The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

In Defense (kinda) of Anarchism March 25, 2005 by RedStar2000

The relationship between communists and anarchists has always been a "stormy" one, to put it mildly. Even now, it's not difficult to turn up some really nasty exchanges; e.g., "Anarchists are the hidden allies of the capitalist class" or "Communists are really fascists with red flags", etc.

Although there are few enough people who share my general views, I feel really lonely when I suggest that communists and anarchists have considerably more in common than either would care to admit.

There's a lot of emotional self-identification with those labels...and a critical examination of anyone's chosen "brand name" rarely evokes a rational response.

So be it. I might as well be the one to do it since I'm "used" to the flak anyway.



...yet so called "anarchists" have been viewed suspiciously by most socialist groups going back to the middle of the 19th century. Marx, De Leon, Debs, Lenin, Trotsky thought they offered fine opportunity for police infiltration of any mass movement.

Perhaps they each should have looked closer to home. The head of the Bolshevik party's delegation to the Duma (Russian parliament) -- who enjoyed Lenin's full confidence, of course -- was a cop!


During the Spanish Civil War, in the 1930's, a relative of mine-- who was a member of the CP-- spent a good a portion of his service to the cause killing in equal numbers both fascists and anarchists. He was damned proud of it too. He thought both tools of capitalism.

If his shooting skills resembled his thinking skills, he probably shot at a lot of people while hitting very few. He undoubtedly failed to notice that he was defending a bourgeois government that was both corrupt and inept -- perhaps he was simply unable to read the Spanish newspapers.

The historical record is pretty clear on this "cop stuff" -- anarchists were of marginal concern to the organs of police repression throughout most of the 20th century. The best place to meet a cop outside of a police station was the neighborhood branch of your local "Communist" party.

Whoever does anything is going to be infiltrated by police -- and since it's mostly anarchists who are doing anything significant these days, there are bound to be some cops in their ranks.

It comes with the territory.
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 5, 2005


Anarchy doesn't work for the basic reason that human nature being what it is, the state is inevitable. If it were not that way, humanity would have already developed and instituted such a system. The fact is there is just too many people for anarchy to succeed.

I'm afraid that "human nature" arguments for or against any form of society are simply bogus...there's not a shred of scientific evidence to support them.

In fact, when someone raises such an argument, they're usually talking about their personal "human nature"...which finds some forms of society more desirable/undesirable than others.

The proposition that anarchy "can't succeed" because "there are too many people" is certainly a novel one...perhaps what you meant to say here is that since hunter-gatherer societies were very small and had no state apparatus, "therefore" a state is "required" for any significant number of people to function cooperatively.

People "won't cooperate" unless there's some asshole with a gun telling them what to do. put it charitably.


The failure of the Stalinists...only shows the corrupt animal tendencies of most people drawn to power and politics...

If "most people" are "no damn good" -- or most people "drawn to politics" -- then why did you bother to post? Certainly, I can sympathize with any view that regards modern politics as a cesspool of corruption and ambition...but we live in a social order that rewards that kind of behavior.

Different kind of society = different set of rewards = different kind of behavior.

Otherwise, we'd still be swearing personal fealty to lords and kings.


Just the word "communist" makes my skin crawl.

Not good. If anarchists cannot learn from communist experience because of the "word", then you have just amputated yourself from nearly all of the revolutionary experiences of the 20th century. If you don't understand why the Leninist paradigm developed in the way that it did, you could very well end up repeating the experience...with the same unhappy consequences.

You should not think of the word "anarchism" as an ideological condom that confers "protection from Lenin's Disease". Didn't we just see a few months ago a flock of celebrity "anarchists for Kerry"?


Anarchists are at the forefront of modern revolutionary experience.

Yes, that's almost certainly true in the "west". But keep in mind that "modern revolutionary experience" hasn't amounted to much in the young century so far.

Your critics will (sarcastically) tell you that you haven't "made your bones" haven't overthrown a capitalist regime and established a working anarchist society.

You have a very long way to go.

If I may offer a suggestion, you could begin by deciding what the theoretical parameters of anarchism really are and draw lines.

Historically, anarchism has never really done this day, any asshole can call himself an "anarchist" and do whatever he pleases without ever being seriously criticized by other anarchists.

Once in a while, Lenin "got it right". When he said, "there can be no revolutionary movement without a revolutionary theory" he was right about that. His own theory was ultimately a failure, of course.

But if anarchists don't develop a coherent revolutionary theory...then your "early lead" in the race for revolution will slip away.
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 6, 2005


We didn't stop swearing fealty to lords and kings because our attitude changed. We stopped because the mode of production changed from agriculture to industrial. People are still the same as they were 300 years ago. Technology changes, people don't. Try to understand that.

I see little point in making an effort to "understand" a thesis that appears to be self-evident nonsense.

In 1705, people were still being burned for witchcraft.

In 1705, it was still widely considered incontestable that aristocracies and royalty were "real" -- actual reflections of fundamental superiority.

In 1705, people genuinely feared "the fires of Hell".

I agree with you that technology changed first...but I think it indisputable that when humans change their technology, that very change, in turn, changes human behavior.


Well then show me one or more historical examples of a moderately advanced civilization that managed to function without any kind of state apparatus?

As I already indicated in a previous post, that hasn't happened...yet.

In 1705, you would doubtless have written: "show me a moderately advanced society without lords and kings". (And, for that matter, slaves.) Your words would have sounded just as "reasonable" then as your "modern" variant does now.

But you would have been wrong then; and I don't think it beyond question that you will prove to be wrong in the future.


Over the last hundred years, everyone from Tito to Che to Mao to Gus Hall has called themselves a communist and they often had little more in common than that.

True. But there's always been an "impetus" (for want of a better word) within those variants that developed from Marx to actually figure out "who had it right" and "who had it wrong".

Or, to put it more stridently, Marxism is intolerant...of error. If somebody says to me "oh, I'm a Marxist" or "I'm a communist" response is not unconditional acceptance but skeptical inquiry: if you are a communist, what are your ideas about issues X and Y and Z?

Anarchists, for the most part, don't seem to have this "impetus" towards clarity about anarchist theory. Some do, I know, but they seem to be very much a minority in the anarchist "milieu" as a whole.

And related to this thread, that does make it somewhat easier for police to infiltrate an anarchist group. A cop need only memorize a few cliches and he can probably get himself accepted fairly least for a while. A serious communist organization is probably harder to infiltrate...because you're expected to talk about revolutionary politics in a knowledgeable fashion. And see how I just "imposed" an "intolerant definition" of "serious communist" -- people who can actually speak knowledgeably about communism.

Real anarchists are those who can actually speak knowledgeably about anarchist such time as a coherent anarchist theory emerges.

It's odd, when you stop and think about it. There've probably been just as many anarchist theoreticians as Marxist ones...but anarchists themselves mostly ignore them.

Why is that?
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 7, 2005


...there is really no such thing as anarchist "theory".


There are, loosely speaking, several theoretical "streams" that "fly the black flag". What is missing is a clear anarchist paradigm...a framework in which one can integrate data into a coherent understanding of social reality.

And therefore one in which an anarchist could say clearly "X is not anarchism" and be understood by all; e.g., people who said that we should support Kerry are not anarchists, period!


Anarchists believe that engaging in politics is the problem, so they are never anywhere ever able to do more than carve out niches for themselves. Then they tend to be as 'authoritarian' as anyone else when there.

Here the problem is that you are using a definition of "politics" that is narrowly confined to bourgeois ceremonial "elections"...which are not really politics in any substantive sense at all!

Whether you like it or not, when anarchists "run wild in the streets", that's also politics. When they target the institutions of global finance capital, that is very good politics.

Better than anyone else's, at the moment.

As to anarchists being "authoritarian" in practice, some are and some aren't. The ones who are could be attacked as not real anarchists...but that hasn't happened much, that I'm aware of.


Who elects the publishers of anarchist publications? Nobody. They use private property to choose who has the money to promote their ideas. Communists do it democratically -- their publications openly reflect the ideas of their organizations, not the individuals who have the loot.


Leninist publications reflect the ideas of their leadership...who also control the finances.

But you raise an interesting point; I don't think I've ever heard of an organization with revolutionary pretensions (Leninist or anarchist) that was up front and honestly forthcoming to the membership about how the money is being spent. Much less actually presenting the membership with a proposed budget to approve, amend, or reject.

Money is "vulgar" -- to even "ask" is "pro-capitalist". I nearly caused a scandal once in a young national organization just by raising the question of how much money was being pissed away on a stupid campaign.


Anarchists now argue that even seeking reforms is stupid.

There is sound Marxist reasoning in support of that argument. In brief, young capitalism could "afford" reforms. Old capitalism can't...therefore, to speak or act "as if" reforms are "still possible" is simply to mislead people.

As enormous and even "terrifying" as the prospect is, revolution really is "the only solution" to the decadence and brutality of late capitalism.


This debate sucks. None of you are talking about anything actually happening. There is no anarchist movement.

Well, perhaps people are not "up" to your "standards" of debate.

But you must have been living in a cave somewhere not to be aware of the anarchist role in the anti-globalization/anti-imperialist actions in recent years.

Clearly, it remains to be seen if this is going to be "the anarchist century", as some anarchists have claimed.

But they're not going away because "you don't like them".


...'authority' isn't the problem (after you leave daddy's house)...

You don't much like younger people, do you?

Don't be shocked when they return the sentiment.
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 7, 2005


Fuck off worker's world, worker's vanguard, socialist weekly, iso, the militant, the revolutionary worker, and all you idiots that do nothing but PRINT NEWSPAPERS! We don't need your messiahs, your saving graces of your great leaders, don't 'liberate' us, we can take care of that on our own!


All well and good, but why are those groups the way they are? Are they just "evil"? Or "insane"? Did they start out that way?

If you don't grasp why things happen, then who's to say you won't fuck up in the same way "in the name of anarchism"?

And how are anarchists going to "liberate" us or even themselves when it's apparently "ok" among (some? many?) anarchists to support a capitalist prick like Kerry?


The only place anarchism has any popularity at all is in the western world where people think the individual is more important than the group.

Ok. But let's not forget another factor...the "western world" is, if Marx was right, the place where communist revolution is supposed to happen first.

Where an injury to one is an injury to all.


If you look at the leading social movement of the century (Islamic fundamentalism), it sure as hell is hierarchical as hell and pretty damn reactionary really, but it is the new rising tide against capitalism.

No, Islamic fundamentalism is not "anti-capitalist", it is anti-western imperialism.

There's a difference.

Iran is, for example, becoming a modern capitalist country...though it still has some way to go. If the Islamic fundamentalists were to be successful in driving out western imperialism from the Muslim world, they would promptly create their own capitalist systems -- and Islam would eventually become a "tool" to distract the Christianity in the "west".

In any contest between the accumulation of wealth and the principles of any religion, the accumulation of wealth always wins.


Besides the Islamic fundies there are still many places in the world where Maoists are fighting to seize power. Of course the west finds Maoism shocking and scary, but if you are a peasant in the east then Maoism sounds damn good.

I quite agree. Maoism is really good at making peasant anti-imperialist revolutions and preparing the way for a new and vigorous native bourgeoisie.

In other words, pre-capitalist and semi-capitalist countries need to break away from western imperialism in order to develop their own versions of capitalism...that's where "they are at" according to the Marxist paradigm.

But in doing that, they actually weaken western capitalism itself...and open up opportunities for western revolutionaries, communist and/or anarchist.


Anarchism is basically a narcissistic philosophy that puts the individual's desires and wants above the needs of the group.

I'm always disappointed when people resort to meaningless cliches in is one supposed to respond?

An anarchist would probably say something like "yeah, and you commies want to turn us all into good little worker bees...fuck that!"

Exchanging cliches does not serve as a replacement for serious discussion.

Nor does it "advance the struggle".

Not even a little bit.
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 8, 2005


Well I think Marx was pretty much wrong then...

There isn't an industrial proletariat in the west any more, so his vision of the workers "seizing the means of production" is basically a no go since the means of production are all overseas. Besides, to say that the rest of the world has to sit back and wait for whitey to save them with the True Marxist Revolution is well...racist, basically.

There are things that Marx was wrong about...this ain't one of them.

There is obviously an industrial proletariat in the "west"...and the proletariat obviously includes many service industry workers as well. All western countries are overwhelmingly proletarian.

No one has said that the rest of the world has to sit back and "wait for whitey"...why did you interject that irrelevancy?

What Marx said was that pre-capitalist countries would have to go through the capitalist "stage" of development before communism would become possible for them.

What's "racist" about that?


The other problem with your little theories is that Capitalism has only developed originally in a Christian area. Capitalism didn't independently develop in the Muslim, Hindu or Confucian world.

No, but if Marx was right, that would have eventually happened anyway. It was a matter of chance where capitalism emerged first...and indeed, China came "within inches" of being first.

I know there are Christian apologists who argue that their religion was "crucial" in the rise of capitalism. That's just more of their usual self-serving crap.


But assuming that any place will independently develop capitalism is well...just wrong. The Muslim world AND the Confucian world were both far ahead of the west technologically at different points in history but both failed to develop capitalism.

Being "far ahead" was not far ahead enough. The details of history are very subject to the laws of chance -- the big picture is not. The rising Muslim civilization was severely damaged first by the Mongols and then by the Turks...and their last chance, in Spain, by the Spanish Christians. Bad luck.

And the Chinese almost did it -- the death of a reforming emperor put an end to their "age of exploration". Really bad luck!

As far as we know, all humans are capable of technological innovation (to argue otherwise is racist)...and thus, if Marx was right, all humans eventually create class societies that progress more or less clearly in stages. A thousand years one way or the other is trivial.

Of course, you're free to think that Marx was wrong and superstition is the real "driving force of history". In fact, that opinion is becoming fashionable in some academic maybe could get tenure.


Islamic fundamentalism may not be revolutionary but it is the strongest social movement by far right now.

But not for much longer, historically speaking. By the end of this century or the next, I don't expect there'll be much left of it.

In spite of all the fuss about religious fundamentalism...their age really is coming to an end (not that its various mutations are not capable of spectacular atrocities in their death throes).


Anti-authoritarianism means they cannot offer a strategy or way forward, so those not predisposed to hanging out in that scene don't even really engage it.

Well, that's an interesting proposition. Why do you think "anti-authoritarians" "cannot" offer a strategy or way forward?

Is it something "intrinsic" to their whole outlook? What?

If you refuse to have a leader, does that mean that you "can't" have a strategy?

I cannot dispute your personal experiences...but the anarchist in Kansas City also has personal experiences and they differ sharply from yours.

We'd all love to see a "really great strategy" that produced solid results...but I don't think anyone's got one now and it looks like an "open question" (to me) as to who is going to come up with one.

The anarchists are still "players"...and have as good a shot as anyone else.
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 9, 2005


We will not all reach consensus. We won't. I block it. Then what?

I agree with you, as it happens, that "consensus" is a recipe for paralysis on any controversy of substance.

But historically, many anarchists have used "ordinary voting" to reach decisions...without any noticeable decrease in their anti-authoritarianism. I suspect that quite a few use it even today.


...anti-authoritarian means have very little to offer beyond the moral posture of its adherents.

Maybe. But answer me this: do you think it possible for anti-authoritarians to be nevertheless authoritarian towards the class enemy?

There certainly was a time when anarchists could shoot fascists, priests, and other scum just as well (if not better) than "Stalinists".

You seem to think that time is gone forever; that all today's anarchists are "capable of" is impotent moral posturing in the face of capitalist authority.

I frankly admit I simply don't know; some anarchists that I've spoken with over the internet seem to be just as "hard-line" as I am when it comes to confronting existing authority...but who knows?


Authority is a fact, including arbitrary and unaccountable forms of it. All grown-ups know this and make their choices accordingly. I'm not being patronizing by saying this, that's one of the things it means to be a grown up.

Sure it is...but defying unjust authority is also what it means to be "a grown up" -- only the mentally childish think that "father knows best".

There are folks who respond to the existence of arbitrary and unaccountable forms of authority by saying, in effect, "I better get some of that for me".

Astonishingly, some of them actually call themselves "Marxists".


The problem is the limitations of their philosophy for actually effecting change and the degree by which they define themselves through a particularly petty, liberal and largely ignorant anti-communism.

It seems to me that the "pettiness, liberalism, and ignorance" spreads out fairly evenly...going all the way back to the original split in the First International and continuing to this day.

Is it altogether unrealistic to move past the "you anarchists really suck/you Marxists really suck" level and on to a more serious exchange?

Perhaps after the Russians finally bury Lenin???


They believe they are what they are not and have tremendous difficulty figuring out what they are. Again, this is fine for a scene of resistance, but for those not a part of it, the "anti-politics" of it become less than worthless -- it is a recipe for disengaging social life and making retreat a way of life.

Well, what form of "politics" do you wish they'd engage in? If there's something that anarchists are not doing that you think they should, what exactly is it?

What would it take for them to move "beyond resistance"? (An ironic question in that most present-day "communist" groups wouldn't know resistance if it ran up to them and bit them in the leg.)


There is something of a full-court press coming out of those circles at the moment. After years of disarray and confusion, the loss of illusions around the World Social Forum and the magical power of puppets, they now openly admit that they have no intention of actually effecting substantial change.

Yes, but is this really true of anarchists "in general" or just the particular "celebrities" that you mentioned?


I'm going to let you guys in on a little secret: Bolshevism is back and I don't think you even know what it is. Revolutionary communism is the only way to cut the Gordian knot of imperialism.

Who are today's "Bolsheviks"??? I see absolutely no sight of such a thing in the United States. Are there six people in a Brooklyn kitchen reading and discussing What is to be done? Aren't there always six people doing that somewhere?

Must revolutionary communism be bound by the chains of the Leninist paradigm for all time?

Don't you find that corpse getting a little "ripe"?
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 10, 2005


In other words, they [anarchists] hate capitalism, but fear socialism. They hate the power of the capitalist class, but fear the power of the working class. This is fairly consistent with their middle class social base and liberal illusions.

That's not a very constructive reply, is it?

When "all else fails", label your political adversaries "middle-class"?

You should pay careful attention to what the KC anarchist posted...


Anarchists, on the other hand, trust the workers and seek to empower them to take power over their workplaces, communities, and lives. We do not seek state power. We do not seek to administer the state for working people. Anarchists seek to devolve power down to the community, workplace and individual. After all, workers are qualified to run their lives, they run capitalism don't they?

Are those the words of someone who "fears the power of the working class"?

You can shrug and say something like "well, they have no idea how to do that, so it's just empty rhetoric and doesn't mean anything."

But even if that's true at the moment, nothing of substance has been offered so far to suggest that it "must always" be true.

In addition, you have still another difficulty. If anarchists don't know, at this point, how to "empower the workers", neither do "bolsheviks". When Leninist parties had state power, did they make any effort to "empower the workers"?

You know they did not.

It seems to me that the anarchists have a very long way to go to realize their revolutionary potential...and it remains to be seen if they can actually do it.

But the "Bolsheviks" are looking into the abyss! Sure, the Maoists can make some more revolutions in the "east" and "south"...but in the long run, those will inevitably be bourgeois revolutions.


Who are the "Bolsheviks" who seek to "empower the workers" instead of their own party?

And what on earth are the surviving remnants of "Bolshevism" thinking of...still telling us that nothing good can happen unless we "put them in charge"?

Back when the "USSR" and "People's China" still had a revolutionary reputation, such claims had at least a measure of plausibility.

Now, they provoke scornful laughter.

As in the Russian joke: "Socialism is the transitional period between capitalism and capitalism."
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 11, 2005


It's not a resort to call a movement what it is. The amount of literature by anarchists denying that the working class even exists, or that it's a "historical agent" is pretty well known.

To be sure, there is much anarchist literature that dismisses the working class as "irrelevant" or even "non-existent". There are also so-called "Marxists" who do likewise.

Here's the thing: if you want to paint a really bleak picture of anarchism, it's not difficult...all you need do is find all the utterly wacko texts, statements, and practices of people who call/called themselves "anarchists".

And you've "made" your "case".

Anarchists, of course can easily do the same -- the amount of gross idiocy that's been published under the "rubric" of "Marxism" easily matches if not exceeds that associated with "anarchism".

What is achieved by such efforts? Theoretical clarity? Historical accuracy? Any advance in the practical struggle?

We should not confuse the making of history with the elaboration of mythologies.


Socialism is the rule of the working classes. This is the dispute. That is the fear.

I'm surprised at you...that sounds like something a Catholic would say -- unless you are using that definition to say flatly that all of the "socialist" countries weren't. That would appear to be such a major departure from all you've said previously that I surmise you would have formulated it differently.

The empirical evidence is conclusive...the working classes had zero power in the countries that called themselves "socialist". The party leadership was everything; even the party membership (much less the workers and much, much less the peasantry) was nothing.

Whether one should "fear" such a Leninist despotism or just simply refuse to accept it under any circumstances can be problematical...but to swallow the claim that a bolshevik elite = the working class is utterly preposterous.

It's as bizarre as a profession of faith in the supernatural!


Communists in China relocated universities to the countryside so that people learning to be experts had to actually farm and touch shit like the other 90% of the population. This is considered a HORROR to liberals and anarchists alike, as if it were "persecution of intellectuals." They tried to decentralize industry to overcome the history of uneven development during the Great Leap Forward, and this is mocked.

Maoists have an odd fascination with fecal if touching it "confers grace" -- like kissing the "holy meteorite" at Mecca.

The "Great Leap Forward" is "mocked" because mockery is what it deserved...only an idiot would imagine that you could make steel in a barnyard furnace.


It's worth noting that most anarchists now reject the idea of revolution, but that aside...

IF that is true, then why not criticize them for that? It's not an "aside"'s the most important question!

Nearly all of the Leninist parties that still exist in the "west" explicitly reject revolution in favor of parliamentary cretinism. That's precisely why they are held in such contempt by those who actually want to bring down the system.

I think most of the serious young anarchists -- the ones who are actually doing stuff -- are serious about revolution as well...and realize (correctly) that we are a long way from that at this time. For all I know, even the bike riders and the puppet makers think that what they do is, in some sense, a step towards revolution.

And, "for all I know", maybe "in some sense" they're right.


History isn't a straight line.

A truism.

But it seems to me that if we are to "learn from history", then we must insist that social institutions be recognized for what they actually were...and not be misled by what they called themselves.


Please...the only specter haunting this world is environmental catastrophe.

Well it's one of them...and a timely reminder not to be afraid of ghosts.

IF there is indeed a major "civilization-threatening" environmental catastrophe looming, it's useless to "worry about it" there is nothing that you or I or anyone can do about it.

The "agenda" of history will be turned back to the transition between savagery and barbarism.
First posted at NYC Indymedia on March 11, 2005
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