trots in oz

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vicent
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Mar 23 2013 10:39
trots in oz

hello im new to anarchism but was sold after reading a couple of books by chomsky and i was wondering if anyone could tell me why trotskyism is so big in australia and why anarchism is so weak, it makes no sense. i just had a debate with a trotskyist but they basically ignored all my arguments.

bastarx
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Mar 23 2013 12:00

Hi Vicent,

Trotskyism isn't particularly big in Australia. The members of all the Trot parties here would be well short of one thousand people. There would probably be as many anarchists in Australia.

However the Trots are pretty much all in parties, to be a Trotskyist not in a party is like being a capitalist without capital, whereas the anarchists are mostly not in parties.

I think a big part of the attraction of Trotskyism to young adults is that they offer well rehearsed answers to a lot of common questions and a whole bunch of activities that are ostensibly about fighting capitalism although they are really mainly about maintaining the party. Anarchists OTOH are so disorganised they don't really offer anything much to newcomers.

I wouldn't waste two much time debating with Trotskyists, just say "no thanks I don't want a copy of Green Left Weekly, if I wanted to read a capitalist paper I'd buy the Australian".

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Mar 23 2013 15:56

Trotskyism is fortunate in that it was born into a world of slaves, and therefore it has a greater appeal to people who have been conditioned into authoritarian modes of thinking in the process of preparing them for lives of obsequious wage slavery since it demands far less of them in terms of reflection and critical thinking. The drawback is of course that it tends to perpetuate much of what it claims to oppose.

Some people come to realise this and either leave politics altogether or drift into the anarchist scene, where they bring their trot baggage with them and work from the basis of the assumption that 'those who are not for me are with the enemies of anarchism' which either disgusts into apathy or makes targets out of capable organisers and incapacitates it as a whole.

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ites
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Mar 24 2013 10:36

I wouldn't waste my breath trying to reason with most trots as a general rule though. The only thing I ever mention in discussion with them anymore is the fact that the logic Stalin used to justify the persecution of Trotskyists after the assassination of Kirov is basically the same logic that Trotsky used to justify the suppression of the Kronstadt Uprising. It seems to be good for slowing them down at least.

vicent
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Mar 23 2013 23:42

thanks guys , very helpful, i guess they seem more prevelant because they are more organised, even though there are so many seperate groups!?.
i think green left weekly isnt too bad

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Mar 24 2013 03:29

I don't mind Green Left Weekly; I don't know that there's any need for a paper that requires that much investment of time, energy and resources though. Better to try to build rapport with people by talking to them, asking questions about their lives and listening to the answers long enough to draw the necessary conclusions about the nature of capitalist society.

Trots seem more prevalent because they're better organised is pretty much my assessment; for all their failings that's one that they definitely have on us, and one that appears at least to support the claim that anarchy is impossible because people can't handle the responsibility that comes with meaningful freedom. We're averse to simple things like dues cards which are seen to be bureaucratic because they imply structure and accountability. So we're not bureaucratic but we're unable to raise any funds to produce newspapers and literature in economies of scale and so leave the field open to the trots, who for all their other failings are at least able to make themselves visible.

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Mar 24 2013 05:48

The general assessment that "trotskyism is so big in australia and why anarchism is so weak" is true is some respects, but not as accurate in others.

bastarx wrote:
…a big part of the attraction of Trotskyism to young adults is that they offer well rehearsed answers to a lot of common questions and a whole bunch of activities that are ostensibly about fighting capitalism… Anarchists OTOH are so disorganised they don't really offer anything much to newcomers.

Not sure why this was down-voted, as it sums it up pretty well. I would add that direct comparisons between anarchist groups and marxist vanguardist parties do miss the point a bit. It's not like anarchists see their groups as the one that will (or should) lead society. They are so different in structure and purpose that inevitably it will unsatisfying to compare them.

Anarchist ideas (inasmuch as we still can lay claim to them) still hold their appeal, now more than ever. It's interesting to see how bastardised versions filter through, such as the debacle of consensus decision-making in the various Occupy things.

It seems fairly safe to say that both anarchists and trotskyists are similarly marginal in their effect on discourse in broader society, but anarchists continue to have the most influence on radical politics I reckon.

I went to Europe recently, and it was pretty interesting to see anarchist stickers and grafitti everywhere on the street in London and Berlin. It might be that the lack of visibility is a particularly Australian problem – although Newtown would probably be the exception there! I don't know if there's a direct correlation between visibility and "being big", but I suspect there is.

bastarx
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Mar 24 2013 10:25

I'd also add Australia is a pretty conservative country in general and the economic crisis hasn't had a huge effect here yet. The last large working class mobilisation was back in 2005 with the anti-Work Choices demonstrations and the last big industrial dispute the wharf lockout in 1998. So it's hardly surprising that what passes for radical politics here is pretty conservative.

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Mar 24 2013 09:36

I'm not in Australia, but having lived in London, I've dealt with a lot of fucking Trots. I don't know if it's the same, but the Trots are organised and they have a big presence on a lot of university campuses. This means they are often the first to recruit the newly politicised.

Since Trot groups are often far better at fundraising and employ full-timers they also have the ability to print thousands of placards for marches, which often makes it appear they have a membership and influence far above their actual number. This also relates, of course, to their notion of being the vanguard of the class, where the ideas of the Central Committee are the driver of social change and not actual, active participation of the wider class.

However, there is also a huge turnover in these groups. Someone once said that the biggest political group on the British left is ex-SWP members. And it's probably true. I mean, they just burn through young politicos. The lack of actual democratic practice and the experience of Trot groups I think turns a lot of young activists away from radical politics for life. It's pretty fucked.

The other thing is that in the UK, a lot of trade union full-timers (and often lay activists) are Trots. This means that they finagle trade union funding for there ever expanding plethora of front groups.

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ites
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Mar 24 2013 10:05

It's the same here.

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Mar 24 2013 10:17

ites, I don't mean to be a dick, but I feel like what I posted was pretty at odds with what you've posted on this thread. If it's the same, I'm curious how you reached the conclusions you did about the mentality of Trots, amongst other things.

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Mar 24 2013 10:34

I don't think you're being a dick; I did think your assessment was pretty accurate. How do you mean?

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Mar 24 2013 10:56
Quote:
Trotskyism is fortunate in that it was born into a world of slaves, and therefore it has a greater appeal to people who have been conditioned into authoritarian modes of thinking in the process of preparing them for lives of obsequious wage slavery since it demands far less of them in terms of reflection and critical thinking.

Mostly this. I think there's some really problematic implications of your overal view of the working class here. To be honest though, I'm a bit too hungover at the moment to go into much of the debate about the contradictions of class conciousness and why I think such sweeping and dismissive notions as the above are destructive and incorrect.

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Mar 24 2013 11:17
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Mostly this. I think there's some really problematic implications of your overal view of the working class here. To be honest though, I'm a bit too hungover at the moment to go into much of the debate about the contradictions of class conciousness and why I think such sweeping and dismissive notions as the above are destructive and incorrect.

I don't see that it follows that acknowledging the authoritarian conditioning that does take place in an authoritarian world like ours is of necessity dismissive of the working class. People who spent their lives studying authoritarian psychology and its negative effects on the working class like Erich Fromm and Wilhelm Reich were lifelong supporters of working class struggles. Sounds like an interesting discussion at any rate; should be here when you've recovered.

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Mar 24 2013 13:42

So the thing about this..

Quote:
I wouldn't waste my breath trying to reason with most trots as a general rule though. The only thing I ever mention in discussion with them anymore is the fact that the logic Stalin used to justify the persecution of Trotskyists after the assassination of Kirov is basically the same logic that Trotsky used to justify the suppression of the Kronstadt Uprising.

Trotskyism is fortunate in that it was born into a world of slaves, and therefore it has a greater appeal to people who have been conditioned into authoritarian modes of thinking in the process of preparing them for lives of obsequious wage slavery since it demands far less of them in terms of reflection and critical thinking.

...is that it strikes me as a real activist mentality. We, the anarchists, are enlightened. We have the answers and the conciousness.

I'm not saying that it's not good be a dedicated revolutionary and deeply think through the problems of capitalism and hierarchy (of course it is), but wider class concousness and activity is always going to be uneven and contradictory. I think we need to build on the inherent (often unconcious) small acts of solidarity and build up from that material basis and a more policially concious working class. I mean, it should basically be an anarchist truism that action preceeds conciousness in a million different ways.

I'm sure you agree with that, but the way you've framed it just about writes off the mass of humanity who exist as 'obsequious wage slaves'. Of course we shouldn't waste our time trying to convert Trotskyist ideologues, but I worry that your approach here basically inhibits you from bothering to engage the vast majority of the working class.

Finally, I love this line:

Quote:
I wouldn't waste two much time debating with Trotskyists, just say "no thanks I don't want a copy of Green Left Weekly, if I wanted to read a capitalist paper I'd buy the Australian".

I'm definitely using the next time someone offers me a Socialist Worker.

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Mar 24 2013 17:13

The argument ites put forward is basically what I myself have read in a few anarchist pamphlets. ites may have put it in a bit more harsher way, but I don't think what ites is trying to say is necessarily wrong. I think the question that is being posed is why workers or students or whoever would be more inclined to join Trotskyist organizations. And I don't think it is wrong to recognize how the cultural hegemony of the ruling class can affect us in so many ways, not just in believing in this or that (e. g. TINA, "capitalism is human nature", etc.), but also in the way we struggle and how we see social change happening. We are taught up through the education system to obey authority (because capital needs disciplined workers), or when we have social concerns, we must look towards leaders for help (“vote for Obama and see what happens”). Because we are definitely not going to be taught to apply self-help in the anarchist way (which would be collective self-organizing). And if we are told to apply “self-help”, it’s usually the “GET A JOB YOU LAZY BUM!” nonsense. All of this is pretty obvious, or at least it should be. I think we all know that most of the fairly large organizing that goes on in capitalist society is the traditional, herd-and-shepherd type of organizing. Look at what goes on in universities; all of the student clubs and frats are organized like that. We're I attend; I see it all of the time on Thursdays during club hours. The point I’m getting at is that this is where Trots get there general idea of organizing from. It is taken as a given.

It is true action or struggle precedes consciousness, but not all struggles are going to be the anarchist struggle we imagine. My idea is that when people do struggle, they can indeed and should learn from them, and see the limitations of certain ways of going about struggling, and maybe develop new forms. And we as anarchists should encourage alternatives as much as we can and point out what’s bad about others. Otherwise, how could class consciousness be raised if we didn’t struggle and learn from them? But I don’t think Trotskyist-like organizations are going to get really far in terms of consciousness, because they’re not really struggling at all in the first place. To be honest, organizations like the SWP offer reformist politics. For their new members, it’s an easy transition from one kind of reformism to another kind of reformism, now it’s just wrapped up in revolutionary jargon. They are in the business of selling a commoditized form of ‘socialism’, which makes them‘opium’ for the masses. And that’s why they have been more of an easier sell because under capitalism, we are taught to do ‘opium’ for all our troubles.

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Mar 25 2013 10:30
Chilli Sauce wrote:
...is that it strikes me as a real activist mentality. We, the anarchists, are enlightened. We have the answers and the conciousness.

I'm not saying that it's not good be a dedicated revolutionary and deeply think through the problems of capitalism and hierarchy (of course it is), but wider class concousness and activity is always going to be uneven and contradictory. I think we need to build on the inherent (often unconcious) small acts of solidarity and build up from that material basis and a more policially concious working class. I mean, it should basically be an anarchist truism that action preceeds conciousness in a million different ways.

I don't see that being critical of trotskyism is the same thing as thinking that anarchists have all the answers at all. What I'm saying is what I've said once before already, and that's that people who are conditioned to think of institutionalised authority as normal and who have had authoritarian modes of thinking and acting normalised from a young age find it easier to relate to Trotskyism than anarchism because it demands less of them in terms of divesting oneself of emotional dependence on authority.

I'm not saying that workers are stupid and incapable of exercising meaningful control over the conditions of our own lives, but rather acknowledging the effort that the powers that be go to prevent us from understanding our own strength and our own potential in that respect.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
I'm sure you agree with that, but the way you've framed it just about writes off the mass of humanity who exist as 'obsequious wage slaves'. Of course we shouldn't waste our time trying to convert Trotskyist ideologues, but I worry that your approach here basically inhibits you from bothering to engage the vast majority of the working class.

You obviously don't know me then. I don't think people are obsequious wage slaves for the most part and never said that I did; what I did say was that that's the objective of those who try to keep workers in line so that they might be exploited with a minimum of fuss. I find the average worker who hasn't read a line of Marx to be far more class conscious than the average uni student Trot whose knowledge of class is limited to what they've read in Capital (and before you go accusing me of being anti-intellectual, I've read the first volume). This is to be expected, because they have direct experience of class on the job.

As against the average worker on the job who I am more than willing to talk to, and as someone who has even had recruiter training through one of the 'business' unions in the name of honing my ability to talk (and more importantly listen) to the average worker on a level they can understand and find meaningful and relevant, I don't bother engaging Trotskyist ideologues for the most part because I don't see any point in engaging people in discussion who have already made up their minds and aren't open to an open, respectful and reciprocal exchange of ideas. On what basis do you compare that to writing off the vast majority of the working class?

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Mar 26 2013 09:32

ites, it wasn't my intention to offend you. Like I said, I assumed you'd agree with most of what I said in my last post, it was the framing of the argument I was critical of. Let my try to explain, you said:

Quote:
Trotskyism is fortunate in that it was born into a world of slaves, and therefore it has a greater appeal to people who have been conditioned into authoritarian modes of thinking in the process of preparing them for lives of obsequious wage slavery since it demands far less of them in terms of reflection and critical thinking.

The problem is that it's not just Trotskyism that's born into a world of slaves, it's all of us. We've all been conditioned into authoriatrian modes of thinking. I mean, the vast majority of the working class aren't revolutionaries and, if you asked them, they'd overall support capitalism.

And this is what I mean when I say that class conciousness is messy and contradictory and that action precedes conciousness. Of course, converting Trots to anarchist shouldn't be our top priority (I'd imagine it's not even in our top 25), but we're going to have to engage with workers who have ideas which are just as, if not more, authoritarian and accepting of hierarchy than the Trots. If you write off the Trots on those grounds, it would logically follow you write off other workers who share those same characteristics.

If that's not what you meant, totally fine, I just don't think it came across in your post, that's all.

And like I said I have no love for Trotskyist ideologues, but I'd argue that the bulk of the membership of the Trot parties aren't ideologues, especially on campuses. The Trots are often just the largest, most vocal, and most organised group on campus, so they draw in the newly politicised.

You then go on to say that even if these folks abandon Trotskyism and float into the anarchist mileu, they still "bring their trot baggage with them" and "make targets out of capable organisers". That doesn't seem to suggest you're just talking about Trot ideologues (where you and I are definitely in agreement), but anyone who's ever been in a Trot party.

I mean, it seems to me, that if the anarchist movement can't integrate folks who've come from different political background--if we can't differentiate how our organisations differ and don't have the structures to prevent the sort of things you're talking about--that's actually a larger problem with the anarchist movement more than anything else.

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Mar 31 2013 07:12
Chilli Sauce wrote:
ites, it wasn't my intention to offend you. Like I said, I assumed you'd agree with most of what I said in my last post, it was the framing of the argument I was critical of.

Not a problem; I wasn't offended.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
The problem is that it's not just Trotskyism that's born into a world of slaves, it's all of us. We've all been conditioned into authoriatrian modes of thinking. I mean, the vast majority of the working class aren't revolutionaries and, if you asked them, they'd overall support capitalism.

And this is what I mean when I say that class conciousness is messy and contradictory and that action precedes conciousness. Of course, converting Trots to anarchist shouldn't be our top priority (I'd imagine it's not even in our top 25), but we're going to have to engage with workers who have ideas which are just as, if not more, authoritarian and accepting of hierarchy than the Trots. If you write off the Trots on those grounds, it would logically follow you write off other workers who share those same characteristics.

If that's not what you meant, totally fine, I just don't think it came across in your post, that's all.

We definitely are, but I don't think you can make that kind of a claim with any certainty. In my experience many workers are very open to ideas of workers control, especially if it's pitched in terms of the merit of workers having more say about how their workplace is run because they experience it directly every day. Many of them are well to the left of the Trots in that respect.

Yeah obviously there are workers who lack class consciousness and have internalised the basic operating assumptions of capitalism such that they argue against their own interests, sometimes vehemently. In that case we obviously need to engage with their authoritarian conditioning and their emotional dependence on being told how to think and act, especially if they're religious, but I think that's an entirely different kettle of fish from trying to engage meaningfully with Trots.

In terms of class composition we're talking about actual wage workers as opposed to students and professional revolutionaries who may or may not actually hold down a regular job (and some if stories are to believed who are obliged to give up regular jobs for the sake of building the party). If you want to discuss the relative merits of various left wing ideologies you talk to a Trotskyist revolutionary; if you want to discuss the relative merits of work under capitalism you talk to workers. I don't see that keeping the one at arms length necessary follows with the other.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
And like I said I have no love for Trotskyist ideologues, but I'd argue that the bulk of the membership of the Trot parties aren't ideologues, especially on campuses. The Trots are often just the largest, most vocal, and most organised group on campus, so they draw in the newly politicised.

You then go on to say that even if these folks abandon Trotskyism and float into the anarchist mileu, they still "bring their trot baggage with them" and "make targets out of capable organisers". That doesn't seem to suggest you're just talking about Trot ideologues (where you and I are definitely in agreement), but anyone who's ever been in a Trot party.

I mean, it seems to me, that if the anarchist movement can't integrate folks who've come from different political background--if we can't differentiate how our organisations differ and don't have the structures to prevent the sort of things you're talking about--that's actually a larger problem with the anarchist movement more than anything else.

No that's true - writing off everyone who joins a socialist organisation because it approximates their own anticapitalism as intractable state socialists is just as bad as the way state socialists think. That said one does pick up authoritarian ideas and habits from being around that milieu and people do enter the anarchist scene with very autocratic attitudes at times, with the consequences already discussed.

I'd definitely agree with that last comment. I don't think the anarchist movement is really that different in a whole raft of ways, and in some significant respects is actually worse. Where we should display a higher level of personal responsibility given that we don't have hierarchies to do our thinking for us, we display about the same or less which leads to the formation of the kinds of informal hierarchies that are even more oppressive than the ones out in the open since they refuse to even acknowledge their own existence.

That's even without going into the Lord-of-the-Flies style tribal groupthink that we seem to be prone to regressing into at times. For people who talk a lot about statists projecting the chaos inherent to the free market onto anarchists we sure seem to spend a similar amount of time demonstrating our own incapacity for freedom a lot of the time through the internal chaos within the anarchist ghetto (downvotes will demonstrate our unwillingness to even consider the question).

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Mar 31 2013 08:37

I agree with bastarx, trot groups aren't that big. I dont think salt number much more than 100 nationally, resistance has maybe 50 or 60, and salli probably has a couple hundred(which in itself contains most resistance members).

Their dogmatic approach makes their presence seem larger, but generally just burns through and turns away new recruits. Their internal heirarchies alienate newbies, or anyone who disagrees with the goals as set by the national congress. Not saying core national goals are something to shy away from, but anarchist federalism is structured to allow groups to carry out local actions on their own watch.