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(en) Anarkismo.net - Anarchist Organisation not Leninist Vanguardism by Wayne Price

Date Tue, 24 Jan 2006 17:46:53 +0200


A look at the debate within anarchism and with Leninism on organisation
Pro-organizational, class struggle, anarchism (including Platformism)
advocates radically-democratic federations built on a revolutionary program.
This is counterposed to anti-organizationalist anarchism and to the
Leninist program of the centralized, monolithic, "vanguard" party.
Central to pro-organizational/class struggle anarchism is the belief
that anarchists should organize themselves according to their beliefs.
This particularly applies to those who agree on a program of
antiauthoritarian social revolution to be carried out by the
international working class and all oppressed people. They should
organize a specifically anarchist voluntary association. It would be
structured as a democratic federation of smaller groups

This article is followed by some subtantial replies from
'anti-organisational' anarchists.

Pro-organizational, class struggle, anarchism (including
Platformism) advocates radically-democratic federations built on a
revolutionary program. This is counterposed to anti-organizationalist
anarchism and to the Leninist program of the centralized,
monolithic, "vanguard" party.

Why an Anarchist Organization is Needed........But Not a "Vanguard
Party"
Right now only a few people are revolutionary anarchists. The big
majority of people reject anarchism and any kind of radicalism (if
they think about it at all). For those of us who are anarchists, a key
question concerns the relationship between the revolutionary
minority (us) and the moderate and (as-yet) nonrevolutionary
majority. Shall the revolutionary minority wait for the laws of the
Historical Process to cause the majority (at least of the working
class) to become revolutionary, as some propose? In that case, the
minority really does not have to do anything. Or does the minority of
radicals have to organize itself in order to spread its liberatory ideas,
in cooperation with the historical process? If so, should the
revolutionary minority organize itself in a top-down, centralized,
fashion, or can it organize itself as a radically democratic federation,
consistent with its goal of freedom?

Perhaps the most exciting tendency on the left today is the growth of
pro-organizational, class struggle, anarchism. This includes
international Platformism, Latin American especifismo, and other
elements (Platformism is inspired by the 1926 Organizational
Platform of the General Union of Anarchists; in Skirda, 2002). Even
some Trotskyists have noticed, “ ‘Platformism’ [is] one
of the more left-wing currents within contemporary
anarchism....” (International Bolshevik Tendency, 2002; p. 1)

Central to pro-organizational/class struggle anarchism is the belief
that anarchists should organize themselves according to their beliefs.
This particularly applies to those who agree on a program of
antiauthoritarian social revolution to be carried out by the
international working class and all oppressed people. They should
organize a specifically anarchist voluntary association. It would be
structured as a democratic federation of smaller groups. Such an
organization would put out political literature and work to spread its
ideas. With programmatic and tactical unity, members would
participate in broader, more heterogeneous, associations, such as
labor unions, community organizations, antiwar groups, and--when
they arise in a revolutionary period--workers’ and community
councils. Such anarchist organizations would not be
“parties,” because they would not aim at achieving power for
themselves. They would seek to lead by ideas and by example, not
by taking over and ruling the popular organizations, let alone by
taking state power.

This approach (which I have just summarized in a very condensed
fashion) has been attacked from two sides. On one side are
anti-organizational anarchists (including individualists, primitivists,
and “post-leftists,” among others). At most these accept
local collectives, with, perhaps, only the loosest of associations
among them (a “network”). They have denounced
pro-organizational anarchism as an attempt to build new
authoritarian, essentially Leninist, parties. Real Leninists have also
denounced it because it is not Leninist. The only extended work by
Leninists on the subject (Platformism & Bolshevism, by the
Trotskyist I.B.T., 2002) declares that there is “a political chasm
between the 1926 Platform and Bolshevism.” (p. 2) Platformists,
it says, are “too anarchist for Bolsheviks, too ‘Bolshevik’
for anarchists” even though “the extent of the
Platformists’ break from their libertarian heritage is often
overestimated by their anarchist critics....” (p. 3) The only
solution, the authors claim, is to embrace the Leninist centralized
vanguard party and the dictatorial workers’ state.
Anti-organizational anarchists and Leninists are both agreed that a
radically-democratic, nonauthoritarian, and federated revolutionary
organization is not possible.

Trotskyists point out that anarchist movements have consistently
failed to achieve a free society. The only successful revolutions, they
claim, has been those led by Leninist-type parties. The obvious
anarchist rejoinder is that such Leninist “successes” have
resulted in monstrous totalitarian states which have murdered tens
of millions of workers and peasants. Anarchists wish to overthrow
capitalism without ending up with such “success.” (Also, all
varieties of Leninism have completely failed to achieve Marx’s
and Lenin’s main goal of working class revolutions in the
industrialized, imperialist, countries.) Still, this raises a valid
question: how can anarchism avoid repeating its history of failure
and defeat? How can we, without creating Stalinist-type states,
overthrow world capitalism? Pro-organizational anarchism was
developed precisely to deal with this problem.

There are similar disputes about forming organizations among
libertarian (or autonomist) Marxists as there are among anarchists. It
was apparently an issue in the split between C.L.R. James and Raya
Dunayevskaya. It has been an issue in the Council Communist
movement, with different theorists having different views. In the
Socialisme ou Barbarie grouping in France after World War II, there
was a split between Cornelius Castoriadis, taking a
pro-organizational position, and Claude Lefort, who took the
anti-organizational position. S. ou B.’s British co-thinkers in
Solidarity, such as Maurice Brinton, took a pro-organizational
stance.

In the rest of this essay, I will review the anarchist arguments for
some sort of political organization, including the historical debate
between the anarchist-syndicalists and the anarchist-communists. I
will then review an anarchist critique of the Leninist party. I will go
over the Russian revolution to demonstrate that the necessity of
Leninist centralization is a myth. The Bolshevik Party led the
Russian revolution when the Bolsheviks were most like an anarchist
federation.

the anarchist revolutionary political organization


Many anarchists seem to think that the day will come when most
people will see the worthlessness of authoritarian society. All
together, like one person, at one moment, they will open their eyes
to their alienation, stand up, and take back their society. This view is
sometimes called “spontaneism.” Unfortunately things do
not work that way. In general, over the long haul, people become
radicalized heterogeneously. In conservative times, people become
revolutionary by ones and twos. As things become more radicalized,
by groups and clusters. Then, as things move into a period of
radicalization, layers become revolutionary. Finally, in periods of
upheaval, whole populations rise up. But many or most newly
radicalized people have not thought out their goals or strategies.
They ted to be full of energy but to be confused and uncertain until
they can sort out their ideas through experience. It is easy in these
periods for reformists to mislead them back to the old ways, or for
authoritarian groups to set up new rulers. This has been
demonstrated by the whole dismal history of post World War II
revolutions in Europe and the “Third World.” More recently
we have seen the unhappy results of the Iranian revolution which put
the ayatollahs in power, or the case of Argentina, in which mass
upheavals only produced a slightly more left capitalist regime (but
the struggles in Argentina and the rest of Latin America are not
over).

As groupings and layers of working people and others become
radicalized, they have the chance to organize themselves to
effectively spread their ideas among the rest of the
(not-yet-radicalized) population. This does not contradict the
self-organization of the whole oppressed population. It is an integral
part of that self-organization.

Many groups will organize along authoritarian lines (either reformist
or for a revolutionary new rulership). That is bound to happen, since
authoritarianism is what we know. But there is a chance that some
will organize themselves in libertarian, equalitarian, and cooperative
directions--that is, become anarchists or other antiauthoritarians.
This is vitally important if we are not to repeat the disastrous history
of defeat of workers’ revolutions.

A political organization will help antiauthoritarians to talk with each
other, educate each other, develop their theory, their tactics and
strategy, their analysis of what is going on and what to do about it,
and their vision of what a socialist society could look like. They can
discuss what they have learned from other people and what they can
offer to teach others. Being part of an organization can help them
resist the conservatizing and demoralizing influence of the rest of
society. Something like what the anarchist Paul Goodman meant,
“It is enough to find-and-make a band, two hundred, of the
like-minded, to know that oneself is sane though the rest of the city
is batty.” (1962; p. 17)

The issue here is the relationship between the minority which has
come to revolutionary conclusions, and the majority which, most of
the time, is nonrevolutionary--except in revolutionary periods. (That
the majority has become revolutionary is what, by definition, makes
a period revolutionary!) Spontaneist and anti-organizational
anarchists do not see this as an issue; they deny that it exists. To
them, even talking about a revolutionary minority means being
authoritarian. They live in a world of denial. It is only possible to
counter dangers of authoritarianism if we admit that it may arise out
ot the split between a revolutionary minority and the majority.
Pro-organizational anarchism is a way of dealing with this split, of
overcoming it through practical politics, a way which is distinct from
Leninism.

A revolutionary anarchist federation will have two interwoven tasks,
within the larger popular organizations. One is to fight against all the
authoritarian organizations that will inevitably arise: Stalinists, social
democrats, liberals, fascists, etc. All these will try to undermine the
workers’ self- confidence, the people’s initiative. We will
argue against these groupings, fight against them, and encourage
the workers, women, racial and national minorities, etc. to have
confidence in themselves, to take power for themselves, to rely on
themselves and not on any saviors from above.

The other, intertwined, task is to make alliances with whatever
individuals and groups we can--with anyone going in our direction.
No one has all the answers. For example, in the huge society of
North America, it is unlikely that just one (“vanguard”)
organization will have all the best militants and all the right ideas.
Revolutionary anarchists should be prepared to make united fronts
with whatever groups develop in an antiauthoritarian direction.

Many of these issues were raised during the 1907 International
Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam. About 80 anarchists attended
from all over Europe, North and South America and elsewhere,
including most of the best-known figures of the time, such as Emma
Goldman. Among other topics discussed, Pierre Monatte, a French
anarchist-syndicalist, urged anarchists to go into the unions
[syndicates], to help to organize and build them. He argued that this
was the way for anarchists to break out of their small-circle isolation,
their participation in pointless rebellions and (for a few) in terrorism.
It was a way, he declared, for anarchists to make contact with
workers and to participate in their lives and struggles.

Speaking against him was the Italian anarchist-communist Errico
Malatesta. (These labels are misleading, since the
anarchist-syndicalists agreed that their goal was
anarchist-communism, while the anarchist-communists agreed that
unions were valuable.) He agreed that it was important for anarchists
to participate in unions. But he objected to the implicit notion that
anarchists should, in effect, dissolve themselves into the unions.
This was dangerous, he warned, because the unions, by their very
nature, had to attract workers with a wide variety of levels of
consciousness, conservatives and state-socialists as well as
anarchists. Meanwhile the job of the unions was to negotiate better
working conditions and pay under capitalism, so long as there was
not a revolutionary situation. That is, the unions had to adapt both to
the more conservative consciousness of the majority of its members
and to the practical necessities of the capitalist marketplace.
Therefore, Malatesta and others concluded, anarchist workers
needed to also organize themselves into specifically anarchist
organizations, to fight for anarchist ideas. They would work inside
and outside of unions, dealing not only with union issues but with
every struggle against oppression in every class.

(Remarkably, many leftists know in detail about Lenin’s debate
with the “Economists” --Marxists who wanted to focus only
on labor union organizing--as summarized in Lenin’s What is to
be Done? But they know nothing about the Malatesta-Monatte
debate which covered much of the same ground. Thus the I.B.T.
Trotskyists note, with apparent surprise, “...Platformists have a
record of participating in struggles to extend and defend democratic
rights....This demonstrates a relatively sophisticated understanding
of the operation of the capitalist state and is congruent with
Lenin’s [What is to be Done?]....” [2002, p. 14])

Monatte was correct about the value of anarchists joining the
unions. By this approach, anarchists broke out of their isolation and
achieved a large influence among workers and others. But Malatesta
was also right. The once-militant French syndicates (the C.G.T.)
became more and more conservatized. All that the top union bosses
kept of their original anarchism was a desire to keep the unions
separate from the socialist parties. When World War I broke out, the
French syndicates endorsed the war and the government. Monatte
went into opposition to the union bureaucracy and its
pro-imperialism.

Spanish anarchist-syndicalists were aware of what happened in
France and saw similar tendencies in the Spanish syndicates (the
C.N.T.). Unlike the French anarchist-syndicalists, the Spaniards
organized themselves into a specifically anarchist federation, the
F.A.I., within the C.N.T. They were able to beat back the reformist
bureaucratic trend (and later the Communists). Whatever its
eventual mistakes, in this area the F.A.I. remains an example for
pro-organizational anarchists.
the Leninist party
As is well known, the concept of the party is key to Leninism. It has
been put in various terms. The central document of Trotskyism (a
variant of Leninism) is Trotsky’s 1938 “Transitional
Program.” It’s first sentence--and fundamental concept--is,
“The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized
by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” (1977, p.
111) That is, the main problem is not the conservatism of the mass
of working people, because from time to time in this era workers and
oppressed people have risen up against capitalism. The problem is
that the social democrats, liberals, Stalinists, and nationalists, are the
respected, established, leaders. These elitists lead the workers into
some version of the same old oppression. What is needed, then, is to
build a new leadership, a party committed to a revolutionary program
in word and deed, which can win the support of the majority of the
workers and oppressed.

The advantage of this conception is that it tells the revolutionary
minority to not blame the workers for the failure of the revolution.
This does not deny that the nonrevolutionary consciousness of most
workers is a problem. But there is no point in bemoaning the
“backwardness” of the majority, any more than there is in
romanticizing the workers. The decay of capitalism will repeatedly
push the working class to rebel. The job of the revolutionary
minority is to develop its own theory, analysis, strategy, tactics, and
actual practice.

The disadvantage of this conception of leadership is that it lends
itself to seeing the leadership as the all-important thing. The task
becomes to replace the bad leaders with the good leaders, the bad
parties with the good party: the party with the right ideas. Instead of
focusing on arousing the people, encouraging their independence
and self-reliance, the implication is that all they need is to put the
right leadership in power. At its worst, the party becomes a
substitute for the working class.

Leninists conceive of their party as a centralized organization--under
“democratic centralism.” This is based on their vision of
socialism, which they understand to be a centralized economy
managed by a centralized state. A centralized party is necessary to
achieve this and, once achieved, to run the centralized statified
economy. In theory the state and party are to “wither away”
(someday), but the economy will remain centralized--and on a world
scale, no less. The very idea is a bureaucratic nightmare.

“Centralization” is not just coordination, unification, or
cooperation. Centralization (“democratic” or otherwise)
means that everything is run from a center. A minority is in charge.
As Paul Goodman put it, “In a centralized enterprise...authority
is topdown. Information is gathered from below in the field and is
processed to be usable by those above; decisions are made in
headquarters; and policy, schedule, and standard procedure are
transmitted downward by chain of command....The system was
devised to discipline armies; to keep records, collect taxes, and
perform bureaucratic functions; and for...mass production.”
(1977, p. 3, 4) This is the basic model of capitalist society, and the
Leninist party maintains it. This is the capitalist state in embryo, the
capital/labor relationship in practice.

To be sure, an anarchist federation also has a degree of
“centralization,” that is, specific bodies and individuals are
assigned specific tasks by the whole membership. These central
groupings are elected and are recallable at any time, with a rotation
of tasks among members. By definition, a federation balances
centralization with decentralization, with--among anarchists--only as
much centralization as is absolutely needed, and as much
decentralization as is maximally possible.

Among Leninists, the centralized party is justified philosophically.
The party supposedly knows the Truth, knows “scientific
socialism.” The party is considered the embodiment of
Proletarian Consciousness. Proletarian consciousness is not what
the proletariat actually believes but what it should believe, what it
must believe, which only the party knows for sure. Therefore the
party has nothing to learn from anyone outside the party. The
leadership of the party is presumably the most knowledgeable about
the truth. Therefore the party must be centralized, with a stable
central leadership. It takes up “the bright man’s burden”
(Landy, 1990, p. 5). The party--or its top leadership-- is the
“vanguard.”

I do not wish to quibble about definitions of words, when it is the
concepts which matter. There have been anarchists who have used
the word “vanguard” to describe themselves. They used the
term to signify that they were on the cutting-edge of political
thinking, the most extreme revolutionaries, the left of the left. They
used “vanguard” as artists use the French term
“avant-garde,” those in the forefront of new ideas. But
“vanguard” has come to mean not only a group which has its
own ideas, the revolutionary minority. It has come to mean those
who think they have all the answers and therefore have the right to
rule over others. This is what anarchists reject.

For example, the I.B.T. pamphlet argues that the Bolsheviks were
right to maintain a one-party dictatorship in the early Soviet Union
(when Lenin and Trotsky were in power). This is true, they say, even
though the majority of the workers (let alone most peasants) no
longer supported them. If they had permitted free votes to the
soviets, the workers and peasants would have voted them out,
electing Left Social Revolutionaries (populists), Mensheviks (reform
socialists), or anarchists. These would have, they claim, capitulated
to capitalism and permitted the rise of a proto-fascism. Whether or
not this was true, the Trotskyists justify the rule of a minority party
dictatorship, because the party knew what was best for the people.
However, this approach did not lead to socialism, but to Stalinism,
the counterrevolution through the party. Stalinism was almost as
brutal a totalitarianism as was Nazism. According to the I.B.T.
pamphlet, the Bolshevik party was no longer revolutionary by 1924,
not that long after the 1917 revolution. Therefore, I conclude, it
would have been better for the Bolsheviks to have stuck to the
revolutionary democracy of the original soviets, even if they were
voted out of power. Nothing could have been worse than what
happened.
the myth of the Bolshevik revolution
It is widely believed that the Russian revolution proves the need for a
centralized, topdown, Bolshevik-type of vanguard party. Without
that sort of party, it is said, there would not have been a socialist
revolution. Therefore we need to build that kind of party today. This
argument is mostly mythological.

Lenin, in exile in Europe, had built a centralized body of professional
cadre, but they did not at all control the actual rank-and-file of the
Marxist movement in the Russian Empire. The socialist movement
was affected by Czarist repression plus internal factionalism, of
which the Bolshevik-Menshevik split is only the best known. Murray
Bookchin summarized, “The Bolshevik Party...was an illegal
organization during most of the years leading up to the revolution.
The party was continually being shattered and reconstituted, with
the result that until it took power it never really hardened into a fully
centralized, bureaucratic, hierarchical machine. Moreover, it was
riddled by factions...into the civil war.” (1986, p. 220)

Similar points were made by Hal Draper, an authority on Marx and
Lenin, “...The preliminaries for a mass party had taken shape in
Russia in the form not of sects but of local workers circles, which
remained loose and founded loose regional associations...The
membership organizations in Russia were local and regional party
groups which might be part Bolshevik and part Menshevik in
sympathy, or might shift support from one to the other from time to
time, etc. Every time a ‘party congress’ or conference was
held, each party group had to decide whether to attend this one or
that one, or both.....Individual party members in Russia, or party
groups, might decide to distribute Lenin’s paper or the
Menshevik organ or neither--many preferred a ‘non-faction’
organ such as Trotsky put out in Vienna; or they might use in their
work those publications of the Bolsheviks which they liked plus
those of the Mensheviks and others, on a freewheeling basis.”
(1971, pp 7-8)

The role of the Bolsheviks in the actual overthrow of the capitalist
Provisional Government has been carefully studied by Alexander
Radinowitch (1976, 1991). By studying the early memoirs of
Bolshevik activists and reading the Bolshevik newspapers of the
time, he concluded that “...the near-monolithic unity and
‘iron discipline’ of the Bolshevik Party in 1917 were largely
myth....” (1991, pp. viii-ix) The party’s Central Committee
was unable to control the many regional and local organizations, and
usually did not try to. Even in the central locations of the two main
cities of Petrograd and Moscow, there were relatively autonomous
Bolshevik bodies which put out their own papers and made their
own immediate policies. On the Central Committee there were
strong-willed militants who fought for their views, sometimes
ignoring party discipline. Meanwhile the party had opened itself to
tens of thousands of new worker members, who shook things up
considerably. When Lenin returned to Russia, he relied on these new
rank-and-file members to overrule the conservative policies of the
Old Bolsheviks. Rabinowitz concluded that these “decentralized
and undisciplined” (p. ix) divisions caused some difficulties, but
overall they were vitally useful. “...The Bolsheviks’
organizational flexibility, their relative openness and
responsiveness...were to be an important source of the party’s
strength and ability to take power.” (1991, p. xi)

The creation of the centralized, monolithic, party came after the
Revolution, during the civil war against the counterrevolutionary
Whites. When the civil war was over, in 1921, they put down the
revolt at the Kronstadt naval fortress and defeated internal party
oppositions--both of which had called for more working class
democracy. Lenin persuaded the Bolsheviks (now renamed the
Communist Party) to ban all internal caucuses and factions (Trotsky
agreed). “...The Bolsheviks tended to centralize their party to the
degree that they became isolated from the working class.”
(Bookchin, 1986, p. 221) The party became even more bureaucratic
and internally repressive with the victory of Stalin in 1924 and
thereafter.

The Bolshevik Party made the Russian revolution when the party
was most like an anarchist federation! The centralized, monolithic,
party was not the party of the revolution but the party of
counterrevolution. The authoritarian Leninist parties which made
the Chinese, Vietnamese, Yugoslavian, and North Korean
revolutions were modeled on the party of the Stalinist Soviet Union.
Mao and others wanted a party that would create a similar, state
capitalist, totalitarian, regime.

There is another mythological aspect of the usual image of the
Russian revolution and the Bolshevik Party. This is the concept that
it is the Bolsheviks on their own who overthrew the Provisional
Government. This is not true. The original seizure of power was
carried out by a united front of the Bolshevik Party, the Left Social
Revolutionary Party, and the anarchists. The Bolsheviks played a
leading role because of the weaknesses of the other two groupings,
but they could not have done it alone. The Left Social
Revolutionaries (or Left SRs) were the heirs of Russian peasant
populism, with a libertarian socialist program. Unlike the
Bolsheviks, they had support among the peasants. Their weakness
was their entanglement with the right wing of the SR party, which
they were only then (1917) splitting from. The anarchists were active
in the main cities and in many industries. The anarchist-syndicalists
were important in building the factory councils. Unfortunately the
anarchists were divided into various tendencies and were
out-organized by the political parties. (The anarchist-syndicalists
seem to have been better organized than the anarchist-communists,
in terms of putting out a distinct paper and making their views
popularly known.)

The Left SRs and the anarchists agreed with the Bolsheviks on the
need to overthrow the bourgeois Provisional Government and to
replace it with the soviets. They all cooperated in the military
committee, led by Trotsky, which overturned the Provisional
Government. The Left SRs then made a joint government with the
Bolsheviks in the soviets. The anarchists participated in the soviets
and generally supported the Left SR-Bolshevik policies. The end of
this united front was a major step toward one-party dictatorship by
the Communists. (How this developed is too messy to go into here.)
In 1921, besides outlawing internal caucuses inside the Communist
Party, Lenin and Trotsky also demanded the final outlawry of all
other parties, no matter how much they might be willing to support
socialism. The monolithic, one-party, centralized dictatorship had
been created, even though it went through a few more stages before
Stalin had it completely nailed down. But that was not how the
revolution had been made.
conclusion

Whatever its achievements, anarchism has repeatedly failed to create
a free cooperative society. Revolutions influenced by anarchists have
been defeated, or “succeeded” by being taken over by the
statists. Now there is a new upsurge of anarchism on a world scale.
A large section of militants look to the pro-organizational/class
struggle trend within historic anarchism, as expressed by Malatesta,
the Platformists, the F.A.I., and the especifistas. Some of us also
look to the pro-organizational trend in autonomist Marxism. We
advocate democratic federations organized around a program of
international revolution by the working class and all oppressed.
Anti-organizational anarchists denounce this as creating
Leninist-type parties. Whatever their desires, in practice
anti-organizatonalists abandon effective anarchist organizing against
capitalism and the state. Meanwhile, Leninists build parties which
re-create the centralized, leader/led split of statified capitalism. They
propagate a false, authoritarian, image of how the Russian revolution
was achieved. We, however, still believe that the emancipation of the
working class and oppressed is the task of the workers and oppressed
themselves. We believe that the formation of revolutionary anarchist
federations is part of the self-organization of those oppressed and
exploited by capitalism. That self-organization remains the key to
human liberation.
Written for Anarkismo.net
references

Bookchin, Murray (1986). Post-scarcity anarchism, 2nd ed.
Montreal: Black Rose Books.
Draper, Hal (1971; photocopied, undated). “Toward a New
Beginning.” Reorient Papers No. 3.
Goodman, Paul (1962). Drawing the line; A pamphlet. NY: Random
House.
Goodman, Paul (1965). People or personnel, Decentralizing and the
mixed system. NY: Random House.
International Bolshevik Tendency (2002). Platformism and
Bolshevism. I.B.T. pamphlet.
Landy, Sy (1990). Foreword. In Walter Daum. The life and death of
Stalinism. NY: Socialist Voice Publishing. Pp. 3--6.
Rabinowitch, Alexander (1976). The Bolsheviks come to power;
The revolution of 1917 in Petrograd. NY: W.W. Norton.
Rabinowitch, Alexander (1991). Prelude to revolution: The
Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 uprising. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press.
Skirda, Alexandre (2002). Facing the enemy. (P.Sharkey trans.).
Oakland, CA: AK Press.
Trotsky, Leon (1977). The transitional program for socialist
revolution. NY: Pathfinder Press.
http://www.utopianmag.com

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anarchist organization
by ivan Monday, Jan 23 2006, 12:43pm

there are some good informations too on FdCA's website and in
particular the documents:

-Anarchist Communists: A Question of Class
-The Political Organization
-The Mass Organization

www.fdca.it (clic on "english")

add your comments

A debate is needed...
by Sean S. Monday, Jan 23 2006, 7:26pm
thegreatwildebeest@gmail.com

"Anti-organizational anarchists and Leninists are both agreed that a
radically-democratic, nonauthoritarian, and federated revolutionary
organization is not possible."

I think this is an attempt to smear those who are not supportive of
the platformist "tradition" by lumping us in with Leninists. If
anti-organization anarchists disagree with platformists its because
they feel there is nothing "democratic" and "non-authoritarian"
about a strong federated presence, and that for all purposes a strong
federated prescence is nothing but a disguised vanguard.

The spontanaism you criticize, that tact of which most
insurrectionalists (wolfi, alfredo bonnano, et all) support, don't
necessarily think that somehow the world will just wake up one day
and "Revolution" will happen. In fact the concept of one revolution,
or some sort of epoch defining moment is usually derided in
insurrectionary circles. The POINT of insurrectionalism is that there
is always a festering below the surface of society, that when exposed
in insurrectionary moments, can turn into full scale revolution,
regardless of the inputs of either anarchists or anyone else. We
cannot control these moments anymore than the capitalists can, and
any attempt to strongly control them will lead to the usual
authoritarian vanguard methods. We can only give people the tools
and the ideas to liberation; we can't do it for them, nor can we
always win it.

One of the good points I think this article makes is about the fact
that, not long after the Russian Revolution, the Leninists had eaten
themselves into becoming authoritarians, in great fear of supposedly
"losing". I think this is a a sentiment lost on most platformists and
organizationalists, who I view, have a distinct record of trying to
make sure no one messes up their precious anarchist mileu,
complaining about the influence of anyones ideas but their own, and
claiming that others (in descending order of hatred: primitivists,
insurrectionalists, post-leftists etc) are sabotaging the revolution
(read: THEIR revolution). It's why anarcho-communists will form
united fronts with liberal and reformist groups, and write apologetics
how thats necessary to interact with the "masses", but then tell
anyone else outside of their perspective in anarchy to go take a hike.
I think some sort of bridging must go on, face to face (the internet
leads much to easily to venom) between collectives in the various
tendencies (or individuals in the case of individualists).

I doubt any sort of real consensus could be reached, and certainly I
don't expect primitivists to all of a sudden join NEFAC or rank and
file union workers rush out into the forest. But atleast a certain
amount of toleration above what is going on now.

add your comments

Iraqi revolution?
by Flint - NEFAC Monday, Jan 23 2006, 9:44pm
flint@nefac.net

This has been demonstrated by the whole dismal history of post
World War II revolutions in Europe and the “Third World.”
More recently we have seen the unhappy results of the Iraqi
revolution which put the ayatollahs in power.

Certainly, Wayne means the Iranian Revolution.

In Iraq, failures of the movement put the Ba'athists in power.

add your comments

Yes, A Much-Needed Debate
by Wayne Monday, Jan 23 2006, 10:29pm

1) Thanks to Ivan for giving some references on this topic.

2) Sean claims that I am attempting to “smear”
anti-organizationalist anarchists by “lumping us in with the
Leninists.” He asks for “toleration,” implying that I am
being intolerant. I appreciate that he has taken time to respond to my
little essay. However, what I am trying to do is exactly what he calls
for in his title, having a needed “debate.” I do not criticize
anyone’s motives, neither the anti-organizationalists nor the
Leninists. I openly and honestly discuss real differences on the left.
What is wrong with that?

3) The Leninists and the anti-organizationalists ARE agreed on a key
point: the only possible kind of revolutionary organization is an
authoritarian, centralized, one. But they draw different conclusions
from this. The Leninists conclude that, therefore, in order to make a
revolution they need to build an authoritarian, centralized,
revolutionary organization. The anti-organizationalists conclude that,
therefore, they must not build any kind of revolutionary organization
(since it would inevitably become authoritarian and centralized).
Sean makes clear that this is his opinion too. We pro-organizational,
class struggle, anarchists (who draw on more than only the
Platformist tradition, as I make clear) reject the common premise.
We think that it is possible to have a radically-democratic, federated,
revolutionary anarchist organization. (This opinion does not settle
the question, but clarifies what we are arguing about.)

4) Sean charges that pro-organizationalists are full of
“hatred” (including for insurrectionalists, whom I did not
mention), have a “distinct record” of trying to dominate,
slander others as “sabotaging,” are willing to form alliances
with liberals but not with anti-organizational anarchists, display
“venom” and a lack of “toleration.” Granted that he
does not have much space to provide some evidence for these
charges (such as in my essay), he does not seem to be showing
much of a tolerant attitude himself.

5) I agree with Sean that “We can only give people the tools and
the ideas to liberation; we can't do it for them, nor can we always
win it,” with two caveats. First, I do not agree with this
distinction between “we” and “people.” This
assumes an outsider role. We are (should be) part of the working and
oppressed people who may participate in insurrections. The
self-organizataion of anarchists is part of the people’s
self-organization.

6). Secondly I find this remark too relaxed about not winning
revolutions. The fact is that the people have been defeated again and
again. Anarchism has been defeated again and again. The working
people have NEVER won a libertarian socialist revolution. This is a
problem, don’t you think? Especially since the world seems to
be going downhill to ecological catastrophe under statified
capitalism! We pro-organizational/ class struggle anarchists feel that
something can be done to prevent further defeats. We do not accept
that out “inputs” make no difference. Maybe we are wrong,
but at least we are working on it. What strategy is proposed by the
anti-organizationalists (“primitivists, insurrectionists,
post-leftists, etc.”)?

add your comments

other roles
by Tom Wetzel - WSA (Personal Capacity) Monday, Jan 23 2006,
11:07pm

I basically agree with Wayne's remarks here.

The consciousness of the working class at present is contradictory
and heterogeneous in the sense that only a minority have developed
a vision of a post-capitalist future and some ideas about how to work
towards changing things in that direction. A much greater proportion
of the working class must come around to such conclusions and
come to support a revolutionary direction for it to become a real
option. This presupposes building mass movements/organizations &
their struggles which can give people a greater sense of their
potential power. The development of power to make changes helps
more people to see the potential for changing things. Revolutionaries
therefore have a role as organizers and activists in helping to build
mass organizations that empower ordinary people. An aspect of
authoritarian socialist ideology is the idea of the vanguard as
managers of the movement, as those who are to make the decisions.
This prefigures the consolidation of a new technocratic ruling class.

Thus it is also part of the role of theleft-libertarian revolutionary
organization to work against this, thru support for measures that
develop decision-making control, self-confidence, knowledge and
leadership skills among rank-and-file participants. We can't leave
this to chance. People cannot "spontaneously" liberate themselves
because they have a spontaneous tendency to fall back into the
habits that are bred into people from life under class society, with
other people making the decisions, with concentration of
decision-making & education into minorities of professionals &
managers.

Part of this is working to develop rank-and-file self-management of
struggles and mass organizations, such as workplace and
community organizations. The experience of self-managing their
own struggles and organizations is an important part of the
consciousness-raising among the bulk of the population.

A problem with the anarcho-communists in the Russian revolution
was that they had no strategy of mass movement/organization
building. They obsessed about the small group expropriation tactic --
seizing buildings for example -- which was a form of "propaganda by
the deed." The syndicalists and the Ukrainian libertarian
communists, on the other hand, did have a concept of building mass
organizations.

Before World War I the concept of political organization among the
syndicalists was mainly the loose network around a newspaper. Only
after the experience of the Russian revolution did some begin to
develop the concept of a more disciplined type of political
organization. An important example was the Turin Libertarian
Group who were able to exert considerable influence in the large
shop council movement in Turin after WWI. Of course the FAI in
Spain is another example, altho the FAI was not unified in its ideas
but was merely a loose network of caucuses in the CNT unions.

add your comments

In response...
by Sean S. Monday, Jan 23 2006, 11:36pm
thegreatwildebeest@gmail.com

The venom I talk about can be seen not too long ago of an article
that lambasted primitivism on Anarkismo, the hostility of many
platformist group literature (NEFAC's magazines, etc) to primitivist
and "lifestylist" (Bookchin's word, not mine) anarchism. This is not
to say primitivists (as one can surmise from reading any issue of
Green Anarchy or Species Traitor) play particuarly nice, nor does
Bob Black and other post-left critiques make too many friends in
platofrmist crowds. Hell, not that long ago a piece talking about the
end of a federated anarchist organization (FRAC or something
similar I believe) specifically pointed out the supposed culprits of
intellectual decriptude in the anarchist mileu: namely Green
Anarchy, Infoshop, Crimethinc, and the positions that they endorse
or hold (which are often primitivist, insurrectionary, or post left).
Green Anarchy turned right around and shot back with an article
saying "What If Started A Federation of Anarcho-communists and
No One Gave A Shit?". Clearly the hostility is very alive.

As for the lack of criticism of insurrectionalists, you took that on
with the criticism of spontanaeity, a criticism most often lodged at
insurrectionalists (the not so nice version of that criticism being an
obsession with nihilistic romanticism). Maybe you should expand
more on your criticism of spontanaeity and your thoughts on
insurrectionalism.

Obviously I agree that victory, or at the least, a radical reconfiguring
of the current upperhand of capitalist hegemony is vitally necessary.
What I was criticizing was the obssession on "victory at any cost", a
hallmark of Leninist and other authoritarian political tendencies.
Winning "at any cost", when that means purges, marginalization,
and the autocrazation of a movement, is worse than losing in a
libertarian manner. And it's not that I think inputs from anarchists
are worthless, simply that anarchists cannot control the outcome
anymore than capitalists really can either. And when I say control, I
don't mean influence or involvement, but I mean control in the
autocratic sense, of being a vanguard.

Obviously anti-organizationalists are a diverse bunch and don't agree
on everything. Primitivists and post-leftists don't always get along,
nor do insurrectionalists and primitivists (the argument between
Wolfi and Zerzan indicates the scope of disagreemeent, parrticuarly
on technology and its uses, and the extent of the destruction of
civilization). Obviously primitivists believe in the destruction of
technological civilization, and a return to a band or tribal form of life
based around hunter gatherer methods (whether this is right or
wrong is beyond my scope to argue right now). Insurrectionalism
tend to be supportive of worker councils, seeing as they are borne
out of the Situationist inspired revolt of 68 in the France, but with a
focus towards a redistribution of not just wealth, but a
reconfigurement of the very production/consumer mode of life in its
totality. Post-left is probably the vaguest tendency, a wild west of
various odd balls and misfits (Bob Black, Hakim Bey) who tend to
have a post-modern, anti-workerist, everyday life critique influenced,
again, by the Situationists alot. I'm sure you aware of the many
primitivist magazines and thinkers, but I could refer to Killing King
Abacus, Alfredo Bonnano, Wolfi Landriescher(may be incorrect
spelling, just look for Wolfi and Insurrectionalism) for
insurrectionalism. Post-left is usually regarded as Bob Black, Hakim
Bey, the people over at Anarchy: A Journal Of Desire Armed, and
Fifth Estate. To be honest I couldn't expound on all the various
tendencies if I tried, and I'm not particuarly affiliated with all of them
well enough to sit here and defend them in writing.
==============================
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