A classic criticism of classical anarchism

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alb
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Feb 15 2020 17:05

You criticise Kohn for saying:

Quote:
Stirner and Proudhon have been dealt with to show the Utopian nature of Anarchism in all its majesty. Go right through the Anarchist writings, from Stirner to Bakunine and Kropotkin and notice the same spirit through it all. Like all Utopians, they start out with an abstract principle, and endeavour to apply it so as to form a perfect society.

Yet you let Pannekoek get away with saying:

Quote:
As the logical successor to liberalism, it forces the latter's individualism — worship of abstract liberty and aversion to the power of the State and all authority — into a complete opposite to capitalism. Its Socialism is Utopianism, that is, it has no idea of the necessary evolution of social formations upon the basis of the evolution of the forces of production, but places before itself the ideal of an absolutely just and best world, for which it seeks to win adherents by means of propaganda.

That's what I mean by the arguments against Kohn being ad hominem, based not on his well-researched article with citations but on him being a member of the SPGB. I think it is also called double standards.

Pannekoek also claimed, which Kohn didn't, that "the Anarchistic ideal discloses itself here as a petty-bourgeois ideal, a yearning for the "liberty" of the small, independent producer".

As to Stirner, it wasn't Kohn who came up with the claim that Stirner was the pioneer of anarchism. That was the claim made and propagated by some anarchist intellectuals themselves. People here claiming to be experts on the period 1890-1914 are refusing to accept this historical fact. Benjamin Tucker, who published the leading English-language journal of the day, had it translated into English in 1907. That's why A,M. Lewis included him as one of the Ten Blind Leaders of the Blind in his 1910 book, and why Kohn would have taken up the point. In fact, the very fact that Kohn mentioned it is itself confirmation that this was a claim put about by anarchists at the time. After all, as has just been pointed out, Stirmer himself never claimed to be an anarchist. If anarchists didn't claim him as one of their Own why would Kohn have mentioned him?

I don't think the claim that Stirner influenced Marx to become anti-state stands up (not that McLellan claims this un the passage quoted: only that he had some influence in Marx going beyond Feuerbach). Marx had already envisaged a society without a state dominating it in The Jewish Question that he wrote in 1843.

Kohn's article gives a good outline of the different strands of anarchist thinking in the period: individualist, bomb-throwing, syndicalist, etc. He even mentions Malatesta's (probably the best known anarchist of the period) difference of view with the anarchists who had taken over the CGT.

Two passages in Kohn's article have been ignored:

Quote:
The State has been the State of the chattel-slave owner, the State of the feudal nobility, and now it is the State of the industrial capitalist. It exists to day because there is a class to be kept in subjection. When the present subject class become organised and seize political power, their supremacy will have sounded the death-knell of the State. The working class being the last class to achieve its freedom, its emancipation will end class distinctions: neither a dominant nor a subject class can exist when the ownership of the means of life is vested in the community.
Anarchists are fond of accusing Socialists of wanting to increase the power of the State. Marx and Engels are denounced by Kropotkin (“Conquest of Bread’’ and elsewhere) for this reason. Yet every student of these Socialist pioneers knows that they pointed out that when the toilers triumph the day of the State will be gone for ever. The Anarchist lament about tyranny under Socialism will be seen to be without foundation. Tyranny presupposes power, but when the instruments of production are commonly owned, power to oppress can no longer exist. Further, when wealth is no longer privately owned there is no incentive to tyrannise. There are no clashing interests —the mainspring of tyranny.

and (the one Red Marriott in particular missed):

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Just as Engels shows, we, the revolutionists, are prepared to use legal means in so far as they can be used in the workers’ interest, and ignore them when they cannot. When legal means fail illegal means are justifiable and commendable.

BigFluffyTail
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Feb 15 2020 17:18

Marx never called himself an anarchist because communism/socialism is already stateless, there's little need for using another term. Especially one used by Proudhon, whom both Stirner and Marx criticized.

Rubel's article is well argued and isn't silly. Plus it takes care not to say that Marx is part of the political current called anarchism. The aim is to present Marx's anti-State views. It's more directed against statists than anarchists. However, Rubel in the post-scriptum of the article chastises anarchists for having the same understanding of Marx's thought as stalinists. The 1983 post-scripum, not the one in the link. See here in French.

I wouldn't defend Bakunin's "philosophy about organisation". He was pretty clear that the individual was to submit mind and body to the revolutionary organization and that he preferred the "invisible dictatorship" of the revolutionaries over the dictatorship of the proletariat. His love of conspiracy type organizing is what got him kicked out of the International (and not just by marxists but by Marx's opponents the proudhonists as well). Not to mention while he was himself an abstentionist, he did encourage one of his friends to run for parliament on the basis that they, contrary to others, were too principled to be corrupted by power (the same weak argument you, rightfully I think, criticize the social-democrats for using). I still like reading him but certainly not for his "philosophy about organisation".

Rubel talks of this in the post-scriptum I linked, Kostas Papaïoannou as well but I think Maurício Tragtenberg's Marx/Bakounine is the best account of their differences (link to a downloadable french translation from the portugese).

Edit: Oh yeah and Marx was anti-State before Stirner, just wanted to point out the influence on his thought.

alb
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Feb 15 2020 17:34

Yes I thought Sheebu-kteer was giving a hostage to fortune (and taking on more than the SPGB) when he claimed that saying that Marx could be called an anarchist was "silly".

There is one passage, referred to by Rubel, where Marx and Engels use the word "anarchy" in relation to what they said they stood for:

Quote:
All socialists see anarchy as the following program:
Once the aim of the proletarian movement — i.e., abolition of classes — is attained, the power of the state, which serves to keep the great majority of producers in bondage to a very small exploiter minority, disappears, and the functions of government become simple administrative functions.

And there is Engels's letter (of 28 January 1884), also cited by Rubel, which I have already mentioned, where he wrote:

Quote:
"... we had proclaimed the cessation [Aufhören] of the state before the anarchists even existed".

ajjohnstone
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Feb 15 2020 17:52

"...one of the SPGBers here opportunistically claimed on libcom that their Party was “the parliamentary wing of anarchism” (which didn’t please most SPGB members)…"

Was it really necessary to use the disparaging comment "opportunistically" as if my motive and intention lacks genuine sincerity.

I think I have often enough referred to the need for the "thin red line" on this forum to merge into something more coherent and effective (and yes to the chagrin of my SPGB comrades as well as to many here) to have it dismissed as opportunism. I have tried to reconcile our differences even on this discussion thread with a passing reference to the attitude of Dietzgen.

I think I have also said elsewhere that some posters here exercise their own informal "hostility clause" which makes my hope, perhaps a forlorn one but certainly not opportunistic.

As for the SPGB "never heard of such things as military coups or states of emergency", in the pamphlet I have already recommended there is a whole chapter on the topic.

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlet/whats-wrong-with-using-parl...

And although not mentioned, the example of the failed coup against Hugo Chavez may also be useful to consider.

And with regard to mutinies, it is, in fact, a core idea of the SPGB - that in a revolutionary situation, "Socialist ideas would also have penetrated into the armed forces" (as the pamphlet says) and the SPGB is often taken to task for arguing that "workers in uniform" remain just that - workers.

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Feb 15 2020 18:26
comradeEmma wrote:
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Anarchists don't believe that majorities have the right to assert their will over minorities. Obviously, they don't want minorities to assert their will over majorities either, which is why the aim is to decentralise organisations as much as possible.

Sounds like a very headless way of organizing that opens up for abuse. I think a "majority rule" is important to allow the rank-and-file to hold the organisations leaders accountable and allow them to decide the direction of the organisation. Historically I think this "decentralism" and de-centering of the rank-and-file has ironically allowed for bureaucratic zig-zags of both the "syndicalist" and reformist fractions to destroy, split or halter CGT.

A bit of a tangent, but I think it's worth bearing in mind that, in voluntary organisations held together by people agreeing to donate their time, there is pretty much no practical way for majorities to assert their will over minorities. You can try running organisations as if such a thing was possible if you want, but in practice that tends to end up looking a bit like this:

alb wrote:
You criticise Kohn for saying:

...

Yet you let Pannekoek get away with saying

Hang on, are you having a go at s-k for being a council communist who agrees with Pannekoek, or for not being a council communist and disagreeing with Pannekoek? Get your story straight.

alb wrote:
Two passages in Kohn's article have been ignored:

Quote:
The State has been the State of the chattel-slave owner, the State of the feudal nobility, and now it is the State of the industrial capitalist. It exists to day because there is a class to be kept in subjection. When the present subject class become organised and seize political power, their supremacy will have sounded the death-knell of the State. The working class being the last class to achieve its freedom, its emancipation will end class distinctions: neither a dominant nor a subject class can exist when the ownership of the means of life is vested in the community.
Anarchists are fond of accusing Socialists of wanting to increase the power of the State. Marx and Engels are denounced by Kropotkin (“Conquest of Bread’’ and elsewhere) for this reason. Yet every student of these Socialist pioneers knows that they pointed out that when the toilers triumph the day of the State will be gone for ever. The Anarchist lament about tyranny under Socialism will be seen to be without foundation. Tyranny presupposes power, but when the instruments of production are commonly owned, power to oppress can no longer exist. Further, when wealth is no longer privately owned there is no incentive to tyrannise. There are no clashing interests —the mainspring of tyranny.

This is a particularly astonishing passage to want to draw people's attention to. Can you think of anything that's happened since 1911 that might have any relevance to the anarchist claim that socialists seizing state power in the name of the working class would lead to an increase of the power of the state? Has the history of "actually existing socialism" shown that "the Anarchist lament about tyranny under Socialism [is] without foundation"?

ajjohnstone
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Feb 15 2020 18:41

R. Totale, are we back to the basic ABC of what socialism is contrasted with what various political parties wish it to masquerade as.

Does the phrase "actually existing socialism" have any meaning whatsoever, not just for the SPGB but for the many others on this forum?

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Feb 15 2020 19:08
Quote:
A bit of a tangent, but I think it's worth bearing in mind that, in voluntary organisations held together by people agreeing to donate their time, there is pretty much no practical way for majorities to assert their will over minorities. You can try running organisations as if such a thing was possible if you want, but in practice that tends to end up looking a bit like this:

Have you seen the amount of small syndicalist unions and syndicalist ""internationals""? Just within my small geographical area we have two competing syndicalist unions who belong to two different international associations, one being more "anarchist" than the other. Combined they total less than 1000 members. Trotskyists and alike split primarily because they are sects and often because they issues of bureaucracy themselves, not because of democratic centralism.

As an anecdote, the union I belong to employs a form of democratic centralism and it has managed to stay united and organizes a majority of the workers in our industry. There are of course problems but there has never been any splits or mass exoduses. It is of course not centralised like a party, but some degree of unity is needed to maintain a union that is not organized in a "flat" manner.

Quote:
Hang on, are you having a go at s-k for being a council communist who agrees with Pannekoek, or for not being a council communist and disagreeing with Pannekoek? Get your story straight.

I think the original point is that this type of critique of anarchism was typical of the socialist and social-democratic parties of the time. Going against the one-sided focus on certain types of struggle and so on. Trying to read these critiques as timeless battle of ideas will just lead one to tearing ones hair out. Both Pannekoek and Rosa Luxemburg were social-democrats at that time.

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Feb 15 2020 19:05

In the first section of the article, the author expresses his disagreement with the widely held belief, in 1911, that the sole difference between anarchism and socialism lies in their preferred methods of struggle. Surely, one would be compelled to think then that maybe this fellow named Stirner and his ideas aren't that big of a deal in terms of influence to the development of the contemporary anarchist movement. Perhaps, he would think it best to leave the comfort of his armchair, step out into the real world, and engage with the local anarchist movement at the time. You know, he could have demonstrated some good ol' fashion historical materialism to his readers. Based on alb's description above, that's exactly what I thought this article was going to provide when I opened the link.

As some of us already know, the author proceeds to deliver a rather lame critique of Stirner's ideas. I read quite a bit until I eventually gave up. Based on the discussion regarding the article in this thread, it is safe to say it provides the complete opposite of a scientific approach. When comradeEmma says "it would be fair to say that the text was not written primarily as a "theoretical" critique or "battle of ideas" but rather an attack on the then existing anarchist groupings within the labor movement, like most critiques of anarchism from that time", it makes me believe they live on another planet. It's also curious that this poster seem to think such an attack is interchangeable with critique.

This article cannot have been considered a genuine critique then. And it cannot be considered one now. So why then does such an article continue to resonate with some folks, so much so that a few of them rush to defend it when it comes under rightful criticism? The year is 2020, nearly eleven decades after the article's publication, and this is what resonates with some folks who frequent this forum? And they occasionally wonder why their sect is so, so insignificant.

But there's no mystery here. The article resonates because it is exemplary of the same ol' politics of those who are committed to, above all else, one bearded man's "economics and theory of history". When that commitment is strong, it never tires them to go after who they feel are the equivalent figures of the perceived rival tradition. They continue to deliberately paint anarchism as if it is another marxism, when it is not so. It does not even make sense to juxtapose anarchism to socialism, as some have done in this thread. But what else is there to expect from folks who champion one of the 160 varieties of marxism?

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Feb 15 2020 19:13
ajjohnstone wrote:
R. Totale, are we back to the basic ABC of what socialism is contrasted with what various political parties wish it to masquerade as.

Does the phrase "actually existing socialism" have any meaning whatsoever, not just for the SPGB but for the many others on this forum?

Perhaps not, but you have to admit that the anarchist predictions about what the rule of various political parties masquerading as socialist would be like were uncannily accurate in some cases. If we rephrase it as "The Anarchist lament about tyranny under [regimes masquerading as] Socialism will be seen to be without foundation", do you think that's been borne out by history or not?
And also,

Quote:
I think the original point is that this type of critique of anarchism was typical of the socialist and social-democratic parties of the time.

I think you can stress how unique the SPGB is and how it has nothing in common with the other socialist/social-democratic parties and all they've spawned, or you can stress how they're typical of them and how much they have in common, but it's a bit confusing to try and argue both things at the same time.

ajjohnstone
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Feb 16 2020 00:24

"you have to admit that the anarchist predictions about what the rule of various political parties masquerading as socialist would be like were uncannily accurate in some cases."

And you'd have to admit that the SPGB predictions about minority revolutions claiming "socialist" credentials degenerating into dictatorships has also been uncannily accurate.

The SPGB has always been sceptical of panaceas, even popular ones such as soviets/workers councils that have shown that they too can easily be subverted and gerrymandered, something Martov pointed out in his criticisms of the Bolsheviks and their co-option repeated in the German Revolution.

Wouldn't you say that we were all part of one movement, sharing various key principles although diverging over particular tactics and strategy, which sometimes are later shed or the emphasis changed.

See how admitting we were political cousins with the SLP created a polarisation within the SPGB and how the debates over labour time vouchers between the SPGB and the SLP, for example, continued to recent times.

Differences have existed for example between the Platformists and Malatesta for example. Difference arise even more recently as over identity politics which (correct me if I am wrong) resulted in an operational split between AF and ACG (note I said operational not that they have become opponents)

I still stand by my claim that the SPGB can be described as anarchist - in its leader-free party structure that has lasted the test of time, in its anti-state anti-hierarchal aims, its goal of a non-market economy and sometimes if the conditions are correct, in its promotion of activities like the Canadian One Big Union, where the SP of C could be seen as adopting a receptive but hands-off approach to industrial unionism.

The most important thing we all share is the failure to convince the majority of fellow-workers of the strengths of both our respective positions, and that is worth debating and discussing. I certainly keep raising the issue of the lack of any SPGB presence among our fellow-workers and it is also the same glaring weakness among the anarchist movement. None of us can rest upon our laurels.

Surely this is the problem we should all be addressing and endeavouring to remedy. Neither of our traditions has been successful and that is a worrying and disturbing thing to me. Instead of recognising where we can agree and cooperate, we continue an acrimonious and antagonistic rivalry. As I said earlier, we are in 2020 and what was written in 1911 has only an interest for archivists because our attitudes and ideas have indeed progressed since then. We have experience and precedents to develop better analyses.

Some may think ALB is being contrarian in his position towards anarchism but I already referred to his article trying to reconcile Marx and Kropotkin and he has mentioned writers such as Rubel - and I add John Crump - who offered a choice for all of us to coalesce around.

I'll end with two light-hearted music videos, you most likely to have already heard but it is a reminder for us.

https://youtu.be/SxsSEwsn5-Y

https://youtu.be/zvlWSnLxrrc

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Feb 16 2020 03:43

alb, I am not "letting Pannekoek off the hook", because he was not the subject of discussion. You, a member of the SPGB, posted the SPGB article and I criticised it. I didn't criticise Pannekoek because your original post was didn't link to him; he was irrelevant to the conversation until you started bringing him up asking why I wasn't also criticising him.

I still do not buy the idea of Marx as an anarchist in any sense. Fictitious Splits in the International is a document intended to be a weapon against the anarchists. Marx and Engels knew it. When Engels speaks of proclaiming the "cessation of the state before the anarchists even existed" he does so clearly identifying the anarchists as a tendency separate to his own.

Like I said, anarchism is not merely about a stateless endpoint; declaring yourself in favour of the dissolution of the state is not enough, otherwise we could accept people like Lenin (and even Stalin) as anarchists for believing that the state will wither away when the conditions are right. Anarchism has to do with organisational practices and principles, and a methodology, all of which Marx opposed in his activist life. He was a centralist, not a federalist. It is easy to look at his actions during the First International and see this.

You continue to claim that Stirner was the pioneer of anarchism, and that his thought was at the root of anarchist philosophy. Even more strangely, you claim that anarchists in the period 1890-1914 recognised this, despite not actually citing any anarchist from that period. I have cited one example of an anarchist of that period commenting on Stirner: Tcherkesoff, dismissing him as someone unfamiliar to them, in Liberty, which was a journal broadly reflective of mainline social anarchist opinion.

As to why Kohn would claim Stirner as a central anarchist figure when most anarchists did not? Simple, he wanted to smear anarchists as lunatic individualists at heart, and when selectively quoted in this manner, Stirner does seem like a lunatic individualist. It's not a totally different strategy to Liebeknecht bringing up Stirner in the article of his that I linked. It's bringing him up in an attempt to smear anarchists.

ajjohnstone
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Feb 16 2020 05:22

The SPGB structure while not claiming to be either centralised or federal is based upon the decision-making power of its branches and the confirmation by individual member party poll. Our EC cannot submit any resolution to conference to avoid undue influence.

Regard to the 1st International, we are reminded that it was not dominated by one tradition. It had the French Proudhonist and the Blanquist elements, it had the English trade unionists, Chartists and Owenites, it had political emigres from all corners of Europe, and Lassalle's influence also existed as much as the Bakuninist. Marx may have held influence but in no way was he dominant within it. He in fact tried to shape its whole to be acceptable to all those conflicting parts. He actually exercised a lot of diplomacy to ensure it worked.

Too often his disputes within the International are focused on the disagreements with Bakunin but we know he challenged other individuals within the organisation - such as Weston in what was to become his pamphlet 'Value Prices and Profit.'

One of the resolutions drafted by Marx and submitted was
"It is the business of the International Working Men’s Association to combine and generalise the spontaneous movements of the working classes, but not to dictate or impose any doctrinary system whatever."

Worth a read is
https://libcom.org/library/marx-bakunin-question-authoritarianism

From 1911 we now have moved back to 1871

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sherbu-kteer
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Feb 16 2020 07:15

I agree that Marx could be diplomatic, but that doesn't mean he was a pluralist or was not a centralist. On Marx's diplomacy around pluralism, Wolfgang Eckhardt in this extremely good book (pg 79-83) notes that the kind of thing you cite was forced upon him by the circumstances; if he had come out and just said "you need to adopt this communist program" nobody would have listened to him, obviously.

In a letter to Engels (4 Nov. 1864) he said:

Quote:
At the meeting of the General Committee my 'address', etc., was adopted with great enthusiasm (UNANIMOUSLY) [...] It was very difficult to frame the thing so that our view should appear in a form that would make it ACCEPTABLE to the present outlook of the workers' movement. In a couple of weeks, the same people will be having MEETINGS on the franchise with Bright and Cobden. It will take time before the revival of the movement allows the old boldness of language to be used. We must be fortiter in re, sauviter in modo [strong in deed, mild in manner].

Incidentally in the same letter he says that he had met Bakunin and passed on regards, saying he "liked him very much, more so than previously" and that "he is one of the few people whom after 16 years I find to have moved forwards and not backwards".

The entire section I mention from Eckhardt is worth reading if you have the time. I personally do not find the article by Adam convincing, the notion of conspiratorial Bakunin vs. open, democratic Marx is not borne out by the evidence. The book by Eckhardt disproves it. Rene Berthier has written quite a lot about it too, he has a book about the First International that's very good, and he's written various shorter articles about it in replies to Marxists, eg this one responding to Louis Proyect.

alb
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Feb 16 2020 08:52

I think I have solved the mystery of why Kohn called Stirner "the pionner of anarchism" !

It is also the mystery of who -- the anarchists or the Marxists -- done this first.

You mention an article by Wilhelm Liebknect published in 1896. An earlier source would have been Plekhanov's Anarchism and Socialism which was translated from the French in which it was first published in 1894 into English (by none other than Marx's daughter. Eleanor) and published in 1895. He begins chapter III on "The Historical Development of the Anarchist Doctrine":

Quote:
"“I have often been reproached with being the father of Anarchism. This is doing me too great an honour. The father of Anarchism is the immortal Proudhon, who expounded it for the first time in 1848.”
Thus spoke Peter Kropotkin in his defence before the Correctional Tribunal of Lyons at his trial in January, 1883. As is frequently the case with my amiable compatriot, Kropotkin has here made a statement that is incorrect. For “the first time” Proudhon spoke of Anarchism was in his celebrated book, Qu’est-ce que le Proprieté, ou Recherches sur le principe du droit et du Gouvernement, the first edition of which had already appeared in 1840. It is true that he “expounds” very little of it here; he only devotes a few pages to it. And before he set about expounding the Anarchist theory “in 1848,” the job had already been done by a German, Max Stirner (the pseudonym of Caspar Schmidt) in 1845, in his book Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum. Max Stirner has therefore a well defined claim to be the father of Anarchism. “Immortal” or not, it is by him that the theory was “expounded” for the first time.

He then goes on to explain Stirner's theory. So that's clear. This is where both Liebkneckt and Kohn would have got the view that Stirner was the "father" or "pioneer" of anarchism.

But the mystery doesn't stop there, as where did Plekhanov get the idea from? Move on to chapter VII on "The Smaller Fry" which begins:

Quote:
Among our present-day Anarchists some, like John Mackay, the author of Die Anarchisten, Kulturgemalde aus dem Ende des xix. Jahrhunderts, declare for individualism, while others – by far the more numerous – call themselves Communists.

Despite his name, John Henry Mackay was German. His book that Plekhanov refers to was published in 1891 and later translated into English and can be read here. In the introduction Mackay states:

Quote:
The nineteenth century has given birth to the idea of Anarchy. In its fourth decade the boundary line between the old world of slavery and the new world of liberty was drawn. For it was in this decade that P. J. Proudhon began the titanic labor of his life with “Qu’est-ce que la propriété?” (1840), and that Max Stirner wrote his immortal work: “Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum” (1845).

He also mentions "my friend Benj. R. Tucker of Boston" who, many years later in 1907 was to have Stirner's work translated and published in English.

Mystery solved. It was anarchists , in 1891, not Marxists, in 1895 or 1896, who first enthroned Stirner as a pioneer of anarchism.

There is another mystery: why didn't the "communist" and "collectivist" anarchists repudiate the individualist anarchists which with they had nothing in common (except opposition to Authority with a capital A)? But they didn't. In his entry on Anarchism for the 1910 edition of the Encylopaedia Britannica (later published as a separate pamphlet) Kropotkin includes Stirner as a pioneer anarchist:

Quote:
On the other side, individualist anarchism found, also in Germany, its fullest expression in Max Stirner (Kaspar Schmidt), whose remarkable works (Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum and articles contributed to the Rheinische Zeitung) remained quite overlooked until they were brought into prominence by John Henry Mackay.
Prof. V. Basch, in a very able introduction to his interesting book, L'lndividualisme anarchiste: Max Stirner (1904), has shown how the development of the German philosophy from Kant to Hegel, and 'the absolute' of Schelling and the Geist of Hegel, necessarily provoked, when the anti-Hegelian revolt began, the preaching of the same 'absolute' in the camp of the rebels. This was done by Stirner, who advocated, not only a complete revolt against the state and against the servitude which authoritarian communism would impose upon men, but also the full liberation of the individual from all social and moral bonds - the rehabilitation of the 'I', the supremacy of the individual, complete 'amoralism', and the 'association of the egotists'.

Talk about an own goal.

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Feb 16 2020 09:56
ajjohnstone wrote:
And you'd have to admit that the SPGB predictions about minority revolutions claiming "socialist" credentials degenerating into dictatorships has also been uncannily accurate.
...
Wouldn't you say that we were all part of one movement, sharing various key principles although diverging over particular tactics and strategy, which sometimes are later shed or the emphasis changed...
I still stand by my claim that the SPGB can be described as anarchist - in its leader-free party structure that has lasted the test of time, in its anti-state anti-hierarchal aims, its goal of a non-market economy and sometimes if the conditions are correct, in its promotion of activities like the Canadian One Big Union, where the SP of C could be seen as adopting a receptive but hands-off approach to industrial unionism...
Surely this is the problem we should all be addressing and endeavouring to remedy. Neither of our traditions has been successful and that is a worrying and disturbing thing to me. Instead of recognising where we can agree and cooperate, we continue an acrimonious and antagonistic rivalry. As I said earlier, we are in 2020 and what was written in 1911 has only an interest for archivists because our attitudes and ideas have indeed progressed since then. We have experience and precedents to develop better analyses.

See, the difficult thing here is that a lot of that is fair enough, but it's really difficult having a conversation where you're saying this, while ALB is holding up a 1911 piece of anti-anarchist sectarianism as if it was good and useful today. It's a bit "good cop, bad cop". Like, certainly you can stress the similiarities between anarchist critiques of statism and SPGB critiques of minority vanguardism if you want, but the article ALB's recommending doesn't do that, it does the very opposite.

Quote:
I'll end with two light-hearted music videos, you most likely to have already heard but it is a reminder for us.

If we're doing friendly song recommendations, then this one could perhaps be described as splitting the difference between the SPGB and anarchist approaches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-blO7TGTI1E

alb wrote:
I think I have solved the mystery of why Kohn called Stirner "the pionner of anarchism"! It is also the mystery of who -- the anarchists or the Marxists -- done this first...
But the mystery doesn't stop there, as where did Plekhanov get the idea from? Move on to chapter VII on "The Smaller Fry" which begins:

Quote:
Among our present-day Anarchists some, like John Mackay, the author of Die Anarchisten, Kulturgemalde aus dem Ende des xix. Jahrhunderts, declare for individualism, while others – by far the more numerous – call themselves Communists.

Despite his name, John Henry Mackay was German. His book that Plekhanov refers to was published in 1891 and later translated into English and can be read here. In the introduction Mackay states:

Quote:
The nineteenth century has given birth to the idea of Anarchy. In its fourth decade the boundary line between the old world of slavery and the new world of liberty was drawn. For it was in this decade that P. J. Proudhon began the titanic labor of his life with “Qu’est-ce que la propriété?” (1840), and that Max Stirner wrote his immortal work: “Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum” (1845).

He also mentions "my friend Benj. R. Tucker of Boston" who, many years later in 1907 was to have Stirner's work translated and published in English.

Mystery solved. It was anarchists, in 1891, not Marxists, in 1895 or 1896, who first enthroned Stirner as a pioneer of anarchism.

Except that even that Mackay quote credits Proudhon as being first, so even if we're going to take that one book - a book that Plekhanov notes as representing a minority current in anarchism - as being definitive of what "the anarchists" think, then surely "the father" or "the pioneer" would be Proudhon, as Kropotkin said, not Stirner. And I think (if this argument is worth having at all), the difference between "the pioneer" and "a pioneer" is worth bearing in mind.

Quote:
There is another mystery: why didn't the "communist" and "collectivist" anarchists repudiate the individualist anarchists which with they had nothing in common (except opposition to Authority with a capital A)? But they didn't. In his entry on Anarchism for the 1910 edition of the Encylopaedia Britannica (later published as a separate pamphlet) Kropotkin includes Stirner as a pioneer anarchist:
...
Talk about an own goal.

Gordon Bennett! Do you want to quote any more of that section?

Quote:
The final conclusion of that sort of individual anarchism has been indicated by Prof. Basch. It maintains that the aim of all superior civilization is, not to permit all members of the community to develop in a normal way, but to permit certain better endowed individuals ‘fully to develop’, even at the cost of the happiness and the very existence of the mass of mankind. It is thus a return towards the most common individual ism, advocated by all the would-be superior minorities, to which indeed man owes in his history precisely the state and the rest, which these individualists combat. Their individualism goes so far as to end in a negation of their own starting-point — to say nothing of the impossibility for the individual to attain a really full development in the conditions of oppression of the masses by the ‘beautiful aristocracies’. His development would remain unilateral. This is why this direction of thought, notwithstanding its undoubtedly correct and useful advocacy of the full development of each individuality, finds a hearing only in limited artistic and literary circles.

Why didn't Kropotkin repudiate this thing that he very clearly repudiated?
Also, in passing, has anyone mentioned that the original article has the heading "Anarchism Ignores Evolution" and then discusses Kropotkin, the famous evolution-ignorer?

alb
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Feb 16 2020 10:27

“Also, in passing, has anyone mentioned that the original article has the heading "Anarchism Ignores Evolution" and then discusses Kropotkin, the famous evolution-ignored?”

Oh dear! Kohn was talking about social not biological evolution and was making the point that Kropotkin and other anarchists argued that a stateless society could have been established at any point in history, whereas as the Marxian view was that a stateless communist society could only be established as the next stage in the evolution of human society after capitalism had established the material basis for it.

alb
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Feb 16 2020 10:39

I wouldn't say that describing Stirner's book as "remarkable" and writing of anarchist individualism's "undoubtedly correct and useful advocacy of the full development of each individuality" was a "very clear" repudiation.OK he disagreed with them but he still saw them as part of the anarchist family. Now if he had said they were a bunch of wankers (as they were) then I'd be convinced.

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Feb 16 2020 10:40
alb wrote:
“Also, in passing, has anyone mentioned that the original article has the heading "Anarchism Ignores Evolution" and then discusses Kropotkin, the famous evolution-ignored?”

Oh dear! Kohn was talking about social not biological evolution and was making the point that Kropotkin and other anarchists argued that a stateless society could have been established at any point in history, whereas as the Marxian view was that a stateless communist society could only be established as the next stage in the evolution of human society after capitalism had established the material basis for it.

Thank you for helpfully providing that link to a Kropotkin text above, which seems as good a place as any to start testing this claim:

Quote:
In common with most socialists, the anarchists recognize that, like all evolution in nature, the slow evolution of society is followed from time to time by periods of accelerated evolution which are called revolutions; and they think that the era of revolutions is not yet closed. Periods of rapid changes will follow the periods of slow evolution, and these periods must be taken advantage of — not for increasing and widening the powers of the state, but for reducing them, through the organization in every township or commune of the local groups of producers and consumers, as also the regional, and eventually the international, federations of these groups.

If you want to rephrase it as "Peter Kropotkin, the famous social-evolution-ignorer", it still doesn't hold up that well.

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Feb 16 2020 12:11

The material you've provided confirms what I'm saying.

1. The selection from chapter III of Plekhanov's work shows that even the social-democrat here thinks Proudhon came first, with Stirner elaborating the work that Proudhon began. I'd argue it's still untrue -- especially considering how antagonistic Stirner was against Proudhon -- but Plekhanov is saying that Proudhon was the pioneer, not Stirner.

2. The section from chapter VII indicates two things: that John Mackay was an individualist, and that Plekhanov thinks the communist anarchists are "by far more numerous" than the individualists. Two things I've already said.

3. The quote from Mackay clearly states that Proudhon came first.

4. In the entry you've provided from Kropotkin, he is clearly referring to individualists specifically, and really, only German individualists more generally.

Remember, the original claim from the SPGB article that you're defending is not that Stirner was merely a pioneer of anarchism, or was a major influence on individualist anarchists, but that he was the pioneer of anarchism, period, and that his philosophy "lies at the root of all Anarchist teaching". All you've managed to show so far on this count is that social-democrats like Kohn, Plekhanov and Liebeknecht were all intent on emphasising Stirner's prominence in anarchist thought. And it's obvious in the case of Kohn and Liebeknecht that this emphasis is for sectarian reasons.

This is the rest of the section on Stirner in Kropotkin's entry that you've handily left out, emphasis mine:

Quote:
The final conclusion of that sort of individual anarchism has been indicated by Prof. Basch. It maintains that the aim of all superior civilization is, not to permit all members of the community to develop in a normal way, but to permit certain better endowed individuals ‘fully to develop’, even at the cost of the happiness and the very existence of the mass of mankind. It is thus a return towards the most common individual ism, advocated by all the would-be superior minorities, to which indeed man owes in his history precisely the state and the rest, which these individualists combat. Their individualism goes so far as to end in a negation of their own starting-point — to say nothing of the impossibility for the individual to attain a really full development in the conditions of oppression of the masses by the ‘beautiful aristocracies’. His development would remain unilateral. This is why this direction of thought, notwithstanding its undoubtedly correct and useful advocacy of the full development of each individuality, finds a hearing only in limited artistic and literary circles.

A very clear criticism by Kropotkin, mainline social anarchist, of Stirnerite egoism. It should go without saying that Kropotkin does not like "the most common individualism".

EDIT: sorry R Totale, just realised you said a lot this stuff first -- should have refreshed the page before hitting submit

alb
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Feb 16 2020 12:09

The argument is not that most anarchists were individualist-anarchists -- they weren't -- but that some were and that they traced their intellectual ancestry back to Stirner and that it was them who introduced and promoted him and his ideas; and that, while not agreeing with him, Kropotkin was still prepared to accept him as "one of us" (as it were). So, dealing with Stirner in a general criticism of anarchism was not unfair.

Of course Proudhon was the first person to call themself an "anarchist" by which he seems to have meant laissez faire applied to all aspects of society, not just to economic activity. Not denying that either.

As to Kropotkin and social evolution, of course he accepted that this took place. The issue was not that he didn't accept this but that he thought that a stateless society could have been established at any point in history, i.e. even before capitalism had developed. Kohn's criticism was that Kropotkin was an idealist as he thought that social evolution depended on the development of ideas not of the forces of production:

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Feb 16 2020 12:23

But the original claims you were defending were not simply that there were these people called individualist-anarchists, and that Stirner was an influence on them, it was this:

Quote:
The pioneer of Anarchism was Max Stirner, who, in “The Individual and his Property” (published in 1845), expounded the “philosophy” that lies at the root of all Anarchist teaching. The only “reality” that he recognised was that of the individual. In his own words:

I suppose I will take the fact that you're no longer defending and this are trying to shift the goalposts as a sign that you concede Kohn was wrong.

Quote:
Of course Proudhon was the first person to call themself an "anarchist" by which he seems to have meant laissez faire applied to all aspects of society, not just to economic activity.

I mean this sincerely -- please read What is Property.

alb
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Feb 16 2020 13:55

Depends what you think is "the 'philosophy' that lies at the root of all Anarchist teaching". Is it that the individual person is the only "reality" in the sense that they are "sovereign" and are not obliged to accept any external "Authority"?

That is certainly the basis of philosophical anarchism, ancient and modern, and, if William Morris is to believed, it was the view of the Anarchist-Communists who eventually took over the Socialist League and whose views he discusses in this short article and gently mocked in chapter XIV of News from Nowhere where he touches on their view of democracy as "the tyranny of the majority".

If that isn't the "philosophy" that lies at the root of all Anarchist teaching, what is? I'm prepared to listen because the practice of most anarchists differs from this "philosophy" for obvious practical reasons. Workers' unions, and indeed anarchist groups, have to be run on the basis of majority-decision making and the minority accepting majority such decisions, i.e. in effect "submitting" to their "authority". In which case why do they call themselves "anarchist"? Might have been better if they hadn't (like the "syndicalistes révolutionnaires" in France didn't, and don't). That would avoid a lot of confusion.

As to Proudhon, I have read What is Property. In fact I ploughed my way all the way through the veritable tome that is Iain McKay's A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Reader. I can't say that I was impressed. The property which he says is theft is essentially landed property; property in the hands of those who made it is not, and then there's all that stuff about equal wages and a people's bank making interest-free loans. This was no doubt what would have been behind Pannekoek's comment about the "Anarchistic ideal" disclosing itself "as a petty-bourgeois ideal, a yearning for the 'liberty' of the small, independent producer." Not sure it has much relevance to our time, in fact not even in 1911.

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Feb 16 2020 14:38

I don't think that's the philosophy that's at the root of anarchism, and I don't even think it's what Stirner was saying, at least not in the section quoted by Kohn. Stirner was a total egoist who rejected anything that he saw as a constraint on the unique individual, including morality. That is what the quote spells out, and this position was and is relatively marginal within anarchism.

Anarchists don't think that the individual is the only reality, though they do say that nobody should be obliged to accept external authority. This does not mean that any kind of force that operates upon you or every power-differential is to be rejected out of hand -- in What is Property Proudhon makes clear that the only kind of "authority" to be admitted is the law of necessity. Similarly, you can refer to Bakunin's famous passage about the authority of the bootmaker, that Shawn Wilbur has a good analysis of here.

In any case, the anarchist tradition (excluding individualists) broadly believes that the individual is not to be analysed in some isolated form; the viewpoint of Proudhon, Bakunin, etc is that individuality can only be realised in social relations with others. I sound like a broken record recommending him so often on this site, but René Berthier has recently translated a bit of an essay on Proudhon and Law [.pdf] that covers this topic and is worth reading.

The anarchist position on autonomy and protection of minorities against majorities is not a simple rejection of all forms of majority-decision making. Majority-decision making in anarchist groups tends not to be the first port of call in making a decision, but a fall back once other potential methods of solving the problem (eg, consensus-negotiation) have been exhausted, or if is practically impossible to do anything else (eg, if you're dealing with a group of hundreds of people in a room). This is an approach totally in line with what I said before about "the law of necessity" and practicality.

More generally, accepting the decision of a group and going along with it whilst disagreeing with it yourself is not necessarily a sign of submission to authority, but a commitment to group solidarity. If I think our advocacy group should tape our remaining posters to poles along Market Street, but the rest of the group decides that it would be better to tape them to poles along High Street, I haven't been dominated by the majority if I accept their decision and tag along with them on High Street. If it is practical, a different solution could also be negotiated: I could grab only a few of the posters and go alone to Market Street, while they go elsewhere. But, if the group forced me to go with them at the threat of expulsion, then we're beginning to approach something quite different...

A significant part of the job of ensuring social groups -- anarchist or otherwise -- function effectively is cultivating a good balance between solidarity that is above and beyond the sum of the individual parts, and respect for disagreement and dissidence. There's no room for absolutism here, and nor should there be. Different groups have different approaches to these issues. I believe that is a good thing; uniformity should not be confused with unity, and circumstances among people vary so widely that trying to spell out the anarchist way of organising is just the total wrong approach. Real life is complex and we're better off recognising that for what it is instead of trying to impose straitjackets.

If I appear to have suggested otherwise elsewhere in this thread, that is not my intention.

alb
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Feb 16 2020 16:42

This exchange is turning into a crash course in moral and political philosophy and will be very helpful for any student faced with writing an essay on "Why Should I Obey?"

Actually, I don't disagree with your views on decision-making, only I would call it the "philosophy" that is at the root of democracy.. It reflects the view expressed by SPGB member Keith Graham in his 1986 book The Battle of Democracy. Conflict, Consensus and the Individual that democratic decision-making can only work where all those who take part in it are a genuine community with an overall common interest and that its members accept a majority decision because they attach more importance to this common interest than they do to their own opinion (what you call a "commitment to group solidarity").

I hadn't realised, until I followed up the references you gave, that there are anarchists who engage in the same sort of textual analysis of the writings of Proudhon and Bakunin as Marxists do those of Marx and Engels. Don't know why I hadn't, perhaps because I assumed that anarchists would be averse to arguments from authority.

I was bit surprised at the content too. So, both Proudhon and Bakunin accepted that "freedom is the recognition of necessity". This is a view that Plekhanov championed and can also be found in Engels and in Marx. I suppose it bears testimony to the extent to which Hegelian philosophy dominated thinking in the 19th century, on the continent of Europe at least. Personally, I have always been dubious about this definition as it transfers the argument to what is "necessity" which, outside the laws of physics, etc, depends in the end on some theory of what is "human nature". It's all a bit abstract and doesn't sound very anarchistic (or should that be anarchic?).

I notice that René Berthier ends his article on "Proudhon and Law" with a plea for "the revolutionary movement to abandon the reluctance it may have to integrate arguments of legitimacy and law into its thinking and propaganda."

As it happens, this has been discussed too in the SPGB and we have explicitly rejected Berthier's suggestion by banning ourselves, by a conference resolution passed in 1991, from using the word "law" in relation to socialist society:

Quote:
That this Conference recognises that rules and regulations and democratic procedures for making and changing them and for deciding if they have been infringed, will exist in socialist society. Whereas a ruling class depends on the maintenance of laws to ensure control of class society, a classless society obtains social cohesion through its socialisation process without resorting to a coercive machinery. However, in view of the fact that in socialist theory the word "law" means a social rule made and enforced by the state, and in view of the fact that the coercive machinery that is the state will be abolished in socialist society, this Conference decides that it is inappropriate to talk about laws, law courts, a police force and prisons existing in a socialist society.

Who'd have thought it. The SPGB plus anarchiste que les anarchistes.

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Feb 16 2020 18:18
ajjohnstone wrote:
I still stand by my claim that the SPGB can be described as anarchist - in its leader-free party structure that has lasted the test of time, in its anti-state anti-hierarchal aims, its goal of a non-market economy and sometimes if the conditions are correct, in its promotion of activities like the Canadian One Big Union, where the SP of C could be seen as adopting a receptive but hands-off approach to industrial unionism.

There was an entire thread dealing with this "issue". Ocelot's comment from that thread pretty much breaks it down as thorough as is possible. You have never responded to the specific points made in that comment, and you haven't added anything new here to compel us to reconsider our position. So move on and stop repeating your claim in this forum as if it needs to be heard.

alb wrote:
...and that, while not agreeing with him, Kropotkin was still prepared to accept him as "one of us" (as it were). So, dealing with Stirner in a general criticism of anarchism was not unfair.

Do you believe that Kohn's criticism of Stirner was a sufficient way to deliver a blow against anarchism at the time? Kohn doesn't even demonstrate how Stirner's ideas bears any relation to the ranks of the local anarchist movement. I doubt he (or you for that matter) could explain how his ideas informed the way almost all anarchists think and act around 1911.

These discussions just leads me to believe that marxists like yourself just do not understand how political ideas work. You can go after Stirner, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin or any other "pioneer" figure all you want, most anarchists will probably remain unaffected simply due to the fact that none of those figures holds a place within anarchism that is equivalent to the place Marx holds within your 160 varieties of marxism. Anarchism, like most political ideas, have developed quite considerably over it's history. That means any tackling of these figures has to demonstrate their relevance to modern day anarchists.

In regards to the past, e.g. in telling of the history of the First International, anarchists care enough that that history is told in a honest and accurate manner. But they do not have much of a stake in proving that Bakunin was 100% right in every single issue he dealt with. ajjohnstone's comment is typical of another approach to history we often see from marxists.

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Feb 16 2020 18:17

here's the introductory paragraph from an essay from 2007. even though it's only about Proudhon's economics, the same can be said for anyone's allegations about Stirner being the foundation of anarchist philosophy.

"When they’re not busy murdering, ignoring, or desperately courting anarchists as comrades, Marxists frequently resort to dismissive and/or scurrilous accusations. One of the most enduring is the charge that anarchism in and of itself is a petit-bourgeois — they sometimes also add individualist here — ideology. Marx’s correct analysis of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s economic Mutualism as petit-bourgeois is the source of this dismissal; a nearly total absence of Proudhon’s economic ideas among anarchists for the last 150 years, however, has made the continual use by Marxists of this century-old analysis seem silly."

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Feb 16 2020 19:04
alb wrote:
If that isn't the "philosophy" that lies at the root of all Anarchist teaching, what is? I'm prepared to listen because the practice of most anarchists differs from this "philosophy" for obvious practical reasons.

You recognise that 'the practice of most anarchists differs from this "philosophy"', but you have been insisting all along in this thread that that "philosophy" must be at the root of all anarchist teaching. How long have you had that recognition, because surely if you've had it for quite a while, you wouldn't have proceeded the way you have had in this thread. Heck, you probably would not have frequented this forum for nearly ten years. That recognition would have compelled you to seek another explanation of anarchism. But now you inquire as to what else is there at the root of all anarchist teaching.

alb wrote:
Workers' unions, and indeed anarchist groups, have to be run on the basis of majority-decision making and the minority accepting majority such decisions, i.e. in effect "submitting" to their "authority". In which case why do they call themselves "anarchist"? Might have been better if they hadn't (like the "syndicalistes révolutionnaires" in France didn't, and don't). That would avoid a lot of confusion.

There is no confusion. You simply do not understand federalism. If a group of a hundred workers come to agree on majority rule decision making, after careful discussion and weighing of alternatives, that is federalism in practice. There is no elevation of either consensus or majority rule decision making as a matter of principle. Here is another thread you might want to read. There are surely other ones you can find if you search the site.

alb
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Feb 16 2020 20:27

I know what “federalism” is but am not convinced that it is the most effective form for waging the class struggle under capitalism where unity is at a premium in accordance with the fact that unity is strength. I have been in a union federation where sections had their own autonomy and in another industry where there has been an array of sectional unions. The result in both cases was disunion or splits that benefitted the employers. You can’t let local union branches decide whether or not they are going to join a strike if a national decision to do this has been decided, for instance. A higher degree of centralisation is needed than federalism envisages. Once we’ve got rid of capitalism it will be one option amongst many. Still not sure that the indirect election of all central admin committees is necessarily the best though. But it’s not my decision. It’s up to the people around at the time to decide the exact decision-making procedures, as you yourself have hinted at. I imagine some decisions will be taken centrally and some locally.

But, as you also say, this question has been discussed here many, many times before.

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Feb 16 2020 20:50

Once again the thread referred to confirms that my position - whether others agree or disagree was never opportunistic as earlier stated - but based on the principled beliefs I still hold, Agent.

Ocelot agrees much with the claims I made.

Quote:
"AFAICS from the SPGB's writings on the need for abolition of exchange, money, wage labour (and thus bodies of waged workers that make up the state institutions) as an immediate post ruptural task, they can be categorised as libertarian communists in relation to the "goal"."

Quote:
" ajj informs us that the SPGB has an internal culture than is non-hierarchical, non-authoritarian and democratic. I haven't come across any evidence from ex-member accounts to the contrary, so we could say that in terms of process also, the SPGB doesn't appear to have any features that would contradict its libertarian communist goals."

But Ocelot indicates that it is the period of "transition" where the socialist party captures the power of the state to expropriate the capitalist class and ensure that if a recalcitrant and intransigent minority attempts to thwart that process is the point of divergence.

Quote:
"the idea of "seizing" hold of state power to carry out the revolution, especially the sovereign ministeries (ministères régaliens in French - Defence/Army, Interior/Police, Justice/Prisons, Foreign Affairs, Treasury/Tax,State-wages) is definitely not a libertarian communist model of the process of rupturing capitalist class power. And also shows no possibility for transition to the desired wage-less, state-less goal."

I will depend on this ALB's article to differentiate a moment in the revolutionary process
https://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2010/02/myth-of-transition...

Quote:
ALB writes:
"the transition period is a political form between the capture of political power by the working class within capitalist society and the eventual establishment of socialism, a period during which the working class has replaced the capitalist class as the ruling class, i.e. as the controller of state power. The end of this transition period is the establishment of a classless society based on the common ownership and democratic control by the whole of society of the means of production, with the consequent disappearance of the coercive state... for Marx the "transition period" was the period after the capture of political power by the working class and before the actual establishment of the common ownership of the means of production is clear both from his early and his later writings...Since 1900, the working class has still, it is true, needed to organise itself to capture political power in all the various states of the world, and, in this sense, a "political transition period" during which the working class uses state power to establish the common ownership of the means of production, is still necessary. However, since this period would be so short as to be negligible, the concept of a transition period has become outdated..."

Although a socialist society certainly cannot be established at the drop of a hat, there is no need any longer to visualise a lengthy transition. Marx described this "transition", the "dictatorship of the proletariat" but i'm assuming that those here have a sufficient sophisticated understanding of the phrase not to get mixed up with its later interpretation by Leninism.

Marx's views on the need for a transition between capitalism and communism was a product of the times he was living in. In the 1840's, he saw it as a Jacobin-style political dictatorship such as Blanqui. He later came to envisage a system of elected delegates to local committees, as in the Paris Commune. Towards the end of his life he saw it more as a democratic republic based on a majority from a socialist party elected democratically to parliament - ie the SPGB representation.

Now, if an avowed anarchist movement prevails will they not endeavour to repress any attempt at a "slave-owners rebellion". Just what armed force would be used? A disbanded army? A hastily formed citizens militia? Some Marxists such as Engels even supported conscription to facilitate the creation of such an alternative to a standing army. Will that now be an anarchist demand?

Despite Ocelot's reservations, the SPGB believes that socialist ideas will penetrate into the military and under the political command, the majority political power ensures that the social revolution is protected during this transition. Ocelot's actual examples of the military and its assumed loyalty to the ancient regime are very much less pertinent to the debate and as incidental as Princess Anne being Colonel-in-Chief of several regiments, for example.

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Feb 17 2020 05:13

The shift towards necessity as a social regulator is a positive one because it forces us to think not about adherence to abstract principles, or obedience to a set of judicial laws from above, but of specific circumstances, of practicality. Human life is naturally about balance, weighing up our options and seeing how to proceed on a case-by-case basis. This is even more true inside social groups than it is for individuals.

In response to a letter printed in a Milanese paper about the Sonvilier Circular, Bakunin says this, which gets to the heart of the matter, in my view:

Quote:
By the way, this is a rather remarkable article, with which I would have agreed with pleasure, except for one sentence:

'Letters from the General Council assure us that this declaration by the Spaniards is in perfect harmony with its views', as if the view of the General Council had a dogmatic or governmental significance, which would necessarily imply the existence of a single and absolute dogma in the International, and the supposition that the General Council would be the official and binding expression of it; two things we absolutely deny, for then the International would no longer be a free federation but a unitary Church, and the General Council a kind of collective Pope, whose speech, when he speaks ex cathedra, would become law for the entire Association. The General Council has the right to hold all the opinions it pleases to accept, i.e. to be precise, it has every right to be the platform for Marx's opinions, but obviously, these opinions have no more official value than those of any section.

[...] There is no doubt that the intelligent cooperation of scientists who are sympathetic and sincerely devoted to the cause of the proletariat can greatly aid in the birth of popular thought. But one condition is that they never impose their ideas and are content just to offer them.

It is obvious that given the natural diversity of men and especially the enormous difference between the various strata of the proletariat in various countries, relative to the economic and political situation, relative also to their different degrees of education and of their intellectual and moral development, popular thought can never become uniform, absolutely identical in all countries or even in one country, as Mazzini would have it, at least for Italy. But uniformity is not unity at all; it is the abstraction of it, its caput mortuum, its death. Unity is only real and living amid the greatest diversity.

This quote also shows how much you can't ignore anarchism's development in reaction to the religion and the Catholic Church more specifically, but that's a topic for another day.

In the bit you quote, Berthier is not talking about laws in the sense the SPGB apparently means, in terms of "law courts, a police force and prisons". He's not saying the revolutionary movement should adopt those things. You have to ignore the rest of the paper to think this. In the paragraph right before the one you quote, he says this quite succinctly:

Quote:
Law is an expression of social spontaneity in all its contradictions, but, as a body of texts that regulate life, it is only the tip of the iceberg. In line with Proudhonian thought, Bakunin detects behind the codified positive law another, more lively law, the implicit right of the “non-state classes”, which is gradually building up underground and is awaiting its time.

When a full socialism is established, it is that "underground" law that will reign, and it won't look anything like criminal codes.