Bailouts, co-operatives or class struggle - a debate

A debate between Iain McKaye and the libcom group about an adequate workers' response to the credit crunch - should we advocate nationalisation, co-op's, or struggle?

Submitted by Steven. on August 26, 2009

Co-ops or conflicts? - libcom.org

As half of a Freedom newspaper feature on responses to the credit crunch, Joseph Kay argues for the latter. Read the other half, Bailouts or co-operatives?

Submitted by Joseph Kay on January 19, 2009

Nationalisation has long been a staple demand of the left, but now that an unprecedented nationalisation of the banking system has failed to lead to socialism, anarchist arguments that state control offers nothing to the working class would appear to have been vindicated.

This creates an opportunity to put forward anarchist ideas not as a critical comment on the left, but as proposals in their own right. Against the demand for nationalisation of troubled firms, many have raised the demand for workers control. This demand is no less problematic, for two reasons.

Firstly, and not insignificantly, we are in no position to demand anything. As a tiny minority in the class, our ‘calls’ for this or that are impotent cries. Nationalisation of the banks didn’t happen because MPs heeded the calls of various Trotskyist groups, but because of a material need to prevent a banking collapse and the consequent economic collapse, falling of profits and danger of social unrest this would entail.

The only way our demands can become a necessity for capital to follow is if they are backed by a class movement capable of imposing them. To call for this or that in the absence of such class power is to get ahead of ourselves; there are more pressing matters at hand. We will return to this in a moment.

The second problem is on a more fundamental level. While many are aware that workers’ control under capitalism is simply self-managed exploitation, the demand is still often raised as a sort of intermediate, ‘realistic’ demand short of revolution. However like nationalisation, workers’ control is not a demand based on our concrete material needs as a class, it is about how capital should be managed.

Capital cannot be managed in our interests, so it is pointless to try. Instead we have to make concrete material demands; no to job losses, wage cuts, public service cuts and evictions; and jumping further ahead of ourselves, for wage increases, shorter hours for no loss of pay, improved public services etc.

Self-managed exploitation is not just a neat turn of phrase, it is a recognition of how capital rules social life. It does this both vertically through the person of the boss, and horizontally, through market forces. Many anarchists focus mainly on the vertical rule of workplace hierarchy, and so see workers’ control as a stepping stone towards libertarian communism.

However, it’s not a stepping stone, but a cul-de-sac. For example, I work in financial services. As you would expect during a financial crisis, we’re feeling the squeeze. There have been redundancies, and the ‘lucky’ survivors are being made to work harder and longer to make up. If we were to turn it into a co-op, those same market forces causing my boss to make cuts would still be there, but we would have nobody to say no to when under pressure to increase the rate of exploitation to survive in a hostile market.

Of course, using the director’s former salaries we might be able to make less redundancies or improve wages. But if the firm has the resources to do this, and we would only be able to create a co-op with sufficiently strong class struggle to force expropriation of the bosses, we should simply demand the concrete material things we want – in this case job security and improved conditions – not demand how capital should be managed to meet our actual needs.

Success in establishing a co-op is success in swapping one form of alienation for another, proletarian for petit-bourgeois. But there is a reason workers are a potentially revolutionary class and small business people are not: class antagonism. When capital makes demands of bosses via market forces, they have to impose them on workers, and workers can resist. Workers’ needs are in direct contradiction to the needs of capital accumulation.

However, if we become our own boss, we have no-one to refuse and the needs of capital appear as the natural imperative of market forces. Class struggle – and with it the potential for revolutionary change – is short-circuited. Ends are made of means, some means get us closer to what we want, others make it more remote and finally destroy its possibility.

So what is a libertarian communist response to the crisis? Communist demands are concrete, material demands reflecting our needs as workers. To be in a position to make these demands, we need to have a level of working class power and confidence that is presently lacking. Therefore our activity should be aimed at increasing the confidence, power and combativity of the wider class.

The Tea Break workers’ bulletin is one such project to this end, it advocates libertarian communist tactics to achieve concrete material gains. These tactics are the advocacy of collective action, for militant workers to network with one another online or face to face, for mass meetings including all workers regardless of union membership to control the struggle (excluding managers and scabs of course), and for links to be made between workers divided by workplace, sector, union, agency/permanent contracts and the manifold other divisions currently present (nationality, gender…).

As a concrete project aimed at spreading libertarian communist tactics and demands and increasing the power and confidence of the class, it is at least a small but definite step in the right direction.

pingu

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks for that, I have worked on collective farms in Denmark and they had no control over the working hours at all, because they had to compete with neighbouring farms. On a slightly different note I have also lived in a housing co-op in this country and that was a form of self-managed exploitation too.

Django

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This has been responded to at length by Iain Mckay here:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/co-operatives-and-conflicts

Spikymike

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Too tired to respond in detail to this but just a couple of points for now:

Iain in the above link does point out some inconsistencies in Joseph's line of argument but Joseph is at least on the right lines unlike Iain.

Both co-op's and nationalisation as policies advocated by the old, and now dead, labour movement of Marx and Bakunin's days, cannot be seen as any kind of stepping stone or useful reform on the way to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the state in today's modern globalised world, whether promoted as being achieved through reformist agitation or 'direct action'. They don't work.

Joseph is right to stress the need for workers struggles to extend and deepen rather than become inward looking to backward solutions like co-op's,. which in most cases stand little chance of survival in the crisis conditions of capitalism.

However, it is a moot point in situations of unavoidable isolation and defeat as to whether in some (but certainly not all ) cases workers might at least be temporarily better off by forming some kind of co-op where that is feasible. Many things/compromises have to be accepted in 'defeat' and I wouldn't be going round condeming them if that was their choice in these circumstances.

I hope that distinction makes sense?

Joseph Kay

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i certainly don't oppose co-ops, i simply oppose promoting them as a strategy, since if we're in a position to expropriate firms with the resources to meet our needs then we should just demand they meet our needs, and if they don't have the resources then co-operative insolvency is still insolvency.

so yeah, i understand the distinction, but i think the chances of workers managing a failed firm better than capitalists (in capitalist terms) against a backdrop of the worst recession in 60 years are pretty slim. of course by putting in massive unpaid overtime and the like, as many self-employed people do they might be able to turn failing firms around - but then why would this unpaid overtime be any better than doing it for the boss, like my boss is asking me to do? (hence self-managed exploitation).

i'll try and put a response to Iain together by the weekend.

fatbongo

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"Nationalisation has long been a staple demand of the left, but now that an unprecedented nationalisation of the banking system has failed to lead to socialism, anarchist arguments that state control offers nothing to the working class would appear to have been vindicated."

Most banks haven't been nationalised - state intervention has been limited to shovelling loads of money their way and insuring them against future risk - and none of them have been nationalised in the sense the socialists intended.

When socialists talked about about nationalisation of the banks, they envisaged a situation where allocation of investment was designed to met socially defined priorities (indicated through democratic planning) rather than being focused on maximising profits.

The more general socialist critique was that the nationalised industries were run along capitalist lines. For example, in the railway industry where my dad worked British Rail was expected to run as a business - focussing on cost cutting, efficiency and maximised returns to the treasury (or at least minimised subsidies) and the workforce had no say in the way the industry was run.

fatbongo

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sorry, i posted that before i had finished it.

My point is that i don't think that the government's approach to the banks proves that all forms of nationalisation are rubbish and i'm interested to know how you would critique the socialist type of nationalisation (eg investment related to democratic plan plus workers democracy within industries/workplaces).

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

fatbongo

My point is that i don't think that the government's approach to the banks proves that all forms of nationalisation are rubbish and i'm interested to know how you would critique the socialist type of nationalisation (eg investment related to democratic plan plus workers democracy within industries/workplaces).

well i didn't go much into it as this was written for an anarchist newspaper, so a rejection of statist solutions could be taken for granted. i don't have time at the moment to write a comprehensive critique or anything, but in essence my argument would be that nationalised firms do not exist outside the capitalist world and can only cheat its laws in very circumscribed ways, as gilles dauvé writes:

Gilles Dauvé

It’s crucial to understand why Russia was capitalist in 1980, or 1930, or 1920, if we wish to understand what capitalism really is, and what can and must be revolutionized in Russia as well as in Britain in the XXIst century.

Capitalism is not just a system of domination whereby a minority of bourgeois or bureaucrats force the masses to work and earn them wealth. In 1950, in Prague as in Chicago, money was buying labour, which was put to work to valorize sums of money accumulated in poles of value called companies or corporations. These firms could not go on unless they accumulated value at a socially acceptable rate. This rate was certainly not the same in Prague as in Chicago. Czech firms worked as separate units but (unlike Chicago-based firms) had no private owners that could sell or manage them at will. Still, a Czech company manufacturing shoes did not just produce them as objects supposed to fulfill a function: it had to make the best profitable use of all the money that had been invested to produce them. Value formation mattered as much in Prague as in Chicago. Those shoes weren’t given free to the Chicago or Prague pedestrian who would then have tried them on, put them on and walked away. In both towns, the pedestrian paid for his shoes or went barefoot.

Of course, the Czech State could decide to subsidize shoes and sell them at a low price, i.e. below production cost. But in each country, value had to be finally realized on the market. Czech planners kept bending the rules of profitability, but they couldn’t play that game for ever. These rules always asserted themselves in the end, through poor quality, shortages, the black market, etc. The State protected the Prague company against bankruptcy. But that was artificial. Limiting competition helps maintain social cohesion: over-limiting competition stifles productivity. No-one can fiddle the logic of valorization for too long. One firm, ten firms, a thousand could be saved from closure, until one day it was the whole society that went bankrupt. If the Belgian or French State had kept bailing out every unprofitable company from the early days of industrialization, capitalism would now be defunct in France or Belgium. In short, the 'law of value' functioned in very different ways in bureaucratic and in market capitalism, but it did apply to both systems. (Nobody denies the capitalist nature of Bahrein or Togo, though these capitalist forms are quite different from the British or Italian ones.)

i'd add that the same criticism i make of a co-op strategy also applies, that the state would only act in such a way (socially useful investment etc) if forced to by a powerful workers movement; thus our task is to facilitate such a movement and push demands for the concrete things we want (more healthcare, higher wages, mortgage/debt cancellation, whatever) and not make demands about how capital is managed (by the state, democratically by workers etc).

RedTom

13 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"anarchist arguments that state control offers nothing to the working class would appear to have been vindicated."

Nice try. It proves that planning can still have negative social results if it's done for the purpose of enriching executives and large shareholders. Socialists should recognize that 'nationalization' comes with it's perks ONLY if it's done democratically.

LauritzTheAgitator

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If worker self-management is such a bad thing, just petty bourgeois self-exploitation, then why should one be a libertarian socialist/anarcho-syndicalist in the first place? Why go to all the trouble of trying to forment a revolution, much less actually carrying one out, if the objective of social ownership is such a negative for working people? Ideological rhetoric stripped aside, this sounds largely like a call for "trade unionism, pure and simple."

Spassmaschine

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Why go to all the trouble of trying to forment a revolution, much less actually carrying one out, if the objective of social ownership is such a negative for working people?

Others can probably explain this much more coherently than me, but the basic idea is that the revolution can only succeed if we do more than just take over. Rather than worker's control/social ownership/self-management or whatever as the final goal, what is necessary is to communise production; in other words rather than continuing commodity production under workers' control we need to immediately put the things and places we seize to a different purpose, one aimed solely at directly meeting our needs. Which kind of leads naturally on from the "communist demands" JK is talking about above - the need even now to focus solely on actually meeting our needs.

Joseph Kay

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Lauritz, captain soap's pretty much answered, but i'll address your points too...

LauritzTheAgitator

If worker self-management is such a bad thing, just petty bourgeois self-exploitation, then why should one be a libertarian socialist/anarcho-syndicalist in the first place? Why go to all the trouble of trying to forment a revolution, much less actually carrying one out, if the objective of social ownership is such a negative for working people?

because commodity production cannot be managed in our interests. the objective of libertarian socialists/anarcho-syndicalists is not the fairer management of a system based on commodity production and exchange, but the reorganisation of production (and society) on the basis of 'from each according to ability, to each according to need' - communisation.

LauritzTheAgitator

Ideological rhetoric stripped aside, this sounds largely like a call for "trade unionism, pure and simple."

not at all. in fact the trade unions are hardly going to be pushing militant occupations and trying to spread struggles within and accross sectors - unless forced to by a militant and angry membership. now i will allow that there are limited instances where turning a failed business into a co-op is viable, and it can put food on the table for the workers rather than going on the dole. what i'm opposing is a general strategy of turning occupations into co-ops, which i think is a dead-end for such militancy.

MT

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

we have Prisme workers example here who after over 50 days of occupation started their own co-op. now they will have food on table but i think that this argument is bit vague because we can argue for "food on the table" everytime, you know. because the case is almost always failed business.

Joseph Kay

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

the details of prisme are vague, but there are examples of co-ops being successful in terms of providing a continuing income to their staff, and even expanding and taking on some social functions - like Zanon. however i think these examples are really the exception, and not something from which to base a general strategy.

take the Visteon workers for instance... as i understand it they mainly supplied Ford, who were partly who they're in dispute with. who would they sell their co-operatively produced products to? if they shifted production to something else, taking advantage of existing machinery and skills, the chances of success for a effectively a new business in a recession are slim. of course, to even have got to this point, they'd have needed to continue the occupations, resisting police evictions and court orders, and such militancy would have undoubtedly forced more concessions from the bosses, thus putting 'bread on the table' anyway, without needing to try and run a business in a recession. which is basically my argument against a co-op strategy in a nutshell.

MT

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

reply to joseph:
so if market is ok for the workers to be successful co-op runners then you say yes and if it is obviously clear that they would have no chance, you are against? but i think there is another side of the problem and that lies in the fact of (self)management. to self-manage your exploitation or not. what i am trying to say is that we are speaking here about success in terms of business not in terms of revolutionary potential. for example, what is so cool about zanon from the perspective of a revolutionary? they are running a participative business model with a kind of shareholders scheme. to reach this point they passed points of success in maintaining the production and so. So, my point is the the mid-term or long-term perspective and seeing how the co-op developes and where can it develop (or until what point it is allowed to develop facing capitalist relations).

Still, the question remains - to rather fight for as much as possible and ending on a dole with a lot of money in the pocket or building a business which le'ts say can be profitable and ending with job "in the pocket" where everyone is a boss and has to collectively decide on how to give in to the rule of the capital.

Joseph Kay

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

MT

so if market is ok for the workers to be successful co-op runners then you say yes and if it is obviously clear that they would have no chance, you are against? but i think there is another side of the problem and that lies in the fact of (self)management. to self-manage your exploitation or not. what i am trying to say is that we are speaking here about success in terms of business not in terms of revolutionary potential. for example, what is so cool about zanon from the perspective of a revolutionary?

no, i completely agree that running a co-op is a dead-end from a revolutionary point of view. as i wrote in the article: "Many anarchists (...) see workers’ control as a stepping stone towards libertarian communism. However, it’s not a stepping stone, but a cul-de-sac." However, as far as i'm aware the Prisme, or Zanon workers were not revolutionaries, but workers concerned primarily with meeting their material needs (these things aren't mutually exclusive of course). unless they can be persuaded of -or come to of their own accord - a revolutionary perspective, it's for them to determine the goals and methods of their struggle. that doesn't mean we have to be uncritical cheerleaders - in fact if there were to be a growing, militant occupations movement i'd imagine proposals not dissimilar to Iain's would be one of the ways it would be recuperated, precisely because it only threatens individual capitalists rather than capital itself.

MT

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

so then the revolutionary "dilemma" is then - to support the fighting spirit of workers struggling against capital (for their own capital?!) and perhaps speaking with them about how their own model is most probably going to end up, OR having a moralising stance and not giving a damn about what they do as every model of self-management is lost beforehand in capitalism which means they necesserily become capitalists and thus exclude themselves from being potentially revolutionary agents?

I am just trying now to come back to the critical question or dilemma from which we are trying to reach answers because sometimes I feel like we are missing this ground which we are trying to start from.

Joseph Kay

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It's a valid question. How do (pro-) revolutionaries both support workers in struggle maintaining control of those struggles, and be consistent revolutionaries? my own experience of strike support etc is limited, and I'm sure others can add to what I say, but I think we just need to be solid and honest in supporting other workers in struggle and the idea they should control their own struggle directly, not preaching or banging on about politics/the dispute constantly and avoiding the opportunistic recruitment/paper selling antics of the trots, but at the same time not hiding our politics or our reservations over particular demands or tactics (all the while stressing these aren't our decisions to make).

SPN

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

OK. The idea that co ops are self manged exploitation is a reason not to start co ops is really dumb -- the best part about a worker cooperative movement is to show people that WORKERS CAN OWN THE MOP. Worker cooperatives can help build the class consciousness, it is a means to building the movement. Simply waiting for the movement, unionizing people, and trying to pass out newspapers to people who don't really give a shit is a terrible, purely ideological, uncreative, authoritarian idea.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah, you don't really understand the argument, do you? [/drunk post]

lowwintersun

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Agree with SPN, this is real Christian stuff. You'll get your reward after the revolution- until then suffer and agitate. Cooperatives are a way for workers to organise and provide resources, this doesn't just raise class consciousness but also enables people to gain some control over their workplace. Simply accepting the master/servant relationship will never change until some utopian post revolutionary future is the real dead end. Everything I read on here about coops imagines some general strike followed by worker councils taking control - it's doctrinal and illusionary, no different from socialists arguing about what Marx would have done.

Oh, and worker coops do go on strike, just because you have an ownership stake doesn't mean you can't disagree with the decision of management or coworkers. Workers can agitate, organise and withhold labour. A lot of the comments here seem to be from people who don't know much about worker coops and have made a series of (sometimes quite naive) assumptions.

Khawaga

6 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oh, and worker coops do go on strike, just because you have an ownership stake doesn't mean you can't disagree with the decision of management or coworkers

Not much of a co-op if there is separate management... and you don't have an ownership stake. Then it's just classic old wage labour.

And btw, strawman much?

storris

2 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Really struggling to understand left-anarchist doctrine. Class struggle is still a thing?

Isn't that an appeal to 'proletarchy' or something?

R Totale

2 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

storris

Really struggling to understand left-anarchist doctrine. Class struggle is still a thing?

Could try here? http://libcom.org/library/libcom-introductory-guide Or here? https://libcom.org/library/z-communisation-gilles-dauv%C3%A9

Bailouts or co-operatives? - Iain McKay

As half of a Freedom newspaper feature on responses to the credit crunch, Iain McKay argues for the latter. Read the other half, Co-ops or conflicts?

Submitted by Joseph Kay on January 19, 2009

As capitalism goes into crisis (again), there have been bailouts of the financial sector as well as calls for the bailing out of certain industries. There are many reasons for rejecting this, but the problem is that their workers will be harmed by this. As such, I think it is wise for anarchists to have some practical suggestion on what to do – beyond, of course, calls for social revolution.

May I suggest that in return for any bailouts, the company is turned into a co-operative? This is a libertarian alternative to just throwing money at capitalists or nationalising workplaces.

Proudhon argued in 1848 he

“did not want to see the State confiscate the mines, canals and railways; that would add to monarchy, and more wage slavery. We want the mines, canals, railways handed over to democratically organised workers' association..”

In his classic work, The General Idea of the Revolution, he made a similar suggestion as part of his critique of capitalism and he influenced the Communards, who turned empty workplaces into co-operatives.

In 1912, Kropotkin argued along similar lines. He noted that the “State phases which we are traversing now seem to be unavoidable.” However, aiding “the Labour Unions to enter into a temporary possession of the industrial concerns” anarchists would provide “an effective means to check the State Nationalisation.” So there is an anarchist tradition of making this kind of demand.

What of the obvious objection, namely that this is not socialism and just “worker capitalism.”

Yes, it is not socialism – but it contains more elements of socialism than the alternatives of bailouts or nationalisation. It is a suggestion that could be applied in the here and now, where a social revolution is currently unlikely. If our position is one of revolutionary purity then it will be unlikely that anyone will pay much attention to us and if a revolt does break out then our influence will be smaller than it could be if we addressed social issues today.

If done in the right way, such activity can be used to get us closer to our immediate aim – a libertarian social movement which uses direct action and solidarity to change society for the better.

What of the notion it is “worker capitalism”? This is confused. It is not capitalist because workers own and control their own means of production. If quoting Engels is not too out of place, the

“object of production – to produce commodities – does not import to the instrument the character of capital” for the “production of commodities is one of the preconditions for the existence of capital... as long as the producer sells only what he himself produces, he is not a capitalist; he becomes so only from the moment he makes use of his instrument to exploit the wage labour of others.”

So workers’ associations are not capitalist, as Marx also made clear.

This is Proudhon’s distinction between property and possession and he placed workers’ associations at the heart of his anarchism, considering them as “a protest against the wage system” and a “denial of the rule of capitalists.” As long as these associations remained democratic (i.e., all people who work there are members) then this is a socialisation of the means of life (albeit, currently within capitalism). The key to understanding socialisation is to remember that it is fundamentally about access, that every one has the same rights to the means of life as everyone else.

This was Proudhon’s position, that “every individual employed in the association... has an undivided share in the property of the company”, has “the right to fill any position, of any grade, in the company, according to the suitability of sex, age, skill, and length of employment” and that “all positions are elective, and the by-laws subject to the approval of the members.” Bakunin was also a firm supporter of cooperatives, as was Kropotkin – although both were clear about their limitations.

This should be the criteria for any bailouts suggested now – the turning of the company into a co-operative which is run by its members and which any new workers are automatically members with the same rights as others.

Of course, it is unlikely that any government will agree to such a socialisation of companies. Unless pressurised from below, they will pick bailouts or (part/full) nationalisation in order to keep capitalism going. If ignored then people should simply socialise their workplaces themselves by occupying and running them directly. Nor should this be limited to simply those firms seeking bailouts. All workplaces in danger of being closed should be occupied – which will hopefully inspire all workers to do the same.

This support for co-operatives should be seen as a practical response to current events, a means of spreading the anarchist message and getting people to act for themselves. At the very least, it helps people who are suffering from the crisis while, at the same time, showing that another world is possible. And it is doubtful that the people whose jobs and communities are on the line because of the decisions of their bosses can make any more of a mess than has already been inflicted on them!

But this is a short-term libertarian solution to the crisis, one that can be used to help create something better. Capitalism has failed. It is time to give economic liberty a go!

darren p

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, it is not socialism

Correct! it contains ALL the basic features of Capitalism!

There is no such thing as an "individual producer" in the modern world...

Such a system of "workers capitalism", individual and competing enterprises owned and run by the workers, would as painful a diversion as state capitalism was in the 20th century.

"Help other cooperatives" is invariably one of the constitutional rules of cooperatives. Even the highly non-revolutionary ICA advocates the formation of broad cooperative federations.

888

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm not for economic liberty, I'm for economic suppression

Antieverything

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm not economic liberty, I'm for economic suppression

How cute. So you aren't for anything! And, yes, I understand the idea of communism as the suppression of the economy as a separate entity...but this only means that economic questions are subsumed by social questions, not that the economy ceases to function as an economy.

I think you fundamentally misunderstand the definition of economic liberty: control over the means and implements which are required to reproduce life, namely, the means of production. This understanding of freedom is consistent across nearly every strand of radicalism as well as classical liberalism.

888

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Actually I think "economic liberty" is a term more often used by free marketers, not that that's what Iain meant here. I don't favour a mixed economy with cooperatives functioning within capitalism, I think capitalism has to be destroyed by force and a general strike. Since this is a rhetorical article about what people "should" do (while knowing they are not capable of doing it right now), why not suggest a revolutionary general strike? Or for immediate practical solutions, roaming direct action casework groups (like Seattle Solidarity Network, www.seasol.net) or workplace resistance groups are preferable to co-ops.

Django

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Theres a response to the response to this here:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/co-operatives-and-conflicts

Still, have to say that I found the other half of this more sensible and still do. It was an excellent feature to run in Freedom though, I'd like to see more of these kinds of debates.

Joseph Kay

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i'll have a read and try to reply if i get the time. just glanced at the first paragraph, and should point out i wrote my piece without seeing Iains, so it's not a "response", and neither did i pick the title, which was added by the sub.

Django

It was an excellent feature to run in Freedom though, I'd like to see more of these kinds of debates.

i agree. much is i'm at odds with Iain on this issue, i think it's an important discussion to have, and i think Freedom can fulfil an important role in the 'anarchist movement' such as there is one by hosting such exchanges. it might have been better sequentially rather than concurrently though, as to a certain extent we argue past each other. alternatively it could have just been done as two independently written 'visions' or whatever, as opposed to a psuedo-debate. but yeah, it's a good format.

Spikymike

13 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just posted a brief comment on the 'Co-ops or Conflict' thread - seems to be the same thread as this?

Ex-temp

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes Mike it was the same exchange. It might be a bit simpler to combine all of the exchanges into one article containing the whole debate.

Co-operatives and conflicts! - Iain McKay

The once occupied, now legalised Zanon workers co-op in Argentina
The once occupied, now legalised Zanon workers co-op in Argentina

A continuation of the discussion raised by the Bailouts or co-operatives? article, which was published in Freedom alongside another article arguing against anarchists raising the demand for co-operatives. By Iain McKay.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on February 2, 2009

I'm not sure whether Joseph Kay (“Co-ops or conflicts?”) actually read my article on co-operatives before writing his piece. I would guess not, as it has the feel of a standard libertarian communist response against co-operatives within capitalism. If so, that is a shame as I may need to repeat myself somewhat as the analysis I presented was not really addressed.

I had hoped that my article (“Bailouts or co-operatives?”) had made clear that suggesting co-operatives was a short-term solution for those workers facing closing workplaces or whose bosses are seeking bailouts. I did not address the issue of (so-called) “self-managed exploitation” simply because that is a different question, relating to the issue of co-operatives within capitalism and the future libertarian society. As my original article addressed neither issue. Instead it was a call for action, plus an explanation why co-operatives were a valid socialist alternative to bail-outs and nationalisation within the current crisis.

Firstly, I do need to point out a few contradictions in his argument. He proclaims that we are “in no position to demand anything. As a tiny minority in the class, our ‘calls’ for this or that are impotent cries.” Yet, without irony, he raises various “Communist demands” we should be making! What is it to be? Are we in no position to demand anything or can we raise demands? I assume the latter, which means that his real objection to demands to create co-operatives is that he opposes that specific demand.

Key suggests that “Communist demands are concrete, material demands reflecting our needs as workers.” Apparently avoiding unemployment does not reflect our needs as workers. Is he seriously suggesting that workers, faced with the closure of their workplaces, should simply collect their P45s and head straight to the unemployment office? That the task of anarchists is not only to not suggest occupations but to oppose them as “petit-bourgeois”? Or that we should be indifferent when public (our!) money is used to bailout the muppets who got us into this crisis to begin with?

Somewhat ironically, he lists some “concrete material demands” we should “make” (forgetting that we are “in no position to demand anything”), namely “no to job losses, wage cuts, public service cuts and evictions.” No evictions? Like when bosses close their workplaces and evict their workers from them? And how would we ensure no evictions? Perhaps by occupation? And how are the occupiers to resist the resulting “wage cuts” this would create (I doubt the bosses would pay them wages)? Perhaps by resuming production under their own control? Surely occupation of workplaces in the face of closure is but one of many “concrete material demands” anarchists should be raising?

And that is a key point. I never suggested that supporting co-operatives was the only tactic we could make in the current crisis. Far from it! Need I point out that deciding to turn your workplace into a co-operative involves both the “advocacy of collective action” and “mass meetings”? Need I point out that it is a form of direct action? So it is a case of co-operatives and conflict! Kay argues that co-operatives are pointless unless:

“backed by a class movement capable of imposing them. To call for this or that in the absence of such class power is to get ahead of ourselves; there are more pressing matters at hand.”

Yet, as I suggested, raising the demand that any bailout be premised on turning the firm into a co-operative is a means of encouraging the formation of such a movement, a movement we can both agree is sadly lacking just now. Nor can it be considered getting ahead of ourselves to suggest possible libertarian solutions to the “pressing matters” of bailouts, workplace closures and unemployment!

So need I say that my suggestion for co-operatives was aimed at encouraging workers to act for themselves, to get them to find their own solutions to the problems caused by the current crisis? As such, I agree with Kay that “our activity should be aimed at increasing the confidence, power and combativity of the wider class.” Opposing bailouts and closures with demands for occupations and co-operatives is part of that, I would suggest.

Kay spends some time discussing the limitations of co-operatives. Capital, he argues, “cannot be managed in our interests, so it is pointless to try.” Yet, as both Proudhon and Marx made clear, co-operatives are not capitalist:

“Let us suppose the workers are themselves in possession of their respective means of production and exchange their commodities with one another. These commodities would not be products of capital.” (Marx, Capital, vol. 3, p. 276)

Suggesting that workers faced with unemployment form co-operatives hardly means, to quote Kay, that “Class struggle – and with it the potential for revolutionary change – is short-circuited.” Does he really think that the state or capital will happily let workers expropriate their workplaces? I doubt it. I noted how Kropotkin suggested union control as an alternative to Nationalisation, I should also point out that in the 1880s Engels suggested as a reform the putting of public works and state-owned land into the hands of workers' co-operatives rather than capitalists. (Collected Works, vol. 47, p. 239). So, really, were both Kropotkin and Engels advocating the ending of the working class as a “potentially revolutionary class” and the end of “class antagonism” when they suggested co-operatives as an alternative to nationalisation? I doubt it.

Kay suggests that “often raised as a sort of intermediate, ‘realistic’ demand short of revolution” but that “workers’ control under capitalism is simply self-managed exploitation” and that “establishing a co-op” would be “swapping one form of alienation for another, proletarian for petit-bourgeois.” I plead guilty to the first charge, although I stress that my suggestion was an attempt to bring a revolution closer by encouraging direct action by workers – in other words, I am not aiming for “workers’ control under capitalism” but rather workers’ control (among other tactics) as a step towards ending capitalism.

As for “self-managed exploitation”, that is just confused. “Self-managed exploitation is not just a neat turn of phrase”, Key asserts but I disagree. He is confusing the fact market forces would still exist and rule workers' lives (and this is a serious objection) with capital/wage labour and so exploitation (in an anarchist or Marxist sense of expropriation of surplus by non-producers). He argues that “capital rules social life” vertically “through the person of the boss” and horizontally “through market forces”, yet do I really need to point out that capitalism is a mode of production, not a mode of distribution? Markets existed before capitalism and a self-employed artisan working his own tools is not exploited by a capitalist. He argues that is we turn his workplace:

“into a co-op, those same market forces causing my boss to make cuts would still be there, but we would have nobody to say no to when under pressure to increase the rate of exploitation to survive in a hostile market.”

Really? Is he saying that workers’ would make the same decisions as a boss would in the same circumstance? Ultimately, his argument is identical to the apologists of capitalism – bosses have no power, the market is supreme. Yet this is false – market forces may cause bosses to act in certain ways, but being a boss shapes any decisions made.

If that were not the case then why would we need unions? We would not be able to gain any reforms, for the boss would be simply passing on the demands of “market forces”! But we know better than that. The issue of “market forces” does raise the question of whether bosses practice “self-managed exploitation” when they make decisions they dislike (for example, not to buy that third holiday house but rather make investments in their company to keep it profitable)? Is capitalist investment “exploitation” of the capitalist? Kay’s arguments would, I think, lead us to conclude that it is – which shows its weakness.

He argues that “if the firm has resources” then we should “demand the concrete material things we want.” Yet my argument was primarily related to when firms are about to go bust. Is he really suggesting that rather than expropriate the boss, we just accept our P45s? All in all, I am surprised that a member of the Solidarity Federation would resist suggestions to expropriate capital, to oppose calls for workers to occupy their workplaces, to be quiet when the state bailouts or nationalises capitalist firms.

In summary, I would suggest opposing, rather than supporting, co-operatives is “not a stepping stone, but a cul-de-sac.” I feel he is confusing the notion of piecemeal reform by co-operatives with a response to redundancies I have advocated (hence his comment that “like nationalisation, workers' control is not a demand based on our concrete material needs as a class, it is just about how capital should be managed”). Perhaps it could be argued that expropriating workplaces in a non-revolutionary situation is a bad idea, yet why is it a non-revolutionary situation? Perhaps because workers are not expropriating their workplaces?

All in all, I feel that my suggestion for co-operatives as a practical alternative for libertarians remains valid. Provided, of course, that they are seen as one form of many kinds of direct action and solidarity. Our focus should be, then, co-operatives and conflicts with both supporting each other in an attempt to first build the revolutionary workers’ movement we are sorely lacking and, ultimately, to abolish capitalism!

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

my reply to this is now here

Spikymike

9 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This article from Labor Notes on the experience of a group of Mexican Workers who have run a 'successful' workers co-operative making tyres mainly for the USA market is illustrative of the problems and pressures on workers initially faced with redundancies, fighting these with an unsuccesful strike and eventually saving some of their jobs by becoming 'worker-owners' and the compromises that has eventually entailed - not sure what their future is in terms of the current economic crisis and the effects on the USA automobile industry?

Part Two is here:
http://www.labornotes.org/2013/04/can-worker-owners-make-big-factory-run

On co-ops, conflicts and straw men - libcom.org

Mighty Morphin Power Beards!
Mighty Morphin Power Beards!

A reply to Iain McKay on the question of anarchist responses to the economic crisis.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on February 8, 2009

The initial pair of articles, ‘Bailouts or co-operatives?’ and ‘Co-operatives or conflicts’ were published in Freedom newspaper’s Christmas 2008 edition, Iain’s response to my piece is available here. As we head into what is expected to be the deepest post war recession there are already signs of both heightened class conflict and reactionary slogans, and therefore the importance of a comprehensive discussion of a libertarian communist response to the crisis is reaffirmed. To this end, I'll reply to Iain in the hope of clarifying some of his misunderstandings or misrepresentations of my position and contributing constructively to this necessary debate. To begin with, Iain claims that my arguments are contradictory:

"Firstly, I do need to point out a few contradictions in his argument. He proclaims that we are “in no position to demand anything. As a tiny minority in the class, our ‘calls’ for this or that are impotent cries.” Yet, without irony, he raises various “communist demands” we should be making! What is it to be? Are we in no position to demand anything or can we raise demands?"

There is no contradiction here, for two important reasons. Firstly, because as I made clear in my article my objection to a strategy of co-operatives is twofold:

"Firstly, and not insignificantly, we are in no position to demand anything. (…) The second problem is on a more fundamental level (…) like nationalisation, workers’ control is not a demand based on our concrete material needs as a class, it is about how capital should be managed."

My argument is that like Trot demands for nationalisation, anarchist demands for co-operatives are impotent, since we’re in no position at present to force them. Demands as to how capital is managed (by the state, by co-operative workers associations) are meaningless without a workers movement strong enough to impose them. But in any event they would not represent a communist demand even if we were.

Secondly even in the absence of a powerful workers movement, proposals of what workers should do are not as impotent as demands over how capital should be managed, because while the incumbent managers of capital can only be swayed by force – that is by class struggle; strikes, occupations and other forms of direct action – our fellow workers can in principle be persuaded by force of argument, that is to say by propaganda activities promoting libertarian communist tactics.

Of course even if you think co-ops are a good idea, we’d first need to get into a position to force them. Iain agrees, thus the over-riding challenge for an anarchist response to the crisis is how we increase the power and confidence of the class – which unlike the management of capital is something we are in a position to influence at the moment. That said, it’s still worth debating what demands we’d make with such class power as and when it exists, as to do otherwise would be to assume failure from the outset. Therefore it’s worth revisiting my criticisms of a strategy promoting co-operatives.

Iain summarises his argument as being that co-operatives represent “a valid socialist alternative to bail-outs and nationalisation within the current crisis,” (while being clear that "yes, it is not socialism"). He writes:

"[Kay] argues that if we turn his workplace “into a co-op, those same market forces causing my boss to make cuts would still be there, but we would have nobody to say no to when under pressure to increase the rate of exploitation to survive in a hostile market.” Really? Is he saying that workers’ would make the same decisions as a boss would in the same circumstance?"

Aside from Iain presuming to know more about my workplace than I do, one could answer this question by reading my original piece! I in fact addressed precisely the possibility that if my work became a co-op we could manage it differently, saying that:

"using the director’s former salaries we might be able to make less redundancies or improve wages. But if the firm has the resources to do this, and we would only be able to create a co-op with sufficiently strong class struggle to force expropriation of the bosses, we should simply demand the concrete material things we want – in this case job security and improved conditions – not demand how capital should be managed to meet our actual needs."

However, Iain’s “argument was primarily related to when firms are about to go bust”. What then are we going to take over and self-manage? In the case of my work, we lend money that we borrow from major banks. The way would be likely to go bust is if either our bad debts rose too high, or if these funding lines were cut off. In either case, a co-op would be faced with the same problem as the boss, but would only have the option of managing it differently. The same is true more generally for Woolworths or Zavvi workers: co-operative insolvency is still insolvency. Occupations may help prevent the administrators selling off assets to pay off credtiors instead of workers, and help secure improved redundancy terms, but they can't make a failing firm viable. The only thing that might is a big increase in unpaid overtime by the workers providing the surplus labour to kickstart the firm's profitability, but even that unappealing prospect is dependent on creditors and suppliers extending credit and workable terms of trade to the illegally occupied firm, which seems about as likely as Barclays providing mortgages to squatters.

Iain’s claim that this “argument is identical to the apologists of capitalism – bosses have no power, the market is supreme” is thus nonsense. It is not an apology for capitalism to understand how it works (ironically, to claim that self-managed firms are “socialist” is much closer to an apology for capitalism than anything I have written). Bosses are not free, they must act broadly in accordance with the market. They’re almost certainly not lying when they say they regret making redundancies and the like, I’m sure they would rather be taking on more workers and making more profit. Of course they choose to lay off a worker on £15k rather than take a £15k pay cut themselves, so yes “being a boss shapes any decisions made” – as I made clear in my article.

But this returns us to the point, if the resources are there to make less redundancies, in what way is it more realistic to demand the boss surrenders his capital to the workers rather than say forgoing some or all of his salary to save jobs? What boss would rather surrender their capital than take a temporary pay cut? Iain argues co-ops are a “short-term solution for those workers facing closing workplaces or whose bosses are seeking bailouts” – but if expropriation – which is what co-ops represent – is on the cards, I’m sure the mere safeguarding of jobs would have been on the table long before that.

It’s not that I think it would be a bad thing if laid off workers occupied their workplace and tried to run it as a co-op (a la Zanon), but I think it’s (a) not really on the cards given the current state of the class struggle and the severity of the coming recession, (b) far less practical and realistic than demanding improved redundancy packages (as in Derry and Poland) or no redundancies at all, and that given this it's (c) not something libertarian communists should be proposing as a strategy given as if we’re in a position to expropriate capital, co-operatives are a dead end for such militancy. I argued all this in my original article, and Iain still hasn’t explained why co-ops are a more realistic response to the crisis than struggles resisting cuts or demanding decent redundancy packages – the kind of struggles that are actually happening already.

Thus the problem is not how capital is managed, but that it is capital, regardless of who manages it or how democratically they do so. Quote-mining Marx does not change the fact that there is money in motion, returning with a surplus (M - C - M') - the assets of a co-op do not cease being capital when votes are taken on how they are used within a society of generalised commodity production and wage labour. That is to say there remains an imperative to accumulate with all the drive to minimise the labour time taken to do a task this requires, even in a co-op. This is why it is accurate to talk about self-managed exploitation. Iain disagrees, and it’s worth exploring this point further, because it cuts to the heart of just what the capitalist social relation is, and how to oppose it. He says that:

“As for “self-managed exploitation”, that is just confused. “Self-managed exploitation is not just a neat turn of phrase”, Key asserts but I disagree. He is confusing the fact market forces would still exist and rule workers' lives (and this is a serious objection) with capital/wage labour and so exploitation (in an anarchist or Marxist sense of expropriation of surplus by non-producers).”

A firm operating in a competitive market – as would certainly be the case with firms “about to go bust” - must generate enough surplus to re-invest in expanding output and new technology to maintain or improve its market position relative to its rivals. That is to say the firm - as a concentration of capital - has a logic of its own. It needs to be nourished by surplus living labour or it will whither and perish. As dead labour, it must vampire-like suck life from the living, and lives the more, the more it sucks. This is why it is "exploitation in an anarchist or Marxist sense" without "expropriation of surplus by non-producers", which is an unneccessary personification of social relations. The firm can have a logic of its own - expand or die - without there being a villain in a top hat and monocle sat atop it. This is the reality of running a business, and it exists independently of how that business is run (as a one-man private tyranny, a Plc or a co-op). Thus when I wrote that “many anarchists focus mainly on the vertical rule of workplace hierarchy” - I unwittingly anticipated Iain’s one-sided understanding of the capital relation. So when Iain writes…

“[Kay] argues that “capital rules social life” vertically “through the person of the boss” and horizontally “through market forces”, yet do I really need to point out that capitalism is a mode of production, not a mode of distribution? Markets existed before capitalism and a self-employed artisan working his own tools is not exploited by a capitalist.”

…he really makes my point for me. Within the prevailing capitalist mode of production, the abolition of the capitalist - that is, and individual personification of capital at the level of the firm - does not abolish the exploitation of labour by capital, that is by dead labour, which requires a surplus to sustain and expand it relative to its rivals, lest those rivals expand and swallow it up or force it out of business.

Thus by appealing to pre-capitalist artisan production to explain why co-ops under capitalism supposedly do not involve the exploitation of labour, it is Iain that is confused, and ahistorical to boot. He commits precisely the mistake I warned against of focussing on capital’s vertical rule though workplace hierarchy - the person of the boss – to the detriment of understanding the horizontal rule imposed by the market; the imperative to accumulate - that is to extract a surplus from living labour – that is inherent to any firm in capitalism, however it is managed. The fact the market is the main mechanism by which this imperitive is imposed does not make it a question of distribution; under capitalism production for the market, i.e. commodity production necessitates this dynamic of 'grow or die.'

Iain is right that “there is an anarchist tradition of making this kind of demand [for co-ops]” for precisely the reason that there is an anarchist tradition of myopically focussing on the hierarchical aspect of the capital relation to the detriment of the horizontal – and thus championing the bourgeois freedom of the market against the despotism of production, which is its necessary counter-point. Proudhon, Kropotkin et al at least had the excuse of not having the wealth of hindsight now afforded us in the early 21st century. No matter how eruditely Iain marshals his army of authorities, he doesn’t have the same excuse.1 The rallying cry “it is time to give economic liberty a go!” is precisely in this tradition – the tradition of 19th century small business socialism that was discredited both practically and intellectually long ago.2

So, having addressed the more substantive matters at issue, I feel I must now address some of the rather uncomradely accusations and misrepresentations with which Iain peppered his response. He asks:

"Is he seriously suggesting that workers, faced with the closure of their workplaces, should simply collect their P45s and head straight to the unemployment office? That the task of anarchists is not only to not suggest occupations but to oppose them. I am surprised that a member of the Solidarity Federation would resist suggestions to expropriate capital, to oppose calls for workers to occupy their workplaces"

This a ridiculous insinuation, and one (unsurprisingly) made without any quotation from my article. This is of course because nowhere do I oppose workers occupying their workplaces or propose workers “simply collecting their P45s.” If you doubt this, simply see what I wrote in my piece that Iain is purportedly responding to:

"we have to make concrete material demands; no to job losses, wage cuts, public service cuts and evictions"

I couldn’t really be any clearer than that – and Iain has the benefit of actually reading my article before responding, so there really is no excuse (our original articles were written 'blind', simultaneously). I would therefore appreciate him withdrawing this charge, because it makes it hard to have an honest discussion when you stand baselessly condemned for things precisely the opposite of what you actually said. Workplace occupations are indeed something I support, my argument is that demanding they be turned into co-operatives is misguided. Iain goes onto say:

"Perhaps it could be argued that expropriating workplaces in a non-revolutionary situation is a bad idea, yet why is it a non-revolutionary situation? Perhaps because workers are not expropriating their workplaces?"

Unfortunately this has all the logical rigour of suggesting the frost outside is caused by the low reading on the thermometer. Clearly ‘revolutionary situations’ are not created by the expropriation or workplaces so much as characterised by them. Revolutions are the high watermark of class struggle, and so the question becomes ‘how can we help increase the level of class struggle?’ This is a much more pressing question, since until some increase comes about, any demand we dream up is meaningless (I don’t pretend an increase in class struggle will only come about through us answering this question, but the question must be posed since we are workers being fucked over during this crisis and can only defend ourselves collectively).

To try and answer this question, the Brighton local of the Solidarity Federation has recently produced a pamphlet on anarcho-syndicalist strategy and organisation. We advocate trying to create networks of militants on a regional and industrial basis, who can encourage practices of solidarity, direct action and rank-and-file control amongst their workmates and the wider class. We think workers who agree with these principles should network with one another and produce propaganda advocating mass workplace meetings and collective, direct action. The demands we would argue for are concrete ones relating to our actual needs (against pay and job cuts, for income and job security, in case of redundancies happening anyway for improved pay-offs etc).

We would certainly include workplace occupations as an example of collective, direct action. But I would see it as a mistake to encourage workers to try take over businesses on the verge of going bust going into the worst recession since WWII, since even if the businesses could be turned around it would only be at massive extra effort in terms of unpaid overtime and the like – the kind of thing we would rightly resist if imposed by the boss, but have no choice about if imposed on self-employed co-ops by the market. Finally, I feel I must address one more point which belies two assumptions unbecoming of a libertarian communist. Iain writes:

"Is he seriously suggesting that (…) we should be indifferent when public (our!) money is used to bailout the muppets who got us into this crisis to begin with?"

Firstly, the identification of state funds with “our!” money (exclamation no less!) requires an embarrassing conflation of the population with the state. State funds raised by taxation are no more ‘ours’ than my boss’ Bentley is ‘mine’, because tax revenue represents the state's portion of the surplus value expropriated by the capitalist class.3 Of course taxes are more visible than other forms of surplus value, but they are no more ‘ours.’ The notion of ‘taxpayers money’ may have rhetorical advantage to populist orators, but it’s a staple of bourgeois ideology from George Galloway to David Cameron. I would expect anarchists to see through such naked conflation of the population and the state.

Secondly, it repeats the line of no less an exemplar of bourgeois ideology than the Prime Minister, that the bankers are to blame for the crisis.4 It’s not that there aren’t greedy or reckless bankers, but that any materialist, communist analysis of the crisis has to see through such populist scapegoating and look at the underlying causes of the crisis (I wrote a brief account here for Tea Break). Of course without such ‘irresponsible’ lending the economy wouldn’t have experienced the decade of steady credit-enabled growth on which Brown built his reputation, which once again demonstrates the vacuousness of the notion bankers “got us into this crisis.”

Thus in conclusion I feel Iain has failed to defend his assertion that co-operatives represent “a valid socialist alternative to bail-outs and nationalisation within the current crisis (...) a practical alternative for libertarians” Instead, he has misrepresented my objections and claimed - undoubtedly in continuity with some in the 'anarchist tradition' - that running your own business is a useful strategy in the class struggle. In doing so he has demonstrated several assumptions quite in line with bourgeois ideology; that the market represents a freedom worth fighting for, that state finances are 'our money' and that the crisis is all the fault of some banker 'muppets' and not rooted in the very contradictions of capitalist accumulation.

Therefore I maintain that a libertarian communist response to the crisis is one which increases the power, confidence and self-organisation of the class to demand the concrete things we want from capital, and not one which puts forward 'realistic' ways in which capital could be better managed (i.e. co-operatively instead of hierarchically); since capital cannot be managed in our interests it is pointless to try. A strategy of promoting co-ops and conflict in the 21st century would have as much to do with communism - the real movement asserting our needs against the present state of things - as nationalisation and conflict had in the 20th. We have to learn to stop trying to manage capital and instead try to fight it.

  • 1Of all the logical fallacies one could expect from an anarchist, appeals to authority are perhaps the most ironic (“both Proudhon and Marx made clear”). I count Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Marx and Engels. More a phalanx than an army, I concede, but what bearing do the 19th century political strategies of dead celebrities have on the crisis today? This is not explained, we are expected to be wowed by their authority "were both Kropotkin and Engels advocating the ending of the working class as a 'potentially revolutionary class' and the end of 'class antagonism' when they suggested co-operatives as an alternative to nationalisation? I doubt it."
  • 2Marx’s demolition of Proudhon springs to mind.
  • 3For example income tax never enters a workers bank account and is paid directly from the employer to the state. A raise in income tax would attack wages in exactly the same way as a direct wage cut, only generalised across society. Both represent an increase in the value appropriated by the capitalist and an attack on the price of labour power, which if unresisted would result in a lower standard of living, i.e. reproduction of labour power at a reduced cost.
  • 4Gordon Brown has said of city bankers that he’s “angry at irresponsible behaviour (…) where there is excessive and irresponsible risk-taking, that has got to be punished.”

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Firstly, the identification of state funds with “our!” money (exclamation no less!) requires an embarrassing conflation of the population with the state.

don't really get this point - for all the theoretical niceties about 'taxpayers money' being no more taxpayers money than workers' surplus value is their surplus value, the simple fact is that the bailouts/financial system support requires an increase in the amount of appropriation from individuals and society as a whole to private interests through increased taxation or a reduction in the social wage etc... this is something you acknowledge in the footnote although it seems almost to contradict the relevance of the point being made in the main body of the text, which taken overall seems to be that the only point left being made is a semantic one the relevance of which pales into insignificance to everyone who is actually interested in the on the ground realities of what all this entails

i honestly don't see the relevance of making a point about taxpayers money not being 'ours', it may be correct on a technical/theoretical level but that doesn't alter the fact that living standards will decline as a result of what's happening, our living standards - try that line on any doorstep or down the pub and you'd be laughed out the room

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oisleep

i honestly don't see the relevance of making a point about taxpayers money not being 'ours', it may be correct on a technical/theoretical level but that doesn't alter the fact that living standards will decline as a result of what's happening

well that's precisely my point - that the important thing is our living standards and not how capital is managed. getting outraged over "our money!" misses the point, the working class will pay for the crisis unless we force otherwise. we will be made to pay through various means, whether speed ups and redundancies reducing working class income/increasing the rate of exploitation, or by direct attacks on wages/social wage by the bosses or by state clawbacks.

thus the important thing is how we agitate and spread ideas of direct action, solidarity, rank and file control etc and draw links between supposedly separate struggles, not how to make moralistic appeals over the management of capital, as if we have any more "right" to turn a bailed-out firm into a co-op than we do any other firm.

They'll decline as a result of the bail out, or as a result of the crash as a whole? I don't know the economics, but I suspect our living standards would be hit a shitload more if the banks hadn't been bailed out and had collapsed, no?

exactly my point, so to finger wag at someone for articulating this in the not perfectly correct sense of it being 'our money' going into it (whether that be our actual money or actual living standards) seems pointless and more intent on scoring points on semantics rather than addressing the material events

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

getting outraged over "our money!" misses the point,

so for example if a campaign was underway to do all the things you say that need to be done (which i agree with) but used the slogan 'it's our money' would you feel the need to stand up and put them correct on the semantics of it? i'm sure most normal people would respond to you if you did that it is you who is missing the point

i'm not having a go, it just struck me as theoretical posturing to have a go at an adversary which as a result to an extent belittled the real issue at the heart of al this

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oisleep

so for example if a campaign was underway to do all the things you say that need to be done (which i agree with) but used the slogan 'it's our money' would you feel the need to stand up and put them correct on the semantics of it? i'm sure most normal people would respond to you if you did that it is you who is missing the point

i'd argue against the slogan, yes, because it obscures the fact there's all sorts of ways we're going to be made to pay, and a truncated critique of state bailouts as a moral outrage is likely to mean inadequate practice in other areas too. same way i could support the class content to the refinery strikes, while seeing the 'british jobs' slogan as one which undermined that content.

oisleep

i'm not having a go, it just struck me as theoretical posturing to have a go at an adversary which as a result to an extent belittled the real issue at the heart of al this

well i think it reflects the differences in analysis that lead to our different takes on libertarian communist practice. there is a whole tradition of leftist politics that identifies the state with 'our' interests, and there is a whole tradition of anarchist politics in favour of democratically managing capital (proudhon's opposition to strikes and favouring federations of small businesses etc). iain explicitly draws on the latter tradition and implicitly the former, so i think it's worth addressing as often it's these 'abstract', 'theoretical' points which underpin the concrete proposals in dispute.

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

thing is i don't see how the statement that it is 'our money' that is paying for the bailout represents 'an embarrassing conflation of the population with the state' - the funds for the bailout represent an increased claim on our future value production, and therefore in one way or another the net access to value that stays with us is reduced - ultimately it is our value (money as a proxy for it) that allows for the financial system to be bailed out/supported in the first place - the sentiment behind this fact can manifest itself in many ways, one of which is the direct claim that it's 'our money' that is bailing out the financial system (and not bailing out the bankers as it's often claimed) - i don't see how this represents an embarrassing conflation of the population with the state - if anything i'd say it represents the opposite and a recognition that there will be a transfer of value from the population/society to the state which is then used to support the financial system - i'm not sure how saying this represents a moral outrage either, it represents a recognition of the material reality of things and one which should be encouraged amongst the wider population, not something they should be ticked off about for not using the correct terminology in their slogans, even though the underlying content/substance of their reaction against this is one that adequately acknowledges and addresses what is happening

don't take this personally as i have never seen this in you before, but it just reminds me too much of the irrelevant lefty standing in the corner ticking off another irrelevant lefty on some angles on pinheads type matter while meanwhile all around them events overtake them and their left behind, irrelevant as ever, squabbling over who is the most libertarian or correct

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oisleep

i don't see how this represents an embarrassing conflation of the population with the state - if anything i'd say it represents the opposite and a recognition that there will be a transfer of value from the population/society to the state which is then used to support the financial system

well i think it does - everyone from the tories to leftists bang on about 'taxpayers money' as if it represents some legitimately 'public' funds, which requires conflation of 'the people' and 'the state' (as you would expect from tories and leftists, but which is embarassing for anarchists).

i just can't get angry about the bailout as if it means i'm any worse off - quite possibly without it there would have been a systemic collapse, which could have been much worse for workers since we're in no position to create communism in the ruins, there'd be every bit as much chance right-wing populists or religious nuts would capitalise on a collapse, being more numerous and better funded than anarchists/communists.

what i'm worried about are the clawbacks by which they will shift the costs onto us - if we let them. these will take the form of cuts to the social wage, and maybe from regressive taxation on any future upswing (i doubt they'd depress consumer spending power any more than necessary facing a deep recession), as i outlined in an article for Tea Break.

oisleep

don't take this personally as i have never seen this in you before, but it just reminds me too much of the irrelevant lefty standing in the corner ticking off another irrelevant lefty on some angles on pinheads type matter while meanwhile all around them events overtake them and their left behind, irrelevant as ever, squabbling over who is the most libertarian or correct

don't worry, i don't take politcal disagreements personally. but this is not my intention; as i said i think this phrasing belies underlying assumptions which preclude an adequate communist response (just as 'british jobs' belied a tendency in the refinery wildcats that could have undermined them, from a communist pov).

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i just can't get angry about the bailout as if it means i'm any worse off

what i'm worried about are the clawbacks by which they will shift the costs onto us

you see again, it looks like here (to me) you're saying one thing to show how different you are from the tories or other lefties, but then shortly after pretty much contradict yourself and articulate pretty much the same thing as you're ticking off others for doing, but somehow from a 'correct' position that even though others are also articulating you deny them it due to the supremacy of your analysis/position

but anyway we could go round and round in circles which it looks like we are

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

well like i say, we'll pay for it through clawbacks (social wage cuts & future regressive taxes), not because state funds are somehow 'our money'; we'll also pay for the crisis through speed-ups and redundancies, but nobody goes around saying this is because bosses profits are "our!" money; because it's obvious that the problem is the concrete ways in which we are made to pay, and not the abstract 'ownership' of wealth we never have in our control.

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yes joseph but i mentioned these things in my very first post, i'm well aware of them - as indeed i would suspect are 99% of anyone else who uses things like 'our money' (as effectively a proxy for all these things) in relation to this - such a statement does not preclude an ability to see what's going on around us

any cuts in social wage or increases in taxes will mean we will have indirectly or directly less money (or more debt) if we want to maintain our living standards at the same level (which if labour is to reproduce at it's current level will have to happen), i don't see why the huge polemics when someone articulates this situation by making reference to money that once (and would have been) 'theirs' but is now not - these are the concrete realities of what will happen and they can suitably be expressed in a manner which says 'that was our money used for that'

lets face it if the state issues a bond tomorrow, the funds from which are used to prop up the financial system, the only reason they are able to issue that bond in the first place is because they have the ability (and confidence of the market to) extract future tax revenues from 'us' or take away other forms of the social wage in the future that would have once belonged to 'us' to service the interest costs and eventually pay off the debt - there's nothing magical going on here it's a straightforward transfer of value from 'us' to an impersonal system

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yes but issuing a bond doesn't make the bond revenue "our money" any more than my bosses paying themselves dividends is "my money" - this is hardly the most substantive point, and i left it to the end of my response, and you've said i may be "correct on a technical/theoretical level" but that this doesn't matter practically, which applies as much to your quibbles as me mentioning it in the first place.

but the point is i picked up on this in precisely the context of a practical discussion about what we should actually advocate and do, where we were being rallied to "give economic liberty a go!" by reviving the "anarchist tradition" of self-managed businesses, on the grounds that "our money!" is being used to bail out firms. so it's not an isolated, technical, ivory tower point-scoring excercise - the rhetorical device of "taxpayers money" is being used as it always is as a means of populist oratory/demagoguery to persuade us capital can be managed in our interests; the twist being the state is rejected as too hierarchical, we need to argue for democratic self-management of failing firms.

you can't abstract rhetorical devices like "our money!" from the arguments they're being used to make, in this case proposals for turning insolvent firms into workers co-ops which i think are deeply misguided.

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yes but issuing a bond doesn't make the bond revenue "our money" any more than my bosses paying themselves dividends is "my money"

well given they would be inable to issue the bond in the first place if they didn't have a mechanism (with confidence in that mechanism) in place to effect a transfer of value from 'us' to 'them' is not something that should be ignored or treated so lightly - (the comparison with a dividend is incorrect as well, a payment of a dividend represents the transfer of value already owned/appropriated by a shareholder from one form of value (shares) to another (cash) - the issuing of a govt bond represents a commitment to appropriate future value from the population)

the rhetorical device of "taxpayers money" is being used as it always is as a means of populist oratory/demagoguery to persuade us capital can be managed in our interests;

well i think as an anarchist you are being too idealist in what you can ultimately expect to achieve - it's not about managing capital in our interests it's about putting demands on the existing structure (which lets face it is here to stay until something worse comes along to replace it) to get as much as we can from it, knowing full well it's not there to act in our interests, but alert to the fact that this is the siutation we are in and therefore the one that needs to be addressed, and as nice as dreamy notions of some utopian never to be achieved society is all very nice, it takes you more and more away from the situation you're trying to do something about

have you ever tried this out on the doorstep or with normal people though joseph, if someone said to you down the pub that that bloody banking system is being propped up with 'our money', would you step in and say well it's not really our money so what are you moaning about - when taxes and VAT go up in a year or so the money that we would have had which we now don't wasn't really ours anyway - i mean come on, i know your intentions are sound but don't you see how disconnected from every day life a lot of this stuff comes across as

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oisleep

well given they would be inable to issue the bond in the first place if they didn't have a mechanism (with confidence in that mechanism) in place to effect a transfer of value from 'us' to 'them' is not something that should be ignored or treated so lightly - (the comparison with a dividend is incorrect as well, a payment of a dividend represents the transfer of value already owned/appropriated by a shareholder from one form of value (shares) to another (cash) - the issuing of a govt bond represents a commitment to appropriate future value from the population)

yes, i know what a dividend is. but this is precisely the point - the importance is the concrete ways in which we are made to pay, about which i've written elsewhere, and not abstract claims to ownership. at work they just made a load of redundancies, and will almost certainly still take dividends (since the firm is profitable), so this division of past/future value doesn't get away from the fact we are discussing a division of wealth between classes and the concrete battles that implies, not an appeal to ownership - which is very relevant in the context of an article calling for workers ownership/control of insolvent firms - my criticism of Iain is precisely that he seems preoccupied with proposing ways in which capital should be managed (using "our money" to turn failing firms into co-ops) to the exclusion of our concrete needs. he's since clarified that he wants 'co-ops and conflicts', but i still feel demands made of how capital should be managed miss the point, that it is asserting our needs which is important.

my bosses have indirectly been bailed out by the british and dutch governments, should i be demanding a fair say in how they run the firm? no, i don't want to lose my job, i don't want my pay cut - these are the concrete things of importance, not how democratic the management structure is or some abstract claim to ownership because workers created the value expropriated by the british and dutch states which (indirectly) bailed them out. iain argues that co-operatising failing firms is the best way, or at least a way, to achieve these concrete goals. i've disagreed and explained why in my article.

oisleep

well i think as an anarchist you are being too idealist in what you can ultimately expect to achieve - it's not about managing capital in our interests it's about putting demands on the existing structure (which lets face it is here to stay until something worse comes along to replace it) to get as much as we can from it, knowing full well it's not there to act in our interests, but alert to the fact that this is the siutation we are in and therefore the one that needs to be addressed, and as nice as dreamy notions of some utopian never to be achieved society is all very nice, it takes you more and more away from the situation you're trying to do something about

how is it that i've come to be accused of dreamy utopian idealism for proposing the kind of concrete struggles that are actually happening - over job security, wages, the social wage - against the advocacy of "giving economic liberty a go!" via some as yet unrealised class movement to occupy and collectivise failing businesses? seriously, how is a self-managed woolworths or RBS more realist than what i'm advocating?

oisleep

have you ever tried this out on the doorstep or with normal people though joseph, if someone said to you down the pub that that bloody banking system is being propped up with 'our money', would you step in and say well it's not really our money so what are you moaning about - when taxes and VAT go up in a year or so the money that we would have had which we now don't wasn't really ours anyway - i mean come on, i know your intentions are sound but don't you see how disconnected from every day life a lot of this stuff comes across as

well my views on this come from being a financial services worker who knows full well how self-management would do fuck all to benefit us as workers. yeah, we could redirect bosses salaries and dividends to secure jobs and improve conditions - but if the firm has the resources to do so we should just demand the concrete things we want - as i argued in my original article. this is much more realistic and in touch with everyday life than demands for expropriation.

i have had many discussions with my co-workers (not all initiated by me by any means) about job security and pay - these are not seen as mental. advocating we turn our work into a co-op probably would be. i'm sorry, painting this as detached from everyday life is just ridiculous. of course in any case i'm not knocking on doors talking to random workers, i'm debating a fellow anarchist on the pages of an anarchist newspaper and a libertarian communist website - and the content of the discourse reflects this. if you want to take issue with idealism, i suggest you take issue with Iain's assertion, in the same breath as "our money!" that the crisis is caused by banker "muppets" as opposed to being materially and structurally an expression of the economy.

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

a lot of your repsonses have come back to slagging off self management and co-ops proposed by ian - i don't think self management within capitalism is the answer so not really sure the point you're making with them against me (ironic that this thread title has straw men in it!), i don't think the issue of self management and the issue of 'our money' are the same thing so i have no argument with you over self management, i know this was the context from which your original criticism of 'our money' came from, but i wasn't defending 'our money' in order to defend any of ian's positions, i was talking about it as a stand alone thing, as something you are quite likely to here many normal people voice over time and wondered how you would react to them (and how they would react to that)

i noticed the comment about muppets from ian which i was going to comment on earlier but i thought it had no relevance to the discussion we were having, but i'd happily take issue with that assertion yes, however that is for another day

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oisleep

i don't think the issue of self management and the issue of 'our money' are the same thing so i have no argument with you over self management, i know this was the context from which your original criticism of 'our money' came from, but i wasn't defending 'our money' in order to defend any of ian's positions, i was talking about it as a stand alone thing

well exactly - you're abstracting from all context and then claiming bafflement at why i picked up on it - when the reason i picked up on it was precisely the way it was part of a wider argument and seemed to betray certain assumptions underpinning it.

oisleep

as something you are quite likely to here many normal people voice over time and wondered how you would react to them (and how they would react to that)

well i'd react by saying they're going to try and make us pay through public service cuts or future regressive taxes - if we let them. therefore we should try and act collectively to resist such clawbacks etc. just like i wrote in my tea break article in fact.

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

well exactly - you're abstracting from all context and then claiming bafflement at why i picked up on it - when the reason i picked up on it was precisely the way it was part of a wider argument and seemed to betray certain assumptions underpinning it

ok, so if someone else - a normal person on the street (or part of a campaign) said that statement as an articulation of their frustration at what is going on, you wouldn't see anything wrong with that statement? if so then fine (although this in itself brings other implications with it), but if not the argument about abstracting away from all context seems redundant

anyroads, as you say this is polemics between two anarchists trying to show the other how correct the other one is, so i'll leave youse to it

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oisleep

ok, so if someone else - a normal person on the street (or part of a campaign) said that statement as an articulation of their frustration at what is going on, you wouldn't see anything wrong with that statement?

more abstraction from context. you don't think politicos talk to each other in a different way than talking to some imaginary 'normal person' (by no means a homogenous entity)? i was in the pub talking to a comrade's ('apolitical') flatmate the other day, they said all sorts of things i agreed with (critical of the maoist 'communism' they grew up with) and disagreed with - dismissing communism accordingly, and seeing 'libertarian communism' as a contradiction in terms (they were inquiring, not me proselytizing, fwiw). of course if a self-described anarchist came out with the latter my reaction would be different - since it would be far more perplexing.

oisleep

anyroads, as you say this is polemics between two anarchists trying to show the other how correct the other one is, so i'll leave youse to it

fwiw, you may or may not be aware that i share your general antipathy to writing for a politico as opposed to a lay audience - hence my involvement with libcom and tea break. however, i don't think debates with other politicos are entirely pointless, so i do take part in them (our solfed pamphlet would be another example). your criticisms do seem to be of the very form of the debate - anarchists talking to each other - more than anything else. we could have avoided a lot of psuedo-circular arguments if you'd have just said 'why argue with anarchists?' to begin with (a question i'm not unsympathetic to, and would happily field).

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

more abstraction from context

yeah but it's either 'our money' or it's not, if you're steadfastly sure in your opinion that it's not then surely you should hold that position in any context

for example is the statement that ian made that it was the muppet bankers that got is into this mess dependent on context and something that cannot be abstracted from? no of course it isn't, so why claim the 'our money' thing is

the reason i picked up on this very point is that it's a commonly voiced phrase at the moment from people who perhaps in the past have not paid much attention to what is going on around them in terms of the general system etc.. hence the reason for picking this up and running with it as for once it's something that is not confined to dreary talk between semi-professional lefties, it's something that's out there and fairly alive - hence my curiosity as to how you're reaction would be to someone else (who wasn't arguing for co-ops but just voicing frustration at what they see going on around them) who came out with the same thing as ian did?

your criticisms do seem to be of the very form of the debate - anarchists talking to each other - more than anything else

well you may see it in those terms, but as i said above the reason for picking up on it was because it's precisely something that's going on which isn't just anarchists gassing with each other - you might have noticed that i havn't made any comments on the main substance of your debate with ian, mainly because i think it's an irrelevant one in terms of wider interest and therefore confined to debate between anarchists, of which i have no interest, but as i said one snippet of that argument you were having interested me in a wider sense which was why i picked up on it (plus it's sunday and i'm the mood for an argument)

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

oisleep

yeah but it's either 'our money' or it's not, if you're steadfastly sure in your opinion that it's not then surely you should hold that position in any context

if i was autistic, yeah. but just like i'm going to be much more critical of an anarchist claiming libertarian communism to be a contradiction in terms than someone who was raised in a 'communist state', i'm going to make different arguments in different contexts just like i don't talk to my workmates about 'communist demands', which is politico shorthand for concrete demands asserting our actual needs; wage demands, against public service cuts etc. as we've both recognised, this is hardly the most substantive issue here, it belies "assumptions unbecoming of a libertarian communist" - i wouldn't be surprised if my workmates made uncommunist assumptions since they make no claim to be communists in the first place.

oisleep

the reason i picked up on this very point is that it's a commonly voiced phrase at the moment from people who perhaps in the past have not paid much attention to what is going on around them in terms of the general system etc.. hence the reason for picking this up and running with it as for once it's something that is not confined to dreary talk between semi-professional lefties, it's something that's out there and fairly alive - hence my curiosity as to how you're reaction would be to someone else (who wasn't arguing for co-ops but just voicing frustration at what they see going on around them) who came out with the same thing as ian did?

and i've linked you to an article i wrote attempting to do exactly that. i've had these discussions with people, i tend to point out the rich look out for their own, and will try to pass the cost onto us etc, therefore the important thing is to find ways to support one another (i.e. solidarity, direct action etc).

oisleep

well you may see it in those terms, but as i said above the reason for picking up on it was because it's precisely something that's going on which isn't just anarchists gassing with each other - you might have noticed that i havn't made any comments on the main substance of your debate with ian, mainly because i think it's an irrelevant one in terms of wider interest and therefore confined to debate between anarchists, of which i have no interest, but as i said one snippet of that argument you were having interested me in a wider sense which was why i picked up on it (plus it's sunday and i'm the mood for an argument)

well, a debate on the pages of an anarchist newspaper is clearly 'just anarchists gassing at each other', it's only marginally less so on the pages of a libertarian communist website. criticising it for not being something else (a response to some man in the street) seems like having a go at apples for not being oranges.

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

if i was autistic, yeah

so if someone on the bus said to you the reason we're in this mess is because of a few bankers, would you only try to argue against this position if you were autistic (or for example are you being autistic on the the discussion your having on the what recession means for us thread with someone who is putting the type of arguments forward that you might hear someone in the park shouting about)

i wouldn't be surprised if my workmates made uncommunist assumptions since they make no claim to be communists in the first place.

but it's not an assumption this 'our money' thing, it's an objective truth from what you're telling me (we never owned that money, so we shouldn't demand a say in what the state does with it remember), so it's not about whether something is a communist position or not, but about what is real surely - in that case why differentiate between someone who is a communist and someone who isn't, it's either our money or it's not

well, a debate on the pages of an anarchist newspaper is clearly 'just anarchists gassing at each other', it's only marginally less so on the pages of a libertarian communist website. criticising it for not being something else (a response to some man in the street) seems like having a go at apples for not being oranges.

no you miss the point, i was picking up on the intersices (not sure if this is the correct word) of the debate in the wider public realm and that between semi professional leftists, i havn't criticised your 'debate' amongst anarchists as it's of no interest,nor relevance,to me or any of my business - i have however picked one small element of it that unusually, on the surface, is something that chimes with a much wider grouping and then questioned what appears to me as a rather janus like treatment of the issue depending who you might be talking to

now i only picked up on this as an individual point initially but through this debate i think it has crystalised a bit for me my own disdain, and what i imagine that of the wider public holds, for anarchists and lefties - this is this deliberate ghettosing of themselves from those they are supposedly meant to hold appeal to through different plains of debate, this professionalising of debate & discussion in the way that academia does which carves out a space that is only relevant for those who already subscribe to it which creates and perpetuates the cutting off and isolation from those they are supposed to appeal to, and where the indulgence in this ghettoised arena seems to be taken part with great glee, vigour and energy to the detriment of any connection with those who the appeal is supposed to be made to (marx for anarchists for example)

this is not by the way something specifically aimed at yourself as you appear far less guilt of this than many others, but the wider, for want of a better word, movement, with myself included within that criticism - let's face it never before has the left been so utterly discredited and ignored by 99.99% of society and this as well during what will probably be one of the worst downturns for nearly a century, surely an appraisal of why that is the case is required and one (of the no doubt many) reaons why this is the case is that the left is not relevant to 99.99% of people today, and stuff like what we've been arguing about today, to me, just seems to prove this

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

well i'm glad you've re-affirmed your prejudices, but the idea i'm being janus-like is just silly. can you really not see why i might take more issue with say, a self-described anarchist advocating voting, or nationalisation, than one of my workmates? in either case my view on voting or nationalisation is the same, but my arguments are framed differently depending on the assumptions, values etc of the person you're talking to. this isn't duplicity, it's the basis of normal human communication (hence my autism reference). if you simply want to establish debates among anarchists are not "relevant to 99.99% of people today", there's no argument. obviously anarchists are basically irrelevant at present, i think that has little to do with the fact they debate with one another though.

oisleep

this professionalising of debate & discussion in the way that academia does which carves out a space that is only relevant for those who already subscribe to it which creates and perpetuates the cutting off and isolation from those they are supposed to appeal to

ok, so you are objecting to anarchists talking to one another. i think 'professionalising' is a silly term to use since everything i write is done for free in my spare time, or covertly at work if i'm not too busy. the idea every discussion people have must be lowest common denominator is just silly - i wouldn't go door-knocking with a copy of Capital but i don't think it's worthless (and you've discussed it at length too, so presumably you don't - of course if a workmate wanted to discuss Capital with me i'd use different language, metaphors etc than if i was discussing with another member of the libcom collective who shared much of my understanding already). when people who share basic assumptions and values discuss they can take these shared assumptions for granted, and so the discussion can appear more obscure to outsiders accordingly. that said, nothing i write is purposefully obscure or inaccessible to an interested layman with a reasonable literacy level (which is why i don't tend to write with unexplained references to dead beards and the like, although Iain doing so in the context of a Freedom article isn't as problematic as in outward-looking propaganda).

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

well i'm glad you've re-affirmed your prejudices, but the idea i'm being janus-like is just silly

don't prejudices stop being prejudices when they are constantly re-affirmed by empirical observation? (yes i know i only see what i want to see etc.. etc...)

can you really not see why i might take more issue with say, a self-described anarchist advocating voting, or nationalisation, than one of my workmates? in either case my view on voting or nationalisation is the same, but my arguments are framed differently depending on the assumptions, values etc of the person you're talking to. this isn't duplicity, it's the basis of normal human communication (hence my autism reference).

Issues like whether voting or nationalisation are worthwhile are far more subjective than the objective and categorical statement you made that the money being used to prop up the banking system is not 'our money' so i'm not sure why you are bringing in inappropriate analogies here (again the irony of the thread having straw man in it is not lost on me) - you were finger wagging me earlier for inappropriately abstracting from the specific to the general remember

if you simply want to establish debates among anarchists are not "relevant to 99.99% of people today", there's no argument. obviously anarchists are basically irrelevant at present, i think that has little to do with the fact they debate with one another though.

yes, pretty much every post and every word that i've written on this thread has been directed at that aim you highlight don't you think - as to this having little to do with the fact they debate with each other of course it's not, but see below for more on this

ok, so you are objecting to anarchists talking to one another

no, i'm pointing out that's all they ever seem to do (i'm sure you can see the distinction between these two things) - and asserting that the reason that's all they ever do is that in the main, other anarchists, lefties or people like me are the only people who have any interest in listening to anarchists

i think 'professionalising' is a silly term to use since everything i write is done for free in my spare time, or covertly at work if i'm not too busy

i'm not so sure it's such a silly term as you think, clearly youse all spend and commit a significant amount of your time involved reading and writing about or debating within the ghetto that is anarchism, there is a significant (and admirable, although sometimes somehwat misguide in my opinion) investment made in what you believe in, and like all other professions terms and assumptions are used which make it fairly impenetrable to those outside that clilque - take the example of a desire to do a marx for anarchists pamphlet for example, or your recent thing about syndicalism these are all intensley inward looking and self referential and place other anarchists as the target audience - my use of the term professionalising was not meant to imply i thought you got paid for doing this, which is a plain silly thing to imply, however there are many other aspects of professionalism which are apparent in the anarchist and lefty cliques - i suppose i better add here that this in itself is not an issue and is charactersitic of any professions, hobby/interest groups etc... however it does become an issue (for a movement whose appeal is meant to resonate with the wider working class) when that is pretty much all that goes on - and again i have to add that i accept one of the reasons for this is due to the miniscule resources and numbers (not to mention the sectarianism that seems to run through it) mean they are barely able to reach out beyond their own confines, however this in itself again has to tell us something about the relevance and attractivness of anarchism for normal people

the idea every discussion people have must be lowest common denominator is just silly - i wouldn't go door-knocking with a copy of Capital but i don't think it's worthless (and you've discussed it at length too, so presumably you don't - of course if a workmate wanted to discuss Capital with me i'd use different language, metaphors etc than if i was discussing with another member of the libcom collective who shared much of my understanding already). when people who share basic assumptions and values discuss they can take these shared assumptions for granted, and so the discussion can appear more obscure to outsiders accordingly

as i said above, your conflating me having an issue with anarchists talking to each other using shared assumptions as short hand for purposes of efficency with anarchists only ever talking to each other

that said, nothing i write is purposefully obscure or inaccessible to an interested layman with a reasonable literacy level (which is why i don't tend to write with unexplained references to dead beards and the like, although Iain doing so in the context of a Freedom article isn't as problematic as in outward-looking propaganda).

i don't think i implied that you did tend to do these things joseph, my comment was an observation of the tendency to dig further into the ghetto by anarchists and lefties as a whole (whether for reasons of self validation, desire to be accepted, desire to stay in comfort zone, or whatever) - of course there are degrees of this between those involved and some display this tendency more than others, however as a general movement that is what it is characterised by (as you admit yourself in that the anarchist/leftie movement is irrelevant to 99.99% of people)

Joseph Kay

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

right, so you think anything inward looking is pointless, which is why this debate is circular, since anything i say regarding your notional objections to my argument falls foul of your real objection - by virtue of itself constituting an exchange between politicos. of course this is about as useful as complaining the gossip down the pub isn't harvard referenced; if debates between politicos are irrelevent, politicos making multi-post objections to politicos debating is irrelevance squared.

oisleep

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

again you seem to be intentionally misundertanding me despite me taking the time to clarify my position on my post above. i'll try again - where have i said that anything inward looking, in and by itself, is pointless? what I said was if that is all that happens then it leads to what i see as a pointless situation, inwards looking stuff is not pointless in and by itself, but when it constitues the vast majority and energies of those who make up that ghetto then it leads to a pointless situation (at least for those who profess to have some sort of aim in mind that their activities relat to)

i'm happy to also shut down this debate as i'm also getting bored of it, but your attempt above to shut it down by raising my observation about the anarcho ghetto in general to avoid talking (further) about the specific points i raised in relation to your (open and publically available) statement is pretty poor show joseph - it's you who has rasised this observation of mine to what you call my 'real objection' even though it's not an objection but an observation as to why i think anarchists are irrelevant and furthermore out of many posts i've made on this thread i've only mentioned this (so called real) objection (observation) only a couple of times, in contrast to the number of times i've raised what you patronisingly call my 'notional' objection (even though this area has contained more substance and argument than what you refer to as my 'real' objection, and despite me specifically saying on more than one occasion that the reason i was arsed to repsond to this thread in the first place because it touched upon an issue which was widely being talked about in the 'real' world, hence my interest. for you to arbitrarly decide on my behalf that this is a 'notional' objection displays either an ignorance of everything i've said on this thread, a willful intention to cloud the issue, or a mixture of both)

but fine, if the response to anyone who attempts to engage with anarchists on specific/concrete issues and who also makes an accompanying point about the irrelevance of the inward looking anarchist movement (even though said point may be dwarved by the attention given by said objector to another concrete and specific point) is met by, 'well you're just as irrelevant pointing this out' (whether that be in relation to your so called categories of real & notional), then fine, such debate will never achieve anything and slowly even those outside the anarcho ghetto who had bothered to interact with it in the past will also withdraw as the ghetto clams up further into itself in a defensive foetual position

Spikymike

13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm not too interested in the extended debate here between the two comrades except to support Joseph in his correct use of references to taxation.

Although there are clearly ways in which Governments can use taxation policy to attack working class living standards it is equally and more fundamentally true that most taxation debates are about how different sections of the ruling (and perhaps middle) classes distribute the costs of running their state between themselves.

Generally taxation debates are the common parlance of capitalist politics and (puposefully)divert our class from the terrain of independent class struggle.

So what about the struggle against the Poll Tax I hear you say! The immediate impact of this tax was to lower working class spending power including many workers who were on their own in a weak position to claim this back in wage struggles for instance.

Well this is perhaps a good way of illustrating the different approach of pro-revolutionaries to that of liberals and leftists.

We were often found together in various anti- Poll Tax struggles but pro-revolutionaries did not go round advocating other supposedly 'fairer' forms of taxation whereas the politicians of the left felt obliged to come up with alternatives such as a local income tax or bigger taxes on 'the rich', precisely because they are in the business of offering themselves as alternative rulers.

This distinction wasn't always so easy to explain to workers brought up on a diet of capitalist political debate but it was still correct.