user preferences

New Events

International

no event posted in the last week

The Left

textLa Venganza de Salem 06:50 May 31 0 comments

textThe Family-Party-State Nexus in Nicaragua 03:06 May 10 0 comments

textHeyday for Nepali Communists 19:48 Jan 10 0 comments

imageRecuerdos en resistencia 20:57 Dec 02 0 comments

textDemocracia virtual 06:28 Nov 22 0 comments

more >>
Search words: Wayne Price

An Anarchist Review of Change the World without Taking Power by John Holloway

category international | the left | review author Thursday September 21, 2006 10:12author by Wayne Price - NEFACauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

Change the World Thru Stateless Empowerment

Holloway is right in saying that the oppressed should not build a new state, but wrong in denying that the workers should use revolutionary power to get rid of the old state and the capitalist system. We need a stateless federation of communes and councils.

An Anarchist Review of Change the World without Taking Power; The Meaning of Revolution for Today (New Ed.), by John Holloway. 2005. London/Ann Arbor MI: Pluto Press.

Early in this book, the author asks, “How can the world be changed without taking power? The answer is obvious: we do not know.” (p. 22) On the last page of the original edition, he writes, “How then do we change the world without taking power? At the end of the book, as at the beginning, we do not know....This is a book that does not have a happy ending.” (p. 215) Two years after publishing the original book, Holloway wrote an Epilogue. He begins by citing the frequent response to the book, “Fine, but what on earth do we do?” (p. 216) His response is, “Some readers have wanted to find an answer in this book and have felt frustrated. But there is no answer, there can be no answer.” (p. 217) His last paragraph says, “Perhaps, after all, communism is wave after wave of unanswered questions....” (p. 245)

For me, this raises unanswered questions all right: Why did he write this book? And why should anyone read it (except to review it)? Inbetween his assertions of not-knowing, Holloway discusses the state, the negative dialectic, the economic law of value, the fallacies of Hardt and Negri’s Empire, alienation and fetishism in capitalist society, the weaknesses of traditional Marxism and the virtues of a more flexible,”open,” Marxism, and other topics. To me some of these topics are interesting but I found most to be boring and poorly written. As he admits, they do not help in answering the question, How do we change the world? He might as well have discussed existentialism, classical Greek comedy, and interpersonal psychoanalysis for all their help.

There is a basic fallacy in this book, which makes it difficult for Holloway to answer his question. He sees only two alternatives for trying to change the world: (1) the oppressed might take state power, either taking over the existing state through peaceful electoral means (reformism) or through overturning the existing state and creating a new state (Leninism). As he says, these methods have not worked very well in creating a self-managing society. Or (2) not taking power at all, seeking to replace the state by gradually building up new relationships and alternate institutions. He admits that he does not know how this could be done.

It does not occur to him that there is another possibility: (3) the workers and oppressed should eventually overturn the existing state and take power, but not take state power, that is, not create a new state. Instead they should create new, nonstate, institutions of self-management. We would be taking power in the sense that we would get rid of the state and all capitalist institutions, over the violent objections of the capitalists and their hangers-on, and we would be organizing a new society. This requires power. But we would not create a new state, that is, a socially-alienated institution, with specialized bodies of police and military, prison guards, bureaucrats, and professional politicians, standing over the rest of society. Instead, the tasks of social coordination and military defense would be carried out by the working people themselves through their own organizations.

In the original text, Holloway occasionally writes of councils and popular assemblies which arise in revolutions, but he does not consider them as alternate institutions of power. In the Epilogue he comes closer. “The organizational form which I take as the most important point of reference is the council or assembly or commune, a feature of rebellions from the Paris Commune to the Soviets of Russia to the village councils of the Zapatistas or the neighborhood councils of Argentina.” (p. 223) He also endorses factory councils as advocated by the Council Communist Pannekoek. He writes that the state and capitalist economy should be replaced by a federated “commune of communes or council of councils”. (p. 241)

Holloway makes clear that his concept is of nonstate institutions. In the Russian revolution, “the seizure of state power was the defeat of the Soviets....The notion of a soviet state or a ‘state of the Commune-type’ is an abomination, an absurdity.” (p. 232) This is because “...the state is a specifically capitalist form of social relations.” (p. 262) I agree. The commune of communes must not be a new state. It is nothing else than the self-organized working class and oppressed.

To establish and maintain a council system, a commune of communes, would require an exercise of power. It would have to clear away the capitalist state and capitalist institutions. It would have to defend itself against counterrevolutionary attacks. It would have to reorganize society and create new institutions, working to create a cooperative, radically democratic, classless society. This is the empowerment of the oppressed.

“The Meaning of Revolution Today”

The above subtitle of the book implies that Holloway advocates social revolution. He does not. He regards what he is advocating as a “revolution,” because he wants a total change in the social system, from capitalism to stateless communism. But he proposes to get there--if it is possible to get there, something he is not certain about--through a series of small, peaceful, and gradual changes, that is, reforms. This is reformism. He specifically rejects the notion of overtrhowing the capitalist class and smashing its state. He rejects the idea of change turning on the “pivot” of a popular seizure of power.

He claims, “Revolution can never be a single event or a state of being, but an unending process, or an event which must be constantly renewed. The orthodox tradition (...) sees revolution as an event that gives rise to an identified post-revolution, with disasterous consequences.” (p. 258) Why this must be so, is not explained (like so much else in this book). It is true that a revolution is a drawn-out process. Past revolutions have typically included decades of tensions leading up to them, a period of mass struggles, a number of stages, a seizure of power, civil and international wars, followed by a period of consolidation. In the U.S. revolution, for example, the time from, say, the Boston Tea Party to the signing of the new Constitution, including seven years of war with the British, was quite lengthy.

But that is not what Holloway is talking about. He is denying any brief period in which society rapidly turns from one social system into another. Instead he sees on-going changes with no distinct beginning and no end in sight. There is no time when people can say, This was capitalism, and this, now, is libertarian socialism. “ After all, communism is wave after ve of unanswered questions....” If this is so, then there is no time when the two sides (if we can speak of sides) are drawn up in conflict with each other and have to fight it out. There is no revolution.

This brings the obvious criticism, as we build up these alternate institutions, will not the capitalists use their state power to crush them? The history of fascism tells us that the ruling class will not let itself be peacefully shuffled off the stage. Holloway notes that critics have challenged him, “ ‘Haven’t you forgotten that when it comes to the crunch, it’s a question of violence, of physical force? We can develop all the self-determining projects or revolts we like, but once they become annoying (not even threatening) for the ruling class, they send in the police and the army and that’s the end....So what’s your answer to that, Professor?’ I hum and I haw and I have no answer....” (p. 237) Again, he does not know! Instead he “suggests” some comments which relate to the evils of establishing a new state, not to a power struggle between the capitalist state and a commune of communes.

Part of his reformism depends on his attitude toward violence. In the original text, he sounds like a pacifist. He asserts that mass violence would not work against the superior power of the state (although all successful revolutions began with the state having superior power). Even a revolutionary army, he adds (correctly), is an authoritarian institution. However, in the Epilogue he remembers that the Zapatistas, his model, did use violence as part of their strategy. It was not their sole technique, but was embedded in their social mobilization. (Similarly, an urban workers uprising would include strikes and factory seizures, and political appeals to the ranks of the government’s army.) He points out “...the importance of seeing the Zapatistas as an armed community rather than as an army.” (p. 263) (Similarly, anarchists have advocated a popular militia rather than a regular army.) This is part of creating a commune of communes, rather than a state.

The problem remains. It is necessary to WARN the workers and oppressed: if we threaten the establishment by building popular institutions of struggle, such as militant unions, cooperatives, self-managing communities, and so on, then the ruling class will use the state (and extra-state forces, such as fascist bands) to attack us, to smash our organizations, to arrest and kill prominent militants, and to kill large numbers of ordinary people. Therefore we must prepare for such an attack by building up organs of social defense, including democratic armed forces, and by winning over the ranks of the military. Holloway does not make this warning; this is the great failure of all reformists.

Anarchism and Marxism

People who know this book only by reputation or by its title, often assume that it is about anarchism. Misleadingly, the book cover has a circle around the A in the word Change, suggesting the anarchist symbol. Actually Holloway is ignorant of anarchism. Early on, he notes that for Marxists, “Approaches that fall outside this dicotomy between reform and revolution were stigmatised as being anarchist.” (p. 12) That is, “anarchist” was a term of insult. He referrs to a 1905 pamphlet on anarchism written by...Stalin. Holloway’s only other reference to anarchism is, “...the old distinctions between reform, revolution, and anarchism no longer seem relevant, simply because the question of who controls the state is not the focus of attention.” (p. 21) He is unaware that anarchism is not only against the state but is against all forms of domination and authoritarianism.

His concept of gradual change without confronting the state--which Holloway treats as a brand new insight--was advocated generations ago by certain anarchists. It was the program of Proudhon, the person who first called himself an “anarchist.” It was advocated by Gustav Landauer. The history of this idea can be found in Martin Buber’s Paths in Utopia. In the 60s this was raised by Paul Goodman. This was part of the program of Murray Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism. It is astonishing that Holloway knows nothing of this theoretical history.

However, this gradualist anarchism has traditionally been challenged by the trend of revolutionary, working class, anarchism. From this view, contrary to Holloway, “the question of...the state” (if not “who controls the state”) is still a “focus of attention.” This is because the state remains the center of the ruling class’ power over the workers and all oppressed. The state cannot be worked around. We may try to ignore it but it will not ignore us! It must be actively dismantled. From the time of Bakunin, anarchists have advocated the overthrow of the state in a revolution and its replacement by a commune of communes.

Instead, Holloway locates himself in the Marxist tradition, if not as a tradtional Marxist. “The most powerful current of negative thought is undoubtedly the Marxist tradition.” (p. 8) (By “negative thought” he means attacking the evils of capitalism without proposing a new vision. This is supposed to be good.) He declares, “The aim is...sharpening the Marxist critique of capitalism.” (p. 9) I have some sympathy for his views, which include rejecting the mechanical-scientistic aspects of Marxism while looking toward the critical-subjective and libertarian side of Marxism.

However, Holloway is an example of the further decay of Marxism. The antistatist current he represents, libertarian or autonomist Marxism, began as a revolutionary working class theory. This includes the Council Communists (such as Pannekoek and Paul Mattick), the Johnson-Forest Tendency (C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya), the British Marxist Historians (such as E.P. Thompson), the early Socialisme ou Barbarie (Cornelius Castoriadis) and its co-thinkers in the original British Solidarity (Maurice Brinton), and the original Italian autonomists and workerists (such as Negri or Tronti). These all advocated that the working class make a revolution and smash the state, replacing it with an association of councils. Recognizing the centrality of the working class did not necessarilty prevent them from accepting the importance of other social forces. For example, in the thirties C.L.R. James developed a brilliant analysis of the autonomous struggle of African-Americans.

But over the last decades, many autonomous Marxists have abandoned its revolutionary aspects. They have dropped the emphasis on the working class, either by expanding the term to include almost everyone besides capitalists, making the concept meaningless, or by dissolving the workers into a pluralistic “multitude.” In any case they no longer see a need for a revolution. They advocate gradual, piecemeal, and peaceful change through dropping out, ceasing to work, and joining in an “exodus” from capitalist society. Negri and Hardt have written influential books denying that capitalism is still imperialist and needing to be overthrown. Holloway’s theses have been discussed. Just as “orthodox” traditional Marxism has ended in social democracy and Stalinism (or Trotskyism), so autonomous Marxism has ended all too often in its own form of reformism.

I reject Holloway’s insistence that we do not know, and cannot know, how to change the world. This does not mean going to the other extreme and claiming to have all the answers. One question we cannot answer is whether we will be successful. Unlike a common interpretation of Marxism, I do not believe that “socialism is inevitable.” But we do know enough to create a positive vision of a commune of communes--and not just a negative criticism of capitalism. We know enough to see the major fault lines of capitalism, particularly its class conflicts (as analyzed by Marx) as well as nonclass conflicts. We can use these to develop a strategy for revolution. Revolution today does mean changing the world--by the empowerment of the working classes and the oppressed of the world. Nothing less will do.


This was written for www.Anarkismo.net.

For further discussion on this topic, see my essay, “Confronting the Question of Power” at
http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=2496&search_text=Wayne%20Price

author by tpublication date Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:40Report this post to the editors

This critique seems pretty simplistic, and ignores many of the more substantive issues. The two most important things I think you botched are: the reform vs. revolution distinction, and why Holloway thinks we don't have an answer to how to overthrow capital and state without taking power.

On reform vs. revolution I think it's either simplistic or just ideological to call holloway's model reformist. The fact that you don't talk at all about how he explores these issues seems to indicate the latter, since he spends a decent amount of time exploring how we can understand revolutionary struggle beyond the simplistic notion of merely smashing the structure and institutions of the state. This is especially strange since you clearly know about the idea of dual power of which Holloway certainly is playing off. Whether or not you agree with it there clearly are revolutionary struggles that occur within capital that make changes and yet aren't reformist. Whether you think that is sufficient or not for a revolution is another issue. Holloway I believe doesn't have such a simplistic notion that the revolution is merely the sum of such struggles either. Instead I think he's arguing against the idea that you can simply attack the state machinery and destroy the institutions of the state (i.e. a insurrection against a single state) and expect to build a libertarian socialist society.

Moreover in a world in which power is globalized and more diffuse than its ever been, it does seem to be at least worth debate beyond the label of reformist whether it is possible to try and crush a particular state power? That is the economic and political state of the world might be such that to have the space and resources to build a libertarian socialist society you need broad revolt in some sense. That might take building dual power on a broad level and that could take time, and would go beyond merely conceiving of revolt as a particular moment directed at a particular government. So however you look at these issues I think it deserves more attention than just calling it reformist.

Why would he be hesitant to say how we can build libertarian socialism without taking power? There are countless cases of people struggling for liberation but reproducing the state and capital instead. The question shouldn't be the one you give, but instead how can we overthrow power and yet prevent the state from emerging from the social organizations even decentralized anti-hierarchical ones. Personally I don't believe that the state is merely a structural or institutional problem. I think we have to both destroy the state's institutional manifestation and build the seeds of libertarian socialism within communities. How we can do that takes more than ahistorical calls for federations and communes. Whatever form social revolution will take must evolve out of the social organization of the working class, and those forms can (and also could not) tend to reproduce the state. I think you don't give the author enough credit by failing to draw out why it is not a simple matter to just call for federations of collectives and communes and say that's how we build a stateless society without taking power.

author by Waynepublication date Sat Sep 23, 2006 13:24Report this post to the editors

T writes: "I think he's [Holloway's] arguing against the idea that you can simply attack the state machinery and destroy the institutions of the state...and expect to build a libertarian socialist society." A more correct statement would require taking out the word "simply." He does not think that a more complex program is needed than SIMPLY attacking the state; he thinks that it would be WRONG to aim to attack the state. He denies that the state needs to be confronted, to be smashed, to be overturned AT ALL. Sorry to be so "simplistic" and "ideological" about this, but I regard it as a variant of reformism.

Actually T is more than a little unfair in his or her criticism of my criticism. Holloway, T says, should be excused for being unable, in a whole book plus a new Epilogue, to say how it is possible to change the world without taking power. But Wayne is to be criticized for not saying more than that federations of workers councils should be formed to replace the state--in a brief book review! (Actually I have written a book; just have not been able to get it published.)

author by Kemeopublication date Sat Sep 23, 2006 17:16Report this post to the editors

> (Actually I have written a book; just have not been able to get it published.)

"Anarchist analysis" should not be an synonymous with rigid analysis. This review ignored most of the book and focuses on how closely it conforms to what the author wanted to read. If you want to read someone who more closely aligns with your own ideas then you can just read your own book.

author by Waynepublication date Sun Sep 24, 2006 04:53Report this post to the editors

I was hoping for some sort of dialogue or at least debate on the politics of this book. So far I have been disappointed. Kemeo is even worse than T. He or she just expresses angry emotion. Both writers just call names: simplistic, ideological, rigid.

Will someone respond by explaining why an author should write a whole book arguing that the oppressed should change the world without taking power, and yet say that he does not know how or if this can be done? How can T or Kemeo defend this?

Will someone answer the question (in a non-ideological, non-rigid, way), what should the oppressed do when the capitalists and their state counter attack popular councils and projects? Won't the oppressed have to organize to fight back, to smash the state and overthrow the capitalists and generals? Won't this take power? Holloway says he has no answer. Does T or Kemeo? I am waiting with excitement to hear their answers.

author by MBpublication date Sun Sep 24, 2006 05:43Report this post to the editors

Thanks for your sharp and fair criticism of this book.
I forced myself to read it this summer because there are many people around quoting it.
But I was disappointed in just the same aspects as you were.
Specially, I saw Holloway as someone who was aware of the general failure of conventional Marxism to be of any help for the building of a 21st century revolutionary theory, but -at the same time- ignored or refused to acknowledge the important contributions of various anarchist currents to it.

In my view, the question of the state should be separated in two:
- The state as the oppression apparatus of a class upon the other(s)
- The state as the organiser of all sort of collective services in a complex society.

I view the need of destroying the former, for the revolution to succeed.
But I think that it's equaly fundamental , if the revolution is to last, that the other aspect of the state would be assumed by the revolutionary forces, not destroyed: it would be transmuted in generalized self-managed institutions, including the whole society control by a federalist multi-tiered direct democracy.

What is your opinion on this matter?

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Mon Sep 25, 2006 09:22Report this post to the editors

I think that Holloway doesn't address the basic
question of the role played by political institutions.
There are institutions in society that make the basic rules, decide how the society is structured, what power people have, and which enforce the basic rules. These powers are inherently "political" and there will inevitably be institutions that have this power. They can be directly under the control of the assemblies and congresses of delegates from the assemblies, or they can be embodied in hierarchical institutions. If the latter, you have a state. But Wayne is correct that there is the possibility of a non-state polity, a way of "taking power" by the mass of the people that isn't a Leninist or social-democratic scheme of a party running a state. Pannekoek expressed this sort of view in "Workers Counci.." Micahel Albert comes from this council Marxist background, and he agrees with Wayne and me on the need for a non-statist polity to replace the state. When Holloway debated Albert at the last World Social Forum, Holloway said he agreed with Albert. But if he agrees with Albert, then he agrees that a non-hierarchical polity is needed to replace the state, and that is a "taking power" by the mass of the people. Holloway, like others influenced by post-modernism, uses very confusing language, and this hides their own confusions from them.

author by Waynepublication date Mon Sep 25, 2006 10:59Report this post to the editors

I agree completely with MB's point. Under libertarian socialism, the state will be replaced by the federation of councils (what Holloway calls the "commune of communes") and it will carry out some functions which the state had done. I mean social coordination and also defense and security (through the workers' militia and other organs). It is this later aspect which I emphasize as the need for "power." But MB adds that there are social services which are presently being carried out by the state and which will be still needed in a self-managed society: education, garbage collection, road building, etc., etc. Under anarchist socialism these will be self-managed by their workers and collectively planned by the community (and communal federations) just as the steel industry will be.

Tom writes that Holloway stated his agreement with Michael Albert, the theorist of Parecon. As I quoted, Holloway believes that the state should be replaced with a "commune of communes, a council of councils." I agree with this, as does Tom and Michael Albert. However, this still does not directly deal with the question of power. Holloway denies that the existing state needs to be confronted, overturned and smashed, in order for this commune of communes to be safely established. But Albert also does not say this. In his books he avoids the question altogether. Both thinkers fail to warn the workers and oppressed that we must organize and prepare ourselves for defense against state attacks and fascist assaults. No wonder the two of them agree!

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Mon Sep 25, 2006 14:56Report this post to the editors

But, Wayne, anarchists historically have talked about "a federation of councils" while also talking about "the abolition of all government", which is inconsistent if "government" is used broadly to mean any sort of governance structure, which anarchists sometimes seem to mean. The point is, talk about this "federation of councils" doesn't actually mean they recognize that a structure of governance of the society to replace the state is needed. Now, Holloway isn't an "anarchist" but a Marxist of some sort but he seems to suffer a similar confusion. Albert always says some sort of governance structure to replace the state is necessary. He makes this clear in "Realizing Hope" for example. If this is to be created by a popular alliance of movements of the oppressed (and that seems to be Albert's strartegy) then this would in fact amount to a "taking of power" by the mass of the people.

I don't know exactly what you mean by "confronting" the state. I find that vague. Albert doesn't talk much, or only vaguely, about the process of transformation from the present institutional system of capitalism and the state, etc. to the sort of future we roughly agree on. Maybe that's what you mean. I think it is necessary to be clearer about the political strategy, and maybe that's also part of what you mean. But it's not easy to foresee in detail how the state system in the USA for example will be upended. I mean, we know that certain sorts of things are needed. We know there needs to be a multi-racial working class mass movement, that has a character that prefigures where we're going. But that still doesn't tell us in detail how exactly this is going to happen.

author by Waynepublication date Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:36Report this post to the editors

Yes, Michael Albert, co-founder of Parecon, is clear about replacing the state with nonstate institutions of power (a council system). Many anarchists have been unclear or ambiguous or ambivalent about this. This has caused significant problems in practice, such as during the 30s Spanish revolution. Today most Platformists identify with the Friends of Durruti in Spain, who postulated such institutions, at least during a period of civil war/armed revolution. We also identify with the Makhnovist struggle in the Ukraine during the Russian revolution; the Makhnovists organized associations of soviets (councils) and a popular armed force. On this point I agree with the FoD, Makhno, Albert...and with Tom.

But that was not my point. It is not just that Albert is "vague" about the "transformation" from capitalism and the state to a libertarian, councilist society--although he is. It is that Albert (and co-founder Hahnel) FAIL TO WARN the workers and oppressed that building a movement to create a new society will have to face violent repression by the state and extralegal fascist forces! Like Holloway, Albert and Hahnel do not prepare those who listen to them for the struggle which will be needed if we are to replace the state with a commune of communes. This is a fundamental flaw.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Tue Sep 26, 2006 15:13Report this post to the editors

Maybe. However, read my essay "Workers Power and the Spanish Revolution" on the WSA website. I think I am explicit about this point, that it is necessary for the working class to organize to impose its will on the society through its own congress/council/assembly system. My current debate with Javier on anarkismo is precisely because Javier doesn't agree with me on exactly this point. Michael Albert seems to agree with me. Maybe it's more a question of what Michael doesn't say than of what he believes. In that essay i clearly agree with the Friends of Durruti and this is a position where Wayne, Platformists and WSA are in agreement, i think.

author by javierpublication date Thu Sep 28, 2006 05:12Report this post to the editors

I am writing a response in our ongoing debate Tom, but i do not have much time so you will have to wait.

But I will not let this ocassion pass without a commentary. You say:

"it is necessary for the working class to organize to impose its will on the society through its own congress/council/assembly system"

It is the point of disagreement quite clearly. Because I insist that you cannot have forced centralization without a state (and by this I mean the same as you, minority rule). We are not talking about the defense of the revolution (wich i beleive implies organizing popular militias of a voluntary nature united by revolutionary self-discipline like makhno advocated and organized and the establishment of alliances with other forces, again, like makhno did -and it seems that the FoD argued for-), we are talking about HOW we will try to get the different forms of organization the workers give themselves to coordinate in solidarity under a common plan. I say that it has to be voluntarily (and this implies accepting that there won't be an all econmpassing sovereign organization but many organizations that will have to make agreements and negotiate, while we anarchists advocate our ideas in the base) because of the heterogenousness of the working class (specially in times of great agitation like revolutions) and the different paces in different places in wich our ideas may rise to be the leading ones. You do not give a clear answer to this or seem to give lenin's, that is that it will be a dictatorship like all forms of government but that it will be effectively controlled by the (majority of the) people (or that you will defend it only if it is). This is the disagreement and it has deep implications both for the defense of the revolution and the organization of economic life. I do not know the friends of durruti or neoplataformists that much but if they defend what i beleive you defend then to me they will be falling in the trap of revolutionary dictatorships like so many anarchist fell during the times of the russian revolution.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Thu Sep 28, 2006 09:14Report this post to the editors

Javier writes:
"I say that it has to be voluntarily (and this implies accepting that there won't be an all econmpassing sovereign organization but many organizations that will have to make agreements and negotiate, while we anarchists advocate our ideas in the base) because of the heterogenousness of the working class (specially in times of great agitation like revolutions) and the different paces in different places in wich our ideas may rise to be the leading ones."

Your basic confusion here is this: Either we're for the liberation of the working class or not. For the working class to liberate itself, it must eliminate the class system. To do that, it must take away the power of the capitalist and coordinator classes. This is not "voluntary". That's because these classes will not give up their power voluntarily. If you say only an arrangement that is voluntary is acceptable, then you will inevitably be accepting/accomodating continued existence of the class system, and thus the continued subordination of the working class, and with it the continued existence of the state.

Of course there will be a variety of political tendencies present. The assemblies are open bodies, the congresses are made up of the people elected by the assemblies. But this structure will be sovereign in that it will be what re-configures the society to get rid of the class system and empower the working class. In order for a libertarian society to result, Left libertarian ideas & allies will have to be in the majority. But that does not imply the dictatorship of a particular political organization. Losing votes in a democratic body doesn't mean you're oppressed. That's a fundamental confusion of indivdiualist anarchism.

When you say this is "Lenin's" answer, you show your confusion. Lenin wasn't for the "non-party masses" having power but was for the "dictatorship of the party". Lenin and the Bolsheviks had no concept of participatory democracy or of accountability of the governance structure to assemblies at the base. I've already explained this before but you ignore what i say.

author by Waynepublication date Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:04Report this post to the editors

The capitalist class agrees with those anarchists who do not want the workers to take power. The capitalists also do not want the workers to ever take power.

I am not sure if I understand Javier's argument here. Is he saying that, during a revolution, the workers and oppressed should form (voluntary) military forces, but not form a federation of popular councils? This was not Makhno's opinion. The Makhnovists organized not only a voluntary army but called congresses of "free soviets" to set the policies for the rebel army. It would be authoritarian and undemocratic for even an anarchist military to act without civilian control.

The point about "voluntariness" can be taken too far. Either the workers and small farmers of a region rise up and fight against the capitalists or they do not. They would be pretty silly to organize an armed revolt without the support of the big majority--expressed in votes. The minority might feel that it was not time to have the uprising, but they would have to live in a country (region, whatever) which had such a rebellion. They could not just ignore it (and hope that the capitalist counterrevolution would not repress THEM).

Saying that we will settle things by mutual agreements is not enough. Let me give a different example. Suppose the people of a town discuss whether to build a new road. It would be nice if everyone consensed, but what if they do not? Suppose the majority votes to have the new road. The minority might refuse to help build it or "pay" for it, perhaps, but it would still have to LIVE in a town which had built the road. (They could up and leave, but then they would go to other towns which have to decide whether to build roads.) Mutual agreement is not enough. Some issues will have to be settled by democratic processes (voting). Members of a majority can always hope to be a majority on another issue.

author by kdogpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 04:20Report this post to the editors

If I am understanding Javier correctly, he is questioning Tom's view that one central "Polity" will replace the State. That this body, however delegated or democratic will have final say over all politics in whichever territory it can claim.

To me Tom's view does seem an overly centralized conception. How will autonomy be respected? Is it realistic to think that all revolutionary forces among the oppressed will share the same organizational framework? Isn't it possible, preferable and more realistic to conceive of a multiplicity of organization and decision making replacing the state?

It seems to me the more that we are able to foster self-management in every corner of society the more resistance we effectively build toward the inevetible counterrevolutionary push backs that will come.

author by javierpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 05:52Report this post to the editors

"The capitalist class agrees with those anarchists who do not want the workers to take power. The capitalists also do not want the workers to ever take power."

I may agree depending in what you mean, if we continue discussing we will know.

"I am not sure if I understand Javier's argument here. Is he saying that, during a revolution, the workers and oppressed should form (voluntary) military forces, but not form a federation of popular councils? This was not Makhno's opinion. The Makhnovists organized not only a voluntary army but called congresses of "free soviets" to set the policies for the rebel army. It would be authoritarian and undemocratic for even an anarchist military to act without civilian control."

Yes, I forgot that, as I said I do not have much time for discussing in political forums (altough I beleive it is whortwhile).

I agree with you in what you say, popular militias must not only be voluntary but also directed by the revolutionary democratic organs of power. But I disagree with forced conscription because it necesarily involves blocking squads (like Trotsky advocated), that is, forcing people to obey and fight at the point of a gun. That is why I emphasied (like Makhno) the voluntary nature of the popular militia.

"The point about "voluntariness" can be taken too far. Either the workers and small farmers of a region rise up and fight against the capitalists or they do not. They would be pretty silly to organize an armed revolt without the support of the big majority--expressed in votes. The minority might feel that it was not time to have the uprising, but they would have to live in a country (region, whatever) which had such a rebellion. They could not just ignore it (and hope that the capitalist counterrevolution would not repress THEM)."

I agree with that. A clear living example seems to be (from the distance) the EZLN, besides political differences. Also on the way it relates to the non-zapatista masses from its organs of self-government and self-managed cooperatives, schools, hospitals, etc.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 06:06Report this post to the editors

Kdog,

What do you mean by "one central polity"? The way i understand self-management, this means people have a right to make the decisions that impact them. Decisions do not impact people the same way. That is why it is a mistake to suppose that all decisions should be made, for example, through one single natonal congress. That would lead to a system of central planning. I'd suggest reading what I say about this in "Libcom or parecon?" and other essays I've written. Central planning inevitably leads to the re-emergence of a class system. I've argued this before and won't repeat the arguments here.

There are many decisions that impact particular communities most of all. So, that is the point to those communities haveing their own assemblies, and similarly with regions having their own congresses. The USA is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic country, and we need to conceive of a structure that allows for community autonomy, as an outgrowth of autonomous movements. Similarly, there are decisions that mainly affect people as workers, people who work in particular workplaces or industries. That is why we want to have assemblies and industrial federations that empower them to control those decisions. Thus I do infact envision the polity and economy being decentralized. But that was not the disagreement I was having with Javier. Javier is opposed to any polity at all, as I see it. That's because a polity must determine the basic rules and structure for the society. For example, the elimination of the class system requires that the working class gain power so they can remove the class power of the dominating classes, capitalists and coordinators. Adherence to the resulting structure won't be "voluntary" because that would imply that people would still be free to hire wage-slaves or be bosses or engage in profit-seeking market activities, etc., and those activities imply continued existence of the class system. But just because we forcibly eliminate the class system and impose a new structure of self-management, it doesn't follow that all power is centralized in some single decision-making body. This is just another traditional anarchist confusion.

The aim of creating a self-managing society is that of creating a society where there is freer reign for self-direction and thus for voluntary activity, for those who were oppressed, but it does't follow that this structure itself is voluntary. This is a traditional anarchist confusion. It's a confusion that happens due to individualist influence on traditional anarchism. Just because an assembly makes a decision by majority vote and imposes that decision on its particular area such as the workplace where people are working (e.g. what time people are to start work) it doesn't follow those who were outvoted are "oppressed." People could be oppressed if, for example, the assembly voted to make a decsion that was really the person's own personal business, such as saying they can't marry someone or interfere in their private life in some other way. But that's oppressive because that is something that is the individual's own affair. But when i say the majority can legitimately make a decision, i'm talking about decisions that have a social impact, decisions that are legitimately collective decisiions. To say that individuals should be able to veto these decisions is to say that the individual ego is absolutely prior to the social collectivity and always has the right to veto the social collectivity and that is an egoist postion.

Part of the reason for opposing central planning and for saying there needs to be a decentralized system of participatory planning, where people as consumers and communities negotiate the social plan for production with workers, is precisely to recognize individual and community variation in what people want. It protects individual autonomy and autonomy of ethnic minorities to do this.

Although it is a mistake to think in terms of centralizing all decisions in some big national congress, there are some decisions that need to be made at that level, such as the overall structure and decisions regarding things that affect the entire society, such as self-defense against external attack, etc. But as I envision a polity, I don't envision a lot of decisions being made at that national level, but made throughout a decentralized system as I've indicated here and explained in more detail in other essays I've written. You can find a number of these essays listed on my home page: http://www.uncanny.net/~wetzel

But, again, this is a different question than my disagreement with Javier's idea that somehow a social structure could be "voluntary" and my disagreement with his objections to majority decision-making (in each venue or community),
which i believe have implicitly an individualist assumption, even if anarchists have not always understood this.

author by javierpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 06:42Report this post to the editors

I do not recognize neither democracy nor even more cosensus as giving rights. That is mere idealism to me, worthless metaphysics. I have my own morality (flawed, as all) and if i accept social institutions it is because I recognise both the need of social organization and the benefits it provides (specially if it is of a libertarian communist nature), otherwise I will fight them.

As of kdogs argument, I agree with him.

"If I am understanding Javier correctly, he is questioning Tom's view that one central "Polity" will replace the State. That this body, however delegated or democratic will have final say over all politics in whichever territory it can claim."

Yep, I beleive that (as makhno said) "Russia's revolutionary experience supplies us with objective data galore in this connection. It shows us beyond rebuttal that the proletariat was not at all homogeneous during the revolution." that is why I beleive that it will give itself lots of different organizations and positions. Instead of as Lenin acknowledging this but saying that its vanguard (the part, ruled by the chairman or wathever) should govern it dictatorially because it represents it, I say that the proletariat itself will create many different organizations and take different positions because of this heterogeneity, and we should as anarchists convince it to unite and organize solidarily in a federation of free asociatios in the basis of direct democracy (that, is the people that make the decissions are the ones affected by them, altough they can mandate comissions or persons to implement the decissions while answering to the assembly and being at all times revocable). The same could be said of the spanish revolution and every other historical example. We should strive for unity and I recognize that some organizations are natural (for example, a factory cannot be organized in two different ways by two different -base- bodies, it is obvious, but a country can, or even different pland before being part of a monopoly can, altough in both cases we should seek for unity in solidarity, freedom and democracy because it is much better, and even needed for the revolutions victory).

In the same way that I beleive that anarchists should organize not only on the basis of a vague agreement but over theoretical and tactical unity (something wich is a proccess and must be built as there is no such agreement yet between anarchists, a common organizational practice will create it between those that can be won to this positions) and strive to gain influence over the masses of the people through example and propaganda I beleive that popular organizations should answer to the same criteria (organize on the basis of common action and agreement) and where there are disagreements that they found to be big enough to justify the problems that it will bring (federalism allows for a certain degree of internal disagreement, how much is up to the people concerned because they can decide to leave the federation), split and try to cooperate where possible (an even bigger imperative if it is possible between popular organizations than between specifically anarchist ones). This is why I defend the rights both of association and of dissociation because I conceive no other alternative to it but dictatorship.

However, besides political differences I beleive that agreements will have to be worked out between different organizations unless we propose a centralized sovereign authority (beleiving that it can be both centralized, all-soverign and democratic, even libertarian, something I do not).

"To me Tom's view does seem an overly centralized conception. How will autonomy be respected? Is it realistic to think that all revolutionary forces among the oppressed will share the same organizational framework? Isn't it possible, preferable and more realistic to conceive of a multiplicity of organization and decision making replacing the state?"

That is exactly the point to me. It is unrealistic to beleive that in a revolutionary situation there can be a single organization that would express the will of all the workers (a joint UGT-CNT would have? or it would have been just the bigger one or stronger one imposing its will over the rest?, how would it keep being democratic and at the same time make collectivities in the places where people didn't want to make them? Wouldn't the majority appoint authorities over those minorities in places where the majority was a minority? what would stop those authorities from deciding over the majority over time? the way to go was to seek unity at the base, workers councils at the shopfloor and their free federation -in the libertarian sense-, a diversity of tactics and respect for worker's organizations autonomy).

The best and last guarantee of an organization's internal democracy is its voluntary nature. If I do not have other options but staying in an organization, it can be as authoritarian and anti-democratic as is possibly conceivable but i will have to live with it (and organize to fight it).

author by tpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 07:06Report this post to the editors

man there is some serious semantic arguments going down. I kinda figured this would inspire that.

Wayne- I don't mean to be unfair, but maybe I've misread Holloway? So my interpretation of "interstitial revolution" was that it meant getting rid of the insurrectionary model of revolution i.e. you can't just attack the structure of one state and expect it to disappear (namely we reproduce the state all the time as well as the fact that the state form has spread beyond the nation). That doesn't imply that we don't have to destroy that structure, it just maybe delays the point at which those attacks happen, and those attacks will take different formsin different places, etc. In otherwords I thought he was implying a different notion of revolution.

Can you give me resources to where he says it won't involve revolution? I'm totally open to being wrong here so I am genuinely curious.

I actually still don't think you necessarily disagree with him on the councils point. Whatever federation and councils refers to is either: specific (using the models of Spain, the soviets, whatever), or general. If it's general, then you think that the form will be determined by workers'/the community's making in accordance with the time and social organization they exist in (which you probably do because you're an anarchist). If that's true, then you could say if you wanted to you don't know how we'll abolish capitalism/the state without taking power since you don't know the social form it will take, that will be worked out by the workers.

It's kind of like why Marx won't talk about what the dictatorship of the proletariat looks like (well except he fucks that up a couple places in a true marxian fashion). Chomsky takes a similar position.

You could also say that you do know what it looks like: councils and federations. But when you get down to the details then it is muddier. So I don't really think its a criticism per say, it sounds like you could agree.

On the taking power semantic debate- I think taking power means taking state power. Or if you like taking power over others. That is distinct from taking power to do things. That distinction is pretty critical and I think dissolves the actual needless disagreement.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 08:01Report this post to the editors

now Javier is talking about a different subject. He is raising the issue of the various organizations that emerge within a period of social change, of social transformation, and talking about their relations. This is, again, different then the question of the social structure that is created through a process of social transformation. There are a variety of different kinds of organizations that we can envision having some role in such a process of transformation. We can think of the various political organizations or political tendencies. We can think of the various kinds of mass organizations that emerge in various areas of struggle, in workplaces, in communities. if we think of the social transformation as a process of collective self-liberation, then the oppressed need to have mass organizations they control, through which their own decisions can be made. As Left-libertarians I assume we want these to be as self-managed as is feasible. We do not envision a process of social transformation as consisting in a minority obtaining power, such as the Leninist or Marxist concept of a party taking power through a state hierarchy. A libertarian revolution needs to be a process in which the will of the majority in various organized communities is expressed through their control over mass organizations. of course there are a variety of communities and in order to have the power to effectively challenge the power of the dominating classes, these various organizations/communities need to come together into some sort of democratic alliance capable of making decisions. Because oppression has various fault lines and communities have different concerns, i would envision such a popular alliance being a venue for working out a common direction through the mutual acceptance of the concerns and demands of the various components of the alliance. So in the USA we have oppressed national or racial communities, we may have women's organizations, community organizations of various kinds and workplace based mass organizations such as unions.

But if this alliance is to be successful then it needs to take power in the sense of being able to impose its agenda for reconfiguring the economic and political structure. Now in the course of doing this, new structures for political and economic governance are created, replacing the state and capitalist economic structures. I don't understand the alleged distinction between power over people and power over things. For example, if a workplace assembly decides they will start work at 9 AM, this is a decision over people in the sense that it governs the behavior of the people. But it doesn't i imply the continued existence of a class system.

In the case of the Spanish revolution, the main mass organizations of the Spanish working class were the CNT and UGT. Working out a new arrangment that empowers the working class and begins to reconfigure the society to take power away from the dominating classes had to involve the UGT and CNT working out a common programmatic direction and setting up some economic and political governance structures. The CNT had a specific vision of what this was to look like. It was to consist of a dual governance structure of neighborhood assemblies ("free municipalities") and workplace assemblies, with each linked into federations -- regional federations of community assemblies and industrial federations linking the workplace assmblies. A fedweralist system of local assemblies, regional congresses and national congress were envisioned, with the congresses accountable to the base assemblies, and the congresses electing and instructing coordinating committees for the economy (Economics Councils) and social self-defense (Defense Councils), and a people's militia accountable to the mass working class organizations. I would probably envision things coming to pass differently in the USA in the future, but I don't think the CNT's program implied the generation of a new dominating class necessarily, depending on how it was implemented of course. The idea was for the class as a whole to take power in the sense of having the power to make the decisions in society, that is, the decisions with collective import.

Putting aside the Spanish revolution, and thinking about a new social structure, one that is, let's say, based on assemblies in workplaces and communities, and federations of these. It "has power" in sofar as it makes collective decisions over matters of collective social impact. The "level" at which we should envision a decision being made would seem to me to depend on who is primarily affected by it. That is what the idea of self-management implies, as I understand it. If this is a structure that implements self-management, then it empowers the mass of the people in that people now have control over the decisions that affect them, they have control over their own destiny, they can ensure that the economy produces the things they want/need, etc. Isn't this what it means for the working class to come to power? But if people have power to determine what is produced, where assets are allocated in the economy, that certain activities like hiring wage-slaves are not permitted and so on, then also this means power over people in the sense of power to determine behavior. But this does not imply oppression or a class system, if there is no structure that divides the society into those who conceive and make decisions, and those who work to simply carry them out, subordinated to the former.

So, there is a distinction between the structure that we create and the process and movement and organizations that participate in the process of creating that structure. If we are to create a classless society, the process of social transformation needs to be stablized in a new structure that is based on generalized self-management, so that there is no longer a basis of dominating classes. It seems to me unlikely for such a new self-managing social structure to be created and stabilized unless ideas and practices of self-management become dominate politically in the movements that are the forces in the social transformation.

author by javierpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 08:07Report this post to the editors

"Your basic confusion here is this: Either we're for the liberation of the working class or not. For the working class to liberate itself, it must eliminate the class system. To do that, it must take away the power of the capitalist and coordinator classes. This is not "voluntary". That's because these classes will not give up their power voluntarily. If you say only an arrangement that is voluntary is acceptable, then you will inevitably be accepting/accomodating continued existence of the class system, and thus the continued subordination of the working class, and with it the continued existence of the state."

To quote Soucky (quoted in red and black revolution 7):

"The collectives organised during the Spanish Civil War were workers' economic associations without private property. The fact that collective plants were managed by those who worked in them did not mean that these establishments became their private property. The collective had no right to sell or rent all or any part of the collectivised factory or workshop, The rightful custodian was the CNT, the National Confederation of Workers Associations. But not even the CNT had the right to do as it pleased. Everything had to be decided and ratified by the workers themselves through conferences and congresses."

Those are the limits that will stop capitalism from re-emerging. And they will be enforced by the working class (with the abolition of the State and private property, how would capitalists or "coordinators" force the workers into obedience and thus exploit them?) through the many organizations that it damn well pleases to give itself, if the workers favour private property then we clearly cannot socialize the economy or abolish it, but i doubt that workers will want to continue wage-slavery during a revolution and history shows that it doesn't happen but if it happened what could we do (for example, workers of a factory rejecting change and continuing following orders from a boss, out of fear of the defeat of the revolution? you cannot force people into being free, you have to convince them.

Of course it is clear that not all collectivities were in an equal position during the spanish civil war (at the start specially), that is why i advocate the socialization of the economy and the establishment of common funds and a common planing of production and sitribution, but it has to be from the bottom upwards and it is very wrong to beleive that all the working class will figure out that it is the best way to run things at the same moment. So what should we do? Either we stand still running things in a fragmentated way until everyone agrees with it or we stand still until it is the majority position and then impose it over the rest (and no tom, losing a poll is not opression, but it would take more than a poll to socialize production against the wishes of a significant minority as stalins forced collectivization shows) or, we advocate socialization of production from the base assemblies becuase it is needed, it is beneficial and it is justice and do it gradually where we can. That is what I am for because those are the alternatives, and i cannot understand any libertarian advocating other way of doing things, seriously.

"Of course there will be a variety of political tendencies present. The assemblies are open bodies, the congresses are made up of the people elected by the assemblies. But this structure will be sovereign in that it will be what re-configures the society to get rid of the class system and empower the working class. In order for a libertarian society to result, Left libertarian ideas & allies will have to be in the majority. But that does not imply the dictatorship of a particular political organization. Losing votes in a democratic body doesn't mean you're oppressed. That's a fundamental confusion of indivdiualist anarchism."

The problem is not just of the existance of tendencies, some trotskytes agree with that too (altough because of the rest of their ideas and their practice i think that during a revolution they will favour a -their- party dictatorship). In reality, in every revolution, there have been not only many political tendencies (organized and unorganized, and even to the interior of political organizations at some times) but many popular organizations too. Unity is needed but forcing it leads to catastrophic consequences (dictatorship and bureaucratization) because no single organization can represent the will of the whole people (see the critique to synthetists from the plataform for more on that). The "will" would end up being something vague and thus unoperational or it will be a dictatorship excusing itself on a farce of democracy, the farce of universal suffrage and elected representatives over a sizable minority of potentially millons of workers (and that will require rebuilding the state apparatus). It would breed forced centralization and minority rule unless we have truly voluntary organizations of a federalist and directly democratic nautre.

Imagine a revolution in Argentina. Let's suppose that Brasil invades from the north and that the majority decides to negotiate with it because its military might is too much and so Misiones (an argentinean province) is given to them. Suppose that the workers of the province of Chaco (or part of it) reject that decission and decide to support the guerrillas that are resisting in Misiones but the majority (of their organization) decides not to do it. Maybe they should accept the majority decission, but suppose they don't. Brasil threatens the majority organization (wich has expelled chaco or chacho has withdrawn from) with an invasion if it does not stop the rebels that support the guerrillas in misiones. Would it be right for the majority organization to impose its will (even if it truly is the majority position) over the minority one? That would obviously imply imposing a dictatorship in Chaco. To me that would imply a State and it is just one of the reasons that lead the bolsheviks into party dictatorship. Because if a minority can be repressed because the right policy is at odds with their actions, why the majority cannot (if you have the power and you are convinced that you will not face much opposition and so will be a soft dictatorship)? By the way, the majority can be wrong and so can all political factions, including anarchists. The same could be said of the socialization of production. Maybe cotton workers beleive that the price given to them for their work is too low and so prefer to give lower quantities? has the majority a right to decide to repress and expropiate them of the fruit of their work? I beleive that it would lead to the bureaucratization of the popular organizations. And i say it being conscious that it is not the sole fruit of their work in the same way as even their existance and development (and of course work) depended on the work of others and that it is impossible to measure an objective value of things.

"When you say this is "Lenin's" answer, you show your confusion. Lenin wasn't for the "non-party masses" having power but was for the "dictatorship of the party". Lenin and the Bolsheviks had no concept of participatory democracy or of accountability of the governance structure to assemblies at the base. I've already explained this before but you ignore what i say."

I do not remember if I ignored that commentary (or if i was leaving it for the answer i was preparing) but I must say that I disagree with you. Your argument seems to me to be the same as the one in Lenin's pamphlet The State and revolution (that is why, for example, the wsm says that much of what passes as leninism in that pamphlet is anarchism, but there was more on it that was incompatible with anarchism -and i beleive that in your proposed program too-).

That is: The working class has to establish a (i will say in your terms) polity wich will be sovereign over all but it will be controlled by them and so it won't be as the modern State.

I beleive he was honest but what he said was wrong, it was simply impossible to have an imposed centralized organization and it being democratic. A democratic dictatorship is nothing but bizarre. What you say about Lenin is true, but this is after they took over power. When the real cotradiction in their program (contradiction in the mundane sense, that is, two different things that are in opposition, and I must add, that are mutually exclusive because of the centralized all-soverign nature of this organization they propose) become impossible to ignore. I beleive they changed their ideas according to their practice. You can contradict yourself on paper, but some things are mutually exclusive in reality and so if you try to do them you will be forced to choose, they chose dictatorship.

I will add part of the answer I was writing and link towards here from the other post because having two discussions about the same subject is redundant.

here it goes:

I see you missed a paragraph in your critique, do you agree with it because it is in very concrete terms why I reject your view?

"I insist with this, the working class is heterogenous, socialization will be a proccess. it is needed and highly benefical but it won't be done at the same speed in all places and it won't take the same forms. Please, read (or re-read) Guillaume's work, look at the different kinds of "modes of production" that he talks about and how different types of work impose the need for different types of organization, more collective or less collective. I defend the socialization of the barber shops in the spanish revolution because it made sense, it was better that way. But it wasn't necessary, it was agreed democratically (and the decission was binding, in the sense that they were expected to carry it out, for those that participated in the decission and agreed with it, unless you are talking of obligatory syndication) by the syndicate (and as far as i know they didn't go take the scissors of unsyndicated working class barbers). The same with all, collective action is better but the modes of production are not like a machine, things are not like cogs in a wheel, there is room for a looser coordination and if people don't agree with a tight coordination and planification of production from the start we are not forced to impose it (altough it will help us a lot for the well being of all and for the defense of the revolution to advance in the road to greater coordination and solidarity)."

Briefly:

*Coordination and Solidarity are not only very good but vital for the success of the revolution. But, authoritarian means are incompatible with this end (both with solidarity -it will kill te revolution and breed cynism and disillusionment and thus individualism- and with coordination -centralized, top-down, chain of command organizations are inefficient-). We have other means, "the anarchist method". That is, while smashing the power of the state and of capitalism (through mass working class organizations) disgreggating the state apparatus and arming the populace we should promote the masses directly taking over the means of production and organizing their work along anarchist communist lines. At first, it will be a real mess and not very different from the current state of affairs. But the organizations already in place and those that the workers will create as they see a need for them will start from the bottom-up the planification and coordination of work (it will be almost immediatly at the shop-floor level but coordination at other levels will be implemented too as it is needed, for example, peasants will se in their benefit the creation of cooperatives fro the gathering and trasnport of the harvest and buying stuff in the cities, even buying a truck to transport the production themselves if there are not better alternatives -like a socialized train network-). We must advocate in every base assembly joining this effort because will make possible solidarity at a scale only dreamt of before and because it will allow for the mobilization of the resources needed for the defense of the revolution. That is, direct democracy and federalism while striving for the greatest degree of solidarity and coordination*

This is what I defend so keep it in mind when you answer (also, the fact that this is not my native language and all sorts of mannerisms and codes are unknown to me).

author by javierpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 08:47Report this post to the editors

I want to make a small correction: Where i say "if the workers favour private property" I mean that if they continue obeying bosses as it is clearly said a bit later in the same paragraph ("workers of a factory rejecting change and continuing following orders from a boss").

And I see you have answered and all this has become a really lenghty discussion (in great part because of me writing as if I were thinking aloud, so sorry about that and I will try to be briefier).

author by Waynepublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 11:42Report this post to the editors

(1) Kdog wants " to conceive of a multiplicity of organization and decision making replacing the state." Me too. We should be as flexible, as decentralized, and as pluralistic AS POSSIBLE. But in some things we may have to make decisions one way or another over a territory, large or small. Some procedure will have to be developed to do so. I recommend majority-vote democracy (direct when local enough, by elected people when unavoidable). For example, I am for different regions deciding on whatever form of decentralized socialism they want (Pareconist, Bookchinism, anarchist-syndicalist, etc.). But within each region (or maybe just within each commune), one system will have to be set up and tried at a time. This is coercion, not by the police but by reality. I think that this is what Tom is saying.

Javier gives other examples. He seems to imagine a situation in which different parts of the same country would decide whether to negotiate or to fight a war with an imperialist neighbor--some people fighting, some negotiating. What madness! For the sake of an abstract freedom, everyone would be killed by the imperialists! He gives other absurd examples. He is, indeed, against democracy, as he says. A minority would be able to sabotage the majority if it felt like it. This is not freedom.

(2) T says, " "interstitial revolution" ...meant getting rid of the insurrectionary model of revolution i.e. you can't just attack the structure of one state and expect it to disappear (namely we reproduce the state all the time as well as the fact that the state form has spread beyond the nation)." He again seems to be pointing out that modern imperialism has tied countries of the world closer than ever before. I do not see what his point is. That we need an international revolution is hardly a new idea. It was stated by Marx and by Bakunin. Yet the revolution will break out in one country first, replacing that country's state with a federation of communes. Then that country must try as hard and as fast as possible to spread the revolution to other countries. Otherwise it will eventually fail (the concept of the Permanent Revolution). But this new interconnectedness does not make it EASIER to change society without taking power!

The point about our reproducing the state all the time is also not very new. Anarchists at least (not so much Marxists, so this may be new to Holloway) have long pointed to the interconnectedness of the state and the authoritarianism of all other social institutions, including our sexuality, education, family system, and character structure. The way to undermine this authoritarianism is NOT to refrain from attacking the state! It is to struggle against all authoritarianism, in every area, and in every way.

T asks me, where does Holloway say that he does not advocate a revolultion? Well, actually what he says is that he does want a revolution, but he REDEFINES revolution to mean a series of reforms, gradual changes, which eventually will result in a total change (and therefore, he thinks, is a revolution even though achieved by reformism)--even though the state is never overthrown. Holloway writes,"Revolutionary change is more desperately urgent than ever, but we do not know anymore what revolution means." (p. 215) Again, he does not know!!! This does not sound to me like someone who is advocating revolution. After all, exactly WHAT is he advocating? He does not know. We do not know. No one knows. (Except that the "revolution" won't mean taking power....)

T is right in guessing that I do not have a specific plan for setting up councils: workers' councils, community councils, both, more centralized, more decentralized, etc. People will try different approaches during and after a revolution. Probably no one system will be used everywhere. So I, like Holloway, do not know either. But the comparison with Holloway is limited. I do know some things. I know that it is necessary to WARN the workers and oppressed that alternate institutions and councils ("dual power") will be attacked and smashed by the state and fascists, unless we prepare to defend ourselves. I know that the state must be smashed and replaced by some sort of council system. I know that at some point some sort of "insurrectional revolution" will be necessary, or the "interstitial revolultion" will be as dead as the industrial councils of Chile after Pinochet took over. This much I know. And Holloway denies it all.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 14:50Report this post to the editors

Javier quotes someone:

"The collectives organised during the Spanish Civil War were workers' economic associations without private property. The fact that collective plants were managed by those who worked in them did not mean that these establishments became their private property. The collective had no right to sell or rent all or any part of the collectivised factory or workshop, The rightful custodian was the CNT, the National Confederation of Workers Associations. But not even the CNT had the right to do as it pleased. Everything had to be decided and ratified by the workers themselves through conferences and congresses."

Actually, the control of the unions over industry had to be ratified not just by "the workers." The CNT's Zaragoza program held that the industrial federations and social plans had to beaccountable to the entire population. The industrial federations were just held to be "administrators" on behalf of the entire society. This accountability to the society is expressed through the governance of the economy by the social plan. I made this point in my essay "Looking back after 70 years".

A problem with the CNT's program, however, is that they envisioned the union itself as becoming the management body for industry, and this is what happened in 1936 in most places. This derives from a traditional syndicalist conception of prefigurative politics, that the self-managed unions prefigure worker self-management. This led to the idea that the union then becomes the institution for self-managment of industry.

I think this is a mistake. It led to the CNT refusing to take power in July of 1936 in Catalonia because it was objected that if the CNT ran everything, this would be a "CNT dictatorship." What they needed was to distinguish the union from the institutions through which workers manage an industry and replace the state. In the case of Catalonia as a whole, this way of thinking should have led them to the conclusion they needed to create a regional workers congress as an institution independent of the CNT, in which all the unions or mass organizations of producers would be represented, to run the region and control a unified people's militia. The unions would remain voluntary associations while the congress would be a public institution to which worker assemblies at the base would elect delegates. Since all the unions would participate, it wouldn't be a "CNT dictatorship" even if the CNT was the majority. A workers congress made most sense in the context of the revolution in Catalonia in 1936, as an initial institution they needed to create, and could have created at that time.

But overall there will be institutions that carry on economic and political governance functions in a society. There will be institutions that determine things like allocation of resources in production,
that control the setting and enforcing of whatever the basic rules are in society. These institutions are not the same as voluntary associations like clubs or unions that you can join or quit. You might be part of a movement to change the institutions. When we say we're going to replace the state with a different sort of governance structure, then we mean we expect that a certain kind of movement can bring that change about, and then we've changed a basic institution of the society, an insitution which affects the basic social structure.

"but it would take more than a poll to socialize production against the wishes of a significant minority"

It takes a mass movement with revolutionary aims. In Catalonia in 1936 there was a significant minority opposed to the worker revolution carried forward by the CNT, and the Communists organized that minority, the white collar workers, shopkeepers, lawyers, managers, officials etc. But the CNT had the backing of the working class who were the majority, and could have carried it off.

"Unity is needed but forcing it leads to catastrophic consequences (dictatorship and bureaucratization) because no single organization
can represent the will of the whole people (see the critique to synthetists from the plataform for more on that). The "will" would end up being something vague and thus unoperational or it will be a dictatorship excusing itself on a farce of democracy, the farce of universal suffrage and elected representatives over a sizable minority of potentially millons of workers (and that will require
rebuilding the state apparatus). It would breed forced centralization and minority rule unless we have truly voluntary organizations of a federalist and directly democratic nautre."

I think here you are once again not distinguishing between the diverse movement that particpates in the process of social transformation and the new institutions that are built. There can be no liberation of the working class if they don't stabilize new institutions of self-management -- workplace assemblies, efforts to redesign jobs and tasks to empower workers, neighborhood assemblies, federations of the assemblies by geography and industry, creation of a system of social planning to replace the market, and so on. You talk about "forced centralization" but this is a vague phrase. I have no idea what you mean by it. I've already described the decentralized structure of economic and political governance I would advocate, based on assemblies, local and regional congresses, national congresses, industrial and geographic assemblies and federations, participatory planning through which people as residents of communities negotiate with workers for what they want produced. Regional and national congresses that send major issues back to the base assemblies for ratification, and so on. Imposing a new set of institutions is inevitable and necessary, because you need to set up a new institutional structure for the society to institutionalize a society without class division, without a top-down state apparatus.

About Lenin:
"That is: The working class has to establish a (i will say in your terms) polity wich will be sovereign over all but it will be controlled by them and so it won't be as the modern State."

"I beleive he was honest but what he said was wrong, it was simply impossible to have an imposed centralized organization and it being
democratic. A democratic dictatorship is nothing but bizarre. What you say about Lenin is true, but this is after they took over power. When the real cotradiction in their program (contradiction in the
mundane sense, that is, two different things that are in opposition, and I must add, that are mutually exclusive because of the centralized all-soverign nature of this organization they propose)
become impossible to ignore. I beleive they changed their ideas according to their practice."

In State and Revolution Lenin didn't talk about management of industry, only the polity. He was concerned there to advocate for the soviets. But note that the Russian soviets in most cases were
highly top-down organizations in which power was centralized in the executtive committees, run by professional class party leaders. Obviously different than what I'm talking about. Russian Marxism had no concept of participatory democracy, and they advocated central planning -- obviously at odds with what I'm advocating.

Javier again:
"That is, while smashing the power of the state and of capitalism (through mass working class organizations) disgreggating the state apparatus and arming the populace we should promote the masses directly taking over the means of production and organizing their work along anarchist communist lines."

Again, you're not addressing the issue, the issue is the structure of the new society, not the movement that is working to build it. If successful, the working class must stabilize its control in
new institutions of economic and political power. It's not sufficient to take over workplaces. You have to address the basis of the power of the coordinator class, the need for a system of participatory planning to replace the market and link workplace collectives with their customers and suppliers, and a new polity, a new way to make the basic decisions about the rules in society and enforce them, rooted in the participatory democracy of the assemblies.

No doubt it is possible that different regions in a revolutionary process may favor different directions. They had that situation in Spain in 1936. That is a different question than the structure that we should be advocating for and working for. In the situation you envision about a revolution in Argentina and a potential war with Brazil, i think that rational self-interest should persuade Chaco not to try to go it alone. If not, they can be told that the rest of Argentina won't defend them if they don't adhere to the majority decision.

author by tpublication date Fri Sep 29, 2006 15:32Report this post to the editors

Wayne, I hope this isn't annoying. I think we're getting somewhere.

"Yet the revolution will break out in one country first, replacing that country's state with a federation of communes. Then that country must try as hard and as fast as possible to spread the revolution to other countries. Otherwise it will eventually fail (the concept of the Permanent Revolution). But this new interconnectedness does not make it EASIER to change society without taking power!"

I think this might be the point that seperates you from Holloway (and myself actually). One little point is that however possible it may have been to set up an autonomous revolutionary region before, now it looks dubious. So my point was just that at this time it is necessary to at least conceive of revolution in a global sense. I thought it might have been more controversial since other anarchists think in terms of more localized revolt a lot, but I'm not one of them.

The point of disagreement though is that the revolution will occur in one country and then need to spread. It could be that way, but it could be otherwise. In fact I have my own skepticism that that could work. I forsee the whole world system conspiring to crush it and keep it isolated, as you point out in the need for it to spread. I think what Holloway is getting at is that revolution might have a better chance of survival if dual-power anarchist institutions (he wouldn't put it that way) spread across wide and strategic areas so as to form a base of revolt. It may be then that revolution springs up spontaneously across wide regions in concert or even diffusely, but the way that plays out would be based on the dual power that had been built up. Now that I think about it you could agree with what I just said and it wouldn't necessarily contradict you. In fact I think this point (whether or not it starts in one place) is not really that important to anyone's argument. I doubt you would deny either that there needs to some foundation for the revolution to build off. Sorry i'm sleepy if i'm not making as much sense as I could.

"The way to undermine this authoritarianism is NOT to refrain from attacking the state! It is to struggle against all authoritarianism, in every area, and in every way."

Agreed. I guess I thought that was part of Holloway's deal: namely that as capital and the state spread throughout society the struggle itself decentralizes. It is no longer sufficient to attack the institutions, but rather the source of the reproduction of hierarchical relationships which will take time, experimentation, the build of alternate institutions. Reading and thinking this over, I'm starting to wonder about my own reading of this. For example it could be that Holloway sees these insights as particularly profound since, coming from a marxist background, all he thought of as revolution before was attacking political and economic infrastructure. Anarchists on the other hand have at least grappled with these issues for a long time. I guess I felt like it was relevant because I run into anarchists who tend to down play the other elements of overturning state power in favor of the merely attacking the state itself. As far as that lesson though there are simpler ways to teach it than Holloway :)

"I do know some things. I know that it is necessary to WARN the workers and oppressed that alternate institutions and councils ("dual power") will be attacked and smashed by the state and fascists, unless we prepare to defend ourselves. I know that the state must be smashed and replaced by some sort of council system. I know that at some point some sort of "insurrectional revolution" will be necessary, or the "interstitial revolultion" will be as dead as the industrial councils of Chile after Pinochet took over. This much I know. And Holloway denies it all."

See I didn't think he denied that stuff, but maybe I need to reread it. I just thought he emphasized additional criteria rather than denied such business *scratches head*

author by Waynepublication date Wed Oct 04, 2006 07:46Report this post to the editors

In response to T (I won't get into the Wetzel-Javier debate, especially since I agree with what Tom has been writing):
(1) We revolutionary anarchists are all for a world revolution, you bet! But does anyone deny that it will start locally first? In one region, one country, or a few countries, at first, and spread from there? I do not see much point in arguing about this.
(2) I am not for the so-called (and miscalled) "dual power" approach, meaning the alternate institution strategy. Rather than build cooperatives and free food sites (which are good in themselves, but not a strategy for changing society) we should be building institutions of struggle: unions, antiwar organizations, farmers' leagues, neighborhood organizations to fight landlords and city hall, associations of women, etc., etc. This is the "dual power" I want to see! And sure, the more there are of these, the easier to make and keep a revolution.
(3) Holloway is not for such things, and sexual freedom, etc., plus overturning the state. He says he is against focusing on the state, period. He says--the title of his book!!--that he is against the oppressed ever taking power. If you, T, are now for smashing the state and the workers and oppressed taking power (through popular councils, etc.), then we can agree.

author by javierpublication date Thu Oct 12, 2006 10:12Report this post to the editors

Too much theory for me comrades. At least for now.

I still don't think I have a clear picture of what you advocate and I do not beleive I have all the answers to the key problems myself.

Maybe time and experience will help.

Thanks for your time and efforts trying to explain your positions and criticisms.

In solidarity,

javier

author by javierpublication date Fri Oct 13, 2006 13:19Report this post to the editors

Tom, I found this article about anarchist communism

http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/anarchism/communism.html

what do you think of it? do you agree?

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Sat Oct 14, 2006 05:19Report this post to the editors

Javier,

This piece by Iain McKay exhibits exactly the confusion I talked about before. We need to distinguish the following two things:

1. The social movment and organizations that participate in changing the society -- political groups, unions, community groups, etc.

2. The new social structure that is created through the struggle for social transformation.

Membership in the first is voluntary but not in the second. It makes no sense whatsoever to say that one's being subject to a social structure is voluntary. if it is voluntary, for example, that people are not hired as wage slaves, then that means that people can be hired as wage slaves, and if they can, then you have a DIFFERENT SOCIAL STRUCTURE than one where people CANNOT be hired as wage slaves. In the first case, you have a society divided into classes, in the second case you have a society not divided into classes.

Now Iain goes on to say:

"Kropotkin's argument is based upon this difference. He recognised, along with Proudhon, that use rights replace property rights in an anarchist society. In other words, individuals can exchange their labour as they see fit and occupy land for their own use. This in no way contradicts the abolition of private property, because occupancy and use is directly opposed to private property (in the capitalist sense). Therefore, in a free communist society individuals who reject communism can use whatever land and other resources as they wish (and can use personally), exchange with others, and so on because they are not part of that society. That is why it is called
"free communism" and why Kropotkin contrasted it to authoritarian or state communism."

To say that people can exchange their labor as they see fit is to say there is a labor market, and thus a market economy. To say that people can occupy and use land as a unilateral decision is to say the community has no control over the allocation of that key resource.That means that the people with the "use right" over that land can make unilateral decisions about what it is used for, or who gets to use it. Any possession or control of any economic resource of this kind sets up a bargaining power relationship to others in the
community. And that is the basis of a market economy. Essentially Iain's comment here presupposes a market economy. It is extremely
likely in that situation that these "use rights" will quickly harden into a property system. Unilateral control over economic resources is inconsistent with the existence of a socialized economy that is accountable democratically to the entire society.

Now, contrast what Iain says here with what the main view in the CNT was in the '30s. Their view was that when the unions or industrial federations expropriate the capitalists and take over management power of a facility -- land, equipment, whatever -- they do so only as administrators for the entire society, and they must be accountable to the entire society because it is the entire society that determines allocation of that resource and what is to be done with it. That is the point to the
articulation of the social plan. Obeying what the plan dictates for use of a resource is not "voluntary" for the workers in that facility. To say that it is is inconsistent with a planned economy and therefore presupposes a market economy. And a market economy will always generate a class society.

Among the things that are allocated thru the plan are jobs -- e.g. how many people do we want working on building houses versus building health clinics? Hence it is NOT true, as Iain seems to suggest, that it is simply a question of individuals making unilateral personal decisions about what work they will be doing.

We have to keep in mind that there are many economic decisions that have collective impact. it is an individualist error to suppose that the social collectivity can be vetoed by individuals in regard to these decisions. Where people are working implies what is being produced for people. That has an impact on the people who consume the products of labor. Therefore it can't reasonably by made unilaterially by individual workers. What is the relationship between the worker and the consuer? Is it a market relationship? If so, we're back to class soicety again, inevitably.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sat Oct 14, 2006 05:42Report this post to the editors

When i say it is not a question of unilateral decisions by workers what work they will be doing, i mean that it is up to the entire society to determine what work needs doing, and therefore, what jobs there will be. Of course individuals are free to apply to be part of whatever collective or industrial self-management group they want to join, but it isn't up to them or that collective alone to determine if there will be a job for them doing that. That depends on what people want produced. And of course the workers in that industrial collective would decide if they want to accept them as a part of their work collective. And the way work is arranged is also subject to collective decisions of the workers as well.

author by javierpublication date Sun Oct 15, 2006 00:37Report this post to the editors

That letter is part of a series. Here you have the links to the rest of the letters:

http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/anarchism/property.html
http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/anarchism/proudhon.html
http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/anarchism/proudhon2.html

In the first of these links, it says:

"Those who do not wish to pool their resources are free to live outside (as happened in the collectives in Spain, for example). However, they have no means to appropriate land and resources and just possess what they actually use. For individuals to appropriate resources implies that they are physically stopping people from using any excess they own, or hiring people to do so, and only allowing others access when they agree to submit to the property owners' authority -- both of which are the germs of the state."

Sounds exactly like what happened during the spanish revolution. I do not know if the congress of Zaragoza proposed another way, but if it did, it was not put into action.

And I must say, it worked. Not because it is a perfect system but because it gave power back to the people. And the people did beleive in the possibility of organizing social life under new bases. Because of those two things a revolution was possible. Freedom, in equality and solidarity, was a reality. We can see the generalized reduction of the workday to give work to the unemployed (at the expense of the original workers salaries -and the capitalists profits of course-).

You say that "people CANNOT be hired as wage slaves" and suggest that it is because society (or the social institutions that the revolution builds) controls the allocation of all economic resources while leaving people to choose how to use them in acordance to the social plan. Am i right?

I agree with you in the former but disagree on how is wage slavery abolished. To me it is abolished because we do not recognize rights of property but of posession. Without the State to enforce it, private property becomes laughable. No one would respect it. In the same way, why would someone accept being hired for a wage by other in that conditions? If this "other" is making use of this mean of production then it can't "offer other to use it" or if it can, then it would have to be as equals because society would not tolerate it otherwise. And if it is not using it, how could he enforce that property right? There would be no state to do it, if he tries to do it alone he would be smashed by society. People can call for solidarity from the rest.

You say that "It is extremely likely in that situation that these "use rights" will quickly harden into a property system". I ask you how? Why would society accept that? I beleive that property and the state are interwinded in history, they cannot exist without the other. And I don't see no way for the creation of the state but violence.

You say "That means that the people with the "use right" over that land can make unilateral decisions about what it is used for, or who gets to use it". This is wrong, here you are confusing posession with property. If you are cultivating a plot of land with your sole labour and for your sole sustenance then it would be respected. But if you are claiming land that you are not working it would not. Even less if you try to charge people from using land wich you are not cultivating it (and if you are then you cannot lend it or you have to give it no strings attached).

The local peasants would be the ones to choose by wich criteria they shall distribute the land in open assembly (because the land could be scarce or not of equal quality). Because of that I am certain that it would be an egalitarian way, because it is the fairer one and thus will satisfy most. The mapuche redistribute land every year in their communes. It is a widespread peasant practice. People however have a great incentive to pool their lands. That is, solidarity. By mutual aid the work in the fields is much more effective and efficient, it would be the only way to get machinery for example.

If individualists have a surplus fruit of their own solitary labour in the piece of land they were allocated, they can trade it if they find someone willing to do it but the bargaining realtionship you talk about is severly limited. I think individualists would reduce their numbers in time (like they did in spain) because they would realize that the other option was better and there was no way in that situation to get privilege.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sun Oct 15, 2006 02:28Report this post to the editors

Javier, You're too fixated on the case of a peasant proprietor or "family farmer" as we say in the USA. It's necessary to look at the economy as a whole. In regard to the "individualists" in Aragon in the Spanish revolution, they were NOT allowed to simply trade with whoever they wanted. The HAD to exchange their produce with the village collective and the village collective provided them with their supplies. The village collective allocated the land to them because they were there, they had a claim to the land's use and it would have been politically a big mistake to force them to give up indidividual self-management over their own land. The peasants had a very strong attachment to their plots of land. But they were not allowed to hire people as wage labor. The village collective had the power to make rules that must be obeyed. "For example, in some collectivized villages in Aragon they banned sale of alcohol. The village collective would take any land the peasant wasn't actually working with his own labor. So the individual farmer's use right to the land was a conditional use right, a use right allocated under certain conditions from the village collective, which was initially both the political and economic governance structure in Aragon villages. Obedience to the village collective's rules was not "voluntary."

You say:
"To me [property rights] is abolished because we do not recognize rights of property but of posession."

This will be merely a verbal distinction, not a real distinction, unless we know what the social controls are, what the system of allocation is.

You write:
"In the same way, why would someone accept being hired for a wage by other in that conditions? If this "other" is making use of this mean of production then it can't "offer other to use it" or if it can, then it would have to be as equals because
society would not tolerate it otherwise. And if it is not using it, how could he enforce that property right? There would be no state to do it, if he tries to do it alone he would be smashed by society. People can call for solidarity from the rest."

People have been known to sell themselves into servitude out of desperation. In fact this is what capitalism is all about. We need to know how resources such as land, buildings, equipment, etc. are ALLOCATED in a society. "Libertarian communists" historically have failed to tell us clearly what this is.

If a new elite class emerges, a state will emerge to protect it. There will be a polity, a goverance structure, in any possible society we could create. This means a way to make binding rules for the society, to protect the revolutionary social order against attack, to decide the basic structure and the particular rules of the society, and to enforce those rules.

You write:
"You say that "It is extremely likely in that situation that these "use rights" will quickly harden into a property system". I ask you how? Why would society accept that? I beleive that property and the state are interwinded in history, they cannot exist
without the other. And I don't see no way for the creation of the state but violence."

It will harden into a property system because an elite class will have the resources, control over levers of decision-making increasingly in its hands, as a society develops into a hierarchical system again. Any possible society will have a governance structure and thus a way of enforcing the rules. If an elite class emerges, the governance structure could also evolve back towards being a state. Thus we need to make sure the new social institutions are designed to prevent a new elite class from emerging. For example, look at the Mondragon cooperatives or the Yugoslave system of "self-management." In both cases, although the worker assemblies had nominal power, in fact power was concentrated into the hands of the elite of professionals and managers.

You write:
"You say "That means that the people with the "use right" over that land can make unilateral decisions about what it is used for, or who gets to use it". This is wrong, here you are confusing posession with property. If you are cultivating a plot of land with your sole labour and for your sole sustenance then it would be respected. But if
you are claiming land that you are not working it would not. Even less if you try to charge people from using land wich you are not cultivating it (and if you are then you cannot lend it or you have to give it no strings attached)."

You need to talk about the general case of land, buildings, equipment. Suppose that a group of workers seize a coal mine and power plant where they work. Suppose they assert a unilateral right to make decisions over it. This would mean they could determine who in the region gets electric power. They could determine whether there is any investment to reduce polluting emissions. If they make unilateral decisions about the plant, that very fact sets up a bargaining power relationship with their customers & the surrounding community. They could demand more of the product of other people's labor for their electric power. They could start to accumulate wealth based on their exploitation of that resource. Do you see the problem here? The surrounding region is affected by the emissions. Their own self-management of things that affect them gives them the right to have a say in that. Consumption, including the consumption of the electricity, is part of one's life. There needs to be a means to implement self-management over consumption. This means the people who consume the electricity also need to have some say here. Does the community want to close down the coal-fired plant and replace it with less polluting electricity sources? This is a question of social investment. The allocation of use of the mine and power plant to the workers needs to fall out of a social decision, as the decision about whether to replace that plant with a less polluting electricity source is also a social decision. Social allocation also includes the remuneration that the workers receive for their work in the plant. You see, these are social questions, and you don't answer these questions by simply talking about the verbal distinction between "use rights" and "property rights." Property rights are in fact a bundle of rights and the use right to self-management is one of those rights. But the power to make unilateral decisions about use of a resource implies a property system and a market system.

You write:
"The local peasants would be the ones to choose by wich criteria they shall distribute the land in open assembly (because the land could be scarce or not of equal quality). Because of that I am certain that it would be an egalitarian way, because it is the fairer one and thus will satisfy most. The mapuche redistribute land every year in
their communes. It is a widespread peasant practice. People however have a great incentive to pool their lands. That is, solidarity. By mutual aid the work in the fields is much more effective and efficient, it would be the only way to get machinery for example."

Sure, that would normally be appropriate. But what if the community needs to take some farm land out of production on the edge of the village to build more houses or a new school? What if the larger region wants to build a railway through the farmland there?

You write:
"If individualists have a surplus fruit of their own solitary labour in the piece of land they were allocated, they can trade it if they find someone willing to do it but the bargaining realtionship you talk about is severly limited. I think individualists would reduce their numbers in time (like they did in spain) because they would realize that the other option was better and there was no way in that situation to get privilege."

But, again, you're failing to see that if a collective of workers has unilateral possession, makes unilateral decisions about a facility or resource, it is still private property, it still implies a market. I suggest looking at the more general case. It is just collective private property. And that will be the basis of a new class system.

author by javierpublication date Sun Oct 15, 2006 09:58Report this post to the editors

You are being perfectly clear and I understand you. I agree completly on the need for self-management and I know that it implies that there is a social administration of production and that it does imply that people cannot decide unilaterally about matters that affect others also. But I insist on it being voluntary, that is, we should convince the workers by example and propaganda.

If people cannot be convinced on the need for and the benefits of self-management and solidarity in a revolution then I would not be an anarchist, I would go kill myself or try to have the happiest life I could have in such -that- shit of a world. Not only I beleive it is possible but I beleive that it is the only way to stop the revolution from degenerating into a dictatorship and back into capitalism.

Look at this example. Suppose that revolution starts in the cities and in the countryside the landless peasants take over land and distribute it between all without allowing waged labour (of course, that is out of question simply because why would someone sell himself in desperation for being allowed to work land that it can work with no ones permission because the other cannot do nothing to stop him from taking it?). The cities need the products of the fields not only for their substenance but to export them and thus get the necesary stuff they don't produce (or industrialize rapidly). But the peasants ask for something in exchange for their produce, what if they don't want to give it for free or for the amount of money or products offered by the cities? Should we go confiscate it? Or should we respect them and negotiate while sending detachments of propagandists. It is quite clear that their decission affects the rest of us in the cities and thus violates our self-management. It is not only possible but historically it happened (russian revolution) and it probably would happen if a revolution starts in argentina.

If you want, think about Oil. I am so insistent with the issue of grain because half the exports of my country are grains or derivates of grains. But if we produced cars it would be the same. Suppose that the (ex-)Ford factory workers decide that they want more in return for their work than what is offered. It is crystal clear that they do not have no right to the factory because it is the fruit of generations of social labour as anarchist communists have always argued. And yes, the workers should federate and coordinate in solidarity with others production. We should be agitating on the workers assemblies striving for just that. But we cannot enter into the factories bearing guns and expulse them in the name of the social mandate because theirs is a minority position (and no, I am not proposing consense as a way of deciding things, -I favour direct democracy with plenty of debate before voting and only voting if needed- i am defending voluntary association). Because we would start with a minority, then others and then we would be trying to stop it from becoming a majority (a reactionary majority in reaction to our actions) and thus begining a dictatorship under an historical mandate (not social because by then we would be a minority and exploiting and opressing one).

I beleive the people will be revolutionary but it won't be a change made in a matter of days or homogenously. And once it starts i don't see no reason why people would try to return to capitalism (the defense from external enemies complciates it a bit but not that much as to negate the argument).

You would wait for your position to be the majority one before making this congress and socializing production? And if not, if you are initially a minority would you refrain from socializing production because the majority does not favour it?

Tom, I don't think this are anarchist confussions, I beleive them to be POSITIONS. Historical ones, that you can find in most if not all anarchists (certainly those of prominence) and in the spanish and russian revolutions.

Number of comments per page
  
 
This page can be viewed in
English Italiano Deutsch
#Nobastan3Causales: seguimos luchando por aborto libre en Chile

Front page

Μετά την καταστροφή τι;

Aufruf zur Demonstration am 2.9.2018 in Unterlüß "Rheinmetall entwaffnen – Krieg beginnt hier"

Mass protest in central and southern Iraq

Ecology in Democratic Confederalism

[Colombia] Perspectivas sobre la primera vuelta de las elecciones presidenciales de Colombia 2018

Call for Solidarity with our Russian Comrades!

8 reasons anarchists are voting Yes to Repeal the hated 8th

Comunicado de CGT sobre la Nakba, 70 años de dolores para el Pueblo Palestino

[ZAD] Les expulsions ont commencé, la zad appelle à se mobiliser

Assassinato Político, Terrorismo de Estado: Marielle Franco, Presente!

La Huelga General del 8 de Marzo, un hito histórico

A intervenção federal no Rio de Janeiro e o xadrez da classe dominante

Halklarla Savaşan Devletler Kaybedecek

Σχετικά με τον εμπρησμό

Ciao, Donato!

[Uruguay] Ante el homicidio de un militante sindical: Marcelo Silvera

[Argentina] Terrorista es el Estado: Comunicado ante el Informe Titulado "RAM"

[Catalunya] Continuisme o ruptura. Sobre les eleccions del 21D

Reconnaissance par Trump de Jérusalem comme capitale d'Israël : de l'huile sur le feu qui brûle la Palestine

Noi comunisti anarchici/libertari nella lotta di classe, nell'Europa del capitale

Luttons contre le harcèlement et toutes les violences patriarcales !

The Old Man and the Coup

Hands off the anarchist movement ! Solidarity with the FAG and the anarchists in Brazil !

URGENTE! Contra A Criminalização, Rodear De Solidariedade Aos Que Lutam!

© 2005-2018 Anarkismo.net. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by Anarkismo.net. [ Disclaimer | Privacy ]