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Anarchist Organisation not Leninist Vanguardism

category international | the left | feature author Tuesday January 24, 2006 20:58author by Wayne Price - Northeastern Federation of Anarchist-Communistsauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

A look at the debate within anarchism and with Leninism on organisation

Pro-organizational, class struggle, anarchism (including Platformism) advocates radically-democratic federations built on a revolutionary program. This is counterposed to anti-organizationalist anarchism and to the Leninist program of the centralized, monolithic, "vanguard" party.

Central to pro-organizational/class struggle anarchism is the belief that anarchists should organize themselves according to their beliefs. This particularly applies to those who agree on a program of antiauthoritarian social revolution to be carried out by the international working class and all oppressed people. They should organize a specifically anarchist voluntary association. It would be structured as a democratic federation of smaller groups

This article is followed by some subtantial replies from 'anti-organisational' anarchists.

Pro-organizational, class struggle, anarchism (including Platformism) advocates radically-democratic federations built on a revolutionary program. This is counterposed to anti-organizationalist anarchism and to the Leninist program of the centralized, monolithic, "vanguard" party.

Why an Anarchist Organization is Needed........But Not a "Vanguard Party"

Right now only a few people are revolutionary anarchists. The big majority of people reject anarchism and any kind of radicalism (if they think about it at all). For those of us who are anarchists, a key question concerns the relationship between the revolutionary minority (us) and the moderate and (as-yet) nonrevolutionary majority. Shall the revolutionary minority wait for the laws of the Historical Process to cause the majority (at least of the working class) to become revolutionary, as some propose? In that case, the minority really does not have to do anything. Or does the minority of radicals have to organize itself in order to spread its liberatory ideas, in cooperation with the historical process? If so, should the revolutionary minority organize itself in a top-down, centralized, fashion, or can it organize itself as a radically democratic federation, consistent with its goal of freedom?

Perhaps the most exciting tendency on the left today is the growth of pro-organizational, class struggle, anarchism. This includes international Platformism, Latin American especifismo, and other elements (Platformism is inspired by the 1926 Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists; in Skirda, 2002). Even some Trotskyists have noticed, “ ‘Platformism’ [is] one of the more left-wing currents within contemporary anarchism....” (International Bolshevik Tendency, 2002; p. 1)

Central to pro-organizational/class struggle anarchism is the belief that anarchists should organize themselves according to their beliefs. This particularly applies to those who agree on a program of antiauthoritarian social revolution to be carried out by the international working class and all oppressed people. They should organize a specifically anarchist voluntary association. It would be structured as a democratic federation of smaller groups. Such an organization would put out political literature and work to spread its ideas. With programmatic and tactical unity, members would participate in broader, more heterogeneous, associations, such as labor unions, community organizations, antiwar groups, and--when they arise in a revolutionary period--workers’ and community councils. Such anarchist organizations would not be “parties,” because they would not aim at achieving power for themselves. They would seek to lead by ideas and by example, not by taking over and ruling the popular organizations, let alone by taking state power.

This approach (which I have just summarized in a very condensed fashion) has been attacked from two sides. On one side are anti-organizational anarchists (including individualists, primitivists, and “post-leftists,” among others). At most these accept local collectives, with, perhaps, only the loosest of associations among them (a “network”). They have denounced pro-organizational anarchism as an attempt to build new authoritarian, essentially Leninist, parties. Real Leninists have also denounced it because it is not Leninist. The only extended work by Leninists on the subject (Platformism & Bolshevism, by the Trotskyist I.B.T., 2002) declares that there is “a political chasm between the 1926 Platform and Bolshevism.” (p. 2) Platformists, it says, are “too anarchist for Bolsheviks, too ‘Bolshevik’ for anarchists” even though “the extent of the Platformists’ break from their libertarian heritage is often overestimated by their anarchist critics....” (p. 3) The only solution, the authors claim, is to embrace the Leninist centralized vanguard party and the dictatorial workers’ state. Anti-organizational anarchists and Leninists are both agreed that a radically-democratic, nonauthoritarian, and federated revolutionary organization is not possible.

Trotskyists point out that anarchist movements have consistently failed to achieve a free society. The only successful revolutions, they claim, has been those led by Leninist-type parties. The obvious anarchist rejoinder is that such Leninist “successes” have resulted in monstrous totalitarian states which have murdered tens of millions of workers and peasants. Anarchists wish to overthrow capitalism without ending up with such “success.” (Also, all varieties of Leninism have completely failed to achieve Marx’s and Lenin’s main goal of working class revolutions in the industrialized, imperialist, countries.) Still, this raises a valid question: how can anarchism avoid repeating its history of failure and defeat? How can we, without creating Stalinist-type states, overthrow world capitalism? Pro-organizational anarchism was developed precisely to deal with this problem.

There are similar disputes about forming organizations among libertarian (or autonomist) Marxists as there are among anarchists. It was apparently an issue in the split between C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya. It has been an issue in the Council Communist movement, with different theorists having different views. In the Socialisme ou Barbarie grouping in France after World War II, there was a split between Cornelius Castoriadis, taking a pro-organizational position, and Claude Lefort, who took the anti-organizational position. S. ou B.’s British co-thinkers in Solidarity, such as Maurice Brinton, took a pro-organizational stance.

In the rest of this essay, I will review the anarchist arguments for some sort of political organization, including the historical debate between the anarchist-syndicalists and the anarchist-communists. I will then review an anarchist critique of the Leninist party. I will go over the Russian revolution to demonstrate that the necessity of Leninist centralization is a myth. The Bolshevik Party led the Russian revolution when the Bolsheviks were most like an anarchist federation.

the anarchist revolutionary political organization

Many anarchists seem to think that the day will come when most people will see the worthlessness of authoritarian society. All together, like one person, at one moment, they will open their eyes to their alienation, stand up, and take back their society. This view is sometimes called “spontaneism.” Unfortunately things do not work that way. In general, over the long haul, people become radicalized heterogeneously. In conservative times, people become revolutionary by ones and twos. As things become more radicalized, by groups and clusters. Then, as things move into a period of radicalization, layers become revolutionary. Finally, in periods of upheaval, whole populations rise up. But many or most newly radicalized people have not thought out their goals or strategies. They ted to be full of energy but to be confused and uncertain until they can sort out their ideas through experience. It is easy in these periods for reformists to mislead them back to the old ways, or for authoritarian groups to set up new rulers. This has been demonstrated by the whole dismal history of post World War II revolutions in Europe and the “Third World.” More recently we have seen the unhappy results of the Iranian revolution which put the ayatollahs in power, or the case of Argentina, in which mass upheavals only produced a slightly more left capitalist regime (but the struggles in Argentina and the rest of Latin America are not over).

As groupings and layers of working people and others become radicalized, they have the chance to organize themselves to effectively spread their ideas among the rest of the (not-yet-radicalized) population. This does not contradict the self-organization of the whole oppressed population. It is an integral part of that self-organization.

Many groups will organize along authoritarian lines (either reformist or for a revolutionary new rulership). That is bound to happen, since authoritarianism is what we know. But there is a chance that some will organize themselves in libertarian, equalitarian, and cooperative directions--that is, become anarchists or other antiauthoritarians. This is vitally important if we are not to repeat the disastrous history of defeat of workers’ revolutions.

A political organization will help antiauthoritarians to talk with each other, educate each other, develop their theory, their tactics and strategy, their analysis of what is going on and what to do about it, and their vision of what a socialist society could look like. They can discuss what they have learned from other people and what they can offer to teach others. Being part of an organization can help them resist the conservatizing and demoralizing influence of the rest of society. Something like what the anarchist Paul Goodman meant, “It is enough to find-and-make a band, two hundred, of the like-minded, to know that oneself is sane though the rest of the city is batty.” (1962; p. 17)

The issue here is the relationship between the minority which has come to revolutionary conclusions, and the majority which, most of the time, is nonrevolutionary--except in revolutionary periods. (That the majority has become revolutionary is what, by definition, makes a period revolutionary!) Spontaneist and anti-organizational anarchists do not see this as an issue; they deny that it exists. To them, even talking about a revolutionary minority means being authoritarian. They live in a world of denial. It is only possible to counter dangers of authoritarianism if we admit that it may arise out ot the split between a revolutionary minority and the majority. Pro-organizational anarchism is a way of dealing with this split, of overcoming it through practical politics, a way which is distinct from Leninism.

A revolutionary anarchist federation will have two interwoven tasks, within the larger popular organizations. One is to fight against all the authoritarian organizations that will inevitably arise: Stalinists, social democrats, liberals, fascists, etc. All these will try to undermine the workers’ self- confidence, the people’s initiative. We will argue against these groupings, fight against them, and encourage the workers, women, racial and national minorities, etc. to have confidence in themselves, to take power for themselves, to rely on themselves and not on any saviors from above.

The other, intertwined, task is to make alliances with whatever individuals and groups we can--with anyone going in our direction. No one has all the answers. For example, in the huge society of North America, it is unlikely that just one (“vanguard”) organization will have all the best militants and all the right ideas. Revolutionary anarchists should be prepared to make united fronts with whatever groups develop in an antiauthoritarian direction.

Many of these issues were raised during the 1907 International Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam. About 80 anarchists attended from all over Europe, North and South America and elsewhere, including most of the best-known figures of the time, such as Emma Goldman. Among other topics discussed, Pierre Monatte, a French anarchist-syndicalist, urged anarchists to go into the unions [syndicates], to help to organize and build them. He argued that this was the way for anarchists to break out of their small-circle isolation, their participation in pointless rebellions and (for a few) in terrorism. It was a way, he declared, for anarchists to make contact with workers and to participate in their lives and struggles.

Speaking against him was the Italian anarchist-communist Errico Malatesta. (These labels are misleading, since the anarchist-syndicalists agreed that their goal was anarchist-communism, while the anarchist-communists agreed that unions were valuable.) He agreed that it was important for anarchists to participate in unions. But he objected to the implicit notion that anarchists should, in effect, dissolve themselves into the unions. This was dangerous, he warned, because the unions, by their very nature, had to attract workers with a wide variety of levels of consciousness, conservatives and state-socialists as well as anarchists. Meanwhile the job of the unions was to negotiate better working conditions and pay under capitalism, so long as there was not a revolutionary situation. That is, the unions had to adapt both to the more conservative consciousness of the majority of its members and to the practical necessities of the capitalist marketplace. Therefore, Malatesta and others concluded, anarchist workers needed to also organize themselves into specifically anarchist organizations, to fight for anarchist ideas. They would work inside and outside of unions, dealing not only with union issues but with every struggle against oppression in every class.

(Remarkably, many leftists know in detail about Lenin’s debate with the “Economists” --Marxists who wanted to focus only on labor union organizing--as summarized in Lenin’s What is to be Done? But they know nothing about the Malatesta-Monatte debate which covered much of the same ground. Thus the I.B.T. Trotskyists note, with apparent surprise, “...Platformists have a record of participating in struggles to extend and defend democratic rights....This demonstrates a relatively sophisticated understanding of the operation of the capitalist state and is congruent with Lenin’s [What is to be Done?]....” [2002, p. 14])

Monatte was correct about the value of anarchists joining the unions. By this approach, anarchists broke out of their isolation and achieved a large influence among workers and others. But Malatesta was also right. The once-militant French syndicates (the C.G.T.) became more and more conservatized. All that the top union bosses kept of their original anarchism was a desire to keep the unions separate from the socialist parties. When World War I broke out, the French syndicates endorsed the war and the government. Monatte went into opposition to the union bureaucracy and its pro-imperialism.

Spanish anarchist-syndicalists were aware of what happened in France and saw similar tendencies in the Spanish syndicates (the C.N.T.). Unlike the French anarchist-syndicalists, the Spaniards organized themselves into a specifically anarchist federation, the F.A.I., within the C.N.T. They were able to beat back the reformist bureaucratic trend (and later the Communists). Whatever its eventual mistakes, in this area the F.A.I. remains an example for pro-organizational anarchists.

the Leninist party

As is well known, the concept of the party is key to Leninism. It has been put in various terms. The central document of Trotskyism (a variant of Leninism) is Trotsky’s 1938 “Transitional Program.” It’s first sentence--and fundamental concept--is, “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” (1977, p. 111) That is, the main problem is not the conservatism of the mass of working people, because from time to time in this era workers and oppressed people have risen up against capitalism. The problem is that the social democrats, liberals, Stalinists, and nationalists, are the respected, established, leaders. These elitists lead the workers into some version of the same old oppression. What is needed, then, is to build a new leadership, a party committed to a revolutionary program in word and deed, which can win the support of the majority of the workers and oppressed.

The advantage of this conception is that it tells the revolutionary minority to not blame the workers for the failure of the revolution. This does not deny that the nonrevolutionary consciousness of most workers is a problem. But there is no point in bemoaning the “backwardness” of the majority, any more than there is in romanticizing the workers. The decay of capitalism will repeatedly push the working class to rebel. The job of the revolutionary minority is to develop its own theory, analysis, strategy, tactics, and actual practice.

The disadvantage of this conception of leadership is that it lends itself to seeing the leadership as the all-important thing. The task becomes to replace the bad leaders with the good leaders, the bad parties with the good party: the party with the right ideas. Instead of focusing on arousing the people, encouraging their independence and self-reliance, the implication is that all they need is to put the right leadership in power. At its worst, the party becomes a substitute for the working class.

Leninists conceive of their party as a centralized organization--under “democratic centralism.” This is based on their vision of socialism, which they understand to be a centralized economy managed by a centralized state. A centralized party is necessary to achieve this and, once achieved, to run the centralized statified economy. In theory the state and party are to “wither away” (someday), but the economy will remain centralized--and on a world scale, no less. The very idea is a bureaucratic nightmare.

“Centralization” is not just coordination, unification, or cooperation. Centralization (“democratic” or otherwise) means that everything is run from a center. A minority is in charge. As Paul Goodman put it, “In a centralized enterprise...authority is topdown. Information is gathered from below in the field and is processed to be usable by those above; decisions are made in headquarters; and policy, schedule, and standard procedure are transmitted downward by chain of command....The system was devised to discipline armies; to keep records, collect taxes, and perform bureaucratic functions; and for...mass production.” (1977, p. 3, 4) This is the basic model of capitalist society, and the Leninist party maintains it. This is the capitalist state in embryo, the capital/labor relationship in practice.

To be sure, an anarchist federation also has a degree of “centralization,” that is, specific bodies and individuals are assigned specific tasks by the whole membership. These central groupings are elected and are recallable at any time, with a rotation of tasks among members. By definition, a federation balances centralization with decentralization, with--among anarchists--only as much centralization as is absolutely needed, and as much decentralization as is maximally possible.

Among Leninists, the centralized party is justified philosophically. The party supposedly knows the Truth, knows “scientific socialism.” The party is considered the embodiment of Proletarian Consciousness. Proletarian consciousness is not what the proletariat actually believes but what it should believe, what it must believe, which only the party knows for sure. Therefore the party has nothing to learn from anyone outside the party. The leadership of the party is presumably the most knowledgeable about the truth. Therefore the party must be centralized, with a stable central leadership. It takes up “the bright man’s burden” (Landy, 1990, p. 5). The party--or its top leadership-- is the “vanguard.”

I do not wish to quibble about definitions of words, when it is the concepts which matter. There have been anarchists who have used the word “vanguard” to describe themselves. They used the term to signify that they were on the cutting-edge of political thinking, the most extreme revolutionaries, the left of the left. They used “vanguard” as artists use the French term “avant-garde,” those in the forefront of new ideas. But “vanguard” has come to mean not only a group which has its own ideas, the revolutionary minority. It has come to mean those who think they have all the answers and therefore have the right to rule over others. This is what anarchists reject.

For example, the I.B.T. pamphlet argues that the Bolsheviks were right to maintain a one-party dictatorship in the early Soviet Union (when Lenin and Trotsky were in power). This is true, they say, even though the majority of the workers (let alone most peasants) no longer supported them. If they had permitted free votes to the soviets, the workers and peasants would have voted them out, electing Left Social Revolutionaries (populists), Mensheviks (reform socialists), or anarchists. These would have, they claim, capitulated to capitalism and permitted the rise of a proto-fascism. Whether or not this was true, the Trotskyists justify the rule of a minority party dictatorship, because the party knew what was best for the people. However, this approach did not lead to socialism, but to Stalinism, the counterrevolution through the party. Stalinism was almost as brutal a totalitarianism as was Nazism. According to the I.B.T. pamphlet, the Bolshevik party was no longer revolutionary by 1924, not that long after the 1917 revolution. Therefore, I conclude, it would have been better for the Bolsheviks to have stuck to the revolutionary democracy of the original soviets, even if they were voted out of power. Nothing could have been worse than what happened.

the myth of the Bolshevik revolution

It is widely believed that the Russian revolution proves the need for a centralized, topdown, Bolshevik-type of vanguard party. Without that sort of party, it is said, there would not have been a socialist revolution. Therefore we need to build that kind of party today. This argument is mostly mythological.

Lenin, in exile in Europe, had built a centralized body of professional cadre, but they did not at all control the actual rank-and-file of the Marxist movement in the Russian Empire. The socialist movement was affected by Czarist repression plus internal factionalism, of which the Bolshevik-Menshevik split is only the best known. Murray Bookchin summarized, “The Bolshevik Party...was an illegal organization during most of the years leading up to the revolution. The party was continually being shattered and reconstituted, with the result that until it took power it never really hardened into a fully centralized, bureaucratic, hierarchical machine. Moreover, it was riddled by factions...into the civil war.” (1986, p. 220)

Similar points were made by Hal Draper, an authority on Marx and Lenin, “...The preliminaries for a mass party had taken shape in Russia in the form not of sects but of local workers circles, which remained loose and founded loose regional associations...The membership organizations in Russia were local and regional party groups which might be part Bolshevik and part Menshevik in sympathy, or might shift support from one to the other from time to time, etc. Every time a ‘party congress’ or conference was held, each party group had to decide whether to attend this one or that one, or both.....Individual party members in Russia, or party groups, might decide to distribute Lenin’s paper or the Menshevik organ or neither--many preferred a ‘non-faction’ organ such as Trotsky put out in Vienna; or they might use in their work those publications of the Bolsheviks which they liked plus those of the Mensheviks and others, on a freewheeling basis.” (1971, pp 7-8)

The role of the Bolsheviks in the actual overthrow of the capitalist Provisional Government has been carefully studied by Alexander Radinowitch (1976, 1991). By studying the early memoirs of Bolshevik activists and reading the Bolshevik newspapers of the time, he concluded that “...the near-monolithic unity and ‘iron discipline’ of the Bolshevik Party in 1917 were largely myth....” (1991, pp. viii-ix) The party’s Central Committee was unable to control the many regional and local organizations, and usually did not try to. Even in the central locations of the two main cities of Petrograd and Moscow, there were relatively autonomous Bolshevik bodies which put out their own papers and made their own immediate policies. On the Central Committee there were strong-willed militants who fought for their views, sometimes ignoring party discipline. Meanwhile the party had opened itself to tens of thousands of new worker members, who shook things up considerably. When Lenin returned to Russia, he relied on these new rank-and-file members to overrule the conservative policies of the Old Bolsheviks. Rabinowitz concluded that these “decentralized and undisciplined” (p. ix) divisions caused some difficulties, but overall they were vitally useful. “...The Bolsheviks’ organizational flexibility, their relative openness and responsiveness...were to be an important source of the party’s strength and ability to take power.” (1991, p. xi)

The creation of the centralized, monolithic, party came after the Revolution, during the civil war against the counterrevolutionary Whites. When the civil war was over, in 1921, they put down the revolt at the Kronstadt naval fortress and defeated internal party oppositions--both of which had called for more working class democracy. Lenin persuaded the Bolsheviks (now renamed the Communist Party) to ban all internal caucuses and factions (Trotsky agreed). “...The Bolsheviks tended to centralize their party to the degree that they became isolated from the working class.” (Bookchin, 1986, p. 221) The party became even more bureaucratic and internally repressive with the victory of Stalin in 1924 and thereafter.

The Bolshevik Party made the Russian revolution when the party was most like an anarchist federation! The centralized, monolithic, party was not the party of the revolution but the party of counterrevolution. The authoritarian Leninist parties which made the Chinese, Vietnamese, Yugoslavian, and North Korean revolutions were modeled on the party of the Stalinist Soviet Union. Mao and others wanted a party that would create a similar, state capitalist, totalitarian, regime.

There is another mythological aspect of the usual image of the Russian revolution and the Bolshevik Party. This is the concept that it is the Bolsheviks on their own who overthrew the Provisional Government. This is not true. The original seizure of power was carried out by a united front of the Bolshevik Party, the Left Social Revolutionary Party, and the anarchists. The Bolsheviks played a leading role because of the weaknesses of the other two groupings, but they could not have done it alone. The Left Social Revolutionaries (or Left SRs) were the heirs of Russian peasant populism, with a libertarian socialist program. Unlike the Bolsheviks, they had support among the peasants. Their weakness was their entanglement with the right wing of the SR party, which they were only then (1917) splitting from. The anarchists were active in the main cities and in many industries. The anarchist-syndicalists were important in building the factory councils. Unfortunately the anarchists were divided into various tendencies and were out-organized by the political parties. (The anarchist-syndicalists seem to have been better organized than the anarchist-communists, in terms of putting out a distinct paper and making their views popularly known.)

The Left SRs and the anarchists agreed with the Bolsheviks on the need to overthrow the bourgeois Provisional Government and to replace it with the soviets. They all cooperated in the military committee, led by Trotsky, which overturned the Provisional Government. The Left SRs then made a joint government with the Bolsheviks in the soviets. The anarchists participated in the soviets and generally supported the Left SR-Bolshevik policies. The end of this united front was a major step toward one-party dictatorship by the Communists. (How this developed is too messy to go into here.) In 1921, besides outlawing internal caucuses inside the Communist Party, Lenin and Trotsky also demanded the final outlawry of all other parties, no matter how much they might be willing to support socialism. The monolithic, one-party, centralized dictatorship had been created, even though it went through a few more stages before Stalin had it completely nailed down. But that was not how the revolution had been made.


Whatever its achievements, anarchism has repeatedly failed to create a free cooperative society. Revolutions influenced by anarchists have been defeated, or “succeeded” by being taken over by the statists. Now there is a new upsurge of anarchism on a world scale. A large section of militants look to the pro-organizational/class struggle trend within historic anarchism, as expressed by Malatesta, the Platformists, the F.A.I., and the especifistas. Some of us also look to the pro-organizational trend in autonomist Marxism. We advocate democratic federations organized around a program of international revolution by the working class and all oppressed. Anti-organizational anarchists denounce this as creating Leninist-type parties. Whatever their desires, in practice anti-organizatonalists abandon effective anarchist organizing against capitalism and the state. Meanwhile, Leninists build parties which re-create the centralized, leader/led split of statified capitalism. They propagate a false, authoritarian, image of how the Russian revolution was achieved. We, however, still believe that the emancipation of the working class and oppressed is the task of the workers and oppressed themselves. We believe that the formation of revolutionary anarchist federations is part of the self-organization of those oppressed and exploited by capitalism. That self-organization remains the key to human liberation.

Written for


Bookchin, Murray (1986). Post-scarcity anarchism, 2nd ed. Montreal: Black Rose Books.
Draper, Hal (1971; photocopied, undated). “Toward a New Beginning.” Reorient Papers No. 3.
Goodman, Paul (1962). Drawing the line; A pamphlet. NY: Random House.
Goodman, Paul (1965). People or personnel, Decentralizing and the mixed system. NY: Random House.
International Bolshevik Tendency (2002). Platformism and Bolshevism. I.B.T. pamphlet.
Landy, Sy (1990). Foreword. In Walter Daum. The life and death of Stalinism. NY: Socialist Voice Publishing. Pp. 3--6.
Rabinowitch, Alexander (1976). The Bolsheviks come to power; The revolution of 1917 in Petrograd. NY: W.W. Norton.
Rabinowitch, Alexander (1991). Prelude to revolution: The Petrograd Bolsheviks and the July 1917 uprising. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Skirda, Alexandre (2002). Facing the enemy. (P.Sharkey trans.). Oakland, CA: AK Press.
Trotsky, Leon (1977). The transitional program for socialist revolution. NY: Pathfinder Press.

author by ivanpublication date Mon Jan 23, 2006 20:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

there are some good informations too on FdCA's website and in particular the documents:

-Anarchist Communists: A Question of Class
-The Political Organization
-The Mass Organization (clic on "english")

author by Sean S.publication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 03:26author email thegreatwildebeest at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Anti-organizational anarchists and Leninists are both agreed that a radically-democratic, nonauthoritarian, and federated revolutionary organization is not possible."

I think this is an attempt to smear those who are not supportive of the platformist "tradition" by lumping us in with Leninists. If anti-organization anarchists disagree with platformists its because they feel there is nothing "democratic" and "non-authoritarian" about a strong federated presence, and that for all purposes a strong federated prescence is nothing but a disguised vanguard.

The spontanaism you criticize, that tact of which most insurrectionalists (wolfi, alfredo bonnano, et all) support, don't necessarily think that somehow the world will just wake up one day and "Revolution" will happen. In fact the concept of one revolution, or some sort of epoch defining moment is usually derided in insurrectionary circles. The POINT of insurrectionalism is that there is always a festering below the surface of society, that when exposed in insurrectionary moments, can turn into full scale revolution, regardless of the inputs of either anarchists or anyone else. We cannot control these moments anymore than the capitalists can, and any attempt to strongly control them will lead to the usual authoritarian vanguard methods. We can only give people the tools and the ideas to liberation; we can't do it for them, nor can we always win it.

One of the good points I think this article makes is about the fact that, not long after the Russian Revolution, the Leninists had eaten themselves into becoming authoritarians, in great fear of supposedly "losing". I think this is a a sentiment lost on most platformists and organizationalists, who I view, have a distinct record of trying to make sure no one messes up their precious anarchist mileu, complaining about the influence of anyones ideas but their own, and claiming that others (in descending order of hatred: primitivists, insurrectionalists, post-leftists etc) are sabotaging the revolution (read: THEIR revolution). It's why anarcho-communists will form united fronts with liberal and reformist groups, and write apologetics how thats necessary to interact with the "masses", but then tell anyone else outside of their perspective in anarchy to go take a hike. I think some sort of bridging must go on, face to face (the internet leads much to easily to venom) between collectives in the various tendencies (or individuals in the case of individualists).

I doubt any sort of real consensus could be reached, and certainly I don't expect primitivists to all of a sudden join NEFAC or rank and file union workers rush out into the forest. But atleast a certain amount of toleration above what is going on now.

author by Flint - NEFACpublication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 05:44author email flint at nefac dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

This has been demonstrated by the whole dismal history of post World War II revolutions in Europe and the “Third World.” More recently we have seen the unhappy results of the Iraqi revolution which put the ayatollahs in power.

Certainly, Wayne means the Iranian Revolution.

In Iraq, failures of the movement put the Ba'athists in power.

author by Waynepublication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 06:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1) Thanks to Ivan for giving some references on this topic.

2) Sean claims that I am attempting to “smear” anti-organizationalist anarchists by “lumping us in with the Leninists.” He asks for “toleration,” implying that I am being intolerant. I appreciate that he has taken time to respond to my little essay. However, what I am trying to do is exactly what he calls for in his title, having a needed “debate.” I do not criticize anyone’s motives, neither the anti-organizationalists nor the Leninists. I openly and honestly discuss real differences on the left. What is wrong with that?

3) The Leninists and the anti-organizationalists ARE agreed on a key point: the only possible kind of revolutionary organization is an authoritarian, centralized, one. But they draw different conclusions from this. The Leninists conclude that, therefore, in order to make a revolution they need to build an authoritarian, centralized, revolutionary organization. The anti-organizationalists conclude that, therefore, they must not build any kind of revolutionary organization (since it would inevitably become authoritarian and centralized). Sean makes clear that this is his opinion too. We pro-organizational, class struggle, anarchists (who draw on more than only the Platformist tradition, as I make clear) reject the common premise. We think that it is possible to have a radically-democratic, federated, revolutionary anarchist organization. (This opinion does not settle the question, but clarifies what we are arguing about.)

4) Sean charges that pro-organizationalists are full of “hatred” (including for insurrectionalists, whom I did not mention), have a “distinct record” of trying to dominate, slander others as “sabotaging,” are willing to form alliances with liberals but not with anti-organizational anarchists, display “venom” and a lack of “toleration.” Granted that he does not have much space to provide some evidence for these charges (such as in my essay), he does not seem to be showing much of a tolerant attitude himself.

5) I agree with Sean that “We can only give people the tools and the ideas to liberation; we can't do it for them, nor can we always win it,” with two caveats. First, I do not agree with this distinction between “we” and “people.” This assumes an outsider role. We are (should be) part of the working and oppressed people who may participate in insurrections. The self-organizataion of anarchists is part of the people’s self-organization.

6). Secondly I find this remark too relaxed about not winning revolutions. The fact is that the people have been defeated again and again. Anarchism has been defeated again and again. The working people have NEVER won a libertarian socialist revolution. This is a problem, don’t you think? Especially since the world seems to be going downhill to ecological catastrophe under statified capitalism! We pro-organizational/ class struggle anarchists feel that something can be done to prevent further defeats. We do not accept that out “inputs” make no difference. Maybe we are wrong, but at least we are working on it. What strategy is proposed by the anti-organizationalists (“primitivists, insurrectionists, post-leftists, etc.”)?

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (Personal Capacity)publication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 07:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I basically agree with Wayne's remarks here.

The consciousness of the working class at present is contradictory and heterogeneous in the sense that only a minority have developed a vision of a post-capitalist future and some ideas about how to work towards changing things in that direction. A much greater proportion of the working class must come around to such conclusions and come to support a revolutionary direction for it to become a real option. This presupposes building mass movements/organizations & their struggles which can give people a greater sense of their potential power. The development of power to make changes helps more people to see the potential for changing things. Revolutionaries therefore have a role as organizers and activists in helping to build mass organizations that empower ordinary people. An aspect of authoritarian socialist ideology is the idea of the vanguard as managers of the movement, as those who are to make the decisions. This prefigures the consolidation of a new technocratic ruling class.

Thus it is also part of the role of theleft-libertarian revolutionary organization to work against this, thru support for measures that develop decision-making control, self-confidence, knowledge and leadership skills among rank-and-file participants. We can't leave this to chance. People cannot "spontaneously" liberate themselves because they have a spontaneous tendency to fall back into the habits that are bred into people from life under class society, with other people making the decisions, with concentration of decision-making & education into minorities of professionals & managers.

Part of this is working to develop rank-and-file self-management of struggles and mass organizations, such as workplace and community organizations. The experience of self-managing their own struggles and organizations is an important part of the consciousness-raising among the bulk of the population.

A problem with the anarcho-communists in the Russian revolution was that they had no strategy of mass movement/organization building. They obsessed about the small group expropriation tactic -- seizing buildings for example -- which was a form of "propaganda by the deed." The syndicalists and the Ukrainian libertarian communists, on the other hand, did have a concept of building mass organizations.

Before World War I the concept of political organization among the syndicalists was mainly the loose network around a newspaper. Only after the experience of the Russian revolution did some begin to develop the concept of a more disciplined type of political organization. An important example was the Turin Libertarian Group who were able to exert considerable influence in the large shop council movement in Turin after WWI. Of course the FAI in Spain is another example, altho the FAI was not unified in its ideas but was merely a loose network of caucuses in the CNT unions.

author by Sean S.publication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 07:36author email thegreatwildebeest at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

The venom I talk about can be seen not too long ago of an article that lambasted primitivism on Anarkismo, the hostility of many platformist group literature (NEFAC's magazines, etc) to primitivist and "lifestylist" (Bookchin's word, not mine) anarchism. This is not to say primitivists (as one can surmise from reading any issue of Green Anarchy or Species Traitor) play particuarly nice, nor does Bob Black and other post-left critiques make too many friends in platofrmist crowds. Hell, not that long ago a piece talking about the end of a federated anarchist organization (FRAC or something similar I believe) specifically pointed out the supposed culprits of intellectual decriptude in the anarchist mileu: namely Green Anarchy, Infoshop, Crimethinc, and the positions that they endorse or hold (which are often primitivist, insurrectionary, or post left). Green Anarchy turned right around and shot back with an article saying "What If Started A Federation of Anarcho-communists and No One Gave A Shit?". Clearly the hostility is very alive.

As for the lack of criticism of insurrectionalists, you took that on with the criticism of spontanaeity, a criticism most often lodged at insurrectionalists (the not so nice version of that criticism being an obsession with nihilistic romanticism). Maybe you should expand more on your criticism of spontanaeity and your thoughts on insurrectionalism.

Obviously I agree that victory, or at the least, a radical reconfiguring of the current upperhand of capitalist hegemony is vitally necessary. What I was criticizing was the obssession on "victory at any cost", a hallmark of Leninist and other authoritarian political tendencies. Winning "at any cost", when that means purges, marginalization, and the autocrazation of a movement, is worse than losing in a libertarian manner. And it's not that I think inputs from anarchists are worthless, simply that anarchists cannot control the outcome anymore than capitalists really can either. And when I say control, I don't mean influence or involvement, but I mean control in the autocratic sense, of being a vanguard.

Obviously anti-organizationalists are a diverse bunch and don't agree on everything. Primitivists and post-leftists don't always get along, nor do insurrectionalists and primitivists (the argument between Wolfi and Zerzan indicates the scope of disagreemeent, parrticuarly on technology and its uses, and the extent of the destruction of civilization). Obviously primitivists believe in the destruction of technological civilization, and a return to a band or tribal form of life based around hunter gatherer methods (whether this is right or wrong is beyond my scope to argue right now). Insurrectionalism tend to be supportive of worker councils, seeing as they are borne out of the Situationist inspired revolt of 68 in the France, but with a focus towards a redistribution of not just wealth, but a reconfigurement of the very production/consumer mode of life in its totality. Post-left is probably the vaguest tendency, a wild west of various odd balls and misfits (Bob Black, Hakim Bey) who tend to have a post-modern, anti-workerist, everyday life critique influenced, again, by the Situationists alot. I'm sure you aware of the many primitivist magazines and thinkers, but I could refer to Killing King Abacus, Alfredo Bonnano, Wolfi Landriescher(may be incorrect spelling, just look for Wolfi and Insurrectionalism) for insurrectionalism. Post-left is usually regarded as Bob Black, Hakim Bey, the people over at Anarchy: A Journal Of Desire Armed, and Fifth Estate. To be honest I couldn't expound on all the various tendencies if I tried, and I'm not particuarly affiliated with all of them well enough to sit here and defend them in writing.

author by Chuck0 - Infoshoppublication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 08:08author email chuck at mutualaid dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"3) The Leninists and the anti-organizationalists ARE agreed on a key point: the only possible kind of revolutionary organization is an authoritarian, centralized, one. But they draw different conclusions from this. The Leninists conclude that, therefore, in order to make a revolution they need to build an authoritarian, centralized, revolutionary organization. The anti-organizationalists conclude that, therefore, they must not build any kind of revolutionary organization (since it would inevitably become authoritarian and centralized)."

Speaking for myself, I don't see how anti-organizationalists see the "only possible kind of revolutionary organization is an authoritarian, centralized, one." Some of them may see any form of organization as alienating and therefore a barrier to human liberation. "Fake Makhno" used to make this argument on Infoshop News often. I think that the question of alienation is an important one. How do we anarchists create organizations, or ways of working together, that don't replicate the bad stuff we don't like about contemporary society.

Another difference involves organizational strategy. The "class war" anarchists talk a lot about revolution and so on. Class war sounds very good to me, but how do we avoid trite sloganeering and aping of the leftover left? I'm not interested in excessive debates about organization vs. anti-organization, or class war vs. whatever. I'd like to hear some ideas about how class war anarchists are going to do things differently, or, use old methods in new ways. The crucial goal is to win some small victories to show that our ideas are workable. This means some honest direct action and protests. The Starbucks campaign is a good start. Provoke capitalism. Show people an alternative and don't forget to get the word out about why you are doing things.

What strategy?

I won't speak for the other anti-organizationalists, but I'm interested in building a broader anarchist movement. I'm a big tent anarchist who want to get working people interested in anarchist ideas. I'm really bothered by anarchists who are more worried about who is and isn't an anarchist. This phenomenon is not limited to any specific camp within anarchism. I respect that people have differing opinions, but I really dislike campaigns, such as Andrew Flood's recent attack on primitivism, which are divisive and destructive. I talk to a variety of anarchists and the divisions people see are just not that pronounced.

In terms of strategy, I'd actualy like to see more organizations. But building organizations is not an answer to the overall goal. Our goal is to change society, to get rid of government and capitalism. To get rid of oppression and fix the environment. I think that our strategy has to be based on the understanding that the revolution is more of a process than it is a magical historical moment. We have a tough road ahead of us just to wake up Americans and get them to seize their own freedom. I'm surrounded by miles and miles of suburbs and this helps me focus on building a revolution everyday. I think there is tremendous potential out there. We just need to work together more, build our base, and come up with some campaigns and strategies.

author by insurrectionarypublication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 08:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Insurrectionary anarchists aren't against organization. We are for anarchist organization and the self-organization of the exploited class in general. We are for organization on both the small and mass scale.

author by Norman Jacob - nonepublication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 10:11author email normanjacob36 at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

It seems that the tendency of some platformists to lump all anarchist critics of their organisation in the category of "anti-organisation" is a little easy, and intellectually dishonest.
The idea of the platform arose in a context where anarchists had been defeated by the bolsheviks in russia. In that context, they assumed that for them to be able to effectively "win" a revolution they must adjusts theirs means of organizing to be as "effective" as the bolsheviks were. It is not surprising that the troskyist find platformism to be the "most left-wing current" since it is the current which at times most resembles trotskyism.
The problem with the form that platformist organisations are taking (I'm speaking of North america, not having enough knowledge of the situation elseswhere), is that even among anarchists who agree with the principle of organisation, it creates a split between those "in" and those "out" of said organisation. The result is an anarchist collective, which acts like a big federation, ressembling more a political party than an actual class struggle organisation. I believe a debate is needed, which would be a change from the internescine conflicts we have unfortunately been seeing so far.

author by Sean S.publication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:06author email thegreatwildebeest at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

...anti-organizationalist is kind of too broad, since in essence, even primitivists, who are oft derided, believe in organization amongst band or tribal-esque type lines. If you mean strong organization in the platformist sense, than no, most other anarchist tendencies are anti-that kind of organization. Which is why the label I think tends to get lumped onto primitivists, insurrectionalists, and post-leftists.

author by Waynepublication date Tue Jan 24, 2006 13:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1) Flint is correct. I did mean to type IRAN but instead wrote IRAQ.

2) I agree with Tom Wetzel.

3) Several of the responses object to the label "anti-organizational." Either they think it does not apply to them or anyway they do not like the label. The careful reader will have noticed, however, that I clearly described (in one paragraph) what I meant by "pro-organizational anarchism" (which includes but is not limited to Platformism) and described (in another paragraph) just what I meant by "anti-organizational anarchism." If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.

4) Anyway the point of my little essay is to expound a point of view (pro-organizational anarchism) and defend it. It was not to have a thorough discussion of the nature of primitivism, post-leftism, anti-civilizationism, insurrectionism, or whatever. Nor was the point of my essay to defend everything every Platformist has written, let alone everything someone can imagine a pro-organizationalist possibly saying in a fevered fantasy (being for "victory at any cost," for example). I certainly am not interested in deciding who is really, truly, an anarchist. I doubt I am an orthodox anarchist myself. But I am interested in clarifying what the real differences are among us and having clear and honest discussions.

author by rafaelpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 02:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Alguém poderia traduzir esse artigo para o espanhol??

author by EC - FAGpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 04:27author email secretariafag at vermelhoenegro dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Reforço o pedido de Rafael, por favor uma tradução ao espanhol ou ao português, para que participem do debate os latino-americanos.
abraços solidários

author by Andrewpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 04:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Seeing as a couple of commentators have mentioned me I thought I'd add my thoughts.

First off I'm puzzled by Sean S and the others who are lumping insurrectionists in with primitivists and post-leftists. Insurrectionists were not mentioned in Waynes original essay. This doesn't make a lot of sense and I'm wondering what the point of it is. Insurrectionists like anarcho syndicalists are clearly part of the anarchist tradition. Primitivists and post leftists are a break with that tradition - I've explained in some length elsewhere why this is the case - an explanation that has yet to be replied to.

Insurrectionists do see a need for mass organisation in the form of federations of affinity groups, their objection to formal organisation (which I disagree with) is part of a long anarchist tradition of mass organisation that is rejected by the others Sean S lists. I'm currently working on a piece on insurrectionism where I'll take up some of the differences I have with it in more detail but it is quite clearly within the anarchist tradition.

Secondly is it sectarian to expose the hoax of anarcho-capitalism - something Chuck has spent a fair bit of time doing. I don't think so. For various reasons you get ideologies that pretend to be something to do with anarchism - anarchistsneed to be free to criticise these attempts particularly when these ideologies use this to disguise a right wing agenda. And its hardly like the promoters of these ideologies are shy about attacking anarchists - there press is full of such denunciations - often of the crudest nature.

I'm not at all impressed that people choose to hide behind accusations of slander when in reality they are faced with sourced quotations. The fear of debate that hides behind the term 'slander' shows a real lack of confidence - if my writings on primitivism are indeed wrong then it should be the work of moments to demonstrate this.

If replies are written I'll either deal with them or abandon my critiicism in the event that there is something I've overlooked. I've already dealt with some issues people have raised on the threads on these two articles at

Thirdly anarchists in general need to be a lot more open to critical debate. There should be no problem expressing fundamental disagreements providing we can do so in a reasonable manner and continue to work together where there is common agreement. A 'unity' that is built on covered over differences is a very fragile thing indeed. We have had considerable success in Ireland with our own version of 'big tent anarchism' but that has been on the basis of everyone having a willingness to discuss differences. After all if we can't do this and maintain unity where it matters how can we expect to relate to the vast majority of non anarchist organisations in the community, the workplace and around issues.

author by Chuck0 - Infoshoppublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 06:39author email chuck at mutualaid dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

It looks like I forgot to hit a final "submit" button in a reply to another comment. Bu tlet me respond to Andrew's comments.

Andrew argues that primitivism and post-leftism are beyond the anarchist tradition. This is just silly.

First of all, Andrew likes to conflate the two tendencies, which is intellectually dishonest. He knows that the two tendencies are much different than each other. There are some people who fit in both camps, but primitivism and post-leftism are about different things. Post-leftism is very much wedged inside of anarchism and there are many anarcho-primitivists who are also part of anarchism and the movement. There are some primitivists who aren't anarchists or who won't use the label--they aren't very relevant here.

Post-leftism is about anarchists being anarchists and not subordinating themselves, our movement, and our ideas to leftism. There are now many examples of why anarchism needs post-leftism. The biggest example, of course, were those anarchists who advocated voting in the 2004 U.S. elections and claimed that voting was in accordance with anarchist ideas and practices. This is absurd, since almost all strains of anarchism over the years have opposed voting in no uncertain terms. I've been going through the last 40 years of North American anarchist literature and have seen consistent anti-voting stands taken by a variety of anarchist magazines and people.

The voting thing, IMHO, is a result of the influx of new people into anarchism after Seattle. Not all of them fully understand what core and basic anarchist positions are. They don't understand that anarchists advocate direct action and resistance, instead of voting. We are anti-statists, which means that we totally reject participation in electoralism.

Another example would be some recent situations where a few American anarchists advocated the old "boring from within" strategy vis a vis reformist unions. This stance reflects the authoritarian leftist tendency to worship anything that has "union" stamped on it. The anarchists who advocated this were actually adopting a more liberal reformist strategy than most rank-and-file union members, which are very critical and alienated towards the mainstream unions.

In both of these examples, post-leftism would point out the problem these anarchists have with attaching themselves to liberalism and/or leftism. Anarchism offers far more radical ideas, that are proven and effective. When a majority of Americans don't vote, who really benefits froma few anarchists voting?

Primitivism has more to do with enviromental issues and ideas about human alienation from nature. I won't go into their ideas, but primitivism is a solid part of anarchism, at least here in North America.

I don't understand why Andrew feels so threatened by primitivism. Anarchists in the U.S. have a more live and let live stance towards these sectarian debates. We discuss primitivsm and post-leftism and other anarchist tendencies, but our discussions really don't center around them.


author by Flint - NEFACpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 06:54author email flint at nefac dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Opposition to electoral politics has long been part of anarchism. Attributing that insight to post-leftism alone is quite mistaken. There are plenty of leftists (some anarchists, some not) that reject electoral politics.

author by Flint - NEFACpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 07:11author email flint at nefac dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

All unions are reformist, in that they seek immediate reforms in the wages and working conditions of workers in regards to their employers.

Further, unions to be successful must organize workers on the basis of their shared collective interests in a workplace and industry, not just on the basis of ideology. A successful union will be bringining in new members that do not neccessarily agree with an anarchist or anti-capitalist ideology.

The IWW is a union.

What union an anarchist chooses to be active in is really a subjective matter depending on the nature of their workplace and industry. In some cases the IWW might be right, in others the UE, in others CAW, in other cases it might be a union affiliated with Change to Win, in other cases it might be a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

I know of no anarchist who worships anything with "union" stamped on it;

Many rank and file union members, while being alienated and very critical of their mainstream unions-suprisingly enough remain members of their unions. For example: Jeffboat.

author by bradpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 09:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Who are these abstract workers that you keep talking about? Almost all of the people are workers, including most all anarchists. Your arrogance is revealed when you seek to proclaim your superiourity to the "workers", as if you are not one of them. Dribble and elitist nonsense.

author by Larry Gambone - Any Time Now zinepublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 11:37author email redlionpress at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Very good article. I think “spontaneity” is a myth. Things don’t happen in a vacuum. Every appearant spontaneous movement or uprising has been preceded by years of previous thought and activity. Every movement that I know of – anti-slavery, the women’s movement, cooperative and trade union movements also started from a handful of inspired and passionate people. So there is also leadership. Leninists, the anti-organizationalists and the enthusiasts of spontaneity confuse this organizational and leadership aspect with authoritarian organization and leadership. This is not the case as the author shows. For me, the question is not one of organization vs. no organization (or at best minimal organization) but rather how inclusive an anarchist organization ought to be. I think that all social anarchists (in my opinion all those who believe in the need for organization) have enough in common so that they should be able to work together in a common project.

Related Link:
author by Chuck0 - Infoshoppublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 11:58author email chuck at mutualaid dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Opposition to electoral politics has long been part of anarchism. Attributing that insight to post-leftism alone is quite mistaken. There are plenty of leftists (some anarchists, some not) that reject electoral politics"

Post-leftism isn't just about voting. I didn't say that. But the voting example is one instance where post-leftism has challenged anarchists to get back to the roots of anarchism.

Post-leftism really isn't that complicated, but leftism has many ways to hook anarchists into its claws. Some other examples: anarchists who argue for voting because "people of color ask us to vote and they've fought long and hard for the vote." Or "anarchists don't work well in coalition" and "anarchists are sectarian who reject unity." You can find rhetoric like this on Indymedia websites and it has a gradual effect on anarchists who feel guilty about not working with other leftists. For example, see the anarchists who have participated recently in We Can't Wait protests, which are being organized by the RCP.

Post-leftism reminds anarchists that working with authoritarian leftists is a waste of time and counterproductive. Much of this "slippage" can be traced to leftist marginalism which whines about how the left is few in numbers. The post-leftist critique counters this by saying that anarchists are better off sticking with anarchist principles and methods, and organizing with, for example, community groups and labor unions on our own terms. Instead of following the RCP around because it looks like they are doing something, anarchists are better off following their own agenda and choosing their allies wisely.

This may seem overly simplistic to seasoned organizers like Flint, but it is a problem around the anarchist movement. The leftover Left is scared of us and they have clever ways of seducing anarchists and anti-authoritarians into bad politics.

On a bigger level, post-leftism is more critical of leftist ideas that still influence anarchist politics. This isn't to say that anarchists should totally reject all leftist ideas and our historical relationship with the left, but that given the recent demise of the M-L-M left, we have the luxury of being more critical of the leftism that gets in our way. This is one of the reasons why some of the more dogmatic tendencies in the movement get criticized by the post-leftists, such as the neo-platformists. Neo-platformism comes across as a very dogmatic ideological project, with its emphasis on "unity" and so on. but there are also signs that neo-platformism is evolving and open-minded about new ideas.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 14:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1) I regret that I do not know Spanish or Portuguese to translate my essay.

2) A pity Brad the Leninist could not express himself better.

3) It is always hard to know what "post-leftists" mean by "leftism." We pre-"post-leftists" tradtionally dlstlnguish between anarchists (or libertarian socialists) and state socialists. The peculiarity of the "post-leftists" is that they have re-named the state-socialists as "the left" --making the statists the whole of the left. This then permits them to denounce the leftism which has always been part and parcel of mainstream anarchism. The leftism of anarchism includes its anti-capitalist goals of revolutionary (libertarian) socialism, working class democracy, a classless society, a world of plenty, leisure, and craftsmanship, internationalism, and opposition to all oppression. The only way we will get "post" these goals is to make the proletarian world revolution.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 15:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To see that the supposed "post-left" view is
nonsense, consider mass
struggles. Take struggles such as of tenants
in a building, or people who form a workplace
organization such as a union. Such organizations
or struggles invariably have a wide variety of
viewpoints. If there are "anarchists" among
them, it is very likely, at the present time,
that they are a minority. This means there
are likely to be a wide variety of other ideas
that individuals involved in such struggles
have. They may have politically liberal ideas
or like the Greens or whatever. If this is a
working class constituency, it is likely they
have some ideas that are against the system,
and that is expressed concretely in their
support for the fight against their landlord,
the local government, their employer, and so on.
Now how is "working" with these folks -- one's
neighbors or co-workers, people you get on
the bus with, or whatever -- different than
"working" with socialists or those of leftist
views you have disagreements with? In fact
there could very well be "authoritarian
socialists" among one's co-workers or others
in a mass struggle. Let's say that one of
one's co-workers is a liberal who supports
capitalism ideologically, why is that worse
than a socialist? My point here is that the
hererogenous and contradictory consciousness
of the working class at present means that
ideas that we disagree with will, almost inevitably, be present in mass struggles that we
are involved in. To be for greater equality,
for grreater democracy, to support struggles
of the oppressed -- that is to be "left".
Those who are "left", thus defined, differ
among themselves about what the aim is and
the methods. So, we have a discussion about
that, we put forward our ideas and try to
influence the direction of the struggle. But
it is isolationist and sectarian to say one
doesn't "work with" people who you disagree

author by Andrewpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 23:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

First off mals comment on primitivism has been moved to the last article on that topic and I've replied to it there. Click on 'latest comments' and you'll find it.

On post-leftism. The way you define it Chuck I've gotta be one of the biggest post leftists going - we don't just preach to fellow anarchists about anti electoralism we have run quite large public campaigns at election times explaining why parliamentary democracy is a fraud. And I've written loads of articles explaining the flaws of the leninist and social democratic left is. If that is post leftism we are all post-leftists and the label therefore has no particular meaning.

Likewise if it amounts to "anarchists are better off sticking with anarchist principles and methods, and organizing with, for example, community groups and labor unions on our own terms" then this probably makes NEFAC the leading post-leftist organisation in the USA and Canada.

If post leftists say this sort of thing then they simply happen to say what 90%+ of organised anarchists already say. They don't 'own' these concepts - these are concepts that the anarchist movement has put forward long before you, or I or any of the post leftist mileu were born.

I would agree there are certainly isolated individuals who call themselves anarchists and say or do odd things like voting for Kerry. But these are the people outside the organised movement who unsurprizingly end up the most under pressure from the opinions of non-anarchist radicals in their mileu's.

What distinguish's 'post leftism' from anarchism is their rejection of anarchist theories of organisation and their return to the pre-anarchist liberal arguments that see all forms of mass society as requiring a state. Incidentally this is their common theoretical point with the primitivists but this no more makes them primitivists then it makes them liberals. It is however a break with anarchism. To use your own terms it is also an example of a 'dogmatic ideological' position i.e. a position that insists that it alone has the correct understanding and can see every possible outcome.

BTW if you are going to use phrases like 'dogmatic ideological' it is better to use them as descriptive terms rather than as an insult that means no more than 'an idea I don't like. You and I and I suspect most of the rest of the posters here share a 'dogmatic ideological' position with regards to voting in state elections. We are sure this is pretty much always a dead end for radicals - we don't judge each case on its individual merits.

author by Larry Gambone - Any time Now Zinepublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 23:37author email redlionpress at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Brad claims the article - and by extension NEFAC (and presumably any other anarchists who think organizationally) - believe in "atomized responses" to capitalism. This is rubbish and is typical of dualistic thinking. There are other forms of unified, directed action other than authoritarian (leninist) forms. It is not an either-or situation, get it?

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author by bradpublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 23:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

My coment was against the very type of dualistic thinking you attempt to ascribe to me. All who seek to construct unified fronts against captialism and domination are not leninist or authoritarian. Your inability to grasp this reveals your epistemic dogmatism. I in no way meant to expand my comment-"by extension". Your attempt to extrapolate my statement to a larger audiance and therefore to oversimplify and overgeneralize it as leninist and authoritarian shows a bit of the polemic nature of this debate. Read my comment again, I seek to unify a diversity of ideologies in a movement, not as you claim to to see it as an either or. Again, I question your motives behind creating division within a growing movement?

author by Larry Gambone - Any Time Now Zinepublication date Wed Jan 25, 2006 23:51author email redlionpress at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

The problem with primitivists is that they make anarchism look ridiculous. We have enough to overcome with the bomb-thrower, chaotic, anti-organizational caricature with out this as well. I have the greatest respect for individualist anarchists and cultural anarchists who want a minimum of organization. They do help spread the message of individual liberty and voluntarism. The problem is that some of them see fit to condemn other anarchists who believe in a need for organization and thus sow confusion and create conflict.

author by Larry Gambone - Any Time Now Zinepublication date Thu Jan 26, 2006 00:00author email redlionpress at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

My apologies for calling you a Leninist, Brad. Furthermore, I am in favor of the broad approach that you mention, having called it a "Common Ground" approach or "Libertarian Populism" in the past. The thing is anarchists have to organize themselves to become a major force within this anti-capitalist, anti-statist coalition. And we must beware of the leninists for reasons that history shows only too well.

author by Andrew - Anarkismopublication date Thu Jan 26, 2006 00:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Can commentators please read our commenting guidelines at A number of the posts on this thread consist of little more than insults or are so caught up with insults that they threaten to derail serious discussion. In particular it is not acceptable to state or imply people are following a state agenda unless you are going to present proof of such a claim.

Therefore I'm going to hide such comments (and posts that are mostly replies to these comments). Anarkismo has procedures to challenge this decision, you can either use the Contact Us form to mail all the editors (who may decide to reverse my decision). Or if you prefer to challenge the decision in front of reader you can discuss editorial policy at (and only at ) the link below. Posts discussing editorial guidelines on other threads including this one will be hidden (or if they make their point well moved).

Posters affected are free to post comments to this and other threads that respect the guidelines. However continuing to post comments that breach them after this warning has been issued may result in us deciding to hide all future comments.

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author by Phebus - NEFACpublication date Thu Jan 26, 2006 02:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Post-leftism isn't just about voting. I didn't say that. But the voting example is one instance where post-leftism has challenged anarchists to get back to the roots of anarchism."

Actually, same can be said about the organised anarcho-communists. As far as I know, no north-american "neo-platformist" organisation have ever supported voting. Quite the contrary... NEFAC, for exemple, I've been crystal clear over the years about that and have engaged in numerous campain (the latest being against monday canadian federal election).

author by prole cat (personal capacity) - ctc- atlanta, ga, usapublication date Thu Jan 26, 2006 03:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is an outstanding article.

I am as critical as anyone, of the bitter tone too often adopted in internet debates. I have actually withdrawn from internet debates (to a degree) as a result of my distaste.

However, as Wayne says, there is nothing inherently offensive in laying out, clearly and concisely, where the boundaries are between the various schools of thought (anarchist or otherwise). And that is what this piece does, and does well, delineating those borders with precision, and without apparent rancor.

The problem, too often, is the tone. Not the content.

Kudos to the author.

author by Chuck0 - Infoshoppublication date Thu Jan 26, 2006 08:00author email chuck at mutualaid dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

As I'm sick this week and busy with actual organizing, other projects, and looking for a job, I'm going to have to bow out of this discussion.

My last point is that despite these interesting differences in opinion among anarchists, we are all pretty much in the same boat and on similar wavelengths as this point. I'm more interested in talking about what anarchists should be doing, rather than debating arcane political things that one finds mostly in a few anarchist magazines. I look arounf my community and see large amounts of people who I want to convert to anarchism. They don't care about primitivism or platformism and I'm not going to connect with them by talking about that stuff. This is one reason why the new Practical Anarchy magazine will have little to zero content about discussions like this one. Most anarchists don't even care.

I'm interested in talking about what anarchists should be doing to take a leadership role in the anti-war movements. I want to kick the anti-capitalist movement into action. I want there to be more anarchist organizations locally. I want bigger and better anarchist media that talk to average people from an anarchist point of view. That means something different than what's being done. Scaling up Northeastern Anarchist or Anarchy magazine isn't going to cut it. Few people outside of a few people in the anarchist movement care about most of these debates. We need a bigegr network of anarchist pundits and writers. We need to get more anarchists involved in Indymedia. There needs to be more direct action to catalyze bigger things. More Starfucks organizing, shit, they are opening another fucking Starbucks in my neighborhood.

Platformism vs. Primitivism makes my eyes glaze over. We ain't going to accomplish squat if we don't minimize our differences and start dreaming big and working together.

author by Waynepublication date Thu Jan 26, 2006 08:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In Chuck O's promised last comment, he declares that all this discussion is worthless. We need "practical anarchism" and not theoretical discussions about program and organization. " I'm more interested in talking about what anarchists should be doing, rather than debating arcane political things that one finds mostly in a few anarchist magazines." Platformism vs. Primitivism makes his eyes "glaze over."
I could not disagree more (which is why I wrote the essay). This is a very practical question: either we work toward a North American federation of revolutionary, class-struggle, anarchists...or we do not. Chuck advises one road, we advise another, for the reasons in my essay.
Either we participate with workers in building unions and fighting against the capitalists and the union bureaucrats...or we do not. Some anarchists are against this while we are for it.
Either we put out literature saying that our goal is the destruction of all industry, the end of "civilization," and the return to hunter-gather society...or we openly call for a classless society of comfort and leisure for all with unalienated crafts-work. Primitivism and/or anti-civilizationism vs. Platformism.
Either we tell the workers and oppressed that it is possible to gradually win reforms and to gradually build up alternate institutions (mis-called "dual power") until anarchism has been peacefully created...or we tell them that at some point the majority will have to overturn the state and capitalism in a revolutionary upheaval. The former is a very common view among anarchists. The latter is our view.
The need for a good theory is a very practical need.

author by Toby B.publication date Thu Jan 26, 2006 19:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I enjoyed this article and debate. But I think a lot of the problem is things could have been defined more precisely.

For example, I take from the article pro-organisation/class struggle anarchists apparently believe that forming specifically anarchist groups is essential for working class revolution. These groups will need to play a leading role (in a non-authoritarian manner) in increasing the confidence of the oppressed.

Yet many pro organisation and class struggle anarchists like myself disagree. Take the example of Kropotkin. He didn't focus much on the role of anarchist minorities. That's because he thought their role was pretty insignificant in the scheme of things. He placed primacy on the role of the working class organising itself against capitalism. That is, the primacy focus is on what the working class is doing, and not what small minorities are doing. This article to me seems to get things the other way round. It implies that all class struggle anarchists need to place primacy on the activity and organisation of minorities.

As well, I'm not sure about this either/or approach. I don't think its that easy. For example, I dont think it is either spontaneity or organisation. Both are needed. Paul Mattick wrote a good chapter on this in his Anti Bolshevik Communism.

author by Oliver - CTCpublication date Fri Jan 27, 2006 04:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The question is: who contributed more to the proletarian revolution, Kropotkin or Makhno? Kropotkin was very much the theorist who was detached from actual organizing, and though much of his theory was excellent and paissionately revolutionary, it also had a pretty big liberal twinge. And let's now forget that he supported the very czarist state in its war against germany which had Makhno locked up, while the moment makhno got out he ran to the ukraine and played a vital role in the revolution there.

author by Joe Licentiapublication date Fri Jan 27, 2006 11:12author email morpheus at mutualaid dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The original seizure of power was carried out by a united front of the Bolshevik Party, the Left Social Revolutionary Party, and the anarchists."

The SR-Maximalists party was also part of the coalition.

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author by Toby Bpublication date Sun Jan 29, 2006 14:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Oliver, you miss my point. The point is that there are two traditions within class struggle anarchism: one, such as platformism, stresses the role of anarchist minorities in creating trouble; and the other tends to overlook the role of active minorities in focussing on the self-organisation of the wider population.

There is plenty of room for constructive debate between these two traditions as its not a simplistic either/or division b/w the two.

I dont think this debate can be reduced to an individualistic methodology of judging who personally contributed most to revolution. yes, Makhno was a commendable activist, and Kropotkin was a patriot and nationalist, and yes he was at times a bit of a liberal (not to mention into a rigid scientific determinism). But so what? Just because Marx was into prussian state worship and German nationalism doesn't mean that all his ideas and views are invalid.

author by Flint - NEFACpublication date Mon Jan 30, 2006 08:40author email flint at nefac dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just to be clear on NEFAC's position on the role of specific revolutionary anarchist organizations and the social movements of the working class:

"We believe the only way to achieve this is a social, political and cultural revolution where the oppressed classes lead the struggle to the end, overthrow the bourgeois civilization and abolish capitalism, the state, patriarchy and racism. Such a radical perspective can only emerge, in our opinion, from social movements. That's why we advocate the radicalization of every struggle..."

"Through this radicalization and our involvement as anarcho-communists in various movements of resistance, we want to aid the development of an autonomous class conscienciousness, the only safe-guard against political recuperation from all sides (including an eventual recuperation by an anarchist current). The revolution we want will not be the work of an organization, even an anarchist one, but of a large class movement by which ordinary people will directly take back full control on the totality of their life and environment."

So, clearly NEFAC sees that it is the autonomous social movements which are capable of bringing abou the revolution. We seek to be active in the movements of our class as rank and file militants, advocating the radicalization of struggles those movements are involved in.

However, we still see a role for specific organizations of revolutionaries to come together.

"Any revolutionary period will be preceded by organizations capable of popularizing anarchist alternatives and anarchist methods; organizations capable of leading the battle of ideas and able to serve as a rallying point for activists. To this end, we believe that a strong, and above all, organized presense in social struggles anarchist movement is necessary. Let's be clear, we do not believe that an organization is a movement in itself, and we do not pretend at all to represent to whole of the anarchist movement. While we have confidence in our ideas, we do not think we possess THE truth, and it is probable that we are wrong on this or that point. That why we advocate revolutionary pluralism."

"We reject the vision of the 'political-party-guide-of-the-masses', a vision which reduces the idea of revolution to the authoritarian seizure of power by a centralized party believing to be acting in the name of the masses. We know that this vision has led to bloody dictatorships and has nothing to do with socialism. It's goal not being the seizure of power, the anarchist organization is neither a party, nor a self-proclaimed vanguard, but an active minority in the working class. The anarchist organization is one of the moment within the social struggle; it's an assembly of like-minded activists, a place of confrontation and debate, a place of synthesis of ideas, social and political experiences."

So, we see a need for members of the working class who are self-conciously advocating revolution to come together and discuss our experiences and problems. But we see that there being multiple such groups as also a positive thing.

Does that clear up the NEFAC perspective for you Tony? The above "The Question of the Revolutonary Anarchist Organization" and NEFAC's "Workplace Position Paper" are the two documents that we have the most unity about as an organization.

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author by Michael Novick - anti-racist action-lapublication date Mon Jan 30, 2006 15:11author email antiracistaction_la at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone 310-495-0299Report this post to the editors

This is an interesting discussion, with threads weaving wildly around. I found the eludication of the Russian Revolution interesting, but I think it misses some points that get to the heart of the issue. Both Leninists and anarchists (organizational or not) often raise questions of organization to such a point of elevation or centrality that theyobscure other, much more fundamental question of political belief and vision.

There have always been two related problems facing people who want to change the world no matter what they call themselves -- how to engage with people in everyday struggles about their conditions of existence in such a way that actually advances the long term goal of overthrowing the system of oppression and exploitation that produces those conditions; and how best to organize ourselves to accomplish that ultimate goal.

What united the Bolsheviks and the other factions in the first place was not their organizational philosophies, but their political perspectives and demands -- in the first place, peace. They opposed the imperialist war, opposed the Mensheviks who thought they could do a better job of carrying out the war and defending the empire. They were, as Lenin called it, revolutionary defeatists -- they were prepared to call for and work for the defeat of the Czarist Russian Empire in World War I in order to end that war immediately. And in fact the revolutionary government immediately sued for peace and signed a treaty that abandoned vast claimed territories of the Czarist Russian empire in order to make peace with Germany despite the treaty obligations to England and France, despite the aristocratic, bourgeois, and petty bourgeois commitment to "end the war by winning it." Unfortunately, this was merely tactical on the part of Lenin and Trotsky and with Germany's defeat and during the course of the civil war, they lay claim to and sought to consolidate control over the old czarist empire in its entirety -- thus Lenin betrayed his critique of Czarist Russia as a prison house of nations and his professed support for decolonization and self-determination of oppressed nations. The highly centralized "Russian Federation" and "Soviet Union" created a state that continued to suppress and oppress other nationalities, ethnicities and language groups.

Second, land -- the Bolsheviks and the SR (peasant oriented) formations, and some of the anarchists were concerned about landless and poor peasants, breaking up monarchical and anristocratic and church land holdings and distributing them. However, the Bolsheviks again made a fatal turn as they took, consolidated, centralized and monopolized power in the new state -- they saw it as their job to complete the CAPITALIST "revolution" in land that the Russian bourgeoisie had been incapable of (in their case because they wanted to transform peasant petty proprietors into an agricultural proletariat). But the key result of this was that they established a socio-economic basis for state-capitalism based on having turned land into "a factor of production" and thus a commodity.

Third, bread -- meeting people's immediate survival needs.

Fourth, working class self-organization in the factories as the highest expression of the "most-advanced" and "socially-conscious," the most concentrated, collective and highly-organized sector of Czarist Russian society, the urban industrial proletariat. The anarchists, fully as much as the Bolsheviks and the other socialists, based themselves on the industrial army of labor. This was a contradiction with the mass base of Czarist Russia which was still peasant based, and also tended to lead to a neglect of the conscious role as the liberators of all and opponents of all forms of oppression. Thus, initiatives for cultural transformation, women's liberation, decriminalization of homsexuality, stripping churches of their wealth and temporal power followed a predictable bell curve, as women were subordinated to economically-determined roles (albeit roles that conflicted with western bourgeois femininity), gays were recriminalized, and tamed Orthodox churches were reorganized and used as props of the state.

You cannot abstract from these political questions and expect to make sense of the organizational questions. Trying to subsume all the political differences into organizational approaches, whether in the Czarist Russian Empire a century ago, or in the US American/global Empire of today, is fatal to developing an actual understanding of what went on or should happen.

Anarchists need to understand that we are trying to dismantle not merely the state but an Empire, whose control over a land mass and peoples rests not only on political authority and coercion, but on economic and social mechanisms, including the participation of various elements of the population(s) besides the bourgeoisie. Also on the internalization of oppression and identification with the oppressor by colonized and oppressed people.

We need forms of organization, including perhaps autonomous organizations of oppressed and colonized people, that address those issues and are conducive to building the kind of decentralized -- more importantly, DE-COLONIZED, society that we want to live in.

The impulse towards a single REVOLUTIONARY anarchist organization tends to embody and internalize some of that imperial mentality that the oppressed adopt and reflect. Regional federations help counter-act that somewhat , but autonomous and self-determined organization of oppressed people would go a lot farther.

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author by Chuck0 - Infoshoppublication date Mon Jan 30, 2006 15:34author email chuck at mutualaid dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wayne writes:
"Either we participate with workers in building unions and fighting against the capitalists and the union bureaucrats...or we do not. Some anarchists are against this while we are for it.

Did it ever occur to you that there might be better ways to fight capitalists than building unions? Given that the union movement is pretty moribund and held hostage by liberals, social democrats and leftists, I think another approach might be needed at this point.

Perhaps the answer is simply to promote more wildcat strikes by workers. Direct action and other militant tactics seem to bring more results than traditional methods. Look at how threatened peace activists are by direct action. Look at how the mainstream unions try to domesticate all autonomous worker organizing.

I think that radical unions have their place. I'm an IWW member. But I think that any ambitious strategy for social change will involve more struggles than mere workerism.

"Either we put out literature saying that our goal is the destruction of all industry, the end of "civilization," and the return to hunter-gather society...or we openly call for a classless society of comfort and leisure for all with unalienated crafts-work. Primitivism and/or anti-civilizationism vs. Platformism."

There are very few anarchists who advocate a return to a hunter-gatherer society. Frankly, I don't understand the obsession with these handful of people. And casting the choice as being either hunter-gatherer primitivism or light industrial platformism ignores most of anarchist thinking n these topics. I'm not in favor of a hunter gatherer world, nor am I in favor of an advanced civilization run by syndicalists or platformists. I know that most anarchists agree with me when you sit down and discuss these issues. You can't sustain the world on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, nor can you sustain it via capitalism or something run by anarchists. I think that all anarchists agree that the end of capitalism would mean some serious changes in how we live.

author by Andrewpublication date Mon Jan 30, 2006 22:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

re Chuck:
First off thanks for returning to the thread

But you seem to be mostly knocking down strawmen. I don't see why you presume why we would just advocate 'mere workerism' - anarchist communists have also been at the forefront of struggles for abortion rights or against racism for instance. We'd bring our class analysis to such struggles but this is simply because most of those involved will also be workers.

Likewise most anarchist communist groups with regards to the workplace have a position of working both inside and outside the existing unions - radical or otherwise. Over the summer we helped migrant Polish workers in struggle with a supermarket chain in Ireland organise solidarity actions across Europe - see There was no significant union involvement in this struggle - this didn't present any barrier to us showing solidarity.

These and your other comments on the thread make me think you judge anarchist-communism not on what we do or say but rather on what a few of our more virulent critics write. That approach is flawed at the best of times but in all honesty the anti anarchist communist stuff you have published on infoshop over the last years is almost worthless as serious critique. It's no more than a string of assetions - similar to the ones you make here - that are blown away as soon as anybody bothers to read the other side.

And where on earth do you get ' light industrial platformism' or 'capitalism ran by anarchists' from. Well we know - you are again repeating the same odd assertions from those who hate us. Simply look at and it becomes obvious that this strawman is also blown away by reality. With all those strawmen blown away your post is without any remaining content.

Maybe spend a little time on Anarkismo reading the articles on topics other than the anarchist movement and you'll see where you have been misled. (Or that there is a truly mad gap between our theory and our activity) That would open up the space to put forward a critique of what we actully do and say which would be more worthwhile for all concerned.

Re: Novick
I also think your largely demolishing a strawman. Of course this essay - which is about organisation - concentrates on the organisational questions of the Russian revolution. It's not meant to be a complete account of the revolution itself.

Elsewhere you'll find anarchists have devoted quite a bit of time too the causes of the revolution, the question of land and the peasants etc.

The idea of their being a 'single anarchist organisation' is not commonly held in modern day anarchist communism and historically is more of an anarcho-syndicalist postion. As has already been discussed here anarchist communists see their organisation(s) as not containing all struggles but rather being involved in all struggles as part of those in struggle.

author by Flint - flint@nefac.netpublication date Tue Jan 31, 2006 07:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The impulse towards a single REVOLUTIONARY anarchist organization tends to embody and internalize some of that imperial mentality that the oppressed adopt and reflect. Regional federations help counter-act that somewhat , but autonomous and self-determined organization of oppressed people would go a lot farther."

Micheal, I don't think Wayne is advocating a SINGLE revolutionary anarchist organization. I know that NEFAC explicits does not want to be the sole revolutionary organization; and I believe all other modern groups influenced by the platform have similarly rejected that there should be only one group.

"Let's be clear, we do not believe that an organization is a movement in itself, and we do not pretend at all to represent to whole of the anarchist movement. While we have confidence in our ideas, we do not think we possess THE truth, and it is probable that we are wrong on this or that point. That why we advocate revolutionary pluralism." NEFAC's "The Question of Revolutionary Anarchist Organization"

We are quite serious about revolutionary pluralism; which is part of the reason NEFAC engages in discourse with Bring the Ruckus, the New Socialist Group, etc...

Further, touching on the autonomous organizing of different elements of the oppressed:
"We work to combat racism in all its forms and support those from our class who organize autonomously within the revolutionary movement around specific forms of social liberation." NEFAC's "Aims and Principles"

There is a draft document in NEFAC circulating that I think I'll send you a copy of which might answer some of your points.

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author by Joaquin Cienfuegos - scaf-lapublication date Tue Jan 31, 2006 10:51author email morph3030 at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think we need to change the oppressive social relationships while we're building a revolutionary organization and a revolutionary movement.

Some anarchists do focus only on the organization and not on the actual politics, revolutionary vision, or challenging capitalist social relations.

They take on an obscure anti-statist position, without looking at imperialism and the specific conditions that have devoloped because of capitalism. For example, in the US, one cannot just take on the issue of class, with out discussing issues of culture, race, gender -- because this is how capitalism has developed -- on the backs of racially, culturally, and all oppressed people and with a white heterosexual male supremacist ideology.

These are the specific conditions to the US.

The solution to these problems and strategy should be always a topic and priority in revolutionary organizing. The overall strategy should come from our actual experience in collective experience in struggle -- not from sitting in a room theorizing. Theory is complimentary to our actual experience in struggle. Organization I think is necessary to actually carry out the revolutionary process -- otherwise we will not be successful in defeating imperialism.

At the same time we cannot become who we are trying to defeat in the process, we should not take on the oppressive social relationships that exist and we should not be a reflection of the capitalists. We should build the structures and relationships that we would like to replace capitalism with. This should not be confused with building more national bureaucracies that reflect the state or building a network that is too incoherent to be effective in anything besides within the activist subculture.

The issue of land and regional autonomy is important and I think in different parts of the world where feudal neocolonial conditions exist -- the question of land is key to revolution. The struggle for self-determination is part of the struggle of human liberation in general. In the US and other imperialist countries (there is a difference with countries like the US, Britain, France and other imperialist countries who exploit the people and the resources of the "Third World" through military force) the question of land is different -- because they do not have a peasantry who's livelihood is rooted in land (there's more industrialized agricultural regions in imperialist societies). There are however communities and regions that have develped historically and historically oppressed regions and communities. There is also unevenness between regions and communities -- where there is a lack of resources and great deal of state repression. Those communities are usually working class and people of color communities. Autonomy will give oppressed people, regions, and communities the opportunity to develop their way of life and culture that has been stolen and suppressed because of colonialism.

This though will require organization, and you cannot build revolutionary communities in isolation. These communities can connect, communicate, share resources, unite in tactics and develop a clear vision and strategy (program) to take on the capitalist and imperialist system through a federation. They can connect and build in solidarity with other regions nationally and internationally. A federation will also allow specific regions with specific histories and conditions, for example the South West and the history of the oppression of indigenous people, Chicanos and Mexicanos, the South and the oppression of Black people. Although people of color, women, queer people, working class people, immigrants, are oppressed everywhere there are specific histories and conditions in different communities.

Organizations that are built anywhere in the world should strategize around their own specific conditions -- there won't be one formula for the revolution internationally.

Our organization should have an orientation of humanity fighting for humanity, but within that we cannot eliminate people's histories and their own needs. Oppressed communities should be autonomous and be developed culturally and in other aspects as well.

Social relationships and inequalities will not be destroyed by just building an anarchist organization. Those inequalities and social relationships will still exist in the organization. There will be people who know more than others and have more experience (because people become politicized at different times in their lifes) -- it wouldn't be a problem as long as those individuals do not use these inequalities to dominate (this happens in authoritarian communist organizations especially but some anarchists do this as well). This uneveness in understanding can also be rooted in privilege -- people who have more time to theorize and organize become politicized first and based on their socialization can dominate or empower others.

There are also inequlities in organizations between men and women (most organizations are dominated by men), between different classes (activists tend to be middle class), difference in race (issues seen as legitimate are ones where white people are dominant -- as environmental, anti-war, animal rights issues), difference in sexuality (organizations alienate queer people and do not give room to discuss sexuality).

An anarchist organization specifically is relevant depending on the role of the organization. We shouldn't be trying to convert the masses into anarchists but rather spreading our principles and organizing around our principles while building and helping in the process of the self organization of people and our communities. Helping give people experience in collective struggle, decision making, direct democratic and consensus process, and in revolutionary organizing. As anarchists in particular and revolutionaries in general we still have a lot to learn and we can teach only what we've experienced and the knowledge we have acquired. Developing our theory and our praxis should also be part of the process. In the end, we also have to allow ourselves to experience defeat and not be demoralized by it but continue to develop so we can win and be free.

Building autonomous organizations of the oppressed is the foundation of the revolutionary process and these autonomous organizations cannot be isolated from communities but be integrated to people who do not see themselves as "activists" or as revolutionary anarchists yet. Class consciousness has to be developed among the oppressed and other potential allies as well -- organization can help with this as well as a different form of education that helps people analyze their day to day struggles.

A revolutionary movement is needed and must be built in order for us to free ourselves and we need to build solidarity with each other and oppressed people everywhere -- with that being said, we also need revolutionary organization.

-Joaquin Cienfuegos

author by Wayne - NEFACpublication date Tue Jan 31, 2006 16:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

*Both the development of theory and active practice in mass movements are needed.
*Specific anarchist revolutionary political organizations are needed and so are mass, heterogeneous, popular organizations (such as unions, national liberation struggles, workers councils, etc.). In fact, the whole purpose of the anarchist organization is to participate in the mass organizations, fighting for our ideas, encouraging their independence. What else? However this is one essay and it focuses on the anarchist organization. I cannot write about everything at once. My next essay will be on workers councils, okay?
*Building the best revolutionary organization we can is needed, and so is working with other revolutionary organizations wherever possible (as my essay said).
*A working class orientation is needed and so is opposition to all forms of oppression, including national oppression (see my previous essay on the Iraqi war and national self-determination). (However, the people of Iraq do not suffer from feudalism. They are an integral part of world capitalism and the world market; even their pre-capitalist hangovers have been integrated into the capitalist system. No bourgeois revolution can free them; they need a working class-led socialist-anarchist revolution.)
*In short, preparing for a revolution is like preparing a big dinner. There are many dishes to be cooked, main dishes and minor ones, each of which has to be ready at the right time. There is not ONE thing which has to be done right, but a whole host of things. Everything is needed.

author by mikepublication date Thu Feb 02, 2006 00:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

ok, as someone has asked, there is a group translating it to spanish. Please, be patient. If somebody else wants to give a hand, visit ...

author by rafaelpublication date Sun Feb 19, 2006 06:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

a tradução está sendo feita??


author by Cianpublication date Sun Feb 19, 2006 20:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.”

Was written in and ABOUT the 1930s. Then there were huge oppurtunities for a break with capitalism. Similarly in the post 1917 situation. But now the crisis is not of leadership, though that is part of it. One of the primary problems now is the crisis of consciousness. Flowwing from that are the problems of leadership, but it is not thae case that with marxist leadership Capitalism would be overthrown now. Possibly you could say that in places in Latin America this statement rings true now. As i say, consciousness and leadership are intertwined as if the trade unions etc played a better role consciousness would develop, and as consciousness develops so does a new leadership as leadership flows from struggle.

Thats just to clarify one misrepresentation that is always said again and again...


author by Mike Hargis - IWWpublication date Thu Mar 02, 2006 14:39author email michaelhargis at netscape dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Flint asserts that unions are inherently reformist bacause they must unite all workers regardless of political philosophy and their main function is to negotiate a better deal for workers within capitalism.

Perhaps Flint doesn't know the difference between fighting for immediate demands (reforms) and reformism. Reformism is a belief that the accumulation of reforms will result in the gradual replacement of capitalism with socialism, for those who still believe in the goal of socialism. It can also mean simply ameliorating the conditions so as to create a capitalism with a human face.

Revolutionary unions, on the other hand, have a different perspective. The fight for immediate demands is not only for the purpose of improving material conditions for the working class but also for training the working class in the management of their own affairs, developing class consciousness and wetting the appetite for more. In other words, a school for self-managed socialism.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (Personal Capacity)publication date Fri Mar 03, 2006 00:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Crisis of leadership" was Trotsky's slogan because he viewed the problem of workers power in terms of electing a leadership to run the state, or run a hierarchical trade union. In other words, for him it's a question of the ideas of the leaders, not what the mass of workers are doing. Thus Trotsky justified the hierarchical managment of production by people appointed from above in the Soviet Union and replacing the militia with a hierarchical Red Army on those grounds, that it was who was in the leadership that mattered, not mass participation. Trotsky, like Russian Marxism in general, viewed the hierarchical structure of capitalist industry as class neutral. This is why both Lenin and the Mensheviks saw "state capitalism" -- things like the post office & state regulation -- as a step towards socialism. But in reality this just empowers the class of managers and professionals who hold the top positions in these kinds of hierarchies. This is a reason why Bolshevism was not a working class ideology.

A union could be officially committed to a revolutionary platform and still be reformist in practice. Consider the fate of the CGT in France as an example. For a working class mass organization to be revolutionary requires the emergence of mass revolutionary tendencies or "consciousness" among workers. In such a period a mass workers organization could be revolutionary despite having multiple tendencies in it. But a prior question for North Americans is: How does the working class become revolutionary?

author by insurrectionary anarchist - earthpublication date Mon Sep 18, 2006 01:57author address sf, usaauthor phone Report this post to the editors

I think it's funny to see Sean S. complaining about anti-organizationalists like wolfi and alfredo b. being criticized, when they (people like zerzan, bob black, etc) have shown no toleration for traditional anarchism and anarchists, and have mercelessly slandered and attacked them. You guys are full of shit, and you are such advocates of violence and outright cruelty toward anarchists who dont "get with" your primitivist and anti-civilization program, and you support the idea of violence in protests and as part of politics (and you attack grass-roots democracy) .. it would be funny to see how you react to your "violence" wen it's used on you, in response to all your attacks and abuse of other people who simply disagree fundamentally with your primitivist, anti-civ, anti-tech, and anti-democratc ideas.

And chuck munson has been no better. If he is going to advocate violence and the burning down of buildings like wal-mart in the name of "anarchy" (elsewhere on the Internet), lets hope he is the one who ends up arrested for it and not all the innocent young people who simply want freedom, and do not need irresponsible people who cary this rubic of "anti leftism" and "anti organization: so far that innocent people end up in jail because of their own arrogance and irresponsibility.

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