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Response to Crimethinc’s “Why We Don’t Make Demands”

category north america / mexico | anarchist movement | debate author Thursday July 23, 2015 20:45author by Wayne Priceauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

Debate among Anarchists over Raising Demands

A response to Crimethinc's statement, "Why We Don't Make Demands." Wayne argues that revolutionary anarchists should propose to movements which they are part of to raise militant, radical, demands. Done in dialogue with the people, it moves the struggle forward and challenges the state and the capitalist class.

Recently Crimethinc (the “Ex-Workers’ Collective”) published a statement, “Why We Don’t Make Demands.” (Crimethinc 2015) I had previously written an article, “Should Anarchists Raise a Program of Demands?” (my answer being “yes”). (Price 2015) So it seems appropriate for me to respond to Crimethinc’s article, which is a serious presentation by anarchist revolutionaries. The document is divided into brief sections, headed by bold-faced assertions. I will go through it, making my responses section by section

The statement begins with a rejection of those “who…negotiate with authorities to advance a concrete agenda through institutional channels…with proper etiquette….for movements to limit themselves to well-behaved appeals.” (page1) Crimethinc seems to confuse the raising of demands upon the state or the capitalist class with certain (“moderate”) methods of action. For example it criticizes the New York People’s Climate March of 2014 because it was so peaceful no one got arrested. It counterposes this negatively to the angry Baltimore rebellion (“riot”) in reaction to the police murder of Freddie Grey, which resulted in the bringing of charges against police officers. But in fact the PCM failed to raise official demands, outside of a vague appeal to the governments to—somehow—stop global warming. And the Baltimore actions did make a demand, namely “Justice for Freddie Grey!” The text confuses the need for militant mass actions with whether or not to raise demands, although these are distinct issues.

For example, a union might raise demands for better pay and treatment, and back them up with a soft, sell-out, negotiation between union bureaucrats and management personnel. Or it might raise the same demands and back them up with a mass strike and occupation of the workplace. The question of “demands” is not the same as the need for militant mass action. (Of course, militant demands and militant actions tend to go together, and the same with “moderate” demands and actions. I am just saying that demands and actions are not the same thing.)

In any case, demands are not “well-behaved appeals.” They are demands!
For example, the climate justice movement should demand confiscation and socialization of all fossil fuel corporations, without compensation, to be managed by the workers in the industries and local working class communities—as part of working out local, regional, and national plans for a transition to nonrenewable energy. This would include developing decentralized, agro-industrial communities. For the majority, this is a demand on the state, since most people believe that the state is the agency which can solve the problem. But anarchists should openly say that this program can only be carried out by a federation of workplace councils and neighborhood assemblies, replacing the state through a revolution.

Crimethinc’s Arguments Against Demands

The paper argues that “Making demands puts you in a weaker bargaining position,” (1) even in negotiations. That is supposedly because they are “spelling out from the beginning the least it would take to appease you.” (1) This is an odd argument, since negotiations usually begin with each side presenting maximum demands and only lowering them in the course of bargaining.

Instead Crimethinc proposes that we “implement the changes we desire ourselves, bypassing the official institutions.” (1) I am all for building alternate institutions, such as coop groceries, credit unions, community centers, bike clubs, worker-run enterprises, etc. They are good in themselves. But, as a strategy, these do not threaten the capitalist class enough to force it to implement changes. Our resources are just too limited as against the class which controls the market and the state (which is why it is called the ruling class). It is another matter when workers take over, occupy, and start to run, factories and other workplaces! That really would threaten the ruling class and force it to make deals—or, if widespread enough, lead to a revolution.

The next section begins, “Limiting a movement to specific demands stifles diversity, setting it up for failure….A movement that incorporates a variety of perspectives…can develop more comprehensive and multifaceted strategies than a single-issue campaign.” (2) But why would a multi-issue, diverse, movement be unable to raise a variety of demands? Why would raising a variety of demands prevent a movement from being multifaceted and multi-issue?

The following section states, “Limiting a movement to specific demands undermines its longevity.” (2) “It makes more sense to build movements around the issues they address, rather than any particular solution.” (3) Why must a movement be only “limited to specific demands?” If a demand becomes outdated, why cannot it move on to further demands which are newly appropriate. Why does the document counterpose “issues” to “solutions?” Issues require solutions, and a proposed solution clarifies an issue. It is not enough to be against something, it is also necessary to be for something—a solution. And, again, if a solution becomes outdated by developments, why not work out new solutions?

“Limiting a movement to specific demands,” Crimethinc then states, “can give the false impression that there are easy solutions to problems that are extremely complex…..We speak as though there are simple solutions for the problems we face….” (3) Complex problems may need complex solutions and complex demands (such as my example of plans for a transition to nonrenewable energy).

But sometimes there are simple solutions to the complex problems society faces. There are things that might be immediately and directly done to improve matters. Would it really be technically difficult to replace gasoline-based transportation with electric cars and improved mass transit? What makes this difficult is not the technical aspects but the institutional barriers which capitalism puts in its way.

Besides confusing the question of demands with that of the kinds of actions which are necessary, Crimethinc makes another error. It ignores the different kinds of demands. All demands are not the same. There are good demands and bad demands, smart demands and stupid ones, demands which are part of a reformist program (improvement through gradual reforms), demands which are part of a totalitarian program (such as the Maoist “mass line”: offer the people what they want because you dare not tell them your true program of state capitalism), and demands that reflect revolutionary libertarian socialism (anarchism). Yet the paper constantly speaks as if there are only one kind of “demand.”

What is Wrong with Crimethinc’s Statement

Crimethinc concludes this section by asserting that it “believe[s] that the fundamental problem is the unequal distribution of power and agency in our society…. No corporate initiative is going to halt climate change…no police force is going to abolish white privilege.” (3)

This gets to the heart of what is wrong with Crimethinc’s statement. Sure, Crimethincers believe this, and I believe it, and all revolutionary anarchists agree with this view. But most people do not believe it. This includes the hundreds of thousands who marched against global warming as well as the militant demonstrators who protested angrily in Baltimore. It is not enough for a marginal minority of radicals to be super-militant; it is necessary for broad numbers of people to participate in militant action. There is virtually nothing in this document which discusses what can be done to win over the majority of working and oppressed people. They too should “believe that the fundamental problem is the unequal distribution” of power and wealth, and that significant, lasting, reforms cannot be won through the system. Crimethinc’s statement is all self-centered: what actions should be done by the few people who already agree that the system needs to be overthrown. Instead, the question is how can this anti-capitalist minority win over the many who are oppressed and exploited so that they too will believe that the system needs to be overthrown.

The document declares, “Making demands presumes that you want things that your adversary can grant.” (3) This is indeed the reformist or liberal version of demands: only demand things which the bosses can deliver. That approach has become increasingly problematical as the economy continues to stagnate and decline—since about 1970, and especially since the Great Recession of 2008. The years of prosperity which followed World War II are over and not coming back. This means that there is less and less which the capitalist class can grant. The liberal program has lost whatever adequacy it once had.

Alternately, there is the view which is (perhaps unfairly) ascribed to the Trotskyists, of making demands which they know cannot be won. The aim is to devilishly trick the workers into making such demands and thus being forced to learn that only a revolution will solve their problems.

Instead our idea is to demand what the people need—whether or not the system could provide it. The people need a decent standard of living. Since the capitalists claim the right to run society, we demand that they provide jobs or a guaranteed income for all. If the capitalist state provides what we demand (or at least some improvements), then great! The people will have learned that mass pressure works, and anyway life will be better. If the state says it cannot provide such (needed) benefits, then revolutionaries argue that the capitalists and their state must be replaced by institutions which can provide them (that is, by the self-organized working people).

Anarchists are not an elite which stands outside the lives of the people. When the people need jobs or safety from police or clean air and food, we must not declare that we will only help them if they agree to completely oppose the capitalist, statist, system. When the people—especially the working class—especially the most oppressed sections of the working class—goes into motion, they shake the whole society. We need to be part of them, part of their struggles, in dialogue with everyone, proposing our ideas for demands and listening to everyone else’s ideas.

Consider this statement by Colin Ward (2011): “One of the tasks of the anarchist propagandist is to propagate solutions to contemporary issues which, however dependent they are on the existing social and economic structures, are *anarchist* solutions: the kind of approaches that would be made if we were living in the kind of society we envisage. We are much more likely to win support for our point of view, in other words, if we put anarchist answers in the here and now, than if we declared that there are no answers until the ultimate answer: a social revolution….” (x)

Radical demands—also called “transitional” demands or “non-reformist reform” demands—are what we revolutionary anarchists propose to the movements to be raised (as opposed to those demands which the movements may raise and which we may chose to support). What we propose as the “solution” is, in fact, anarchist socialism, “the kind of society we envisage.” If there is unemployment, anti-capitalists can propose dividing up the existing amount of work among the workers (a shorter work week without loss in pay). If there is poverty, we propose dividing the wealth of society among the whole population (equal pay or guaranteed income for all). If businesses shut down, we demand worker occupation and management of the workplaces. As we explain to the people, these are all aspects of the socialist anarchist society.

Do Demands “Legitimize” the Authorities?

Next, the statement says, “Making demands of the authorities legitimizes their power, centralizing agency in their hands….They frame a narrative in which the existing institutions are the only conceivable protagonist of change.” (4) However, the capitalist class already has centralized state power. Nor does it require us, the revolutionary minority, to “legitimize their power.” The people generally accept the state as the legitimate power.

What revolutionaries should want is to show the people that there is another source of power, the masses in motion. This can be shown when the people put demands on the capitalists and force them to grant them, under threat of further pressure (as the Black demonstrators in Baltimore forced the government to charge the police officers). The whole of U.S. politics is an effort to prevent the people from realizing their power! One successful general strike in a major city would transform the entire political landscape. But for that, the workers need something to strike for, some set of demands.

Then it says, “Making demands too early can limit the scope of a movement in advance, shutting down the field of possibility. (4) “It is better for the objectives of a movement to develop as the movement develops….” (5) I agree with this. A program of demands should not be raised immediately but should be developed as part of the process of a movement developing.

Next, it states, “Making demands establishes some people as representatives of the movement, establishing an internal hierarchy and giving them an incentive to control the other participants.” (5) Again, Crimethinc is treating all demand-raising as the way liberals or Stalinists raise demands. But militant, radical, activists would raise demands by mass mobilization, active participation of all members, and democratic group processes. Anarchists reject raising demands through elections—unlike much of the Left which is mad for forming a new, third, party, unless they are for joining the Democrats.

Now it says, “Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a movement is for its demands to be met.” (5) It is true that the state may seek to defuse a movement by offering minor concessions. It is the job of revolutionary anarchists to point out when this is happening and keep on demanding more—demanding what is needed. However, overall, I think that it is better for a movement to win its demands than to fail to get them. When it comes to building a movement, winning is better than losing!

The statement refers to the 2011 Egyptian revolution. This “ultimately failed not because it asked for too much but because it didn’t go far enough; …unseating the dictator but leaving the infrastructure of the army and the ‘deep state’ in place….” (5) Entirely correct. The radicals needed to persuade the majority to demand “Disband the army! Arm the people! Build workplace, soldier, and neighborhood assemblies! Federate them together! Seize the factories and offices! All power to the assemblies!” These would have been revolutionary demands, which would have required the people to organize themselves to put them in place.

“If you want to win concessions, aim beyond the target,” it says. (7) The government may grant concessions to more moderate parts of the movement, if it fears that not giving concessions will strengthen a more radical wing (as Malcolm X pointed out to Dr. King). That is true, and it is why, even in a non-revolutionary period, it is helpful to mass movements to have a militant, revolutionary, wing. The U.S. state finally ended the Vietnam war, in part because it was threatened by the growth of revolutionary sentiment among a layer of young students and workers. But this is not an argument against raising demands. It is an argument for revolutionaries to be proposing radical, militant, demands.

“Doing without demands doesn’t mean ceding the space of political discourse. Perhaps the most persuasive argument in favor of making concrete demands is that if we don’t make them, others will.” (7) That is, liberals or even fascists. This actually addresses the issue of persuading others. Crimethinc responds by being against burying the radical goals in a mushy liberal program. It opposes “conceal[ing] our radical desires within a common reformist front for fear of alienating the general public.” (8) Again, there is no real connection. Being in a united front of different people and groups does not have to prevent radicals from raising their own vision and program. Revolutionaries can propose a more radical set of demands to those raised by the liberal groupings. Or they can agree with the common demands, but propose more militant ways of fighting for them.

Its concluding section asks, “If not demands, then what?” It answers, “Instead of making demands, let’s start setting objectives…seek[ing] more and more ambitious goals.” (8) There is certainly nothing wrong with setting objectives and goals. But how shall we achieve these goals? Surely we need to build a militant, participatory, and angry movement of many people who are prepared to fight against the capitalist class and its state. This requires a willingness to openly demand a better life for all from those who rule, and when people see that they cannot provide it, to overturn and dismantle all their institutions.

Summary

In brief, the statement by Crimethinc confuses the issue of whether to raise demands with the issue of whether to have militant mass actions. It lumps all demands together and treats them as “demands” raised only by liberals, reformists, and Stalinists, ignoring the possibility of radical, transforming, demands. And it mostly ignores the key question of how to persuade the big majority of working people and oppressed people of the need for a total change in society. To address this issue would be to see the importance of raising demands in a revolutionary libertarian-socialist manner.


References

Crimethinc (2015). Why We Don’t Make Demands.
http://crimethinc.com/texts/r/demands/

Price, Wayne (2015). Should Anarchists Raise a Program of Demands?
Anarkismo.
http://www.anarkismo.net/article/26648?search_text=wayn...Price

Ward, Colin (2011). Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility: The Colin Ward Reader (eds.: Chris Wilbert & Damian F. White). Oakland CA: AK Press.

author by Anonymous in the USpublication date Sat Jul 25, 2015 16:16Report this post to the editors

Thanks for this serious engagement with the issue. I'm cross-posting this comment, with a few improvements, to make sure you can see the conversation going on elsewhere.

I'll just take one example here...

"The radicals needed to persuade the majority to demand 'Disband the army! Arm the people! Build workplace, soldier, and neighborhood assemblies! Federate them together! Seize the factories and offices! All power to the assemblies!' These would have been revolutionary demands, which would have required the people to organize themselves to put them in place."

Wayne, what does it mean to "demand" these things? Those are things we (not necessarily "we anarchists" but maybe "we people in revolt") can set out to accomplish, on our own strength, but they're not things we could effectively demand of the authorities or of those who don't share our agenda. They won't be granted us--we have to carry them out ourselves if we want them to happen.

You admit as much yourself. That shows that you have some confusion in your thinking between *making demands* and *pursuing goals.* Your framework fosters this confusion, in fact. You make it seem like Crimethinc are the confused ones, but the closer I look at your proposals, the more it seems like you are proposing a mishmash of reformist demands on steroids and actually revolutionary politics (framed in such a way that they could be misunderstood as a reformist program, which could produce some dangerous vulnerabilities if you were to succeed in rallying a mass movement on that basis).

The Crimethinc text is not saying we shouldn't have any goals. But the "demands" you frame above only make sense as an *agenda*, not as demands--or else maybe, like in the quote at the end of the Crimethinc article, as demands we make of ourselves, not of any adversary. That is a fundamentally different thing than a demand like "stop the war, please!" or "use the justice system to punish police who kill the wrong people."

So yeah, in short, demands are addressed to adversaries. They're different from goals. Or so it seems to me.

author by Jon Bekkenpublication date Sat Jul 25, 2015 23:05Report this post to the editors

While I of course do not believe that reforms can accomplish our goals, or that the capitalists will ever voluntarily concede the new world that is both possible and necessary, I also don't think it is correct to say that we are now in an era where the capitalists are no longer able to grant meaningful concessions. They would have us believe that there is no alternative to austerity and stagnation and misery (other than revolution), but where is the evidence that this is true?
Real wages for half the US working population have dropped since 1973 (vanishing altogether for many, only to resurface in other parts of the globe at much lower rates). Working hours have increased. Social benefits have been slashed. I discuss this in Anarcho-Syndicalist Review 64/5. But productivity doubled in that period, so there is a large amount of socially created surplus which the capitalists and their well-paid lackeys have expropriated to their own purposes (profits, dramatically higher managerial salaries, increased spending on surveillance, marketing and other social control apparatuses, etc.), and which they could redistribute downward if they felt compelled to do so -- just as they did in the 1930s.
Similarly, while the capitalists who have focused their operations in the fossil fuel industries would certainly suffer if the capitalists decided to do something about climate change, it is far from clear that they lack the resources as a class to pivot and refocus energy production and consumption in ways that would at least mitigate the damage to the environment (of course doing their best to make us pay the cost). At this point, most prefer not to, with a relatively small number spending millions to convince their fellow capitalists that it is not in their longterm interests to bury their heads in the sand. But we should not confuse their short-sightedness (which of course is encouraged, but not entirely compelled, by the structure of the economic system) with incapacity.
The capitalists can grant demands when they feel compelled to. In various organizing campaigns I have been involved with we have won extension of health benefits to workers long excluded from them, a 20 percent overnight pay hike to a group of workers after a very poorly attended organizing meeting (the raise was unfortunately successful in heading off the campaign, much more could have been won), etc. In one campaign, workers demanded and won - after a fairly prolonged on-the-clock meeting with their boss, who desperately wanted work to resume - the right to make their own work schedule, something they needed because the boss was depriving one worker of the hours he needed to maintain his health insurance and feed his family.
Demands are necessary, in part because the alternative to making and fighting for demands is to accept whatever crumbs the bosses offer us, and in part because in fighting for them we develop our own power and a fuller awareness of our capacity. There can not be a revolution without a period of struggle, of building organization and testing our resolve. But if we enter these struggles believing that the capitalists are unable to make concessions, then we will be caught unawares when they do, and our struggles will be derailed into reformist channels.

author by Anonymous in the USpublication date Sun Jul 26, 2015 04:48Report this post to the editors

Jon--

I like your point about needing to be prepared for the possibility that we will have our demands granted, in case that occurs and derails our momentum. (That still sounds to me like an argument against a demand-based framework, however.)

And granted, it is not impossible for us to win a concession or two, even today. But I have to say, I agree with Wayne that this is made more difficult by market conditions (though I think it's more on account of the global fluidity of finance than "economic crisis"). I'm curious why you think workers' struggles have largely failed to win their demands over the past couple generations, if the changes in the world market are not a factor? Is it just a moral failure on our part, that we are not organizing hard enough?

author by John A Imani - Revolutionary Autonomous Communities-Los Angeles (RAC-LA)publication date Sun Jul 26, 2015 05:52author email johnaimani3 at gmail dot comauthor address 2531 Ridgeley Dr #1 Los Angeles, CA 90016author phone 323-932-1235Report this post to the editors

Comrades,

Lack of demands (focused, discussed and radical) leads to instinctual and, with it, opportunistic rebellion. By opportunistic I mean, e.g, the wholesale looting of owner-operated stores. These people are either independent workers (who own their own ability to work and do not hire waged-labor) or petit-bourgeois (who must work alongside their employees to stay in business). Both of these are working classes, though the later is also a capitalist class in that it employs wage-labor.

At present the only thing that possibly protects their places of employment are their previous relationship with those now in the street: In 1992 I lived near two stores, both Korean-owned. One was burned the other was not. The first (on the NE corner of Van Ness and 54th St) was protected by a small crowd of people who prevented looting. The lady who ran the store was known to be extremely considerate. She gave credit when needed and treated people w respect.

The other store was on the SE corner of Slauson and Van Ness (one long blk away from the other). I used to buy my cigarettes and beer there daily. I came in one day and the guy put my cigarettes on the counter as I got my beer. Seeing them I informed him "Oh. I've stopped smoking" as I pushed them back. Expecting maybe a "Congratulations", or something. He said "You stopped smoking?" I said, "Yeah". He pushed them forward, saying, "Here. I give them to you free". I said, "You, mother-fucker" and, leaving beer and cigarettes there, I never went back to that store. April came and I listened with satisfaction to the explosions of the few bottles of booze left after the store was looted and in the process of burning.

It's the old heroin dealer's trick. And this resort to crass preying upon a presumed human failure that differentiated my response to the 1st store which did employ wage-labor (petit-bourgeois) and the second (burned) which the owners worked alone (independent workers).

So it is not simply and strictly a class thing. It is or can be as much a matter of personality and common courtesy. But we need to differentiate between these kinds of stores and, say, CVS or Ralph's, both of which are bourgeois capitalist owned and deserving of no such codicils. And we cannot do that until we are clear not only in our thinking but also in our work and propagandizing.

This could very well be a point of demand-crafting and propagandizing amongst our class members. It is a clear call for a demand that the major means of production be seized and operated as communal property; at the same time, small business property can, and in my opinion, ought be allowed. These like the state will wither away as reorganized production will come to satisfy almost all of our needs and desires. Should a person desire to opt out of the system, (s)he ought be able to do so. Under conditions: a ban on the employment of wage-labor ought be one. T

There is a clear and revolutionary precedent for this type of thinking. It exists in the Kronstadt demands #11: "The granting to the peasants of freedom of action on their own soil, and of the right to own cattle, provided they look after them themselves and do not employ hired labour."

To not raise demands robs us, like I view the non-use of elections (another whole matter), of valuable means by which to engage, educate and learn from the comrades of our class.

JAI
RAC-LA

Related Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kronstadt_rebellion
author by Wayne Pricepublication date Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:14Report this post to the editors

To Anonymus in the US: I wish you would tell us where the “conversation [is] going on elsewhere” so readers could follow it.

Your make a correction to my reference to “we anarchists” saying “maybe ‘we people in revolt’.” This is my key issue. Even if I am wrong (for the sake of argument) on other matters: I maintain that the question is how do we (the most radical sector of the people in revolt) persuade the rest of the people in revolt to carry out such activities as disarming the military and organizing councils? Not necessarily to call themselves “anarchists” or “communists” but to in fact become anti-authoritarian revolutionaries. How? I propose that one way is to raise a program which speaks to their needs but does not stop at the limitations of capitalism and the state. I don’t care what you call this. Some of this program must include “demands” in the sense that people call on the existing powers to give them arms and disarm the military, threatening to take arms and undermine the military directly ourselves if the state does not.

Our program would indeed include a range of demands, some more limited and immediate and some for a later stage. This may be what John Imani means by “demand-crafting and propagandizing amongst our class members.” Right now I am for raising the minimum wage but I am also for expropriating the energy industry under workers’ and community control. You refer to “dangerous vulnerabilities” if we “succeed in rallying a mass movement” on the basis of demands which could be “misunderstood as a reformist program.” But we are not liberals. When we organize a fight for, say, $15 minimum, revolutionary anarchists would tell people that a revolution is necessary for consistent, stable, long-term reforms to be in place. Which is not what the reformists, liberals, Stalinists, or centrists say.

To Jon,

Of course I agree that concessions can be forced out of the ruling class, gains can be won, and demands may succeed—provided, you would agree, that there is a lot of pressure put on the rulers. I cited the example raised by Crimethinc, in which the killer cops were indicted due to mass pressure. I do not think that we disagree on the basic politics.

However, I do believe that overall things are getting worse and it has become harder for the bosses to give in on demands. They are in a worse situation than they were in the ‘30s (when they could not end the Depression over ten years without a world war). I believe that much of the apparent profits of the capitalist class is empty financial wealth, “fictitious capital” as Marx called it, and not really available for a new expansion of the standard of living, such as happened after the Second World War. (I have no idea what Anonymous in the US means by “global fluidity of finance”, but he seems to agree with my political point.) I further believe that the transformation of the US technological base in order to get to a non-carban energy economy, would be very difficult, if not quite impossible. Unfortunately I think the people of the world are facing a very bad time unless we totally reorganize the world system.

author by Wayne Pricepublication date Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:39Report this post to the editors

The further discussion of this essay, referred to earlier, is probably at anarchistnews, at https://anarchistnews.org/content/response-crimethinc’s-“why-we-don’t-make-demands”#comment-203790

author by bob mcglynnpublication date Mon Jul 27, 2015 03:31author email bobnenwogb at al dot comReport this post to the editors

since me and wayne pretty much think alike i just skimmed his piece and agree one should make demands- i've been thru too much activity where one needed to make demands- at least Occupy got "the 99% vs. the 1%" into the lingo.

bob mcglynn / bobnenwogb@aol.com

author by Tompublication date Tue Jul 28, 2015 08:42Report this post to the editors

I think a key aspect of whether demands are "reformist" or not has to do with the method of struggle & organization around that demand. If we suppose that workers or tenants have formed commitees or their own organizing group or are part of some grassroots organization that is run by the affected directly, then I would say that running struggles through those methods -- direct participation by the people affected, use of direct action methods, direct control by those affected -- are non-reformist methods. To pursue demands through bureaucratic collective bargaining by officials, or through politicians or others who are supposedly fighting for us are reformist methods. Some demands may lend themselves more to reformist methods.

But wherever there is a directly organized form of struggle demands may emerge organically out of the situation. Tenants in a building have gotten together because they are fed up over mold & the elevator not working, so they demand that the landlord get the elevator working, remedy these problems...and they may use protests or withholding of rent or whatever.

An organized group can think through what it wants to demand. And often this will be influenced by how much power they think they have to obtain some change, or what they think the employer or landlord can cough up. What we should suggest in such situations is to not be too timid about what to demand. We don't entirely know what can be obtained except thru the process of struggle & any negotiation that ensues.

If people who are self-organized in this way win things, it is not going to persuade them to be quiescent...I think Crimethinc is wrong about that. It's just as likely to bolster their confidence to go further.

Since '80s workers have mostly been in retreat but not because capital can't make concessions but because of poor organization and disappearance of disruptive direct action. The militancy of the World War 1 to '30s was the product of a long period of development in class consciousness & many radical militants were educated. But the reformist methods of pursuing collective bargaining, electoral politics & compliance with narrow legality dissopated that old militant tradition, so people have to rebuild a new militant conscsiouness. But building grass roots struggles is the way for that to happen, and demands emerging out of the organization...from the needs & thinking of the people affected...is necessary part of that.

As to this comment by Wayne: "The radicals needed to persuade the majority to demand “Disband the army! Arm the people! Build workplace, soldier, and neighborhood assemblies! Federate them together! Seize the factories and offices! All power to the assemblies!” These would have been revolutionary demands, which would have required the people to organize themselves to put them in place."

I don't understand this. It seems to me that this is really a proposal for a revolutionary program. I do think that "arm the people" might have been a mass demand against the government in that period. but the rest is about a program which we would want the mass movement, mass orgs, to take up.

author by Waynepublication date Tue Jul 28, 2015 12:48Report this post to the editors

Yes, on re-reading it, I agree that my list of “demands” which the Egyptian people should have raised is actually a mix of demands and a program of action.

Mostly I am in agreement with Tom’s statement. However, he is only partially right when he says, “Since '80s workers have mostly been in retreat but not because capital can't make concessions but because of poor organization and disappearance of disruptive direct action.”

(1) It is not an issue about whether capital can make concessions, but that capital has waged a direct attack on the working class in every arena. The Republican have been the cutting edge of the attack politically, but the Democrats have also been attacking, as have corporations directly. Behind this is the increased difficulty of capital making a real profit due to a general trend of capitalist stagnation.

(2) Yes, the workers and oppressed have “poor organization” a lack of “direct action.” But it is also true that the union officials plus Democratic Party leaders have worked very hard to keep things that way, especially to channel popular discontent into electoral passivity. A struggle to develop workers’ self-organization must be a fight against the union bureaucrats and the Democratic politicians.

author by wanye pricepublication date Tue Jul 28, 2015 20:04author email bobnenwogb at aol dot comReport this post to the editors

APOLOGIES , BUT I HAVE TO YELL AT ANARKISMO 1ST and then I’LL COMMENT---

1ST OFF A WORD TO ANARKISMO THAT LETS MY COMMENTS AND LETTERS TO YOU GO THRU BUT WHY AM I HAVIN IMMPOSSIBLE TIME WITH SENDIN MY '60'S CIVIL WAR' ARTICLE that many dig- ALLWAYS SOME DAMN TECH PROBLEM AND ITS BEEN NOW A MONTH AND U CANT EVEN SEND A RESPONSE TO MY LETTERS?????- MY PAL WAYNE PRICE GETS THRU WITH SAFARI- I GOT UPDATED SAFARI AND UPDATED FIREFOX- MY GIRL IS A WIZ WITH THE COMPUTER AND FINDS NO BUGS ETC. AND CANT FIGURE IT-- MY ATRICLE IS 'GOOD ENGLISH" ('CEPT SOME FUN LIKE 'CEPT ) AND I USE THE BEST DICTIONARY AROUND (SPELL CHECK/GOOGLING/LIBRARIANS SUCK COMPARED TO THE 50 YR OLD WEBSTERS I GOT-)

ARE YA GONNA WRITE ME AND SAY WHATS GOIN ON AFTER A MONTH????- YA CANT MAKE A CALL TO A HARD WORKING BROTHER WHO'S IN CHRONIC PAIN 24 HOURS A DAY- YA CANT TELL ME IF THE PART OF ARTICLE I SAVED WITH YER SYMBOLS FOR ITALS/BOLDS/UNDELINING WILL HOLD IN YER CONTENT FIELD AND STILL WORK IF I COPY THE ONE I SAVED AND PASTED IT IN? AND MAKE IT A 15 HOUR JOB FOR ME INSTEAD OF 24 HOUR?

WHATS WRONG WITH U????????????

JUST WHATCH THIS GO THRU AND I'M OFF TOPIC...

warning shitty spelling...

bob mcglynn here supporting wayne-- example of why bike messengers (the dirt end of new imformation age proletariat- see my article early '80's in Processed World that nyc bikers use as their history up to that point- our union used this as official history too) in nyc had to have demands-- when we fought the increasingly gentrifying city and they were after us time and again WE KEPT WINNING without an aarp ,aaa, nra, etc, no $ , you get the picture-- when the clowns tried to organize a litteral motor vehicled dept. for us our demand HAD TO BE 'no such-and-such bill/law ' -- we fought with our famous mass rides (we STARTED CRITICAL MASS CULTURE THE WHOLE BIT like raising ones bike above ones head etc)-- nyc has a not bad city council hearing process (THAT CAME TO BE 'CUZ PEOPLE DEMANDED IT) we'd jam and emmbarras the fuck out of them- it was kinda BIG RICH BROTHER is out to get the 18-20 something yr old , us "kids' who were working the toughest job in the city- and we made the pigs look like the bullies they were... when the jackasses tried to BAN bikes in a midtown grid (realy us) we had mass chaotic rides ALL that summer and chanted 'koch (the 'fascist' mayor) cant ride' and 'fifth/park/and madison' that were the aves they wanted us off of- we killed them- of course the demand was 'no bike ban'- we also lobbied etc , made good relations with the press, (a yippie rule was always make friends with the press even if their fukin with you)- we were front paged that summer and made pals with striking NBC workers who we'd pass on our rides- 1 ride had 1200- the pige CANNOT CONTRL A MASS OF BIKERS WHEN WE CAN TWIST AND TURN SO EASY- HA! HA!-- 1 of main press guys was Black and was there for us and it wasnt a city paper it was long island (our qweans section is there though)--

as we were increasingly 'minority' from the beginning when it was 50-50 white working class , alot of freaks, the other 50% mostly Blacks, it began to look RACIST to keep goin after us with 1 petty thing after another- industry started 'round '72, i started '74, and put in 25 yrs i saw it all- i'd still be on the road 'cept i met a girl and now i'm just north in yonkers and got ill- I MAY GO BACK TO IT!!!!!!!!--

when for who knows what reason it becme 'union time', my dream , we didnt want to go an independent route- too much work and trouble- we met 'socialists lite' in a teamster local , the srteet oganizer bernadette did her thesis on anarcho-syndicalism and understood me- all union people( almost all Black, 1 was a bodyguard for m l king) got to know me fast AND THAT I WASNT A FUKIN ENTYRIST FROM @.- didnt matter as i/others put union thru wringer and they came out super democratic- it was @ in everything (kinda,sorta) but name-- didnt need it-- there were 2 ISO entryists and all bikers HATED them - they were racist and controls were put on the motherfukers to not meddle- BUT WE WANTED THEM EXPELLED!!!! WHY UNION DIDNT I DONT KNOW BUT IT JUST MAY HAVE BEEN THEY WORKED 25 HOURS A DAY SO BERNADETTE MAY HAVE THOUGHT THEY WERE AN ASSET- i let her HAVE IT for a half hour 1 day demanding they be not allowed on union premisis or be allowed to participate in any way- i was older, muscled, crazy, brave- the union 'enforcer' (i still am at 59) and 1 day Blacks said 'hey hank (my road name) theres other 'socialists outside'- it was some group of leninoids- i went to street and dispatched them qwik... early on at a biker funeral we gathered where his skull was crushed at blood mark and 4 ISO college brats WERE SELLIN THEIR FUKIN PAPER- AT A FUNERAL!!!- i got rid of the babies qwik-- the spanish @'s durin civil war lost in part cuz they didnt kill communists 1st...

well i'll qwit braggin now and get to the DEMAND point- we wanted paid holidays, medical, dental, a say in how compaies ran etc. companies were scared shit of 3000 99% 'minorities' - tthey started given rights to us at places we werent even organizing... i'm colapsing this alot and generalizing to qwit this as i have a bad back from a work accident AND AM NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SITTEN LIKE THIS IF YOU HAVENT GOTTEN THE WORD-- THE WAY TO DEAL WITH ME IS THE FONE AND NOT EMAIL WHICH PROBABLY I WONT ANSWER- the union had to collape cuz of union bein in red in 1st place- teamster locals are VERY autonomous so its hard to beg from headquartes- ISO fucked things up behind our backs- bosses scared bikers with reprisals...i gotta go--but it woulda been a gem if there was time and core people culda hung in there in an insanely transient industry- basically all get into accidents if on the road long enuf (4 months)- only a select bunch can do it...

if ya dont make demands in such a situation ya dont know the street/reality/ya spend yer time writing like i'm tyrin not to do (finally i've started my book of not crap poetry and lots of guest appearances by wild artist/writers like hakim bey, seth tobotkim...( look for 'the ponderosa chronicles/long live joey homicides!' under createspace/autonomedia imprint at least in a yr or 2)

ON RACSIM- i knew union would wanna hire me fast to be paid organizer- i knew the day would come as i was the historian of the scene/1 of main organizers of 2/3 other biker groups/the strongets/"smartist"/the longest on the road...i didnt want to ceaser chavez it and dedicate 25 hours a day to it- i had plenty of other responsibilities like Neither East Nor West-NYC (mail me for enormous important @ history), an ill mother/ill me (now i have 7? illnesses 3 that could kill me- i aint cryin, we all got probls, i got 15 meds i take a day and pleny dr. appointments blah blah-- oh shit i'm ramblin, --on racism: i didnt want to be paid organizer cuz it was fukin time for a Black to take center stage- i got no guilt crap, no 'white traitor' nonsense, its just moral/right/fair/if ya wanna revolution then put the more/most oppressed in 'leadership' - ya dont have to be a mixed 'race ' group/scene just 1 that makes alliances etc like the Panthers, '79- late '80's circa Brooklyn Anti-Nuclear Group...mixed 'race' of demos against pig killings in US were great...do it if ya can, if not make alliances- messengering was an amazing true rainbow- once to get a grant of a $1000 from lefty North Star in nyc Bike Messenges United had a delegation to meet with them: white me, a latino, a japenese/mexican/hawian, a grouping i forget its name but there in cuba and some around carribian, a Black, 2 others...

dont be crazy- demand the immpossible and u might get it...

bob mcglynn, 914-793-8315- if any of u have been on the road i especially wanna talk to u- no other calls really EXCEPT FROM ANARKISMO THATS DISSIN ME- IF I GET MY GREAT ARTICLE ON '60'S CIVIL WAR WITH AN ANARCHISTIC FLAVOR' printed in anarkismo THATS THE TICKET I NEED IT SEEMS TO BE ON A-INFOS.

anarkismo my '60's' article is no mess- will ya please get off yer ass and help me, i'm too ill to be playin with @ foolishness..

author by Waynepublication date Mon Aug 10, 2015 09:19Report this post to the editors

Oops. In paragraphs 4 and 9, I refer to a "transition to nonrenewable energy." Of course what I meant was a transition to "renewable" energy!

author by Cautiously Pessimisticpublication date Sat Aug 15, 2015 23:08Report this post to the editors

Hey, I wrote up some thoughts in response to this (and your earlier article - I realise they were written separately but I think it makes sense to read the two together): https://nothingiseverlost.wordpress.com/2015/08/15/supp...ands/
Solidarity,
CP

Related Link: https://nothingiseverlost.wordpress.com/2015/08/15/supp...ands/
author by Waynepublication date Mon Aug 17, 2015 08:28author email drwdprice at aol dot comReport this post to the editors

I sent this to the site of Cautiously Pessimistic's response to my essay on Crimethinc and making demands:

I appreciate that “Cautiously Pessimistic” has thought about and responded to my essays on whether anarchists should raise and/or support demands. While I do not intend to write a third essay here, I will make some brief comments.

CP’s opinions are somewhat different from Crimethinc’s views, in that he or she believes that “short-term, immediate, demands” —demands which might be won in the near-term—are okay to raise. But CP rejects “bigger, more ambitious” demands that “the state…can’t and won’t give.” Instead “I favor the Crimethinc approach of relying on our own abilities to find ways to meet our own needs.” He or she claims that “Price seems to waver between…the absurd ‘transitional demand’ method of encouraging people to demand things we’re confident they won’t get, and then the method…of organizing directly to meet our own needs without making demands of external forces.”

Actually I reject both approaches. Without repeating the examples I used in my articles, I am for making demands of what the people actually need, and can see that they need. Period. Whether the system can grant these demands is not the criterion. Nor do we always know if it can. However, I think that the system is sinking into greater difficulties (economically, politically, and ecologically). It will become harder to win even the limited demands which CP supports. Reforms can still be won, but more and more the fight for even limited reforms will have revolutionary implications. Which we should point out.

CP is confused about the concept of “organizing people directly to meet our own needs.” He/she mixes two ideas: one is that of building alternate institutions, such as worker-run cooperatives. I argued that neither the “movement” nor the working class as a whole has the resources to create enough alternate institutions to challenge the capitalists’ domination of the market and the state. The other idea is that workers and others might take over factories, offices, and other workplaces, and manage them on our own. This is not being independent “of external forces.” It is a direct challenge to “external forces”, to the capitalists and to the state! They will take the workers to court and send in police and military forces. It will be a fight—unlike the alternate institution approach (“dual power”) which is a cop-out, an attempt to somehow maneuver around the rulers without directly confronting them. (See my essay, “Workers’ Self-Directed Enterprises: A Revolutionary Program” http://www.anarkismo.net/article/26931?search_text=Wayn...Price)

CP is against demands for full employment (“Jobs or Income Now!”). After all, under anarchist-communism there will be no direct connection between work and income. “Income” will be non-monetary, and based solely on need, not effort. All of which I agree with. (Which does not mean the immediate end of people working.)

But here and now, what do we advocate for immediate improvement? Is CP against workers currently demanding better pay and working conditions from the bosses, among the “short-term, immediate, demands” that he or she finds acceptable? Or is it okay to demand better pay for existing jobs but not to demand more and better-paying jobs? Can we demand good government housing but not that the government pay workers to build good housing? Why is it okay to demand that the state pay the rent but not pay for necessary work to be done? Or does nothing satisfy CP but an immediate call to leap to full communism?

I do agree with Crimethinc, and with CP, that only a revolution will solve society’s problems in a consistent and thorough-going fashion. And I am for saying so. But unlike Crimethinc and (to a degree) CP, I am in favor of fighting for immediate improvements in people’s lives, making demands on the state and the capitalists, while pointing out the limitations of such demands (win or lose) and the need to go further. Despite all CP’s references to “Trotskyism,” this is the tradition of revolutionary mass-struggle anarchism.

A final note: CP refers to an exchange between two groups of US anarchists (neither of which am I a member of). I won’t comment on the exchange myself, or the jargonistic use of terms like “military support.” But surely the issue is whether anarchists are neutral between the people of Ukraine and Russian imperialism, or even on the side of the Russian state, as is much of the Left (perhaps out of Soviet-era nostalgia). Or whether we are in solidarity with the Ukrainian people (not the Ukrainian state) against the Russian aggressor (and centures-old oppressor of Ukrainians)—as I am.

author by Cautiously Pessimisticpublication date Tue Aug 18, 2015 05:32Report this post to the editors

Duplicating my comment in reply:
Likewise, I appreciate your response.
“However, I think that the system is sinking into greater difficulties (economically, politically, and ecologically). It will become harder to win even the limited demands which CP supports. Reforms can still be won, but more and more the fight for even limited reforms will have revolutionary implications. Which we should point out.”
I’d be interested to know how this view fits with the growth of the “New Reformism”, as Syriza/Podemos in mainland Europe, Corbynmania and the Scottish Nationalists in the UK, and Bernie Sanders in the US all seem to be pushing variations on lefty social-democratic politics and making these politics much more prominent than they’ve been for a long time. It’d be good to see more serious anarchist analysis of these phenomena in general, but for the time being, until they hit their limitations, they seem to suggest that it’s very possible to fight for limited reforms in an entirely reformist manner.
On alternate institutions/dual power vs confrontational mass movements, I increasingly think this is a false dichotomy. Surviving the lockouts, the waves of repression and all the rest will require the ability to take care of ourselves and each other on a mass scale, and we can’t wait until we’re strong enough to take over workplaces to start building these capabilities. I think Occupy and the various squares movements showed this quite well – for more historical examples, I’d point at things like the support groups that fed the British miners for a year while they took on Thatcher’s police state, or the Black Panthers free breakfast programmes. Workers’ co-ops and the like certainly aren’t a strategy for getting rid of capitalism, but any combative movement that doesn’t have enough “alternate institutions” set up to cope when capital cuts off the supply of money is going to fall very hard very quickly.
On specific demands: I tend to think that what does and doesn’t make sense tends to vary according to the specific situation – a demand that perfectly expresses a mood on one occasion might be hopelessly over-ambitious in another situation, or far too moderate and conservative in another. Having said all that, I tend to think that making demands on the state is a lot like wishing on the proverbial genie’s lamp or monkey’s paw: you might get your wish, but you want to be very careful about how it’s granted, because as long as the state’s in control of granting it it’s out of your hands. Having said all that, my problem with calls for full employment is less to do with a purist objection to anything short of full communism and more with recognition of the way that “boosting employment” has been used as an excuse for attacks on the working class time and time again, because our selfish inconvenient desire to protect our living standards always turns out to be the problem – from the French CPE in 2006 to the mass roll-out of workfare and the attacks on disabled claimants in the UK to the “right to work” in the USA, not forgetting all those prison labour programmes making sure that prisoners don’t miss out on their right to work… not to sound like a cliched ultraleftist, but when it comes to the right to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, Marx and the IWW preamble both had it spot on.

On Ukraine: I support the Ukrainian people and the Russian people against their enemies in the Kremlin and in Kiev. I can’t see how the logic of supporting Ukranian independence from Russia trumps the logic of supporting the Donbass republic’s independence from Ukraine, and the whole thing smacks a little too much of supporting brave little Belgium against the militarist aggression of German imperialism, and so on… Then as now, the only “side” for us to take is the side of deserters, mutineers, saboteurs and all the rest who refuse to sacrifice themselves for the interests of the nation, whichever nation that is.

In solidarity,
CP

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