A Reply to the Polemics of Mick Armstrong

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LimoWreck
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Sep 15 2007 15:08
A Reply to the Polemics of Mick Armstrong

The June 2007 edition of Socialist Alternative magazine features a polemical article by Mick Armstrong entitled, “Is There Anything Radical About Anarchism?” In this article, Armstrong attempts to persuade the readers of Socialist Alternative against anarchism and for the form of Marxism espoused by the Socialist Alternative organisation. The reader is not encouraged to consider any grey area, but to believe that the issue is black and white: anarchism has nothing radical to offer, and Armstrong’s version of “revolutionary Marxism” has a monopoly on truth.

Let’s test that theory, shall we?

Armstrong’s approach to the very well-trod anarchist vs. Marxist controversy is to engage in polemic—anarchism or libertarian socialism is wrong/bad, and Marxism or authoritarian socialism is right/good. You have to choose one or the other; nothing is left open-ended, nothing is left open for free and honest debate between equals who respect the right of the other to disagree. You either agree or you don’t. If you do agree, you’re in. If you don’t agree, then there’s something wrong with you—you must be stupid, or prevented from thinking rationally by some petit-bourgeois infantile disorder, or something. “Those seeking to genuinely challenge capitalism,” Armstrong writes, “must reject anarchism and commit themselves to revolutionary Marxism.” You’re not allowed to sort of like bits of anarchism and sort of like bits of Marxism and make up your own mind, that’s not how fair-dinkum, no-bullshit revolutionaries really think. You’re either with Armstrong, or against him, because that’s how people who are opposed to political injustice and oppression think—any fool knows that.

At its core, from the point of view of anarchists, the issue is one of libertarianism versus authoritarianism, libertarian socialism versus authoritarian socialism. From the point of view of anarchists, the issue is one of means and ends, and anarchists argue that in any free society, the two must be consistent with one another, for the means employed determine the ends achieved. One cannot under any circumstances become free by training in the methods and habits of slavery. Armstrong knows this as well as anyone, and knowing also that no rationale exists for authoritarianism other than to protect the economic and social privileges of elites, before he even begins his article he shifts the goalposts, so to speak, to suit himself. This appears to be why he chooses to write in a polemical style. Once we recognise this, we may begin to understand something of his reasons for choosing polemics over debate.

The rest is at http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dhbsnk8s_5f7spjr ....enjoy