A classic criticism of classical anarchism

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alb
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Mar 14 2020 20:45
R Totale wrote:
alb wrote:
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).

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R Totale
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Mar 15 2020 10:24
darren p wrote:
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.

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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.

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darren p
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Mar 15 2020 13:45
R Totale wrote:
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.

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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
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Mar 15 2020 15:46

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

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darren p
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Mar 15 2020 16:01
Spikymike wrote:
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
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Mar 15 2020 16:53

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.

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R Totale
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Mar 15 2020 16:11
darren p wrote:
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?

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darren p
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Mar 15 2020 16:21
R Totale wrote:
Could you expand on that about bosses a bit?

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

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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...

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Mar 15 2020 16:34
darren p wrote:
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?

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darren p
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Mar 15 2020 17:36
R Totale wrote:
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?

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R Totale
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Mar 15 2020 18:42
darren p wrote:
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?

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darren p
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Mar 15 2020 18:56

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
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Mar 15 2020 19:31

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-j...
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.

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R Totale
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Mar 15 2020 21:09

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?

zugzwang
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Mar 16 2020 02:17

Removing the l works

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

zugzwang
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Mar 16 2020 02:18

double post

ajjohnstone
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Mar 16 2020 03:22

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

Quote:
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
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Mar 16 2020 04:32

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

alb
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Mar 16 2020 07:51

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,

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comradeEmma
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Mar 16 2020 14:55
Quote:
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),

Quote:
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.