Debate - Anarchosyndicalism vs. Insurrectionism (Seattle)

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Jul 10 2011 07:41
Debate - Anarchosyndicalism vs. Insurrectionism (Seattle)

Should anarchists reject formal organization? Are unions no longer relevant? What are the appropriate tactics and strategies anarchists should make use of to bring about, as quickly as possible, our revolution?

As class conflict continues to heat up in the northwest, these questions are becoming increasingly relevant to people on the front lines of radical change.

Come on down to Autonomia on the 23rd of July for a battle royale between proponents of Insurrectionary Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism! Eat some food, meet some new friends, and participate in an after-debate discussion on the problems and benefits of these two approaches to achieving an anarchist society.

I (888) will be arguing for the anarcho-syndicalist side and would appreciate any advice...

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Jul 10 2011 13:55

Will this be recorded in some fashion (video, audio, transcript, etc.)?

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Arbeiten
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Jul 10 2011 13:57

wow, this looks good! wrong continent though I am afraid. I'm sure you will smash [sic] the insurrectionist corner....

nastyned
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Jul 10 2011 14:19

Not that I'm an anarcho-syndicalist myself but I'd concentrate on the practical realities of class struggle, and criticise the idealistic dreaming of insurrectionary types that has no relation the situation in which most people live.

redsdisease
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Jul 10 2011 16:14

Insurrectionists and post-leftists seem to have some really weird ideas about anarcho-syndicalism. I would make it clear in the beginning that you're against these things.
That: 1. You believe in communism, not self-managed capitalism.
2. Just because you believe in organizing from your workplace doesn't mean you like work, or want "work" to continue in a post-revolutionary society.
3. Syndicalism doesn't only mean organizing workers but also ought to include others such as the unemployed, unwaged workers and renters.
4. Anarchist organizations don't intend to be all encompassing or "the sole revolutionary organ." (this one's big, post-leftists seem to have a really hard time understanding that anarchist organizations don't intend to bring about the revolution by themselves)

I don't know if that all made sense but, in my experience, those are the primary criticisms that I hear of class-based anarchist organizations from various anti-organizational types. It may take the wind out of their sails if that's all they came with to argue.

It would probably be worth distinguishing between anarcho-syndicalist unions and typical bureaucratic unions, they'll probably use a left-communist, anti-union critique. Similarly, they might try to argue that syndicalists are against spontaneous forms of workers organization. They'll probably also bring up the CNT joining the government.

Also, I would caution against calling them "dreamers" or acting like a superior, know it all. Act like a comrade and try to clearly lay out where you agree and where you disagree and why it is you disagree. Read some insurrectionist writing and develop some specific critiques, that will help you more than vague generalizations will.

Anyways, I hope some of that helped, good luck.

syndicalist
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Jul 10 2011 16:48

Sorry...I know nothing of insurrectionism, but good luck! But I thought Reddisease's & Nasty Neds comments seem reasonable in any discussion of anarcho-syndicalism.

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Jul 10 2011 16:59

redsdisease's points are good, you get some really weird arguments sometimes from insurrectionist quarters ('you want to organise at work, that means you love work! You want us all chained to machines!').

The main 'theoretical' thing I can think of (and this is based on Bonnano rather than the latest fashion of Tiqqun) is that a-s is in no way opposed to affinity groups masking up and fucking shit up (indeed, such sabotage tactics have long been a staple support for sustained strikes), but this is a tactical question based on the balance of class forces, the risk of substitutionism vs advancing the struggle, collective empowerment vs minority action etc, whereas insurrectionism tends to elevate 'attack' to a strategic imperative at all times. A-s'ers recognise sometimes we have to fight defensive, rearguard actions because we are weak, and this can't be compensated for by small group actions 'attacking' back in whatever way. Rather, defensive actions need to be organised in such a way that builds collective confidence and self-organisation (e.g. SeaSol don't firebomb a dodgy letting agent, they organise tennants to collectively assert their needs, even if that's only defensively enforcing basic standards, because this builds the capacity, confidence and culture from which more ambitious demands can be advanced).

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Jul 10 2011 18:57

Seems to me one good way to win a debate is to frame opponents as mistakenly and narrowmindedly either/or and yourself as an openminded right-thinking both/and, one who of course takes up positions critically rather than whole-sale. I tried to do some of this in a talk I gave an anarchist bookfair (which, by the way, was chockful of whackos who made me seriously consider dropping the label 'anarchist'). In case anyone's interested that talk is here-
http://whatinthehell.blogsome.com/2010/09/13/was-i-on-about/

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Jul 10 2011 19:48

I would highly recommend reading these documents from/about Bonanno...most US insurrectionists I don't even think really read him anymore, they're more into Greece, or individualist-nihilism, at least out in the Pacific Northwest. The pieces below often come off way more sane than most shit you'd see on Anarchist News or Puget Sound Anarchists.

Bonanno's critique of syndicalism:
http://digitalelephant.blogspot.com/2010/08/critique-of-syndicalist-methods.html

Bonanno's alternative proposals for mass organization:
http://digitalelephant.blogspot.com/2010/08/workers-autonomy.html

Bonanno's theories on the relation between "party & class":
http://pantagruel-provocazione.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-vanguard.html
http://pantagruel-provocazione.blogspot.com/2011/06/fictitious-movement-and-real-movement.html

Bonanno's primer on insurrectionalist anarchism:
http://digitalelephant.blogspot.com/2010/08/insurrectionalist-anarchism-part-one.html

Historical context Bonanno grew up in (machine translation):
http://anok.me/bonannocontext

The last one was quite enlightening to me. From Wikipedia: "In the 1960s a tendency within Italian anarchism which did not identify either with the more classical synthesist Italian Anarchist Federation or with the platformist inclined (GAAP - Anarchist Groups of Proletarian Action, their "leading member" Pier Carlo Masini later joined the PCI) started to emerge as local groups. These groups emphasized direct action, informal affinity groups and expropriation for financing anarchist activity. It is from within these groups that Bonanno emerged, particularly influenced by the practice of the Spanish exiled anarchist Josep Lluís i Facerias."

Maybe also these excerpts from Jean Weir's Insurrection #0 & #4 will also be of help:
http://zinelibrary.info/files/Self-ManagedLeagues.pdf
http://www.batko.se/en_issue2_ch4.php

The originals of which can be found here:
http://325.nostate.net/library/insurrection-0-dossier-comiso.pdf
http://325.nostate.net/library/insurrection-4.pdf

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Jul 10 2011 19:41

That poster made me smile - smashy punks versus constructivist proles.

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Jul 10 2011 20:07

If you want to read the shit they are probably really into at the moment I'd take a look at these:

http://325.nostate.net/?p=2870
http://325.nostate.net/library/ccf.pdf
http://zinelibrary.info/files/iconoclasts!.pdf
http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node/14647
http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node/14662

This is what I meant by anarcho-hipsters all of a sudden dropping insurrectionary communism. I guess Tiqqun, Endnotes, and all that ultra-left shit ain't cool enough anymore and instead fetishizing Greece and getting into wacky individualist-egoist-nihilism is... O.o

CCF is the new RAF.

Stirner is the new Hegel.

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Jul 10 2011 20:13

Insurrectionist and post-left anarchy, are the most static concepts inside the anarchist tradition. Insurrectionary anarchism proved its inability in the 19th and early 20th century, the rise of organizational anarchism in the form of "anarcho-syndicalism" and "revolutionary syndicalism" gave anarchism its first mass based character, winning back those workers/intellectuals that were formerly alienated by the illegalism and propaganda of the deed of the post-first international era. I am not trying to bash the actions of our comrades in those eras, in fact i myself would've join them if i was in their situation, but times have changed, and to talk about Insurrectionary anarchism in the 21th century western "liberal democracies", its simply SUICIDE for the whole anarchist tradition. This is my opinion, anarchism needs its mass based character in order to go forward, towards a social revolution, without it you'll be condemning all of us to a life of stereotypes, alienation and cliches. I would advice you to study the historical side of Insurrectionary anarchism too, because they will heavily rely on the "historical mistakes" of syndicalism.

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Jul 10 2011 21:12

Thanks everyone for the links. I am somewhat familiar with Bonanno's work already but I need to give critique of syndicalist methods a (partial) read. Yes, giving some examples of the worst failures of insurrectionism historically would be great since they are definitely going to do the same to us (it is a 2 vs 2 debate).

The debate will be recorded so I'll let you know when the files are online.

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Jul 10 2011 23:27

Was your debate about Democracy ever recorded?

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Jul 11 2011 03:37

No, it wasn't.

Black Badger
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Jul 11 2011 22:09

The conflation of insurrectionary and post-left anarchies is untenable. There may be some similarities in the respective critiques of organization for organization's sake, but that doesn't make them the same.

Quote:
1. You believe in communism, not self-managed capitalism.
2. Just because you believe in organizing from your workplace doesn't mean you like work, or want "work" to continue in a post-revolutionary society.
3. Syndicalism doesn't only mean organizing workers but also ought to include others such as the unemployed, unwaged workers and renters.
4. Anarchist organizations don't intend to be all encompassing or "the sole revolutionary organ." (this one's big, post-leftists seem to have a really hard time understanding that anarchist organizations don't intend to bring about the revolution by themselves)

1. Merely saying you're for "communism" means nothing without explaining how your form of communism is actually different from what those critical of syndicalism might label "self-managed capitalism." This is similar to the absurd assertions of the Parecon crowd, who insist that their economic set-up, complete with institutionalized hierarchy, isn't self-managed capitalism. You can call it whatever you prefer, but if the relations of production replicate and maintain the creation of commodities through a system of labor value (whether in the form of labor vouchers or wages), maintaining the hierarchies inherent in the division of labor (not the same as a separation of tasks), and engaging in a system of exchange of equivalent goods and services through a market, then I doubt most communists would agree that it could be properly labeled communism.

3. Yes, organizing workers ought to include that, but almost never does, and it's good to know that you recognize this; an internal critique of anarcho-syndicalism for its historical and practical shortcomings is long overdue.

4. I have no idea why you would say that post-left anarchists believe that anarchist organizationalists think they can bring about anything - let alone a revolution - by themselves. The self-identified post-left anarchists I know know perfectly well that most members of anarchist organizations don't adhere to such a delusion. This seems like a red herring.

Good luck with the debate. Knowing too many anarcho-hipsters who identify as insurrectionists, I can only hope that someone can present something approaching coherence for the insurrectionary side.

redsdisease
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Jul 12 2011 05:28
Black Badger wrote:
The conflation of insurrectionary and post-left anarchies is untenable. There may be some similarities in the respective critiques of organization for organization's sake, but that doesn't make them the same.

Several people that I know who call themselves insurrectionists also consider themselves to be post-left anarchists and most of the rest of the insurrectionists that I know came straight out of the post-leftism (most were primitivists, actually). Honestly, I would say that there are more than some similarities where the critique of organization is concerned, although post-leftism is hard to pin down and broad, so this argument seems a little pointless to me honestly (also, this has been argued to death before and I'm not interested in continuing it). Idk, I wasn't saying that these were the positions of both on syndicalism, just stuff that I've heard or read from both post-leftists and insurrectionists on the issue

Black Badger wrote:
You can call it whatever you prefer, but if the relations of production replicate and maintain the creation of commodities through a system of labor value (whether in the form of labor vouchers or wages), maintaining the hierarchies inherent in the division of labor (not the same as a separation of tasks), and engaging in a system of exchange of equivalent goods and services through a market, then I doubt most communists would agree that it could be properly labeled communism.

I don't know if I understand this part. Based on the posts that I've read of his, I don't think that 888 believes this or would argue this (although I really don't know). Most anarcho-syndicalists that I've ever met or read have not argued that what you described is either communism or desirable. I know that there are self-professed anarcho-syndicalists who might argue for remuneration and the division of labor, but I don't think that they really define the tendency.

Black Badger wrote:
3. Yes, organizing workers ought to include that, but almost never does, and it's good to know that you recognize this; an internal critique of anarcho-syndicalism for its historical and practical shortcomings is long overdue.

Agreed.

Black Badger wrote:
4. I have no idea why you would say that post-left anarchists believe that anarchist organizationalists think they can bring about anything - let alone a revolution - by themselves. The self-identified post-left anarchists I know know perfectly well that most members of anarchist organizations don't adhere to such a delusion. This seems like a red herring.

I don't know, I feel like I've heard that one a lot. I've talked to more than a few anarchists who seemed to think that syndicalists intend to encompass the entire working class before launching their revolution in one fell swoop. Similarly, I've heard the charge that anarchist organizationalists intend for their organizations to be the revolutionary instrument. Perhaps you just know smarter post-leftists than I do. It probably doesn't help that I've never lived in a town in which anarchist organizations had any presence at all, so it was easy for people to get weird ideas.

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Jul 12 2011 07:00

Re; #4

The thing is tho, this is in the States, where the main syndicalists tradition is the IWW not anarcho-syndicalism. This means the OBUism of the IWW (and even the things contained in the 'general strike' pamphlet) colour and inform perceptions of what class struggle/syndicalist anarchists advocate.

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Jul 12 2011 08:19

If by 'the OBU-ism of the IWW' you mean 'the idea that the IWW will become THE one big union' I don't think that's accurate. For one thing, it's not at all clear to me that the early IWW actually consensus on the meaning of that term, no more than they did 'cooperative commonwealth.' I'd also be shocked if many anti-IWW folk were in any way influenced by anything written or said by the actual IWW beyond a throwaway remark made by one member once or something. Also, I don't think it's clear that there's much of a difference in the content of the politics of the early IWW and anarchosyndicalism (from my admittedly minimal knowledge of the latter) -- the early IWW was definitely very heavily marxist influenced in its analysis, but it's unclear what that influence meant in terms of what the IWW actually did. Paul Brissenden argues basically that "revolutionary industrial unionism" was just American English for "anarchosyndicalism." I wrote a bit about some of this here - http://libcom.org/forums/theory/instead-derailing-thread-15052011

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Jul 12 2011 16:53

Nate, fully get what you're saying, but the modern IWW does regularly call itself "the OBU"--regardless of the internal debates or shades of meaning. In my experiences with non class-struggle syndicalists they do try to say that the IWW wants to be only organization and claim this goes against the 'decentralization' necessary for the anarchy.

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Jul 12 2011 18:49

Hmm. Could be. My view is no doubt skewed by my living in a city where the IWW's a relatively big presence (in our tiny pond) which I think changes things locally. Still, I'm skeptical that there's much good faith misinterpretation going on here, I think that folk would say that stuff either way. There's a short step between the older insurrectionist 'we reject the organization of synthesis' line (http://www.batko.se/en_issue2_ch4.php a piece which I personally think has some good things in it) to 'these organizations think they're self-sufficient revolutionary actors.' The irony there is that a lot of insurrectionary stuff is heavily substitutionist despite these criticisms.

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Jul 13 2011 20:06

-Don't let them get away with saying anarcho-syndicalism or platformism is old and therefore outdated. Insurrectionary anarchism is a good 30 years older than the former and 50 years older the latter. And it draws a lot from left communism, which is also pretty far from new. This is often forgotten/neglected.

-It's justifications for symbolic spectacle attacks by small handfuls of individuals are dead ends. It's either to "inspire" or "act out one's desires". This is also how they see people transforming into revolutionaries, by being inspired by other people's actions or taking part in them. This is not a thought out theory of the transformative qualities of struggle and how people get to a certain outlook.

-Outside of extreme activism, they don't have much to offer. Look at Wisconsin, they had no idea what to think of the situation and had little to offer. They have a very difficult time meeting people where they are at, and when attempts are made to do this, it's in the form of poorly run social services: food, "natural" healthcare remedies, gardening skillshares

There's a thread on ABC that talks a bunch about IA
http://www.anarchistblackcat.org/index.php/topic,7676.0.html

action_now
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Jul 14 2011 09:52
nastyned wrote:
Not that I'm an anarcho-syndicalist myself but I'd concentrate on the practical realities of class struggle, and criticise the idealistic dreaming of insurrectionary types that has no relation the situation in which most people live.

do you actually know what insurrectionary anarchy is? honest question.

i've been really interested is this debate, especially since the autonomia social centre seems to be doing some really interesting and exciting stuff. is there a change that this debate will be transcribed, fimed or recorded, since i'd be really interested in how it goes. hopefully it can be informative and not turn into a shitstorm (atleast right away!) and clarfiy some often misrepresented ideas (many that has already been said on this thread!- an example being that IA is 'old', to quote Bonanno on the subject,

'what is the point of accussing us of being stuck in methods that are a hundred years out of date without taking a look at what we are talking about? The insurrerctionalism we are talking about is quite different to the glorious days of the barricades, even if it might contain elements of a struggle that moves in such a direction at times. But as simple revolutionary theory and analysis, a method that comes to life in a project, it does not necessarily take this apolcalyptic moment into account, but develops and intensifies far from any waving of banners or glittering of guns')

so i'd avoid any percieved 'historcal' analysis and practice, especially when most examples used to describe the methods were not based around 'anarchist struggles'- check this out
http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Anonymous__Autonomous_Self-Organization_and_Anarchist_Intervention__A_Tension_in_Practice.html

so it's an idea based upon self-organisation, permanent conflictuality and so on, not a single body of thought that can be rounded up by pointing at some french anarchists that likeed to blow shit up and assainate people in power.

alot of this 'advice' has very little to do with insurrectionary anarchy and you best ignore and do your own research.

edit: just seent that this shall be recorded, looking forward to it!

action_now
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Jul 14 2011 09:41

.

nastyned
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Jul 14 2011 12:00
action_now wrote:
do you actually know what insurrectionary anarchy is? honest question.

I have read Bonanno, who you then quote, so I'm pretty sure we're talking about the same thing.

action_now
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Jul 14 2011 12:35
nastyned wrote:
action_now wrote:
do you actually know what insurrectionary anarchy is? honest question.

I have read Bonanno, who you then quote, so I'm pretty sure we're talking about the same thing.

then explain how you think that an insurrectionary praxis bares no relation to everyday struggle?

nastyned
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Jul 14 2011 12:57

It didn't strike me as being relevant to my life.

action_now
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Jul 14 2011 13:05

wonder what you read by bonanno then, though obviously not everyone is going to agree and we should recongise this.
anyway there's quite a few historic and current intermediate, and more general, struggles that seem to be benefiting and declaring solidarity with such autonomous projects.

jacobian
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Jul 14 2011 17:54

I think it's a huge mistake to engage with these nut-jobs. We wouldn't debate the sanity of thetans with scientologists, it would be giving it far more legitimacy than is due.

There is absolutely nothing of value to be gained from any of the tradition, the people involved are unlikely to be swayed towards something more boring like syndicalism, the audience is more likely to hear from disorganised lunatics in a way that is presented as more sane than they really are than they would be if there was no debate at all.

It seems to me that exactly zero effort should be spend on these types and instead should be spent getting conversations and debates with larger audiences where influence can be gained. The left has a tendency to focus too inwardly and it really just reinforces ghettoising trends.

Maybe I'm wrong about the potential and demographics, but I doubt it. Seems like you'd have more to gain from arguing with the left of the democrats.

action_now
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Jul 14 2011 18:09

lol

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Jul 14 2011 18:40
action_now wrote:

hopefully it can be informative and not turn into a shitstorm (atleast right away!) and clarfiy some often misrepresented ideas (many that has already been said on this thread!- an example being that IA is 'old', to quote Bonanno on the subject,

'what is the point of accussing us of being stuck in methods that are a hundred years out of date without taking a look at what we are talking about? The insurrerctionalism we are talking about is quite different to the glorious days of the barricades, even if it might contain elements of a struggle that moves in such a direction at times. But as simple revolutionary theory and analysis, a method that comes to life in a project, it does not necessarily take this apolcalyptic moment into account, but develops and intensifies far from any waving of banners or glittering of guns')

Neoplatformism of the 21st century is different from the French platformism of the 1950s, which is different from what Mahkno and them exactly envisioned. That doesn't mean you can't include them under the same umbrella of platformism.

Same thing with anarcho-syndicalism. The CNT of the 1910s is different from the FORA of the 1920s which is different from the CNT of the 1990s. Doesn't mean they aren't the same tradition, despite what right wing platformists, say.

Insurrectionary anarchism is no different. The newer IA likes to pass itself off as young and fresh, but that has more to do with its roots in youth countercultures and scenes that like to cannibalize what is old in favor of the hippest new thing, it isn't based on reality. IA has always been a current within anarchism, and to say the French 'propaganda of the deed ' people of the 1880s, the Italian-American Galienists of the 1910-20s, elements of the FAI in the 1930s, Bonnano and the Italians of the 1970/80s, the Greeks of the 90/00s and the American/UK/Canada kids of the 2010s have nothing in common is dishonest. The reasons and tactics are along similar lines, and the differences between them are no larger than the differences between the different eras of anarcho-syndicalism and platformism, which IA's would not make nuanced statements about when these traditions started or even acknowledge the differences between the historical eras.

Quote:
so i'd avoid any percieved 'historcal' analysis and practice, especially when most examples used to describe the methods were not based around 'anarchist struggles'- check this out
http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Anonymous__Autonomous_Self-Organization_and_Anarchist_Intervention__A_Tension_in_Practice.html

so it's an idea based upon self-organisation, permanent conflictuality and so on, not a single body of thought that can be rounded up by pointing at some french anarchists that likeed to blow shit up and assainate people in power.

This is also another weakness of contemporary IA. The language by the major thinkers and writers is incredibly vague, purposefully. It is open to a number of different interpretations and it also serves to wash ones hands of having to defend positions. IA types will go to great lengths and quote their old beards, not to explain what IA is, but to explain what it is not.