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Malatesta’s Anarchist Vision of Life After Capitalism

category international | history of anarchism | opinion / analysis author Friday July 28, 2006 15:40author by Wayne Priceauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

The Anarchist Method

Anarchism has been challenged for its supposed lack of vision about post-revolutionary society. In particular, Michael Albert challenges the great anarchist Malatesta. Actually Malatesta did have a post-capitalist vision. it was not a formal model but a set of ideas which were to be developed through experimentation, flexibility, and pluralism. The highpoints of his political life are outlined. His ideas are contrasted with that of other great radicals.


Malatesta’s Anarchist Vision of Life After Capitalism

The Anarchist Method

One of the most prominent attempts to present a model for a post-capitalist society has been the theory of Parecon (“participatory economics”). One of its two founders, Michael Albert, has written a new book (2006) with the subtitle of “Life Beyond Capitalism.” Among other topics, he criticizes anarchists for their lack of a vision of what institutions a new society would have. Anarchism “...often dismisses the idea of vision, much less of providing a new political vision, as irrelevant or worse.” (p. 175) He makes the same charge against the Marxists, even the “libertarian Marxists or anarcho marxists...[who are] the best Marxism has to offer.” (p. 159) In my opinion, there is truth in this accusation, especially for the mainstream Marxists, but also the libertarian Marxists and even anarchists. At the same time, it is exaggerated. His appreciation of the positive proposals of anarchists and other libertarian socialists is clouded by a desire to see fully worked-out programs for a new society, such as his Parecon, which leads him to ignore valuable, if less detailed, antiauthoritarian proposals.

For example, Albert refers to the great Italian anarchist, “Errico Malatesta tells us...that what anarchists want, ‘is the complete destruction of the domination and exploitation of person by person...a conscious and desired solidarity.....We want bread, freedom, love, and science--for everybody’. Yes, yes, but how?” (p. 176) So Albert challenges Malatesta. “Yes, yes, but how?” Well, how did Malatesta believe that everybody would achieve “bread, freedom, love, and science” in an anarchist society? That is my topic here. As I will show, he did not have a developed blueprint, but he did have an approach to developing anarchist institutions--the anarchist method.

Who Was Malatesta?

But first, who was Errico Malatesta? Born to a middle class Italian family in 1853, he made his living as an electrician and mechanic. He personally knew Michael Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin, but unlike either he lived to see the rise of fascism. He was imprisoned many times and sentenced to death three times. Due to political persecution in italy, he spent over half his adult life in exile. He lived in the Middle East, in South America, in the United States, and, for about 19 years, in Britain. Dying at 79 in 1932, he had spent his last years under house arrest in fascist Italy.

As a young man, he participated in a couple of fruitless little uprisings, attempts to spark peasant rebellions without first being assured of popular support. (Pernicone, 1993) He abandoned that for a more thought-out approach, but he never ceased being a revolutionary (unlike Michael Albert who does not seem to believe in revolution). He criticized those anarchist-syndicalists who believed that a revolution could be won nonviolently, by “folding arms,” just through a general strike. The capitalists and their state could not be beaten, he insisted, without some armed struggle. Because he was an advocate of popular revolution, however, he did not support the bomb-throwing and assassination tactics (“attentats”) of anarchist terrorists . (Malatesta, 1999)

To Malatesta, “There are two factions among those who call themselves anarchists...: supporters and opponents of organization.” (1984, p. 84) These differences continue to this day. Malatesta was a pro-organizationalist anarchist. Aside from disagreements with anti-organizationalist anarchists such as individualists, this was also the basis for his dispute with the anarchist-syndicalists. In the international anarchist conference of 1907, he debated the French anarchist Pierre Monatte (1881--1960). Monatte argued that anarchists should stop concentrating on small-group propaganda, putting out small newspapers and pamphlets, and should get into the work of building unions (syndicates) with other workers. Malatesta was not against building unions. In Argentina, he participated in building the Bakers’ Union, one of the first labor unions there. But he opposed any tendency to dissolve anarchists into mass organizations. Effective unions had to include workers with all sorts of politics--revolutionary and reformist, statist and anarchist. And effective unions had to concentrate on winning reform struggles for better wages and conditions through bargaining with the capitalists--at least in nonrevolutionary times, which was most of the time. Therefore he insisted that revolutionary anarchists should also form specific organizations of anarchists only, to raise anarchist politics inside and outside of unions.

With hindsight, it is clear that Monatte was right about the need to join and build unions. The anarchist militants greatly expanded their influence among the workers through this work in several countries. However, Malatesta was also right. This became clear as the French unions which the anarchist-syndicalists had worked to build became dominated by hardheaded “practical” officials. Then when World War I began, these union leaderships became supporters of the imperialist war. (Monatte opposed it and remained a revolutionary.)

Today we pro-organizationalist anarchists, calling ourselves “platformists” or “especifistas,” agree with Malatesta about the need for two types of organizations: the mass organization and the narrower revolutionary organization with more political agreement. Even many (but not all) of today’s anarchist-syndicalists would agree. Malatesta did reject the specific draft proposals of the Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists, written by Makhno, Arshinov, and others, which has since inspired the platformist tendency among anarchists. I will not review the discussion between Malatesta and the original platformists. Whether he was right or wrong on this issue, Malatesta continued to support a pro-organizational position.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Kropotkin and a few other well-known anarchists supported the Allied side. Despite his long friendship with Kropotkin, Malatesta denounced this stance, calling its supporters “pro-government anarchists.” (Trotskyists like to throw in our faces that Kropotkin supported this imperialist war. True, but so did most of the Marxist parties and leaders at the time. For example, George Plekhanov, founding father of Russian Marxism, supported the war. Unlike the world’s Marxists, however, the majority of anarchists were in revolutionary opposition to it. )

Malatesta’s last battle followed his return to Italy. As an editor of revolutionary publications, he worked with other anarchists and the anarchist-syndicalist unions. They tried to form a united front with the Socialist Party and the Communist Party and their unions to beat back the fascists, through self-defense, confrontations, and political strikes. But the Socialists and Communists would not cooperate with the anarchists or with each other (the Socialists signed a peace pact with the fascists at one point and the Communists were in a super-sectarian phase under the leadership of Bordiga). And fascism came to power. (Rivista Anarchica 1989)

The Anarchist Method

All his adult life Malatesta identified with the tradition of libertarian (anarchist) communism. This was his goal, a society where all land and means of production were held in common and there was no use of money. Everyone would work as well as they could and would receive what they needed from the common store of products (“from each according to ability, to each according to need”). “Free associations and federations of producers and consumers” (1984, p. 17) would manage the economy “through an intelligent decentralization.” (p. 25). This would provide economic planning from below. His economic vision went along with the goals of abolition of the state, of national borders and nationalist passions, as well as with the “reconstruction of the family” (p. 17) and the liberation of women.

However, over time he came to be critical of some anarchist-communist thinking, which he found too simplistic. He criticized “the Kropotkinian conception...which I personally find too optimistic, too easy-going, too trusting in natural harmonies....” (1984, p. 34) He continued to believe in communist anarchism, but in a more flexible fashion. “Imposed communism would be the most detestable tyranny that the human mind could conceive. And free and voluntary communism is ironical if one has not the right and the possibility to live in a different regime, collectivist, mutualist, individualist--as one wishes, always on condition that there is no oppression or exploitation of others.” (1984, p. 103)

Malatesta warned against believing that we have the Absolute Truth, as do religious people or Marxists. “One may, therefore, prefer communism, or individualism, or collectivism, or any other system, and work by example and propaganda for the achievement of one’s personal preferences, but one must beware, at the risk of certain disaster, of supposing that ones system is the only, and infallible, one, good for all men, everywhere and for all times, and that its success must be assured at all costs, by means other than those which depend on persuasion, which spring from the evidence of facts.” (1984, pp. 27--28)

His goal continued to be free communism, while understanding that others believed in “collectivism,” that is, common ownership but rewarding workers according to how they work (Parecon includes a version of this), or “individualism,” that is, as much individual ownership and small scale production as possible.

After a revolution, “probably every possible form of possession and utilization of the means of production and all ways of distribution of produce will be tried out at the same time in one or many regions, and they will combine and be modified in various ways until experience will indicate which form, or forms, is or are, the most suitable. In the meantime, the need for not interrupting production and the impossibility of suspending consumption of the necessities of life will make it necessary to take decisions for the continuation of daily life at the same time as expropriation proceeds. One will have to do the best one can, and so long as one prevents the constitution and consolidation of new privilege, there will be time to find the best solutions.” (1984, p. 104)

Is it likely that every region and national cultures will chose the exact same version of libertarian socialist society? Will every industry, from the production of steel to the education of children be managed in precisely the same manner?

For my part, I do not believe there is ‘one solution’ to the social problems, but a thousand different and changing solutions in the same way as social existence is different and varied in time and space. After all, every institution, project or utopia would be equally good to solve the problem of human contentedness, if everybody had the same needs, the same opinions, or lived under the same conditions. But since such unanimity of thought and identical conditions are impossible (as well as, in my opinion, undesirable) we must...always bear in mind that we are not ...living in a world populated only by anarchists. For a long time to come, we shall be a relatively small minority....We must find ways of living among nonanarchists, as anarchistical as possible....” (1984, pp. 151--152)

This would be true not only now but even after a revolution. We cannot assume that even when the workers have agreed to overthrow capitalism, they would agree to immediately create a fully anarchist-communist society. What if small farmers insist on being paid for their crops in money? They may give up this opinion once it is obvious that industry will provide them with goods, but first they must not be coerced into giving up their crops under conditions they reject.

After the revolution, that is, after the defeat of the existing powers and the overwhelming victory of the forces of insurrection, what then? It is then that gradualism really comes into operation. We shall have to study all the practical problems of life: production, exchange, the means of communication, relations between anarchist groupings and those living under under some kind of authority....And in every problem [anarchists] should prefer the solutions which not only are economically superior but which satisfy the need for justice and freedom and leave the way open for future improvements....” (1984, p. 173)

It is precisely this flexibility, pluralism, and experimentalism which characterizes anarchism in Malatesta’s view and makes it a superior approach to the problems of life after capitalism.

...Only anarchy points the way along which they can find, by trial and error, that solution which best satisfies the dictates of science as well as the needs and wishes of everybody. How will children be educated? We don’t know. So what will happen? Parents, pedagogues and all who are concerned with the future of the young generation will come together, will discuss, will agree or divide according to the views they hold, and will put into practice the methods which they think are the best. And with practice that method which in fact is the best will in the end be adopted. And similarly with all problems which present themselves.” (1974, p. 47)

Malatesta stopped calling himself a "communist," partly for the reasons given above, while continuing to declare that libertarian communism was his goal. The other reason was that the Leninists had effectively taken over the term (with the help of the capitalists, who agreed--insisted-- that this was what "communism" really was). “...The communist-anarchists will gradually abandon the term ‘communist’; it is growing in ambivalence and falling into disrepute as a result of Russian ‘communist’ despotism....We may have to abandon the term ‘communist’ for fear that our ideal of free human solidarity will be confused with the avaricious despotism which has for some while triumphed in Russia....” (1995, p. 20) If this was true in the 1920s, it has become much more true by now, after about 80 years of Leninist/Stalinist rule under the banner of Communism. Unfortunately, the term “communist” may have a negative impact (setting up a barrier between us and many workers) due to its history. This will vary from country to country, however. Instead, Malatesta preferred the vaguer and more generic title of “socialist-anarchists.” (1984, p. 143)

Related Views

Others have pointed to the flexible and experimental approach as central to the anarchist program. For example, Paul Goodman, the most prominent anarchist of the 60s, wrote: “I am not proposing a system....It is improbable that there could be a single appropriate style of organization or economy to fit all the functions of society, any more than there could be--or ought to be--a single mode of education, ‘going to school,’ that suits everybody....We are in a period of excessive centralization....In many functions this style is economically inefficient, technologically unnecessary, and humanly damaging. Therefore we might adopt a political maxim: to decentralize where, how, and how much [as] is expedient. But where, how, and how much are empirical questions. They require research and experiment.” (1965, p. 27)

Goodman had many insights. However, he was a reformist--in favor of gradualism now, while Malatesta only advocated “gradualism” after a revolution. Like Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Marx, Malatesta was a revolutionary. Similarly, Goodman advocated a “mixed system,” similar to (his image of) the Scandinavian countries, which included both capitalist corporations and cooperatives. But Malatesta was only for a “mixed system” which did not include exploitation. It might include various forms of producer and consumer cooperatives and federations, as well as individual workshops or farms, perhaps, but not capitalist enterprises which hired wage labor.

Anarchist experimentalism may seem to resemble the Marxist concept of a post-revolution transitional period. This was first raised in Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha Program.” (1974, pp. 339--359) He expected society after a revolution to still show the bad effects of coming out of capitalism. This would be “the first phase of communist society,” to be followed eventually, when production has increased sufficiently, by the “more advanced phase of communist society.” (Marx, 1974, p. 347) (For reasons known only to him, Lenin was to call these phases “socialism” and “communism.”) Politically this transition would take “the state...form of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” (p. 355) Unlike Parecon, Marx was clear that the “first phase,” precisely because it could not yet implement full communism, was following bourgeois norms. Unlike Parecon, he expected it to develop into free communism. (This might happen by the expansion of free-for-all services as society became more productive).

Whatever the virtues of this set of ideas, they have been used by Marxists to justify Leninist-Stalinist totalitarianism--since, after all, we cannot expect post-revolutionary society to immediately fulfill the libertarian-democratic goals of classical communism. This was not Marx’s intention; by the dictatorship of the proletariat he meant something like the Paris Commune. But that is how the "transitional period" concept has been used by Marxist-Leninists.

Both Marx and Malatesta believed that it is not possible to immediately leap into a completely classless, moneyless, noncoercive, nonoppressive, society. However, Marx’s concept, despite its insights, was rigid, stating that the lower phase of communism would be thus-and-so (as laid out in “The Critique”), which would come to pass in the course of the Historical Process. Malatesta preferred to make suggestions while leaving things open to pluralistic experiment. Also, Marx included a belief that some form of the state will be necessary--instead of thinking about how working people will be able to provide social protection without the bureaucratic-military machinery of a state. (Malatesta advocated a popular militia.)

According to Bakunin’s friend, James Guillaume, Bakunin’s economic goal was libertarian communism, but he did not believe it could be immediately and universally implemented. “In the meantime, each community will decide for itself during the transition period the method they deem best for the distribution of the products of associated labor.” (Guillaume, 1980, p. 362) This is very similar to Malatesta’s approach.

To return to Michael Albert’s challenge to Malatesta, “Yes, yes, but how?” Malatesta did not have a worked-out model for what anarchist socialism should be immediately after a revolution. He did not believe in such an approach. Yet he was not for “anything goes.” He advocated that working people take over the means of production and distribution and organize ourselves to run them directly through free association and federation. It was just such a self-managed society which would be capable of an experimental and flexible method. However, this was “always on condition that there is no oppression or exploitation of others.” He was not against speculations or programs, so long as they were presented with a certain modesty and willingness to see them change in practice. He might have appreciated Parecon as a set of ideas for after a revolution, although not as a completed blueprint for what must be done. His goal was libertarian communism, but he was willing to see progress toward his goal go through various paths.

References

Albert, Michael (2006). Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism. London/NY: Zed Books.

Goodman, Paul (1965). People or Personnel; Decentralizing and the Mixed System. NY: Random House.

Guillaume, James (1980). “On Building the New Social Order.” In Sam Dolgoff (ed.), Bakunin on Anarchism (pp. 356--379). Montreal: Black Rose Books.

Malatesta, Errico (1984). Errico Malatesta; His Life and Ideas (Vernon Richards, ed.). London: Freedom Press.

Malatesta, Errico (1974). Anarchy. London: Freedom Press.

Malatesta, Errico (1995). The Anarchist Revolution; Polemical Articles 1924--1931 (Vernon Richards ed.). London: Freedom Press.

Malatesta, Errico (1999). Anarchism and Violence; Selections from Anarchist Writings 1896-1925. Los Angeles: ICC.

Marx, Karl (1974). The First International and After; Political Writings Vol. III (David Fernbach, ed.). NY: Vintage Books/Random House.

Perncone, Nunzio (1993). Italian Anarchism, 1864-1892. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rivista Anarchia (1989). Red Years, Black Years; Anarchist Resistance to Fascism in Italy (Alan Hunter, trans.). London: ASP.

author by Waynepublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 04:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Besides the books listed in my Reference section, further information on and by Malatesta may be accessed at the Malatesta Archives on the Internet: http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/malatesta/Malatestaarchive.html

author by pre-visionistpublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 04:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

(...)in the course of one of his famous interviews conceded to Le Figaro, in which the interviewer tried to press him to disapprove of Ravachol's bombs, and of the attack at the boulevard Magenta, Malatesta answered:

"Your conclusions are hasty. In the affair of rue Clichy, it seems quite clear to me that it was intended to blow up a judge; but I regret that it was carried out--quite involuntarily, I believe--in a way that brought injury to people whom he had not considered. As to the bomb of boulevard Magenta-oh! I have no reservations about that! Lherot and Very had become accomplices of the police and it was a fine act of struggle to blow them up."

From:
http://www.geocities.com/kk_abacus/vb/wd3-1joke.html

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 05:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ironically, Wayne shows that Malatesta really had no vision. To talk about a society where there is no longer "exploitation of man by man" and where the communist principle "from each according to ability, to each according to need" is in force, and then say that there will be all sorts of vaguely specified experiments -- individualist, collectivist, communist -- is mere rhetoric. This is not vision of a society without division into classes nor any adequate view of how to get there, either. What is needed is an understanding of what the basis of class division is, and of what structural changes are needed to do away with it.

Parecon is not in fact a form of 19th century "collectivism", contrary to what Wayne says, because 19th century "collectivism" was a form of market economy, and a market economy would also be implied by "individualism" as well. Nor did Malatesta have any real awareness of the need to replace the state with a new polity -- precisely the main problem of Spanish anarchism in the '30s. Moreover, what is needed is to show how the communist principle could be realized in a workable economy. I think that in fact it is completely unworkable, and so does Michael Albert. Parecon is not a blueprint, but merely a set of conditions needed to emancipate the working class. The parecon "model" could be implemented in hundreds of different concrete variations.

author by Anarchopublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 05:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Malatest most definitely had vision of what a free society would be like and how to get there. He did, quite rightly, recognise that different areas would develop and experiment according to their objective circumstances and the wants of the population there (as did Kropotkin). If you consult, say, his Life and Ideas or his Anarchist Programme you would see that.

He, again rightly, rejected the idea of blueprints -- like Parecon. Particularly blueprints for systems which are impossible -- like Parecon. And at least Collectivism was realistic and possible, unlike the dream world that Parecon inhabits.

And, as Malatesta pointed out, voluntary socialism would be a bit ironic if you did not have the choice of other systems -- including individualism, mutualism, communism and collectivism. So would Parecon force people to join it?

As for the Spanish anarchists, it is a shame that Tom ignores the objective circumstances facing the CNT -- particularly as he knows that CNT policy was for a federation of communes and workers councils. The same sort of vision to be found in Malatesta.

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org
author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 06:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anarcho can make whatever assertions he wants -- but let him try to provide actual arguments, and then we will see. As to Spain, the "objective circumstances" argument is the old excuse of the Popular Front collaborationist wing of the CNT-FAI. In reality the "objective circumstances" did allow them the possibility of sweeping away the Generalitat government and constructing a new polity -- a structure of popular political power, controlled by the working class -- in Catalonia, but their own anarchist confusions got in the way. At least the CNT did propose replacing the national Republican state with a CNT-UGT National Defense Council, but the CNT joining the government of the Generalitat completely undermined the CNT's leverage with Caballero and the UGT, and that is what undermined the potential of a national revolutionary labor council. Anarchist confusionism about "abolishing all governments" did not provide good guidance to what was needed in the Spanish revolution. A structure of govenance of a society is not the same thing as a state apparatus. But anarchists have historically been confused about this.

author by pre-visionistpublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 11:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Because he was an advocate of popular revolution, however, he did not support the bomb-throwing and assassination tactics (attentats) of anarchist terrorists . (Malatesta, 1999)"

Along with Malatesta's comment on Ravachol that clearly disproves the Wayne Price's assertion above, Malatesta was also among those at the 1907 international anarchist congress in Amsterdam, which unanimously passed Emma Goldman and Max Baginsky's declaration in support of "individual act of rebellion as well as its solidarity with collective insurrection." Attacks on despotism's agents were described as serving a "dual purpose: it undermines the very basis of tyranny and boosts the enthusiasm of the faint of heart."
-(Quoted from No Gods, No Masters, edited by Daniel Guerin and reprinted from La Publication Sociale, by Paul Delesalle)

author by Chuck0 - Infoshop Newspublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 14:48author email chuck at mutualaid dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's really good to see an anarchist view of this book.

By the way, most anarchists are in favor of organization, so I really don't understand the phrase "pro-organization anarchist." That's about as redundant as "anti-capitalist anarchist."

My take on Michael Albert is that he is one of those theorists and writers who is more interested in promoting himself than in promoting something bigger. Albert's project for many years has been the promotion of Paraeconomics, which I've always maintained is anarchism reduced down to economics. When you throw out everything else that anarchism includes, you come up with a safe left-liberal system that is focused on economic. This is a sure fire way to draw in leftists who always loved the economic basis of Marxism and you can disassociate yourself from the messy anarchist movement.

Paraecon is just anarchism. Anarchists have long been in favor of participatory and cooperative economics, it's just that we tie our economic vision for the broader ideas of anarchism.

author by Ilan S. - AATWpublication date Sat Jul 29, 2006 18:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Albert model is clearly not libertarian communist as it include differential benefit to people according to work and not solely
according to needs. This is expression of a limited interpersonal solidarity and the perception of people as individualistic motivated only and not as mainly social being as was found again and again by scientists of social sciences.

Malatesta too give a mixed picture. He support organization but oppose real direct democracy organization of like minded people and support the notorious Synthesist model.

By accepting individual act of killing of enemies, he show that his perception of humans as social beings is mixed with individualism thus he support vanguardist heroism.

His support for the option of mutualism, corperativism etc. in the name of freedom is bordering on the option of people to monopolize means of production and refusal of principled solidarity that have only one expression: from each according to ability - to each according to needs.

For sure the classless society cannot be established if not the majority of people will adopt it. However, when people will adopt it they will find that the only viable order that fulfill world wide Freedom & Equality & solidarity is the one of world commune of grass root communities to which all other organizations will be submitted. - we have only one humanity and only one world to share. Egoism of any kind and based on any pretex is not compatible with a just world order.

Related Link: http://shalif.com/anarchy
author by Waynepublication date Sun Jul 30, 2006 10:17author email drwdprice at aol dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am delighted to see people debating the ideas of Malatesta, a seminal anarchist thinker. Obviously people take different views about what were his opinions and what to think about them. As should be clear, of all the topics mentioned in my essay, I am in agreement with Malatesta--except for his rejection of the Organizational Platform. Malatesta had opinions on other topics, with which I agree or disagree.

(1) On violence--a topic raised by Pre-Visionist--Malatesta expressed himself variously over the years. The key point is that, while rejecting pacifism, his focus was on advocating the mass struggle of the oppressed people, rather than individual actions. He understood such individual terrorist actions, and he often defended those who were driven to do them, but that was not HIS strategy. "...In general I prefer collective action to individual action..." (1965, p. 63) See his discussions in Life & Ideas on Anarchism and Violence, Attentats, and The Insurrection.

(2) Chuck O disagrees with Malatesta that there are pro-organizational and anti-organizational factions of anarchists: "most anarchists are in favor of organization, so I really don't understand the phrase 'pro-organization anarchist'." Why then are only a minority of anarchists working to build specifically anarchist organizations? (This was what Malatesta was talking about.) Why do so many anarchists specifically denounce those who do try to build anarchist organizations?

(3) Tom Wetzel raises a series of issues. He denies that Malatesta had a vision. Well he did not have a specific, drawn-up, model, such as Paracon. He did have a *program,* the call for the workers and oppressed to smash capitalism and the state, and to take over the economy and other institutions in self-managed groups which would federate together. He expected that they would work out just how to make this function through trial and error. He called this a *method.* "A program which is concerned with the bases of the social structure cannot do other than suggest a method....One must consider anarchy above all as a method." (1974, p. 45)

(4) I did not discuss Malatesta's idea on replacing the state with a councilist *polity,* other than to mention his support of a militia to replace the regular army. In fact, he suggested that methods would have to be worked out for control of antisocial actors, but he really did not discuss this much. I am in agreement with Tom on the need for an anarchist polity. Our Platformist international tendency generally agrees with the Friends of Durruti Group, which declared during the end of Spanish revolution that the anarchists should have organized an alternative to both the fascist and the liberal capitalist states. The Friends described their view as "a slight variation in anarchism." They did not accept the defence that "objective conditions" justified the main Spanish anarchists in totally betraying their program (Anarcho seems to be reviving this justification).

(5) Ilan, defends the anarchist-communist program from Malatesta's experimental and pluralist method. He says that Malatesta "support[ed] the notorious Synthesist model." There is some truth in this charge. While clearly on the side of communism and collective action, he was in favor of working with individualist-anarchists wherever they could cooperate. Perhaps this is one reason he rejected the Platform, since it would have made it too difficult to work with individualists in one organization. But, whatever his faults here, I believe that he was right to advocate variations and experimentation in social structures under anarchism. As Anarcho challenges the Pareconists, would they suppress people who tried to make full, immediate, communism work? And we can ask Ilan if he would suppress Pareconist communities? (His remarks imply that he would not.)

author by prole cat - ctc supporterpublication date Sun Jul 30, 2006 10:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have a small amount of personal experience with organizing among anarchists. By these means, I quickly learned that many anarchists do, in fact, have an aversion to organization. They consider anything that resembles formal structure to be innately hierarchal. They insist that loose networks and ad hoc affinity groups are more libertarian than specifically anarchist organizations.

I once intuitively agreed with their analysis. But experience changed my mind. The Tyranny of Structurelessness helped me understand why a well planned and patiently constructed democratic organization could be more libertarian (to say nothing of efficient) than a series of ad hoc committees.

I am prepared to take Chuck at his word, that he does not share these prejudices against organization. But I would *amazed* to learn that he'd never encountered them (since I know him to be an organizer, and not simply an internet voice.)

author by prole cat - ctc supporterpublication date Sun Jul 30, 2006 10:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For those not familiar with it, The Tyranny of Structurelessness can be found at the url below

http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/hist_texts/structurelessness.html

author by Ilan S. - AATWpublication date Sun Jul 30, 2006 23:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wayne:

"While (Malatesta) clearly on the side of communism and collective action, he was in favor of working with individualist-anarchists wherever they could cooperate. Perhaps this is one reason he rejected the Platform, since it would have made it too difficult to work with individualists in one organization."

It is a thin excuse. The more Anarchist collectives are compact - the easier for them to make fronts and coalitions with other activists. It is the "multiple legs" approach.

It was easier to form the New York Metro organization if all the participants were already organized in their specific organizations.

"But, whatever his faults here, I believe that he was right to advocate variations and experimentation in social structures under anarchism."

By labeling various egoistic forms of organizations as anarchists because they so self label themselves, do not remove their egoistic limitation of solidarity.

When a specific egoistic region or work-place will try to monopolize for its own gains part of the world wealth, if in small minority it will not bring the return of capitalism, but it worth the education against them.

Any organization or "experimenting" in organization that is not the direct democracy of world commune of community, need the systematic struggle against by libertarian communist....

To exempt the people who work in a work place from the decisions of the grass root communities involved in the name of freedom is a clear infringement on the principles of equality and solidarity.

A world class less system will be viable only if it will be based on one multi tier direct democracy system within it all entities will be autonomous.

Just imagine who will decide what a work place contribute to society, whether they get extra benefits just because they happen to work there.... and of course who delegate people to work places and other tasks???

"As Anarcho challenges the Pareconists, would they suppress people who tried to make full, immediate, communism work?" And we can ask Ilan if he would suppress Pareconist communities?

The grass root communities will not endorse any exemption from the principle of equality (to each according to needs).
When people or individual communities, or regions, will try to infringe on it and get more benefits than it is due to them - there will be struggle and social pressure.

Any claim for a bigger share of decision power and benefits will either be defeated by social struggle or may lead to destruction of solidarity and the return of class society.

Why free people will agree to inequality from which a minority will have more than their equal share?

In the capitalist system, every cooperative and commune who "experimented" with infringement of equality of decision power an/or benefits were very soon on the way to capitalist relations.

Related Link: http://shalif.com/anarchy
author by Anarchopublication date Mon Jul 31, 2006 17:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Anarcho can make whatever assertions he wants -- but let him try to provide actual arguments, and then we will see."

I'm assuming this is in relation to the impossibility of Parecon. I would suggest people read David Schweickart's critique (see the debate here: http://www.zmag.org/debateschw.html). Unfortunately, Albert does not comprehend the critique and so his reply misses the point totally.

I should note I do not support Schweickart's solution (market socialism) but his critique of Parecon is correct.

This does not mean that Parecon does not contain some good ideas, but the good bits (generally taken from anarchism) are drowned in the nonsense.

"As to Spain, the "objective circumstances" argument is the old excuse of the Popular Front collaborationist wing of the CNT-FAI."

Very true -- but my point is that the circumstances cannot be ignored when evaluating why the CNT-FAI did not apply their political programme. To say that they made this decision because they did not have one is not true.

"In reality the "objective circumstances" did allow them the possibility of sweeping away the Generalitat government and constructing a new polity -- a structure of popular political power, controlled by the working class -- in Catalonia, but their own anarchist confusions got in the way."

As if. Popular political power? Do you mean the abolition of the state by means of federated popular assemblies? In other words, the kind of vision of revolution advocated by (say) Malatesta? In that sense, it was not a "political power." And I do not want a power "controlled" by the working class. As an anarchist, I want working class people to manage their own afffairs directly. Hence "no government."

But I do agree -- the CNT could have implemented libertarian socialism. Why they did not is far more complex than blaming "anarchist confusions" as Tom (and Marxists) do.

"At least the CNT did propose replacing the national Republican state with a CNT-UGT National Defense Council, but the CNT joining the government of the Generalitat completely undermined the CNT's leverage with Caballero and the UGT, and that is what undermined the potential of a national revolutionary labor council."

The fact is that this proposal was a compromise based on their previous argument for a federation of popular organisations created from below. The fact they suggested it shows that they had abandoned their original programme in favour of a compromise with the UGT bureaucracy and its ideas of "workers alliances."

"Anarchist confusionism about "abolishing all governments" did not provide good guidance to what was needed in the Spanish revolution. A structure of govenance of a society is not the same thing as a state apparatus. But anarchists have historically been confused about this."

Speak for yourself! Anarchists have always been clear that social organisations do not equal government or the state. We have always been clear that governments mean the delegation of power and are to be opposed in favour of decision making from the bottom up.

The CNT-FAI leadership quite rightly rejected the idea of seizing power for themselves (as Trotsky argued). Sadly, they also rejected the anarchist solution to the problems they faced. The question is why.

I would argue that it was due to their incorrect evaluation of the object circumstances they faced. Tom, like the Trotskyists, puts it down to "anarchist confusions." Given that the CNT-FAI directly opposed anarchist ideas on the matter of revolution, I would say that my argument is the correct one.

As to what they should have done, I would suggest that Malatesta's writings contain the right basic ideas rather than the impossible blue-print of Parecon.

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org
author by mitchpublication date Mon Jul 31, 2006 22:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The situation of the Spanish anarchists provides us with a glimpse of both the best libertarian aspects and the dangers of a revolutionary situation. This revolution and all the attendant circumstances continue to be a subject of much discussion.

I'm surely no economist and can barely balance my own check book. What we can say is that this revolution produced some very mixed results, at least from an anarchist standpoint. Often times in the villages, agarian collectivization took place and a form of libertarian communism arose. In the urban centers, a much more mixed form of socialization took place.

From reading the different anarchist persepctives on the revolution and the implementation of a libertarian economic and social vision, the current writers on this list are both right and wrong to a certain extent. On the negative side, there was confusion by the CNT as to how to proceed, here I would agree with Tom. Does this mean that the ideological foundation of anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism is incorrect,no, not at all. I would agree with the writer who said there can be no "blueprints" for revolution and a revolutionary society. Surely there can be a vision of a new society and a sense of what to expect in the broadest possible terms.

I think one of the best explanations I've read is in the important work by Juan Gomez Casas: "Anarchist Organization,The History of the FAI".

Gomez Casas writes:

"The CNT contradictions of 1936-39, as well as those of the FAI, may have been due to a lack of effective libertarian experiance, a superficial understanding of anarchist ideas, and personal and group psychology. When the moment of truth arrived, the face of circumstances was greater than loyality to roots."(p 252, Black Rose Books edition)

The "circumstances" challenged and shook the roots of the ideas. The "circumstances" created a confusion when the militants and organizations failed to press forward on as broadest basis as possible. That is in areas of confirmed and determied anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist strength (Barcelona in particular and Catalonia in general). So to this extent there was "confusion".

As I still am not convinced about parecon, I think Tom raises important issues as to what will a post revolutionary socialized economy look like. What are the "nuts and bolts" of daily life, exchange, delivery and production of goods and servives and the interfacing between producers and consumers.

Even amongst the Spanish anarchists there were many points of view. While brief in its format, I suggest comrades read what Gomez Casas writes about "The Problems of Libertarian Communism" (p. 156). The author points out the diversity of views on this topic.

Surely none of us can micromanage what lies ahead. By the same token, a healthy discussion of the nature of a libertarian and self-managed society--in the context of the 21st century--is both interesting and important.

author by Waynepublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 07:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

(1) the Friends of Durruti Group denounced the CNT-FAI main anarchists for joining the capitalist government. Instead they proposed a central council ("junta"), elected from the mass unions, to coordinate the armed struggle against fascism--and to overthrow the liberal-democratic-Stalinist state. Some people argue that they were just returning to the original ideas of the Spanish anarchist-syndicalists/communists. For unknown reasons, it is argued, the main Spanish anarchists had betrayed their program (perhaps due to "exceptional objective conditions"). But THIS IS NOT HOW THE F.O.D. SAW WHAT THEY WERE DOING. Instead, the wrote, "We are introducing a slight variation in anarchism into our program. The establishment of a revolutionary junta."

(2) The Trotskyist program was even better than the F.O.D. program. Instead of a central council elected by the unions, Trotsky advocated that rank-and-file councils, multi-union if possible,be created at the factories and workplaces, the rural communes, the militia units, etc., and these councils would associate with each other to create a new power center to oppose the old states. (There were other limits of the Trotskyist approach, namely an orientation to use the councils as an instrument ultimately to put their party in power. But this is aside from this particular point.)

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 08:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

My just completed pamphlet on Spain answers Wayne here. First, Wayne is incorrect when he says that the Defense Councils proposed by the FoD were an innovation of theirs. This was the OFFICIAL program of the CNT in Sept-October 1936, decided at a national plenary on Sept. 3rd. The big daily paper of the CNT in Barcelona, Solidaridad Obrera, made a big campaign for overthrowing the Popular Front government and replacing it with the Defense Council program, which included union control of a revolutionary people's militia, and complete socialization of the Spanish economy under worker management. The managing editor of Solidaridad at that time was Liberto Callejas and one of his main editorial writers was Jaime Balius. In November, when the CNT joned the Popular Front government, the regional committee in Catalonia fired Callejas and Balius because they refused to go along with the new Popular Front collaboration line. Callejas and Balius were founders of FoD in March, 1937 and Balius was the main writer for FoD. The Trotskyists in Spain proposed Russian-style soviets. This was completely out of place in Spain as it had no relationship to the revolutionary labor tradition in Spain. A much better proposal were the regional and national People's Congresses, proposed by the CNT in the "libertarian communist" program adopted by the CNT at its Zaragoza congress. These were much better because they would be more democratic. The Russian Soviets were top-down, hierarchical bodies, entirely controlled by professional class political party leaders. The plenary sessions of the main soviets in Petrograd and Moscow were at best rubber stamps. Read Pete Rachleff's history, "Soviets and Factory Committees in the Russian Revolution." The only reason that the National Defense Council proposal of Sept. 1937 could be considered an "innovation" is that it was explicitly a revolutionary labor government, and anarchists had often said they were "against all governments." What was lacking in traditional anarchism was a clear recognition that a libertarian, classless society presuposes a polity, a structure of political governance. In fact many members of the CNT did recognize that during the revolution, not just FoD. Read the interview with Eduardo de Guzman in Ronald Fraser's "Blood of Spain." De Guzman, who was also a supporter of the Defense Council proposal, was editor of the CNT paper in Madrid, Castilla Libre, and he refers to it explicitly in the interview as a "proletarian government."

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 08:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think there are certain POLITICAL functions that simply cannot be "abolished." Any feasible society requires a means to make the basic rules, decide how things are going to be arranged. This is an institution that plays an essentially legislative role in society. Society also needs to have a way to adjudicate accusations of criminal conduct and disputes between people, groups, communities. In other words, something akin to courts. And a libertarian society, if it is to survive, must have a way of defending itself, against internal or external attack, and a way of enforcing the basic rules in society. All of these things imply POLITICAL POWER. Just as social production cannot be "abolished", neither can political power. Moreover, the "libertarian communist" program of the CNT adopted at the Zaragoza congress implicitly recognized this. The national and regional people's congresses and the proposed municipal councils would have legislative power. And this structure could call upon a people's militia to defend itself. These things imply political power. But a polity or structure of political power does not have to be a state. A state apparatus is a hierarchical structure that separates control over the political functions from the mass of the people precisely so that it can be an instrument of dominating classes. In fact it is possible to have political power structures that are not a state because they are controlled by the mass of the people through the assemblies and congresses of delegates elected by the assemblies, and accountable to them.

In regard to David Schweickart, I'd point out that Schweickart is a defender of the continued existence of classes. His critique of parecon is precisely a lot of petty foggery designed to get around having to recognize the existence of the coordinator class (the class that Schweickart is a member of). Schweickart only recognizes ownership of assets as a problem with capitalism, not hierarchical, corporate-style power structures. Perhaps Anarcho agrees with Schweickart because, like Schweickart, he refuses to recognize the existence of the coordinator class. But the essence of Leninism is that historically it has been an ideology that empowers the coordinator class -- that is who the ruling class in the USSR was & in the other "Communsit" countries. To not recognize the existence of this class disarms us from developing a program that could liberate the working class from domination by the coordinator class.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 09:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There is one other problem with the Trotskyist proposal for soviets that i forgot to mention. Even if we put aside the top-down structure of most of the Russian soviets, there is another problem: They represent only workers. The CNT's program for municipal government in its "libertarian communist" program was the "free municipality". This was actually the CNT equivalent to local soviets. The advantage to the "free municipalities" over soviets is that they were to be based on geographic neighborhood assemblies. So in theory every adult could participate. The problem is, the CNT didn't actually create free municipalities (except for a few in rural Aragon). In reply I suppose it could be argued that the problem with the free municipality is that it isn't a class organ precisely because it isn't based on work. The need for a class organ was what led the Defense Council advocates to root them in the unions. Of course the CNT could have created the People's Congresses by electing the delegates from the workplace assemblies. That would make them class organs. In fact they'd be the equivalent of the soviet congresses in the Russian revolution.

author by todd - n/apublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 09:56author email logos at riseup dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm glad to see this debate:

tom- Personally I resist trying to pin point in a reductionist way the failures of the spanish revolution. Clearly what you say is true on some level. Not having a clear idea of how to push forward with decision making structures was a problem.

It is a problem that made sense on some level. For one, it's not always clear what is or isn't a revolutionary situation. It becomes more and more clear, but usually in some pretty murky conditions. Given that such an event is not and was not common back then, confusion and unpreparedness make some sense (not that it's good).

Moreover I take seriously the concerns people felt about foreign powers. The western nations were neutral (i.e. covertly supported the fascists), and never would have entered the war probably. But none of that was determined ahead of time. The widespread solidarity, surely made their support be less overt than it could have been. Moreover the spanish anarchists had no way of knowing how they would respond to political shifts, if broader war would have broken out, etc. A likely situation may have been a joint invasion by the western democracy and fascists had the anarchists been successful. I think its easy to use hind sight, but we should understand what motivations might have played a role, since they may be in play again in the future, and we need to figure out how to deal with them.

Finally, I think it is fairly myopic to think that having a solid theory will translate smoothly into organizing successes. The history of revolutionaries show that often the groups with solid theory were completely incompetent at organizing, and vice versa. Moreover people tend to push their ideology forward through a dynamic of struggle, not through just getting random articles dropped on them. You can see this in spain. A lot of growth came out of that dynamic between the evolution of the events, and the clarity that arises from the experiences gained.

Personally I think Malatesta has insight precisely there (though I'm going to take the middle path). That is that it is unrealistic to think, and especially to rely on, thinking people/groups/cities/regions are going to come to a situation from a similar place. Likewise people's interpretation of theory will come out of where they are at. Beyond interpretation, applying theory to a specific context must adapt to fit that context (history is filled with the foolishness of trying to knock society into narrow ideologies; the greatest thinking adapts to reality and not the other way around). Realistically we can anticipate a great divergence of ideas and practise when we're operating in the social realm. So we shouldn't expect any more uniformity in the theories we create. After the revolution a unified system is an ideal, but one we should realize must be worked towards as a goal, but not a blueprint. The spanish revolution itself shows this. There was a plurality of things that worked, as well as things that failed.

I applaud Malatesta for dropping the anarchist-communist tag as well for similar reasons. We should try to keep our thinking fluid and evolving to meet our situation (an anarchist insight), and thereby should avoid labeling ourselves in such a manner unless we stand to benefit from it. Often people like flashy terms and hyphenating things for egotistical reasons, that should be avoided.

I think this discussion could also point us in another direction. That is that the nature of revolution itself should be questioned. Given the way that people's ideology and practise develop, and the way that power responds to struggle, I think we should embrace a different idea of revolution. Revolution I think should be considered an ongoing process of developing ever greater spheres of autonomy, culminating in the forceful overthrow of the global powerbase. But it is a process of developing dual power, growing the collective experience and history, and building new structures on a global level. Bleh I wish I could write more but... work. Some day if i get more time i'll sound more coherent. or i'll need a job with more time (fucking einstein, i wish the postal service was still so cush).

author by kdog - exFRACpublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 14:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

First, let me say that I am excited to read a lively debate on my favorite websight, there are unfortunately too few. Thanks Wayne for sparking this off.

I am no expert on Malatesta, Spain, or Parecon, but here are a few thoughts:

1. Of all the “Classic” anarchist thinkers, I have learned the most from Malatesta. His thinking bridged the philosophical-practical divide and really carved out an approach that I continue to find useful. I think some are being way too dismissive of his contribution here.

2. From my reading of Malatesta, he was acutely aware of social struggle and revolution as “an ongoing process of developing ever greater spheres of autonomy” and “a process of developing dual power, growing the collective experience and history, and building new structures on a global level”, but unlike the reformists he saw the need for mass organizing, combat, and insurrection along that path.

3. Part of the problem of Spain (it seems to me) was that the anarchist-oriented sections of the working classes were huge and well organized, but so were other sections of the class, and under different politics. I don’t think the CNT was missing “a plan”, so much as an “approach” to that situation. Creating unity under this situation obviously meant something short of the CNT’s program of Libertarian Communism for all of Spain.

4. Malatesta’s approach would have been (I think) to understand the terrain, to implement the anarchist program as much as possible where it had strong support, but in joining with the other forces, to not do any thing that would have cut-off further development of that program. I think that this might have included various arrangements in various regions, industries and neighborhoods and among different oppressed groups. Some CNT-UGT delegated councils, some more soviet style councils, some where the CNT would have to stand outside the “polity” in opposition, etc. But clearly NOT implementing the roll-back of any of the revolutionary gains as the CNT ended up doing. Again, the problem was not so much a lack of vision, or a plan, but the lack of an approach (or “Method”) when implementing that plan would be not as straight-forward as hoped.

5. (I am opposed to the Great Man school of history, but it isn’t it a shame that anarchist militants like Malatesta, Makhno, and Berkman died right before the outbreak of the Spanish Revolution. Not only would their practical experience and ability to publicize the anarchist cause have been precious, but the moral weight they carried would have been a significant extra obstacle for the “anarchist” collaborationists to overcome).

6. While I think “pre-visionist” might be celebrating too much Malatesta’s defense of assasinations and the like, I do think Malatesta’s support for individual or small group militant action was consistent with his overall Anarchist Method. There need not be a division between mass movement and small group action. It is again a question of approach. Will these actions strengthen the conciousness and ability of the class or will they hurt them, etc. Malatesta was always keen to support action that carried the struggle forward (unlike the parecon author Albert who attacked the anarchists after Seattle, actions that whatever their limitations CLEARLY pushed the mass movements forward).

7. This might be my one quibble with Wayne: he may be overly dimissive of Malatesta’s participation in abortive uprisings. I am not well versed in this history at all, but I would not be so quick to dismiss them as unconnected to his overall method. While the uprisings did not succeed in establishing popular power or smashing the state, they may have served as a kind of positive “propaganda of the deed” with the same aim as the Zapatistas marching into San Cristobal. A larger discussion I know. But I would be interested to know if he ever wrote critically about them and if they were translated.

8. Finally, I like Malatesta’s style. very intelligent and dedicated, but not arrogant at all, very aware that he doesn’t and won’t know everything. His polemical exchanges with Makhno for instance involve a lot of asking questions, and “if this is what you are saying than this is my concern” type of writing. I like that even though he came from the middle class he learned a skill with his hands and joined the working classes in alot more organic way then many radical intellectuals ever bother to. I would guess that both of these are some how related to his overall approach as well.

lebanon on my mind,
Kdog

author by Anarchopublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 17:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I think there are certain POLITICAL functions that simply cannot be "abolished." Any feasible society requires a means to make the basic rules, decide how things are going to be arranged."

If you mean, make decisions then, of course. But unless that is self-management then there is a divide between rulers and ruled.

"This is an institution that plays an essentially legislative role in society."

Passing laws? I doubt it. Every commune will make decisions concerning joint activity but these are not "laws."

"Society also needs to have a way to adjudicate accusations of criminal conduct and disputes between people, groups, communities. In other words, something akin to courts."

Depends on how these are organised. Mutually agreed third parties, voluntary agreed juries and so forth are fine. A monopoly of courts, no.

"And a libertarian society, if it is to survive, must have a way of defending itself, against internal or external attack, and a way of enforcing the basic rules in society."

A voluntary militia, as advocated by Malatesta, Bakunin and so forth.

"All of these things imply POLITICAL POWER."

nope, unless you equate political power with social power -- something anarchists do not.

"Just as social production cannot be "abolished", neither can political power."

Political power can be abolished -- by self-management.

"Moreover, the "libertarian communist" program of the CNT adopted at the Zaragoza congress implicitly recognized this. The national and regional people's congresses and the proposed municipal councils would have legislative power."

again, a confusion of decision making with political power. And, again, this vision existed in Malatesta's writings.

"And this structure could call upon a people's militia to defend itself."

as found in, say, Malatesta.

"These things imply political power. But a polity or structure of political power does not have to be a state. A state apparatus is a hierarchical structure that separates control over the political functions from the mass of the people precisely so that it can be an instrument of dominating classes."

In other words, social power rather than political power. Why use terms which lead to confusion?

"In fact it is possible to have political power structures that are not a state because they are controlled by the mass of the people through the assemblies and congresses of delegates elected by the assemblies, and accountable to them."

Unless the delegates are mandated and recallable, it would be a political power in the sense of a government -- a split in terms of power between the many and the few.

"In regard to David Schweickart, I'd point out that Schweickart is a defender of the continued existence of classes."

He argues against wage labour and the existence of economic classes (he is not in favour of equal pay, though). He does support governments and states and so a political class division.

However, his views on the existence of classes is irrelevant to his critique of Parecon which is purely technical in nature.

"His critique of parecon is precisely a lot of petty foggery designed to get around having to recognize the existence of the coordinator class (the class that Schweickart is a member of)."

Nonsense. Read what he is arguing. It has nothing to do with his job as a professor. It is to do with the feasibility of Parecon as its main supporter describes it. Unless this is addressed (and it has not been) then Parecon has to be considered an impossible blue-print.

"Schweickart only recognizes ownership of assets as a problem with capitalism, not hierarchical, corporate-style power structures."

He supports co-operatives and the election of managers, that is true. However, his critique of Parecon has nothing to do with this.

"Perhaps Anarcho agrees with Schweickart because, like Schweickart, he refuses to recognize the existence of the coordinator class."

Yawn. I recognise the existence of hierarchy and how it divides society into classes of people. That is why i'm an anarchist. The "coordinator class", though, is not a robust concept -- it takes the valid anarchist critique and side-lines it into something a lot weaker.

But this has nothing to do with Schweickart's critique of Parecon, of course.

"But the essence of Leninism is that historically it has been an ideology that empowers the coordinator class -- that is who the ruling class in the USSR was & in the other "Communsit" countries."

So Leninism empowers university professors? Were professors part of the ruling class in the USSR? I do not think so... Leninism empowers a bureaucracy, both within its own organisations and the post-revolutionary "political power." Most members of that elite were not university professors, though.

And the concept of the "new class" goes back to Bakunin -- Parecon is not adding anything that new to the discussion.

"To not recognize the existence of this class disarms us from developing a program that could liberate the working class from domination by the coordinator class."

Personally, I think that if Parecon was implemented it would deliver workers like myself into the domination of a new class -- the bureaucracy which would be trying to gather, process and implement the mountains of information required to make Parecon work (and failing, due to the amounts of data required and the impossibility of processing it into a plan people can vote on).

still, Tom has not addressed the core of Schweickart's critique. Rather he has attacked him as a person (or, at best, for his job). As I said, the supports of Parecon have not replied to his critique because they just do not understand it -- which is a shame, as they continue to inflict this impossible blue print on to the wider movement.

And, as I said, I do not agree with Schweickart's model (although at least it seems practical from an economic point of view, if problematic from a libertarian perspective). To return to the original article, I would repeat that Malatesta provides a better perspective on revolutionary change than Parecon -- at least he was aware that social change cannot be squeezed into blueprints and, instead, presented broad principles which are valid and lay the foundations of free developments based on objective circumstances and the needs of those affected by the decisions made.

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org
author by Ilan S. - AATWpublication date Tue Aug 01, 2006 22:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tom and others who are hard to accept the fact that revolution will abolish classes the moment it will dismantle the state, keep a special treatment to workers of work places.

In a world system of libertarian communism, you cannot have two commpeting systems of organization which will have to "negotiate".

The organization based on work places - other than autonomeosly delegated by grass root communities, means that people who are not participating in work places - like those who are too old or not capable or in training will be second rate people.

For sure during the revolution taking control of the work places will be essential, but as early as possible of transference of organisation to the multi-tier direct democracy of grass root communities is essential for keeping the new class less society from deteriorating.

In a way, the idea of the independance of the work place organizations after the revolution is an explession of classism.

The absurd idea that independant entities of worke places and communities will have to "negotiate" the relations between them is impossible mode of fragmenting society.

All kinds of groupings within the new society will be just autonomeous parts of a one whole.

At the end of coordinations - in any sphere, if failed to reach agreement, the direct democracy of grass root communities involved will decide.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Wed Aug 02, 2006 02:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

extreme individualist anarchists do say that society is supposed to be organized on some purely voluntary basis. in fact this is not a possibility. it can't be voluntary that there aren't bosses, aren't people hired to do things for others for wages. for example, during the Spanish revolution the town of Mas de las Matas, one of the few places where the CNT actually created a so-called "free municipality", a town run by an assembly, made laws. For example they did not permit people to be hired for wages to work for someone. That is a law even if you don't wish to call it that. They also suppressed gambling. Again, a law. That these things are laws doesn't mean there is a class divisiion in society. A congress of delegates being mandated is inconsistent with them being a deliberative body that takes account of what people say and through a process of give and take comes up with proposals for the whole affected territory. If it is an important issue, it can be sent back to the base assemblies, which is what the CNT advocated. That is more effective for base control than mandates. I think it is obvious that an elected body that can make mandatory rules is a legislature and these are the equivalent of laws. To not call it a "political" function is just a quibble about words. I think in fact it is obviously a political function.

As to Schweickart, his "argument" is a strawman fallacy. Looking at job balancing he asserts that it is not possible. But in fact it is. Consider Taylorism. Taylorism systematically examined the tasks that made up traditional crafts in the 19th century and then re-assembled them to strip out the more conceptual and skilled tasks and create rote labor. Job balancing is the reverse of this. If it can be done in one direction, it can be done in the other direction. For example, consider a bus driver. Is there some reason he or she can't also, part of the time, do the conceptual tasks of designing the route and schedule, of deciding on the layover time at the end? Is there some reason he or she can't learn the accounting knowledge needed to evaluate and develop plans for a transit system? Schweickart, in effect, says no. But to say no is to say that the class system is necessary, that there must be rote labor, where people don't have the time to learn the knowledge and skill needed to actually control their industry. Now, that's just one of Schweickart's "criticisms." His other criticisms are equally lacking in comprehension of what is being proposed.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Wed Aug 02, 2006 02:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Schweickart is an enemy of social planning. That's because he is a defender of the market. But the market will inevitably mean continued existence of class society. That's because people with scarce skills and knowledge can use that to gain advantages from cooperatives that hire them. You only have to look at the class system that prevails inside the Mondragon coops -- completely dominated by the professionals and managers -- to see this. Schweickart suggests it isn't possible for people to plan what they want to be available for their consumption. What this mainly has to do with is *changes* from year to year in what we want available. If our consumption doesn't change, input itsn't necessary. His exagerated discussion of this is a strawman, again.

Schweickart believes that people should be able to use their market power to get as much as they want. This is, again, to the advantage of the connected and educated. To remunerate people by their effort does not require some internal monitoring system, this is a strawman. We can tell the effort that was used by a group of people producing something by comparing them to others in a similar situation. Did they produce the same number of units of output with the same level of education, investment in facilities, and other inputs? If not, why not? Lacking any other reason, the explanation is a difference in effort. If we provide X resources to group A and X resources to group B, but B produces 20 percent more output, it is reasonable to infer less effort by A if there is no better explanation. So, that would merit giving them less next time around because they are not as effective in use of social resources as B.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Aug 02, 2006 11:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tom and Ilan have something in common: their rejection of Malatesta's experimental and pluralistic "anarchist method." That is, they agree with the rest of us that there needs to be some sort of federation of self-managing small groups running a nonprofit, cooperative, economy (libertarian socialism/ communism or whatever). But they have specific concepts about how this will work. That is all to the good. But many of us (I won't quite say followers of Malatesta, but perhaps students of Malatesta) believe that it is going to be necessary to work out how this will actually function in the real world after the revolution.

As to the Spanish revolution, this would take more space than I have here. Let me say, that the problem was more than a theoretical problem with the Spanish anarchists which led them to betray their beliefs. As was written above, they had planned for an anarchist revolution, not the mixed and confused situation which happened. They lacked a set of strategies and tactics, such as the need for a united front, opposition to the popular front, support for national self-determination (in Catalonia and Morocco), and a general flexibility in tactics tied to a fixedness in goals.

author by Ilan S. - AATWpublication date Wed Aug 02, 2006 17:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wayne:
"Tom and Ilan have something in common: their rejection of Malatesta's experimental and pluralistic "anarchist method."

In a way, I will reject as redicolous - if not a cover for ulterior motives any one who claim that there is a need to invent the wheel again....

Any one who claim that the multi-tiere direct democracy of world commune of grass root communities in which every one will contribute according to abilities and receive according to needs is not a clear one and there is a need for lot of experimenting is really rejecting this model, or at least hard to decide between libertarian communism and the non viable alternatives.

Wayne
"That is, they agree with the rest of us that there needs to be some sort of federation of self-managing small groups running a nonprofit, cooperative, economy (libertarian socialism/ communism or whatever). "

For sure I do NOT agree that there is a viable option of class less society based on "small groups running a nonprofit, cooperatives".

It is absurd to dream on such impossible strucrures as viable in a 6 milliard people world with towns and cities of tens of thosands up to millions of inhabitants, or big river regions with lot of millions in one organic unit.

Wayne
"But they have specific concepts about how this will work. "

Mixing me with Tom is not a serious thing.
You cannot mix togather a model which is libertarian communist with a model that do not accept the solidarity principle of "from each according to ability - to each according to needs".

Wayne
"That is all to the good. But many of us (I won't quite say followers of Malatesta, but perhaps students of Malatesta) believe that it is going to be necessary to work out how this will actually function in the real world after the revolution."

For there will be lot of experimenting and there will be lot of variations within the grassroots communities. There will be differences because of objective conditions, and because of subjective ones. For sure at the beginning lot of communities will not be too happy to adopt the libertarian communist model even when they do adopt it as a temporary one, but if the revolution is not to be aborted, people very fast will find that any half way solution is not viable.

Stae less modern economy cannot be viable if organized by loose federations of small cooperatives of nonprofit.

Real world non state nonhhierarchical system can function only using multi-tier direct democracy of grass root communes.

Any system not based on the communist principle of from each according to abilities - to each according to needs, will very soon deteriorate to one kind or another of exploiting, hierarchic and authoritarian.

I wonder what other alternative can seem viable to any one who is not against libertarian communism on principle,

(As I wrote somewhere else, even faschist/religious naZionist settler collonialists found that in hard circumstances the libertarian communist internal relations of the community is a must.)

Even now, when the Israeli state did for many years its best to push the kibutzes (communes) to dismantle and go the capitalist way, lot of communes still insist on keeping the internal relations as libertarian communist... though the overwhelming majority of their members are bloody naZionist settler colonialists pro capitalists and clearly not anarchists or even socialists.
Ilan

Related Link: http://awalls.org
author by Anarchopublication date Fri Aug 04, 2006 19:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"extreme individualist anarchists do say that society is supposed to be organized on some purely voluntary basis. in fact this is not a possibility."

yes it is -- you can decide not to join a group, you can decide not to work in a given workplace or live in a particular community. It happens all the time.

Surely a free society would be able to say to those who wanted to be communists, collectivists, mutualists, etc, that they can experiment and live the lives they want?

Apparently Parecon excludes this -- how is that libertarian? In this Malatesta was right -- voluntary communism would indeed be ironic if you cannot chose to live some other way.

"it can't be voluntary that there aren't bosses, aren't people hired to do things for others for wages."

Given that the aim of all forms of anarchism is to unite workers with the tools and land they use, that by definition should not happen.

"That is a law even if you don't wish to call it that. They also suppressed gambling. Again, a law."

And I'm sure people ignored it. Some laws are unenforceable -- and rightly so.

"That these things are laws doesn't mean there is a class divisiion in society. A congress of delegates being mandated is inconsistent with them being a deliberative body that takes account of what people say and through a process of give and take comes up with proposals for the whole affected territory."

in other words, a federation of communes whose members have the final say -- as advocated by, say, Malatesta...

"If it is an important issue, it can be sent back to the base assemblies, which is what the CNT advocated. That is more effective for base control than mandates. I think it is obvious that an elected body that can make mandatory rules is a legislature and these are the equivalent of laws."

Sorry, but we have a division of society into rulers and ruled. The mandatory rules will have to be enforced and so the base assemblies will have to be controlled by the "elected body" and this body will need the force necessary and this cannot be the people armed.

So, I think I will stick with federations, mandated and recallable delegates and assemblies which hold social power. In other words, anarchism.

"As to Schweickart, his "argument" is a strawman fallacy."

Just because you do not understand it does not mean it is a strawman fallacy.

"Looking at job balancing he asserts that it is not possible."

No,he argues that beyond a certain scale it becomes impossible. Parecon implies community, regional, national and international job balancing regime. Getting balanced jobs for 6 billion people is going to be, to say the least, extremely difficult task. Even ten thousand would not be an easy task...

"But in fact it is. Consider Taylorism. Taylorism systematically examined the tasks that made up traditional crafts in the 19th century and then re-assembled them to strip out the more conceptual and skilled tasks and create rote labor."

Taylorism was applied in one workplace at a time, an important difference. No attempt was made to organise the stripping over millions of workers at the same time. And reducing complexity is easier to organise than increasing it. Equally, Taylorism failed insofar as workers still continued to excerise some control over their work and find ways to undermine the boss -- who was, for all his attempts, was still dependent on the conceptual labour of his workers.

"Job balancing is the reverse of this. If it can be done in one direction, it can be done in the other direction."

Nope, it is not. Firstly, job balancing means combining different types of job to give everyone experience of different tasks. This is not quite the same as empowering workers. Secondly, as noted, job balancing is over large numbers of workers and is based on collating and processing data *not* simplifying it over smaller groups.

"For example, consider a bus driver. Is there some reason he or she can't also, part of the time, do the conceptual tasks of designing the route and schedule, of deciding on the layover time at the end Is there some reason he or she can't learn the accounting knowledge needed to evaluate and develop plans for a transit system?"

That same bus driver would have to inform others of his work, so they can grade it. Then the others in his workplace do the same. Then all the hundreds of thousands of workers in the world do the same. Then someone tries to evaluate, grade and "balance" all these tasks and then people get allocated tasks in such a way as to "balance" all all for all people. You obviously have no idea what that would involve in terms of data processing.

Btw, I'm in favour of self-management and getting all workers involved in decision making tasks. I'm infavour of eliminating as much as possible the division of labour (but not the division of work/tasks as some people enjoy certain tasks, some need training and others are better at some things than others). However, job balances cannot do that -- for the reasons I've given.

"Schweickart, in effect, says no."

Because he recognises it is impossible given Parecon's model.

"But to say no is to say that the class system is necessary, that there must be rote labor, where people don't have the time to learn the knowledge and skill needed to actually control their industry."

No, it does not. It simply means that Parecon's idea of Job Balancing is impossible. It does not mean that work cannot be empowering and the tradition division of labour eliminated. We need to look into how that can be done rather than invent silly, impossible schemes before hand. That means looking at self-management in the workplace and recognising that people so empowered can make sensible decisions based on their needs, wants and circumstances.

"Now, that's just one of Schweickart's "criticisms." His other criticisms are equally lacking in comprehension of what is being proposed"

Sorry, but you have simply ignored his criticism. He is not discussing the merits of job balancing, he is talking about whether it is possible or not. Clearly, you do not understand his point -- which is a shame, for if you did Parecon could be improved by replying to it in a way that addresses the issue rather than ignoring it.

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org
author by Anarchopublication date Fri Aug 04, 2006 20:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Schweickart is an enemy of social planning. That's because he is a defender of the market."

To be correct, Tom should have said that Schweickart is in favour of the market because he does not think social planning can work -- be it Parecon or central planning. That is an important difference.

Given the Parecon model, Schweickart is right to attack it. His solution is not perfect, but at least it would work. And I should point out that I'm not in favour of it, but I feel that a libertarian communist society would be more like Schweickart's system than Parecon (it would not be a market system, but it would be based on self-managed workplaces and their federation).

"But the market will inevitably mean continued existence of class society."

Schweickart's system would be a hierarchical one, if nominally democratic. It would not have economic classes as such -- but it would have inequalities of income and decision making power.

But as I said, attacking him or his model does not equate to refuting his arguments against Parecon. Unless you address the key points Schweickart is making against Parecon, I cannot take it seriously.

Related Link: http://www.anarchistfaq.org
author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sat Aug 05, 2006 04:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Either you're for social planning or your're for the market. There is no other alternative. And there are only two known forms of social planning: central planning or horizontal participatory planning. Anarcho's response is therefore evasive. And I did in fact provide arguments against Schweickart's critique of parecon.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sat Aug 05, 2006 04:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Says Anarcho:

QUOTE
"extreme individualist anarchists do say that society is supposed to be organized on some purely voluntary basis. in fact this is not a possibility."

yes it is -- you can decide not to join a group, you can decide not to work in a given workplace or live in a particular community. It happens all the time.
END QUOTE

There is a basic confusion here, between the social structure and choices made WITHIN
that structure. What I'm saying is that the social structure itself is not, and cannot
be, "voluntary". It does NOT follow that there are not things WITHIN that structure
that are voluntary activities.

But for any possible social structure, there will be things that it precludes. That's
what it is to be a social structure. If a social structure does not preclude wage labor and buying resources and renting people in the market, then it isn't a classless, libertarian socialist society. And that means that
there are things that will be prevented by mandatory social rules that are enforced
by arms, if necessary.

QUOTE
"Looking at job balancing he asserts that it is not possible."

No,he argues that beyond a certain scale it becomes impossible. Parecon implies community, regional, national and international job balancing regime. Getting balanced jobs for 6 billion people is going to be, to say the least, extremely difficult task. Even ten thousand would not be an easy task...
ENDQUOTE

No, this is NOT his argument. He says that he doesn't understand how it would be done
even for his university.

And if we can compare the empowering work that is available in any workplace, we
can compare industries across a community. And if we can compare industries across
a community, we can compare between communities across a region.

QUOTE
Taylorism was applied in one workplace at a time, an important difference.
ENDQUOTE

This is incorrect. When Ford Motor Co. started this process in 1910, it looked
at its entire company, all of its operations, and systematically isolated
THOUSANDS of discrete tasks, in order to redefine ALL jobs in the company. That's
thousands of people.

QUOTE
No attempt was made to organise the stripping over millions of workers at the same time. And reducing complexity is easier to organise than increasing it.
ENDQUOTE

Why do you say that Ford decreased complexity? In fact they created many new
occupational categories and the made a HUGE expansion in the hierarchy of the
company. That's increasing complexity. This alleged distinction between
"simplicity" and "complexity" doesn't properly capture the nature of the change.
What changed was how the complexity was organized. Conceptual work and discretion
was removed, as much as possible, from the shop floor, and centralized into
a professional-managerial (coordiantorist) hierarchy.

QUOTE
Equally, Taylorism failed insofar as workers still continued to excerise some control over their work and find ways to undermine the boss -- who was, for all his attempts, was still dependent on the conceptual labour of his workers.
ENDQUOTE

To a lesser degree. That's why Ford was able to increase productivity by 70 percent.
And the power didn't go entirely to Ford, he had to empower the new hierarchy he
had created, even if it was subordinate to decisions from the top.

QUOTE
"Job balancing is the reverse of this. If it can be done in one direction, it can be done in the other direction."

Nope, it is not. Firstly, job balancing means combining different types of job to give everyone experience of different tasks. This is not quite the same as empowering workers.
ENDQUOTE

WRONG. It isn't just combining any tasks.
The whole point is to take EMPOWERING tasks, such as design and decision-making,
and distribute these to workers. It's NOT a proposal to just arbitrarily mix
any old task. Look at the example I gave about bus drivers & transit planning.

QUOTE
Secondly, as noted, job balancing is over large numbers of workers and is based on collating and processing data *not* simplifying it over smaller groups.
ENDQUOTE
Meaningless. It can start with a small group. That is what was done at South End
Press or the Mondragon cafe in Winnipeg.

QUOTE
"For example, consider a bus driver. Is there some reason he or she can't also, part of the time, do the conceptual tasks of designing the route and schedule, of deciding on the layover time at the end Is there some reason he or she can't learn the accounting knowledge needed to evaluate and develop plans for a transit system?"

That same bus driver would have to inform others of his work, so they can grade it.
ENDQUOTE

You're confusing SETTING UP job-balancing with how an industry works once job-balancing
is in force. The question of how to re-define the jobs is indeed a collective
decision in a workplace because it affects the people there. There could be a taskforce
set up initially to look at the jobs, and then come back with proposals for
redesign with these proposals adopted, modified, rejected by the assembly of workers
there.

QUOTE
Then the others in his workplace do the same. Then all the hundreds of thousands of workers in the world do the same. Then someone tries to evaluate, grade and "balance" all these tasks and then people get allocated tasks in such a way as to "balance" all all for all people. You obviously have no idea what that would involve in terms of data processing.
ENDQUOTE

Strawman. It is in fact possible to COMPARE one industry or workplace to another.
For example, we might look at a coal-mining operation and find that there is not
much potential there for relieving rote labor. It could be suggested, then, that
miners spend part of their time working in another industry, to get out from
the mining environment for some portion of their work week or month.

QUOTE
"But to say no is to say that the class system is necessary, that there must be rote labor, where people don't have the time to learn the knowledge and skill needed to actually control their industry."

No, it does not.
ENDQUOTE

But it does. The argument that job-balancing is impossible is being put forward
by Schweickart to defend the class system. YOU may not agree with that conclusion
because you seem to agree with Schweickart in denying the existence of the
coordinator class, and its dominating/exploiting relationship to the working class.

QUOTE
It simply means that Parecon's idea of Job Balancing is impossible.
ENDQUOTE
Something which you haven't shown.

QUOTE
It does not mean that work cannot be empowering and the tradition division of labour eliminated. We need to look into how that can be done rather than invent silly, impossible schemes before hand. That means looking at self-management in the workplace and recognising that people so empowered can make sensible decisions based on their needs, wants and circumstances.
ENDQUOTE
Mere rhetorical blather. You haven't really said anything here. What is "the
traditional division of labor"? And HOW is it to be "eliminated" if not by
recombining empowering tasks like design, conception and decision-making with
the physical doing of the work? And if you agree that that is what needs to
be done, then you're conceded that job balancing is both possible and necessary,
because THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT "JOB-BALANCING" IS.

Anarcho claims that there would be no
classes in Schweickart's proposed "market socialism." I think that is highly implausible. Any market system will tend to generate a class system. That's because people who accumulate education, expertise and experience and connections can use those to their advantage in a market to gain privileges in workplaces, and you will have in fact the continued existence of a coordinator class. As I said before, look at the Modragon cooperatives, and how the manual workers are completely dominated by the managers and professionals. Schweickart has no objection at all to that kind of structure continuing to exist. He proposes nothing at all to prevent that sort of class domination....because he has no theory of the coordinator class and doesn't see its domination of the working class as a problem. And what about anarcho?

author by Kim Keyser - Anarkismopublication date Sat Aug 05, 2006 06:23author address Oslo, Norwayauthor phone Report this post to the editors

After reading a lot of articles and comments on this site and other sites as well, I can surely say that it's a lot of quibbling -which sometimes becomes nasty.

I've also seen most of Tom's hundreds of comments. And even though I don't think parecon is a satisfactory theory for social emancipation, I feel that people tend to attack something they don't know what is or have misunderstood. The question of how our work day will look in the future is one of these things.

Just because parecon is critical of some of the classical anarchist formula, doesn't mean that anarchists have to attack every aspect of parecon and every person that prescribes to parecon(!).

Yes, it might be a different terminology, but "balanced job complexes" is simply a concept of evening out the level of empowerment one experiences in ones job, by combining tasks of different level of empowerment.

Revolutionaries have always criticized the capitalist division of labor. And balanced job complexes is the viable alternative -it's that simple!

It does not have to imply combining thousands of tasks. It's simply to discuss with your coworkers at direct-democratic assemblies how to best combine tasks, so they are just.

Thus a gardener whose only work in capitalist society is to cut bushes and grass migth also get the chance to design whole gardens, while the gardener - architect (I don't know if that could be said in English, but anyway) might also have to cut some grass. Or a person working at the grocery to re-stock food might also be able to, say, work on artwork or whatever. Thus society won't be divided into engineers and manual workers implementing the engineers plans, into people writing articles and people doing proof-reading, into artists and factory workers producing oil colors. In short: Society won't be divided into those who almost just do empowering work and those who do rote work. Instead every job would be divided into BOTH empowering and less empowering work.

My point though, is that it's not necessary to interpret everything as an attack and attack back. If one doesn't know or doesn't understand what a certain concept is about, it is possible to ask, instead of saying that the person you discuss with means something she in fact doesn't, and then attack that thing that person actually doesn't even mean.

This comment isn't directed at anyone in particular. I just feel that there's a lot of negative and unnecessary quibbling here at Anarkismo. Stop that!

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