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Insurgent Notes: A New Libertarian Marxist Voice:

category international | the left | opinion / analysis author Tuesday August 17, 2010 04:15author by Wayne Price - Personal opinionauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

An Anarchist Critique

A review of a new on-line journal of autonomous Marxism. What can anarchists learn from this trend of antistatist Marxism. What are its strengths and its weaknesses?

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There has recently appeared a new on-line journal, Insurgent Notes: Journal of Communist Theory and Practice (June 2010). Produced by “less than a dozen [U.S.] intellectuals and militants,” it is committed to what has been called “libertarian” or “autonomous Marxism " This is also often called “libertarian communism” (a term which does not distinguish between libertarian Marxism and anarchist-communism).

Anarchists may see this journal as a sign of the increased interest in this Marxist trend (or rather, set of trends). The majority trend in world Marxism has been Marxist-Leninism (including Trotskyism and Maoism). It has been greatly discredited by the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites and by the developments in China. (Social democracy, the other main historical trend of Marxism, had given up its claim to Marxist theory by the 1950s. Its “socialist” or “labor” parties no longer claim to be in favor of a new, noncapitalist, society.)

At the same time, there has been the fundamental crisis of world capitalism since the 1970s (the end of the post-World War II boom). With the Great Recession of 2008 and after, the capitalist crisis has become plain for all to see. This has led many to look to the only radical theory which has an analysis of capitalism and its crises. Whatever the strengths of anarchism—which are many—only Marxism can do this. Without an understanding of the labor theory of value, of surplus value as the basis of profit, of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and of the epoch of semi-monopolies, imperialism, and capitalist decay, it is not possible to understand what is going on in the world today. This has led to a revival of interest in this minority trend in Marxism.

Anarchists may object to any notion of a “libertarian Marxism.” Since the faction fight between Marx and Bakunin tore apart the First International, anarchism and Marxism have been bitter opponents. Marxists have murdered many anarchists in various countries. Marxism has resulted in totalitarian, mass murdering, inefficient, state capitalist regimes, the very opposite of the goals of libertarian communism (socialism).

However, many anarchists, from Bakunin onwards, have praised Marx’s economic critique of capitalism and other aspects of Marxist theory. It is reported in Black Flame, “Marx’s analysis of the core features of capitalism deeply impressed the early anarchists….[It was] a theory of unprecedented and still-unmatched analytic power. The imprint of Marx’s economic analysis can clearly be seen in the thinking of the anarchists….” (Schmidt & van der Walt, 2009; pp. 85 & 87). Yet, “the anarchists did not adopt Marx’s ideas unconditionally or uncritically….They sought to delink Marxist economics from Marxist politics….Many anarchists and syndicalists rejected the view that capitalism would inexorably lead to socialism” (same; pp. 87, & 96).

Many believed, as I do, that there were both libertarian-democratic and authoritarian sides to Marxism. “There are ambiguities and contradictions in Marx’s thought, which can be interpreted as ‘Two Marxisms’” (same, p. 93). This makes it meaningless to argue whether libertarian Marxism or Stalinism is the “true” Marxism—they are each validly based on different aspects of Marx’s Marxism.

Not every anarchist felt positively about parts of Marxism (Kropotkin did not), but many did. And many anarchists have seen value in integrating aspects of Marxist theory with anarchism, such as Daniel Guerin, who was highly influential in modern French anarchism. My point here is not that this partial integration is a valid approach (although I think that it is), just the fact that many genuinely revolutionary anarchists, from Bakunin to Guerin, have thought that it was.

At the same time, there has long been a libertarian minority within Marxism which was antiauthoritarian, antistatist, anit-Leninist, and genuinely for proletarian revolution. Perhaps the first libertarian Marxist was the great utopian thinker, William Morris, a friend of both Engels and Kropotkin (see Thompson, 1976). There have also been the council communists (who rejected Leninism), the Johnson-Forest Tendency (of C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskya), the early Socialisme ou Barbarie (of Castoriadis), the Italian autonomists, etc. These have built upon the libertarian side of Marx’s Marxism: the centrality of the working class while opposing all oppressions, the goal of a classless and stateless communist society, the belief that “the emancipation of the working class can only be conquered by the working class itself.” The politics of such Marxists is indistinguishable from anarchism in almost every way.

Again, my point is not that these libertarian Marxists are correct to be Marxists (I personally do not think they are, if “Marxist” is taken to mean totally adopting the whole world view of Marx). But it remains a fact that many revolutionaries have thought that it was correct, that they adopted Marx’s basic theories while sincerely believed in a program which was essentially the same as revolutionary, class-struggle, anarchist-communism.

Cleaver (who claims authorship of the term “autonomist Marxism”) says that he was influenced by Rosa Luxemburg and the council communists, as well as Emma Goldman and Peter Kropotkin, anarchist-communists. “That the former were ideologically ’Marxist’ and the latter were not, interested me less than their common perception and sympathy for the power of workers to act autonomously” (2000; pp. 14-15). Precisely.

Personally, when I first became an anarchist (of the anarchist-pacifist school), I was also greatly inspired by the work of Erich Fromm, the humanistic Marxist. Even after becoming a Trotskyist (of an unorthodox sort), I and my comrades were influenced by (among others) C.L.R. James and Dunayevskya, in our attitude toward Black Liberation and toward economics and the nature of the Soviet Union. We were also influenced by Paul Mattick, the council communist economist. I am still influenced by these sources (especially Mattick). I regard myself as a “Marxist-informed anarchist.”

Insurgent Notes

Like many revolutionary anarchists, Insurgent Notes rejects the “vanguard party”--but not the need for an independent organization of revolutionaries. In their introductory editorial, they express “a deep-seated skepticism about vanguardist notions of revolution; while we at the same time affirm the need for some of kind of organization …which conceives of itself not as ‘seizing power’ but as a future tendency or current in a future self-managed society”.

Insurgent Notes stands on the ground of proletarian revolution, which is not true for all those who developed out of the libertarian Marxist tradition. There are many (even Cleaver) who reject the idea of revolution in favor of a gradual reformism based on alternate lifestyles and alternate institutions (so-called “exodus”). Many also reject the importance of the proletariat, replacing the working class with the concept of the “multitude,” as does Antonio Negri. Others expand the concept of the proletariat until it becomes meaningless, including almost everyone, even peasants (as Cleaver also does). Alas, these tendencies are similar to reformist trends within anarchism. However, the introductory statement of Insurgent Notes makes a point of downplaying struggles at the point of production (citing the unemployed Argentine piqueteros, for example, an important development, but one which was weakened by their lack of coordination with factory-based workers). Struggles outside of the workplace are vitally important, but they do not replace the need for workplace power.

The first essay on the site is by Loren Goldner, “The Historical Moment That Produced Us; Global Revolution or Recomposition of Capital?” This consists of a brilliant overview of the ebb and flow of revolutionary periods, from the 1840s to the future. He begins, “Looking back from the vantage point of the latest phase of the world crisis that erupted in 2008 (itself merely the latest twist of the ‘slow crash landing,’ sometimes faster, sometimes slower, that began ca. 1970), and from the working-class response to it that, in fits and starts, is taking shape today,… the three and a half decades of the long slide of the world capitalist system, prior to the meltdown of October 2008, must appear as one of the longest and strangest historical periods since the communist movement first emerged in the 1840s.” He examines the roots of the relative (apparent) prosperity of the recent past and the causes of the coming upsurge. I will not summarize it here, but this important essay alone is worth the effort to access this site.

Abstentionism or Participation in the Struggle?

The historical malady of extreme leftism (called by some, not me, ultra-leftism) was its sectarianism and abstentionism. Like anarchists, Insurgent Notes rejects electoralism (which was a major dispute between the anarchists and Marx historically). More ambivalently, their editoral also rejects “nationalism of any kind…’anti-imperialism’…any strategy of ‘capturing the unions’…by…’boring from within’…’identity politics’ as the ideological articulation of the very real problems of race, gender, and alternative sexuality, but which must be relocated in class politics.

It is hard to know what this means. They do not quite say that only the direct class struggle matters and everything else is a distraction. (This would contradict their emphasis on non-workplace struggles as well as the importance they place on being part of the “real movement,” which is never, ever, limited only to class issues.) But they only say what they are against as opposed to what they are for.

It is correct to fight against the ideologies of classless nationalism and bourgeois anti-imperialism. But do we accept that nations exist and that some of them are oppressed by capitalist imperialism? Should revolutionary libertarian socialists participate in national struggles while proposing an internationalist program for their freedom? It is one thing to oppose pure-and-simple business unionism or to doubt that unions will ever be revolutionary. But should we participate in unions whle opposing the bureaucrats? Support unionization drives? Support strikes? Should we be neutral between the unions and the capitalists? It is all very well to admit that there are “very real problems of race, gender, and alternative sexuality” (although they do not, apparently, admit that there are also “very real problems” of national oppression). And that these problems need to be related to class. But by itself, this is a rather anemic statement which leaves class-oriented revolutionaries on the outside of the movements, looking in. Compare this to the view of C.L.R. James, that the autonomous struggles of African-American workers could play a leading role in the struggle of the whole working class as well as in the Black liberation struggle.

Do We Need an Ideal Vision of a Better Society?

Perhaps the biggest difference between anarchists and Marxists is expressed in the quotation from Marx with which they chose to open their editorial: “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.” In other words, Marx says, communists should not base ourselves on a vision of an ideal state of affairs but on the historical process (the real movement) which will (we think) replace the existing state of things with a new society. The quotation is from The German Ideology, but the thought appears throughout Marx’s work and is central to his worldview.

What then do we say when a new state of things is produced by the real movement, and it is ugly? When the historical process produced Stalinist totalitarianism, most revolutionary Marxists said that, whether or not they liked it, this was “really existing socialism,” after all, the result of the real movement of history, and they had to accept it. This was a basic cause of the disasterous capitulation of most Marxists to state capitalism.

There is certainly a need to analyze the dynamics of capitalist society, what is happening with it, and what are the possibilities for mass revolt against its status quo. This is essential to do, and Marxism is highly useful in doing it. But without a moral vision, “an ideal to which [we want] reality to adjust itself,” we are morally and politically rudderless.

We do not need a detailed blueprint of a future society, but a vision, a set of values for the world we want. The working class revolution is unlike the bourgeois revolution in this regard. The bourgeoisie did not need a clear vision of what they were for (nor could they tell the workers that they would set up a new system of exploitation); all that was necessary was to clear away the obstacles to the free workings of the capitalist market. Once set free, the “invisible hand” of the market would organize a capitalist society. But the working class, if revolutionary, needs to be conscious of what it is doing, and to collectively make decisions about what it wants to set up. This includes a clear analysis of capitalism (to a great extent provided by Marx) but also a vision of what could be and what should be.

Libertarian Marxists are the minority trend among Marxists which did not accept Stalinism (or more precisely, Leninism). Fortunately, as can be seen in Insurgent Notes, many do not really base themselves solely on “the premises now in existence.” They really base themselves on “the great experiences in direct democratic management of production and society (soviets, workers’ councils) that came to the fore in the failed revolutions of the 20th century (Russia, Germany, Spain, Hungary)”, their editorial states. In fact, their goal is virtually indistinguishable from class-struggle, revolutionary anarchism. Contrary to the implications of the Marx quote, they declare, “a revolution [dominated by ‘soviet-type’ power] will not take place if there is not prepared in advance a substantial stratum of workers with a clear programmatic idea of what we wish to do with the world when we take it away from the capitalist class.” (I could not have said it better myself.)

Why then should they see themselves as a separate trend from anarchist-communism? In my opinion, there is no need for a sharp line to be drawn between autonomist Marxism and anarchist- communism, any more than there is between anarchist-communism and anarchist-syndicalism. The distinctions are more historical than relevant to today, and should not be a barrier to working in a joint revolutionary organization.

Libertarian Marxists tend to discuss subjects in an abstract, intellectual, Hegelianized-Marxoid language, For example, the editorial expresses “a commitment to ‘activity as all-sided in its production as in its consumption’ (Marx, Grundrisse), and the ‘development of human powers as its own end’ (Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations) within the expanded reproduction of humanity as the true content of communism….the fundamental problem identified by Marx as the alienation of universal from cooperative labor.” This is all true, but does not replace a concrete discussion of how to integrate manual and mental labor.

While we may have abstract agreement on principles, there are real issues to be debated in terms of tactics and strategy, differences which have immediate practical results: are we for participating in united fronts with reformists? are we for raising revolutionary goals even while working in broad movements? do we support workers’ union efforts? are we in solidarity with the oppressed of all races, nations, genders, sexual orientations, etc., even as we relate these struggles to the class conflict? (My answer to all these questions is “yes.”) These are real issues which need to be worked out. But they are not differences between libertarian Marxists and anarchists; rather they are issues both within libertarian Marxism and within revolutionary anarchism.

The editorial states clearly, “We look forward to comradely dialogue with such groups and individuals who may feel some attachment to [our minimal program of agreement] and also look forward to larger regroupments forged in the kind of practical struggles that can cut the knot of theoretical and practical disagreement.” From this point of view, I welcome Insurgent Voices as a hoped-for contributor to the discussion.


References

Cleaver, Harry (2000). Reading CAPITAL Politically. Leeds/Edinburgh: AK Press/Anthitheses.

Insurgent Notes: Journal of Communist Theory and Practice (June 2010). http://insurgentnotes.com/

Schmidt, Michael, & van der Walt, Lucien (2009). Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism; Vol. 1: Counterpower. Oakland CA: AK Press.

Thompson, E.P. (1976). William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.

written for www.Anarkismo.net

author by Ilan S. - AAtW, ainfos, Matzpenpublication date Wed Aug 18, 2010 00:23author address Tel AvivReport this post to the editors


Wayne:

"Anarchists may see this journal as a sign of the increased interest in this Marxist trend (or rather, set of trends)."

I.
The spectrum of "anti authoritarian Marxists" left of the authoritarian Marxist is just fragments, and cannot really contribute any thing.

Their adherence to the Marxist label is no more than a psychological couriosity.

Wayne:

"At the same time, there has been the fundamental crisis of world capitalism since the 1970s (the end of the post-World War II boom). With the Great Recession of 2008 and after, the capitalist crisis has become plain for all to see. This has led many to look to the only radical theory which has an analysis of capitalism and its crises. Whatever the strengths of anarchism—which are many—only Marxism can do this. "

I.
It is a huge exaggeration to expect of an analysis of economists of 150 years ago to be relevant to the crisis in the world financial system of the neo-globalization era.

Wayne:

"Without an understanding of the labor theory of value, of surplus value as the basis of profit, of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, and of the epoch of semi-monopolies, imperialism, and capitalist decay, it is not possible to understand what is going on in the world today. This has led to a revival of interest in this minority trend in Marxism."

I.
In modern capitalism every one know that the profits of the capitalists ("surpluss value" come from the exploiting of workers even when the exact details are not so obvious.

I learned it nearly 60 years from the Capital of Marx, but discovered later that he just popularized previous findings of others.

As for the pseudo mathematics of the tendency of
the rate of profit to fall, the expectation that it will contribute to the decline of capitalism is based on - do not hold your breath.

Even if the rate of profit to fall was inbuilt in the capitalist system and not subject to manipulations (the rate of profit of savings and pension do fall... but not the rate of profit of the owners of big capitalis conglomerates.

Wayne

"However, many anarchists, from Bakunin onwards, have praised Marx’s economic critique of capitalism and other aspects of Marxist theory. It is reported in Black Flame, “Marx’s analysis of the core features of capitalism deeply impressed the early anarchists….[It was] a theory of unprecedented and still-unmatched analytic power. The imprint of Marx’s economic analysis can clearly be seen in the thinking of the anarchists….”

I.

If the available source of knowledge a person have is the wisdom grand mother delivered in her stories, "Grand mother stories" would not be so derogatory label.

Till I enrolled in the introductory to economic course (101) my knowledge in the subject were mainly limited to Capital I.

Waine:

"Many believed, as I do, that there were both libertarian-democratic and authoritarian sides to Marxism. “There are ambiguities and contradictions in Marx’s thought, which can be interpreted as ‘Two Marxisms’” (same, p. 93). This makes it meaningless to argue whether libertarian Marxism or Stalinism is the “true” Marxism—they are each validly based on different aspects of Marx’s Marxism."

I.

It is also meaningless to people who do not earn their living from teaching Marx and his school, as it is now just old history.

Waine:

"And many anarchists have seen value in integrating aspects of Marxist theory with anarchism, "

I.

I am really curious what one can find in Marx wisdom that is still relevant to our days and our struggle.

Wayne:

"There is certainly a need to analyze the dynamics of capitalist society, what is happening with it, and what are the possibilities for mass revolt against its status quo. This is essential to do, and Marxism is highly useful in doing it."

I.
The claim that any scientific tool to analyze the dynamics of capitalist society which is 150 years old is still relevant is strange.of

Wayne:

"We do not need a detailed blueprint of a future society, but a vision, a set of values for the world we want. The working class revolution is unlike the bourgeois revolution in this regard. The bourgeoisie did not need a clear vision of what they were for (nor could they tell the workers that they would set up a new system of exploitation); all that was necessary was to clear away the obstacles to the free workings of the capitalist market. Once set free, the “invisible hand” of the market would organize a capitalist society. But the working class, if revolutionary, needs to be conscious of what it is doing, and to collectively make decisions about what it wants to set up. This includes a clear analysis of capitalism (to a great extent provided by Marx) but also a vision of what could be and what should be."

I.
For sure the libertarian communist society differ in many principal factors from all the previous class societies.

For sure we do not need a detailed blueprint of a future society -- just the simple description of multi level direct democracy of world commune of grass root communities. (I think that one or two pages of A4 can include all its principles.

However, we really do not need "a clear analysis of capitalism (to a great extent provided by Marx)".

Not for the construction of our alternative... Not even for the convincing of people that capitalism stinks.

And clearly no need to recruit Marx wisdom.

It remind me a blue joke when a mother insist that her husband will explain their teen boy the facts of life according to the old butterfly paradigm... So the father take the boy to the side and tell him: "you remember I found you yesterday viewing the blue video? so you should know that butterflies do nearly the same."

Verwandter Link: http://ilan.shalif.com/anarchy/glimpses/glimpses.html
author by Anarchopublication date Wed Aug 18, 2010 05:39Report this post to the editors

"Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.”

Yes, well, it is obvious that Marx and Engels never actually subscribed to that. Whenever any movement developed which raised ideas they opposed, they attacked it. Thus anyone arguing against "political action" (i.e., standing in elections), were denounced as sects. Why? Well, because only Marx and Engels understood the "real" movement. That these so-called sects were proved right in their arguments does not seem to enter into it.

It is good you mention "the early Socialisme ou Barbarie (of Castoriadis)" (important group) but I'm surprised that you did not mention that Castoriadis ended up rejecting Marxism.

"The politics of such Marxists is indistinguishable from anarchism in almost every way."

Which does raise the interesting question why they call themselves Marxism when their politics are far closer to Bakunin's than Marx's on numerous key issues.

It is right to suggest there are elements of "socialism from below" in Marx, but the overall legacy of Marx was pushing the workers movement towards social democracy:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/anarcho/syndicalism-anar...rxism

Moreover, I should stress that there would be libertarian elements in Marx given his defence of the Paris Commune, a revolt infused with libertarian ideas (it implemented many of the ideas advocated by Proudhon during the 1848 revolution, most obviously):

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/pjproudhon/proudhon-marx...mmune

Verwandter Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org.uk
author by Anarchopublication date Wed Aug 18, 2010 05:43Report this post to the editors

Ilan writes:
"I learned it [surplus-value] nearly 60 years from the Capital of Marx, but discovered later that he just popularized previous findings of others."

Very true. Proudhon had argued that exploitation occurred in production in 1840 and in 1846, with the capitalist appropriating the surplus labour produced by their wage-slaves:

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/pjproudhon/proudhon-and-...ation

Moreover, the Ricardian socialists in Britain had raised a similar analysis back in the 1820s:

http://libcom.org/library/utopian-or-scientific-reconsi...lists

Not that you would know that from Marx and Engels, who both argued that Marx had solved how exploitation occurred under capitalism. In reality, the likes of Proudhon and Thompson had done so long before Capital was published. Worse, Marx was well aware of their arguments...

Verwandter Link: http://www.property-is-theft.org
author by Hieronymouspublication date Wed Aug 18, 2010 12:51Report this post to the editors

While coming close to the definition of "libertarian marxist" myself (yet who hates the way labels are limiting), I did find Wayne's critique useful and accurate.

But Wayne writes:

"But do we accept that nations exist and that some of them are oppressed by capitalist imperialism?"

The answer is "no" because I guess I'm more of an anarchist than Wayne is. Even the "oppressed" nations are states and I'm against ALL states. Simply because by definition a state maintains its monopoly of violence through bourgeois institutions like rule-of-law, cops, courts, jails, prisons, standing armies, fortified borders, etc., etc. States=oppression.

And as Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto: "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie."

I don't mean to caste aspersions, but Wayne that's the Trotskyite line on imperialism which Rosa Luxemburg totally destroys in her brilliant "Junius Pamphlet," calling for workers of all nations to always throw down their arms during any inter-state war, or conflict of bourgeois factions. Rosa's is the only true "internationalist" anti-war position (see Hal Draper's excellent "War & Revolution: Lenin and the Myth of Revolutionary Defeatism" to see a Trot destroy the anti-imperialist vacillations of both Lenin and Trotsky, through upholding Rosa as the only beholder of a truly revolutionary anti-war position among the 3).

Again, Wayne writes:

"Should revolutionary libertarian socialists participate in national struggles while proposing an internationalist program for their freedom?"

Again the answer is "no" for all of the reasons I articulated above. If we're real revolutionaries, whether of the anarchist or marxian persuasion, we're against ALL struggles that divide workers along nation-state lines. Period.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Aug 18, 2010 15:58Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the comments. Let me first mention that my review only covered the Editorial and Goldner's article, because that is all I read at the time I wrote the essay. Two articles on China are also highly interesting. Also, my attention has been drawn to the fact that the journal's organizers do not call themselves "autonomous communists" but "left communists."

As was to be expected, not everyone agrees with the positive comments I make about (some aspectc of) Marxism. To summarize (1) Marxism has the tools for an analysis of the deep, world-wide capitalist crisis we are in, and no other theory does. (The arguement that Marx was not wholly original in his economics is beside the point. So what?) (2) There are both authoritarian and libertarian trends in Marxism, although we anarchists believe that the main trend is authoritarian. As Anacho puts it above, "It is right to suggest there are elements of 'socialism from below' in Marx, but the overall legacy of Marx was pushing the workers movement towards social democracy." Which is to say that there is at least *some* validity to a libertarian interpretation of Marxism. (3) Whether or not they are right, in whole or in part, the libertarain Marxists (left communists, whatever) have long existed and will exist. Anarchists should be prepared to deal with them, not just to reject them.

Hieronymous apparently agrees that there are noncolass oppressions which should be opposed but not national oppression. Between imperialism and oppressed nations he takes no sides. Why? Because "Even the "oppressed" nations are states." Of course, this is factually not true. Many oppresed nations are not states. Palestinians, for example.Tibetans. Etc. What is true is that they *want* a national state (not having been persuaded of anarchism yet).

To be consistent, using this same method, H. should oppose African-Americans getting voting rights in the 60s, since it meant electoralism and participating in the US state, which anarchists are not for. He must be agianst Gays having the right to marry or to serve in the military, since we are not for state-sanctioned marriage or the imperial army. He should refuse to support workers on strike since they are being led by bureaucratic-conservative unions. He should be against women getting the right to rise in the corporate heirarchy, past the "glass ceiling," since we are against capitalism. I suppose he is against the right of Mexican immigratnts to become US citizens, since that means joining the US state. No doubt he does not support the right of Muslims to build a Mosque in Manhattan (2 blocks from the "sacred" ground zero) since he does not support religion or democratic rights. That is, if he is consistent. But I expect that he is as inconsistent as are the writers for Insurgent Notes in applying his methodology.

As I have said before, the question is whether we believe in freedom. Freedom means the right to be wrong, and to hopefully learn from ones mistakes. Between the imperialist state of the US and oppressed nations everywhere, H. stands neutral until the miserable workers and farmers of these nations adopt what he wants for them, not what they currently want for themselves.

author by Hieronymouspublication date Wed Aug 18, 2010 16:39Report this post to the editors

Talking about putting words in someone's mouth!

I'll be simple:

Never in the course of U.S. social movement history in the last 100 years have reformist means (in effect having faith that the dominate institutions can be changed for the better from within, using its own legitimate and socially-sanctioned channels) led to radical -- or for that matter revolutionary -- ends. (I stand open to be corrected; please provide concrete examples)

The Situationist International put it best:

"You can't fight alienation by alienated means."

Wayne, you end up sounding like Bayard Rustin in his 1965 article (in Commentary magazine) "From Protest to Politics" where he attacked SDS and SNCC, moving towards a Black Power position, when both groups rejected working inside the existing U.S. political system. Rustin wanted the civil rights movement to focus on the electoral realm and to use voting campaigns push for implementation of Johnson's "Great Society."

Not unlike the opposite critique by working class historian Alan Dawley, who wrote in his book "Class & Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn":

"The ballot box is the coffin of class consciousness."

Proven by how quickly the Black Panthers faded soon after Bobby Seale ran for mayor and Elaine Brown ran for city council in Oakland in 1973 (not that they didn't come close to winning).

author by Hieronymouspublication date Wed Aug 18, 2010 16:52Report this post to the editors

Wayne wrote:

"Of course, this is factually not true. Many oppresed nations are not states. Palestinians, for example.Tibetans. Etc. What is true is that they *want* a national state (not having been persuaded of anarchism yet)."

The largest ethnically dispossessed group on earth are the 8,000,000 Kurds. Some nascent bourgeois leaders want a nation-state. But not everyone. In the first Gulf War in 1991, some revolutionary Kurdish (and Iraqi) militants created "shuras," which are workers' councils. Here's an excellent short article detailing that history:

http://libcom.org/library/ten-days-shook-iraq-uprising-...ldcat

The militants in these shuras had to fight against not only the U.S. imperialist forces, but also against the class collaborators in the nationalist movement and the Stalinists in the Communist Party.

A tragedy is the way in so many places, like Palestine and Iraq, secular working class revolutionaries are executed by their Islamacist and nationalist rivals.

author by Waynepublication date Fri Aug 20, 2010 08:35Report this post to the editors

Clearly I had misunderstood Heironymoius' political position. Apparently he is against any and all struggles for reforms under capitalism, any attempt by working people or oppressed people, to make their lives better right now. Instead, he is for nothing but revolution. Our argument is not, after all, over national liberation, as I had thought from what H. wrote, but about any sort of struggle that is short of (immediate?) international proletarian revolution. This is not a topic which I discussed in this article, and it hard to know from where H. got views of my opinions (such as my supposed support for electoralism). I have raised it elvewhere on Anarkismo: such as "Our Program is the Anarchist Revolution!" http://www.anarkismo.net/article/2725 and "Three Approaches to a Revolutionary Program" http://www.anarkismo.net/article/14569

H. had argued against me that "Even the "oppressed" nations are states." I pointed out that there were oppressed (no quotations) nations without states, such as Palestine and Tibet, among others. H. now adds the Kurds as a stateless oppressed nation. This further refutes his original statement. I do not understand what point he thinks he is making.

In any case, when revolutionary anarchists express solidarity with, say, the Afghan people against the bombs and troops of the imperialist US. this is not giving support to any Afghan state, and certainly not to the Taliban. We are against any Afghan state and are opponents of the Taliban. It is expressing solidarity with the workers, peasants, and small businesspeople of Afghanistan against their cruel imperial oppressiors.

author by Anarkismopublication date Sat Aug 21, 2010 06:05Report this post to the editors

Please read the commenting guidelines. In this website we do not accept unsubstantiated claims, name calling or insults.

Verwandter Link: http://www.anarkismo.net/editorial
author by Waynepublication date Sat Aug 21, 2010 08:03Report this post to the editors

I do not know why or how Hieronymous' posts were censored and had nothing to do with the decision to do so. That's up to the managing committee. I do notice that his published comments have compared me to Bayard Rustin (the ex-pacifist Black social democratic sell out), implied that I supported electoral action, and that I agreed with "Trotskyite" and Leninist opinions. These political insults may hurt my feelings but I can live with them.

BTW, it was not only Lenin and Trotsky who supported national liberation. So did Bakunin and Kropotkin. Makhno''s revolutionary movement in Ukraine combined national liberation with class issues. Anarchists have been active in many anti-imperialist struggles in oppressed nations, without supporting nationalism as an ideology. This is summarized in Black Flame, the 2009 book by Schmidt and van der Walt.

author by Joe Licentia - Wobbly, NEANpublication date Sat Aug 21, 2010 12:16author email morpheus at mutualaid dot orgReport this post to the editors

Libertarian Marxists came to power in 1917 in Russia. Lenin, in the April Theses and State & Revolution, espoused a libertarian democratic version of Marxism. The results were not libertarian because the institutions Marxists advocate directly conflict with their egalitarian goals. As those institutions recreated class society and molded Marxist leaders into a new ruling class, Marxists adjusted their ideas accordingly. If libertarian Marxists come to power again the same thing will happen. Marx had multiple tendencies in his thoughts, but he never called for the abolition of the state except in the sense of it 'withering away' after a proletarian dictatorship. Even that was developed as a response to anarchist criticisms - the Communist manifesto says nothing about the state withering away. There is no anarchist trend in Marx. Neither Dunayeskaya nor most people who call themselves "left Communists" call for the immediate abolition of the state, either.

Marxism is not the only theory that can account for capitalist crises. The theorists he plagiarized from also account for it. And so can Wallerstein. And maybe even some Post-Keynesian economists (kinda). If Marx hadn't been used to legitimize totalitarian states most people would not have heard of him. What's called "Marxist economics" would be called something like "19th century socialist economics." Had Russia gone anarchist, it might be called Proudhonian economics. Because Marx was used to justify totalitarian states lots of people have read Marx but few have read the people he got his ideas from, and so he gets more credit than he should. If you like Marx's economics, you'll probably like the theorists he got his ideas from.

There are two types of libertarian Marxists: (1) confused anarcho-communists and (2) closet statists. It would be better if each clarified which one they are.

Not all resistance to imperialism or a national liberation war, nor does everyone in a colony think of themselves as a nation. When Europeans, Japanese, & Americans finished conquering the world in the late 19th century many of their victims did not think of themselves as conquered nations, and often did not think in those terms for a long time. They identified themselves in terms of religion, dynasty, family, region, or something else. At the beginning of decolonization much resistance to colonialism took the form of demanding a federation with equal rights for all, not an independent nation-state. They also wanted to be equally included in the welfare state, which would have been extremely expensive and the imperial stats were unwilling to grant that concession to save their empire. So the anti-imperialist movement took a nationalist turn.

author by Waynepublication date Mon Aug 23, 2010 03:27Report this post to the editors

Joe Licentia apparently claims that Marxism is nothing but authoritarian and that anarchists have nothing to learn from any aspect of Marxism. I disagree. I hold a more nuanced view: that Marxism has both authoritarian and libertarian-democratic aspects, useful and non-useful aspects for anarchists, althougth it is predominately authoritarian.

It is not true that "libertarian Marxists came to power in 1917 in Russia." While there were some libertarian elements to what Lenin said at the time, his basic world view was essentially authoritarian, as can be seen even in his most "libertarian" works, such as State & Revolution. His view of socialism, expressed there, was of an outgrowth of a state capitalist economy similar to the Prussian war-time economy or the Prussian post office. That's what he said. The council communists were right to reject Leninism. Also, Marx did write about the end of the state after the revolution in the Communist Manifesto, however inadequately. Finally, I do not want "libertarian Marxists [to] come to power," nor do the "left communists" of Insurgent Notes, whom I quoted. Among libertarian Communists, Paul Mattick of the council communists specifically calls for the immediate abolition of the state after a revolution (quotation on request, or see my book The Aboliltion of the State, which goes into all these questions in detail).

I do not have the space to go into the ridiculous argument that Marx's critique of political economy is nothing but plagiarism. Even if true, so what? There it is, a system of thought which is useful to understand the development of capitalism and there is nothing comparable or as useful in bourgeois economics (left Keynsianism) or alternate theories which might have developed but didn't.

It is true, as Joe says, that not everyone who fought against imperialism in an oppressed nation, thought of themselves as being for their own, independent nation. Not everyone, but many, perhaps most, did, and, in today's world, do. Of course, the "not everyone" opens things up for internationalist anarchists to argue for our program of stateless international proletarian revolution, but we still have to relate to other trends who fight against imperialist occupation and oppression. Are we neutral between them and the imperial troops? Or are we their political opponents while still being in solidarity with their people? I chose the second. Our solidarity with the people should not depend on whether or not they agree fully with our program.

author by Hieronymouspublication date Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:19Report this post to the editors

I would actually like to reply to Wayne, so I'll see if this stays up before spending any time making a post.

And again I want to confirm that Wayne's original post was interesting and I thought he made many important points. My main difference is that I think his position on nationalism, national liberation and internationalist opposition to war to be too parallel to that of the Old Left, and similar to the positions of Comintern. My point is to agree-to-disagree and debate why I have a different opinion, which I feel is more rooted in the anarchist tradition of an anti-state critique. That's all.

Hieronymous

author by curiouspublication date Mon Aug 23, 2010 19:45Report this post to the editors

"I think his position on nationalism, national liberation and internationalist opposition to war to be too parallel to that of the Old Left, and similar to the positions of Comintern."

Hyeronimus, can you please substantiate with arguments what you just said? I am well familiar with the Comintern positions an actually don't see the similarities with Wayne's thoughts. Can you point them out? This attitude reminds me of my old communist friends who labeled any idea they disliked or that was too critical for them as "anarchism" without having a clue of what anarchism was. If you don't provide actual arguments this is nothing but slander on others who don't share your views and as such should be removed.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Aug 25, 2010 08:14Report this post to the editors

(1) It was not Lenin but Kropotkin who wrote: "True internationalism will never be attained except by the independence of each nationality, small or large, compact or disunited--just as anarchy is in the independence of each individual. If we say no government of man over man [sic], how can [we] permit the government of conquered nationalities by the conquering nationalities?" (quoted in M. Miller, 1976. Kropotkin, p. 231.)

For further examination of the history of anarchist involvement in national liberation struggles, see chap. 10 of Black Flame by van der Walt and Schmidt.

(2) A belief in national self-determinaation goes back well before Lenin to the original bourgeois-democratic program of the rising, still revolutionary, capttalist class. My views on national self-determination are based on this program; anarchism means nothing if not freedom in all areas.

(3) True, my views do indeed overlap with the original stated views of Lenin and Trotsky--with one significant exception. As Lenin said, I think that proletarian revolutionaries should oppose all forms of oppression, however directly or indirectly related to class. This includes gender, race, cultural, age, religious, peasants--and national. But we must not support the ideology or program of nationalism. We are political opponents of the nationalists. Rather we say that the only solution to national oppression is through international proletarian revolution. We point out that capitalism is no longer capable of consistently carrying out its own bourgeois-democratic program.

My *only* difference with this is the matter of goals. Lenin's aim was the eventual (volutary) unification of smaller nations into bigger ones and eventually in one world unity. Anarchists are not only internationalists but are also decentralists. We value small nations, regional groupings and cultures. Our one world goal is of a loosely federated commune of communities, not a monstrous one world state.

author by Hieronymous - working classpublication date Thu Aug 26, 2010 01:04Report this post to the editors

curious wrote:

"Hyeronimus [sic], can you please substantiate with arguments what you just said?"

I did, tracing the organizational roots of this fusion of Leninist and left-liberal ideas to the influence of Ferdinand Lassalle on the Bolsheviks, only to have them censored.

It wasn't only anarchists who were in complete opposition to the use of the state, a la Lenin et al., as a vehicle of social change, because there was a whole tradition to the left of these state-builders like the German/Dutch council communist left, the militants around the journal Workers' Dreadnought in Britain, Mary Marcy and those in the U.S. around the "International Socialist Review" who made their readers familiar with Europeans in this tradition like James Connolly (who was a Wobbly when he was in the U.S.), Rosa Luxemburg, Alexandra Kollontai, Anton Pannekoek, Herman Gorter, et al., as well as publishing Gene Debs, John Reed, and the best of the Wobs: Big Bill Haywood, Vincent St. John, Joe Hill, Covington Hall and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn among many, many others.

The Bolsheviks showed their true colors when they massacred the anarchists at Kronstadt. In complete opposition to even Marx in the "Critique of the Gotha Program," they married the ideas of Lassalle with the productivist fantasies of Henry Ford (just read Emma Goldman's shock at meeting Lenin in the Kremlin and hearing of his admiration for Ford). Trotsky did that too, with his ideas of Communism being built with "steel and concrete." Back to Kronstadt: in November 1918 when the sailors mutinied against the German Navy's suicide orders , at ports like Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, the first thing they did was get on the radio and try to communicate with their Russian comrades at Kronstadt, knowing that as the most militant fighters in the Russian Revolution, they were the only ones they could trust for advice.

So the Bolsheviks ideas of statecraft were bourgeois, in addition their dogma of "national self-determination" could have been written by Woodrow Wilson himself. The Bolsheviks were organizing the bourgeois revolution top-down, not unlike the t like the state-led bourgeois revolution of the Meiji Restoration in Japan in 1868, state-builders that they were. This fetish for the state led to the most despicable betrayals of those sailors at Kronstadt, whose families were held hostage in St. Peterbergs, as well as the complete betrayal of the "real" revolutionaries like those around Nestor Makhno in the Ukraine.

The Bolsheviks abused their monopoly of state violence against their working class and peasant rivals and enemies. ALL states do exactly the same, suppress the revolutionary urges for freedom beyond the bourgeois state-form by maintaining monopolies of violence by the authoritarian institutions of rule-of-law, police, courts, jails, prisons, fortified borders, standing armies and all the economic oppression the state can wield bureaucratically. That, comrades, is the dialectical opposite of freedom. ALL states are the antithesis of freedom and that's why my opposition to them makes me an anarchist (as for Kropotkin, he was a "trenchist" and supported World War I; when Emma Goldman met him she thought he was a fool and a Puritan prude for his anti-sex views).

Hieronymous
(please, please, please allow this post to stay up; thank you)

author by Waynepublication date Thu Aug 26, 2010 03:48Report this post to the editors

Suppose I said to H., "You advocate international working class socialist revolution. So did Lenin and Trotsky and the Communist International. Therefore your politics are the same as theirs." H. would answer, "This is red-baiting. Yes, I do advocate international proletarian revolution, as did Lenin et al. But my goals are completely different from Lenin & Trotsky's. They wanted a centralized party ruling a centralized state ruling a centralized economy. I want an association of workers' and popular councils running a self-managed society. I do not criticize L & T for advocating world revolution. I 'agree' with this. I do condemn them for other things, such as their goals and their actions (as listed in H's last post)."

The program of national liberation (self-determination) was part of the classical bourgeois-democratic program, raised by the ideologists of the capitalist revolution, and mostly betrayed by the capitalist class once it came to power. Naturally we can find all sorts of people giving it lipservice. Not only anarchists such as Kropotkin and Bakunin and Makhno, but Woodrow Wilson as well as Lenin and Trotsky. Naturally. It was part of the democratic program. Lenin advocated it as a way of arousing oppressed people to support the working class revolution, as he advocated supporting all sorts of democratic demands.

Now, what was wrong with Lenin and Trotsky was NOT their advocacy of democratic demands (including national self-determination). Their problem was hardly that they were too democratic!! Their problem was that they were not democratic enough. They were authoritarian and statist (which meant that in practice they betrayed even the democratic demands they had spoken for, including national self-determination).

Anarchism, as I understand it, is the most extreme version of democracy. We should be in favor of all democratic demands. This means, of course, that people have the right to be wrong, to chose goals that we advise against--such as voting for the Democratic Party or setting up new nation states. We hope that over time they will be persuaded by us (and by their experience) to accept the program of revolutionary anarchism. But we defend them against the imperialist capitalist state, whatever their choice is--while we never stop urging our full anarchist program.

This is not Leninism. Instead of red-baiting and name-calling, you should acknowledge what I am actually saying and engage with my actual arguements.

author by Hieronymous - working classpublication date Thu Aug 26, 2010 05:39Report this post to the editors

2 words sum up how long Lenin and Trotsky were fighting for world revolution:

Brest-Litvosk

Democracy is merely a form; don't we all agree that we want a dialectical fusion of form and content? Don't we all agree that the content is the negation of capitalism, states, exploitation, oppression, authority, etc., etc.? If so, democracy is simply just one moment in that process. It's not the goal, but one among many means towards reaching the goal of human community, or freely associated human beings living in harmony with mother earth.

author by dave b - SPGB and worldsocialistmovementpublication date Sat Aug 28, 2010 18:45Report this post to the editors

I think when it comes to;

“(just read Emma Goldman's shock at meeting Lenin in the Kremlin and hearing of his admiration for Ford).”

And Taylorism was generally regarded as synonymous with Fordism

Well Goldman before supporting Lenin should have read one of Lenin’s more important pamhlets/speech;

The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government of 1918

“This work must be supported and pushed ahead with all speed. We must raise the question of piece-work and apply and test it in practice; we must raise the question of applying much of what is scientific and progressive in the Taylor system; we must make wages correspond to the total amount of goods turned out, or to the amount of work done by the railways, the water transport system, etc., etc.

The Russian is a bad worker compared with people in advanced countries. It could not be otherwise under the tsarist regime and in view of the persistence of the hangover from serfdom. The task that the Soviet government must set the people in all its scope is—learn to work.

The Taylor system, the last word of capitalism in this respect, like all capitalist progress, is a combination of the refined brutality of bourgeois exploitation and a number of the greatest scientific achievements in the field of analysing mechanical motions during work, the elimination of superfluous and awkward motions, the elaboration of correct methods of work, the introduction of the best system of accounting and control, etc.

The Soviet Republic must at all costs adopt all that is valuable in the achievements of science and technology in this field. The possibility of building socialism depends exactly upon our success in combining the Soviet power and the Soviet organisation of administration with the up-to-date achievements of capitalism. We must organise in Russia the study and teaching of the Taylor system and systematically try it out and adapt it to our own ends”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/mar/x0...3.htm

Not everyone was happy about it at the time of course as Lenin tells us in his pro state capitalism speech also from 1918;

V. I. Lenin “Left-Wing” Childishness

Or take the Menshevik Vperyod of the same date, which contains among other articles the following “thesis” by the notorious Menshevik Isuv:

“The policy of Soviet power, from the very outset devoid of a genuinely proletarian character, has lately pursued more and more openly a course of compromise with the bourgeoisie and has assumed an obviously anti-working class character. On the pretext of nationalising industry, they are pursuing a policy of establishing industrial trusts, and on the pretext of restoring the productive forces of the country, they are attempting to abolish the eight hour day, to introduce piece-work and the Taylor system, black lists and victimisation. This policy threatens to deprive the proletariat of its most important economic gains and to make it a victim of unrestricted exploitation by the bourgeoisie.”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/may/09.htm

Lenin’s previous attitude to Taylorism are at

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/mar/13.htm

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/mar/13.htm

The reference to Taylorism was omitted for the more discerning British reader in;

THE CHIEF TASK OF OUR TIMES and The Political Forces & Currents Facing the Russian Revolution By VLADIMIR OULIANOFF (LENIN) Chairman of the People's Commissaries
of the Russian Soviet Republic.

Published by Workers' Dreadnought An Organ of International Socialism with a Bolshevik Policy Edited by E. SYLVIA PANKHURST

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spopen/message/11620

Along with the substitution of some of the state capitalism’s for state socialism

The second part of which was a translation of V. I. Lenin SESSION OF THE ALL-RUSSIA C.E.C. APRIL 29, 1918

http://www.marx2mao.net/Lenin/SAR18.html

Verwandter Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/index.php
author by Joe Licentiapublication date Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:05author email morpheus at mutualaid dot orgReport this post to the editors

Lenin's arguments in "State & Revolution" and his "April Theses" were more libertarian than anything Marx ever put forward. In 1917 Lenin called for all power to be given to Workers Councils, for "Abolition of the police, the army and the bureaucracy" ("i.e. the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the whole people"), and for workers control. "Factories to workers, land to peasants!" was a Bolshevik slogan. This of course changed once he was in power. Yes, he did see socialism as developing out of capitalism and as being similar to the post office. So did Marx & Engels. The former is implied by their theory of history. Engels claimed that all revolutions are authoritarian and that you can't run a ship or a factory without hierarchical authority.

Marx in fact never said anything about the "withering away" of the state in the Communist Manifesto. Produce a quotation from the Manifesto calling for its withering away. Its simply not there. His belief in the withering away of the state developed after the Manifesto as a result of criticisms by anarchists. And even then, his version of a stateless society was still one that was centralized and hierarchical and would still constitute a state in the eyes of most anarchists - but not in the narrow sense in which he used that term. See "The Withering Away of the State: A Reconsideration" by Richard Adamiak in The Journal of Politics, Volume 23, Issue 1 (Feb. 1970), 3-18 (I can e-mail an electronic copy of this to anyone who wants it).

Although some ultra-left communists, autonomists, and council communists claim they support the abolition of the state, Left Communists do not. They do not even reject Bolshevism - they are its left-wing. Left Communism originated as a faction of the Bolshevik party which opposed peace with Germany and demanded a faster nationalization of the means of production. They don't want to abolish the state, or even the one-party system. I cannot find anything in insurgent notes that calls for the abolition of the state. Their minimal program of agreement does not include the abolition of the state. Mattick and a handful of others claim to advocate its abolition, but most are vague on this point and they generally use a term other than "left communist" (like council communist or ultra-leftist) to describe themselves. Marx explicitly supported the state in the form of a "dictatorship of the proletariat". Insofar as someone genuinely advocates the immediate abolition of the state they cease being a Marxist. Otherwise, the term is meaningless. If you can reject the dictatorship of the proletariat and still be a Marxist, then logically you can also reject the labor theory of value, or support capitalism, or reject any other aspect of Marxism and still be a Marxist. And if you can believe anything and still be a Marxist then Marxism doesn't mean anything.

I already noted why Marx plagiarizing his ideas matters. "The theorists he plagiarized from also account for" the things Wayne claims Marxism accounts for. These are not theories that might have developed, they *did* develop and that's where Marx got his ideas from. Saying "so what" over and over doesn't change this. Giving Marx credit instead of the people who invented these ideas perpetuates the propaganda of the totalitarian states he inspired. Rodolf Rocker demonstrates Marx's plagiarism at http://www.anarchosyndicalism.net/rocker/marx.htm

With regard to nationalism, I don't dispute Wayne's conclusions. I contend that he is over stating the role nationalism played in fighting imperialism, especially before 1955. There were mass movements against imperialism that were neither anarchist nor nationalist. European colonial empires could have turned into federations, rather than independent nation-states. This is not merely hypothetical, large numbers of people in the colonies advocated this rather than nationalism in the years after WW2., and in some places it was the most popular anti-imperialist movement.

author by Waynepublication date Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:12Report this post to the editors

(1) If Dave B. wants to argue that Lenin was an authoritarian, then sure! We do not have to go to Lenin's views on Ford and the Taylor system. The fact that he established a one-party police-state dictatorship ought to be enough to show that! Dave is breaking down an open door here.

However, Hieronymous had accused me of saying the same thing as Lenin, which I has characterized as red-baiting. Actually what I had written was that Lenin, when in opposition, had found it useful for building his party's influence to raise democratic (bourgeois-democratic, that is) demands, such as free speech, freedom of association, land to the peasants, women's rights, and, also, self-determination for oppressed nations. Of course, we know (from hindsight if nothing else) that he was really hypocritical. Nevertheless, as an anarchist, I agree with him (and others of varying views) on this tactical/strategic issue. To build a movement we should be raising democratic demands--but WE should be sincere about them! Dave's arguments do not relate to this topic.

(2) Joe is also breaking down an open door in pointing out centralizing and authoritarian aspects of Marx's Marxism. I never denied that. What he has to refute is a) that there are also some libertarian-democratic aspects of Marxism (and therefore libertarian Marxists are not simply deluded) and b) regardless of that, Marx's economic analysis is useful for revolutionary anarchists. He deals with (b) by repeating that Marx plagerized his theories. I repeat, even if the (absurd) charge is true, it does not prove that the theories are not useful. That is why I say, So what?

As for (a), Joe charges that Marx did not refer to the withering away of the state in the Communist Manifesto. He does not deny that Marx and Engels did refer to it elsewhere, which should also lead to a response of So what? However, Marx did specifically state, at the end of the CM's Section II, in its last paragraph, "When in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared...the pubic power will lose its political character." On top of this, after the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels wrote new introductions to the CM, in which they made their only changes in their program, namely stating, 'One thing was proved by the Paris Commune, viz, that "the working class cannot simply lay hands on the ready-made state machinery [that is, take over the bourgeois bureaucratic-military state-WP] and wield it for its own purposes".' In other words, the workers need to set up some sort of ultra-democratic Commune-like structure.

As for the "dictatorship of the proletariat," Hal Draper, the Marxist scholar, has dredged up every single goddamned instance in which Marx or Engels used the term (1986; Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution: Vol III: The "Dictatorship of the Proletariat"). He demonstrates conclusively that what they meant by the term (in the context of their time, before "dictatorship" acquired its moden definition) was neither more nor less than "the rule of the working class." This was supposed to be some form of democracy. (Remember that even a capitalist democracy, such as we live under, is regarded by Marx as a "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.")

Draper also demonstrates that almost every post-Marx Marxist misunderstood what Marx meant, with the exception of Luxemburg. Lenin and Trotsky particularly used the term to justify the rule of their party *over* the proletariat (Draper, 1987; The "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" from Marx to Lenin). Of course, today the term is archaic; no one would interpret it in the which Marx and Engels used it.

(3) Hieronymous writes that "Democracy is merely a form....It's not the goal, but one among many means...." H. may be defining democracy as a political form, which is more narrow than my use. I use it to mean the fullest form of social self-management, as in the expression, "democracy as a way of life." Then it is not simply a means but also the goal. Anarchism is unique in the consistency of its means and ends. It advocates a mass movement organized in a radically democratic way, in order to achieve a society which is organized in a radically democratic way.

author by dave b - spgb and world socialist movementpublication date Mon Aug 30, 2010 21:04Report this post to the editors

Well presumably I am not kicking at an open door by asserting that it is an Anarchist myth to claim that the Russian ‘statist’ revolution was an exclusively Bolshevik affair.

And I am not just here to take some counter pops at anarchists and intend to broaden it out to the meaning of the dictatorship of the proletariat for M&E and the ‘historic necessity’ of the withering away state.

So ‘mainstream’ Anarchists eg Berkman supported the Bolsheviks as acknowledged by Lenin.

V. I. Lenin, Letter to Sylvia Pankhurst, 28 August, 1919

“Very many anarchist workers are now becoming sincere supporters of Soviet power, and that being so, it proves them to be our best comrades and friends, the best of revolutionaries, who have been enemies of Marxism only through misunderstanding,”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/aug/28.htm

And from the previous month

V. I. Lenin, SPEECH AT THE FIRST ALL-RUSSIA CONGRESS OF WORKERS IN EDUCATION AND SOCIALIST CULTURE JULY 31, 1919

“When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party and, as you have heard, a united socialist front is proposed, we say, "Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position because it is the party that has won,”

http://www.marx2mao.net/Lenin/SWSC19.html

So there is an element of hypocrisy when it came to the later ‘disillusionment’ over the Russian revolution be it the shock of Fordism or the ‘dictatorship of one party’.

Engels made quite clear what they meant by the dictatorship of the proletariat when it came to the deliberate misinterpretation of it by Anarchist and Social Democratic philistines.

“Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”

Frederick Engels
London, on the 20th anniversary
of the Paris Commune, March 18, 1891.

And what was the Paris Commune as regards the dictatorship of the proletariat, from the same passage;

“In this first place, it filled all posts – administrative, judicial, and educational – by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, with the right of the same electors to recall their delegate at any time. And in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers. The highest salary paid by the Commune to anyone was 6,000 francs. In this way an effective barrier to place-hunting and careerism was set up, even apart from the binding mandates to delegates to representative bodies which were also added in profusion”

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-w...t.htm

Irrespective of what we may think of that kind of thing now most Anarchist of the time had given unequivocal support to the Paris commune.

The function of the state like character of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was or would be as an organised body of the proletariat to resist by force the counter revolutionary attempts by the capitalist class to restore capitalism.

With the capitalist class using as foot soldiers, literally, the ‘petty bourgeois peasants’ or small farmers with a small businessman outlook and ideology whom therefore would have some shared concerns and sympathy with the big bourgeoisie; and antipathy towards collective ownership of communism.

To resist this kind of thing by the organised coercion of another class or classes ie a state, was considered as historically inevitable at the time, not an ambition.

That this idea for the need for a state was used as a cover by the Bolsheviks for a ‘dictatorship of one party’ should have fooled no one least of all intellectual anarchists.

However the use of armed force of organised workers to resist an opposing force of another class ie as the character of a state, had been done before again with the support of Anarchists ie the Paris Commune.

So again I will give the following passage. What is important here is the date, just after the Paris Commune, the support of the Anarchists for the Paris Commune and hypocrisy as regards the necessity for the forcible repression of other classses.

And Engels, in order not to mince words and dodge the issue, describes the coercive nature of the state part of the communes activity in the most egregious way.

Works of Frederick Engels 1872 On Authority

"But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution?

A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

Therefore, either one of two things: either the anti-authoritarians don't know what they're talking about, in which case they are creating nothing but confusion; or they do know, and in that case they are betraying the movement of the proletariat. In either case they serve the reaction."

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/10/auth...y.htm

Incidentally whilst it was still heresy to criticise the excesses on the part of the workers of the Paris Commune in 1874, Engels did anyway.

Works of Frederick Engels 1874 The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune

"It is well known that the entire socialist proletariat, from Lisbon to New York and Budapest to Belgrade has assumed the responsibility for the actions of the Paris Commune without hesitation. But that is not enough for the Blanquists. "As for us, we claim our part of the responsibility for the executions of the enemies of the people" (by the Commune), whose names are then enumerated; "we claim our part of the responsibility for those fires, which destroyed the instruments of royal or bourgeois oppression or protected our fighters."

In every revolution some follies are inevitably committed, just as they are at any other time, and when quiet is finally restored, and calm reasoning comes, people necessarily conclude: We have done many things which had better been left undone, and we have neglected many things which we should have done, and for this reason things went wrong.

But what a lack of judgment it requires to declare the Commune sacred, to proclaim it infallible, to claim that every burnt house, every executed hostage, received their just dues to the dot over the i! Is not that equivalent to saying that during that week in May the people shot just as many opponents as was necessary, and no more, and burnt just those buildings which had to be burnt, and no more? Does not that repeat the saying about the first French Revolution: Every beheaded victim received justice, first those beheaded by order of Robespierre and then Robespierre himself! To such follies are people driven, when they give free rein to the desire to appear formidable, "

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm

And there is also from Engels 1872 On Authority, a similar passage to the one wayne mentioned in the CM.

“All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society.”

Personally I think that now the state can be got rid of immediately as petty bourgeois peasants who couldn’t help being reactionary and the capitalist class themselves are numerically that much thinner on the ground.

author by Waynepublication date Tue Aug 31, 2010 08:36Report this post to the editors

I do not understand what Dave B. is saying and I certainly do not understand what it has to do with eithr my original essay or with the thread of comments. Maybe tit is just me.

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