Introduction to this issue

Submitted by Juan Conatz on January 13, 2011

As the article "What is The Red Menace?" (P.10 in this issue) makes clear, there are differing ideas about what The Red Menace should be. Part of the problem revolves around the desire, on the one hand, to make this newsletter a forum for the exchange of a broad range of opinions covering the spectrum of the libertarian left (which leaves the question of how to define "libertarian") and the desire, on the other hand, to make The Red Menace an expression of the views of the people working on it. One thing which we feel would be useful in dealing with the situation is to begin each issue with a brief introduction explaining some of the themes of the issue, the choice of major articles, and indicating how the collective evaluates important or contentious articles.

The publication of our first two issues brought us a good deal of favourable response, much of it from anarchists. Many seemed to assume we are anarchists; other people wrote to ask what, if anything, distinguishes our politics from anarchism. In an attempt to answer that question (for ourselves as well as for our readers) we are attempting to encourage articles on this and other basic political questions on the libertarian left. In this issue, there are several articles on the topic, from rather different perspectives. A member of the collective, Ulli Diemer, has contributed two articles, ("Anarchism vs. Marxism" and "Bakunin vs. Marx") which look at the roots of the anarchist/marxist split, and take up a number of general issues in the anarchism/Marxism debate. Diemer takes a pro-Marxist position, and argues that the rejection of Marxism by most present-day anarchists has more to do with the false identification of Marxism with Leninism, and with the failure of most anarchists to find out anything about Marxism before attacking it, than with any serious consideration of Marx's own views. He raises a number of points of disagreement with anarchism, but suggests that they can and should be overcome. Diemer's position substantially reflects the views of many members of the Libertarian Socialist Collective, but is not the group's 'official' position: at least one member of the collective, in fact, intends to write a reply to the articles for the next issue.

A diametrically opposed view is contained in P. Murtaugh's "The End of Dialectical Materialism: An Anarchist Reply to the Libertarian Marxists". Murtaugh essentially argues that 'libertarian Marxism' is either honest confusion, or deliberate opportunism, but in any case not a defensible political position. The Libertarian Socialist Collective categorically rejects Murtaugh's analysis, which we think displays an ignorance of Marx and Marxism that is unfortunately widespread among many people who style themselves anarchists. Nevertheless we welcome the way it confronts the issue frontally, thereby opening a discussion which we think can potentially be very fruitful. We are confident that libertarian socialism and anarchism are fundamentally in tune, but we think it important that misunderstandings and disagreements be confronted openly and vigorously. (It should also be noted that Murtaugh's article is not necessarily representative of anarchists generally - some anarchist comrades, in fact, objected to its publication because they considered it too unrepresentative.)

Our purpose in encouraging discussion on this and other issues is not of course to create division among people who are presently able to work well together; rather, it is an attempt to elaborate the basis on which unity between different kinds of libertarians is possible. We strongly believe that theoretical and strategic questions have to be dealt with critically and frankly, not swept under the rug for fear of the results. Questions of goals, strategy, and organization are central to any political movement. It should be possible - must be possible - for libertarians to discuss ideas and actions, criticize each other, and differ where necessary, without hostility and splits resulting. Hopefully we libertarians are mature enough to engage in the vigorous exchange of ideas without fracturing our movement.

A radicalism that is to be more than abstract rejection of capitalist society has to develop a radical critique of the way things are done in this society, and develop alternatives. One critical problem is that of technology: is there a liberatory way of using technology, or is most current technology inherently capitalist, suited only to hierarchical society whose relation to nature is that of domination? One of the most important attempts to develop an analysis of the liberatory potential of technology has been developed by Murray Bookchin. In his article on Bookchin Tom McLaughlin examines some of the directions that Bookchin has explored.

A specific example of an attempt to use technology in a liberatory way is the revolutionary radio station in Bologna: Radio Alice. Radio Alice takes its name from Alice In Wonderland, and has attempted to similarly invert language and logic in a subversive way. Last year, it was also caught up in an attempt to subvert the City of Bologna in a slightly more traditional way: when street fighting broke out, Alice acted as a centre of communication and co-ordination, with non-stop broadcasting of events on the streets as they happened. In this issue, we feature an excerpt from that broadcast.

The discussion of work and other daily life experiences begun in the last issue continues in this one with another article on office work, which discusses what it's like to work in a highly structured office environment.

A number of debates from the last issue are taken up again in this issue in the "Exchange" section (P. 18). Included are a response to Ed Clark's "Why the Leninists Will Win" entitled "Why the Leninists Will Lose"; a reply from the Wages for Housework group at Bain Avenue to criticism of them in the last issue, and a counter-reply to the charges they make; and a piece by Simon Rosenblum arguing for working in the NDP. (The collective is in complete disagreement with Rosenblum on this, but considers the question of the NDP an important one which should be discussed. Replies to Rosenblum, as well as to anything else in the issue, are welcome.)