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(en) Review of Pamphlet on "Post-Modern Anarchism"

From Jura Books <a-infos-@chaos.apana.org.au>
Date Sun, 24 Dec 2000 04:13:55 -0500 (EST)

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

Review of "Toward Post-Modern Anarchism"
By L.Gambone, Red Lion Press, 1999. 11pp $3.00 at Jura Books
>From Rebel Worker Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network
Vol.19 No.6 (168) Dec.2000-Jan.2001 Subs. $25(aust) airmail overseas
and $12 per year in Australia. Postal Address PO Box 92 Broadway 2007 NSW

It must be said at the outset that, for class struggle socialists,
anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists, reading this pamphlet is not the most
inspiring of experiences.  As one proceeds, one is left feeling uncertain
as to which social force Gambone really feels part of and supports: the
workers' movement, or the capitalist class? 
 In several instances he speaks favourably of petit-bourgeois elements such
as small business owners and the self-employed, and unfavourably of
workers' struggles.  For instance, on page 7, while discussing what kinds
of struggles are valid, he states that "[a]ntiquated notions of class and
'class struggle' must not cause us to involve ourselves with those who are
among our worst enemies."  Seemingly, Gambone's use of inverted commas
around 'class struggle' indicates a skepticism on his part in relation to
the validity of the concept, while the "worst enemies" he speaks of are the
so-called "authoritarian left".  He does not state whether the latter
description refers to rank-and-file workers who might be Communist Party
members, or full-time Communist Party bureaucrats who are not workers --
there being a world of difference between the two.  While it would not be
possible in most cases for anarcho-syndicalists to engage in meaningful
political work with C.P. bureaucrats, it would be possible, indeed it would
be highly recommended, in my view, for anarcho-syndicalists to cooperate
with fellow workers who may incidentally be C.P. members in meaningful
actions against the bosses on the basis of a commonly held class interest.
For Gambone, however, any consideration of tactics based on an acceptance
of the concept of class struggle is antiquated, and any truck with
communist workers is not to be encouraged.  (Interestingly, Gambone does
not attempt a proof as to why the notion of class struggle is antiquated,
and the only reason he gives as to why communists should be avoided is
because they "have nothing to offer us but prison and death.")
While communist workers are to be regarded as among the "worst enemies" of
anarchist workers, various petit-bourgeois elements can, however, be viewed
with favour:  Gambone observes optimistically that "[t]here is a steady
growth in the numbers of self-employed and small-medium businesses are on
the 'cutting edge'.  (As well as being the largest employment-generators)
[p. 5]."  Further, it is observed that "[t]here has been a major expansion
of self-employment (10-15% growth p.a. in this sector) and vast growth of
capital ownership by workers through pension, trade union and mutual funds.
A possibility arises for a PM [post-modern] version of the old mutualist
ideal [pp. 9-10]."  Gambone's anarchism is thus seen to possess elements of
hostility towards the struggle initiated by workers against capitalists and
to be in sympathy with small "cutting edge" business, self-employed
professionals, and workers' 'participation' in capitalist relations through
capital funds and so on. 
In general, Gambone's post-modernism is based on his 'critique' of
modernism, encapsulated in the following lines:  "Modernity means the
<M>abstract universalism of Enlightenment Rationalism....  Economically, it
means Industrialism.  Socially, mass society, the decline of organised
religion and the rise of nihilism and secular religions (ideologies) like
Nationalism, Communism and Fascism.  Local, <M>particular beliefs, customs,
economies, forms of government and mutual aid are pushed aside by
universalized belief systems and national organizations [p. 1, italics in
original]."  Post-modernity then replaces modernity. But exactly how this
transition is made, Gambone does not explain.  "With Post-Modernity comes a
breakdown of Rationalist certainty.  'Progress' is increasingly questioned.
 'Left' vs. 'right' becomes obsolete...  The nation state begins to lose
importance.  Industrialism tends to be replaced by a service and
information-based economy.  De-bureaucratization commences (though so far,
more in word than in deed.)  Terrorism and civil war lose what little
'charm' they might have possessed, for with Modernism, political violence
reached its apogee, with some 170,000,000 victims of wars,
government-created famines, gulags and gas-ovens [p. 1, inverted commas in
It is curious that someone so disdainful of abstraction does not bother to
explain the reasons behind a major historical shift in social practice and
thought as claimed to be the case by Gambone in the transition from
"Modernism" to "Post-modernism".  Equally curious is Gambone's claim that
"nihilism" and "fascism" are characteristic of the modernist spirit,
indeed, that nihilism is "at the core of the Modernist project [p. 1]".
Such claims are bizarre.  If any 'universal spirit' characterises the
modernist era at all it is the quest to establish an understanding of all
that exists, and the application of the knowledge thus obtained to the
improvement of the human condition. Scientific verifiability, objectivism,
realism, progressivism, and the general belief that there is <M>always room
for improvement in the human condition and human social relations are
typical attributes of a modernist approach.  Of course, what is arguable is
the extent to which this has occurred.  And let's not forget that socialism
and anarchism are critical modernist movements that manifested as a
response to capitalism's inability to fulfill the promises of the
Enlightenment (modernism).  Fascism and nihilism are in fact
<M>anti-modernist tendencies and movements, not modernist as claimed by
Gambone, that arose in response to the failure of capitalism, but these
hark back to an idealised past.  German Nazism, for instance, arose amidst
the immiseration suffered as a result of the military defeat of 1918 and
the imposition of poverty-creating conditions by the victorious Allies, and
was a consciously anti-enlightenment movement that looked to
re-establishing a pure German essence through <M>particularist Germanic
beliefs and social practices; it was comprised of all those particularist
characteristics that Gambone admires.  Similarly, Nihilism in Russia during
the latter 19th century constituted a challenge by young radical
intellectuals from the gentry against the destruction of traditional life
by what was perceived by as Westernisation, again, thoroughly anti-modern
and particularist in character.
Nowhere does Gambone attempt to provide a concrete historical analysis of
what he understands post-modernism to be; he only refers to it as a given,
as though it were ordained into existence by God.  Viewed as the result of
a real historical development, post-modernism comes across as no more than
the latest incarnation of old-fashioned philosophical skepticism, an
intellectual malaise that surfaces from time to time during history when
the promises evident during a particular historical moment are later not
honoured.  For instance, 'modernist' bourgeois social scientists during the
1950s and '60s in the advanced capitalist countries evinced an optimism
that the economic boom-time would continue indefinitely, producing along
the way a situation whereby everyone's leisure-time would increase as a
result of mechanisation.  Meanwhile in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe,
economic growth rates were high, increasing amounts of resources were being
allocated to consumer items, and life seemed to be getting generally
better, so much so, that Brezhnev felt sufficiently confident to officially
declare that a condition of Developed Socialism had been arrived at (in
about 1966).  Other events were occurring throughout the world that
indicated to many that progress was under way: decolonisation, popular
revolutions in the Third World, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
in China, the student-worker mobilisations of '68 in France, the successes
of the Vietnamese people against the incursions of U.S. imperialism, and
other events.  Everyone had some reason to believe that progress was taking
place:  capitalists, stalinists, maoists, castroists, Arab nationalists,
etc., etc., -- even anarchists.  It was a period during which an optimistic
'spirit' was felt (in a realist fashion, I hasten to point out).  By the
mid-80s, however, the optimism was dissipating as the aforementioned
'modernist' movements had either already failed to deliver on their
promises, or were in the process of doing so largely as a result of the
structural collapse of the economic arrangements that supported the
post-war economic boom.  In our part of the world, the so-called advanced
capitalist countries, fewer people were talking about workers'
self-management as unemployment was increasing, real wages were declining,
workers' control over their work was diminishing, and many were just to
have a job at all.  There were no more optimistic forecasts about the
possibility of eternal improvement.  Such were the conditions that produced
the so-called 'post-modernist turn'.  Pomo is merely an ideological
response to the failure of mainstream capitalism, socialism, Third World
populism, etc., to produce an improvement in people's lives over the long
term; it's an ideological expression of the crisis of Late Capitalism.  
Gambone's political prescription is "<M>libertarian populism" [p. 10].  His
solution to the problem imposed on workers by global bourgeois dictatorship
is to set up an extra-parliamentary movement comprised of "white collar
workers, independent workers, retirees, students, minorities, skilled
workers, regionalists, traditional communities, decentralists, small
government 'conservatives', libertarians, co-operators, and syndicalists"
[p. 10] which would then go about dismantling government and the state and
implementing "decentralization, authentic federalism, [and] mutualism".  He
doesn't state exactly <M>how this will be done, it will just <M>get done as
soon as the libertarian populist coalition gets going.  A cursory glance at
the social content of Gambone's "movement" indicates that it possesses no
common social roots or interests that would enable it to get off the ground
in the first place, let alone pose a serious challenge to global
capitalism.  One would find all manner of bourgeois social interests being
expressed and demanded by some of the groups mentioned above, racist and
fascist demands included.  You cannot assemble a rag-tag bunch of disparate
social elements with no common interest and expect it to carry out a
coherent anti-capitalist struggle -- it just can't happen.<M>  
The working class, united by its experience of work under capitalist
conditions, through organisations of its own making, utilising a scientific
revolutionary praxis of its own making, is the only social force that is
capable of defeating capitalism.  The most practical way forward for
revolutionaries in this period of temporary downturn in the global workers'
struggle is to assist the process of workers' self-organisation in
workplace struggles, in whichever part of the world we may be.  Only such
activity is capable of developing into a rank-and-file socialist movement
that truly has the potential to liberate, universally.
by Peter Siegl

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