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(en) Rebel Worker, Vol.21 No.3 (177) July-Aug. 2002 - "The Sect" Versus "The Catalyst" & The Way Forward For the Anti-Capitalist Movement

From Jura Books <a-infos-@chaos.apana.org.au>
Date Thu, 11 Jul 2002 05:14:54 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

"The Sect" Versus "The Catalyst" & The Way Forward
For The Anti-Capitalist Movement , From Rebel Worker
Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network
Vol.21 No.3 (177) July-Aug. 2002
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overseas Postal Address PO Box 92 Broadway 2007 NSW

In this article I will be looking at two phenomena  "the sect" and "the 
catalyst", as these concepts  relate to problems of the contemporary 
Anti-Capitalist movement and the revolutionary/workers' control project.
The terms "sect" and "sectarian" are often used in a sloppy fashion by many 
as  terms of abuse and usually just indicating one group disagrees with 
another. In using the term "sect" in a precise manner, it's of great use in 
throwing light on  what's going wrong with various groups in regard to the 
pursuit of the revolutionary project. The basic characteristic of the sect 
seems to me to be its "existential character". Groups growing and existing 
for their own sake.  In contrast, a catalyst exists to facilitate changes 
in the environment and society which surrounds it. The often intense 
activity of sects is unrelated to facilitating key components of the 
pursuit of the workers control project  assisting militant workers self 
organisation on the job  via networking, raising morale, providing forums 
for discussion/ debate and information sharing. A contemporary example of 
this catalytic activity is the Transport magazine "Sparks" project  in NSW. 
The activity of sects however often stems from a drive to maintain the 
financing of micro bureaucracies of party bosses and their megalomania.
This sect characteristic is certainly manifested in many contemporary left 
groups  coming from the Leninist and Stalinist traditions, but also many of 
those which wave the Red and Black banner and use anarchist and 
anarcho-syndicalist labels.  A form of organisation which some anarchist 
groups take that particularly lends itself to extreme sect features  is the 
"affinity group" model. These groups consist of those  grouped together 
often chiefly  on the basis of personal loyalties rather  than strategic 
agreement. Consequently, personal loyalties often get in the way of 
rational/scientific processes essential for approaching problems of 
revolutionary strategy.
The sect character of these groups is particularly manifest in their public 
meetings which are highly manipulated. Constraining and strangling debate. 
Precluding a scientific climate where processes and lines  of research are 
stimulated by discussion/debate. Consequently an understanding of the 
complex problems associated with the pursuit of the workers control project 
are precluded. The public meeting of the sect is used for the 
hidden  agendas of party recruitment and rehearsing manipulative techniques 
to seize control of organisations and meetings for party building.
These manipulative antics which characterise little left sects 
unfortunately are also are a disturbing feature of  various forums of the 
labour movement eg union mass meetings, due to the machines of the various 
factions in the ALP (Australian Labor Party).
Another sect like feature of these groups is their absurd vanguardist 
pretensions. That their  group will  resolve every  issue under the sun. 
Associated with this approach, the group has positions on all manner of 
single issues and constantly  campaigns on everything  under the sun  to 
recruit. These groups have no revolutionary strategy  a set of priorities 
which could facilitate the workers control project. Such as the steps 
necessary to establish an alternative revolutionary union movement.
For recruiting amongst the student  and leftist milieux, these 
groups  normally dabble in the murky waters of the  highly 
divisive  "identity politics". Politics based on such identities as 
"women", "gays", "queers", "blacks", etc, which span   various social 
classes, dividing the working class and causing disarray in the 
revolutionary movement . There is important evidence of the nefarious role 
of agents of global capital behind the emergence of identity politics in 
the late 1960's and   early 1970's, such  as the role of the CIA and 
various American  trans-national company financed foundations  in the 
resurgence of the so called "women's movement" (see "The Women's Movement & 
The CIA" in RW  Vol.16 No. 4(145).
Another unpleasant feature of sects associated with their stultifying 
debate and scientific processes within forums they organise and in  regard 
to their internal life are states of "conformity" amongst the sect's 
membership. Involving members adherence to party lines  holding the same 
views on various  issues and the restricted reading of texts approved by 
the party guru. Associated,with this collective chanting of "mantras" and 
anti-intellectual  "closed mindedness" is the sect providing a pseudo 
family/tribe  for its members. A refuge from the alienation and atomisation 
of contemporary capitalist society. So the sect helps solve people's 
psychological problems, but immunises most of its inhabitants from 
effective activity in regard to the workers control project. This feature 
certainly explains the disconcerting difficulty of having rational 
discussions with many of these people. They are emotionally involved in the 
sect as an entity and its antics/rituals. Consequently they become 
uninvolved in intellectually/scientifically approaching the revolutionary 
project. Involving analysis of concrete circumstances and its implications 
for activity regarding the workers control project.
The objective effects of this situation of  congeries of sects is much 
competition between them, primarily focusing on recruiting new members, 
capturing organisations, etc. These antics are particularly driven by sect 
guru's needs to finance their micro bureaucracies and the elitist vanguard 
party hangover from the Leninist/Stalinist legacy. This elitist orientation 
often leads to these sects into much "navel gazing", unwholesome self 
absorption, and preoccupations with  "rituals of internal organisation". In 
these pages, a most graphic example of this  formalist,  self absorption 
and the influence of bourgeois ideology and post modernism was focused 
upon  and criticised in the case of the student group "Love & Rage" and 
some of its members infatuation with "gender dynamics" and "gender 
balance".(See "Debate on Love & Rage" in   RW Vol.20 No.2 (171).
These factors lead to the development of an exotic  "left subculture" 
which  gives a terrible impression to outsiders such as militant workers 
concerning these groups.  At a time when "on-the-job" organisation greatly 
needs "outside-the-job" organisation (due to ferocious speed ups, longer 
working hours, intense management/union hierarchy surveillance, etc, 
associated with the ever intensifying employer offensive) which the members 
of these groups could in part help provide. (See "Anarcho-Syndicalist 
Strategy for Australia, Today" in RW Vol.20 No.3 (172) Those few foci and 
bases of catalysts for workers militant self organisation such as Jura 
Books  in Sydney are besmirched by the all pervasive left subculture 
and  over the years have faced the constant threat of take-over and attacks 
by these sects/cults and subcultures. Considerable energies have been 
wasted fighting off these onslaughts
One unfortunate effect of the pervasiveness of the left subculture in 
Australia and elsewhere today is that many who become interested in 
Anarchism and go on to join and set up groups with anarchist and 
anarcho-syndicalist labels, adopt  sect like aspects and in certain cases 
the worst of these features - resorting to all manner of Machiavellian and 
manipulative behaviour.
What are the chief reasons for this all pervasive sect phenomena in the 
anti-capitalist movement and remedies to the problem?
One very important historical factor is the dissolution of the 
non-sectarian socialist community which existed prior to the rise of 
Leninism after 1917 in  many countries. In this milieu, anarchist and 
syndicalist ideas percolated and different groups despite their differences 
could work together in regard to facilitating the workers control 
project.    Its was in this context that mass syndicalist    union 
movements took shape. (See "Red November, Black November" by S.Salerno, 
regarding the importance of this "community" to the emergence of the 
syndicalist   Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the USA, in the 
early 20th Century.)
However, following WWI, waves of state repression, the rise of 
Fascism/Dictatorships in many countries led to the destruction of these 
movements. With many industrial militants being drawn into the new emerging 
and increasingly  Stalinist Communist Parties. The rise of mass Stalinism 
and its extreme vanguardism and ruthless Machiavellian behaviour, was also 
associated with the dissolution of the non-sectarian socialist communities 
which existed in many countries. Consequently there was a major loss 
of  the crucial corps of industrially experienced anarchist and syndicalist 
militants. So in the 1960's and 1970's many of us had to rediscover the 
theory and practice of anarchism/anarcho-syndicalism. Unfortunately due to 
the loss of  this core of militants and industrial movement which could 
have transmitted their knowledge and experience to the new generation, the 
new anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist labelled groupings which have formed were 
heavily infected often "unconsciously" by sect like features and the 
Leninist heritage.
An example of this phenomena was the tiny Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation in 
Australia which existed between 1986-91. By accident many of it's members 
were engaged in significant activity relevant to the workers control 
project. However,  particularly in regard to its larger section in 
Melbourne, it manifested many sect like features, discussed above. It's 
dissolution in the early 1990's led to the forming in Melbourne of two new 
sects with syndicalist camouflage and iconography. One of them particularly 
rabid and extreme, with creepy Stalinoid features. The ASN 
(Anarcho-Syndicalist Network) mainly based in NSW  which also formed with 
the ASF's dissolution, has developed as a catalyst for militant workers' 
self organisation. It has been working to restructure the anti-capitalist 
movement involving a two pronged approach. Building an industrial movement 
associated with the Sparks project in transport industries and the Red & 
Black Forums  cycle of conferences.
Lately the Sparks project in the context of the recent State Transit/Rail 
Tram & Bus Union Bus Division Enterprise Agreement dispute has been making 
significant headway with the development of collaboration between different 
groups  ASN, Love & Rage, Industrial Workers of the World and the 
International Socialist Organisation oriented toward helping build militant 
workers self organisation.
The Red & Black Forums had been initiated to develop a discussion process 
within the Anti-Capitalist movement. Through building up a momentum  the 
attendance steadily growing in size, exciting interest and eventually 
attracting thousands and spreading to all major cities. In this context, 
the grass roots and periphery of the various left sects would be drawn into 
the discussion process which would be critical of the Leninist heritage and 
various dogmas (particularly over generalisations regarding various 
historical episodes - eg the role of the Bolshevik Party in the Russian 
Revolution, etc ) which ideologically glue these sects together, would be 
successfully critiqued. Contributing to the acquiring of a common 
understanding of the workers control/revolutionary project and the 
importance of work to establish the bases of an alternative 
syndicalist/direct action labour movement and the  transformation  of these 
groups as a whole and splits from these groups to form catalysts for 
workers militant self organisation. Unfortunately so far, we have been 
unable to build up this momentum, due to limited numbers and an inability 
to finance large scale advertising.
With the emergence of an array of these catalysts  a federation process 
could occur to assist the co-ordination of effort and the pursuit of an 
overall industrial strategy  with the launching of grass roots industrial 
papers in strategic industries  in different states. This federation could 
also provide think tanks for research/planning to assist grass roots 
syndicalist insurgencies in various unions and industries. An important 
historical precedent for these new bodies were the early Communist Parties 
before Bolshevisation and  control from Moscow. In the British case, the 
early CP consisted of a uniting of various fragmented syndicalist groupings 
which were heavily involved in the practicalities of building a class 
struggle industrial movement and was organised on a federalist basis.(See 
"Left-Wing Communism in Britain 1917-21, An infantile Disorder?" by Bob 
Jones, published by Pirate Press) These groups were inspired to unite due 
to illusions held concerning the Russian Revolution.
In conclusion, an important  road leading to the turning of the tide 
against the employer offensive and the building of an alternative 
syndicalist labour movement leads through the emergence of an effective 
"outside-the-job" organisation.Integral to this project is a concerted 
attack on the congeries of sects phenomena which characterise most of the 
anti-capitalist movement in Australia today.
Mark M.

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