American anarcho-communist federations of yesteryear

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OliverTwister
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Nov 30 2006 05:49
syndicalistcat wrote:
There was an entity in the '70s called the Social Revolutionary Anarchist Federation. It was extremely synthesist. It is an exaggeration to call it an organization. It was anything goes, from anarcho-capitalists, to counter-culture types, to class struggle ACs. in the late '70s the class struggle folks who wanted a more disciplined, organized type of formation formed the Anarchist Communist Tendency. This led eventually to formation of the Anarchist Communist Federation in 1978.

There were anarchists in SDS but they were a small minority in the late '60s explosive growth of SDS. In the UCLA chapter of SDS the three anarchists were expelled by the Stalinists in 1968. Some of them joined The Resistance, an anarchist draft resistance group.

t.

I'm curious whether you were one of those three - sounds like an interesting story.

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Nov 30 2006 05:49
rebelworker wrote:
OliverTwister wrote:
Capital Terminus Collective still exists and is not terribly small.

edit: look!

I am very happy to hear that i have been misinformed on the fate of the CTC. I was always very happy to have you folks as supporters and was also happy about the relatively large size of the group.

Also was very happy to have George up to Quebec for a 70th aniversary tour.

Kepp on rockin in Atlanta.

More on the use of the word communism when I get back from martial arts....

Thanks for the kind words. I'm no longer in the CTC but Comrade Byrnes is and I'm sure he appreciates them as well.

syndicalist
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Dec 6 2006 14:45

Back to the historical side for a moment.

Back in 1976 Ed Clark (who worked Louisiana Worker") circulated a rather contoversial article--for its time--entitled "Why The Leninists Will Win". I have taken the liberty of posting it elsewhere on libcom. See:

http://libcom.org/forums/history/why-the-leninists-will-win-by-ed-clark-...

While not the most pivital artcile of our movement, it did create a lot of buzz--both positive and negative. Much of the crticism came from those who were either anti-organization and from some who thought might be proposing a "platformist" type organization.

Some of us thought Ed was on target in the sense for there being the need for an anarchist organization that was coherent in its views. An organization that would actively promote the anarcho-communism & anarcho-syndicalism, also in a coherent and organized manner. Ultimately those of us who shared this view would form, first, the ACT within SRAF and then the ACF of NA.

Looking back some 30 years it's hard to imagine the Leninists (mainly the various Maoists and Trots) having such influence and strength. Yet on a certain level, surely within the Left, these folks had the numbers, the newspapers,active publishing houses, the bookstores and organization. So drawing from past anarchist failures in Russia and not wanting the same fate for US anarchists,Ed issued thought provoking article.

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Dec 6 2006 19:25

To answer Oliver's question first, I was not a member of the anarchist faction in the UCLA chapter of SDS in 1968. I didn't trust the Stalinists' rhetoric. However, the person who converted me to anarcho-syndicalism was one of those three. I'd never heard about the Spanish revolution til he told me about it. He and I were involved in helping to organize the first union of teaching asisstants at UCLA in the early '70s, which was a independent union, run by a shop stewards council that linked to semi-autonomous departmental assemblies. No paid officials or paid staff. Voluntary membership. We never got official recognition but did make some victories. We prosecuted to victory the first grievance of TAs in the history of the University of California and carried out a successful one-week strike. The union's newsletter was called "Don't mourn organize!" after the Joe Hill saying.

In regard to the Ed Clark piece that syndicalist (mitch) talks about, let me say a few words about Ed Clark. Ed had been radicalized in the early '60s and he became the representative for the American south on the national executive board of the Progressive Labor Party, a Stalinist outfit. But after PL captured SDS in 1969 and began to manipulate it, Ed and his PL chapter in New Orleans developed a critique of Leninism and became libertarian socialists. Their group was called the New Orleans Socialist Union, and it produced a monthly local newspaper, sold thru coin racks, called the Louisiana Worker. I first became aware of this group in the early '70s because they had affiliated to the New American Movement when NAM was formed in 1972. NAM was a multi-tendencied New Left outfit. It had a libertarian socialist tendency which i was a part of along with the New Orleans group.

But it also had a Maoist tendency, which split off to form the Communist Workers Party, the group that had a number of its leaders killed in the shootout with the Klan in Greensboro, NC. But NAM was dominated by its social-democratic tendency, including a large faction of ex-CPers led by Dorothy Healey. I could see they were going to dominate so I quit in 1974 as did Ed's group. Another criticism i had of NAM is that it had no orientation to rank and file workplace organizing; its membership was largely made up of students and faculty at colleges.

When I moved to San Francisco in 1981, I had many discussions with Ed Clark over a period of several years. The libertarian Left in the Bay Area had many of the problems that he had pointed to. Although there is certainly a point to the emphasis that Ed places on having a newspaper that is oriented to ordinary working people, to give visibility for our ideas, I think "putting our ideas into practice" also must refer to actual organizing, on the job and in communities, and helping to develop mass organizations based on solidarity and base control, or even work in imperfect (bureaucratized) mass organizations thru which actual struggles are being organized, while remaining independent of any bureaucracy.

t.

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MJ
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Dec 6 2006 23:03
syndicalistcat wrote:
I first became aware of this group in the early '70s because they had affiliated to the New American Movement when NAM was formed in 1972. NAM was a multi-tendencied New Left outfit. It had a libertarian socialist tendency which i was a part of along with the New Orleans group.

But it also had a Maoist tendency, which split off to form the Communist Workers Party, the group that had a number of its leaders killed in the shootout with the Klan in Greensboro, NC. But NAM was dominated by its social-democratic tendency, including a large faction of ex-CPers led by Dorothy Healey. I could see they were going to dominate so I quit in 1974 as did Ed's group. Another criticism i had of NAM is that it had no orientation to rank and file workplace organizing; its membership was largely made up of students and faculty at colleges.

When you get a chance could you tell more about these first years of NAM? I'd always understood them as a precursor to the DSA and so had always thought of them as the main social-democratic counterpart to the various New Communist Movement groups. I recently read a long interview with Dorothy Healey in 1977 (radical america 11:3) which gave me that impression, even while it was mostly her complaints about the CP.

From 72 to 74, how large was the libertarian current within NAM, and what was its composition? What potential did you and the other reasonably anarchist folks who joined see in it? Weren't the Lynds involved in NAM, and what was their involvement? What were the actual issues that pushed you folks out as the social-democrat types asserted their dominance?

I was born in late 81 so I'm still trying to get a grasp of the momentous previous decade.

syndicalist
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Dec 6 2006 23:25

I can't comment on NAM, as Tom was involved with that, my comment is a bit more general.

By the early to mid-1970s there seemed to be developing a number of different political perspectives. There were the Leninist ones grouped around the "new communist movement" (Maoists), the Trotskyists, the "old left" (CP and, for that matter, even Progressive Labor Party was being seen in that vain-- newer old left -:))and a left trend of small "s" socialists.

The small "s" socialists seemed to be those who were moving towards a libertarian socialist viewpoint. I suspect this included some in NAM, surely some in the SPUSA, some young left labor-zionists (another story altogether). There were also those folks who were rejecting the orthodoxy of DeLeonism as well (like Philadelphia Solidarity and League for Economic Development).

Also, during the Bi-Centential(1976)some radicals looked at the slogan "for the people, by the people" in a libertarian and populist way.

Here in NYC there were a number of people who were rapidly moving from authoritarian socialism to libertarian socialism. Fold active in the Taxi Rank-&-File movement ("Hot Seat" newspaper) and the Workplace Organizing Committee ("Against The Grain" newspaper).

Many of anarchists sought to work with libertarian socialists (surely we did in NYC). Some of our persectives were that they were left allies at a time when we had few. Also we (at least in the Libertarian Workers Group) believed
the libertarian socialists could be "pushed" further left through common discussions and activities. This turned out to be a mixed bag, but there was some fruitful relationships built.

Ok, enough of my rambling partical recollections of libertarian socialists of the 1970s.

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Dec 7 2006 04:48

To answer MJ, NAM billed itself as a non-Leninist revolutionary socialist organization when it was set up. Jeremy Rifkin, Michael Lerner, the Ehrenreichs, Saughton Lynd and others were involved in the intitial discussions. The People's Bicentennial Commission, Rifkin's group in DC, was initially a project of NAM but later went its own way. I helped to organize the PBC chapter in Los Angeles. This was to popularize the concept of workers' self-management, under the heading of "economic democracy." I discovered that the NAM branch in L.A. was dominated by the ex-CPers, headed by Dorothy Healey.

Let me give you an example of why i quit. There was at that time a movement developing to try to attack the rate schedule of the city-owned electric power utility -- largest city-owned public power entity in the USA. This state capitalist entity gave the lowest rates to industrial capitalists, and the highest rates to the smallest residential consumers. NAM decided to join up with the group that was fighting to get the rate schedule reversed, so that the lowest rates would be for working class renters. I remember attending a meeting where i suggested we try to link up with workers in the utility and raise issues like worker and consumer control...i.e. structural changes, to raise the issue of genuine socialization versus state management. An ex-Maoist member of NAM smirked at me like i was some ultra-left whacko. I found that the views expressed in that NAM meeting were to the right of the people in the single-issue group that was doing the actual organizing. When i talked to the main organizer for the single-issue group, he agreed with me. He said it was obvious that the way the utility was controlled was completely undemocratic.

I didn't know any libertarian socialists in the L.A. chapter of NAM. They were all located in other parts of the USA, such as New York or New Orleans. There were not very many of us.

But i was aware of their perspectives because NAM did produce good internal discussion bulletins. It was, after all, an organization with a lot of students and teachers. Not all of the libertarian socialists in NAM left in 1974. When NAM merged with Michael Harrington's group, Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (an anti-Vietnam war split off from the right-social democrats) (in 1980?), forming DSA, a faction of NAM continued to exist as the Solidarity Socialist Feminist Network. This was the former leftwing of NAM, and it included some libertarian socialists, I think. Eventually, SSFN merged with the International Socialists in 1984 to form the present Solidarity group.

t.

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Dec 7 2006 06:02

Whoa.

Quote:
I found that the views expressed in that NAM meeting were to the right of the people in the single-issue group that was doing the actual organizing.

Makes sense.

Quote:
This was the former leftwing of NAM, and it included some libertarian socialists, I think. Eventually, SSFN merged with the International Socialists in 1984 to form the present Solidarity group.

Did any libertarians tough it out in these groups or did most turn into reformists in the Reagan era?

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Dec 7 2006 06:29

Both DSA and Solidarity contained some libertarian
socialists or anarchists in the 1980s. Not very many.

I forgot to mention three splitoffs from the International
Socialists in the early 1980s: Revolutionary Socialist League, Workers Power, and International Socialist Organization. Just for completeness, WP had some criticisms of "boring from within" in that they believed that it was possible to organize worker rank and file organizations that could carry out direct actions independent of the bureaucracy. Their mag was called "Against the Current." When they merged with IS and SSFN in 1984, to form Solidarity, the merged group took over their mag. Solidarity defines "vanguardism" as the belief that one of the existing Leninist groups is or cold be the nucleus of a "vanguard party" but they don't reject the idea of a vanguard party. The difference between IS and ISO seemed to be partly based on different analyses of the USSR. ISO was aligned then with the British SWP and its state capitalist analysis, IS had a bureaucratic collectivist analysis of the USSR. RSL in 1984 had a dialogue with the WSA's New York branch, and some of its members began to evolve in an anarchist direction, and joined Love & Rage when RSL was dissolved.

t.

syndicalist
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Dec 7 2006 14:40

Ah, waht the heck, in issue #3 -- Spring 1983 of the WSA's "ideas & action" appeared the following articles:

"Bureaucratic Utopianism? Debate:
DSA and Libertarian Socialism by Chris Nielsen
Altered States?
by R. Dennis Hayes
To the Ballot Box! (temporarily of course) by Manuel Santos"

Tom may recall, at this time there DSA was on the rise. There were some libertarian socialists who thought being part of the DSA would be fruitful and productive. WSA disagreed but we thought it of enough importance to have this discussion. Perhaps one day we can make these texts available.

--mitch

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Dec 26 2006 03:35

Two events which helped to shape the thinking of a new generation of class struggle anarchists were May 1968 France and "The Hot Autumn" in Italy. This, in addition, to the upsurge in wildcat movements here in the US, the creation of informal work groups, insurgent black worker movements and, of course, the Viet Nam War helped to frame many of our perspectives.

While I was on the tailend of the serious mid-late 60s stuff (I think I attend my first anti-war rally in 1969), the above events and movements were still fresh enough to make an impression.

An interesting account of the Italian events can be found here on libcom. "The Workerists and the unions in Italy's 'Hot Autumn'"
http://libcom.org/library/the-workerists-and-the-unions-in-italys-hot-au...

Catch 22
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Dec 26 2006 04:49

Specifically about Vietnam. Did the GI resistance movement have a big impact on anarchists? I've read up some about it and recently saw a good documentary on it (Sir, no Sir. Seems like that shit more than anything else showed the revolutionary potential of the working class of the time. Fragging, mass refusals of orders, there were serious signs of mass mutiny.

syndicalist
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Dec 26 2006 14:09

The GI resistance movement was mostly organic. That is it came from the on-the-ground experiance of the GIS.

The overall resistance movement took on many forms. There was a thing called the GI Union. There were the pacificists, other activities. All of which scared the military. All of which helped put inside pressure on the military-political machine.

I would think it's a bit over-blown to say that the militiary was on the verge of a general mutiny, but clearly the war had become unpopular and the inside/out pressures were at a point not seen on any post-WWII scale.

I think an area where little to no real attention was paid was on the National Guard. The same National Guard that just got off strike breaking before it shot down the students at Kent State, for example. The Guard, much more than the overall military, I think was more working calss. Remember, the draft was still in place and the military servives were much more mixed working,lower and middle classes. The Guard, which was voluntary, and made up, usuaully, of pro-war working class folks.

syndicalist
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Dec 26 2006 14:26

Ok Catch.... I just came across this on libcom History.....
http://libcom.org/history/vietnam-gi-resistance .... interesting piece.

Catch 22
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Dec 26 2006 19:26
syndicalist wrote:
The GI resistance movement was mostly organic. That is it came from the on-the-ground experiance of the GIS.

The overall resistance movement took on many forms. There was a thing called the GI Union. There were the pacificists, other activities. All of which scared the military. All of which helped put inside pressure on the military-political machine.

I would think it's a bit over-blown to say that the militiary was on the verge of a general mutiny, but clearly the war had become unpopular and the inside/out pressures were at a point not seen on any post-WWII scale.

I think an area where little to no real attention was paid was on the National Guard. The same National Guard that just got off strike breaking before it shot down the students at Kent State, for example. The Guard, much more than the overall military, I think was more working calss. Remember, the draft was still in place and the military servives were much more mixed working,lower and middle classes. The Guard, which was voluntary, and made up, usuaully, of pro-war working class folks.

I also don't think they were on the verge of mass mutiny, but the widespread dropping of fragmentation grenades into officer's tents is getting relatively close.

The National Guard always seems to be a sort of Praetorian Guard of Reaction. For example, during the Carnation revolution, the National Guard was always the one to start shooting demonstrators. The MFA and COPCON would keep neutrality, as the common soldiers were poor draftees, the NG were all volunteers and of better status.

What's interesting is that the US NG is now being subjected to the same abuses as the general military, except the NG uses shittier equipment when they’re shipped to Iraq. One wonders if this will take away much of its reactionary potential in future periods of mass struggle.

petey
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Dec 27 2006 01:25

by the way, smashing stuff, syndic and s-cat. some of your info i'm imagining would be impossible to locate otherwise.

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Steven.
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Dec 27 2006 01:29
newyawka wrote:
by the way, smashing stuff, syndic and s-cat. some of your info i'm imagining would be impossible to locate otherwise.

Yeah this word of mouth stuff is. I kinda want to get together a series of short accounts of lots of these anarchist groups for our history section so there is some permanent history of them, and their connections to other groups and stuff so people can google and find out about them...

petey
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Dec 27 2006 01:35

boffo idea.

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Dec 27 2006 02:07
newyawka wrote:
boffo idea.

If either two of the syndicalists wanted to write little bits about any of those groups (each article focussing on one group) we'd love to have it, and would be happy to credit them as individuals or WSA or whatever. If they have time of course!

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Dec 27 2006 04:06

well SYNDICALIST has an ACF history essay in the works!

syndicalist
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Dec 27 2006 04:07

I hope in the near future to write an article on one participants view of the ACF. But for now, please accept this article.

I am submiting this in part, as historical backgound, to help understand the origins of a part of the US anarchist movement. Quite a few of us continue adhere to the traditional principles of anarcho-communism, while also adhering to the best traditions of anarcho-syndicalism as well.

In part the anarchist communist movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s in the US and Canada was very much a twining of anarchist communism and anarcho-syndicalism. Our initial efforts were a clear break with "counter-culturalism", non-class struggle and and anti-organizational anarchism.

This was best expressed in the formation of the
Anarchist-Communist Federation of North America.

The W.S.A.'s Origins

Some members of the WSA can trace their roots to the 1974 effort to establish an anarcho-syndicalist "Committee of correspondence for an anarcho-syndicalist liaison group". In their June 2, 1974 circular the Committee established its basic approach to moving forward. The Committee was to be the "clear expression of syndicalist principles
in the face of 'do your own thing' anarchist movement drifting away from [the] class struggle'." We, therefore, wanted to clearly establish an organization that was both structured and accountable. Another aim of the Committee was to form a US Section of the International Workers Association (IWA).

Although the Committee effort did not immediately
succeed, new contacts were made and a new and
mainly younger generation of anarcho-syndicalists
began to come together. Further contacts and
networks were also established through involvement
in the Anarchist Communist Federation of
North America (ACF, 1978-1981), the Industrial
Workers of the World (IWW) and various workplace
campaigns. Many of the founding members of the Workers
Solidarity Alliance met and worked together during this time.

In 1978 the New York City based Libertarian Workers
Group (now NY-NJ WSA) affiliated to the IWA.
Soon to follow was the Syndicalist Alliance
(SA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to the
former IWA Secretary General Fidel Gorron Canoyra,
we became the "first [US] IWA section in the
history of the IWA."

While a formal "national" anarcho-syndicalist
organization was not formed until 1984, a network
of anarcho-syndicalists decided began to work
together. By 1981 we came together to publish an
explicitly anarcho-syndicalist magazine titled
"ideas & action". "ideas & action" later went on
to become the magazine of the WSA.

Also during this period we worked with
like-minded folks on the US and Canadian newspaper
"Strike!" and the informal network publishing it.
The informal "Strike!" network also engaged in
some activities aside from publishing the paper.
These mainly consisted of various solidarity
campaigns in the US, Canada and abroad. Our
internationalism has always been strong and we
engaged in many internationalist activities.

During this time period, many Latin American
countries were under US supported military
dictatorships. A number of these countries
also had a rich tradition of anarchist or
anarcho-syndicalist activity as well. Given
our own proximity to Latin America, we cooperatively
set up the Libertarian Aid to Latin American
Workers (LALAW) committees with others in the
"Strike!" network. Our various LALAW committees
worked on a number of campaigns and published an
impressive journal "No Middle Ground".

Additionally some of our members, mainly in the
New York area, were also engaged in activities
in support of the underground struggles of workers
to establish independent unions in the former
"socialist" East Europe, as well a trying to
organize the Needle Trades Workers Action Committee
of rank-and-file workers. Members in West Virginia
were particularly focused on the coal
industry and rising unemployment and its effects
on the rural coal mining communities.
Californian members were active with publishing
tasks, community activities and workplace
outreach and activity mainly in the emerging high
tech sector. [It is also worthwhile noting
that it was the WSA that first made contact with
the anarcho-syndicalist Awareness League in
Nigeria and recently donated it the equipment
to set up its own radio station in Enugu! So the
WSA's internationalism has had a strong African
connection, too - note by ZACF international
secretary]

During this time period, the main areas of network activity consisted of distributing various informational leaflets, newsletters, newspaper and magazine ("On The Line" in NYC, "Strike!" and "ideas & action"), and solidarity activities. Network participants were also involved in their
workplaces, labor unions, on picket lines and in various social issues and student movements. Particular attention and focus was also given to anti-militarist and
anti-nuclear power and weapons struggles as well.

These events bring us to the period preceding the formation of the W.S.A. in November 1984.

@-INFOS (en) US, A Brief History of the Workers' Solidarity Alliance by Mitch - W.S.A.
Date Sun, 07 Aug 2005

syndicalist
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Dec 27 2006 04:31

I'm no fan of Bookchin, but it's worthwhile for folks to see his pamphlet "Listen Marxist!" as it was an important enough document coming out of the anarchist movement of it's day.
(http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/ANARCHIST_ARCHIVES/bookchin/listenm.html )

Ok, ok... while on the 1960s, I suggest folks check out "Dancin' In The Streets - Anarchists, Surrealists, Situationists & Provos in the 1960s as recorded In the pages of Rebel Worker & Heat Wave" - Edited with Introductions by Franklin Rosemont and Charles Radcliffe - published by Charles H. Kerr. Not wholly my cup of coffee, but interesting enough. Good stuff about Chicago and the old Solidarity Bookstore.

syndicalist
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Dec 29 2006 04:29

Ok folks, a bit of a teaser on the ACF and another one of Ed's writings.

While I do not share in some of the things which Ed said, I'm posting this never-the-less. I'm not one for over-moralization as Ed seems to have been in this piece. I also think Ed was a bit hard on some ACF folks and those who may not have been a flamboyant or verbose as Ed was in his opinions or views. But they were,nonetheless, commited revolutionaries.

Sin mas commentario ...

mitch

From Issue # 1 “ideas & action” (Winter 1982)

Hey General Custer, what were we doing there?
By Frank Stevens (Ed Clark)

One does not, in bourgeois culture, speak ill of the dead. People who have some kind of revolutionary aspirations may be expected to offer more accurate observations. When the Anarchist Communist Federation abruptly disintegrated last year, one could assume that there would be a tidal wave of position papers offering blame (or credit) for future attempts to build a revolutionary movement.

Not so. The end of the ACF was a vast literary yawn. Nothing is so revealing of the passions of those who were part of the ACF as the profound disinterest that greeted its demise. The only attempt to construct a continental anarchist-communist movement in the last two decades shattered … and no one really gave a shit.

Why didn’t the ACF work? The commonest explanation I’ve heard goes something like this: ACF was made up of several political tendencies that could not, in the long run, function within the same organizational framework. As long as the various tendencies practiced a kind of conscious self-restraint (i.e., refusing to bring up controversial political ideas), a superficial unity could be preserved.

However, as time went on, people in various tendencies grew impatient and began pressing their political points with greater vigor … and matters escalated to the point of disintegration.

It’s not a bad theory, but it doesn’t really go very far. Why, for example did it not prove possible over the years for people who came into the ACF with conflicting political views to work out an acceptable synthesis? Even if this was not possible in all cases, it should have been possible in some. But it didn’t happen. No new federation emerged from the ruins of the ACF. It lacked mourners, it also lacked heirs.

Perhaps the reason that no synthesis was forthcoming is that no one expected it or even wanted it. Nearly all the groups that affiliated with ACF already existed prior to affiliation. Each group had already formed a personal network with a more or less developed set of ideas. Joining ACF could only be seen, at best, as an opportunity to convert other affiliates to ones own set of ideas. Where people might have looked at each other as equals, to learn from as well as teach, instead they looked at each other as potential converts or (worse) rival theologians, partisans of the devil.

In such a matrix, there can be no identification with the common the common organization. ACF was an arena, not a movement. When you’ve done as much as you reasonably hope to do in this area, you go home.

Still, is it fair to boil everything down to bad faith? AC certainly numbered a fair share of assholes in its ranks, but that can hardly be the only explanation.

One thing that certainly struck me over and again in the ACF was enormous identifications with this or that political movement of the past. I often had the impression I was speaking with political conservationists; that is people who wanted to preserve a set of views simply because of their venerability.

Let me be clear about this: the history of the past revolutionary movement is worth study. There is something useful to be learned in all of humanity’s attempts to free itself.

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a personal, highly emotional identification with political phenomena of the distant past. In some cases, this went so far as to recreate the forms of those ancient movements, adopting titles and forms of language that once referred to the real world but are now of interest to only historians. ACF was not only an arena, but a peculiar kind of area where ghostly forms fought their old fights over again … bloodlessly, of course.

I can, in a way, understand this and even have some sympathy for it. It is fun to be (or play at being) some great anarchist or syndicalist revolutionary hero over the weekend. But then, Monday morning arrives in all its dismal reality and you have to get up and to go to work. So you look forward to the next meeting or conference, where you can play again. We all need some form of escape from class society, right?

But no one puts their life on the line on behalf of their entertainment. Most people in ACF never put their hearts into it, never took seriously its revolutionary potential, never thought for a moment it could actually be possible to overthrow class society. Even those who took their ghostly roles seriously could not really believe that this rhetoric might someday really count for something.

It is ironic to think that all these people invested their energies in ghostly role-playing while never examining their own possibilities at all. Maybe it is easier to re-enact ancient failures than to risk failure on your own. If you do exactly what some classical anarchist or syndicalist did and it doesn’t work, you can put the blame on him.

But we know who’s really to blame, don’t we? All past revolutionary movements failed to liberate us from class society. How can we do better?

How can we develop a useful synthesis of the best ideas of past revolutionary movements? Are there altogether new approaches to revolutionary struggle suggested by contemporary class society? What would an egalitarian mass revolutionary organization look like and what steps could we take in that direction?

In ACF, there were a small number of people who tried to raise and deal with these real questions. Their efforts were resented and, in the context of ACF, unsuccessful. Yet they were the only living revolutionaries in ACF, and some of them, at least, will doubtless be found in the next new attempt to build a revolutionary movement that can go all the way.

But for the ghostly majority, as always,requiescant in pace.

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MJ
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Dec 29 2006 04:57

Ouch.

syndicalist
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Dec 29 2006 05:30

from the Pitzer 'Anarchy Archives' comes ..

"Toward a post-scarcity society: the American perspective and the SDS" Radical Decentralist Project, Resolution No. I

"This article appears in Anarchy Archives with the permission of the author. Originally, this article was a statement for the fourth faction active in SDS during its final days. This faction is often overlooked by historians, who typically only emphasize the other three factions (i.e., Progressive Labor Party, RYM I and RYM II."

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/bookchin/sds.html

syndicalist
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Dec 1 2007 05:08

In regards to the ACF/NA, weused "ANARCHIST COMMUNISM: ITS BASIS AND PRINCIPLES" by Kropotkin as our original starting point. This document can be found at
http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/kropotkin/revpamphlets/anarchistcommunism.html

Of course we developed our own aims and principles, but a the Kropotkin pamphlet was sort of the gate-keeper to entry into the ACF/NA.

Put in a contemporary light, there wasn't such an accesable dirth of literature available in english for folks to read. Not an excuse, just a recognition that the flow of on-line information helps with exposure to documents that may have been hitherto unknown/unavailable. As well as develpoing ideas and sources of infromation.

As an aside, this one one pamphlet (and Makimoff's "My Social Credo")helped to get my own feet wet early on in my understanding of anarchism.

"My Social Credo": http://www.fondation-besnard.org/article.php3?id_article=110

Iron Column
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Dec 7 2007 00:59

Are there any other articles about the Anarchists in SDS? And also how big was this "fourth faction" in comparison to the other three? It certainly is interesting, but also predictable, that this has been written out of all the histories I've read.

syndicalist
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Nov 4 2012 23:44

I was copying something and sent it wrongly. Sorry.

syndicalist
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Nov 13 2012 15:10

From the "North American Anarchist, October-November, 1980", publication of the Anarchist-Communist Federation of North America (ACF)

Quote:
Poland 1980: Won’t Get Fooled Again!

North American Anarchist, October-November, 1980, page 1

The world has just witnessed the largest workers revolt since the May-June 1968 events in France. Only this time the spectre of intense class war occurred in one of the mythical “workers” states of the Soviet dominated Warsaw Pact. This has made the mass strikes of the Polish workers a development of historical importance to the international workers’ movement an event which rivals the 1956 worker-student revolution in Hungary.

This inspiring struggle was sparked by the announcement of sharp increases in meat prices at the beginning of July — an attempt by the bureaucratic ruling class to shift Poland’s deep economic crisis onto the backs of the workers. Strikes, were immediate in a number of centres resulting in almost immediate wage increases. In some places management’s fear of the workers led to wage increases where strikes had not yet occurred.

An example was set for others to follow. Consequently, there was another series of strikes in mid-July. The Eastern city of Lublin in particular was engulfed by a general strike lasting almost two days.

Then, for a short time, the strikes seemed to dissipate without ever having gone beyond economic demands. There were still strikes in progress like those of the sanitation and transit workers in Warsaw, but the state chose to refrain from using open repression, so as not to further provoke a situation that had become serious enough to prompt Edward Gierek to go to the USSR on a ‘working vacation’.

On August 14th the strikes took on a much more radical character as 16,000 Gdansk shipyard workers struck and seized control of the Lenin Shipyards. These same workers had been instrumental in toppling Gierek’s predecessor Wladyslaw Gomulka. Poland’s rulers now had good reason to be terrified because in a short time the strike action spread beyond the yards until it involved almost 50,000 workers in and around Gdansk. Strikes flared up in other parts of Poland as well.

Critically, the workers’ demands soon involved much more than economics. This was a predictable development as Gdansk has been a focal point for activists engaged in developing the movement for free trade unions. The shipyard strike was initiated in response to the firing of Anna Walentonowicz — a free trade union activist — and the re-instatement of all workers who had been victimized since the 1970 strikes became a central demand of the strikers.

Melt Lenin!

This was not the only demand which related directly to the bitter memories of 1970. Another one called for the erection of a monument in memory of the workers killed by the state during the 1970 revolt. One worker suggested that the massive statue of Lenin, which dominates the yards, should be melted down to make the memorial much to the amusement of his fellow workers.

Faced with all of this, management cynically tried to divide the workers by offering different settlements to different groups, a move the workers contemptuously dismissed as an example of “capitalist tactics.” On August 16 the state retreated offering to accept the workers economic demands, plus the reinstatements and the erection of a memorial. Many strikers were now prepared to return to work. However, due to an appeal by Lech Walesa, this did not happen.

The reason for this was simple. During the occupation strikers elsewhere in Poland had repeatedly called for a continuation of the shipyard strike in solidarity with the ones elsewhere. This was essential for victory. When Walesa reminded his fellow shipyard workers of this they replied with a commitment to stay out. The strikes now took on semi-insurrectionary proportions.

Dual Power

The heightened level of struggle was facilitated by the formation of the Inter-Factory Strike Committee (MKS) in the Lenin Shipyards. It constituted a basis for dual power in Poland. It was composed of elected delegates, initially numbering about 200, who were subject to immediate re-call by the workers. Once again the workers’ councils, the characteristic organs of workers’ power ever since the Commune of Paris in 1871, have stepped onto the world stage.

One of the first actions of the MKS was to vote by acclamation to become a new all-Poland Trades Union Congress. However, its main pre-occupation was to formulate the growing list of demands being put forward by the workers. Among these now appeared a call for an end to special privileges for party members and the police and the closure of special shops existing exclusively for Poland’s privileged elite.

Demanding recognition of its social power the MKS insisted that the Prime Minister, Edward Babiuch, come to them for direct talks. Implicit in this request was the knowledge that had he agreed it would have been a public admission that the state controlled unions were not the genuine representative of the workers. Simultaneously, it would establish the legitimacy of the workers’ main demand, namely, trade unions free of the state’s control. So Babiuch stayed away.

Then on August 18 Gierek appeared on national television. He made numerous conciliatory gestures but these were mixed with statements like, “We will not tolerate strikes.” On the next day Anna Walentonowiez was quoted as saying, “He acts as if he were talking to children.” This seemed to sum up bow pathetically ineffective his speech would prove to be.

It was followed by even greater polarization. Krackows’s steel works were idled. Bus drivers along with the workers at two shipyard’s, all in Szczecin, were on strike.

Accusations flew. The state made more charges about how the MKS didn’t represent the workers. On the other side the workers were widely quoted as having accused the state of behaving like a capitalist in its attempts to sow division in the strike movement.

Outside of Poland the events drew international attention. The capitalist press gloried in seeing such a profound challenge to a pro-Soviet state and heaped hypocritical admiration on the workers for their courage and wisdom. But its support had limits. After all, workers here might follow their example.

Within Poland the state was now opting for more repression. Fifteen members of the KOR. (Social Self-’ Defense Committee) were arrested. KOR was actively supporting the; struggle for free trade unions, a cause which it had long championed. Composed of reformist intellectuals it had been a primary source of information for the Western press since the first strikes in July. Obviously, the state felt there was an urgent need to try to silence it.

Repression came down elsewhere too. Some 600 workers were arrested in Southern Poland’ in a crude attempt to forestall strike activity there. Compared to the Northern Coast the South was very quiet.

The reactionary Polish Roman Catholic Church went public on the strikers for the first time on August 22. Cardinal Wyszynski put on a display of traditional conservatism by pleading for “wisdom and prudence” while also emphasizing that prolonged work stoppages “were not for the good of society.”

Gierek on the Run

Premier Gierek was reportedly. still in shock after the workers refusal to heed his patriotic appeal for the nation to resume work. What he was terming “.. anarchistic and anti-socialist groups that attempt to make political use of the work stoppages,” were making his hold on power, less certain with each new day.

Gierek spoke to the nation again on August 24. This time he had to announce the removal from office of his close confident, Prime Minister Babiuch, along with almost half of the other Politbureau members. Among their replacement is were noted adversaries of his demoted in the purges last winter. (See NAA 4, pg. 10)

Displaying his weakness he offered more concessions to the workers. Union elections would henceforth be democratised with secret ballot votes and no restrictions on the candidates. This was a major retreat but Gierek still wasn’t. agreeing to free trade unions. He didn’t give way on censorship and the release of political prisoners either.

The still unimpressed strikers movement continued to grow in spite of him. The growth of MKS reflected this as the number of delegates from striking factories in many parts of Poland had by now swelled to almost 800.

The workers then won a small but significant victory. Telephone and Telex lines into Gdansk which had been cut earlier in the strike were restored without conditions. These lines enabled ‘the Gdansk MKS to better coordinate their activities with strike committees in Szczecin and Elbag. It is noteworthy that the MKS had made the demand for their re-connection a pre-requisite for direct negotiations. with the same government which had earlier refused to recognize it. Once again Cardinal Wyszynski spoke out for restraint. This time he stated, “The better we work, the more justified are our rights and then we can formulate our demands.” A statement credited to a 22 year-old worker shortly afterwards provided a fitting reply. He reportedly said, “The government had to call on the Cardinal to try to calm things down, but the Cardinal won’t get us, back to work.”

Still more strikes began. These included stoppages in Silesia — Gierek’s political power base. At this point there were now 300,000 workers striking.

The MKS then issued an appeal for temporary restraint to allow food to be gathered but the strikes did not let up. Walesa was advising the workers, “It’s not good to have Poland terrorized. The people must have food.” He also made statements to the effect that the workers could now give the government some time to act but if they didn’t respond quickly the strikes should spread. The strikers, incidentally, by now had been promised wages for their time-off on strike.

With August drawing to a close 20,000 Silesian copper miners struck and their counterparts in the coal mines were becoming restless. The state cracked. On August 30, agreed to free trade unions and the right to strike as long as the Party’s leading role in society and Poland’s membership in the Warsaw Pact were respected. Knowing these two stipulations were needed to keep the USSR’s tanks from pouring in the workers accepted.

There were other important provisions. The most dangerous was the stipulation that the free trade unions stay out of “politics”. In another, amnesty was promised to those arrested during the strikes. Among the many economic gains were 3 years of maternity leave for women and a reduction of the retirement age.

Consciousness Lacking

Upon their ‘return to work the Gdansk workers sang ‘God save — Poland’, an act which showed the more backward aspects of the revolt. These being nationalism (albeit from people who live in an oppressed country) and religion. Obviously, the workers’ political consciousness till lags well behind the implications of their actions.

Many thought the battle was over. That was until after a mining accident on September 1 in the Silesian coal fields killed, 8 workers. In response Southern Poland erupted. Within hours 32 new strikes, including 19 in various mines employing 200,000 miners, broke out.

The demands won at Gdansk were put forward along with ones for the correction of unsafe working conditions and an end to compulsory work on Saturdays and round-the-clock shifts. Gierek’s resignation was also demanded. All the demands, except the call for Gierek’s head, were quickly met and work resumed.

Scattered strikes persisted indicating how little trust the workers had in the government’s word. Likewise at Gdansk; the feeling had been widespread that since the government couldn’t be trusted the free trade unions were essential to instituting the agreements generally. Subsequently, workers all over Poland started enthusiastically seeking membership in them.

But the government was still on the defensive as the price controls announced in early September showed. Arid packages coming from the USSR and the other “fraternal” states indicated that defensiveness prevailed even outside Poland.

Kania

This fraternal aid was padded further by new loans from the International Banks all at the very time that comrade Gierek became suddenly ill. Sick with the symptoms of mass strikes and a sordid scandal involving his speech-writer Gierek saw Stanislaw Kania become Premier. Called a “moderate” the new man is the former head of the secret police.

Again, the party’s purges evoked indifference from the workers. By contrast the Kremlin was more enthusiastic. Brezhnev heartily congratulated Kania and accordingly cattle up with yet another aid package.

Kania responded in kind. While pledging to honour the strike settlements he emphasized his desire to strengthen relations to the USSR. He again reminded his people that the new free trade unions were to keep clear of “politics”.

Soon after there were new reports of strikes involving workers angered at management harassment of those showing interest in the new unions. Elsewhere, Jack Kuron of KOR and other “anti-socialist elements” were increasingly being attacked in the official media.

Overwhelming Crisis

From the perspective of the bureaucrats such a process of trying to erode the workers’ gains is the only option available. The country’s economic crisis is awesome. The debt to Western Banks is $20 billion while the workers’ gains will cost another $3 billion. To this can be added the cost of the strikes and debts to the USSR. Poland is bankrupt.

The political crisis is just as severe. For the rulers in Warsaw and Moscow the dangerous implications rival the Czech Prague Spring. The formation of unions not controlled by the state, the right to strike, eased censorship, the concessions to the church and the Polish state’s weakness all add up to a potential centre for subversion within the Soviet domain. Even more foreboding are the ideological implications of a workers’ revolt against a “workers’ state”.

Objectively, what’s ahead in the next little while is an open question. Continued tension is inevitable but the response of the workers to state attacks is uncertain. But, given the danger to the East, it’s likely they will act with discretion.

This is particularly true since Poland would face the Soviet tanks alone. No help would come from the West. The West’s priorities are obviously stability in the region and the protection of Western capital’s interests. This will apply even more if Poland’s workers embark upon a clearly revolutionary course. One must recognize that at present, the West’s allies in Poland are the right-wing nationalist tendencies and the Catholic Church.

By contrast, the genuine allies of the Polish workers are their class counterparts internationally. Like all workers they are oppressed by the East-West struggle for global expansion. Similarly, as workers in the West are suffering the effects of a system racked by crisis, workers in the East are the victims of the related crisis in their societies. The workers in both camps also share a mutual interest in casting off their respective-oppressors duly aided by a spirit of internationalism.

With Poland in a temporary state of relative class peace certain priorities can be seen within this context. Foremost among these is the active defense of the gains of the Polish workers. The longer these last, the more they will be built upon, and the greater will be the prospects for similar struggles developing elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The fact that millions of workers in the Soviet block have been given an impressive example of militant class struggle to learn from encourages this view. And no one recognizes this more than the leaders of the Soviet Communist Party.

Another urgent priority is for us as workers in the West to intensify the struggle here. In doing so we will dispel whatever remaining illusions the Polish workers have about how good life is in the West while exemplifying the similarities of our struggles.

Active solidarity with the Polish workers is an integral part of the ongoing struggle against authoritarian socialism. But to do this effectively it is essential for us to develop a deep theoretical understanding of the social system they are confronting. In effect we have to synthesize a libertarian understanding of Eastern Europe with consistent revolutionary practice. This historic struggle of the Polish demands nothing less.

Meet the New Boss

North American Anarchist, October-November, 1980, page 1

On September 21st mass was broadcast over Poland’s state radio for the first time in over three decades. This, major event took place because the striking Polish workers had included a demand for such broadcasts among those they formulated during their struggle against the state. In light of this it is of great importance to assess the role of the Catholic Church in Poland in relation to the opposition movement and the workers in particular.

It is undeniable that the Church does “have a large following within all sections of the population including the workers. However there are reasons to suspect the estimates ’.of the degree of its influence especially as it is gauged in the capitalist media in North America.

Judgments based upon church attendance, are a bit deceptive. This is because there are many avowed atheists and agnostics who see attending mass as safe gesture of opposition to the state. Likewise, the various symbols of Catholicism displayed, in the Gdansk shipyards during the occupation stand in contrast to workers denunciations of Cardinal Wyszynski for having appealed for a resumption of work at the height of the strikes. (See accompanying article) They indicated a marked perception that the Church hierarchy constitutes a part of the status quo.

These facts in turn beg she question stated above of the Church’s relation to dissident formations. This matter, incidentally, has been a topic of considerable debate in underground publications with the focus being on whether the Church is the most effective organization of resistance.

At present the relationship is a fairly close one. Many of the activists are Catholics. A few are even priests with “leftist” sympathies. Consistent with this there has been a common concern between them over defending the rights of believers.

But at the same time this harmony has not always prevailed. The Church began to make its rivalry with the state explicit in the early 1960’s. Earlier, it had considered dissident’ activity of little concern. This-is significant insofar as it indicates how the Church has been willing to perform about-faces in its stands since the early days of Stalinist rule.

Two eye-opening examples of this practice sufficiently reveal the Church’s opportunism and, in the process, shed light on its actual role in Polish society. The first occurred in 1957 just after the great revolt of the previous year. Relatively free elections were being held as part of the changes typical of that period of “liberalization”. During the election the Church took a position in favour of the candidates who supported the then party boss Wladyslaw Gomulka.

Almost twenty years later the Church came out in support of the huge food price increases announced by the government in late June of 1976. These increases sparked an explosive two day wave of strikes, demonstrations and riots which forced an end to the new prices. Repression followed. In response the same church which had endorsed this economic attack on the working class decided to speak up in the workers’ defense by advocating an amnesty for those persecuted.

This provides a context for the present. Having benefited substantially from the mass strikes the Church can be expected to give support to efforts to preserve the present gains of the workers. But there is little likelihood of any support for more demands unless new unrest can be used to further enhance its own power; an unlikely possibility given the dynamics of mass working class struggle. If instead, the next revolt runs counter to the Church’s interests in any way it will gladly serve as a reactionary pillar of the present order.

In short, the Church will support whichever side in the class war that will benefit it the most at any given time. This one fact exposes the real role of the Catholic Church in Poland. Namely, as or of a power structure determined to extend its domination over Polish society as much as possible. In response, the role of the working class is to recognize the Church as an oppressive institution which, just like the Polish state, must be smashed.

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/Joey_Stalin__Poland_1980___Won_t_...

syndicalist
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Nov 13 2012 15:08

STRIKE! was published by a network of former ACF comrades from Canada & the US. A number of former STRIKE! network US comrades are still active today in the Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA) At least two of the former Canadian comrades are involved in left wing union activities.[/b]

Source: Strike! August/September 1981, page 11

Quote:
El Salvador and Poland: Two Paths to Revolution

We must choose between two paths: the road of El Salvador, of a lethal sidetrack into capitalist politics which is actually a prelude to world war, or the road of Poland, of mass and autonomous confrontation against the capitalist state.

For the past several months since the proclamation of the Left’s “final offensive”, we have witnessed a further scourge of capitalist brutality in El Salvador. Within the countryside the guerrillas are completely on the defensive, having been sacrificed for “reasons of (capitalist) state” as the modern-day La Passionaria, Ana Guadalupe Martinez, will argue. The F.D.R. now cynically admits that its meager military offensive was nothing but a bargaining ploy against the Duarte Junta, with the corpses of Salvadoran youth used as their ante.

Always ready to mediate between bourgeois factions, the Catholic Church has moved away from its previous blanket support of the Left to the more familiar position of moderate governmental “reform, re: statified capitalism. And this stance is amiable with the Stalinist F.M.L.N. & the Sandinistas as well.

The Reagan Administration wasted no time in putting its house in order in El Salvador. A large propaganda effort to document alleged “Soviet intervention” began in February; $10 million in new military hardware was rushed in bringing the total current commitment to $35 million. The equipment included helicopters, trucks, jeeps, surveillance gear, heavy machine-guns, M-16 rifles, & M-79 grenade launchers; 56 military trainers, among them green berets, have also been ordered in. With the incontrovertible logic of an MX missile, the right-wing portion of the U.S. imperialist ruling-class has convinced its brethren of the left, & their counterparts abroad, of the present dead-cold “correctness” (as Haig might utter it) of the over-kill formula.

Economic aid to the Duarte regime, desperately needed to finance the state-supervised collectivization of the big agricultural estates, has been upped to $100 million. Government officials, temporarily outflanking the Left, are touring the countryside, led by the demagogue Morales Ehrlich, extolling this “land reform” program; for the rural proletariat, the State is the new patron. National elections have been promised in ’82. Meanwhile, in San Salvador the terror of the rightist death squads, abetted by the government, goes on and on.

Here in North America, the Leftist politicos have also been enjoying an ideological field day of their own. The liberals, Social Democrats & Stalinists, true to form, have revived the old Viet Nam popular-front-for-world capitalism atmosphere. Under the tight, bureaucratic auspices of the “Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador” (C.I.S.P. E.S.), various “legal and peaceful” (what else?) marches and vigils have been staged. Liberal politicians are basking in the popular spectacle; Kennedy, odds-on favorite for the “progressive” U.S. bourgeoisie in 1984, has introduced legislation to suspend military aid and recall the military advisers in El Salvador. Not one to miss a good show, the Church has gotten into the act, too.

The sole organizing platform of C.I.S.P.E.S. is “self-determination” by which they simply mean the Left to state power. Anyone who foolishly attempts to raise even a semblance of proletarian class positions (“But how dare you?!”) like the Trotskyists or the anarchists has been threatened and/or excluded from their mendicant activities. The repressive antics of the C.I.S.P.E.S. gang are merely a mild harbinger of what the F.D.R. would do with a fury to the Salvadoran proletariat if it ever obtained a monopoly of state violence.

Another facet of the liberal/left hysteria over El Salvador is the so-called “Argentina connection” — an ominous, rightist conspiracy to bolster the draconian regimes in Honduras and Guatemala by a massive infusion of military goods from South America. The specter of the Right, along with the hoopla about the paramilitary units of Nicaraguan and Cuban exiles in Florida, is part and parcel of a developing leftist campaign at anti-fascist mystification precisely at a time when the class struggle in North America against the Reagan austerity is about to commence. All of these leftist machinations are just so much ideological junk to be thrown away by the awakening proletariat.

We must all choose between these two paths: the road of El Salvador, of a lethal sidetrack onto capitalist politics, which is actually a prelude to world war, as was Spain in the late 1930’s; or the road of Poland, of mass and autonomous confrontation against the capitalist state. For the revolutionaries the choice is clear. The tasks at hand now are not to immerse oneself into any popular leftist sewer, but to diligently and confidently work for: 1. political and organizational regroupment on a global scale, and 2. interventions with a genuine revolutionary, international perspective in the real class battles going on here in North America & around the planet, all of which are surely about to intensify.

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/Various_Authors__El_Salvador_and_...