It's Kropotkin's birthday!

154 posts / 0 new
Last post
Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Jan 24 2008 09:48
Devrim wrote:
Anarcho wrote:
Interesting definition of "generally" here! In reality, most people think that the Russian civil war started in May 1918,

If we take Wiki as pretty 'general': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Civil_War

And if it is in Wiki it must be true... However, as the article says:

Quote:
"Most of the fighting in this first period was sporadic, involving only small groups amid a fluid and rapidly shifting strategic scene."

Most serious historians date the civil war starting in May 1918, with the previous fighting of a minor nature. Lenin himself announced that this "civil war" was over in March 1918 -- just as he started to expound a explicitly state capitalist economic agenda while the Bolsheviks gerrymandered soviets and disbanded any which elected non-Bolshevik majorities....

So, Bolshevim authoritarianism is now justified because elements of a few attempts at countre-revolution? But I thought that Lenin's "State and Revolution" was designed explicitly for such events? So the so-called "dictatorship of the proletariat" will become the "dictatorship over the proletariat" if the ruling class tries to resist a revolution?

Sounds like an umbrella which works fine as long as it does not rain...

And, as I noted, the Bolsheviks ignored "State and Revolution" from the moment they seized power -- and it was them, not the working class who did that. And once in power, the Bolsheviks repressed the very class they claimed to represent to stay there -- presumably, in their own interests...

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Jan 24 2008 10:09
Devrim wrote:
International Review wrote:
When the elections that were to push through the proclamation of the Republic took place in April 1931, the leaders of the CNT decided (albeit coyly) in favour of voting, as Olaya acknowledges: "We voted for the first time in 8 years as if it were a right that we had won. The turn out was massive, even on the part of CNT militants, who were influenced by their hatred of the monarchy and sensible of the critical situation of thousands of social detainees."[29] In an article evaluating the elections Solidaridad Obrera stated that "the vote was for the armistice and the Republic, against the atrocities and injustices committed by the monarchy". This was another striking precedent which was to be manifested much more overtly during the famous elections of February 1936!

Yes, I suppose that having been totally repressed by a quasi-fascist regime would make people think that getting rid of it would make sense. A union cannot function properly if it is illegal, nor can socialist ideas be easily spread if doing so will get you arrested. Clearly, based on their experience, most working class people considered a republic as being better than a dictatorship (which, I guess, made the anti-working class, i.e., anti-themselves). It would also allow the CNT to re-organise and the anarchists to spread their ideas more freely. Which was precisely what did happen.

And as I and the article noted, "the leaders" did favour the republic in 1931 -- with the CNT reorganised, they were quickly removed from office as being reformist. Something that would not have happened if the CNT remained illegal.

I do feel I'm discussing someone who hold's Engels distortions of what the anarchist position is. For Engels, the anarchists were "apolitical" and so did not differientate between a republic and a monarchy. Engels said that it would be impossible for workers to ignore "politics" and would do "political action" (i.e. voting) when necessary. He mocked the anarchists for arguing against standing in elections (although the failure of social democracy proves who was right there!). He also argued that socialists should work for a democratic republic -- as it was the only way the workers' party could take power. The socialists were obviously following that perspective so if they were anti-working class, does that make Engels anti-working class too?

So, as for a "striking precedent" well, what can I say. It suggests that most people would recognise that a republic would allow more opportunity for union struggles and organisation, that it would allow revolutionary ideas to spread and would be generally better to be on the streets rather than in prison. Moreover, it seems unlikely that the CNT-FAI would push the struggle beyond this in 1931. That changed in 1933, of course, and the attempts failed (thanks to the inaction of the socialists). In the 1936 elections, the CNT again faced the same situation as in 1931. Many considered that a left regime would allow the CNT time to reorganise and prepare for the expected coup. And it did. If the right had gained power in 1936, the CNT would have remained disorganised and there may have been a legal imposition of fascism in Spain.

All of which, I am sure, pressed heavily in the minds of the CNT and FAI militants -- as did the failed insurrections in 1933 (and 1934, for that matter).

But, given that the CNT actions were wrong, I would be interested in what they should have done. Presumably, they should have boycotted the 1931 elections and so allowed the right to remain in power. How do you see the 1930s developing from then on?

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Jan 24 2008 12:05

Devrim: I think that your position on Kropotkin, in which you are surprised that anarchists still value and admire him, is a bit hypocitical when you consider that left communists still value and admire Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, and Sylvia Pankhurst who all supported various sides in wars (Lenin in the Russo-Polish war).

You might respond that left-communists have political critiques which illustrate the foundations of support for war in the above individuals. Fine. Anarchists also have this with Kropotkin (to start, I think he placed too much importance on civil liberties/"bourgeois democratic rights"). This doesn't invalidate his contributions or the majority of his political ideas.

Also the CGT had majority support for the war but it was not a large majority, and the pro-war faction only gained the lead after the marxist-controlled german trade unions refused to call a joint general strike.

Capricorn: Connelly was an idiot. The workers have a natural, if incomplete, aversion or apathy to "political action", and on the contrary to what he said, its always the leftists who are trying to counter this apathy.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 24 2008 13:10

I tend to agree with Oliver on the specific point about Kropotkin (while agreeing with Devrim on Russia and Spain), although not all wars are equal as he seems to imply. Kropotkin was a figure of the workers' movement who made a certain contribution but then betrayed the movement at a key moment - the first world imperialist war. In that sense he should be approached in the same way as other figures who followed a similar trajectory. Betrayals of this kind rarely come from nowhere but we have to distinguish between political errors and weaknesses inside the movement and actions which definitively put you outside the movement. The principle problem here however is the fact that so many anarchists have a deeply sectarian approach to the workers' movement prior to 1914 - they simply don't accept that figures like Kautsky, Lenin and Trotsky were ever part of the workers' movement and theorise that the parties they belonged to were bourgeois or at least non-proletarian.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Jan 24 2008 13:17
Anarcho wrote:
Devrim wrote:
Anarcho wrote:
Interesting definition of "generally" here! In reality, most people think that the Russian civil war started in May 1918,

If we take Wiki as pretty 'general': http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Civil_War

And if it is in Wiki it must be true... However, as the article says:

Quote:
"Most of the fighting in this first period was sporadic, involving only small groups amid a fluid and rapidly shifting strategic scene."

Most serious historians date the civil war starting in May 1918, with the previous fighting of a minor nature. Lenin himself announced that this "civil war" was over in March 1918 -- just as he started to expound a explicitly state capitalist economic agenda while the Bolsheviks gerrymandered soviets and disbanded any which elected non-Bolshevik majorities....

So most serious historians date it as starting in May 1918, but Lenin said the civil war was over in March 1918. It sounds like a continuing war to me.

Quote:
So, Bolshevim authoritarianism is now justified because elements of a few attempts at countre-revolution? But I thought that Lenin's "State and Revolution" was designed explicitly for such events? So the so-called "dictatorship of the proletariat" will become the "dictatorship over the proletariat" if the ruling class tries to resist a revolution?

Sounds like an umbrella which works fine as long as it does not rain...

I am not quite sure what Anarcho is arguing against here. It must get a little boring ranting about Bolshevik demons when nobody on this thread has argued in support of them.

Devrim

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Jan 24 2008 13:20
OliverTwister wrote:
You might respond that left-communists have political critiques which illustrate the foundations of support for war in the above individuals. Fine. Anarchists also have this with Kropotkin (to start, I think he placed too much importance on civil liberties/"bourgeois democratic rights"). This doesn't invalidate his contributions or the majority of his political ideas.

Good point, this is the first criticism I have heard though.

Devrim

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Jan 24 2008 13:28
Anarcho wrote:
But, given that the CNT actions were wrong, I would be interested in what they should have done. Presumably, they should have boycotted the 1931 elections and so allowed the right to remain in power. How do you see the 1930s developing from then on?

I am not sure if I understand you here. Are you saying given that you believe they were wrong, or given that I do? Either way I have little interest in arguing alternative history.

Anarcho wrote:
Yes, I suppose that having been totally repressed by a quasi-fascist regime would make people think that getting rid of it would make sense.

So are you arguing that in periods when the right is in power, revolutionaries should support the 'left wing' bourgeois parties?

Devrim

Mark.
Offline
Joined: 11-02-07
Jan 24 2008 19:00
JH wrote:
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
It always astonishes me that Anarchists can celebrate Kropotkin without mentioning the small fact that he supported the first world war. It would be a bit like Marxists commemorating Kautsky.

Malatesta on Kropotkin's support for the war

Devrim wrote:
OliverTwister wrote:

You might respond that left-communists have political critiques which illustrate the foundations of support for war in the above individuals. Fine. Anarchists also have this with Kropotkin (to start, I think he placed too much importance on civil liberties/"bourgeois democratic rights"). This doesn't invalidate his contributions or the majority of his political ideas.

Good point, this is the first criticism I have heard though.

Devrim

If you had looked at the link I gave for Malatesta you would already have heard criticism of Kropotkin from an anarchist - if you don't take the trouble to actually read anarchist critics of Kropotkin then I don't see that you're in much of a position to have a go at anarchists for not criticising him.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Jan 24 2008 19:18
Quote:
If you had looked at the link I gave for Malatesta you would already have heard criticism of Kropotkin from an anarchist - if you don't take the trouble to actually read anarchist critics of Kropotkin then I don't see that you're in much of a position to have a go at anarchists for not criticising him.

I read it. I was not saying that the decision was not criticised, but that the politics that led to the decision weren't.

Maletesta wrote:
It would therefore be opportune to subject Kropotkin’s teaching to close and critical analysis in order to separate that which is ever real and alive from that which was more recent thought and experience will have shown to be mistaken. A matter which would concern not only Kropotkin, for the errors that one can blame him for having committed were already being professed by anarchists before Kropotkin acquired his eminent place in the movement: he confirmed them and made them last by adding the weight of his talent and his prestige; but all us old militants, or almost all of us, have our share of responsibility.
* * *
In writing now about Kropotkin I do not intend to examine his teachings. I only wish to record a few impressions and recollections, which may I believe, serve to make better known his moral and intellectual stature as well as understanding more clearly his qualities and his faults.

He later comes up with to criticisms of his character.

Devrim

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Jan 24 2008 19:18
Quote:
I was not saying that the decision was not criticised, but that the politics that led to the decision weren't.

But as you've said yourself, you haven't read his politics, so it's not really possible for you to accurately characterise them, and you're not going to be able to disprove the people who are saying that Kropotkin supporting WW1 was a deviation from his general line.

Quote:
So are you arguing that in periods when the right is in power, revolutionaries should support the 'left wing' bourgeois parties?

I thought he was arguing that the 'vote if you like, but prepare for war regardless' line the CNT took was reasonable given the circumstances, rather than that they were actively supporting bourgeois control, but anarcho can correct me if he likes.

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Jan 25 2008 09:41

Anarcho has introduced Engels’s criticism of the actions of “Bakuninists” during the uprising in Spain in 1873 that led to the establishment of a republic (see /www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1873/bakunin/index.htm). As can be seen from the extract below, the Bakununist leaders adopted the same position towards elections then as did the anarchists leaders of the CNT in 1931 and 1936, ie that the organisation as such should abstain but that its individual members could vote as they liked. Such a policy, it seems, has a long tradition amongst anarchists in Spain.
I hasten to add that I agree with Anarcho’s defence of what the CNT leaders did as pragmatism, but it also shows that abstentionism (shared by both orthodox anarchists and “left communists”) is simply unsustainable when the workers are in a position to influence important political events and know it. It can only be practised by small ideological minorities when it doesn’t make any difference either way.

As Anarcho put it:

Quote:
A union cannot function properly if it is illegal, nor can socialist ideas be easily spread if doing so will get you arrested. Clearly, based on their experience, most working class people considered a republic as being better than a dictatorship (which, I guess, made the anti-working class, i.e., anti-themselves). It would also allow the CNT to re-organise and the anarchists to spread their ideas more freely. Which was precisely what did happen.

Engels was saying nothing different:

Quote:
As we know, at the time the split in the International occurred the odds were in favour of the members of the secret Alliance in Spain; the great majority of Spanish workers followed their lead. When the Republic was proclaimed in February 1873, the Spanish members of the Alliance found themselves in a quandary. Spain is such a backward country industrially that there can be no question there of immediate complete emancipation of the working class. Spain will first have to pass through various preliminary stages of development and remove quite a number of obstacles from its path. The Republic offered a chance of going through these stages in the shortest possible time and quickly surmounting the obstacles. But this chance could be taken only if the Spanish working class played an active political role. The labour masses felt this; they strove everywhere to participate in events, to take advantage of the opportunity for action, instead of leaving the propertied classes, as hitherto, a clear field for action and intrigues. The government announced that elections were to be held to the Constituent Cortes. [May 10, 1873] What was the attitude of the International to be? The leaders of the Bakuninists were in a predicament. Continued political inaction became more ridiculous and impossible with every passing day; the workers wanted "to see things done". The members of the Alliance on the other hand had been preaching for years that no part should be taken in a revolution that did not have as its aim the immediate and complete emancipation of the working class, that political action of any kind implied recognition of the State, which was the root of all evil, and that therefore participation in any form of elections was a crime worthy of death. How they got out of this fix is recounted in the already mentioned Madrid report:
(…)
"Already on the eve of the general election to the Constituent Cortes the workers of Barcelona, Alcoy and other towns wanted to know what political line they should adopt in the parliamentary struggle and other campaigns. Two big meetings were therefore held, one in Barcelona, the other in Alcoy; at both meetings the Alliance members went out of their way to prevent any decision being reached as to what political line was to be taken by the International" (note bene: by their own International). "It was therefore decided that the International, as an association, should not engage in an, political activity whatever, but that its members, as individuals, could act on their own as the, thought fit and join the part, they chose, in accordance with their famous doctrine of autonomy! And what was the result of the application of this absurd doctrine? That most of the members of the International, including the anarchists, took part in the elections with no programme, no banner, and no candidates, thereby helping to bring about the election of almost exclusively bourgeois republicans. Only two or three workers got into the Chamber, and they represent absolutely nothing, their voice has not once been raised in defence of the interests of our class, and they cheerfully voted for all the reactionary motions tabled by the majority."
That is what Bakuninist "abstention from politics" leads to. At quiet times, when the proletariat knows beforehand that at best it can get only a few representatives to parliament and have no chance whatever of winning a parliamentary majority, the workers may sometimes be made to believe that it is a great revolutionary action to sit out the elections at home, and in general, not to attack the State in which they live and which oppresses them, but to attack the State as such which exists nowhere and which accordingly cannot defend itself. This is a splendid way of behaving in a revolutionary manner, especially for people who lose heart easily; and the extent to which the leaders of the Spanish Alliance belong to this category of people is shown in some detail in the aforementioned publication.
As soon as events push the proletariat into the fore, however, abstention becomes a palpable absurdity and the active intervention of the working class an inevitable necessity. And this is what happened in Spain. The abdication of Amadeo ousted the radical monarchists from power and deprived them of the possibility of recovering it in the near future; the Alfonsists stood still less chance at the time; as for the Carlists, they, as usual, preferred civil war to an election campaign. All these parties, according to the Spanish custom, abstained. Only the federalist Republicans, split into two wings, and the bulk of the workers took part in the elections. Given the enormous attraction which the name of the International still enjoyed at that time among the Spanish workers and given the excellent organisation of the Spanish Section which, at least for practical purposes, still existed at the time, it was certain that any candidate nominated and supported by the International would be brilliantly successful in the industrial districts of Catalonia, in Valencia, in the Andalusian towns and so on, and that a minority would be elected to the Cortes large enough to decide the issue whenever it came to a vote between the two wings of the Republicans. The workers were aware of this; they felt that the time had come to bring their still powerful organisation into play. But the honourable leaders of the Bakuninist school had been preaching the gospel of unqualified abstention too long to be able suddenly to reverse their line; and so they invented that deplorable way out -- that of having the International abstain as a body, but allowing its members as individuals to vote as they liked. The result of this declaration of political bankruptcy was that the workers, as always in such cases, voted for those who made the most radical speeches, that is, for the Intransigents, and considering themselves therefore more or less responsible for subsequent steps taken by their deputies, became involved in them.
Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Jan 25 2008 13:10

I have a feeling it comes down to a way of approaching stuff amongst many in the anarchist tradition that are always ignoring theory, and blame everything on 'mistakes'.

I don't 'demand' that people make these criticisms. I merely point out that the reverence for Kropotkin is pretty similar to reverance for Kautsky.

Devrim

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 25 2008 23:41

Agree with Devrim about this fixation on mistakes, particularly mistakes by individuals. This is because anarchism lacks the theoretical depth to go further. For one thing, it tends to have an ahistorical vision of ideas being either right or wrong in all epochs; it resists the notion that what was valid in one period can become reactionary in another.

Volin's picture
Volin
Offline
Joined: 24-01-05
Jan 26 2008 15:37

There are quite a few basic criticisms anarchists have and do make about Kropotkin (outwith his 'anarcho-trenchism'), including his spontaneism - which comes mainly from platformists and I tend to agree, his emphasis on the idyll of the country as opposed to the urban environment and yes his almost patriotic split between the 'Latin countries and the Teuton countries' which could help to explain why he made the decision he did. Coming from Russian aristocracy he clearly would have had very close cultural links to France, as an anarchist he had greater affinity with Latin Europe because of the strength of the libertarian movement whereas Prussia and then Germany was seen as the mechanical, authoritarian state both in itself, its late imperialist ambition and militarism and in its social democratic tradition. Making this split however undermined his internationalism, and instead of looking to the working class and peasants of all countries he had a bias towards specific cultures and geographies. Russia was one of them and which he would then naturally 'defend' against the expanionism of Germany.

But Dev, I think your comparison between Kropotkin and Kautsky is - politically and in terms of the class position and activities of the two, rubbish. wink

Alf wrote:
This is because anarchism lacks the theoretical depth to go further. For one thing, it tends to have an ahistorical vision of ideas being either right or wrong in all epochs

Alternatively, left communists seem to think hierarchy, active support for centralisation and the expansion of capital were OK sometimes and not at others. Lenin was a hero-revolutionary at one point. Marx could say what he wanted in defence of the 'progressive bourgeoisie' in his time. You can almost completely change your position and yet seamlessly remain ideologically correct.

You're right, we must just be very theoretically shallow in not believing that.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 26 2008 15:50

maybe you could explain whether and ifso why you think Marx was wrong to support the most progressive bourgeois fractions against feudalism

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Jan 27 2008 13:57

Alf:

Quote:
Agree with Devrim about this fixation on mistakes, particularly mistakes by individuals. This is because anarchism lacks the theoretical depth to go further. For one thing, it tends to have an ahistorical vision of ideas being either right or wrong in all epochs; it resists the notion that what was valid in one period can become reactionary in another.

Respectfully, this is a bit simplistic. I think there are anarchists who can be self-critical without throwing the baby out with the bath water. Mistake happen. Individuals can also be flawed as well. To recognize this is a good thing and to try and avoid the mistakes and pitfalls of others is important.

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Jan 27 2008 18:50
Quote:
But Dev, I think your comparison between Kropotkin and Kautsky is - politically and in terms of the class position and activities of the two, rubbish.

I think we need to be careful about accepting the Leninist view of Kautsky which paints him as the world's most famous renegade since Judas Iscariot. Actually, his position on the First World War was not even half as bad as Kropotkin's.
The Leninists claim, as on the Trotskyist Marxist Internet Archive that

Quote:
In 1914 the crisis struck and war was declared. With the other German Social-Democrats Kautsky voted for the war credits using the plea that this was a defensive war against reactionary Tsardom.
http://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/k/a.htm

Wikipedia echoes this,:

Quote:
In 1914 with the other German Social-Democrats Kautsky voted for the war credits. Kautsky claimed that Germany was waging a defensive war against the threat of Czarist Russia.

but adds:

Quote:
However, in June 1915, about ten months after the war had begun and when it had become obvious that this was going to be a sustained, appallingly brutal and costly struggle, he issued an appeal with Eduard Bernstein and Hugo Haase against the pro-war leaders of the SPD and denounced the government's annexationist aims. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Kautsky

The first thing that is wrong about this is that Kautsky could not have "voted for the war credits" since to do have done so he would have had to have been a member of the Reichstag, but he wasn't.
He was, however, editor of the German Social Democratic Party's theoretical journal and had his views on what the Party's Reichstag members should do. According to his grandson, John H. Kautsky:

Quote:
At the meeting of the Reichstag caucus on 3 August [1914] which decided that the party should vote war credits to the government the next day, Kautsky, not a member of the Reichstag himself, proposed that such a vote be made contingent on a promise by the government to conclude the war without any annexations or reparations.(John H Kautsky "Karl Kautsky: Marxism, Revolution and Democracy" [Transaction Books p.91 fn 59]

J H Kautsky suggests that his grandfather rationalised this later [in "Socialism and War" [1937 pp446-57] explaining that he thought this suggested course of action would be rejected by the government therefore permitting the SPD deputies to vote against the war credits in the face of considerable working class support for the war.
So, in short, Kautsky wanted the SPD to vote against the money to finance the war. His fault was to accept the majority decision (with which he disagreed). and to defend it, out of party discipline. But only for 10 months.
Contrast this with the position of Kropotkin who became a real jingo and French chauvinist. According to Brian Morris's recent booklet on him The Anarchist Geographer:

Quote:
Having then, at the outbreak of the war, declared himself an enthusiastic supporter of the Entente, Kropotkin wrote articles and letters urging his comrades and friends to take a stand against German militarism. In September 1914 he wrote a letter to Jean Grave in which he asked 'What world of illusions do you inhabit to talk of peace', and in the most belligerent fashion wrote of the Germans as 'savage hordes', 'an army of Huns', who were about to trample humanity underfoot. Kropotkin urged the production of cannons; expressed his admiration for the worst Allied statesmen and generals, and treated as cowards those anarchists who refused to support the war effort. He regretted that his age and poor health prevented him from fighting the Germans. (pp. 88-9)

While Kautsky took 10 months (to June 1915) to break SDP discipline and reveal his anti-war position, Kropotkin and his fellow pro-war "anarchists" (Jean Grave, Charles Malato, Varlaan Cherkezov, Christiaan Cornelissen, to name only the best known) issued their Manifesto of the Sixteen well into the war, in February 1916, and continued to support it till the end.
So, on the question of war, Kautsky committed a minor misdemeanour compared to Kropotkin's hanging offence.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 28 2008 09:10

Good post Capricorn. On the war, Lenin and others on the left of social democracy saw Kautsky as a centrist rather than an out and out chauvinist. But he saw the centrists, with their illusions in peace with no annexations etc, as a serious obstacle to the development of revolutionary positions against the war, so it was more than just a minor misdemeanor. On the other hand, the centrists were seen as elements that could be won over (this partly expalins Rosa Luxemburg's decision to join the USPD). Lenin's famous diatribe against 'The Renegade Kautsky' is not focused on the war but on Kautsky's aplogia for democracy and his refusal to solidarise with the October inusrrection. The point remains: Kautsky is by no means the demon portrayed by many.

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Jan 30 2008 15:30
Devrim wrote:
So most serious historians date it as starting in May 1918, but Lenin said the civil war was over in March 1918. It sounds like a continuing war to me.

Well, if you cannot tell the difference between minor fights and full scale conflict between armies then I suppose you could make comments like that...

Devrim wrote:
I am not quite sure what Anarcho is arguing against here. It must get a little boring ranting about Bolshevik demons when nobody on this thread has argued in support of them.

Oh, right so when you brought up anarchists refusing to cut the Bolsheviks any slack because of the Civil War then it did not imply support for them? Okay then, nice to know. As for "Bolshevik demons", well, sorry for trying to understand and learn from past experiences. Personally, I think it is important to know what happened during the Russian Revolution, how it relates to Leninist and anarchist theory and seeing the weakness of the traditional excuses for Bolshevik authoritarianism,

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Jan 30 2008 15:34
Devrim wrote:
I have a feeling it comes down to a way of approaching stuff amongst many in the anarchist tradition that are always ignoring theory, and blame everything on 'mistakes'.

I don't 'demand' that people make these criticisms. I merely point out that the reverence for Kropotkin is pretty similar to reverance for Kautsky.

Highly amusing comments from someone who claims that Kropotkin's "theory" explains his actions yet cannot provide any evidence to support such a claim. But, then again, they also claimed not to have read any of Kropotkin's works so I can see why that evidence would not be forthcoming.

So I do "demand" that people provide some sort of evidence to support their claims. Otherwise it is hard to take them seriously...

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Jan 30 2008 15:55
Alf wrote:
Agree with Devrim about this fixation on mistakes, particularly mistakes by individuals. This is because anarchism lacks the theoretical depth to go further.

Which is quite funny as no one has presented any evidence from Kropotkin's theoretical contribution to anarchism to support the claim that it was his theory which caused the problem. This is deeply significant. Making assertions without being able to back them up is the opposite of "theoretical depth".

Alf wrote:
For one thing, it tends to have an ahistorical vision of ideas being either right or wrong in all epochs; it resists the notion that what was valid in one period can become reactionary in another.

Yes, the old "different period" argument.... In other words, Marx and Engels can do identical things as Kropotkin (like supporting one side in an imperialist war) but because it was a "different epoch" that makes it okay. Extremely handy position to take, that one. Can be used to justify all sorts of anti-working class positions (to coin a phrase).

As for the notion that tactics can become reactionary is also handy, as it (again) can be used to justify all sorts of terrible political decisions. Thus Marx and Engels support for socialists standing in elections was "right" in one epoch but not in another -- which is handy, as it excuses them of all responsibility for the results of that tactic. Which is ironic, of course, as the reason we know we are in a new "epoch" is precisely the terrible results of their tactic...

The point of good theory is its predictive power. Marx and Engels failed to predict the results of their tactics. Bakunin did. Now, it is hardly "ahistoric" to correctly predict the results of a given strategy....

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Jan 30 2008 16:10
capricorn wrote:
So, in short, Kautsky wanted the SPD to vote against the money to finance the war. His fault was to accept the majority decision (with which he disagreed). and to defend it, out of party discipline.

What, he rejected the will of the majority? What kind of anarchist elitist was he? Did not realise, to quote Hal Draper, that:

Quote:
Anarchism is not concerned with the creation of democratic control from below, but only with the destruction of "authority" over the individual, including the authority of the most extremely democratic regulation of society that it is possible to imagine . . . Anarchism is on principle fiercely anti-democratic, since an ideally democratic AUTHORITY is still authority. But since, rejecting democracy, it has no other way of resolving the inevitable disagreements and differences among the inhabitants of Theleme, its unlimited freedom for each uncontrolled individual is indistinguishable from unlimited despotism by such an individual, both in theory and practice.

Sorry, could not resist that one... I think that the whole SDP voting for war credits destroys Draper's whole argument against anarchism, so I thought I would drop it in as an aside.

capricorn wrote:
Contrast this with the position of Kropotkin who became a real jingo and French chauvinist . . . While Kautsky took 10 months (to June 1915) to break SDP discipline and reveal his anti-war position, Kropotkin and his fellow pro-war "anarchists" (Jean Grave, Charles Malato, Varlaan Cherkezov, Christiaan Cornelissen, to name only the best known) issued their Manifesto of the Sixteen well into the war, in February 1916, and continued to support it till the end.

And were utterly isolated from the anarchist movement as a result. That is the point, the vast majority of anarchists opposed the war and opposed Kropotkin and company totally. Unlike the vast majority of the Marxist movement at the time, which supported the war.

capricorn wrote:
So, on the question of war, Kautsky committed a minor misdemeanour compared to Kropotkin's hanging offence.

Again, I will restate the basic point -- a handful of anarchists supported the war. The vast majority opposed it -- and the pro-war minority. As Malatesta noted at the time, the "pro-war" anarchists were "not numerous, it is true, but [did have] amongst them comrades whom we love and respect most." He stressed that the "almost all" of the anarchists "have remained faithful to their convictions" namely "to awaken a consciousness of the antagonism of interests between dominators and dominated, between exploiters and workers, and to develop the class struggle inside each country, and solidarity among all workers across the frontiers, as against any prejudice and any passion of either race or nationality." [Life and Ideas, p. 243, p. 248 and p. 244]

Which is the key issue here, to be honest. Kropotkin's actions are not defendable in the slightest -- but his contribution to revolutionary theory cannot be dismissed because of his madness of 1914 to 1917.

Unless, of course, some one can point to something in his body of work which indicates that it was his theory which was the cause of it -- something which no one has done...

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Jan 30 2008 16:17
Devrim wrote:
Anarcho wrote:
But, given that the CNT actions were wrong, I would be interested in what they should have done. Presumably, they should have boycotted the 1931 elections and so allowed the right to remain in power. How do you see the 1930s developing from then on?

I am not sure if I understand you here. Are you saying given that you believe they were wrong, or given that I do? Either way I have little interest in arguing alternative history.

So, you are criticising the CNT for what they did but not making any suggestions on what they should have done? That is handy, I suppose, as it does not allow us to see if your strategy would have been any good...

Devrim wrote:
Anarcho wrote:
Yes, I suppose that having been totally repressed by a quasi-fascist regime would make people think that getting rid of it would make sense.

So are you arguing that in periods when the right is in power, revolutionaries should support the 'left wing' bourgeois parties?

No, read what I wrote -- I was merely suggesting that after experiencing a quasi-fascist regime, and being too weak to impose an alternative, many working class people would have thought that supporting the republicians/socialists in an election would have made sense.

I did not indiciate support for such a perspective. It simply indicates why many radicals at the time did vote. Unless that is addressed, your criticism seems somewhat idealistic and ahistorical...

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Jan 30 2008 16:24
capricorn wrote:
Anarcho has introduced Engels’s criticism of the actions of “Bakuninists” during the uprising in Spain in 1873 that led to the establishment of a republic. . . As can be seen from the extract below, the Bakununist leaders adopted the same position towards elections then as did the anarchists leaders of the CNT in 1931 and 1936, ie that the organisation as such should abstain but that its individual members could vote as they liked. Such a policy, it seems, has a long tradition amongst anarchists in Spain.

It being somewhat more fruitful than Engels's strategy, which was to take part in bourgeois elections as a party. Social democracy showed the failings of that -- plus the fate of the Spanish socialist party, which was totally reformist and bureaucratic. It is interesting to read Engels praise for the Spanish Socialists compared to their actual terrible track record...

capricorn wrote:
I hasten to add that I agree with Anarcho’s defence of what the CNT leaders did as pragmatism, but it also shows that abstentionism (shared by both orthodox anarchists and “left communists”) is simply unsustainable when the workers are in a position to influence important political events and know it. It can only be practised by small ideological minorities when it doesn’t make any difference either way.

Ignoring, of course, the 1933 elections in Spain where people abstained rather than vote for their oppressors. This act helped radicalise the UGT and socialists and helped bring social revolution closer in Spain.

capricorn wrote:
As Anarcho put it:
Quote:
A union cannot function properly if it is illegal, nor can socialist ideas be easily spread if doing so will get you arrested. Clearly, based on their experience, most working class people considered a republic as being better than a dictatorship (which, I guess, made the anti-working class, i.e., anti-themselves). It would also allow the CNT to re-organise and the anarchists to spread their ideas more freely. Which was precisely what did happen.

Engels was saying nothing different:

And Bakunin always recognised that a republic was always better than a monarchy -- clearly 1873 showed that the International was too weak to turn the bourgeois revolt into a social revolution.

capricorn
Offline
Joined: 3-05-07
Jan 30 2008 22:13

Anarcho, I see you are not as sectarian as the "left communists" who don't see any difference between a "republic" and a "monarchy", ie pluralist political democracy and a one-party state. Good! But I'm not sure there were any "Spanish socialists" in 1873 for Engels to commend. I took him to be saying that the workers should have put up their own candidates rather than voted for the most radical bourgeois candidate (as the Bakuninists were in effect advocating). I remember reading that this (voting for the most radical bourgeois candidate) was also the electoral tactic of the pre-WWI CGT in France but can't find the reference to this for the moment. I suppose it's a tactic that might have something to be said for it if it wasn't done in such a shame-faced fashion. I still say that, at a later stage, nobody will be able to stop the workers taking (sound) political action as well as organising industrially to take over and run production. I suppose we'll have to wait and see.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Jan 30 2008 22:57
Anarcho wrote:
Oh, right so when you brought up anarchists refusing to cut the Bolsheviks any slack because of the Civil War then it did not imply support for them? Okay then, nice to know. As for "Bolshevik demons", well, sorry for trying to understand and learn from past experiences. Personally, I think it is important to know what happened during the Russian Revolution, how it relates to Leninist and anarchist theory and seeing the weakness of the traditional excuses for Bolshevik authoritarianism

Well yes, we think that it is important to learn from the lessons of the past. We also think that the mistakes of Bolsheviks, and anarchists have to be criticised.
But you seem to imply that we are supporting Bolshevism attacking the working class. Please produce one quote from either myself, or a member of our organisation to confirm this.

The complete discrepancies in your argument are very clear. We suggest without claiming that we know what it was that there must have been some problem in Kropotkin's theory. This is speculation. In our opinion reasonable speculation.

You claim that we support the Russian state attacking the working class. Please provide one piece of evidence.

Devrim

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Feb 6 2008 08:59
Devrim wrote:
The complete discrepancies in your argument are very clear. We suggest without claiming that we know what it was that there must have been some problem in Kropotkin's theory. This is speculation. In our opinion reasonable speculation.

Ah, yes,"speculation". I asked that this speculation be backed up with some evidence -- in other words, to prove it. Now, that is not forthcoming -- the fact is that this "speculation" is based on not reading Kropotkin. Now, I do think that the least you could do is read the politics you claim "must" have "some problem" in it. Otherwise, why should anyone take your "speculation" seriously?

Now, I have critiques of Marxism and Leninist. I can back up those criticisms with quotes from Marx, Engels and Lenin which show why they are flawed. I can also point to certain outcomes which show that this critique has some validity. But, apparently, all that is unnecessary. All I had to do is "speculate" (i.e., assert) that these people's politics had "some problems" with them...

Truly "scientific socialism" in practice!

So what are my "complete discrepancies"? As far as I can see, it is asking for some evidence for the assertion that Kropotkin's politics were responsible for his madness of 1914. That none has been forthcoming says it all, as is the admission that Kropotkin's works have not been read....

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Feb 6 2008 09:12
capricorn wrote:
But I'm not sure there were any "Spanish socialists" in 1873 for Engels to commend. I took him to be saying that the workers should have put up their own candidates rather than voted for the most radical bourgeois candidate (as the Bakuninists were in effect advocating).

There were a few Marxists in the Madrid area which Engels and Marx supported as the "real" International in Spain. These went on to form the PSOE, whose reformism and bureaucratic practice is well known. Engels problemed that these socialists, unlike the anarchists, would be the source of all important developments in Spanish revolutionary politics. Which, of course, did not happen.

capricorn wrote:
I remember reading that this (voting for the most radical bourgeois candidate) was also the electoral tactic of the pre-WWI CGT in France but can't find the reference to this for the moment. I suppose it's a tactic that might have something to be said for it if it wasn't done in such a shame-faced fashion.

The CGT did not take a "don't vote" position (that came later with the post-war CGT-SR). It proclaimed political neutrality and did not ask its members to vote or not vote. I think Bookchin said the the CNT rank-and-file tended not to vote socialist, when they voted (which meant the most radical republician candidate was voted for). Again, this fits in with the general syndicalist policy of neutrality. The anti-election campaign of 1933 was provoked, in part, by the repression the socialist/republician government had inflicted on the CNT. They could not bring themselves to vote for the right or for their current oppressors.

capricorn wrote:
I still say that, at a later stage, nobody will be able to stop the workers taking (sound) political action as well as organising industrially to take over and run production. I suppose we'll have to wait and see.

Equally, workers will also abstain in certain situations. The aim of anarchist anti-election campaigns is to raise the notion that working class people have to solve their own problems directly, regardless of who gets in (and regardless of whether people vote). Which definitely worked in Spain, although it caused other difficulties to arise...

I would say that my basic point is that circumstances change and that people need to be flexible in their response. To simply mechanically apply a certain tactic regardless of the outcome would be silly in the extreme. Equally, to ignore the context in which certain decisions were made is also silly. Which, I think, the "left-communist" position does with regards to Spain. And I do think it significant that no attempt has been made to say what the CNT-FAI should have done (that makes it hard to see if the criticisms are valid or not).

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 6 2008 09:18

Anarcho where do you think that Kropotkin's 'madness' came from? Do you think that it was a psychiatric problem? Do you think that he just woke up one moment, and had a funny turn?

You seem to think that it is of utmost importance that I have never read Kropotkin though I have never claimed to have done. All I am suggesting is something that is entirely reasonable. The fact that a political decision quite probably had political routes.

If it didn't then why did it happen?

Quote:
ruly "scientific socialism" in practice!

What is this about? What century are you living in?

Devrim

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Feb 7 2008 14:51
Devrim wrote:
Anarcho where do you think that Kropotkin's 'madness' came from? Do you think that it was a psychiatric problem? Do you think that he just woke up one moment, and had a funny turn?

I have already indicated where I think his madness came from. It was not from his communist-anarchist politics, but rather his personal preferences for things French and dislike for things German. This can be seen from the numbers of communist-anarchists who opposed the war and were surprised by his position. If it were his politics, then the vast majority of communist-anarchists would have followed his lead.

Devrim wrote:
You seem to think that it is of utmost importance that I have never read Kropotkin though I have never claimed to have done.

It is hard to take seriously someone who maintains that it was Kropotkin's politics which are to blame when those politics have not been read. A bit like someone blaming Marxism for Stalin while stating that they had never read Marx...

Devrim wrote:
All I am suggesting is something that is entirely reasonable. The fact that a political decision quite probably had political routes.

And I am suggesting something quite reasonable, namely if you make such an assertion you should have some means of providing it. That would involve, at the minimum, having being familair with said politics. I am and I can assure you that his actions in 1914 were the total opposite of his pre-1914 position and politics. As noted by other communist-anarchists like Malatesta,Goldman, Berkman, and so on.

Devrim wrote:
Quote:
ruly "scientific socialism" in practice!

What is this about? What century are you living in?

The scientific method is based on gathering evidence and generalising from it. It involves making statements which are based on evidence. In this case, it means that if you make a statement such as "Kropotkin's politics are to blame for his actions in 1914" then you really should have some evidence to back it up. That you have repeatedly made an assertion without having the means to support says a lot.

And, to be honest, I'm sick of people talking about anarchism from a position of total ignorance of the matter. If you claim that communist-anarchism (Kropotkin's politics) explain his actions in 1914 then you better have some evidence to back it up. And to explain why the vast majority of communist-anarchists managed to avoid drawing Kropotkin's conclusions about the war.

As for what century, well, I was not aware that the scientific method became irrelevant in the 21st century.