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(en) Germany, FAU, direkte aktion: ANARCH@-SYNDICALISM AND (ANTI-)POLITICS[PART 1]By: Jonathan Eibisch (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Sun, 11 Sep 2022 08:36:41 +0300

A contribution to the political theory of anarchism. ---- background ---- In the following I will share some of the insights I have gained through my intensive study of the political theory of anarchism. The basic premise is that in anarchist syndicalism there is an uneasiness with, and a certain critique of, politics, while at the same time reference to politics occurs and is inevitable. It is precisely from this tension that direct action, dynamic organizations and a constructive social-revolutionary perspective spring. The approach formulated in the article is by no means "right" per se, but a suggestion for interpreting and reflecting on anarch@-syndicalist practice. The veracity of this theoretical input ultimately proves itself in experiences, discussions and social struggles.
I am pursuing four goals with my text: First, I would like to impart knowledge to those who are interested, second, to encourage comrades to form an awareness of their tradition and position, their forms of organization and action, third, to pass on and renew theoretical thinking in anarchism, and fourth, to indicate my activities.

In the middle to the end of the 19th century, the socialist movement differentiated into three main directions. This is how social democracy, party communism and anarchism came about. While the former two referred to political reform and political revolution as essential strategies of transformation, among other things, the rejection of what was understood by "politics" at the time was at the heart of anarchism. Anarchists referred to the concept of social revolution, with which they sought to achieve radical and comprehensive societal transformation not through influencing or taking over the state, but through decentralized, autonomous, voluntary and federated social movements and self-organized communes.

Anarchism is pluralistic. It is interesting that all of its tendencies-individualist, mutualist, communist, insurrectionalist, syndicalist, and communitarian anarchism-involve a strong critique of politics. This criticism gives rise to a skeptical attitude towards politics. And from this derives a striving for autonomy that is shared by all anarchist currents, but leads to different practices, styles, forms of organization and action. At this point, for obvious reasons, I shall focus primarily on anarch@-syndicalism.

As mentioned above, European anarchism emerged in a historical phase when the grassroots socialist movements were becoming politicized. Instead of founding hierarchical parties and striving for reforms within or with the help of the bourgeois-capitalist state or forming political-revolutionary vanguard groups to take over state power and establish a "dictatorship of the proletariat", anarchists continued to rely on decentralized ones and autonomous self-organization. They rejected parliamentarism as the mediation of social conflicts in the form of domination and wanted to conduct social struggles outside the framework of institutionalized political domination. In doing so, they rejected the modern nation state - with its bureaucracy, its educational institutions, its military apparatus,

While Marxists drew the conclusion from their critique of the policy that building a "socialist people's state" required socialist policies, anarchists did not share this view. They assumed that power relations could only be overcome at the same time. So that capitalism cannot be overcome with but only against the state. Instead of seeing a comprehensive development of state and capitalist relations as a prerequisite for a socialist form of society, they assumed that desirable social relations exist parallel to the dominant relations of domination. This is the reason why syndicalist anarchists are not only or mainly for higher wages, but for less working hours,

Another fundamental problem with what we commonly think of as politics is that the state co-opts self-organized social movements striving for autonomy. Politics is not the same as government. But in very many cases politics is nationalized. This begins where demonstrations have to be registered, certain ways of acting are not considered legitimate and are demonized, certain perspectives from the political discourse are completely distorted and excluded, political strikes are illegal in Germany, etc.
Social movements are characterized by the fact that they consist of different currents. Some of them aim to get their concerns heard by politicians, to take part in political discourse, to be involved in decision-making processes in nationalized politics, to develop political forms of organization and, for example, to found parties or so-called non-governmental organizations .

Anarch@-syndicalism, on the other hand, is a trend within the socialist trade union movement, which resolutely resists being taken over by the state and being assigned to it, and instead advocates autonomy and self-organization. Anarchist syndicalists reject social-democratic and party-communist trade union associations. Because these pay functionaries, are based on internal hierarchies, aim for social partnership and compromises negotiated with entrepreneurs, form alliances with political parties, assume a legal and thus supporting function in the state structure, therefore prevent autonomous strikes and independent organization and ultimately give the claim to want to fundamentally overcome capitalism.

In anarchism, the overall effectiveness and meaningfulness of action in the political field is questioned. Anarch@-syndicalism assumes a fundamental class antagonism and puts the primacy on the economy to create workers' power. The economic sphere is thus opposed to the political sphere. Above all in the economic sphere, i.e. in workplaces, it is important to organize on the basis of economic interests and the realities of life of workers in order to be able to effectively attack the existing system of domination and at the same time produce the germ cells of a new society. In anarchist syndicalism, the economy is understood as the anti-political counterpoint to nationalized politics. And this is not an abstract theoretical insight, but is based on the repeated experience that trade unions have been instrumentalized by political parties, that the political mediation of labor disputes leads to rotten compromises and paralyzes their dynamism and clout. Politicians mostly reject direct action and wildcat strikes, which are powerful weapons of self-organized workers - precisely because they are not politically contained.

Finally, the so-called "disenchantment with politics" plays into the hands of anarchist syndicalism. Despite the change of government or even the form of government, the supporters of anarch@-syndicalism assume that there can be no fundamental change in class society within the political system of rule and no prospect of the emergence of a libertarian socialist society. And they share this impression with quite a few other people who are not committed, radical socialists. In fact, the election spectacle and the media portrayal with which politics is presented are working towards the depoliticization, apathy and fear of the population. The consequences are affirmative belief in the state,

The anarch@-syndicalist path is directed against this. It is intended to organize proletarianized people. In the syndicates they synthesize their common interests, develop a class consciousness, learn to act in a self-determined, direct and collective manner and thereby empower themselves as exploited and oppressed class(es). In this process, the participants at the same time produce cooperative relationships and forms of organization, which can serve as models for a libertarian socialist form of society. These aspects of the anarch@-syndicalist approach were developed out of a fundamental critique of policy making. Here, for a change, it's about one's own interests - and in a thoroughly collective sense.

So there are understandable historical, well-founded theoretical reasons based on extensive experience, why in anarchist syndicalism "politics" is criticized and sometimes downright rejected. What had long been understood indirectly by workers waging wildcat strikes and organizing loosely culminated in a second phase in which autonomous trade union activists, disaffected party socialists and movement-oriented anarchists came together and between 1895 and 1919 anarch@ -Syndicalist unions formed in many countries. In contrast to people in other socialist currents, anarch@-syndicalists assume that the working class is heterogeneous, position themselves decidedly anti-national and think transnationally,

Since that time, the general understanding of politics has changed in many respects. That being said, differing understandings of what "politics" actually is persist. You can argue about this at length in everyday or political-theoretical language as you please. In my opinion, however, this does not change how we deal with the basic problem: that politics within the existing system of rule ultimately represents a relationship of power between those who govern and those who are governed. It is analogous to capitalism as an economic relationship of domination; to patriarchy, as that of the sexes; on white supremacy, origin and attribution of ethnicity; and to see the anthropocentric domination of nature and can only be overcome together with them.

The thoughts formulated come from a doctoral thesis on the political theory of anarchism that Jonathan Eibisch submitted in early 2022. In addition, he regularly gives events on related topics in self-organized contexts and writes on paradox-a.de.

Featured image by Jonathan Eibisch

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