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(en) Making history or just repeating it? by anarcho

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 24 Jan 2004 21:51:31 +0100 (CET)


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Karl Marx once wrote that history repeated itself, first time as
tragedy, second time as farce. The left in Britain seem intent on
proving him right. How else can we explain the attempts to create
yet another new party to challenge New Labour at the polls?
It is like 1997 has been decreed as year zero for Marxists. The
history of the labour movement is happily ignored while the SWP
and assorted other sects repeat the tactics which worked so
unsuccessfully in the past. Blair did not appear from nowhere. He is
just the latest in a long line of Labour politicians who, upon gaining
office in the capitalist state, promoted capitalist policies.

This is not surprising. The state is the instrument by which minority
classes use to maintain their power and privileges. It can never
used to destroy them. What is surprising is that Marxists seem to
forget this, urging us to vote for radicals at election time and get
outraged when they defend the interests of the few rather than the
many.

0 Marx out of 10

This is, of course, not the first time Marxists have urged us to the
polls. Marx himself argued working class to take part in bourgeois
elections and institutions. The net effect was simply to prove his
anarchist opponents right. The "revolutionary" Social Democratic
Parties across the world quickly became bureaucratic, top-down
and opportunist. Revolutionary rhetoric simply disguised a deeply
reformist practice. When the First World War broke out, the
bourgeois chickens came home to roost in the "socialist" parties --
across the globe, the "socialists" supported their ruling class in the
conflict.

One hundred years later, the German Greens followed the same
path. They too argued for electioneering combined with direct
action. Unsurprisingly, they arrived in the same destination. They
became split between a small group who argued for principles and a
majority who adjusted to the realities of power. The same sad story
of opportunism, bureaucracy and betrayal --- exactly the same fate
that has befallen Lula in Brazil and radicals elsewhere who thought
that their ideas made them immune to the realities of the tactics of
parliamentarianism.

Anarchists were not surprised by this. We accurately predicted this
outcome of socialist tactics. What we did not predict was the
stubborn persistence of "scientific" socialists in ignoring the
evidence of history. You would think that over a hundred years of
using a tactic which does not work would make them think twice
about it but no. They want to prove Marx right, even it is only by
providing the "farce."

An alternative

Today, just over a hundred years since the formation of the Labour
Party, we have a choice. Do we repeat the mistakes of the past or
do we learn the lessons of history? Is there an alternative?

Yes -- direct action, solidarity and self-management. We think that
only working class control of their own struggles can create
working class control of society. This means pursuing a policy of
extra-parliamentarian struggle. It means waging the class war using
federations of community and workplace assemblies.

Anarchists look to the basic mass meeting of workers at their place
of work and people in their neighbourhoods as the foundation of
organisation and the source of labour's power. These meetings are
co-ordinated by means of federations of elected, mandated and
recallable delegates. Unlike the parliamentarian, the delegate must
carry out the wishes of their electors otherwise they are kicked out
and replaced by someone who will obey the people. This is
organisation from the bottom upwards.

Through direct action, people create, conduct, organise and manage
their own struggle. We do not hand over to others our task of
self-liberation. We become used to managing our own affairs,
creating alternative, libertarian, forms of social organisation which
can become a force to resist the state and the bosses and win
reforms. It creates organs of self-activity which, to use Bakunin's
words, are "creating not only the ideas but also the facts of the
future itself." Workers' control of struggle is the only way that
workers' control of their own lives and society becomes a
possibility. And it builds the organisations that can achieve it --
popular assemblies, workers' councils, factory committees, and so
on.

Unlike Marxist calls for a new electoral activity. The idea that
socialists standing for elections somehow prepares for revolution is
simply wrong -- it only prepares people for following leaders. It does
not encourage the self-activity, self-organisation, direct action and
mass struggle required for a social revolution. There is nothing more
isolated, atomised and individualistic than voting. It is the act of
one person in a closet by themselves. Voting creates no alternative
organs of working class power. And Marxists slander anarchists as
being "individualists"!

What of the right? Will anti-parliamentarianism let them in? As
Blair shows, electing the lesser evil does not work. We need to
organise in our communities and workplaces. That is where our
power lies, that is where we can create a real alternative. Unlike
politicians, the mass of the population cannot be bought off and if
they are willing and able to resist then they can become a power
second to none. By creating a network of self-managed community
and workplace organisations we can impose by direct action that
which politicians can never give us from Parliament. And only such
a movement can stop the attacks upon us by whoever gets into
office. A government (left or right) which faces a mass movement
based upon direct action and solidarity will always think twice
before making unjust decisions.

Building the new world while fighting this one

Anarchists see the framework of an anarchist society coming from
the class struggle and the process of revolution itself. Anarchy is
not a jump into the dark but rather a natural development of the
struggle for freedom under capitalism. It will be created from below
up by as working class people start to resist oppression and
exploitation. The class struggle transforms those involved as well
as society and creates the organisational structure and people
required for a libertarian society.

With that in mind, our alternatives are rooting in building the real
organs of working class power in the here and now. That means
encouraging a rank and file movement based on the spirit of the
wildcat. It means promoting the idea of strikers' assemblies as the
decision making bodies in industrial disputes rather than relying on
"left-wing" leaders to act for us. It means creating a network of
militants who put the needs of the struggle above the recruiting
needs of their party or vote gathering. It means investing the
resources, time and energy wasted in supporting political parties in
building a labour movement run by and for its members. Rather than
voting a someone to misrepresent us every four years, we should be
creating community organisations which allow people to put real
pressure on the state all the time. The anti-poll tax unions of the
early '90s and the assemblies in Argentina and of the Zapatistas
today show what is possible.

Building the new world while fighting this one will be much harder
than electioneering and letting a few leaders act for us. But it is
worth it. Do we really want to look back in a few decades time
wondering why the "new" party of labour has become as bad as the
old one?

Originally appeared in Freedom, Fortnightly Anarchist paper.

For more details visit: Freedom Press http://www.freedompress.org.uk/

Link: http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho.html


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