confrontations and pose as victims, we should try to avoid physical confrontations unless attacked."
A non-should version of this would be to point out what calls for passivity and non-violence have meant in the past, or how Right-wing goading people into confrontations and posing as victims has functioned and what it's led to in the past and let the reader work out his/her own practical conclusions. But then Leninists without Lenin tend to want to give instructions to people and not encourage them to think for themselves and develop their own initiatives. I also have a problem with addressing "the Left". This still sees things in terms of political alignments rather than the dispossesed as a whole. It's those who have no control over their lives, not specifically "the Left", who need to take initiatives in response to all the post-election scenarios if they/we are to develop a sense of their/our own power and confidence.
I’ve read some of Unity & Struggle stuff on their site, and they seem to be a small sect for whom a critique of the old workers movement from a radical point of view (eg this from over 50 years ago:
http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/debord/4.htm ) seems to have passed them by. Seemingly this is also the case with AWW. See some of their longwinded theory of theory (or is it ideology of
ideology), such as - http://www.unityandstruggle.org/2013/02/what-is-to-be-done-need-for-organization/,
. And in their http://www.unityandstruggle.org/2020/05/party-form/ they ask “Is an anti-authoritarian Leninism possible?”. Maybe they should have asked “Is an anti-authoritarian red fascism possible?” (see Otto Rühle’s
https://arplan.org/2020/05/16/otto-ruhle-red-fascism/ ). I haven’t gone
through the whole of the 40+ minute video but I noticed that they say “Party building is one project among many”. All the standard Leninist organisations - Trtoskyist, Maoist, orthodox tankie-Stalinist - would probably agree nowadays, even if they’re cruder about it. In fact,
even Social Democrats would agree on that. You can’t attract recruits merely by setting up a Party Recruitment Centre at the corner of the street – you have to hold up the carrot of a party-mediated connection to history in order to bear the stick of organisational conformity in a
variety of ways these days. Such “projects” are almost invariably instrumentalised as a means to build the party . And maybe their contribution to IGD is one of these ways. They even advocate “Lenin without Leninism” alongside their fantasy of “an anti-authoritarian Leninism”. Maybe the next contortionist idea will be “State Capitalists without State Capitalism” alongside an anti-authoritarian capitalism.
If there’s one individual who contributed more than any other single individual to the counter-revolution in the 20th century than Lenin, tell me. He influenced massacres of proletarians and peasants throughout the world from 1918 onwards, whilst being presented as the model for
proletarian subversion, and anybody who doesn’t get to the roots of this vile confusion almost 100 years after his death can only - at best! - give with the right hand what s/he takes away with the left. And usually worse.
So why does AWW not only tolerate the intolerable but embrace it? Why act like we're one big happy family with people whom any authentic anti-authoritarian is going to be engaged in a bitter and potentially lethal struggle against if the class war ever becomes dangerous for the current ruling class. A new ruling class, versed in political roles and the bureaucratic mentality needed to organise an organisation, has always arisen amongst those who people had previously seen as being on their side when the old rulers had been forced out of power.
Re. the election:
Given that many people will be on the streets round about this election, the alternative to putting oneself on the line in a repeat of largely ritualised confrontations is not a communist party with a pretentious program. This just amounts to remaining on the risk-free sidelines. There's a third way which people need to discover for themselves.
I totally sympathise with not wanting to risk oneself in what could be something very nasty
if there’s no move towards a supercession of false choices. There’ll be a lot of people hoping to go beyond routine confrontations. Learning something of the strengths and weaknesses of the last 10-20 years - the anti-globalization movement, anti-war protests, squatting, libertarian subculture, prison rebel solidarity efforts, #occupy2014, BLM, the insurrectionary tendencies of May and June this year, etc. . Even a small short, but well-publicised, occupation
involving something original, including a theoretical reflection of aspects of these limited breaks with dominant social relations, as well as a critique of the contradictions of antifascism, might possibly inspire others, and might also avoid the usual risk of teargas, flashbang grenades and shooting. But organising an organisation will not teach anybody anything other than how to be a good politico and bureaucrat and play the usual " revolutionary" role. Whilst adding to the sense of depression and resignation that's driving people to suicide and/or madness everywhere.
PS Much of the above comes from discussions with friends
We find it tedious to respond
We find it tedious to respond to people whose knee-jerk reaction to 'organisation' is 'Leninism', but for the sake of general clarification:
* We feel that it is necessary that people discuss the past and present of the capitalist system and the struggle against it. In order for such a discussion to become fruitful you need to coordinate and share work - who researches what? who interviews who?
* Our experience is that many so called 'anti-organisation' groups are led by cliques and wanna-be alpha-males. We therefore think that a certain formalisation of structures and responsibilities is a step forward.
* Any discussion about the present status quo remains half-arsed if it does not ask the question of how the working class can change it. Any relation to theory remains alienated if it does not ask the question of its practical consequences.
* If we have an idea about the promising tendencies within class struggle, about areas and segments within the class who have a particular potential to inspire wider struggles, it would be alienating if we would not try to support these as good as we can.
* If we have some ideas about what went wrong in previous revolutions and what the main challenges for a future transformation of society might be, it would be alienating if we would not speak our mind in an open and organised manner within our class.
This is organisation.
We live working class lives. We don't plan to develop an organisation with links to the state or material power to coerce other working class people. We are not afraid of speaking our minds or of making concrete proposals in concrete situations. Nor are we afraid of committing to each other.
All this seems much less alienating as an existence of individual randomness, self-righteousness and inconsequential sloppiness in the relation between thinking and acting.
" Learning something of the
" Learning something of the strengths and weaknesses of the last 10-20 years - the anti-globalization movement, anti-war protests, squatting, libertarian subculture, prison rebel solidarity efforts, #occupy2014, BLM, the insurrectionary tendencies of May and June this year, etc. . Even a small short, but well-publicised, occupation, involving something original, including a theoretical reflection of aspects of these limited breaks with dominant social relations, as well as a critique of the contradictions of antifascism, might possibly inspire others, and might also avoid the usual risk of teargas, flashbang grenades and shooting."
Exactly! But we have reached a limit when it comes to both understanding the new qualities of struggle and to circulate the lessons of these experiences relying primarily on a pretty random network of contacts.
We have to lift the debate on to a wider social scale, reach out to new people and their experiences...
there's so much to object to
there's so much to object to in your entire project, but enumerating them all would be tedious and repetitive and ultimately pointless; virtually every revolutionary anarchist and anti-state anti-leninist communist who's addressed these issues has done it adequately (and better) over the past century. that said, i must seriously object to your (unintentional?) self-parody when you invoke
which groups call themselves "anti-organization"? if they don't call themselves that, then why do you insist on referring to them as
? surely this is a baseless rhetorical jab? but please, indulge my skepticism and provide the names of these allegedly "anti-organization" groups; two would be sufficient (since one could just be some bizarre outlier). and then perhaps indicate why their existence is a threat to your project...
the especially amusing thing about hyper-organizationalists calling those who respond skeptically "anti-organization" is that your type can't seem to comprehend that a refusal to accept your organizational model and/or to join your organization is not a rejection of organization; it's merely a rejection of your style and your project. if you were really interested in, or knew much about, radical history then you'd know that the organizational question looms large among radicals of all stripes, but especially among anarchists and anti-state communists. the party form is universally rejected by the best of them, and they've always outlined precise reasons for that rejection. it would seem that your interest in radical history is quite limited insofar as you continue to embrace the party form in word and in deed.
When we talk about
When we talk about 'anti-organisation' groups we primarily refer to comrades Mr. Nymphalis Antiopa and ourselves (used to) hang out with and who share our anti-state and anti-Leninist communist convictions:
From Aufheben/Endnotes (UK) to SIC to Theorie Communiste to Oiseaux Tempete to Echanges et Mouvemente (France) to Blaumachen (Greece) to Kamunist Kranti (India) - if you need more names we are happy to supply them.
You might now say that these are irrelevant groupings who are primarily self-referential - and you will finally get the point! But then 'insurrectional politics' in the US are more wide spread and infused with 'anti-organisation'-ideology, which, to be honest, is not the main problem.
Instead of getting hooked on formulations ('party', 'anti-organisation' groups') let's focus on the actual content. What are your criticisms and what are your proposals?
To be clear I don't have the
To be clear I don't have the same criticisms that Badger or Antiopa or the other left communist milieu types. But, when you ask what the others are proposing, you in turn have to be a bit clearer about what you're proposing, because the stuff in this article isn't exactly clear.
Like this bit:
Is a statement so generic that nearly every leftist group would agree with it. Most anarchists would agree with it too, depending on how you define "party" in this context. This is something that needs to be fleshed out more -- will it have a central committee? Will it be a federation? In a greater revolutionary situation, what will it do? Will it take control politically? Will it run as a list in council elections? Is it to form a government? If yes, what sort? Etc.
Most political groups spend too much time discussing organisational matters and historical minutiae instead of interesting strategies, but AWW seems to have the opposite problem. When you speak of the need for a communist party in a libertarian forum without clarifying this stuff, I think you should expect some hostile reactions.
Black Badger wrote: surely
This is a pretty silly objection, imo. You know as well as I do, in fact probably better, that one of the key arguments made by people who have a critique of formal organisation, is that people can organise to fulfil certain tasks effectively without taking on the trappings of formal organisations, such as official group names. Since you obviously know this, I can't see what the point is of using "name some affinity groups, informal cliques and street crews" as some kind of a gotcha.
Anyway, had not seen that recent Gelderloos text linked above before, so thanks to NA for linking that.
Where did AWW claim that?
Is a statement so generic
Is a statement so generic that nearly every leftist group would agree with it. Most anarchists would agree with it too, depending on how you define "party" in this context. This is something that needs to be fleshed out more -- will it have a central committee? Will it be a federation? In a greater revolutionary situation, what will it do? Will it take control politically? Will it run as a list in council elections? Is it to form a government? If yes, what sort? Etc.
Agreed, it is pretty general. But let's look at the aimed moment and audience of this deliberately short article: the younger generation in the US that made valuable experiences during recent months. Read a text like this one and you might be surprised about the protagonists' lack of a sense or understanding by of wider class context:
In this sense we are not aware of many leftists or revolutionaries who actively pursue a strategy to build deeper links between 'intellectual / engineering workers', 'essential manual workers' and 'insurgent / marginal proletariat' with a perspective of 'take-over of the means of production in mind'.
We used the term 'party' primarily to demonstrate that all the networking, small local collectives etc. that was prevalent amongst the milieu isn't adequate for the dimension of the current crisis. It was a provocation to say: we need more commitment, strategies, central discussions and local strategical roots. Perhaps this was not productive, in particular because we disagree with 99% of people who use the term 'party'. But sometimes hostile reactions are better than no reactions and they force us to clarify. Again, it is a short text and people can read in our longer articles about how we see the role of 'revolutionary organisations'. I copy some relevant passages below.
The question remains how all this is relevant today and how we are proposing anything different from what 'democratic socialists' and ML groups are proposing: 'base building' or Momentum style community work etc. We think that our focus on a) central sectors and the productive collectivity there; b) self-organisation and workers' analysis rather than trade unions; and c) an internationalist outlook is different.
*** Current Stage
* Historical clarity: More important than empirical exercises such as outlined above are historical reflections on previous moments of insurrection and the relation between revolutionary workers and the state in particular. From the general strike in Seattle in 1919 , to the Spanish Civil War in 1936 , to Oaxaca in 2006  to Rojava in 2016.
* Current understanding of class composition: Instead of lazy assumptions (‘everything will be automated’ or ‘we are all precarious now’) we need more precise analyses of certain processes within production, currently ideologised as ‘full automation’ or ‘immaterial labour’ or ‘general intellect’. This means an analysis of the current division and hierarchy of intellectual and manual labour in the essential industries (‘what does the common worker know?’), as well as analyses of actual forms of global supply chains, agro-industry etc., taking into account the question of potential working class control.
* Establishing roots amongst the workers in the essential industries, the ‘engineering sector’ and amongst the ‘poor’. We are talking about political focus here, not of exclusiveness! Within the day-to-day conflicts we should reconsider forms of ‘knowledge transfer’, such as e.g. the type of teaching-material of the old IWW that they used to explain ‘engineering knowledge’ of a certain industry to the common labourer employed in it.
* Referring back to the problem of uneven development: we have to try to understand different proletarian stages and segments of class composition and relate them to each other; e.g. the Revolutionary Black Workers in the US in the late 1960s/early 1970s managed to have roots in the poor areas (anti-police violence, racist school policies, sexual health), amongst students, within the major car factories, in the ’community’ (hospitals, housing) – and tried to relate these to experiences of ‘Third World’ migrants in their area (‘Arabs in Detroit’). Given the general social situation they were able not merely to create ‘alliances’ between these different segments, but forms of organisation which encompassed the entirety of proletarian life.
* Creating networks of struggle-experienced workers: While supporting strikes and struggles actively we should also look out for workers who developed the desire and capacity to engage in political activities beyond the individual conflict – not as recruiting material, but as rooted comrades. Together we could already experiment with hinting at the necessity of a social takeover of the means of production in a more concrete way during day-to-day struggles. This will require a new and more concrete language.
* Keeping up to date with other forms of ‘cooperative’ efforts or experiences of self-management (from ‘workers’ control’ to ‘urban gardening’ to ‘transition towns’ to ‘alternative medicine gatherings’ to ‘critique of science’) and encourage engagement with the wider class struggle. Create experience exchange between ‘workers’ self-management’ and strikes , between care cooperatives and struggles against hospital closures.
* Documenting your efforts and experiences for others. We encourage local groups who feel affinity towards the prospect of insurrection and at the same time try to get rooted in their working class area (from workplaces to universities to groups around proletarian issues) to make their point of view and experiences debatable by others, without having to feel defensive about their particular organisation. Based on that exchange and discussion steps should be taken to enable more coordinated efforts.
*** Revolutionary Stage
* Developing within a network of workers – formed through various cycles of struggles and their common reflection – a clear program for the advanced moment of uprising: what are the central facilities? How to coordinate a ‘populist’ process of appropriation? How to address working class segments within army? This has to be formulated in realistic terms, convincing more through knowledge of industrial organisation and concrete contacts, rather than through rousing political statements.
* An organisation of workers will also have to play a role in putting forward a ‘class perspective’ against the tendency of ’workers’ control’ after takeover of individual companies. The workforce of bigger industries might try to use their position for their own privilege; experienced workers militias might use their collective strength against a more common interest. An organisation of workers should be prepared to undermine possible regionalism (of naturally richer regions, more fertile soil, nicer beaches etc.)
* Against the background of more prolonged exchange and a wider political perspective a workers’ organisation should encourage the use of access machinery/production and patents/company-specific knowledge for support of workers struggle ‘abroad’; encourage extra-labour above the locally required levels if necessary; defend this position against ‘localist’ tendencies within the working class. This internationalist perspective cannot be enforced through a political program or as an armed force (workers’ state), but through being rooted amongst and winning over of workers in the global supply chains and through facilitating direct exchange – pointing out the global interdependence.
AWW comrades, please slow
AWW comrades, please slow down. You're digging yourself into a hole of abstraction when you tell us, in the U.S., how we need an organization -- specifically a party -- to stave off the civil war and a (non-existent) coup d'tat.
When you talk about Greenford and Southall, you're on terra firma. But when your analysis of working class conditions in the U.S. is based on a debate with the drivel written by a Leninist micro-sect of no more than 30 people, you're floating in the stratosphere and your prescriptions become incoherant and are lost in the vapor. I might add that that micro-sect are conservative leftists, who my comrades and I met once a few years ago.[EDIT] It was in Southern California and 15 of us had just been given a tour of the massive Los Angeles/Long Beach Port complex (the largest in the Wester Hemisphere), guided by an active longshore militant, who had first worked the port decades before as a railroader for BNSF. Later, we had lunch with some Latinx port troquero organizers, one of whom brought his cousin who worked at warehouses in the massive Inland Empire logistic hub served by the port in the next counties to the east. The micro sect was Unity & Struggle, the cadre having come to join the tour from the U.S. South, and at that time their website reflected how organizationally they used a Trotskyite model of cadre-based membership, while theoretically they adhered to the persective of Endnotes. I know I'm being hyperbolic, but this is like saying organizationally they used the Unification Church (Moonie) model to recruit, but theoretically they followed the ideas of the Scientologists. It was nuts. So much so that when we, including a British comrade (mutual friend to many of us) participating on the tour, asked the two Unity & Struggle cadre about their impressions of the port complex, they said we needed to "organize the surplus population." This non sequitur threw us a curve; it was like we were talking class struggle in the logistics sector and they were talking baseball.
If that wasn't wacky enough, the idea of the greatest threat to the U.S. working class being a coup seems cooked up by college students sitting in their dorm rooms under a Che Guevara poster, smoking too much dope. In their paranoia, they imagine that the white nationalists are much, much more powerful than they actually are. It's almost like while high, they tuned into Fox News and believed what they heard.
So I've taken in upon myself to provide you a reading list to better understand the conditions of the working class in the U.S.
Start by reading of Arlie Hochchild's Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. Despite its flaws (the author is an academic), it's a useful look at what drove people in Louisiana to the Tea Party and anti-environmental politics. While first-person accounts are more desirable, I think some ethnographical data compiled by sociologists can be useful.
When protests arose in response to Governor Scott Walker's attacks on the public sector in Wisconsin in 2011, it's often forgotten that 6 years before congressional rep. Jim Sensenbrenner -- who represents District 5 in the suburbs of Milwaukee -- proposed HR 4437 as a far-right attack on immigrants. So read Katherine Cramer's The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Cramer is a sociologist, but to her credit traveled the state and conducted tons of interviews. It can open anyone's eyes to how the town-country divide in Wisconsin is one point of conflict in the rise of Walker and how much rural residents resent the liberals of places like Madison (the state capital and colleget town, where the author is a professor at the state's largest university), as well as seeing everything spawned by the university as opposed to their interests (mostly revolving around environmental regulation). People in Louisiana had similar gut-level reactions when they heard that Hochchild was from Berkeley.
As a footnote to Cramer's book, read Conservative Counterrevolution: Challenging Liberalism in 1950s Milwaukee, so you can see the decade-long pendulum swing from progressive Republicans like "Fighting Bob" LaFollette to the fascistic Wisconsinites like Sensenbrenners and Walkers of today. Here you can read how the results of deindustrialization in Milwaukee make the conditions of the black working class perhaps the worst of any major metropolitan area of the country. This book succinctly detailed how much of that misery was inflicted as a result of intentional government policy. It details the strengths and weaknesses -- and ultimate failure -- of the half century of "sewer socialism" in that city.
Another incredibly insightful text is Phil Neel's Hinterland: America’s New Landscape of Class and Conflict. The author is a white guy from the far northern reaches of remote, mountainous California and his book captures why rural residents of the west -- in places like eastern Oregon -- are so anti-government. He uses opposition to polities of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to drive this point home. Being a first-hand personal account, with descriptions of his work on BLM crews, this book is excellent, despite his political conclusions being open to debate. From his analysis you can see where right-wingers like the Bundy clan were coming from and why they spearheaded the "Sagebrush Rebellion" and led the 40-day occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016. This books concisely answers those questions.
After Hinterland, I suggest any of a handful of books about the rural west and how much of the opposition to designation of wilderness areas was based on Mormon right-wingers and that religion's "productivity ethic and the spirit of capitalism," including instrumentalist ideas about the exploitation of nature because it exists solely to serve the needs of humans, and in the case of this Mormon-based ideology, the bourgeois needs of business. This is useful, especially to see the pervasive influence of Mormonism in the Great Basin and Southwest. One example is Christopher Ketcham's excellent This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption Are Ruining the American West, which looks at this struggle in rural regions from an environmental perspective. You can see Mormons behind every attempt to mine, drill, frack, log or graze on public land -- even National Parks!
Now for a deeply moving first-hand account of a working class woman, Sarah Smarsh, in her Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth. You can see more clearly the family history of teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, and rural poverty of where Sarah grew up in Kansas.
To get a deeply historical perspective about rural/agricultural deindustrialization in "flyover country," read Osha Gray Davidson's 1990s book Broken Heartland: The Rise of America's Rural Ghetto, about Iowa with accounts of the rise of local groups of the right-wing Klan-influenced Posse Comitatus. One powerful metaphor was that when small town and rural hospitals closed, as part of health care mergers and monopolization, poor rural residents often made the practical decision to forgo health treatments rather than drive hours to a regional hospital and a metropolitan center to face inflated medical bills -- especially as with deindustrialization, many lost company-provided health insurance. This can be seen as the precursor to the opioid crisis as self-medication became the solution-of-choice to deal with increasing poverty and hopelessness. Also, facing COVID-19, one can see how devasting the health crisis is for rural areas, where there are literally no medical facilities available at the time of a pandemic. So the working class simply suffers and dies.
I could go on and on, but a few more are Tara Westover's first-hand account in Educated: A Memoir about growing up working class in Idaho. I reluctantly recommend reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis with an extremely critical perspective, especially as Vance's reactionary account has just been made into a movie.
I'll finish off my urban/rural working class dystopian readings with Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City about the huge number of black -- and some white -- working class tenants who are continuously pushed out of housing in a revolving door of dispossession in Milwaukee, a city that is the poster child for working class dystopia.
Now all those readings are for a grounding in class composition in the U.S., but you should also read the plentiful texts about class struggle, strikes and resistance -- about how the working class is fighting back in the U.S., although at a relatively low level, which does't require a party but instead requires the confidence that struggle is possible.
Just for clarification, we
Just for clarification, we refer to the 'Unity and Struggle' text - what you call 'micro-sect' - as an example of the weakness of the debate on the left in the current moment - having little to offer to workers but a 'reaction to reactionaries' which might not mean much to many working class people. We don't think that the far-right is particularly strong, we think a revolutionary left portrays them as strong partly because of their own lack of ideas of how to proceed from 'uprising to revolution'. Instead of debating the impotence of street protests when it comes to a social transformation the hyped 'far-right' enemy allows us to continue our forms of politics.
We thought it would be clear from the text that we think we shouldn't engage in the Trump/anti-Trump circus if we cannot put forward some kind of vision of how the working class could actually break with the elite on their own terms. We don't want to hype up the danger from the far-right - I don't think our text is doing that.
What the text says is that we lack a 'positive program' and that the weaknesses of working class struggle at this point of time has something to do with a lack of a 'social alternative' or communist vision in pragmatic terms - not just a lack of an idea that 'struggle is possible'. In this regard there is no difference between Greenford and Portland. Like you we are hardline 'workerists' who always defend that it's only out of the real day-to-day struggles that a 'social utopia' can emerge. But we have revised this a bit and we think that working class revolutionaries have to help developing a program - a social alternative - and circulate it, as closely as possible to the concrete experiences of struggle. At this point of time it might seem as 'utopian' to struggle against the relocation of a factory or against austerity measures of the state as to imagine a more radical break with the system.
Obviously the text was written in the spirit that we are in a historical moment - and here we have perhaps different opinions. The historical moment is not the 'civil war' or coup scenario, the historical moment is the prospect of an intensifying global crisis on various levels. Facing this crisis we think that our own position is not strong enough: we lack industrial roots, we lack a pragmatic vision of revolution, we lack a more cohesive international exchange and practice. We summarised this by saying that there is the lack of a party in Marx's sense, but who gives a fuck how you call that collective commitment.
Still, thanks for the reading list!
Quote: The historical moment
Come on now, you start with a headline urgently screaming;
... as your announcement of a Party building programme and then quickly back pedal when Hieronymous rightly challenges that? Ambitious as you are, if you want to be taken seriously you need to be way more considered and careful in your approach than that.
Fair enough. The headline
The headline addresses those people who made (often their first political) experiences during the uprising and who are now focussing their political energy on 'fighting the right-wing' and 'abolition'.
We can say that this is a small fraction of US society, so who would care? The ruling class fears that with the wider economic crisis the discontent that erupted in reaction to police violence might address much wider social issues. They have an interest to reduce it to a (contained) culture war and tie the left up in a 'reaction to reaction' cycle - which, to be honest, might actually get out of hand.
The politicised milieu discusses how based on the experience of street protests the whole conflict can be expanded or escalated - free zones, abolition, looting - and thereby might involuntarily play into the hands of those who have an interest in the social containment of the conflict. Here the text says that to 'escalate' the conflict would mean to engage with workers in key sectors and their concerns and discuss what revolution would actually mean.
Do we disagree on any of these points? Do you find it necessary to intervene in this debate? If so, how would you do it? What would you suggest to 'young comrades' in this scenario?
... as your announcement of a
... as your announcement of a Party building programme and then quickly back pedal when Hieronymous rightly challenges that?
Again, fair enough.
Just thought that in order to be able to discuss the content - what do we mean by 'organisational tasks' - let's perhaps drop the triggering label and stop calling the thing 'party'. The content still stands, so let's perhaps discuss it.
Quote: Do we disagree on any
I think it's clear being over hasty from a great distance is problematic. If all I know about a subject is what I read in the papers and on here, with wildly different evaluations from people much closer to the situation than me, I will have more to learn than to teach. The far right threat in the UK is so far much different from the US, though events in the US will influence them here. I don't feel an obligation to be part of a 'formal position' on every topic.
Agreed. In the last ten years
Agreed. In the last ten years we really try to understand the situation in the US, some of us and of our closely related Wildcat comrades have been for several visits, we organised a Skype series discussing with US comrades and after the uprising we interviewed friends in the US - see questions below. We actually have much deeper going discussions with comrades in the US (inside the IWW and beyond) than with comrades here - which has something to do with the fact that there have been more struggles, even if many of the '400 strikes' (some sources say 1,000) since Covid will have been phoney.
The 'programmatic' points in the text relate to the situation in the US (series of strikes in key sector, small murmurs of discontent amongst tech workers, street protests), but we think that there is a general need to formulate some more pragmatic ideas of a 'social transition'.
AngryWorkersWorld wrote: To
While I found your efforts in Greenford inspiring, I remain unconvinced about this.
You just throw your hat in the ring with an abundance of others in the lefty marketplace of ideas. How can your ideas outcompete theirs? Here, comrades, I just have to agree-to-disagree.
And living in the belly-of-the-tech-economy-beast here in the U.S., these formulations don't resonant with the experience of myself or my comrades working in Silicon Valley.
As for strikes, yes there were some attempts at Amazon fulfillment centers and by gig economy and other "essential" workers, but these didn't amount to much -- yet. The more relevant pre-pandemic strikes were in 2018-2019 by a nationwide swath of education workers, from all 55 counties of West Virginia to the Los Angeles public schools. And since the beginning of the pandemic, health care workers have continued to demonstrate their traditional militancy. These struggles of the American working class should be the point of departure of analysis, not prescriptive programs written from afar.
Dearest comrade, "You just
"You just throw your hat in the ring with an abundance of others in the lefty marketplace of ideas. How can your ideas outcompete theirs? Here, comrades, I just have to agree-to-disagree."
Really would like to understand better what you disagree with. Let's leave aside for a moment that the headline and first paragraph might have over-played the threat of violent confrontations between the far-right and the BLM / antifa activists. And let's assume that we both share the position that the analysis of concrete conditions and struggles of our class has priority. I think over the last ten years, in case of Wildcat journal thirty years, the focus were always 'the struggles'. For a good reason. But something also got lost there. A debate about how we can imagine a revolutionary rupture based on a comparative analysis of the last cycle 1968 to 1979 and changes till today - primarily the deepened intertwinement of global production. We have neglected this discussion. At this point it would be good to understand if you find that discussions like this also belong to the 'lefty marketplace' - this is by no means a rhetorical question:
Our felt need for a 'program' or a more positive vision of what a radical change could be is not detached from our experiences in Greenford. Obviously we focussed on analysis of the material conditions and promoting and organising small-scale collective actions. But workers have political opinions and we experienced that more and more work-mates are eager to understand 'the system'. In the canteen I met delivery drivers and ware house workers with hundreds of different opinions: many young black workers said that the problem is US imperialism who killed Gadaffi when he tried to get out of the Dollar sphere; others say the problem is the financialisation and debt economy, which give banks all the power; then the usual 'if we had just control over our own economy'-Brexit positions. We don't think that these debates are irrelevant or that the 'defensive political outlook' is merely a ideological reflection of the material weakness they experience as workers. While the latter is the primary problem - we agree with you - the lack of a 'working class political vision' of emancipation has in turn an impact on individual and collective confidence. This is why we wrote a 'system series' in our workers' newspaper - which we don't circulate on the 'lefty marketplace' but amongst workers. Again, would you see this as a problem?
If you read the last 'utopian' part of the system series you can clearly see that it remains very general. It does not really develop an idea of who could be the primary agents in such a process, nor does it talk about concrete stages of this process. With the current text we tried to sharpen this. The main propositions are twofold: a) there are three class segments which we think have an objective (essential work during lockdown, producer knowledge etc.) and subjective (series of strikes, however limited; street protests) significance in the process and we should help building bridges between them; b) revolution won't be a happy 'communising' spectacle but initially the enforcement of the obligation to engage in socially useful activity by the core of the working class, through a take-over and often against the resistance of various layers of society (not just the bankers and the bourgeois state); the first outcome is a drastic reduction of working time which is a precondition to tackle the deeper and long-term material changers. This was not meant for a 'lefty market-place'. It was meant for a politicised section of those who experienced the uprising in order to convince some that we have to focus our political work on building the necessary bridges - see above - together with a 'constructive vision'.
Would we disagree here?
"And living in the belly-of-the-tech-economy-beast here in the U.S., these formulations don't resonant with the experience of myself or my comrades working in Silicon Valley."
Is that because the current 'real struggles', e.g. amongst Google, Microsoft or Amazon tech workers are not developed enough yet? Does that mean we can only think about their potential role once they actually play it? Can we only 'support their struggles' and not voice our 'political ideas'? I think in the discussions amongst work-mates, when they criticise 'the elite' or the role of the EU commission or the US army, things have changed since the corona crisis. The idea that 'workers' social control' over the key sectors of society could mean real change is less far fetched.
But perhaps we disagree when it comes to the practical and organisational consequences?
AngryWorkersWorld wrote: But
Yes, we can respectfully agree-to-disagree.
Do you really take this seriously? If so, based on what? Isn't that called "class war," that's existed as long as capitalism?
Who are the "some" that hold this idea? The U.S. is already so homicidally violent, how will the election change that? Why not just ignore this social media fomented fear-mongering? Aren't claims of "coup" and "civil war" just the latest version of a Fox News-generated conspiracy theory?
My co-workers are most concerned about:
1. Housing: it's not uncommon for workers to pay over 50% of their wages in rent/mortgages (although rents in San Francisco just dropped as much as 31% last month due to a mass exodus of tech workers who can now work from home; Twitter made this policy indefinite, while others in the tech sector are expecting workers to be in-person again no earlier than summer 2021)
[EDIT]Another subtext to this are the massive tent cities that exist in all major metropolitan areas along the West Coast (perhaps they exist on the East Coast and other cities that had been economically booming pre-pandemic), which are the result of this housing crisis that in some areas dates back to the 1980s. In these camps, drug use -- these days mostly opioids, like fentanyl -- runs rampant. Increasing drug overdoses, alcoholism, liver disease, and suicides lead to rapidly growing morbidity and mortality rates, as well causing a decreasing life expectancy, even more pronounced among whites. And even more recently, with the pandemic lockdowns, homocides are up too. Since so many of us are facing unemployment and eviction, all of this is on everyone's mind. And it segues to #2
2. Health care: the U.S. spends the highest per capita on healthcare in the world, has the largest biotechnology sector in the world, and paradoxically ranks near the bottom of the OECD’s 37 countries for various health indicators like life expectancy (#28), infant mortality (#33), and rates the highest for obesity (#1). The causes of these dismal results are various, but the main reason is that the U.S., unlike every other economically advanced country, does not have universal healthcare. Instead, it's a system dependent on either employer-provided private health insurance or healthcare costs being paid out-of-pocket by individual consumers. Under this market logic, healthcare has become a highly rationalized just-in-time industry where the push to extract value leads to consumers paying higher rates for increasingly inadequate services of a very poor quality, made even more disastrous during the COVID-19 pandemic when many workers have had their health insurance cut off -- in addition to the tens of millions who never had it in the first place
3. Wages: follows obviously from #1 & #2
4. Global warming & wildfire: for exactly 30 straight days (August 20 - September 16) air in the northern half of California was so unhealhty (AQI above 151) that we were advised to not go outside
So, my respected AWW comrades, I appreciate much of what you have done and articulated. I don't disagree with your list of proposals for analysis and critique. But the formulations you developed in Greenford simply don't translate to where I live and work. Universals always have that flaw. Why not just compare and contrast class composition analyses generated by those in the U.S., as well as accounts of organizing and struggles, and find commonality (and ignore the silly nonsense from the irrelevant "left")?
[EDIT]Addressing systemic racism in the U.S., from a class perspective, is the Gordian knot of opening up revolutionary possibilities. Much has been written, but very little of it satisfactory. And a facile response on my part does no justice to such a serious concern. Yet it must be confronted; my sense is that only through struggle will a theoretical position become clear.
Quote: * Our experience is
In what way is it a step forward? Wouldn't these cliques and alpha-males just assume formal leadership positions as easily as they do informal ones? We know that's usually the case since all formal organisational structures leninist or otherwise have countless examples of the leadership or at least a significant segment of the leadership essentially getting into a position where they're able to ignore what formal pressure and accountability that exists on paper.
Even in the few cases were a formal mechanism for redress like mandate recalls etc that I can think of that have worked, it wasn't the mechanism itself but the strength of the opposition from the rank and file that forced the issue, or in some of the more formal groups the critical flaw was defying someone even higher up and more alpha than them.
From our text: In the current
From our text: In the current moment the reactionary forces want to draw us into a culture war and armed confrontations – a type of struggle in which the working class can only lose.
- "Do you really take this seriously? If so, based on what? Isn't that called "class war," that's existed as long as capitalism?"
*** Sorry, perhaps a misunderstanding, but all we wanted to say is that the working class has nothing to win in a 'culture war' ('traditional values' against liberal 'wokeness') and that in general workers cannot win against state or financed para-military forces through military means.
From or text: But the idea, held by some, that this growing ‘war’ on the streets can somehow lead to revolutionary change is a dangerous fantasy.
- "Who are the "some" that hold this idea?"
*** Hm, at least from afar it seems that 'insurrectionist' currents who think we can escalate street protests, riots, confrontations with police and far-right, looting, free zones etc. into a revolutionary crisis have some influence in the far left in the US, from Maoists to Anarchists.
*** You wrote that your "co-workers are most concerned about" the day-to-day struggle of working class survival (housing, health care, wages) - and sure this is the main concern as a worker. But does that mean that workers cannot be sucked into 'political disputes' in which these material needs play only a secondary role? I don't want to suggest that the US situation could turn into Yugoslavia or Syria (any time soon) - but probably the main concerns of working class people before 'civil war scenarios' took over were those of material survival. All I am saying is that we cannot just ignore these wider political issues, if we like them or not.
"But the formulations you developed in Greenford simply don't translate to where I live and work. Universals always have that flaw. Why not just compare and contrast class composition analyses generated by those in the U.S., as well as accounts of organizing and struggles, and find commonality."
*** I don't really understand the first sentence. Do you refer to the idea of a 'transitional phase' which is primarily marked by a reduction of working time and generalisation of socially necessary labour? Do you mean that the idea of the three (separated) class segments which might play a significant role is not helpful or correct? For us these two thoughts are at the centre of the text, but so far all the other 'triggers' seem to have prevented really discussing them.
"Addressing systemic racism
"Addressing systemic racism in the U.S., from a class perspective, is the Gordian knot of opening up revolutionary possibilities."
Agreed. Interested to hear more on how you think this is possible. What do you think about STOs position? ('the left choses those issues in workplaces that can create quick unity amongst black and white workers, we should chose those topics that would require white workers to question their privilege') - which sounds very 'consciousness comes before struggle' to me.
Again from afar and perhaps over-emphasising many aspects, but also interested in hearing what you think of this short assessment:
Regarding formalisation: "In
"In what way is it a step forward? Wouldn't these cliques and alpha-males just assume formal leadership positions as easily as they do informal ones?"
I agree with the general direction of your comment - you cannot undermine social hierarchies by just reframing the organisational form. Still, after 30 years in informal groups I think there are limits to that, as well.
* I think due to a lack of visibility of structure (certain transparency of division of labour, of 'educational process', of functions) new members often have to 'become friendly' with the old core group first, before they can really participate. Personal fall-outs often result in people leaving the group.
* Lack of clearer structures and division of labour (minutes, clearer time-line of decision making) also often means that people with less time (due to work, parenthood etc.) have less say
* All this in turn also results - due to some kind of unconscious self-limitation - in informal groups rarely exceeding 20 - 30 people size, as a much larger group would need more distinct levels of engagement etc. and an 'open display'
Well thanks for the response
Well thanks for the response but II think you've missed the point I was making, that wasn't "structurelessness is great actually" it was a "yes you've identified problems with informal groups, but everything you've listed is endemic in formalised groups too, so the conclusion you've drawn appears faulty" I've been in groups that have no structure or clear leadership so know they can have a lot of problems, but I've experienced those same problems in every group I've been close to or a member of regardless of what the code of conduct and complaints procedures are.
For example you've listed a number of issues with groups you've joined, but they are exactly the same issues I've faced in multiple formal groups and parties and unions and collectives over the years.
"* I think due to a lack of visibility of structure (certain transparency of division of labour, of 'educational process', of functions) new members often have to 'become friendly' with the old core group first, before they can really participate. "
Bombarding a new member or potential joiner with a lengthy rulebook or confusing procedures and ways of conduct often lead to new members including myself "becoming friendly" with more longstanding members who would at least give us advice on what to actually do, which effectively created informal power dynamics to go with the formal ones, and sometimes it took years before new members started participating in anyway that wasn't completely passive.
But if they did become experts on how the group did things immediately that usually meant they were close to one of the cliques or factions in the group and were being recruited to benefit them, or in the rare case they were totally new they were one of those hyper determined alpha types that were actively gunning for a position of influence and leadership.
And of course by making these things "official" a consequence of this usually is that it stymies and even punishes spontaneous actions and self activity.
"Personal fall-outs often result in people leaving the group."
Well, yes but that isn't related at all to group compositions, its an unfortunate result of human relationships breaking down, it happens in every group and organisational system ever devised. I don't want to be flippant but the only alternative to this is building some mechanism to control and police the membership, which strikes me as much worse than respecting the wishes of individuals to associate and disassociate as they see fit.
"* Lack of clearer structures and division of labour (minutes, clearer time-line of decision making) also often means that people with less time (due to work, parenthood etc.) have less say"
on paper maybe, but in practice these things can easily balloon and takeover meetings as a sort of formalised ritual and provide ammunition for clique infighting and factional rifts, which meant that discussion groups lasted for hours effectively freezing out members with other commitments.
"* All this in turn also results - due to some kind of unconscious self-limitation - in informal groups rarely exceeding 20 - 30 people size, as a much larger group would need more distinct levels of engagement etc. and an 'open display'"
Funny thing, most of the formal groups I belonged to had local memberships in the hundreds, attendance of any of our events and meetings was at best 20 and most of those were the same people, and if you read histories of the big labouring organisations this is a common phenomenon that dates back over a hundred years.
You seem to have juxtaposed your experiences with an imagined perfect new form, there are autonomous and loose groups that have managed to avoid or deal with most of the issues that plague the others, so I suppose their are examples of the other kind working great, though every example I've seen of that supposedly happening was either from a propagandist for the group or just one disgruntled ex-member leak away from exposing that they're actually very dysfunctional and prone to all the usual bottlenecks and flaws after all.
AngryWorkersWorld wrote: ***
I really have no position on a "transitional phase" -- until that becomes a question of material concern. Not that it isn't important, nor has it been ignored. My comrades and I have thought a lot about it. But I do cleave towards the arguments that some of our ultra-left mutual comrades have been making since the early 1970s, mostly in France.
I think this is the best summary:
[quote=Dauvé]The idea is fairly simple, but simplicity is often one of the most difficult goals to achieve. It means that a revolution is only communist if it changes all social relationships into communist relationships, and this can only be done if the process starts in the very early days of the revolutionary upheaval. Money, wage-labour, the enterprise as a separate unit and a value-accumulating pole, work-time as cut off from the rest of our life, production for value, private property, State agencies as mediators of social life and conflicts, the separation between learning and doing, the quest for maximum and fastest circulation of everything, all of these have to be done away with, and not just be run by collectives or turned over to public ownership: they have to be replaced by communal, moneyless, profitless, Stateless, forms of life. The process will take time to be completed, but it will start at the beginning of the revolution, which will not create the preconditions of communism: it will create communism.[/quote]
How will we do this? When we get there, we'll have to decide. It won't be easy, nor will it follow a prescriptive formula.
"Class subjects" aren't just conjured up out of our imaginations. They come out of material reality, as a process.
As someone pointed out earlier in this thread, an excellent text to situate ourselves as class subjects is Chapter 4 "The Proletariat as Subject and Representation" in Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (reading Rosa Luxemburg's The Mass Strike is highly advisable as well). Our analysis begins with the death of all previous revolutionary traditions, and the very few revolutionaries that remain, scattered, ineffectual and weak as we are, must elaborate a body of analysis of class struggle where it presently exists and based on that, with other communist internationalists, begin to make a contribution to the reconstitution of revolutionary theory.
And that theory must be generated in the practice of our class.
But this is the more relevant part:
(from “Eighteenth-century English society: Class struggle without class?”, Social History, Vol. 3, No. 2 (May 1978), Chapter IV, pp. 147-149)
So if one agrees with Thompson, as I do, we begin the process with struggle.
Sounds like a prescriptive formula to me. STO described themselves as "unorthodox Leninists," so their ideology is obviously vanguardist.
I found the first-hand accounts of the black workers in the Johnson-Forest orbit more compelling. Like Si Owens, author of Indignant Heart (under pseudonyms Matthew Ward and Charles Denby), Jimmy Boggs, before he and Grace Lee took a black nationalist turn, and John Allen. John personally told me a story of meeting Paul Mattick for a Capital study group in the back of a bar in Chicago when he was a teenager. They were kids, who could never remember Mattick's name, but said he had a thick German accent, so they just called him "Karl Marx." John also regaled me with stories of collaborating with CLR James.
There were some interesting stories about the struggles of STO, but something about their approach always seemed cultlike to me.
Within Wildcat and a wider
Within Wildcat and a wider informal structure of 'international summer camps' in the ultra-left milieu that happened since 2003 (initiated by Kolinko and others) we tried to avoid phoney formalisation into official structures. I just see some limits to these informal structures:
* Don't give new people a 'rule-book', but a pretty transparent guideline of the experiences and debates that the collective had over the past decades. Don't send them 'selling papers', but give them a clear idea what their tasks within a wider collective process could be.
* Don't form 'international sign-posts' of organisations, but perhaps make the 'summer-camp' debate more accessible for a wider audience. You might say that this has nothing to do with 'formalisation', but it has to a certain degree. You would need a more structured decision-making process to decide which of the debates, minutes etc. are published, who is invited or allowed to participate.
Anyway, perhaps this debate can only become fruitful if we talk about very concrete examples. At the end of 'Class Power on Zero-Hours' we raise some self-critical questions regarding our hyper-informalism. Happy to discuss them...
Sorry, not good at using
Sorry, not good at using these 'reply functions' - the post above refers to Reddebrek's comments...
Who's gonna attempt a
Who's gonna attempt a coup?
[quote=Judith Shulevitz]This September, Michael Anton, a former national security adviser in the Trump administration, published an essay called “The Coming Coup?” in The American Mind in which he warned, Anton
In the Democratic putsch, Biden would refuse to concede his loss, harvested ballots would show up in tipping-point states, and fights would break out in the streets.[/quote]