Submitted by alb on February 12, 2020

This Marxist criticism of anarchism, dating from 1911, has just been put online here.

A reminder of just how all over the place anarchists were before they adopted Marxian economics and theory of history and (some of them) democratically organised majority action and called themselves "libertarian socialists".

Stirner, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta, Jean Grave, they are all dealt with.

Also contains chapter and verse quotes from Commonweal after William Morris left in 1890 and the anarchists took over and ran riot.

Reddebrek

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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 know the SPGB keeps saying that Stirner was father of anarchism, but I've never once seen your publications even demonstrate an influence. Stirners work remained obscure until Tucker translated it, but even he didn't subscribe to Stirner's ideas.

And I also note that every time your group has used stirner as tool to distance anarchism from marxism (or more accurately your own version of it) your criticisms ignore the sections of his work where he talks about the economy and class.

Also see it talks about evolution and Kropotkin but fails to mention Mutual Aid, a work that had been published several years before this series of articles was written. Either the author didn't do much research or its just another hatchet job.

darren p

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

Also see it talks about evolution and Kropotkin but fails to mention Mutual Aid, a work that had been published several years before this series of articles was written. Either the author didn't do much research or its just another hatchet job.

Does seem like a strange omission. Actually "Mutual Aid" was on the SPGB recommended reading list for many years, not sure when it was first recommended (1940s?).

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

What do you think the "lib" in libcom means? Why post this gibberish here? It's no better than the sort of thing any random Leninist sect puts out.

The Anarchist ranks have steadily dwindled in Britain, and their members apathetically drop away. Its Press makes a sporadic appearance. Accusations of being police spies lead to continual recrimination and permanent distrust among the “comrades.” Hence Anarchism’s decline, and its inability to organise the working class.

As opposed to the SPGB, which has been overflowing with members since day 1

ajjohnstone

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

From ALB himself on Kropotkin

https://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2015/07/what-marx-should-have-said-to-kropotkin.html

I don't see any purpose in who can piss the highest charges when it comes to membership and support, sherbu.

You are right the has been a paltry number of workers who joined the SPGB, but equally take a look around this forum and tell me who has done any better. It pains all of us at the negligible effect either the anarchist or left communists or the SPGB have had.

Is it wrong to try and analyse why and suggest the cause? I know it won't please all, but I rarely found any form of criticism pleased everybody.

DarrenP as a teenager first introduced to socialism, it was the Western Socialist that advertised Mutual Aid that led me to getting it and soon afterwards Berkman's ABC of Anarchism that one local anarchist sold around the pubs.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm not trying to start a pissing contest over membership numbers, I know anarchists are broadly insignificant now -- I was trying to point out how silly this article is. It criticises anarchists for being "unable to organise the working class" whilst themselves being unable to organise the working class. Though, with that said, anarchists did do a tremendous amount of organising the working class, in Spain, Italy, France and elsewhere. In 1911, the criticism does not hold up at all.

In general, I like criticism. It's good, and it's good to engage with it. But this is just incredibly bad, riddled with the same kind of smears that Marxists have been repeating since the First International. To go through and rebut them all would be a waste of time, but I'll try and deal with a couple to show what I mean.

The claim that Stirner was the "pioneer of anarchism" whose thought "lies at the root of all Anarchist teaching" is just absurd. It's reasonable to say that Stirner influenced Marxism more than he influenced anarchism -- Bakunin mentions him only once, casually and negatively, whereas Engels was in agreement with him for some time, and Marx felt it necessary to write 300 pages against him.

As far as I know, this particular line of attack about the king of Anarchy Stirner originates with Engels and Liebeknecht in the 1880/90s. You can see it here in this article from Liebeknecht trying to justify the exclusion of libertarians from the Second International, with an absurd argument that admitting anarchists would entail admitting Stirner which would entail admitting Stirner's disciple Eugen Richter, the German liberal, basically one of the only people claiming allegiance to him. Which would entail letting capitalists in the Second International. Like I said, absurd.

This was pointed out by Tcherkesoff in his reply (page 6 of the Sept-Oct 1896 issue found here) where he accurately says that Stirner and Richter are "strangers to our party". It's an article worth reading. Stirner was unknown by anarchists until John Henry Mackay rediscovered him in the late 1880s and spread his ideas among the individualist-anarchists like Tucker. It wasn't until 1898 that Mackay put his biography of Stirner out, and an English edition of Der Einzige und sein Eigentum didn't come out until 1907.

The rest of the article is just as absurd, there's nothing remotely fair or reasonable within it. For instance, it spends paragraphs railing against anarchists as idealists who put too much stock in ideas, then it says this:

The final plea of the Anarchists usually is that politicians always have sold out and always will sell, but this cannot apply to our movement, for informed Socialist men and women are not material for the man on-the make.

In other words, as long as you have the right kind of socialist ideas, you won't get corrupted. Brilliant!

It's not just the article itself that's nonsense, but alb's framing comments too, which is why I addressed my comment to him.

A reminder of just how all over the place anarchists were before they adopted Marxian economics and theory of history and (some of them) democratically organised majority action and called themselves "libertarian socialists".

This gets the history arse-backwards and is a silly, sectarian attempt to chalk anarchism's successes up to Marxism. I don't think anarchists have ever adopted "Marxian economics and theory of history" but if they did, it wasn't until after WWII, when anarchism's relative peak had already passed. Capital influenced Bakunin and some of the other federalists, but Proudhon was a significant influence too, and after the International disintegrated (mainly because of Marx and co.) Marx ceased to be a significant reference point for libertarians. You can look at documents from the French anarchist-syndicalist movement, Spanish movement, etc and not see very much Marx at all, but you will see quite a lot of Proudhon.

As for the "democratically organised majority action" and calling ourselves "libertarian socialists", we have been doing that since the beginning. Perhaps the main role of Bakunin and the other federalists in the First International was to encourage mass proletarian organisation. That's what he wanted the International to be, which explains why he accepted that some sections would seek to run for parliament; he didn't want any single line to be mandated on the sections by the General Council, not even his own collectivist line, since it would inevitably produce splits and “there would be as many Internationals as there were different programs”. And remember, Bakunin and his comrades were much more likely to call themselves collectivists or federalists than they were anarchists, a label some of them were uncomfortable with.

Bakunin wasn't some insurrectionist terrorist, though you wouldn't get that if you believed the lies in the SPGB article.

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

People are not seeing the series of articles in context -- that of 1911. At the time Marxists and Anarchists were going at each other hammer and tongs, and others in the Marxist tradition such as Rosa Luxemburg, Herman Gorter and Anton Pannekoek (and before them, William Morris) were severely critical of the anarchists of the time. Anarchists replied in kind, including calling Marx a German Jew.

I thought it was a well-researched article. Kohn had obviously read anarchist literature widely and had even gone through the files of Commonweal. I can't see how people today can deny that anarchists of the time did endorse and practise "propaganda of the deed" nor that they were influenced by the "philosophical anarchism" of the individualist anarchists. The idea that the individual was sovereign and authority (with a capital A) was the enemy was behind their rejection of democracy as "the tyranny of the majority", which William Morris ridiculed.

As to Stirner, by 1911 his ideas had been known in the English-speaking world for over a decade and had been embraced and propagated by individualist anarchists like Benjamin Tucker as their own (or should that be their Own?). Ok, his work wasn't translated into English till 1907 (not by Tucker himself, incidentally, he just arranged for it to be translated) but his ideas were known. After all, Tucker's paper Liberty was the leading English-language anarchist paper at the time. George Woodcock says of Stirner's book in his Anarchism (which devotes a chapter to Stirner) that "during the 1890s and the Edwardian era it was read widely, both within and outside anarchist circles". A.M. Lewis, the Social Democrat, in his book Ten Blind Leaders of the Blind, published by Charles H. Kerr of Chicago in 1910, lists and discusses Stirner as one of the ten.

In other words, it would have been natural in 1911 to discuss Stirner as a leading anarchist philosopher, and a "pioneer" in the chronological sense. I can understand why the classical anarchists represented here should want to repudiate Stirner and individualist anarchism generally as their descendants are more faithfully represented by what the word "libertarian" means in the US.

I didn't claim that modern-day "classical" anarchists (those who still swear by Proudhon and Bakunin) had in the meantime been influenced by Marx's ideas. This is far from being the case. In fact, they are still hostile to Marx as ever, even if they have dropped calling him a German Jew. I was talking of those here who run this site and prefer to call themselves "libertarian communists" and "libertarian socialists" than anarchists, In fact, Marxian economics and his theory of history seem to dominate many discussions here.

Yes, Kropotkin was the best of a bad bunch. Malatesta wasn't too bad either. At least they were communists, as opposed to advocates of an economy of workers' cooperatives producing for the market ("market anarchists", as it were). Kropotkin, however, rather blotted his copybook in the end by supporting one side in the First World Slaughter, suggesting that much of his anti-Marxism was inspired by anti-Germanism. He was joined by two others Kohn cites, Jean Grave and Tcherkesoff, and by … Benjamin Tucker.

Anyway, I thought the articles were of historical interest as an example of the polemics of the time and a useful complement to John Quail's The Slow Burning Fuse.

comradeEmma

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

What do you think the "lib" in libcom means? Why post this gibberish here? It's no better than the sort of thing any random Leninist sect puts out.

Shouldn't it be that the random "leninist sects" sounds like the SPGB considering this text came out a good or two decade before anything resembling leninists sects started appearing.

The part about legality that draws on Engels is good though since I think it is an aspect of Engels and Marx' politics not often brought up, even if this representation is a bit vulgar and limited.

With merciless criticism he destroyed the fanciful representation of the all-powerful barricade and destroyed the hope of the European reaction that the labourers could be provoked to a street-fight in which they could be repulsed with decimated ranks. He showed how the revolution in the art of warfare had made the old form of struggle impossible, while a new weapon had been provided for the labouring class in the new political right of suffrage against which the ruling class were helpless. ‘The irony of the world’s history,’ says Engels, ‘ places everything on its head. We, the “revolutionaries,” the “overturners,” we succeed better with the legal means than with illegality and force.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oh give me a break. What anarchists were calling Marx a German Jew in 1911? Nothing about this article is well-researched; the author clearly went through a few anarchist papers looking for gotchas to attack anarchists with. That's not good research.

Anarchists had been involved in the dumb "propaganda of the deed" terror attacks, true, but by 1911 that period had passed. Probably the majority opinion was now for libertarians to be active in the labour movement. Which is something this article attacks anyway. This isn't just an attack on insurrectionism but all anarchists, period. It's not some reasoned critique but a typical smear article that you'd expect from a social democrat in 1911. The main aim is to make anarchists look bad, truth be damned.

At no point do I deny Stirner having an influence over anarchists, particular individualists. But a) those individualists were and are a minority among anarchists, and b) this article doesn't claim that Stirner merely had an influence, but that he was the pioneer of anarchism and that his thought was at the root of all anarchist thinking. Just ridiculous, and I think you know it, which is why you're trying to shift the discussion away to a general one about Stirner having an impact, and ignoring most of the other points I made.

Kropotkin, Tcherkesoff, Grave, etc "blotted their copybook" by supporting the war, yes, but I don't think Marxists can throw stones here.

In the first half of the 1900s, anarchists were involved in the labour organisation of perhaps millions of workers, and they would play a central role in several revolutions, most obviously the Spanish. What was the equivalent "peak" for the SPGB in the corresponding period? This isn't a fairly researched criticism, it's a pathetic hit-piece designed to make all anarchists look bad and the SPGB look great. It is no better than any of the other sectarian hit pieces you get from the SWP or whatever: anarchism is bad, our sect is great.

ajjohnstone

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

We all reach our present political positions carrying our own baggage, and sometimes we do not even see the baggage on our backs. And if we do become aware of it, we are often reluctant to jettison it.

Re-fighting old battles don't get us anywhere so I do have some sympathy for sherbu's attitude. 1911 isn't 2020 and we have witnessed an evolution in anarchist thought and practice such as propaganda by the deed as no longer part of the ideology (although I suppose the Angry Brigade was the last gasp) The pamphlet, "You can't blow up a social relationship" expresses the current prevailing view.

Syndicalism and the industrial unionism have developed from the simplistic "mines for the miners and dust for the dustmen" analysis and now expanded to include neighbourhood community voices and non-working persons in their organisational projections and not just work-places. Yes, even the SPGB have changed attitudes and emphasis since the time I first joined in the 1970s and re-joined in the 2000s.

ALB has made the case that the article is reflective of the times, hence if I understand correctly it was publishing something from the SPGB's history's archive. Was it representative of the political situation in 1911, probably. Does it inform us any better of the relationship of anarchism and marxism today, probably not at all.

Do there still exist differences between the SPGB and many on this website. Most definitely.

Political action through parliament to capture the State. And the precedence over that approach of industrial action and workers councils. There is also lesser differences in matters of degree of the role respective organisations take in the class struggle and how class consciousness arises. But those latter are not fundamental disagreements as the former is but issues for comradely debate.

As an SPGBer, who remains committed to advocating for our corner, I see that our pamphlet "What's wrong with using Parliament" does express the flexibility of its position if situations and conditions call for a non-parliamentary struggle but where is the anarchist case to support workers if they strategically and tactically choose to prioritise voting in elections to gain political power.

I'm not going to get into a deep discussion of the role of anarchism in the class struggle but merely point out one important distinction. Syndicalism doesn't equate to anarchism and Bookchin's study of the FAI and the CNT in his book 'Spanish Anarchists the Heroic Years' brings out the contradictions

Serge Forward

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just for the record, I've been involved with the anarchist 'movement' (for want of a better word) for 40 years, and in all that time, I've never met a single Stirnerite.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

But I don't think this article would have meant much even in 1911...

We all need to look back at history without rose-coloured glasses and look clearly at strengths and weakness, when we did right, when we did wrong. Lord knows anarchists can be as bad at mangling history as Marxists. But alb is not promoting an honest view of history at all, quite the opposite. The article might be of historical interest to someone studying early 20th century polemics against anarchism, but it certainly doesn't say anything reasonable about anarchism either then or now. It's not a "classic criticism of classical anarchism", and it's not remotely well-researched.

If we want to look at how syndicalism and anarchism has evolved, we can do that. But without the muddle. To take the issue of "neighbourhood community voices and non-working persons", obviously there's been more of an emphasis on it these days as opposed to a hundred years ago, but even then, the question was not alien to them. As an example, at the founding congress of the CNT in 1911, they discussed how to include the disabled in their activity -- see here, CTRL+F "This Commission faces an extremely difficult problem".

The article was bad in 1911, and I don't understand why alb would want to pretend otherwise in 2020. The only explanation that comes to mind is the usual sectarianism, our sect is better than yours, bla bla bla.

On syndicalism, you're right that it's not synonymous with anarchism but it's not like this article was attempting to be careful about that point. First it says that the only alternative to individual action (defined as propaganda of the deed terrorism) is political action (defined as "action pursued through the channels of local and national control and government"). Anticipating a response that syndicalism is an avenue too, it just goes on to rubbish it and anything associated with it. Eg attacking the CGT as undemocratic for allowing small unions to have the same votes as big ones. This particular criticism just makes me think the author doesn't understand what federalism is. Would someone of his mindset get mad knowing that Tuvalu (pop: 11000) has the same vote in the UN General Assembly as China (pop: 1.4b)?

I also just noticed the bizarre racism in the next paragraph:

Owing to the tempestuous, excitable nature of the people of southern climes, [the French] are more prone to display and impetuous action than other races. Hence the sudden strikes and the equally sudden and sad collapse of them.

I also agree with Serge about Stirnerites, they're altogether marginal, at least among social anarchists. I've only ever seen bonafide Stirnerites on the internet and in all my readings of history I haven't come across that many of them that weren't just died in the wool individualists -- the only exceptions I can think of are Emma Goldman and some of the Glaswegian anarcho-communists.

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

To tell the truth, I've never met a Stirnerite either. But we would have in 1911 as his ideas were then held and propagated by many prominent anarchist thinkers, so no article on anarchism at the time could have avoided mentioning them. In any event, Kohn was not saying that all anarchists were Stirnerites, just noting (following some anarchists) that he was a pioneer of anarchist ideas. Stirnerism is just an intellectual pose anyway but there were plenty of anarchist poseurs around at the time.

The main criticisms of the article is directed a (1) "propaganda of the deed"; (2) the fact that a minority of anarchists had hijacked the leaderhip of the CGT in France and had let it into a number of failed strikes; (3) the proposition that capitalism could be overthrown by a general strike; (4) the idea that history was motivated by pure ideas rather material, economic factors; (5) opposition to political action.

You say (1) was unfair as by 1911 this had died out. Maybe (but the Siege of Sidney Street and Peter the Painter took place in 1911) but, in any event, this is what some anarchists had done or defended within the previous 10-20 years (The King of Italy had been assassinated in 1900 and the US President in 1901). Saying that someone writing in 1911 shouldn't comment on events that were part of the living memory of people over 30 is like saying that somebody today shouldn't mention 9/11. Any article written in 1911 would have had to mention this.

As to (2), was it or was it not the case that the federal structure of the CGT enabled a minority of anarchists to control the organisation? Did they or did they not justify this on the grounds that "a conscious minority" could and should act on behalf of and lead the majority? In other words, they were not democrats and didn't claim to be, but were, in today's terminology "vanguardists".

On (3) Kohn quotes Malatesta's trenchant criticism of the idea that capitalism could be overthrown by a general strike. It was also the basis of Luxemburg's and Pannekoek's criticism of the "anarcho-syndicalists". So what was wrong with making that point?

On (4) this would have no practical implications but did distinguish anarchist thinkers from Marxists.

On (5) Kohn does say that, where they exist, political action does involve elections and going into parliament. I wouldn't expect any anarchist to agree with that but you seem to have missed this passage:

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.

I don't know why you are getting so upset as you seem to agree with some, most in fact, of Kohn's criticisms of the anarchists of the time, i.e that Stirner was an idiot; that assassinations and bomb-throwing were "dumb"; and that capitalism cannot be overthrown by a simple general strike. If you had been alive in 1911 intellectually honesty would have compelled you to have expressed these criticisms too.

Auld-bod

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I don’t think it proves anything, though I have met several Glaswegians who claimed to be Stirnerites or egoists.

Robert Lynn (https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/4qrg24) and a number of his comrades often argued that Stirner’s ideas were the bedrock of their anarchism. My rejection of his ideas and my preference for Kropotkin was seen as a wee bit suspicious (added to my activism inside my union, and a belief in direct democracy – the horror, the horror!).

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If I wrote an article saying that Marxism is a totally stupid, fundamentally totalitarian doctrine, made up by Germanic Northern Europeans who are unable to understand liberty on account of their racial characteristics, how would you respond? Would you say "hmm, a fair article really, some Marxists are totalitarians" or reject it as a low-quality hit piece?

You're trying to pretty up the article and make it sound more reasonable than it is. Kohn was not merely noting that Stirner was a "pioneer of anarchist ideas" (which would be a false claim it in of itself) but trying to make the claim that his thought "lies at the root of all Anarchist teaching". He wants to do this so he can quote one of Stirner's most absurd passages and then smear all anarchists with it.

1. I'm not saying it should be verboten to bring up the propaganda of the deed actions, I'm saying you can't smear all anarchists as terrorists because of it, when most anarchists -- certainly at the time it was written -- rejected such acts.

2. The federal structure of the CGT allowed revolutionary syndicalists (anarchist or no) to have the power they did, yes. It also allowed them to lose that power. It was not a system set up purely for their benefit, but a system totally in accord with the federalism that stretched back to the First International and beyond. 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.

More generally, it's a confederation of unions, not a mass section in of itself. The basic unit of the confederation is not the individual but the constituent union. You only find this odd because it allowed anarchists to be influential for a period. Like I said before -- do you get mad that the Tuvalu has the same vote as China in the UN General Assembly?

I concede that the anarchists and other syndicalists didn't consider themselves to be democrats. I don't think that's a problem though.

3. Though I disagree with it, I don't have any major issue with that criticism being raised. I have an issue with sectarian smear articles.

4. Proudhon didn't think like that. Bakunin didn't think like that. I can't think of any anarchist who has thought like that. It's an absurd claim. The Proudhon quote Kohn cites is ripped completely out of context to the point that it's nearly incomprehensible (the definitions of "political constitution" and "social constitution" are not given and need to be), but even in this form you can tell it's not being utopian, it's the opposite of that. He's saying that the social constitution is something that emerges out of experience, the practical interplay of forces in real life. It's not something that you can draw a picture perfect image of in advance.

The people who come out as idealists in this exchange are the ones that think "informed Socialist men and women" will never sell out, that having the right ideas will immunise you from the pressure of capitalism and government. What could go wrong with that attitude?

5. I didn't say that these people were incapable of advocating revolutionary action so I don't know what relevance this has. In the article, Kohn criticises Malatesta for saying that political action doesn't need to involve parliaments, that killing a king can be considered political too. To counter, Kohn says that political action necessarily includes parliaments -- "therefore Politics DO include Parliament". What part of all this are you disputing?

Since I've responded to your list of questions, please respond to some of mine, that I have already asked but you've ignored:

1. Which anarchists were calling Marx a German Jew in 1911?

2. In 1911, anarchists were involved in the organisation of hundreds of thousands of members of the working class. What was the SPGB doing in the same period, that allowed it to talk of anarchism's "inability to organise the working class"?

Every time I read this article, I find another shitty thing about it. It claims that anarchists are constantly accusing each other of being spies -- "accusations of being police spies lead to continual recrimination and permanent distrust among the “comrades" -- then they themselves go on to accuse anarchists of being spies -- "Just so with the members of the Anarchist groups. It is often difficult to find out which are the genuine “comrades” and which the spies".

It also repeats the baseless smear about Bakunin maybe being a spy, here:

Marx believed in effective organisation, strong and well knit, and political action as against street fights. The unscrupulous methods Bakunine used to smash the International from within, together with his past, often laid him under suspicion of being a spy, but against his intrigues the sturdy Socialist pioneer proved too strong.

It doesn't endorse it, but you know, just throws it out there, maybe he was a spy, maybe he wasn't, you never know, but he certainly did act like one.

Never mind that actions of "the sturdy Socialist pioneer" led to virtually every section of the IMWA abandoning Marx and going over to the side of the federalists...

Black Badger

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

time travel is fun! in 1911 it was not at all clear that propaganda by the deed was finished as a strategy (there were plenty of such acts in Russia, for example, leading up to the 1917 revolution, and the actions of the so-called Bonnot Gang, which would grab the radical imagination in France, was just beginning, and the soon-to-be outlawed CNT in Spain would soon start their campaigns of direct action, which often included assassination, especially during the years of "pistolerismo"). imperfect general strikes were soon to be more common, but that's no reason to think that the strategy as a whole was flawed; indeed, it could be argued that the mass mutinies in the Russian army coupled with the industrial work stoppages in Petrograd and Moscow in 1917 were a general strike, and we know what happened to tsarism...
the 1911 SPGB screed is typical of anti-anarchist rants by socialists: a bad faith hatchet job relying on one or more straw men, containing deliberate misreadings, and overflowing with guilt-by-(false) association
but yeah, time travel is fun. what's that saying about hindsight?

comradeEmma

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

the 1911 SPGB screed is typical of anti-anarchist rants by socialists: a bad faith hatchet job relying on one or more straw men, containing deliberate misreadings, and overflowing with guilt-by-(false) association
but yeah, time travel is fun. what's that saying about hindsight?

I think 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 is not like anyone calls Rosa Luxemburg's text The Mass Strike a leninist sect text because she calls the Russian anarchists bandits and French syndicalists "half-anarchists", and that the social-democrats(SPD) is the most class conscious vanguard. Is the only difference that the SPD actually was the largest organisation in Germany at the time?

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Imagine if Kohn had described anarchism as

a tendency “revolutionary” in the most naked pitchfork sense

and as

the ideological signboard of the counter-revolutionary lumpenproletariat

or as

practical helps to the reaction

As Luxemburg did in 1906:

In the next chapter she said of anarchism:

For the anarchist there exist only two things as material suppositions of his “revolutionary” speculations – first, imagination, and second goodwill and courage to rescue humanity from the existing capitalist vale of tears. This fanciful mode of reasoning sixty years ago gave the result that the mass strike was the shortest, surest and easiest means of springing into the better social future. The same mode of reasoning recently gave the result that the trade-union struggle was the only real “direct action of the masses” and also the only real revolutionary struggle – which, as is well known, is the latest notion of the French and Italian “syndicalists.” The fatal thing for anarchism has always been that the methods of struggle improvised in the air were not only a reckoning without their host, that is, they were purely utopian, but that they, while not reckoning in the least with the despised evil reality, unexpectedly became in this evil reality, practical helps to the reaction, where previously they had only been, for the most part, revolutionary speculations.

Is your knife ready Sherbu-kleer?

Black Badger

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb, are you saying that Rosa Luxemburg is beyond reproach for using similar bullshit dismissals? if so, why? because she's Rosa Luxemburg and not Kohn?
i want to make sure i understand your provocation

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Why do you think I care what Rosa Luxemburg said?

ajjohnstone

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If we are to explore the growth of anarchist ideas, why have we omitted the influence of William Godwin. Although, I have never met anyone who claimed to be a Godwinist (Godwinite?) but should we disavow him in the annals of anarchism?

I tried to bring the discussion to a contemporary debate on the contrasting approaches of present day anarchists/council communists/syndicalists/SPGB but the historical perspective seems to have deepened somewhat.

I have always been sympathetic to Joseph Dietzgen position
"The terms anarchist, socialist, communist should be so "mixed" together, that no muddlehead could tell which is which. Language serves not only the purpose of distinguishing things but also of uniting them - for it is dialectic." June 9, 1886

On anarchists and socialists generally, he said:
"For my part, I lay little stress on the distinction, whether a man is an anarchist or a socialist, because it seems to me that too much weight is attributed to this difference...While the anarchists may have mad and brainless individuals in their ranks, the socialists have an abundance of cowards. For this reason I care as much for one as the other...The majority in both camps are still in great need of education, and this will bring about a reconciliation in time" - April 20, 1886

Emma's mention of the SPD is relevant. I have read that the early SPGB aspired to be a class-based party similar to the SPD but without its reformism and revisionism. It was something the SPGB failed to achieve. Perhaps my fellow members and those within the anarchist and left communist tradition should be discussing why a mass organisation didn't materialise rather than casting stones in a glass house.

Sherbu's point of Spain becomes a bit more relevant as does the experience of the KAPD, IWW etc...was it solely because of State repression that they did not bear more permanent fruit when we look around the world today?

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Of course Luxemburg is not beyond criticism. My point was that Kohn's analysis of anarchism was not an isolated one by a small breakaway party, but an expression of the mainstream contemporary Marxist criticism of the anarchism of the time. So ad hominem arguments against Kohn won't do.

Obviously Luxemburg was over the top in describing anarchism as "the ideological signboard of the counter-revolutionary lumpenproletariat" but here is Anton Pannekoek in 1913 using the same arguments as Kohn:

"Among all modern Utopian systems, Anarchism in its various forms has become the most influential and significant for the labor movement. In countries that have remained backward in capitalistic development, where the government is in the hands of a small, corrupt clique serving only special petty interests, instead of in the hands of an energetic capitalist class that has strongly organized the power of the State, the Anarchistic watchword, abstinence from corrupting politics, meets with ready response among the workers. Thus it was for a long time in Italy, thus it is still in Spain. 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."

"In Kropotkin's famous work, "The Conquest of Bread," the workers are advised, when the revolution breaks out, to throw off all authority and to establish no new authority, but to combine into free laboring groups. All that could result from this is co-operative, or private, petty industry. The Anarchistic ideal discloses itself here as a petty-bourgeois ideal, a yearning for the "liberty" of the small, independent producer; some Anarchists, who call themselves the most logical, even put their theory into practice and settle as hermits upon some small estate, far removed from the tumult of world conflicts and development."

"This idea often prevails among those who seek exact definitions of Socialism and Anarchism, in order to answer the question whether the Anarchists also belong to the great family of Socialists, and whether they are justly or unjustly rejected by the Social-Democrats as illegitimate "brothers." Practically, the question is not of the slightest importance; we fight the Anarchists most energetically, in spite of the fact that they call themselves enemies of capitalism, because they are enemies of the working class movement; because their propaganda always threatens to destroy organization and discipline, the chief weapons of the proletariat in its struggles, and tends to divert the workers from the most important part of their struggle, the conquest of the power of the State. And so it is not because of a formal definition, but in the interests of the practical struggle, that we regard the Anarchists as opponents who do not belong to our Socialist movement."

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I still don't understand what point you're making or why you're bringing up people like Luxemburg or Pannekoek -- do you think I'm a council communist? That Kohn is expressing sentiments common among the Marxists of the time is not exactly relevant. My issue with him isn't that I think he's being unique or something.

If anything, the fact he's repeating the mainline social-democratic view is a mark against him -- a certain big thing would happen in Germany in 1914 that would register mainline social democracy as very obviously bankrupt in the eyes of any serious socialist. The kind of big thing that anarchists would have been able to predict.

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think it is rather obvious that you are not even a council communist but a dyed-in-the-wool pure and simple anarchist and so an inveterate opponent of Marx and everything Marxist.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Finally, we can agree on something!

BigFluffyTail

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If anything, the fact he's repeating the mainline social-democratic view is a mark against him -- a certain big thing would happen in Germany in 1914 that would register mainline social democracy very obviously bankrupt in the eyes of any serious socialist, but something that anarchists would have been able to predict.

I don't think criticizing an SPGBer via WW1 is the best argumentation you could've gone for there. Especially considering that organizations outside of political parties, like the CGT in France, found themselves in the same position as the social-democrats (Union Sacrée). Something anarchists most certainly didn't predict.

Just to stir more shit in this thread, I'd like to point out that Marx's reading and critique of Stirner profoundly influenced his thinking. It's rarely picked up on but I believe both David McLellan and Michel Henry wrote on the subject. If anything, he's the most 'individualistic' here. In a very different way from Stirner and his individual as pure consciousness of course.

Black Badger

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think it is rather obvious that you are not even a council communist but a dyed-in-the-wool pure and simple anarchist and so an inveterate opponent of Marx and everything Marxist.

even though it's not precisely accurate, obviously it's not much of an insult. in fact, i'd say that it's exactly the same kind of dismissal you've been quoting and promoting all along. Marxist and non-Marxist socialists have been dismissing and condemning anarchists (and other unaffiliated radicals too, by the way) for not being Marxists or socialists since the time of the First International, if not before. it's not much of an argument. most anarchists don't simply dismiss Marxists and non-Marxist socialists for being insufficiently anti-statist; sozis don't (usually) say they are against the state, so how much sense does it make to condemn them for not adhering to a position they never said they hold? in short, alb, make your point using something like good faith and you might get a more fruitful discussion.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

That's a fair point BigFluffyTail, but could it not be the case that the hostility of the German social-democrats to direct anti-militarism could have been a contributing factor in the decision of the CGT to join the Union Sacrée? For a while prior to the war, French socialists had tried to organise anti-militarist resolutions with the German socialists calling for a general strike on the outbreak of war, but they were rebuffed.

You are French so you would know more about this than I do but I could see this as contributing to an unwillingness on the part of CGT leaders to act against the war, seeing as it was unlikely their actions would be reciprocated in kind by their equivalents in Germany. Doesn't justify the decision of course and there were plenty of other factors at play but it could explain it somewhat.

To me this is relevant to the SPGB article, because of:

a) The claim about "informed socialist men and women" being impervious to corruption or betrayal of principles was proven wrong by the decision of the SPD to vote for war credits -- unless alb wants to make the claim that they weren't informed enough, or were the wrong kind of informed -- at which point you may as well replace "well-informed socialist" in that bit with "SPGB member".

b) The broad anti-general strike attitude, opposing on principle one of the only tactics that could have possibly stopped the war as it was just beginning, thus holding significant value to the working class.

On the Marx and Stirner thing, I don't know a lot about it but I've read that after the episode with Stirner's thinking, Marx shed some of the humanist concepts he had gotten from Feuerbach. Do you remember the names of the texts where McLellan or Henry go into it?

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Marx, for one, said he was against the state and envisaged as the next stage in human social evolution a society without a coercive organisation standing above and dominating society. Maximillien Rubel even argued that he was the first theorist of anarchism. Engels made a similar claim in a letter he wrote in January 1884:

In case Mr von der Mark or anyone else should again speak of our 'concessions' to the anarchists, we had proclaimed the cessation [Aufhören] of the state before the anarchists even existed: Misere de la philosophie, page 177:
'La classe laborieuse substituera, dans son développement, à l'ancienne société civile une association qui excluera les classes et leur antagonisme, et il n'y aura plus de pouvoir politique proprement dit, puisque le pouvoir politique est précisément le résumé officiel de l'antagonisme dans la société civile.'' '
Manifesto, end of Section II:
'When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared ... the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another.'' (Letter to E. Bernstein, 28 January 1884)

[The passage in French, which was the language Marx wrote it in, is from the Poverty of Philosophy that was published in 1847, reads in English: "The working class, in the course of its development, will substitute for the old civil society an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will be no more political power properly so-called, since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society."]

Who was the first: Marx or Stirner? How about a tie: Stirner as the first individualist anarchist and Marx as the first anti-state communist. The latter is incontestable as, as early as 1844, Marx was arguing, long before any self-styled "anarchists" did, for a society without a state, money or working for wages based on the common ownership of the means of production -- to be established by political action.

Red Marriott

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Alb claims the article shows how "all over the place" anarchists were until they adopted "marxian economics' and labelled themselves “libertarian socialist”. That might be true if the article's description of anarchist history was accurate but it's not, it's rubbish. Anarchists have used the terms libertarian & socialist since the 1850s. From early in their history – during Marx’s lifetime - anarchists weren’t generally opposed to his theories of economics. Eg, Bakunin made the first Russian translation of the Communist manifesto in the 1860s and began the first translation of Das Kapital which was finished by N. Danielson and published in 1872.

Stirner wasn't "the pioneer of anarchism" and that claim alone reveals the shallow historical ignorance of the article and its promoters. He was a contemporary and social acquaintance of his fellow Young Hegelians Marx, Engels & Bakunin. He wrote one obscure philosophical book (published in 1844) which had little, if any, influence on anarchist activity in the labour movement of the time. If one is to judge who was most influenced by it according to who wrote the most about it that would probably be Marx & Engels, whose German Ideology contains a long section criticising Stirner’s book. But, according to historian D. McLellan, the influence on Marx was considerable;

McLellan asserts that Stirner's influence on Marx has been under-estimated and that he "played a very important role in the development of Marx's thought by detaching him from the influence of Feuerbach", his static materialism and his abstract humanism. Stirner's critique of communism (which Marx considered a caricature) also obliged Marx to refine his own definition. Stirner's concept of the "creative ego" is also said to have influenced Marx's concept of "praxis". https://libcom.org/history/stirner-feurbach-marx-young-hegelians-david-mclellan

Not that you’d know about such subtle aspects of the subject if you believed the simplistic claims peddled here by SPGB.

The method of argument is also dishonest; despite claiming to show how muddle-headed anarchist thinking is the article cherry picks quotes from various authors and sews them together as supposed evidence of a uniform strawman anarchist creed. They ignore that the individualists, communist, collectivist, syndicalist etc anarchists are distinct currents due to differences of opinion and tactics. One may as well critique the SPGB’s marxism with references to stalinism.

Kohn article

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.

What irony - from the party that idealistically and mechanically clings, since 1904, to notions of their eventual parliamentary conquest as the primary force of global change in the face of all historical experience to the contrary; pitiful handfuls of votes and all. One might’ve thought that if the ‘democratic will of the people’ is given such central importance as an indicator that its absolute rejection of the SPGB throughout its history would give pause for reconsideration of the voting tactic.
Kohn

Those who follow in the Anarchists’ footsteps and ramble in the Utopian wilderness, but delay the time when they must inevitably come to see that the Socialist Party of Great Britain alone is sound, for its aims are revolutionary, its methods scientific, and its working democratic.
Loyalty to its principles and devotion to its aims will do far more to hasten the workers’ emancipation than the will-’o-the-wisp notions of Anarchists and the dangerous policy they pursue.

Yes, history since 1911 has “inevitably” proved the superiority of the SPGB method.

As for quoting Pannekoek; Pannekoek took account of historical experience and developments in class struggle to soon reject parliamentarism as a useful method – whereas the SPGB’s rigid eternal fetish of bourgeois democratic voting (reducing ‘class consciousness’ to a parliamentary majority) has led it to “ramble in the Utopian wilderness” for 100+ years.
Kohn

Political machinery, then, in modern society, includes, as its central feature, Parliament, and the Socialists, in urging the workers to displace their enemies from that citadel, are but pointing the right road. Parliament controls “supplies” — the force against Court and Bureaucracy alike. Through its control over “supplies” it rules the Army, though it employs a War Minister, and he in turn an Army Council, to arrange details. Political control relies eventually upon power over the armed forces, and these are under the control of Parliament.

It seems the SPGB have never heard of such things as military coups or states of emergency. Nor considered the role of mutinies, probably because such things are ‘undemocratic’ and against the ‘sovereignty’ of their sacred bourgeois Parliament.

Not only do you not have the sense to be embarrassed by this crap article, you actually want to revive it and troll it. And yet a few years ago, when there was what appeared to be a brief rise in anarchism’s popularity, 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). Like any political current, there are plenty of valid and useful criticisms of historical anarchist theory & practice that could be made. This article is not a contribution to that.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This is probably going to be my last reply as this is getting a bit like talking to a brick wall, but calling Marx an anarchist is just silly. You can't be saying this in good-faith. Anarchism is not merely a stateless endpoint but a method of getting there, a set of principles, a philosophy about organisation, and more.

Anarchism as we know it largely came from two key sources: Proudhon, and the development of the federalist current in the First International -- those that had grouped around Bakunin, Guillaume, etc. Marx opposed this current with all his might, even before they started calling themselves anarchists -- remember, Bakunin preferred not to use the term to describe himself, and Guillaume said the term was in bad taste. Anarchism only became the preferred term after Marx had helped fracture the International and the libertarians began to embark on their own project.

Proudhon published What is Property? in 1840, in which he explicitly claims he is an anarchist, something neither Marx nor Stirner ever did.

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

You criticise Kohn for saying:

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:

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:

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):

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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:

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:

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

ajjohnstone

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"...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-parliament/#9

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.

R Totale

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

comradeEmma

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

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

Two passages in Kohn's article have been ignored:

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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?

comradeEmma

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

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.

Agent of the I…

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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?

R Totale

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ajjohnstone

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,

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"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

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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:

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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":

"“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:

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:

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:

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.

R Totale

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ajjohnstone

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.

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

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:

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:

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.

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?

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

“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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

R Totale

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

“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:

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.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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:

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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:

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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:

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.

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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:

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.

Agent of the I…

1 year 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ajjohnstone

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

...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.

Black Badger

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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."

Agent of the I…

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

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

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

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

ajjohnstone

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

"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"."

" 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.

"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-transitional-society.html

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.

sherbu-kteer

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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:

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:

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.

Spikymike

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

ajj again misses Ocelot's previous correct contesting of the spgb's 'strategy' (or lack of it) in contrasting their politics to those of most others on this site whether from an anarchist, libertarian, left, council or other genuine communist tradition. Still this discussion has proved a bit more interesting, in it's highlighting of some differences and similarities beyond different uses of terminology, than might have been expected from alb's misplaced posting here of an outdated piece of polemic from 1911.

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Misplaced? Where should it have been placed? Is there a section somewhere for historical documents, if you can direct me to it.

ajjohnstone

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikey, just to relate that earlier exchange with this one, I highlight something that I replied to Ocelot

Ocelot, your contribution I think made me think the most. I think I did mention that much of the SPGB politics were in response of repudiating rival theories. Syndicalism and industrial unionism was an example. I accept there was what I would in retrospect describe as over-compensation by viewing the ballot box as the primary process (and all members still accept control of political power, political action, is a necessity). However, it was never treated as the sole process to the exclusion of industrial action

I think the 1911 articles is an example of this...1911 contemporary politics led to Kohn over-compensating in his critique.

The trouble with the many I hold a sympathetic view of is that it is they and not the SPGB which have illusions of grandeur. How often have I said that neither of our traditions have any presence within the any social movement and again I raise the question of why.

Some declare the SPGB weakness is in its anti-reformism, or it's our position of leaving participation in various struggles to individual members and not make it a party-line to be imposed. Others say it is that the SPGB gives precedence to political action, rather than industrial action.

If there is truth in these claims then I would fully expect those groups who exercise different tactics to be showing more success. Has the left-wing immediate demands platforms brought a significant growth to the left? Has political party endorsements and entrism produced success?

But let me be more personal...anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, IWW or SLP industrial unionism, are just as invisible as the SPGB.

What are the problems that we and those here share alike that makes us ineffective and ineffectual, if our strategy is mistaken and their practice is the correct approach? Where are the fruits of their better analyses and action? Simple request. I do not see any. So someone please answer. If we are wrong and you are right, why are we both in the same place. Explain it to me.

Our malaise is something that goes deeper. I have suggested to my own party that we hold a dedicated conference to tap into our collective knowledge for some resolution to this dilemma. I suggested we invite non-SPGBers to such a conference for their input.

But truth be told, I have not found Libcom website participants any more open to self-criticism than my own party.

If we do not try to identify why we have so far failed as political expressions, we won't progress. We'll stagnate and again a survey of the exchanges and engagements on this website over the last couple of years, demonstrate that it is not connecting with many outside our shrinking traditions. Things around the world are indeed developing in what I hope is a positive direction but it is not due to our influence and it is independent of what we say or what we do, Spikey.

Enough doom and gloom...My glass is half-empty...fill it up with some optimism

Spikymike

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb, Well just misplaced on this particular site at all, with it's promotion of an outdated polemical piece, short of any useful historical context or updating and including the particular emphasis on Stirner's influence to pursue an argument with anarchists on this site who by and large reject that influence. And I'm presuming you disagree with ajj about the spgb's anarchism.

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I was afraid that that was what you meant, ie that criticisms of anarchism are misplaced on this site. I must say that there has been a change since I used to be on here before. Then there were more self-described “Marxists”, not just the boring ICC but Council Communists, Libertarian Socialists and the like. Now it seems to be more exclusively anarchist.

I would have thought that a Marxist criticism of anarchism in 1911 would have been as of just as much historical interest and relevance as an anarchist criticism of Marxists in 1911. Or, for that matter, any document from that period relating to anarchism.

There was no particular emphasis on Stirner’s influence, merely a couple of paragraphs in the introduction. Most of the article was a criticism of “propaganda of the deed” (bomb throwing and assassinations) and of the idea that capitalism could be overthrown by economic action alone (one big general strike) as well as if the suicidal tactics of the CGT under anarchist control.

As far as I can see, the anarchists here go along with these other criticisms. Perhaps that was why they chose to concentrate on the Stirner reference and to steer the discussion in that direction.

Of course as the SPGB stands and always has for a stateless as well as moneyless and wageless society it could be categorised as “anarchist”, as it was by George Walford who use to think he was insulting us by calling us the Anarcho-Socialist Party of Great Britain. Quite clever actually and a more easily understandable short-hand description than “impossiblist”.

Black Badger

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

No, alb, what’s misplaced on this site are century-old bad faith rants overflowing with deliberate misreadings and easily countered distortions. What’s misplaced on this site are scurrilous screeds promoted as self-evident fact, as if the burlesque dismissals of 1911 were somehow unimpeachably relevant to 2020. What’s also misplaced is the way you’ve made yourself a victim of the big bad anarchists, who know our own history a little better than you and your pals. What’s misplaced are your hurt feelings at being exposed as a political charlatan.

Red Marriott

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

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

Who indeed? Only someone who fails to understand the differences between parliamentarism and anti-parliamentarism. Only someone who doesn’t grasp the poverty of recycling historically illiterate hack smear jobs as the height of their Party’s theoretical product. Only someone who doesn’t realise how much that reveals about their personal slavish Party loyalty, that Party’s sectarian rivalry and its theoretical bankruptcy.

Misplaced? Where should it have been placed?

In the dustbin of history where it belongs.

alb

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I thought you were made of sterner stuff.

ajjohnstone

2 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I can admit certain failings of my organisation and unlike a few of my fellow-members I decline to pass the blame on to my fellow-workers' refusal to heed the socialist message.

But once again and this time instead of the pot calling the kettle black, where is the evidence that any organised group on the Libcom website has performed any better than the SPGB?

Members? Readership? Website traffic?

Easy enough to call SPGBers slavish and sectarian with your own unspoken of "hostility clause" but the proof of the pudding is in the eating...and just where, as I asked before, is any sign that your groups are an indication of the way forward for the non-market socialist tradition.

Are you a growing organisation and replacing those who have fallen by the wayside with age, infirmity and death with fresh blood, or merely recirculating the same people in new versions of old groups?

Organisational splits - we have all experienced them, have we not? But what caused them all. I can only talk of the SPGB.

What spurred the last SPGB one which led to the expulsion of branches and prominent and respected writers and speakers of the SPGB, members we were hardly in a position to lose?

In their words:
The SPGB "carried a resolution calling for the immediate abolition of the State: an anarchist proposition";
that we "gave support to non Socialist democratic reform movements";
that our journal "congratulated the university students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square on their courage in facing up to the armed forces of the State";
which were all signs that the SPGB "was rapidly deteriorating into a mere anti-capitalist reform party."

Although those criticisms were wildly exaggerated, for me it wasn't a negative, as it signalled that there was indeed a new attitude within the SPGB. (As a IWW member I was no longer refused membership as Wobblies had been previously.)

I rejoined the SPGB because it was evident that it was not a monument but a movement.

For sure, it moves at a glacial speed, but evolve it does yet still retaining its core principles that has given it a longevity that so many other organisations have failed to achieve.

Any anorak can give you a long list of extinct left-wing political parties who all claimed to know the answer with their slogans and manifestoes but the most painful one surely must be the end of the SLP. And according to Fred Thompson's history of the IWW by the end of the 1950s, it had about 90 members and they mostly old-timers. It was heading also to the grave but then the 1960s happened and IWW ideas resonated with a new generation and it revived.

That reversal is why i cling on to libertarian socialism, that our respective organisations and the ideas that we present in our differing ways, will eventually relate with people who are coming to realise that present society needs revolutionary change but are still unclear in what is meant by revolutionary. Once more i return to the "Thin Red Line" and our arguments for non-market socialism.

I'll leave the decision on the way we get to it to my fellow-workers who'll not base activity on abstract theoretical principles but on practical pragmatic political action, whether through parliament or outside it, depending upon how people view it, not what "sectarian" articles from 1911 say or an anarchist or Left Communist "party-line dogma."

For me, workers will always find the most effective way to respond to political realities, they will adopt, adapt or drop methods and tactics as they see fit. But what is missing has always been a clear vision of the goal. At one time in history we did coalesced around a common aim despite our different labels...anarchist, impossiblist, labourite.

In todays world, the environmentalists are out on the streets in such numbers we have not seen engaged in politics for many decades and the only answer they are being given or hearing is the statist Green New Deal as the panacea.

It is not the age of us that is the problem, look at Sanders and Chomsky - geriatrics - but geriatrics presenting ideas that younger folk are associating with. That is our failure. We no longer are communicating with our audience. We aren't connecting with people.

Tell me why. Tell me how we can.

Red Marriott

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This thread is about the idiocy of posting here a crap article and the shoddy motives behind it. Your stock response to criticism is always 'yes, the Party isn't perfect but your refusal to accept us as libertarian is sectarian' (ironic in light of the Kohn article) 'and anyway your orgs aren't doing any better organisationally; can't we all get along and come up with some magic organisational formula?'.
Which is all a diversion really from specifics of this thread. So you have one Party hack posting a brain-dead anti-anarchist pile of crap and the other pleading to be accepted by anarchists as anarchist while proudly stating the supposed coherence of Party ideas. Are you even aware of the blatant insane contradictions?

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And once again I find what appears to be some element of fear of looking in the mirror at one's own movement's inadequacies.

Rather than make any plea for acceptance or engage in a sterile exchange of invectives, what i'm saying is that if we in the SPGB are wrong, what makes you so damn sure that you are right...when there is little empirical evidence to justify such a conclusion. I'm suggesting that perhaps, just perhaps, we both hold part of the answer. But as it is, I don't hold out an optimistic prognosis for either of us, the way things are going.

If raising such an issue is off-topic then so-fucking-be-it but be perfectly clear upon who is being sectarian and slavish.

What I am very aware of, is that I encounter the exact same attitude that you are expressing from some in my own party - and if I was you, I would be very worried about that and start asking yourself why it is?

Red Marriott

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And once again I find what appears to be some element of fear of looking in the mirror at one's own movement's inadequacies.

Rather than make any plea for acceptance or engage in a sterile exchange of invectives, what i'm saying is that if we in the SPGB are wrong, what makes you so damn sure that you are right.

I'm not speaking on behalf of any movement or its rightness. I'm just pointing out the historical inaccuracy, petty sectarianism and bad faith of the SPGB on this thread. And, as usual, to avoid those points you go off into vague generalisations and competitive comparisons.

What I am very aware of, is that I encounter the exact same attitude that you are expressing from some in my own party - and if I was you, I would be very worried about that and start asking yourself why it is?

On asking myself that; why do two separate groups have a similar reaction to you, even one that is supposed to be more sympathetic? Maybe they accurately see the same faults. If you & Alb waffle and bullsh#t internally as you have here I'm not surprised you get that reaction.

Black Badger

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I thought you were made of sterner stuff.

well, no silly. apparently we are made of Stirner stuff...

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hope this is not misplaced, Spikey, but this discussion reminded me of a position on "Marxism and Anarchism" from the past. So I looked up my copies of Subversion and found this from number 8, dating from 1991 (so next year, under the 30 year rule it will qualify as a hustorical document) and then found it is on this site here.

Here's some extracts:

Indeed, we consider ourselves "Marxist" in the sense that we support Marx's method of analysis. We support Historical Materialism and Marx's economic analysis of Capitalism, and while we are very sparing with a term so misused as "dialectic", we nonetheless feel that this understanding of class struggle (and reality in general) as a dynamic process really does mark us out from many other people (including some styling themselves "Marxists").

However, this doesn't mean we accept the political practice of either Marx or the "Marxist Movement" or regard the latter as a "glorious tradition" whose torch we hold aloft.

In fact, we regard the notion of Marxist and Anarchist traditions as only holding back revolutionaries today who hold on to either of them - an important element in the development of revolutionary ideas is the rejection of past ideas in the light of the experience of history, and the 19th Century split between Anarchism & Marxism has little bearing on the class line between revolution and reaction today, as revolutionaries today need to REJECT more than they accept of BOTH traditions.

and

On your final point about the “reunification” of the two traditions, we simply repeat what we said above. These two traditions are more negative than positive and the conflict between them is nothing to do with us. It's time to look to the Future !

So a plague on both our houses? To tell the truth, I had assumed that this was the predominating view of those on Libcom. If I had thought it was a pure Anarchist site I wouldn't have bothered since what would have been the point? I could have predicted the response.

Spikymike

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb, There is plenty of material and a reasonable proportion of discussion from time to time on this site from Marxist influenced sources that still gets objections from other anarchists. As is apparent to most I have no objections in principle to the spgb's posting stuff on this site and have sometimes posted links to particular articles from the socialist standard here as well when I thought them relevant to an ongoing discussion. Just thought this particular posting of yours wasn't helpful in this case. Thanks for posting the link to that Subversion text which seems sound advice even if it still leaves open much to criticise (and maybe surpass) in both traditions. Perhaps you might consider in retrospect that your posting here wasn't in that same spirit?

Agent of the I…

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

Of course as the SPGB stands and always has for a stateless as well as moneyless and wageless society it could be categorised as “anarchist”...

You are either clearly out of the loop or choose not to fully grasp and appreciate what genuine libertarians have had to say on why SPGBers are excluded from such categorisation. That they share with anarchists the same ultimate vision of a post capitalist society, and are more so explicit about it than other strands of marxism, certainly helps distinguish that politics within the broader marxist camp. But that it not the sole criteria for inclusion in anarchism. That should have been clear by now, especially if you had bother to look at that thread I linked to earlier. The added bonus of the party's leaderless organisational structure also does not suffice. If you desire to further contest this issue, please do so in that thread.

In my view, it is the SPGB's apparent emphasis on the 'classless, stateless, moneyless' vision which have gravitated a few of them to keep company with anarchists. This is probably where ajjohnstone's desire to have their party's politics categorised as anarchist stem from, failing to see the oddity of wanting to be seen of being part of a tradition which basic principals or concepts they and their party do not share and even holds disdain towards. These principals (federalism, direct action, social revolution, etc.), passed from generation to next, would be obvious indication of being of the same tradition. But the SPGBers here are committed to political action and centralism, something they share with social democrats and leninists. These are reflective of fundamental differences in how the process of social transformation is conceived.

Thus follows ajjohnstone's absurd comparing of the successes or failures of the World Socialist movement presumably with all of anarchism. I'm not sure why anyone would find it helpful to make such comparison. Don't you think the World Socialist Party of the US would do themselves a favor to look at the growth of the DSA, rather than spend time comparing themselves to the anarchist movement in the US? Your frequent reminder of anarchism's lack of impact in the world today, constantly equated to the World Socialist movement's irrelevance is a bit silly.

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Rather than address the hard question of why there has not been any significant progress in our respective movements, (and that was the question, not a comparison with every global organisation calling itself socialist or representing itself as anarchist but those groups who use this website), it seems nobody is even willing to offer any response.

For some in the SPGB it is always going to be a matter of plodding along doing the same thing until we all die of old age

For the anarchists and left-communists, it is all about continuing to re-invent the wheel until they all die of old age.

Meanwhile, millions of youngsters are out in the streets challenging the status quo, even opposing the legitimacy of governments, and demanding some sort of change in the system.

It is pitiful, and I mean really pitiful, that none of us are facing up to the fact that scarcely any of them has heard of non-market socialism as an alternative to what they are being told are solutions.

Are we all in such a state of denial that we do not dare to ask why we are so out of touch with such a potentially receptive audience?

Sigh

Black Badger

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

nice attempt to change the subject...

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Change the subject?

I've been trying to say the same since message #5

But you can only lead a horse to water, you can't make it drink.

Just to add to the indignation of some here, another link

https://socialiststandardmyspace.blogspot.com/2020/02/debate-is-there-common-ground-between.html

I draw your attention to the comment by John Crump

"...As far as achieving a stateless society is concerned, all we have to go on is the empirical evidence. The SPGB's parliamentary approach has brought it scant success after more than 80 years, and the anarcho-communists have equally little to show for their efforts after more than 100 years. My own view is that the question of how we achieve the new society will be settled by the millions of men and women who will be the architects of the new world. It is just as pointless to attempt to lay down a blueprint now for the means of achieving the new society as it is to formulate a blueprint for the precise workings of that society. Our task here and now is to play our part in winning people over from a capitalist way of looking at the world to a communist way. The SPGB has a role to play here — and so have the anarcho-communists. I know this from personal experience, since both these currents influenced me on my way to becoming a communist."

Expressing much of what i'm thinking and saying.

Battlescarred

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Speak for yourself AJJ, I've been out on every climate strike in London handing out anarchist communist propaganda. Didn't see the SPGB there ( or many other anarchists for that matter)

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Actually, we were giving out socialist leaflets (i.e., saying that capitalism was to blame and that the only framework within which the problem could be tackled rationally was a worldwide society where the Earth’s natural and industrial resources had become the common heritage of all humanity) at this one on 20 September in London and also in Manchester.

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Battlescarred, I know there are many individual dedicated political activists here doing their best and I would not like to tar them all with the same brush.

Kudos to yourself.

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

“Of course, the precise details of the revolutionary change will differ from country to country depending on the political conditions (where legal ballots do not exist or cannot be trusted the workers must create our own) and it will also differ in accordance with different creative ideas about what needs to be done before the establishment of socialism which will emerge as the socialist movement grows…
… We should build on whatever ideas we have in common. It is pointless for workers who share a vision of a stateless society based on the uncompromised principles of socialism to be endlessly squabbling over the texts of the nineteenth century [or 1911 or 1987, ajj ]. If the ranks of the revolutionary movement can be swelled on the basis of principled unity it would be wrong for anyone to delay the process…”

https://socialiststandardmyspace.blogspot.com/2020/02/debate-is-there-common-ground-between.html

Battlescarred

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yeah, and misquoting Meltzer, who would never have argued for reforming capitalism

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbWQLLXfI2w

I think this is the bit

48 minutes into the video...

"...you have to think in terms of supporting every struggle that goes on providing it is moving towards that society otherwise it is talking airy-fairy nonsense and we will be carrying on forever..."

I think it perhaps very much over-inflating the claim that supporting reforms which may further the establishment of a new society is reformism...after all the SPGB supports certain reforms that increases the power of the workers or facilitates the advancement of socialist ideas although it does not advocate reforms as a political policy which would be reformism

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just for the record, Ruth Kinna's chapter on William Morris and anarchism in this book mentioned on another thread gives a more balanced explanation (and reply) as to why other pre-WW1 Marxists in England framed their criticism of anarchism in the way they did.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It's chapter 3 of this book here.

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Coincidental to this thread is this article.

http://libcom.org/blog/what-egoism-01032020

"I believe that is the value in egoism as a philosophy, and together with other nihilistic, postmodernist literature in philosophy, and that is why we must start reading Stirner and be free."

Rob Ray

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

For some in the SPGB it is always going to be a matter of plodding along doing the same thing until we all die of old age

For the anarchists and left-communists, it is all about continuing to re-invent the wheel until they all die of old age.

For some it's moaning about how shit everyone else is being and "oh why can't you be more level-headed and constructive, like me" until they die of old age.

On the general topic btw, if you read the old Freedoms from the time, ie. the main/only extant British paper of its kind in the 1890s-1910s — listed throughout as "a Journal of Anarchist Communism" — it's quite clear that Stirner, while respected as a pioneering voice and a founding force in individualist anarchism, is not in fact extraordinarily influential. He's listed by Paul Eltzbache rin the hugely popular 1900 summary work Anarchism for example as one of several leading voices of anarchism, the others being Kropotkin, Proudhon, Tolstoy, Bakunin and Godwin. Of those the three strongest influences were quite clearly Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin, who for all their many faults are very definitely not Stirnerites or individualists, and Kohn comes across as utterly absurd in attempting to make them so.

The really bonkers thing about this thread is the insistence that Stirner being an early writer gave him claim to be the founder of anarchism. He might be the founder of a strand of anarchistic thinking, but that's really not the same thing, it's like saying Hegel founded Marxism because the latter drew on some of his ideas.

Anarcho

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Rob Ray

The really bonkers thing about this thread is this insistence that Stirner being an early writer gave him claim to be the "founder" of anarchism. He might be the founder of a strand of anarchistic thinking, but that's really not the same thing, it's like saying Hegel founded Marxism because the latter drew on some of his ideas.

It is worse than that as Stirner had absolutely no influence on anarchism until his rediscovery in the 1890s and then mostly on the Individualist-wing. In fact, he had far more influence on Marx -- although that did not stop him proclaiming Bakunin as advocating Stirnerised-Proudhonism (if I recall correctly). The notion of Stirner as being a "founder" of anarchism or the anarchist par excellent is a Marxist myth -- the real origins of anarchism lie in Proudhon and the Federalist-wing of the First International.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Actually the offending article from 1911 did not say that Stirner was the “founder” of anarchism. The word used was “pioneer”; in other words that he was the first in a chronological sense to express the idea of a stateless society in some sort of coherent form — though this is open to challenge as Marx had argued for a society without a state in 1843 (in ‘On the Jewish Question’).

Things went bonkers when a couple of anarchists refused to accept that Stirner’s ideas were popular at the time in some anarchists circles to the extent that the sources you quote acknowledge. It was them who changed the word “pioneer” to “founder” and led the debate off in that direction.

Rob Ray

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

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.

Don't be disingenuous. "The" pioneer "at the root of all Anarchist teaching" is in no way ambiguous.

Honestly though it baffles me you thought something that poorly-wrought would fly. The man's dropping sneer quotes in every chance he gets like some sort of drunk A-level student for goodness' sake, woffling on about Proudhon's attitude to trade unionism as though anarchists weren't directly involved in organising the largest Europe-wide syndicalist revolt to date at the very moment of writing.

And then there's you talking about "anarchism being all over the place" as though the left as a whole wasn't veering between utter bollocks and epic successes throughout the period. It's a puerile attack piece sacrificing clarity for snark and your supporting comments have been no better.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

That depends on what you think is at the root of anarchist thinking — the idea of a stateless society or the principle of anti-authoritarianism.

Rob Ray

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Either/or in coherent linear pattern. You fucking child.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So you are saying it is both? Fair enough.

Rob Ray

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm saying Kings and Queens is the child's way of approaching history. You want a nice clean historic theoretical enemy to pit your nice clean theoretical framework against, but it doesn't work like that.

You can say Godwin or you can say Proudhon, or maybe you can say Sam Mainwaring or Ambrose Cuddon, or whatever face from whatever era you think will serve your case, but they're all just picks from among the mass who you've decided should represent Anarchism. It's simplistic, self-serving and ultimately cheapens learning on the subject.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I have nothing against the idea of a stateless society ie a society in which the administrative centre or centres do not have armed force at their disposal. In fact I am all for it, in the context of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life. I have no affinity with those who want a stateless society without this.

It’s general “anti-authoritarianism” that I’m dubious about and I don’t agree with the rejection of any use whatsoever of the ballot box. That’s why I am not an anarchist even though I want to see established a stateless society now — without some lengthy “transition period” during which the state would continue to exist, I hasten to add.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Anarcho

[Stirner] had far more influence on Marx -- although that did not stop him proclaiming Bakunin as advocating Stirnerised-Proudhonism (if I recall correctly).

Maybe Stirner did have some influence on the development of Marx’s philosophical ideas though not of course about a society without a state since that was already Marx’s view before Stirner criticised Feuerbach. And, incidentally, could be said to have influenced Bakunin in the same sort of sense since he too moved in the same intellectual circle at the time (1840s). But can you recall more clearly where Marx would have referred to Bakunin as advocating “Stirnerised-Proudhonism”?

This would have had to have been in a private letter rather than being “proclaimed” publicly as who in the IWMA in the 1870s would have heard of Stirner except Marx, Bakunin, Engels and Max Hess? Everybody would have heard of Proudhon of course but Stirner?

Anyway can you be more precise?

Black Badger

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Max Hess

?
i hope this is merely a careless carryover from Stirner rather than your sincere invocation. surely you mean Moses Hess.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well spotted. Moses (ex Moritz) Hess was a member of the IWMA. Good bloke before he went all Zionist. Introduced Engels and Marx to communism in the 1840s. Opposed Bakunin’s bid to take over the IWMA. Bakunin didn’t like him for well-known reasons.

Agent of the I…

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

It’s general “anti-authoritarianism” that I’m dubious about and I don’t agree with the rejection of any use whatsoever of the ballot box. That’s why I am not an anarchist even though I want to see established a stateless society now — without some lengthy “transition period” during which the state would continue to exist, I hasten to add.

Your ballot box serves the same function as that pesky 'transitional period', emblematic of an antiquated way of thinking about social transformation.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It wouldn’t just be the ballot box on its own of course but that in addition to democratic self-organisation outside parliament, the icing on the cake as it were. But I don’t want to derail this thread in that direction. I was just explaining why I wanted a stateless society but wasn’t an anarchist.

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"Your ballot box serves the same function as that pesky 'transitional period', emblematic of an antiquated way of thinking about social transformation."

Those who are privileged enough to possess the ability to use the ballot box seem to forget those who do not.

Recently there has been two differing experiences.

In Hong Kong where local community elections provided the means of expressing and organising discontent.

Then there was the Iranian elections where boycott and abstentions reflected the distrust of the way the ballot box was controlled by the State.

Workers will not turn their back on the electoral system as such if it can be used constructively. However, when it cannot be, other strategies will be chosen.

I tend to agree with James Connolly during the 1908 IWW dispute that making "rules" to discourage workers from using the vote will stop them from using it.

He later spelt it out clearer that it should not be an either/or choice

"I am inclined to ask all and sundry amongst our comrades if there is any necessity for this presumption of antagonism between the industrialist and the political advocate of socialism. I cannot see any. I believe that such supposed necessity only exists in the minds of the mere theorists or doctrinaires. The practical fighter in the work-a-day world makes no such distinction. He fights, and he votes; he votes and he fights. He may not always, he does not always, vote right; nor yet does he always fight when and as he should. But I do not see that his failure to vote right is to be construed into a reason for advising him not to vote at all; nor yet why a failure to strike properly should be used as a gibe at the strike weapon, and a reason for advising him to place his whole reliance upon votes."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1914/05/changes.htm

It has always been the consciousness of the voters behind the vote that is decisive. To exclude, a priori, one means of resistance is a sign of a dogmatist.

The SPGB has never argued that social change will ever be only through parliamentarianism without starting first in the minds and actions of working people.

I make no apologies for what many cannot accept here that we can speculate and offer our own predictions on the future with a view to workers' organisation and action, but the way we unite the diversity of multiple movements and work together in solidarity is by a common vision.

Revolutionary activity is to provide a catalyst, to increase and spur on understanding through sharing our acquired knowledge for the self-emancipation of our class. Without a core acceptance of a libertarian socialist consciousness there always exists the threat of a movement being hijacked by reformist and gradualist leaders and diverted into a variety of pro-capitalist directions.

The SPGB role is a limited one. It will exercise hard-won electoral rights along with the right to protest and resist outside Parliament.

Unlike others who present and project socialism as a long-drawn out transitional period, the SPGB and those of the Thin Red Line aspire socialism as an immediacy.

But, before Spikeymike reminds us with the various links, we have been through this difference of views many times before on Libcom.

BigFluffyTail

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I believe Hess is one of the authors of The German Ideology too.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, I think a few pages are attributed to him. Also from this time (1845) this published article arguing for a moneyless, communist society.

Spikymike

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Just in relation to ajj's post#104 it's true of course that in present circumstances we can't stop workers voting in capitalist elections but genuine communists can analyse, criticise and intervene in such 'democracy movements' relating to their positive and negative aspects as we see them, as here for example:
http://libcom.org/library/hong-kong-struggle-struggle-bourgeois-freedoms-trapped-within-limits-capitalism-politica
Not quite the same assessment as the spgb of course!

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Since we are now discussing elections, the famous (now notorious) 1911 article makes the claim about the anarchists who then controlled the CGT:

They condemn political action but vote for the politicians who promise Government subsidies for union premises !

I have been trying to find confirmation of this claim but all I have been able to find so far is this article in French. But it doesn't seem implausible. The "Bourses de Travail", which were union premises, were subsidised by the local municipalities (rather than the national Government) and, according to the French article, in the period after the failure of the 1906 general strike (to get the 8 hour day) some municipalities withdrew the subsidy to the local Bourse de Travail. In these circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising (and would even make some sense from a trade union point of view) if the local CGT urged voters to vote for candidates who promised to restore the subsidy.

French trade unions at the time were so weak that they had to rely on the support of Bourse de Travail premises to operate. Which brings up something Rob Ray claimed, in regard to criticism of Proudhon's anti-trade unionism:

as though anarchists weren't directly involved in organising the largest Europe-wide syndicalist revolt to date at the very moment of writing

Of course the anarchists who controlled the CGT were involved in trade-union action in France in face of the rising cost of living (reflecting a fall in the valueof gold) that sparked off industrial unrest throughout Europe at this time, but they didn't organise the strike actions in Britain or Germany or Belgium.

For a contemporary account by someone living and working in France at the time of the 1910 French rsilwayworkers strike, there is this:

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2018/1910s/no-75-november-1910/french-strike-impressions-man-spot-2/

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Indeed we do find our assessments differing, Spikeymike, just as we would have when the Russian Revolution had a choice of Bolshevism or support for the Constituent Assembly - party rule or democracy (even if it meant the government of the SRs for the time being.)

In regards to Hong Kong rather than advocating a suicidal street rebellion against the overwhelming power of the totalitarian State, taking advantage of whatever democracy existed as a means of expressing the desire for greater and more meaningful democracy surely was common-sense. Do we neglect or ignore the other actions and strategies of the Hong Kong people - the protests and general strikes - of course not. Mass demonstrations plus the vote.

When a mass movement gets off the ground and the opportunity to vote exists, the movement will use the ballot box. The same can be expected to apply to the movement for socialism, leaving anarchists, left-communists and other anti-parliamentarianists on the side-lines as working people go to the polling stations. Self-emancipation of the workers means not imposing ones own ideological baggage.

Is their struggle for socialism, the non-market economy, that we aspire towards, no, not yet. Are they struggling for the ways and means that socialism can be established, yes, they are. It means accepting the limitations imposed by social conditions and circumstances as Marx explains when he talks about that we make our own history.

"We do not only need a revolution of our government, a revolution of our institutions, a revolution of our society, a revolution of our relationships, a revolution of our culture: our first step must be a revolution of ourselves."
https://lausan.hk/2019/revolutionizing-our-times/

Spikymike

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Perhaps ajj hasn't read the text I linked to? or otherwise failed to understand it. Either way their response above demonstrates the usual inability to distinguish the practice of working class power for class interests from cross class campaigns of capitalist political reform. They may cross over sometimes but they are not the same. ajj now thinks he knows ''what the movement'' WILL DO! He used to be more circumspect.

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, Spikeymike, I read it, and probably I did not understand it fully as it was a very long article that tried to encompass everything so perhaps I did get lost in the detail but I noticed where it approvingly cites another Libcom article by a small workers' group, it then ignores that article's other comments when it did not go along with its own narrative. I'm referring to the role of foreign powers and associating parts of the democracy movement appeals with them.) Nor did the participation in those local elections was perceived as benefitting or legitimising the State, as accused of in the article.

I thought the quote I used served as the link to my chain of thought (and the SPGB's)....that it is consciousness of those involved and participating in the class struggle that is paramount. Once more I repeat that our role is to ensure that the socialist goal is clearly defined and that we try to coalesce the movement around it.

If my words have been badly chosen that it gives the impression that I pre-determine the actions of fellow-workers in resistance to capitalism rather than leave the choice of tactics to them as their situation see fit then mea culpa.

But I do imagine that workers will use each and every instrument in their political toolbox to meet the need when it arises. If, however, they pick what may well be the wrong tool to use, then, of course, it is right to criticise. For yourself, you hold the ballot box is an inappropriate one. I, on the other hand, felt choosing the electoral option can be inspired, under particular circumstances.

Anarcho

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

Maybe Stirner did have some influence on the development of Marx’s philosophical ideas though not of course about a society without a state since that was already Marx’s view before Stirner criticised Feuerbach.

I do think you are underestimating the impact of Stirner on Marx.

alb

And, incidentally, could be said to have influenced Bakunin in the same sort of sense since he too moved in the same intellectual circle at the time (1840s).

Yet Bakunin did not produce a massive and somewhat unreadable book about Stirner... so I would say that the influence was far more. As Mark Leier notes, "there is no evidence of this . . . Bakunin mentions Stirner precisely once in his collected works, and then only in passing . . . as far as can be determined, Bakunin had no interest, even a negative one, in Stirner's ideas." (Bakunin: The Creative Passion, 97)

alb

But can you recall more clearly where Marx would have referred to Bakunin as advocating “Stirnerised-Proudhonism”?

This would have had to have been in a private letter rather than being “proclaimed” publicly as who in the IWMA in the 1870s would have heard of Stirner except Marx, Bakunin, Engels and Max Hess? Everybody would have heard of Proudhon of course but Stirner?

Anyway can you be more precise?

Luckily An Anarchist FAQ comes to my aid:

Thus we find Engels talking about "Stirner, the great prophet of contemporary anarchism - Bakunin has taken a great deal from him . . . Bakunin blended [Stirner] with Proudhon and labelled the blend 'anarchism'" For Marx, "Bakunin has merely translated Proudhon's and Stirner's anarchy into the crude language of the Tartars." [Marx, Engels and Lenin, Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 175 and p. 153] In reality, of course, Stirner was essentially unknown to the anarchist movement until his book was rediscovered in the late nineteenth century and even then his impact was limited. In terms of Bakunin, while his debt to Proudhon is well known and obvious, the link with Stirner seems to have existed only in the heads of Marx and Engels.

These are from private letters, if I recall correctly. Anyway, I've read a lot of Bakunin and he I think he mentions Stirner about twice and, if I recall correctly, only in the context of rememberances of his time amongst the Left-Hegelians in the 1840s. There is no discussion of Stirner's ideas directly but lots of criticism of bourgeois individualism (Marx considered Stirner as an exaggerated form of this so you could say these comments are also directed against Stirner, but I would not as they are obviously directed towards mainstream bourgeois individualism).

There is no evidence that Stirner influenced anyone beyond Marx until the 1890s -- Bakunin included (and I doubt Proudhon even had heard his name never mind knew of his works).

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks. That's helped track down the references. That Moscow publication on Marx, Engels and (oh dear) Lenin on "Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism" is actually in the library on this site.

The Marx quote is from some notes he wrote for himself in 1874/5 on Bakunin's Statism and Anarchism and that was not published until 1926 as Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy. It's actually a very good reply to Bakunin's attack on elections and universal suffrage even in socialism. It's also the only place where Marx used the term "workers' state" but without really accepting it, only using it because Bakunin had used it in his criticism. Marx himself critised the term "People's State" as "nonsense", though recognising that it was used, mistakenly, by his supporters in Germany.

The version on the link above is only an extract which, for some unexplained reason, omits the passage about Bakunin translating "Proudhon and Stirner's anarchy" into Tartar). In any event, this was in a private note meant only for himself. Presumably, he was recalling the days thirty years previously when he had crossed swords with Stirner who had also criticised the State on anti-authoritarian grounds.

The one from Engels is from his Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy that was published in 1886. Besides the quote given about Bakunin blending Stirner with Proudhon, there's another where he calls Stirner "the prophet of contemporary anarchism" adding "Bakunin has taken a great deal from him". Apparently, Engels couldn't resist a couple of digs at his old adversary. If he was suggesting that Bakunin literally consciously took some of his ideas from Stirner, as opposed to holding ideas that were in some respects similar, then he was being unfair.

As to the extent to which Marx was "influenced" by Stirner, it is true that he wrote a long polemic criticising Stirner's individualism but just because you criticise someone doesn't mean you have been influenced by them. What they had in common -- and Bakunin too -- was that in the mid-1840s there were both "left" Hegelians. Personally, I don't think that either Marx or Bakunin were influenced by Stirner's ideas.

BigFluffyTail

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It's less that Marx was influenced by Stirner and more that his thorough criticism of Stirner helped him clarify his own ideas. While we're add it should we address Max Adler's love for Stirner?

Anarcho

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

Thanks. That's helped track down the references. That Moscow publication on Marx, Engels and (oh dear) Lenin on "Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism" is actually in the library on this site.

Yes, well, there is a lot of rubbish on this site -- not least the ICC and the authoritarian "left-communist" nonsense which some people take seriously.... and seem to think is somehow libertarian.

alb

The Marx quote is from some notes he wrote for himself in 1874/5 on Bakunin's Statism and Anarchism and that was not published until 1926 as Conspectus of Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy. It's actually a very good reply to Bakunin's attack on elections and universal suffrage even in socialism. It's also the only place where Marx used the term "workers' state" but without really accepting it, only using it because Bakunin had used it in his criticism.

It actually is not. Marx completely misses the point time and time again -- for example, "A fine idea, that the rule of labour involves the subjugation of land labour!" Someone should have mentioned that to the Bolsheviks -- but the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in the nineteenth century meant the rule of a minority class (the proletariat) over the majority (the peasants) as Marx admits in this very work: "the peasant . . . even forms a more or less considerable majority, as in all states of the west European continent" -- I guess we had to wait for decades after Marx's death before even thinking about socialism?

But, then, the working class would not be ruling -- it would be party leaders -- ah, but Marx says "in a trade union, for example, does the whole union form its executive committee?". This was echoed by Trotsky when he was in power -- there could "be no antagonism between the government and the mass of the workers, just as there is no antagonism between the administration of the union and the general assembly of its members, and, therefore, there cannot be any grounds for fearing the appointment of members of the commanding staff by the organs of the Soviet Power." ["Work, Discipline, Order", How the Revolution Armed, vol. 1, p. 47] Yes, actually, there can be a lot of antagonism between the union leadership and the members... arming these people with the full forces of the State is hardly a good idea, as Bakunin predicted...

So, all in all, Bakunin was right -- Marx was clearly wrong. As shown by his followers, whether social democratic or bolshevik.

alb

Marx himself critised the term "People's State" as "nonsense", though recognising that it was used, mistakenly, by his supporters in Germany.

In private letters -- his and Engels articles were published in the journal "The People's State," were they not? As far as his comments on Bakunin go, Marx seems to confuse any form of social organisation with "a State" (as shown by "this workers' state, if [Bakunin] wants to call it that"). But, then, Marx's like of centralisation is well known (see his 1850 statement)

alb

Besides the quote given about Bakunin blending Stirner with Proudhon, there's another where he calls Stirner "the prophet of contemporary anarchism" adding "Bakunin has taken a great deal from him". Apparently, Engels couldn't resist a couple of digs at his old adversary. If he was suggesting that Bakunin literally consciously took some of his ideas from Stirner, as opposed to holding ideas that were in some respects similar, then he was being unfair.

Yes, Engels was being unfair -- he was literally suggesting that Bakunin held similar ideas to Stirner...

alb

As to the extent to which Marx was "influenced" by Stirner, it is true that he wrote a long polemic criticising Stirner's individualism but just because you criticise someone doesn't mean you have been influenced by them. What they had in common -- and Bakunin too -- was that in the mid-1840s there were both "left" Hegelians. Personally, I don't think that either Marx or Bakunin were influenced by Stirner's ideas.

Most commentators note that Marx was never the same after Stirner -- he had to completely rethink his ideas to refute Stirner (assuming he did, which is a big assumption). I would call that influenced by -- but, of course, he did not embrace all of Stirner's ideas (or what he took to be Stirner's ideas). Given the distortions Marx inflicted on Proudhon, I don't really trust him on Stirner -- I don't have the time or energy to compare and contrast Marx on Stirner to what Stirner actually wrote but given "The Poverty of Philosophy" I would not be that surprised to discover he was less than honest.

So, all in all, Stirner had most impact of Marx and Engels -- Bakunin mentioned him twice. For Engels -- or anyone else -- to suggest Bakunin was influenced by Striner even slightly is unfair.

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I stand by my opinion of those notes. It is in fact the one place where the theoretical (rather than personality or factional) differences between "Marxists" and "Bakuninists" are set out clearly by each of them. I remember reading it set out as a dialogue between the two but can't track it down (it was before the internet age).

The difference comes out clearly. For Marx, the main problem is the capitalist economic system. For Bakunin, it's the state; so, though while the both of them want to abolish both capitalism and the state, Marx gives priority to abolishing capitalism while Bakunin gives priority to abolishing the state. For Marx, socialism and the abolition of the state can only happen after capitalism has reached a certain stage of development. For Bakunin the state can be abolished at any time and in any place irrespective of the degree of economic development. Marx favours political action by socialists to win political power, democratise it and use it to abolish capitalist class ownership of the means of life; this done a classless society has been established and the state disappears. Bakunin favours an insurrection to immediately abolish the state.

Ignoring your cheap jibes about what Stalin did to the peasants and what Trotsky wanted to do to the unions, here’s how the dialogue goes.

Bakunin asks:

if the proletariat becomes the ruling class, over whom will it rule? It means that there will still remain another proletariat, which will be subject to this new domination, this new state.

To which Marx replies: it will be ruling over the capitalist class as long as this latter class exists. Once the capitalist class has been abolished through the means of life becoming the common heritage of all, there will be no classes. Both the capitalist class and the “proletariat” will have disappeared. There'll be a classless, stateless society. For Marx a classless society is necessarily a stateless society, otherwise it’s not classless.

Anarcho

Marx completely misses the point time and time again -- for example, "A fine idea, that the rule of labour involves the subjugation of land labour!" Someone should have mentioned that to the Bolsheviks

Some did, including Marxists. But you miss Marx's dig at Bakunin who had called for the abolition of the right of inheritance as an immediate measure. Whatever measures are taken, wrote Marx,

It must not hit the peasant over the head, as it would e.g. by proclaiming the abolition of the right of inheritance or the abolition of his property.

Ok, it's a debating point but well made.

Anarcho

But, then, the working class would not be ruling -- it would be party leaders -- ah, but Marx says "in a trade union, for example, does the whole union form its executive committee?"

In Marx's day, the unions were more democratic than today and, as someone has pointed out on another thread, the opponents of Marx in the IWMA were also in favour of encouraging the formation of unions. So, we could rephrase Marx's reply as: "in a syndicalist union, does the whole union form its executive committee?". Marx in fact made this actual point in relation to the communes when he went on to ask:

Will all members of the commune simultaneously manage the interests of its territory?

Good question. Would they? Obviously not, so they would have to delegate some of the decisions to a committee, but how would these be chosen? Marx favours election by universal suffrage but in a non-state context:

Election is a political form present in the smallest Russian commune and artel. The character of the election does not depend on this name, but on the economic foundation, the economic situation of the voters, and as soon as the functions have ceased to be political ones, there exists 1) no government function, 2) the distribution of the general functions has become a business matter, that gives no one domination, 3) election has nothing of its present political character.

What was Bakunin's position on elections in a stateless society? I don't know. Perhaps some Bakuninist can help out.

Anarcho

Marx's like of centralisation is well known

You seem to have missed Marx’s reply to this question of Bakunin's:

The Germans number around forty million. Will for example all forty million be member of the government?
Certainly! Since the whole thing begins with the self-government of the commune.

Not that there is anything wrong with centralisation as such. The state is not simply a central administration but a central administration, armed with coercive power, controlled and used in the interests of a ruling class. Every society needs some central administration but, once capitalism, the last class society in history, has been abolished this won’t have armed forces at its disposal. It won’t be a state.

Yes, Marx and Engels did publish articles in a paper called Volkstaat ("People's State") but that doesn't mean that they agree with either the term or the concept. Right from when he became a communist in 1843/4 Marx was always clear that the state was a social organ standing above society and dominating it on behalf of a ruling class and that it would have no place in the classless, moneyless society that communism (socialism) would be. That's why he criticised German Social Democrats who talked about a "people's" or a "free" state.

R Totale

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

I stand by my opinion of those notes. It is in fact the one place where the theoretical (rather than personality or factional) differences between "Marxists" and "Bakuninists" are set out clearly by each of them.

Do you think history has been kind to this bit?

So the result is: guidance of the great majority of the people by a privileged minority. But this minority, say the Marxists...

Where?

... will consist of workers. Certainly, with your permission, of former workers, who however, as soon as they have become representatives or governors of the people, cease to be workers...

As little as a factory owner today ceases to be a capitalist if he becomes a municipal councillor...

and look down on the whole common workers' world from the height of the state. They will no longer represent the people, but themselves and their pretensions to people's government. Anyone who can doubt this knows nothing of the nature of men.

If Mr Bakunin only knew something about the position of a manager in a workers' cooperative factory, all his dreams of domination would go to the devil.

Like, surely you have to admit that, in retrospect, Marx sounds a tiny bit naive there?

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Bakunin thought he was arguing against Marx but in fact was arguing against the German Social Democrats of the time who he dubbed “Marxists” and who did in fact support Marx in the dispute in the IWMA (in relation to some of whom Marx made his famous quip that “I am not a Marxist”).

In so far as these German Social Democrats were in favour of electing workers to pass laws favourable to the working class, Bakunin’s criticism did have some truth. But they failed not because they were sell-outs but because the workings of the capitalist system placed limits on what they could do (as, incidentally, it did and does on what “direct action” too can achieve). And of course Bakunin’s criticism has proved even more pertinent with regard to regimes like the Bolsheviks whose leaders started off from the basic assumption that they were better than most workers.

There is, however, one thing he says that is open to challenge and is worrying. It’s where he offers as an explanation:

Anyone who can doubt this knows nothing of the nature of men.

Which would seem to be saying that it is “human nature” for people elected to do things on behalf of others to be self-serving and betray those who elected them. An anticipation of the so-called iron law of oligarchy. If true this would rule out any democratic, cooperative society. It would rule out a syndicalist society as well as a socialist one.

Fortunately it is not true.

BigFluffyTail

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Which would seem to be saying that it is “human nature” for people elected to do things on behalf of others to be self-serving and betray those who elected them.

Bakunin was okay with his friends running for parliament on the basis that they, contrary to others, were truly principled and therefore would not be corrupted by power (in a letter to Gambuzzi in 1870). Not the best reasoning but it does show that Bakunin didn't believe in such a fixed human nature. So I think Bakunin above means the nature of most men. Which marries well with his idea of an "invisible dictatorship". In any case, workers found ways to counter the danger of representatives acting against the interest of workers. Like revocable delegates, which Marx mentions in relation to the Commune in The Civil War in France.

R Totale

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

alb

Bakunin thought he was arguing against Marx but in fact was arguing against the German Social Democrats of the time who he dubbed “Marxists” and who did in fact support Marx in the dispute in the IWMA (in relation to some of whom Marx made his famous quip that “I am not a Marxist”).

I mean, whoever Bakunin was arguing against, surely Marx was replying to him as Marx? Like, if he wanted to say "the German social democrats are silly and Bakunin is right to point that out" he could have just said that?

There is, however, one thing he says that is open to challenge and is worrying. It’s where he offers as an explanation:

Anyone who can doubt this knows nothing of the nature of men.

Which would seem to be saying that it is “human nature” for people elected to do things on behalf of others to be self-serving and betray those who elected them. An anticipation of the so-called iron law of oligarchy. If true this would rule out any democratic, cooperative society. It would rule out a syndicalist society as well as a socialist one.

Fortunately it is not true.

I wouldn't have said "nature of men" or anything similar myself, but this does touch on a fairly interesting question, and one that also came up in the "contemporary critiques" thread, which is whether anarchism is based on a liberal/individualist idea of human nature, or whether it's what you get if you apply Marxist principles in a logical and consistent fashion (spoiler: I think it's the latter). Like, I can't give you an exact quote for this, but I think Marxists would agree as a pretty basic starting point that people tend to pursue their material interests, and social groups pursue their collective material interests, so I suppose the big question is whether, as Marx says, workers who stop being workers and become professional political representatives still have the same material interests as when they were workers, or whether their new social position leads them to have a new set of interests?

darren p

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

R Totale

I think Marxists would agree as a pretty basic starting point that people tend to pursue their material interests, and social groups pursue their collective material interests

Certainly, you will find plenty of adherents to crude "Marxism" who will go with this but really this is an oversimplification of what Marx wrote to the point of being false (Marx wasn't an economic determinist). On the economic level, people are compelled to act in certain ways in order to survive and maintain their position (in capitalism workers have to sell their labour-power, capitalists have to invest and reinvest their capital), but this doesn't mean on the political level that all workers automatically turn into socialists or all capitalists are free-marketeers.

workers who stop being workers and become professional political representatives

But do "political representatives" really form an independent economic class in capitalism? Does a hairdresser turned politician face the same relation to capital as a billionaire property developer president?

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

R Totale

alb

Bakunin thought he was arguing against Marx but in fact was arguing against the German Social Democrats of the time who he dubbed “Marxists” and who did in fact support Marx in the dispute in the IWMA (in relation to some of whom Marx made his famous quip that “I am not a Marxist”).

I mean, whoever Bakunin was arguing against, surely Marx was replying to him as Marx? Like, if he wanted to say "the German social democrats are silly and Bakunin is right to point that out" he could have just said that?

Actually he did. Scroll down to the end where he criticises Bakunin for:

"... the harping of Liebknecht's Volksstaat, which is nonsense, counter to the Communist Manifesto etc. ..."

He made a similar criticism of the German Social Democrats for declaring in the programme they adopted at a congress in Gotha in 1875 that " the German workers' party strives by all legal means for the free state—and—socialist society". Marx devoted a whole section of his famous Critique of the Gotha Programme to criticising the absurdity of the idea of a "free State" (see section IV).

R Totale

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

darren p

Certainly, you will find plenty of adherents to crude "Marxism" who will go with this but really this is an oversimplification of what Marx wrote to the point of being false (Marx wasn't an economic determinist). On the economic level, people are compelled to act in certain ways in order to survive and maintain their position (in capitalism workers have to sell their labour-power, capitalists have to invest and reinvest their capital), but this doesn't mean on the political level that all workers automatically turn into socialists or all capitalists are free-marketeers.

Ah, I wasn't trying to be crude, more just the inevitable result of trying to make relatively concise posts without too many caveats. Like, idk what the best way of phrasing it is, but we can agree that class interests do exist and are important, right? Also, when talking about politicians I suppose the political/economic distinction you make there collapses a bit, because the ways they have to act in order to survive and maintain their position are immediately political ones.

But do "political representatives" really form an independent economic class in capitalism? Does a hairdresser turned politician face the same relation to capital as a billionaire property developer president?

Well, how you answer that first question will depend on what model you use for understanding class society, I guess I tend toward a "layered/strata" model, where we can talk about them more as one particular social layer. But I would understand that layer as being a part of the ruling class rather than the working one.
Second question: I suppose it's worth acknowledging that "politicians" is quite a broad term, and a hairdresser-turned-local-councillor is in quite a different position to a hairdresser-turned president. But then "bosses" is quite a broad term too, you can say that that barber who kicked off with Brighton SolFed might not have exactly the same relationship to capital as a billionaire property developer, but that doesn't mean that we scrap the concept of bosses, I don't think. Even if they're not in exactly the same position, I still think that the hairdresser-turned-president, or I would say even the hairdresser-turned-local-councillor, would then have important things in common with the billionaire-developer-president that they would not have in common with the hairdresser-who's-still-a-hairdresser.

darren p

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

R Totale

Ah, I wasn't trying to be crude, more just the inevitable result of trying to make relatively concise posts without too many caveats.

Sure, that is always a problem with forum posts.

we can agree that class interests do exist and are important, right?

Yes, but 'politicians' and even 'bosses' are not *economic* classes. They are not relationships to the means of production.

Spikymike

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

darren, Surely in those systems where the politicians benefit directly from their control of state capital then the two are the same?

darren p

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikymike

darren, Surely in those systems where the politicians benefit directly from their control of state capital then the two are the same?

Of course politicians *can* be capitalists, but they don't necessarily have to be or are.

The claim I was thinking about was R Totale's one that consistently applying Marxian categories and concepts would rule out the use of parliament, it doesn't seem to logically be the case to me...

Spikymike

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Further to alb's post #122 relating to Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme and Bakunin's critique of Social Democracy and the 'Free State' there is this interesting critique by a Marxist group perhaps more favourable to Bakunin than the spgb.
http://gci-icg.org/english/freepopstate.html
Edit: Apology.I can access this but cannot get this link to work here, maybe someone else can. Unfortunately this text not loaded on libcom.

R Totale

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

darren p

Yes, but 'politicians' and even 'bosses' are not *economic* classes. They are not relationships to the means of production.

Could you expand on that about bosses a bit? I suppose that "bosses" isn't a particularly precise term, and you've got stuff like team leaders/managers who don't actually own anything and so could be described as proletarian, but I would have thought that the owner of a small barber's shop who has a few employees, and a billionaire property developer, do have a shared position in some ways and that they do both own some means of production, even if one is much larger than the other, no?

darren p

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

R Totale

Could you expand on that about bosses a bit?

I could do, but you already have done it for me..

I suppose that "bosses" isn't a particularly precise term, and you've got stuff like team leaders/managers who don't actually own anything and so could be described as proletarian,

Some types of self-employed workers, who also hire staff, occupy a kind of middle ground I guess, but the pressure of market competition would tend to be pushing them back into the working class proper... Catergories have fuzzy edges, but what makes someone a capitalist is the ability to live *solely* on returns from invested capital...

R Totale

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

darren p

The claim I was thinking about was R Totale's one that consistently applying Marxian categories and concepts would rule out the use of parliament, it doesn't seem to logically be the case to me...

Oops, didn't realise I'd crossposted there. I realise this is a bit of a broad question, but what do you think about/how would you categorise union officials?

darren p

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

R Totale

I realise this is a bit of a broad question, but what do you think about/how would you categorise union officials?

Like I said, being a capitalist or proletarian isn't a matter of what job you do but if you can live off returns from invested capital.

I guess you're thinking of "class" more in terms of the "order givers and order takers" kind of way?

R Totale

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

darren p

Like I said, being a capitalist or proletarian isn't a matter of what job you do but if you can live off returns from invested capital.

I guess you're thinking of "class" more in terms of the "order givers and order takers" kind of way?

Idk how I'd define class exactly, I suppose all the usual worthy caveats about how it's not that useful as a static system for classifying individuals but more as a way of understanding broad social antagonisms and the way people relate to struggles when they open up, also I tend to feel that people use the word "class" in a whole lot of different ways and it's less that one version is Right and all the others are Wrong but rather that they're describing different aspects of reality, all of which can be useful to think about at times... but anyway, that wishy-washy non-answer out of the way, I think there are all kinds of Marxists, most of whom would go for more "traditional/economic" models of class, who have a critique, not just of "bad" union officials, but of the union official role as such. If you don't think it's helpful to frame that critique in terms of their class position, how would you frame it? And can that critique be extended to politicians, or if not why not?

darren p

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think in the present situation workers are better off in unions than without them, and as the present situation is non-revolutionary you can't expect unions to be revolutionary either. Don't know if it answers your question but I'm probably most inclined to agree with the quote in post #80

Spikymike

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

darren.p. Maybe the section on state capitalism and the conclusions in this is what you mean:
http://www.theoryandpractice.org.uk/library/what-capitalism-adam-buick-john-crump-1987
Seems sensible, but of course still leaves much more to analyse in terms of other hierarchical divisions within capitalism as these influence (materially and ideologically) the practical development of class struggle and its outcomes.

R Totale

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oh yeah, I'd agree with that, but what I'm trying to ask is whether you'd agree that sometimes there are situations where what's best from the perspective of a union full-timer isn't automatically what's best for the rank-and-file membership, even if the official in question doesn't have the ability to live on returns from invested capital? And if you don't think that calling that a difference in class position is a useful description, what language would you use for it?

adri

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Removing the l works

http://gci-icg.org/english/freepopstate.htm

adri

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

double post

ajjohnstone

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikey, first time I have read this article. It will require deeper reading later on.

One thing that struck me and I think ALB may have touched on it

Bakunin, considering Marx and Engels as the powerful chiefs of this party (cf. bellow), attributed to them erroneously the whole of the bourgeois policy of the German social democracy, a policy for which they were not even responsible, but never stopped to criticize. However, Marx and Engels, definitely due to opportunism, didn't make public their criticisms, and they never overtly proclaimed their rupture with social democracy, which rupture they announced in private so many times (5); this reality undoubtedly contributed to the origin of Bakunin's false opinion, and to the development of the confusion.

Black Badger

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If you keep your opinions and analyses private, then you are responsible for creating and perpetuating any and all “confusion.”

alb

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Fair enough. That acquits Bakunin on a charge of distortion and convicts Marx of something (eg tactical mistake, opportunism, putting discretion before valour). But now that Marx’s views are known it doesn’t justify repeating what Bakunin said Marx said, at least not without a footnote saying he thought he was criticising Marx’s views but in fact wasn’t, adding if you like that that was Marx’s own fault,

comradeEmma

2 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I mean, whoever Bakunin was arguing against, surely Marx was replying to him as Marx? Like, if he wanted to say "the German social democrats are silly and Bakunin is right to point that out" he could have just said that?

Marx and Engels were both very critical of the tendencies within the social-democratic party, especially the Lassalians after the merger. Engels at least did point out the fact that Bakunin was talking about the party more than what Marx and Engels actually thought(while threatining to break with the party over its course towards lassallianism),

I shall desist, although almost every word in this programme[Gotha Programme], a programme which is, moreover, insipidly written, lays itself open to criticism. It is such that, should it be adopted, Marx and I could never recognise a new party set up on that basis and shall have to consider most seriously what attitude — public as well as private — we should adopt towards it. [11] Remember that abroad we are held responsible for any and every statement and action of the German Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. E.g. by Bakunin in his work Statehood and Anarchy, in which we are made to answer for every injudicious word spoken or written by Liebknecht since the inception of the Demokratisches Wochenblatt.