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Submitted by Steven. on March 7, 2012

Anarchist communism - an introduction

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

A short introduction to anarchist-communism.

Submitted by Jacques Roux on October 25, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information

Edited by libcom from an article by the Anarchist Federation.

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

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

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

Steven.

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

Steven.

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Joseph Kay

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

sorry that they let the side down!

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Steven.

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sure, I agree

AIW

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

AIW

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

nastyned

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

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

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

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

OP

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

AIW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harrison Myers

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

It looked like nonsense to me.

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Harrison Myers

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

nastyned

It looked like nonsense to me.

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

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

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

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

LBird

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

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

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

Harrison

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

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

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

MT

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

radicalgraffiti

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

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

radicalgraffiti

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

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

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

radicalgrafitti

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

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

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

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

nastyned

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

nastyned

Haven't we discussed this before?

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

nastyned

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

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

Let's see if I can do the same:

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

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

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

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

nastyned

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

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

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

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

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

LBird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LBird

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

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Harrison Myers

'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely'

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

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

Harrison Myers

...it provides a really robust buffer to leninism

I think the buffer to Leninism is workers' democracy.

Harrison Myers

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

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

Harrison Myers

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

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

Harrison Myers

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

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

For example,

OP

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

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

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

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

mons

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

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

MT

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

mons

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

But isn't this the nub of the issue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[edit]

Harrison Myers

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

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

[end edit]

mons

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

mons

LBird

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

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

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

Harrison Myers

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

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

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

Bakunin

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

mons

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

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

mons

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

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

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

888

Harrison Myers

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

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

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

Bakunin

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

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

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

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

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

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

888

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

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

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

888

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

888

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

double post

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

888

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

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

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

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

Harrison Myers

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

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

Harrison Myers

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

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

888

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

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

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

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

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

888

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

888

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

Yeah, I've just seen your edit!

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

888

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

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

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

LBird

Harrison Myers

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

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

Harrison Myers

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

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

Hi LBird, I think you may have misinterpreted me.

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

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Harrison Myers

Hi LBird, I think you may have misinterpreted me.

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

Harrison Myers

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

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

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

Harrison Myers

Faith is extremely unscientific

Now, there's a whole new thread!

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

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

LBird

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

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

If I could just nitpick here for a moment?

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

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

WordShaker

If I could just nitpick here for a moment?

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

WordShaker

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

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

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

WordShaker

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

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

WordShaker

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

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

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

Consensus has its problems, too.

WordShaker

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LBird

Consensus has its problems, too.

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

LBird

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

WordShaker

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

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

WordShaker

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

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

WordShaker

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

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

radicalgraffiti

9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Steven.

9 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

radicalgraffiti

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

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

Ed

9 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Marxist Hypocr…

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

Marxist Hypocr…

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

Marxist Hypocr…

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

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

Chilli Sauce

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

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

Shameful. Just shameful.

Agent of the I…

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Ed

6 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

Anarcho-syndicalism - an introduction

CNT workers demonstrate during the Mercadona supermarket strike, 2006
CNT workers demonstrate during the Mercadona supermarket strike, 2006

A short explanation of anarcho-syndicalism and notes on its history.

Submitted by Steven. on October 12, 2006

Anarcho-syndicalism is one of the major forms of social anarchism. The idea behind anarcho-syndicalism is to combine the economic methods of syndicalism with the revolutionary politics of anarchism. This leads anarcho-syndicalists to be involved in everything from small propaganda groups to mass revolutionary unions, always organised according to anarchist principles, on a decentralised, federated basis.

Anarcho-syndicalism developed out of Revolutionary Syndicalism, however whereas Revolutionary Syndicalists rejected any politics in the union (in the 1906 Charter of Amiens), anarcho-syndicalists insisted that any organisation of workers must have explicitly revolutionary politics lest it lapse into reformism and collaboration with the ruling class. Following the Revolutionary Syndicalist CGT’s support for World War One, against the anarchist principle of international working class solidarity, the Spanish CNT voted in 1923 to adopt libertarian communism (anarchism) as its explicit goal.

While anarcho-syndicalists advocate similar tactics to syndicalists, their revolutionary politics mean they don't aim to recruit all workers into ‘One Big Union.’ Instead, they try and organise alongside non-anarcho-syndicalist workers by advocating mass meetings, factory committees and workers’ councils which unite all workers. Commenting on the Russian Revolution, Russian anarcho-syndicalist GP Maximov wrote that:

It is a noteworthy feature of the revolution that despite the rather small influence of Anarchists on the masses before its out break, it followed from its inception the anarchistic course of full decentralisation; the revolutionary bodies immediately pushed to the front by the course of revolution were Anarcho-Syndicalist in their essential character. These were of the kind which lend themselves as adequate instruments for the quickest realisation of the Anarchist ideal - Soviets, Factory Committees, peasant land committees and house committees, etc.

At its foundation in 1922, the International Workers' Association (IWA) committed itself to "the establishment of economic communities and administrative organs run by the workers in the field and factories, forming a system of free councils without subordination to any authority or political party, bar none." In more recent times, the late 1980s saw the CNT organise mass assemblies in the workplace and community during the Puerto Real dockyard struggles.

Anarchism in action - CNT armoured car factory
Spain 1936 - anarcho-syndicalist workers in the CNT construct armoured cars to fight the fascists in one of the collectivised factories

Another important element of anarcho-syndicalism is that it doesn’t limit itself to workplace activity, seeing tactics such as rent strikes and unemployed organising as means to further working class demands outside the workplace, alongside the more typically syndicalist direct action of strikes, occupations and sabotage by workers at the point of production.

The aim of the anarcho-syndicalist union is not just to win improved conditions. It would also serve as "the elementary school of Socialism" (Rudolf Rocker, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism). In this way, anarcho-syndicalist unions aim to ‘create the new world in the shell of the old’ and they take very seriously Bakunin’s remark that the workers’ organisations must create "not only the ideas but also the facts of the future" in the pre-revolutionary period. The organisation of the union would prepare workers for the direct democracy, self-activity and mutual aid needed if the future society is to succeed.

Anarcho-syndicalists, like all libertarian communists, "are convinced that a Socialist economic order cannot be created by the decrees and statutes of a government, but only by... the taking over of the management of all plants by the producers themselves" (Rocker, ibid.). Political parties are not just unnecessary for social change, but actually hold it back. These parties (even those claiming to represent the workers) stifle working class self-activity by attempting to either negotiate with government or by trying to lead the working class to victory.

Anarcho-syndicalists believe that workers should take direct action to get better conditions at work and win social and political demands (while always having revolution and workers’ control as their final goal). An example of this would be the Spanish CNT (National Confederation of Labour) striking for the release of political prisoners in the beginning of the 20th Century, and British construction workers doing the same in the 1970s. Other recent political strikes include general strikes against the second Iraq war in Italy, Spain and Germany.

Between 1905 and 1939, anarcho-syndicalism gained itself a very prominent position in the workers’ movements of France, Italy and Spain (the CNT playing a leading role in the Spanish Civil War and Revolution in 1936-39) as well as in Latin America where anarchism was the predominant force in the workers' movement in many countries (such as in Argentina, Brazil and, to some extent, Peru). Today, though not as powerful a force as it once was, it still plays a significant role in workers’ struggles in areas of Western Europe.

More information

AIW

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spanish CNT striking for the release of political prisoners in the beginning of the 20th Century, and British construction workers doing the same in the 1970s.

I didn't know about those; if you can find links that would be interesting. Sounds a bit like Green bans

(Anarcho-Syndicalists) by no means rest content with the ideal of a future society without lordship; their efforts are also directed, even today, at restricting the activities of the state and blocking its influence in every department of social life wherever they see an opportunity. It is these tactics which mark off Anarcho-Syndicalist procedure from the aims and methods of the political labour parties, all of whose activities tend constantly to broaden the sphere of influence of the political power of the state and to extend it in ever increasing measure over the economic life of society. But by this, in the outcome, the way is merely prepared for an era of state capitalism, which according to all experience may be just the opposite of what Socialism is actually fighting for.

Anarcho-Syndicalism - Rudolf Rocker Chapter 5: The Methods of Anarcho-Syndicalism

nastyned

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

While anarcho-syndicalists advocate similar tactics to syndicalists, their revolutionary politics mean they don't aim to recruit all workers into ‘One Big Union.’

Dunno about this, didn't the CNT have the aim of merging with the UGT?

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by nastyned

nastyned

While anarcho-syndicalists advocate similar tactics to syndicalists, their revolutionary politics mean they don't aim to recruit all workers into ‘One Big Union.’

Dunno about this, didn't the CNT have the aim of merging with the UGT?

did anarcho-syndicalism begin and end in 1930s Spain?

nastyned

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I didn't say that did I? But the text as written is inaccurate as far as the largest and best known anarcho-syndicalist organisation the world has even known is concerned.

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

on what basis did the CNT want to merge with the UGT? was it a revolutionary anti-state programme? who was pushing this within the CNT, or was it a general sentiment? these are all honest questions, as i don't remember coming across much on this when reading about it. i only remember attempts at a rank-and-file revolutionary alliance.

tbh this seems an innappropriate level of discussion for an introductory article. the present-day CNT certainly doesn't think that, nor does the IWA, the largest libertarian communist organisation in the world. So it just seems weird to hark back 75 years... i mean it's not really possible to speak of 'the CNT' in the 20s and 30s as it was wrought with internal divisions between 'straight syndicalists' and anarchists/anarcho-syndicalists, reformists and revolutionaries, collectivists and communists etc. I don't see why that bundle of contradictions should be taken as definitive 75 years later, especially when the very same organisation has long since re-emerged and resolved many of those contradictions?

nastyned

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I suppose it depends if you want the article to be an introduction to anarcho-syndicalism or an introduction to one particular version of anarcho-syndicalism. You should make clear what you're doing though.

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

well you seem to want it to be an introduction to a particular version that may or may not have existed in 1930s Spain, which you can't be bothered to provide evidence for despite some honest questions (seriously, i'm interested in the answers, you must be getting this from somewhere so please point me in the right direction).

I

on what basis did the CNT want to merge with the UGT? was it a revolutionary anti-state programme? who was pushing this within the CNT, or was it a general sentiment? these are all honest questions

the article (aims to) reflect the vast majority of actual anarcho-syndicalist theory and practice. if you're convinced the CNT are that important, why not point me where in their 'what is the CNT' they say "every member of the working class must join our union"?

Fall Back

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

JK, Libcom house rules clearly state that anarcho-syndicalism should be defined by it's detractors and not according to the bulk of theory and practice over the past 70 years.

I am writing an intro to libertarian communism, but can't get much beyond "Murray Rothbard in charge of the USSR", can anyone help?

Joseph Kay

i'm interested in the answers, you must be getting this from somewhere so please point me in the right direction).

As I'm lacking in revolutionary literature at work you'll just have to wait, it will be sunday at the earliest before I can look anything up and even then I'm not promising anything, but as you're being so polite I'm sure you won't mind.

Fall Back

JK, Libcom house rules clearly state that anarcho-syndicalism should be defined by it's detractors and not according to the bulk of theory and practice over the past 70 years.

I've never said that anarcho-syndicalism should be defined by its detractors. What I have said is that the article should be accurate. It's not my fault if the facts don't sit well with your views.

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

nastyned

It's not my fault if the facts don't sit well with your views.

which facts? you've just asserted that anarcho-syndicalism is 'One Big Unionist' based on a half-remembered titbit about something that may or may not have been proposed (but never actually happened) 75 years ago in one country (or region of a country?). apparently this supersedes everything else that's happened in the tradition before and since and all current theory and practice of the IWA, the main anarcho-syndicalist organisation in the world.

so if anyone's uncomfortable with 'the facts' not fitting their views, it would appear to be you.

Joseph Kay

which facts? you've just asserted that anarcho-syndicalism is 'One Big Unionist' based on a half-remembered titbit about something that may or may not have been proposed (but never actually happened) 75 years ago in one country (or region of a country?). apparently this supersedes everything else that's happened in the tradition before and since and all current theory and practice of the IWA, the main anarcho-syndicalist organisation in the world.

I've done nothing of the sort.

Joseph Kay

so if anyone's uncomfortable with 'the facts' not fitting their views, it would appear to be you.

Not in the slightest.

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

compelling argument there.

888

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

There was a proposal for the UGT and CNT to merge during the civil war, I think it was a desperate attempt by the anarchists to unite and gain strength against the communists, the problem being that the UGT was heavily communist influenced if not controlled by then...

Joseph Kay

the article (aims to) reflect the vast majority of actual anarcho-syndicalist theory and practice. if you're convinced the CNT are that important, why not point me where in their 'what is the CNT' they say "every member of the working class must join our union"?

I don't think nastyned picked an especially good argument with the CNT-UGT thing, but he is certainly correct in that this is an introduction to one particular version of anarcho-syndicalism.

Since you are pointing to the What is the CNT document, here is what that has to say:

CNT

The CNT is a tool for struggle and for all of the working class.

Who can belong to the CNT?
Any worker can be affiliated to the Union, no matter its political ideas or religious beliefs. He/She just has to accept our associative pact, and respect the decisions taken by the assembly.

The "original" What is the CNT text, written by José Peirats, has this to say about revolutionary syndicalism:

Peirats

Revolutionary Syndicalism

The CNT calls itself revolutionary syndicalist because it is a fighting organisation both in the immediate present and with the prospect of overthrowing the State through armed revolution by means of a revolutionary general strike. Revolutionary, too, because through its own bodies located in the centres of production and its federal organisations such as the trade union and its agro-industrial cooperatives, it considers itself capable of taking over the tasks of production and of distribution after the revolution has taken place.

(...)

Apoliticism of the CNT

Following a line which goes back to the days of the First International the CNT proclaims its complete independence of all political parties. The congress of 1918, so often referred to in this account laid down that 'professional politicians can never represent workers organisations, and the latter should make sure that they never affiliate themselves to any political club.' We have already seen that by its constitution the CNT must "fight in the purely economic field, untrammeled by any political or religious prejudice." Although any wage earner, whatever his political or religious notions, could belong to the CNT no one could represent it who had appeared as a candidate in any local or parliamentary elections, or who had accepted political undertakings.

Faithful to the principles of revolutionary syndicalism, as proclaimed by the French C.G.T., at its 1906 Congress, the CNT set itself to develop by acting outside political and parliamentary institutions. Its energies were directed to strengthening the unions, to organising industry, and to preparing its affiliates on a techno-professional basis in its revolutionary setting

Peirats also describes CNT's idea about the "One Union" in almost identical language to wobblies arguing for their "One Big Union":

Peirats

The idea of a single union for each industry ("One Union") was not invented by the 1918 congress. In the first workers' congress, that of June 1870, a form of organisation was adopted, which when perfected the following year at Valencia evoked the admiration of the internationalists who met in London that same year around Karl Marx (he will be mentioned again later).

Let us note in passing that in every period of reorganisation after a spell more or less prolonged of suppression, the working class militant is faced with t the fragmentation resulting from different workers' groups in the same place of work, ironically called "chapels." This is to say that, in the same locality, there are to be found different groups of carpenters, or locksmiths, or smelters, run by little local "bosses" who defend their petty fiefs against the syndicalist organisation with cloak-and-dagger tactics.

The "One Union" came to put an end to such gangster-chiefs. And in doing so, it ended their parochial quarrels and emphasised the unity of the working class. Further, the "One Union" carried the federalist enterprise to the furthest extent, spreading it throughout the region and the whole country. For all that, the One Union was already in existence in Barcelona before 1918.

And finally, here is what the pamphlet Anarcosindicalismo Basico has to say about the relationship between anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism:

CNT Sevilla

Anarcho-syndicalism is a current of thought and principles which appeared at the end of the 19th century. It has these fundamental characteristics:

* The goal of organizing the world's workers for the defense of their immediate interests, and to obtain improvements in their quality of life. To form unions to achieve this.
* The creation of a structure in which there are neither leaders nor executive power.
* The desire for the radical transformation of society, a transformation to be brought about by the means of a Social Revolution. Without this goal of transformation, anarcho-syndicalism does not exist.

Another name for anarcho-syndicalism is revolutionary syndicalism.

Felix Frost

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And about proposals to merge the UGT and CNT: The two organizations made a pact of unity in action in 1916, and a proposal of merger was on the agenda of the 1919 CNT congress, but it was voted down by a large majority. One of the main proponents of the proposal was Salvador Segui

The same congress also both proclaimed that the aim of the CNT was libertarian communism, and voted to provisionally affiliate to the "Red Trade Union Intenational" (which was linked to the Third Intenational).

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Another name for anarcho-syndicalism is revolutionary syndicalism.

i think that's the crux of it. i really don't think that's true, and nor do serious studies like Vadim Damier's. a lot of stuff tries to conflate pretty much all syndicalism from the CGT onwards into a single amorphous mass, which i don't think is helpful on shedding any light on the evolution and debates within the tradition (Damier is good on this). but in any case, even the principle anarchist thinkers in the CGT - Pouget & Pataud - didn't aim to recruit every worker (though in a revolutionary strike wave they wanted to through open the union structure, transforming it into a federal structure for administering expropriated workplaces).

the CNT's view is that you don't need to identify as an anarchist but you need to act like one, acting in accordance with their goals and methods. they're quite open that the CNT is animated by anarchist philosophy and aims at social revolution. and of course in splitting with the CGT(E) it clearly decided that it would trade membership for anarchist principles if necessary, and its practice has nothing to do with recruiting all workers, and everything to do with organising along anarcho-syndicalist lines. they welcome all workers who want to do so, but they're usually dwarfed by the mainstream unions.

but the point is this is an introductory article, and i'm not aware of any contemporary anarcho-syndicalist groups that try and recruit as many workers as possible at the expense of their principles. hence "while anarcho-syndicalists advocate similar tactics to syndicalists, their revolutionary politics mean they don't aim to recruit all workers" seems like a straightforward description of dominant practice. if it was otherwise, why wouldn't the CNT just join the CGT(E)?

nastyned

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The contempoary Spainsh CGT still describe themselves as anarcho-syndicalists.

nastyned

The contempoary Spainsh CGT still describe themselves as anarcho-syndicalists.

right, and the USSR still described itself as communist, the governments of Spain and Greece describe themselves as socialist. do words mean anything, or do we just accept self-descriptions at face value? self-described anarchos do everything from stake state subsidies to electoralism to being Charlie Veitch. maybe we should update our intro to libertarian communism to read 'like the USSR but with the Love Police instead of the NKVD'.

nastyned

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

To get back to actual discussion for a moment, I agree with you that there is a difference between anarcho-syndicalism and revolutionary syndicalism but I disagree with the way you seem to be trying separate them out as one good and one bad.

The fact the Spanish CGT describe themselves as anarcho-syndicalist and the USI in Italy affiliated to the IWA describe themselves as revolutionary syndicalists shows that things just aren't clear cut.

Joseph Kay

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

nastyned

The fact the Spanish CGT describe themselves as anarcho-syndicalist and the USI in Italy affiliated to the IWA describe themselves as revolutionary syndicalists shows that things just aren't clear cut.

right, but self-description is no way to understand politics, cf. 'communism' in the USSR etc. i mean the 'red and black co-ordination' calls itself red and black, but its member unions variously take state funds, participate in collaborationist union elections and support electoral candidates. none of those things are meaningfully "anarcho-". if you look at the reasons for the split with the CGT for example, they were precisely revolutionary anarchist principles. the fact they still call themselves anarcho-syndicalists and use the imagery is neither here nor there. i mean of course they do, they were hardly going to rebrand as a reformist class collaborationist union dependent on state patronage. and when you take the anarcho- out of anarcho-syndicalism, you're just left with syndicalism.

Joseph Kay

Another name for anarcho-syndicalism is revolutionary syndicalism.

i think that's the crux of it. i really don't think that's true, and nor do serious studies like Vadim Damier's. a lot of stuff tries to conflate pretty much all syndicalism from the CGT onwards into a single amorphous mass, which i don't think is helpful on shedding any light on the evolution and debates within the tradition (Damier is good on this).

I agree that Damier's book is good on describing the various debates and factions within the IWA. This is exactly the point, though: Anarcho-syndicalism has always been diverse and had numerous different strands, which can't be forced into a simplistic binary of true anarcho-syndicalists vs "simple syndicalists" who sell out their principles in order to recruit as many workers as possible.

Joseph Kay

i'm not aware of any contemporary anarcho-syndicalist groups that try and recruit as many workers as possible at the expense of their principles. hence "while anarcho-syndicalists advocate similar tactics to syndicalists, their revolutionary politics mean they don't aim to recruit all workers" seems like a straightforward description of dominant practice

This is a nice bit of circular reasoning. First you define which groups are anarcho-syndicalist based on whether they try to recruit workers "at the expense of their principles", and then you prove your definition by pointing out that none of the groups you have so defined are selling out their principles...

syndicalistcat

7 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The quote from Maximov doesn't really justify the claim that anarcho-syndicalism is opposed to "one big union." If someone had asked whether he thought the various mass grassroots organizations such as shop committee organizations, grassroots soviets etc should form some sort of federative unity, i think he would have said yes. After all in Jan 1918 he proposed creation of a Russian factory committee congress, a kind of federative unity of factory committees, as a coordinating & planning center for a worker managed economy. So why wouldn't he have favored a federative unity of the factory committees as organizations of struggle?

KRAS, at the time Maximov was on its exec committee, was a kind of dual organizationalist organizing, educational, political organization, not a union. In other words KRAS did not project itself as the vehicle of the mass workers movement.

I think gaining power for workers means trying to build a grassroots unionist movement that can be a majority force.

Despite being an anarcho-syndicalist for 40 years, I don't agree with the concepcion put forth here. It sounds to me like trying to define anarcho-syndicalism as a worldview or ideology rather than as a revolutionary strategy to achieve libertarian socialism. I think it is also inaccurate to define revolutionary syndicalism as "apolitical."

Joseph Kay

7 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

this probably needs redrafting. it's half-way between differentiating out the various syndicalist currents and lumping them all in together. when we redrafted this we were planning to do a load more, including different flavours of marxism as well. that's kinda stalled. probably the best thing to do would be to talk about a syndicalist spectrum, with varying degrees of anarchism incorporated into union practice.

Council communism - an introduction

AAU-E magazine Die Proletarische Revolution, 1928. Illustrated by Gerd Arntz.
AAU-E magazine Die Proletarische Revolution, 1928. Illustrated by Gerd Arntz.

A short history and explanation of the ideas and practice of council communism.

Submitted by libcom on October 12, 2006

Council communism was a militant workers' movement that first emerged in Germany and the Netherlands during the 1920s. Today it lives on as an important theoretical current that inspires libertarian communists.

The central (and simple) argument of council communism, in stark contrast to both reformist social democrats and Leninists, is that workers’ councils which arise in workplaces and communities during periods of intense struggle are the natural form of working class organisation. This view is completely opposed to reformist or Leninist arguments which stress that the working class are incapable of doing anything by ourselves and need to rely on vanguard parties, ballot boxes (and the capitalist state institutions that both of these entail) to sort out our problems.

These conclusions lead council communists to maintain very similar positions to those held by class struggle anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists with the main difference often, but not always, being a commitment to Marx and his methods of analysis. As such there are historical and present day instances of close cooperation between the two currents, even to the point of many inspired by council communism becoming members of class struggle anarchist and revolutionary syndicalist groups.

Following from this, council communists argue that society and the economy should be managed by coordinations of workers’ councils, made up of delegates elected at workplaces and can be recalled at any moment by those who elected them. As such, council communists oppose bureaucratic state socialism. They also oppose the idea of a revolutionary party seizing power, believing that any social upheaval led by one these ‘revolutionary’ parties will just end up in a party dictatorship. Otto Rühle, a key contributor to the development of council communism famously penned that the revolution is not a party affair.

Instead council communists believe that the role of a revolutionary organization is not to perform the revolution for the working class, but only to agitate within the class, encouraging people to take control of their own struggles through the directly democratic institutions of workers’ councils.

It’s sometimes been thought that council communists have maintained an ‘outside and against’ position on bureaucratic reformist trade unions, seeing them as a brake on workers’ militancy and believing that the leadership, whose role is seen as little more than ‘cops with flat caps’, will always eventually sell out the membership. It is true that, historically at least, council communists have been anti-trade union. However, this has largely been due to the context in which council communists were writing. For instance, German council communists of the 1920s were fully aware of the German trade unions’ role in betraying the attempted workers’ revolution in 1918. However, in modern times, though keeping a very critical view of trade unions and their undemocratic nature, those inspired by council communists generally believe in forming autonomous class struggle organizations that agitate in and beyond the unions.

Council communists obviously also held a strong criticism of the ‘successful’ Russian revolution of 1917. Though they felt that originally it had a pro-working class nature about it, it ended up being a bourgeois revolution, with the new ‘communist’ leaders replacing the old feudal aristocracy with a state capitalist bureaucracy. The council communists hold that the Bolshevik Party just took over the role of individual capitalists rather then got rid of it.

The council communists emerged largely out of the German rank-and-file trade union movement, who opposed their unions and organised increasingly radical strikes towards the end of 1917 and the beginning of 1918. These formed into the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (KAPD), it's workers' union the AAUD, and the AAUD-E, whose hey-day was in the attempted German revolution of 1918-19. Similar tendencies developed within the workers’ movements of Italy, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.

The brutally repressed but briefly successful anti-USSR workers' uprising in Hungary 1956 is often used as a practical example of how workers' councils can arise naturally out of the working class during periods of intense class struggle, even despite the workers' lack of explicit commitment to council communist theory.

Council communist ideas have since been taken on by many libertarian communists around the world with groups like Socialisme ou Barbarie and the Situationist International being greatly influenced by them. However council communists were never part of the anarchist tradition, and so grouping them with libertarian communists is seen to be inaccurate. This said the AAUD-E later did work towards rapprochement with class struggle anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists in the Block Antiautoritärer Revolutionäre. Considering this along with their anti-Bolshevism, anti-partyism, and anti-statist approach to the dictatorship of the proletariat it is appropriate to see council communists an anti-authoritarian current in the historical workers' movement.

However, these groups are sometimes designated derogatively as 'councilist' by left communists, for overtly obsessing over workers' spontaneity and submitting to what Mark Shipway describes as 'an empty, formalistic emphasis on workers’ councils which completely neglects the communist content of the council communist equation.' This is perceived as dangerous because it is possible that workers might be able to spontaneously take over the means of production during a crisis but only end up establishing a form of 'self-managed capitalism' in which federated workers' councils govern the world but unpleasant capitalist wage relations are still retained.

Council communists in contrast think that the working class must develop to possess a strong political consciousness and have communism and the abolition of capitalism set as their goal; the councils are only the means by which this goal can be realised. This was also the criticism made by the left communists in the KAPD when the AAUD-E split from them in rejection of a separate political (party) organisation of communists.

By libcom, 2005 (subject to subsequent edits by forum members)

More information

Harrison

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

libcom

Antagonism - Antagonism Press website, loads of great articles on council communism, specifically Bordiga and the Dutch/German tendencies

Bordiga is not a council communist... I've edited this out

radicalgraffiti

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The dutch german tendencies where however, so the link should be left with out the the statement about bordiga

Harrison

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

yeah, thats what i've done

Spikymike

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I don't think the links on SouB and the Sit's is fully functioning?

By the way, in giving SouB as a follow up it is worth a line somewhere pointing to the distinction made by many between 'Council Communism' and 'Councilism' dealt with in the excelent short introduction by Mark Shipway in the 'Marxist.Org' link.

Marks short book on 'Anti-Parliamentary Communism in Britain - The movement for workers councils in Britain 1917-45' is also worth a mention.

Android

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also in the 'more information' section at the end of the article shouldn't the link to Knighrose's former geocities site for Subversion material be updated to link to the AF North website or to link to the Subversion and Wildcat pages in the library here. I think Marcel van der Linden text 'on council communism' is quite useful in that is is an outline of it as a political movement and draws on some of the non-English sources IIRC.

I think users can edit content, so I might make these changes.

Steven.

11 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah android if you could that would be great

Steven.

Yeah android if you could that would be great

That's done.

Harrison

10 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

i made some changes, and added Spikymike's useful Mark Shipway suggestion
(i was bored and ought to be working)

i naturally write in a ridiculous convoluted way using long words that might be alienating to new people, so some of the language might need a bit of simplifying

klas batalo

8 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

https://www.facebook.com/groups/CouncilCommunism/

This FB group may be of interest to some.

klas batalo

5 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Further reading:

To really lay out a theoretical and historical look at council communism as a body of thought from the 20s and 30s I'd suggest reading these pieces in order:

The Revolution Is Not A Party Affair
https://www.marxists.org/archive/ruhle/1920/ruhle02.htm

From the Bourgeois to the Proletarian Revolution
https://www.marxists.org/archive/ruhle/1924/revolution.htm

Fundamental Principles of Communist Production and Distribution
https://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1930/

Marxism and State Communism: The Withering Away of the State
http://libcom.org/library/marxism-state-communism-withering-away-state-groepen-van-internationale-communisten-gik

Theses on Bolshevism
https://www.marxists.org/archive/wagner/1934/theses.htm

The Rise of a New Labor Movement
https://www.marxists.org/archive/canne-meijer/1935/04/new-labor-movement.htm

Anarchism and the Spanish Revolution
https://libcom.org/library/anarchism-spanish-revolution

Origins of the Movement for Workers' Councils in Germany
https://www.marxists.org/subject/left-wing/gik/1938/workers-councils.htm

The Struggle Against Fascism
Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism
https://www.marxists.org/archive/ruhle/1939/ruhle01.htm

Other than that the two best books on the history of the Dutch German Communist Left (and later the council communist tradition) are certainly:

The Communist Left in Germany 1918-1921
https://www.marxists.org/subject/germany-1918-23/dauve-authier/

The Dutch and German Communist Left (1900–68)

https://libcom.org/history/german-dutch-communist-left-philippe-bourrinet

rat

5 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks klas batalo for the nicely put together reading list.

Situationists - an introduction

situationist-cartoon.gif
situationist-cartoon.gif

A short introduction to the ideas of the Situationists. Based in France, their strand of libertarian Marxism became popular after the mass strikes of 1968.

Submitted by libcom on October 12, 2006

Situationist ideas came from the European organisation the Situationist International, formed in 1957. While it lasted only 15 years, its ideas were deeply influential, and have been a part of Western society - and radical movements - ever since.

Resisting any attempts to file their ideas into a static ideology, situationism, the SI called attention to the priority of real life, real live activity, which continually experiments and corrects itself, instead of just constantly reiterating a few supposedly eternal truths like the ideologies of Trotskyism, Leninism, Maoism or even anarchism. Static ideologies, however true they may be, tend, like everything else in capitalist society, to rigidify and become fetishised, just one more thing to passively consume.

Partly as a result of this, Situationist ideas are notoriously difficult to explain, and open to a wide degree of interpretation. However, a few facts can be stated. Most introductions to the Situationists focus on their cultural ideas, particularly in relation to detournement (subverting elements of popular culture) and the development of punk, but the roots of Situationist ideas are in Marxism. Libertarian Marxism, closer to anarchism than authoritarian strands of traditional Marxism, with the central idea that workers are systematically exploited in capitalism and that they should organise and take control of the means of production and organise society on the basis of democratic workers' councils.

The Situationists, or Situs, were the first revolutionary group to analyse capitalism in its current consumerist form. Then as now, in the West most workers were not desperately poor, toiling 12 hours a day in factories and mines (workers' struggles over the previous 150 years saw to that) but the poverty of everyday life had never been greater. Workers were not beaten down with savage repression, so much as with illusions in empty consumer goods, or spectacles, which were imbued by culture and marketing with characteristics they don’t really possess. For example, that purchasing this or that gadget or brand of shoes will make your life complete, or make your sad life like that of the celebrities and models culture shows us.

The Situs argued that increased material wealth of workers was not enough to stop class struggle and ensure capitalism’s perpetual existence, as many on the left argued at the time, since authentic human desires would be always in conflict with alienating capitalist society. Situationist tactics included attempting to create “situations” where humans would interact together as people, not mediated by commodities. They saw in moments of true community the possibility of a future, joyful and un-alienated society.

"People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have corpses in their mouths."
1

In a (anti-)spectacular demonstration of the validity of their ideas, a group of Situationists, along with anarchists, at the Nanterre University were instrumental in sparking the Revolt of May 1968 which swept the country, bringing it to a state of near-revolution, with 10 million workers on General Strike, many of them occupying their workplaces.

The key figure in the SI, Guy Debord, committed suicide in 1994 but Situationist ideas live on, having been made a fundamental part of most anarchist theory today, as well as their thoughts on consumerism which are now held as truisms by most people.

“We have a world of pleasure to win, and nothing to lose but boredom.” 2

More information

  • 1The Revolution of Everyday Life - Raoul Vaneigem
  • 2ibid.

klas batalo

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

https://libcom.org/library/introduction-situationists-jan-d-matthews

Syndicalism - an introduction

A short explanation of revolutionary syndicalism and industrial unionism as well as some notes on their histories.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on September 2, 2009

Syndicalism refers to the practice of organising workers into unions to fight for their interests. Originally, the term comes from the French work for Trade Unionism (Syndiclisme), but in English the term specifically refers to rank-and-file unionism.

There are two major tendencies: Revolutionary Syndicalism, typified by the French CGT, and Industrial Unionism, typified by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A related tendency is anarcho-syndicalism, but its specifically anarchist politics differentiate it from syndicalism, which is purely economic, or 'non-political'. The idea behind syndicalism is to create an industrial, fighting union movement. Syndicalists therefore advocate decentralised, federated unions that use direct action to get reforms under capitalism until they are strong enough to overthrow it.

Revolutionary Syndicalism has its roots in the anarchist movement, and can be traced back to the libertarian tendency in the First International Workingmens’ Association, when prominent Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin argued that: "the future social organisation must be made solely from the bottom up, by the free association or federation of workers, firstly in their unions, then in the communes, regions, nations and finally in a great federation, international and universal." Industrial Unionism has its roots in the Marxist tradition, with the IWW’s famous 1905 ‘Preamble to the Constitution’ quoting Marx’s dictum “instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day's wage for a fair day's work,’ we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system.’”

The origins of syndicalism - libertarian socialists meet at Basel in 1869
The origins of syndicalism - libertarian socialists meet at Basel in 1869

Despite these different origins, Revolutionary Syndicalism and Industrial Unionism converged on a very similar approach. The central idea is that trade unions divide workers by trade, which can (and has) end up in scabbing. In America, industrial disputes would sometimes see violent clashes between workers of different unions who would ignore each other’s requests to respect picket lines. The aim of syndicalism is to unite all workers into ‘One Big Union’ controlled by the members, from the grassroots.

This is obviously in deep contrast to the current reformist unions who are filled with layer upon layer of bureaucrats who can call off industrial action regardless of the wishes of the membership. This kind of union democracy puts control of workers’ struggles where it belongs: with the workers themselves.

Both Industrial Unionism (as per the 1905 IWW constitution) and Revolutionary Syndicalism (as per the 1906 Charter of Amiens) are non-political, aiming to build unions for all workers regardless of political persuasions. However, this doesn’t mean syndicalists are indifferent to the great social and political issues of the day. Rather syndicalists argue that only by building democratic, workers’power at the point of production (‘industrial democracy’) that social ills can be addressed:

When the industry of the world is run by the workers for their own good, we see no chance for the problems of unemployment, war, social conflict, or large scale crime, or any of our serious social problems to continue.

More information

Roughneck Wobb…

8 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I can't speak much on the CGT, but I think this article makes a couple inaccurate statements on the IWW I'd like to address.

While you correctly make the distinction that the IWW (at least historically) categorized itself itself as Industrial Unionist, you suggest that it's none-the-less a syndicalist organization (which many consider it to be). You then go on to say:

Syndicalists therefore advocate decentralised, federated unions

If this is meant to include the IWW as well, as a syndicalist union, then it is categorically wrong. The IWW does not and never has advocated for a federated union structure, instead it has, from its inception, called for the construction of the One Big Union, which is a unitary structure divided into departments and branches (which you do contradictorily state later).

Revolutionary Syndicalism has its roots in the anarchist movement, and can be traced back to the libertarian tendency in the First International Workingmens’ Association, when prominent Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin argued that: "the future social organisation must be made solely from the bottom up, by the free association or federation of workers, firstly in their unions, then in the communes, regions, nations and finally in a great federation, international and universal." Industrial Unionism has its roots in the Marxist tradition, with the IWW’s famous 1905 ‘Preamble to the Constitution’ quoting Marx’s dictum “instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day's wage for a fair day's work,’ we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system.’”

While all of this is accurate to an extent, it makes it sound as though anarchism and anarchists played no role in the creation and operation of the IWW. There were anarchists present at the founding convention and throughout its entire life, the IWW has had prominent anarchists in its ranks, running and organizing the union, from 1905 to today. Not to suggest that its organizers and officers were all anarchists. As well, I don't think it's correct to say that the IWW's roots are from the Marxist tradition. Instead, depending on how you define "roots", the IWW ideologically came largely from Class Struggle Unionism, or less developed ideas of Industrial Unionism. Never the less, Marxism, as well as anarchism, political (electoral) socialism, and Industrial Unionist-style syndicalism all played an important role in the foundation of the IWW.

[...] Industrial Unionism (as per the 1905 IWW constitution) [...] [is] non-political, aiming to build unions for all workers regardless of political persuasions.

Finally, this statement about the non-political organization of the IWW is simply not true. In 1905, Daniel De Leon, of the Socialist Labor Party, one of the groups that co-founded the IWW, pushed through a statement into the Preamble calling for electoral action of the workers to bring about change (interesting to note that this immediately proceeded a sentence suggesting that electoralism is useless). This difference in ideas of electoralism and non-involvement in electoralism eventually led members opposed to electoralism (many of whom were anarchists!) to basically lock De Leon out of the 1908 convention where he was expelled and his supporters left in protest. The clause that De Leon had added to the Preamble 3 years earlier at the founding was then removed.

Chilli Sauce

8 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The IWW does not and never has advocated for a federated union structure

I mean, I get that is has the GEB, but even now, motions come up through branches and the voting structure at convention is one branch, one vote with branches have the ability to amend and tweak the motions of other branches. Additionally, branches - with their own individual bylaws - can basically do what they like given that it doesn't contradict the principles laid out in the constitution. That's all pretty federated.

As well, I don't think it's correct to say that the IWW's roots are from the Marxist tradition.

I get what you're saying here (mostly in your following sentence), but theoretically the IWW does owe a whole hell of a lot to Marx. As this article states, half the damn preamble is a is either a paraphrase or a direct quote from the man.

Joakim

3 months 3 weeks ago

In reply to by libcom.org

From the intro article:

"...syndicalism, which is purely economic, or 'non-political'..."

Which organizations does this refer to? The Swedish syndicalist union SAC has never pursued a purely economic line.

"Revolutionary Syndicalism has its roots in the anarchist movement"

Which countries do this refer to? When SAC was founded in 1910, a broad mix of currents was in the melting pot (not only anarchism).

Writing a short intro to syndicalism is hard, important and hard. Keep up the good work!