Bad "Anarchists" February 9, 2004 by RedStar2000
After the Leninist variant of "Marxism" became dominant around 1920 or so, those who could not, for one reason or another, accept despotism "in the name of the working class" and yet who nevertheless wished for a "revolutionary" transformation of class society tended to drift into orbit around the vague concept of anarchism.
Thus anarchism has, within living memory, contained very "good" elements...people very serious about class struggle and revolution. The anarcho-syndicalists of the Spanish Revolution--especially its left wing--are the best examples of this.
Unfortunately, anarchism has also attracted other elements...which are not revolutionary in any sense.
And the problem, of course, is that all too often those who are serious revolutionaries under the anarchist banner will accept their class enemies as "comrades"...since they both call themselves "anarchists" and both are sincerely opposed to Leninism.
Thus I always have a problem with people who ask my opinions of anarchists...I always have to respond "Which ones?".
I have a pretty low opinion of this one.
In a society in which a worker, by any definition, owns a 3,000 square foot house, has two cars, a boat, 60 inch color teevee, a stereo system, travels to Cancun for vacation, has stocks and bonds and a pension from work...
Interesting group of workers you hang out with...I don't know anyone like that myself.
I have heard of them -- second-hand -- of course. I surmise that they owe a bundle on all of that stuff they "own". I assume that in the event their job moves to Assholia, they won't be allowed to go with it. I wonder how much of what they "own" they'll get to keep after the repo man calls and the bankruptcy court issues its judgment...and their new McJob grants them the princely sum of $9.50 per hour.
The distinction between CEO and janitor is not between have and have not, it is between have less and have more. All have; it is a matter of degree.
Funny thing for an "anarchist" to say. The difference is that the CEO gives orders and the janitor takes orders. The former is a free man; the latter is a wage-slave.
Not to mention the fact that in Los Angeles, the janitor's union is extremely militant and growing rapidly...evidently, they don't feel that they just "have less".
The worker wants exactly the same things that the owner has, so there is no inherent difference in goals between owner and worker.
Things? You mean stuff? Like palaces and estates and yachts and crap like that?
The most precious thing I've ever known workers to talk about is having enough money not to have to work...to be free from bondage.
The stuff is supposed to "compensate" for not being free.
Anyone who still thinks that the interests of workers and owners are diametrically opposed has never spent any time among the workers, or even read a popular magazine or newspaper.
I've never spent any amount of time with anyone who wasn't a worker -- and the opinion was universal: the people "on top" are a bunch of bastards!
That's primitive Marxism for you.
As to "popular magazines and newspapers", are you under the impression that people read that stuff "because they agree with it?"
They read it because that's all they know that exists...and their opinions of those things are not particularly elevated. When I tell new acquaintances that I don't own a dummyvision set, the response is usually "you aren't missing a thing".
One of the reasons for the explosion of the internet is the search by ordinary people for information about what is really going on...they already know they are being lied to.
Furthermore, the distinction between workers and owners, if there is any, which there isn't, is irrelevant in a society which is rapidly destroying the earth's ability to sustain it. There is no alternative to destructive capitalism in the world today. There is no socialism, there is no anarchism. There is not even a significant minority of the people who understand the threat of global environmental and economic collapse looming on the horizon.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the sky is falling and doom is at hand...so what?
If the planetary environment crashes, there's not a fucking thing we can do about it.
If an asteroid 10 kilometers in diameter crashes into the Earth, nearly all life will be destroyed...and there's nothing we can do about that either.
"Doomsday" scenarios are useless...if not just an excuse for passive acceptance of the prevailing social order.
I hate to burst everyone's hopes...
No you don't; that was the purpose of your post.
In anarchism there is no "overthrow of capitalism" by the revolution of the proletariat, since violent revolution is antithetical to anarchism.
This is the kind of thing that gives "anarchism" a bad name among revolutionaries (just like Leninism gives "Marxism" a bad name).
Anyone who wants to end wage-slavery would read your statement and automatically assume that "anarchists" are a bunch of dreamers...who understand nothing of class struggle.
But go and read about the anarcho-syndicalists in the Spanish Revolution. Oddly enough, the violent overthrow of the capitalist class was exactly what they had in mind.
True, they failed. Most human endeavors fail. It's better to try to do the right thing and fail than it is to try and do the wrong thing and succeed.
Go sit next to a utility worker for an energy company in the U.S. and ask him if he feels his interests are opposed to his "rulers." He's going to say he wants more pay, a bigger house for the lady, college money for the kids and most likely wants to be the boss.
Well, that depends on which utility worker you happen to sit next to. If he's just been informed that his job is in the toilet and so is his pension plan, he might offer a somewhat more caustic appraisal of "employer-employee" relationships.
My suggestion would be for you to put down the old text books written by a bunch of dead white men and talk to the average joe on the streets.
Maybe some of those "dead white men" knew more about social reality than "the average joe".
I don't believe the average worker in America gives a rat's ass about bringing the ruler down to his level. He wants to move up to the level of the ruler!
In periods of reaction, people often conclude that individual "solutions" to their problems are "all there is" (that's certainly the message that's constantly pounded into their heads).
The possible gains from collective struggle are difficult to perceive when there's very little of it taking place.
But, things change. Periods of reaction give way to periods of upheaval. Unless you want to argue that "history has come to an end", the winds of rebellion will rise again.
And the "average joe" will prove to be far more radical than you can even begin to imagine.
Talk about fairness, healthcare for everyone, having more green places so you can fish, hunt and hike with your kids, talk about fair wages and not having to worry about your job or losing your home. Talk about things they can relate to and throw the words "ruler", "worker", "anarchism", "socialism", and the like out of your vocabulary.
Talk like...Bill Clinton?
Talk just like all the slimy bastards who run things talk now...and that will make people listen to us?
In fact, substitute anarchy with democracy. They are essentially the same thing. Governance for the people, by the people and of the people.
I think you should follow your own advice...since you are the most "watered-down" -- not to say piss-poor -- "anarchist" that I've run across.
Now, go run for office.
First posted at Che-Lives on February 3, 2004
I could almost swear that this stuff has been posted here before.
I don't think we can change the prevailing system. I think the prevailing system is in place because it has provided the desired ends for the people who benefit from it and manipulate it. The prevailing system has resisted change for hundreds of years, despite the obvious inequities that it sustains. The underlying assumption of the prevailing social system, the meme, is so powerful and so intimately inculcated into our society, that it is very difficult to identify, let alone think of changing.
It kind of reminds me of a small Trotskyist splinter group back around 1940 that I read about. They published the usual "manifesto" with the usual title "What Is To Be Done?".
Uniquely, they answered "NOTHING!" and announced that they were dissolving their vanguard party.
This statement, of course, is similar in tone if not in language. The prevailing social order is "too powerful" to confront directly, much less ever hope to overthrow it.
One might have said much the same about feudalism in 1300CE or the Roman Empire in 300CE...in fact, all the old systems were once "powerful" and "not to be withstood", period.
Thus, in the short-term view, the statement looks impressively valid.
There's a lot to be said for the short-term view, of course...which is why it is so popular. You make a little change here, a small adjustment there...and everything mostly just carries on routinely.
The short-term view is very comfortable.
And "low risk" as well. If you lose a "small bet", well, so what? You can "afford" the loss.
IS the short-term view valid? History strongly suggests the opposite! Class societies over time "decay", their mechanisms for containing class struggle "break down", and through violence they are overthrown or else are conquered by a more viable class society.
Some have argued, of course, that history has "come to an end"...what exists now is pretty much all there is to be expected, short of some kind of eco-catastrophe.
Perhaps they're right...but I see no reason to "give up" simply because of that possibility.
They could also be wrong.
HOW do WE CHANGE the SYSTEM?
I think the answer is: we become the change.
I don't think that "answer" makes any sense. It's one of those sentences that conforms to the rules of grammar in the English language but fails to convey an intelligible thought.
Change is an objective process that can be, in principle, observed and measured. You can't "be" a "change" any more than you can "be" a "development" or an "infinite regression".
Discover the joy and freedom of making less money.
A discovery I made long ago...and it never ceases to amaze me how much "joy and freedom" I have found in poverty and exploitation.(!)
I'm sure capitalism will soon make this "joy and freedom" available to tens of millions...who, perhaps, will "celebrate" the same way I did: by learning about communism!
Be the change. Let your joy in life shine through. Others will be attracted to your light. Share your experience...
I think this is where the chorus starts to sing...This little light of mine; I'm gonna let it shine...
We build the new as the old withers and dies.
I thought "the old" was strong and powerful...why should it "wither away"?
There are basically two ways: either we turn our backs on the existing society and build our own in our preferred image; or we overthrow the existing society and replace it with our own.
Abbey concluded that none of the writers of classic anarchist theory presented evidence that justified the use of violence in the overthrow of the state.
So what? Why are those "dead white guys" any more "authoritative" than Marx and Engels? Or Berkman and Durriti, for that matter?
And what is meant by "justify" in this context? "Morally correct"? Practical effectiveness?
...overthrowing the state leaves the complex centralized state bureaucracy (the government) in place and functioning...
No it doesn't...that's a completely bizarre interpretation. Both Marx and Bakunin agreed that the lesson of the Paris Commune was that the old state apparatus must be smashed...and could not simply be "taken over" by the revolutionary working class.
I read them as meaning all of it must go!
...and we do not directly confront the power and authority of the state, thereby alarming its defense mechanisms.
Late news flash: its "defense mechanisms" are now on permanent alert.
If you are perceived as a serious threat (not if you are one or not, but if you're perceived as one)...that's your ass!
You can babble "peace and love" all you like...and they will still fall on you like a ton of rocks if they think it needful.
You may "turn your back on the state"...but it won't turn its back on you!
Obsolete social orders never go gently into that good night.
The coming crisis of energy production...
Much as I am attracted to "crisis theory", this one strikes me as a "bad bet". There's about 800 years worth of energy (at current usage) in unmined coal in the U.S. right now. And there's no "objective" reason why better designed nuclear fission plants could not be built. (I leave out fusion power because no one knows yet how to make it work on a planetary surface.)
I think this one's a non-starter...though it's possible that there will be artificial "crises" as energy companies seek to extort additional profits (California, etc.).
It may be considered better to use non-cooperation and civil disobedience rather than resort to a concentrated military response.
Indeed it may. Massive proletarian uprisings have not, in fact, indulged in an "orgy of violence for the sake of violence".
Civil wars, on the other hand, are "orgies of violence". If one takes place, you may confidently expect the "worst" with great atrocities on both sides.
We can very much hope that doesn't happen...but it would be foolish to altogether rule out the possibility.
First posted at Che-Lives on February 3, 2004
How do those who are not living a socialist life convince others to change their ways?
The same way you convince anyone about anything...with argument and evidence.
Why were there so many communists and socialists and various other kinds of radicals in the 1930s? The evidence "for" capitalism was starting to look pretty bad.
Think it will never look that bad again?
I've worked in America for twenty years and never heard a single person utter those words.
Not surprising; I suspect we move in very different circles.
But consider: millions of people purchase lottery tickets every week...in spite of the horrendous odds. When, on occasion, they interview a big winner, you sometimes hear them say "oh, I'm going to keep on working, blah, blah, blah."
Ha! They're outta there (their old job) like they were shot from a cannon!
Don't get me wrong; humans love purposeful activity. The idea that people would just lie around and look at the pretty clouds if there were no bosses to make them work is just bullshit.
But without the freedom to choose that purposeful activity, it is "work", a "job", slavery.
Of course those are sentiments that never soil the ears of a boss...unless a worker is very careless.
...but I'm not convinced that they are upset enough to adopt socialism.
At this time, I would agree.
Marx is a very difficult read and very few people in the U.S. understand Marxism.
Actually, much of his material is quite accessible to the modern reader...though some of it is almost impenetrable, I will agree.
I always recommend Value, Price and Profit and Wage Labor and Capital to newbies.
But it can be re-written in modern language. For example, here's Marxist economics in one sentence:
No employer will knowingly hire you to work for him unless the market value of the goods or services that you produce exceeds the wage that he pays you.
That wasn't hard, now was it?
So, forget about Marx when you're talking to the average American. They won't understand and don't care.
There was a time (long ago) when I was "an average American"...and I cared and understood.
If I could do it, why can't anyone?
That's not only wrong, but in my estimation a phenomenally uninformed thing to say. Of course there are things we can do to change the direction we're headed.
Well, crunch the numbers for yourself. My reading is that huge decreases of draconian proportions would be required to "halt" global warming, for example.
You and I and a handful of other people in the western world may live "low energy" lifestyles (I don't have any choice in the matter!)...but I can't see how you could argue that such occasional individual defections from "consumerism" could make a statistically significant difference.
I frankly doubt it would even cause a "blip" in the pattern.
Doomsday is where we're headed as long as people like you keep proposing solutions that don't account for all living things, not just homo sap.
Well, I'm a human. I'm open to persuasion concerning measures for the well-being of other life forms on which I depend or which I may find aesthetically appealing.
I will not donate, however, to the "Save the Mosquito" Fund. Don't even bother to ask.
Try me on trees. Did you know that thousands and maybe tens of thousands of trees are cut down in the American Northwest every year so that the Japanese can have disposable chop-sticks? That's what I heard, anyway. Come the revolution, we won't do that any more.
Then, they [the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists] are not anarchists.
Or, they were real anarchists and you are not.
"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."- Buckminister Fuller
Thanks, Bucky. Tell me, which revolution did you take part in? I forgot.
Another "dead white guy" by the way.
And why should we be interested in the advice of someone who was not interested in social revolution?
"World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
At least now we have a "dead black guy".
But what makes you think that modern capitalism is even interested in "world peace"? The weapons industry is one of the real hot spots of late capitalism.
A certain amount of armed conflict is "good for business".
I am happy to respond to any substantive refutation of anything I write here, but I will not respond to personal attacks other than to ask for the same consideration as any other member of this list.
In other words, it's ok if I write a long post showing in considerable detail why your views really suck...but if I conclude by saying that your views really suck, that's a "personal attack".
I don't see it that way. If someone responds to you with a short post consisting entirely of personal abuse, then I think you have a legitimate gripe.
But if someone goes to the trouble of refuting your views at length--and does so, of course, in a reasonable and not simply abusive manner--and then sums up your views in a critical fashion (they suck!), I don't think that is a "personal attack".
After all, what have you offered here? A little anarchism, a little pacifism, a little eco-doom crying, even a little capitalism...and a good deal of introspective pessimism.
Though stirred and not shaken, it's still not an appealing ideological "cocktail".
You have a very "tough sell" on your hands.
First posted at Che-Lives on February 3, 2004
You have to be the change you want to see in the world and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.
One-sided, to say the least.
The "life-choices" of any given individual are usually only seen by a very small number of other individuals (unless, I suppose, you install cameras in your apartment and put yourself on the internet).
The chance to actually explain the rationale behind those choices arises only with an even smaller number of other individuals.
It is one of the ways that social change "happens"...but it's certainly not the only way and probably not the most effective way--though it is not insignificant.
Advocacy is another way that social change is effected--a small group talks "to the masses" and eventually, if what that small group says "makes sense", it becomes a big group with considerable ability to affect events.
Direct Action is the "biggie" and also the most difficult to pull off. The risks are very high and the odds are very long...but the "jackpot" is revolution -- a complete and dramatic transformation of the entire social order.
Place your bets, please.
Today, I have a small high tech firm that offers ownership to everyone and pays fair wages.
You and your associates are small capitalists.
Frequently, people ask "Why is it so important that everyone is an equity stakeholder? Why do you get everyone involved in major decisions? I don't understand how you run a company without managers."
It's a lot of fun answering those questions!
Like many "start-ups", you are very egalitarian capitalists. You're not yet "on the radar" of the bean-counters and consultants.
My guess is that all of you repeat to yourselves daily that famous Silicon Valley mantra: IPO! IPO! I will be rich when we have our IPO!!!
(That's "Initial Public Offering" of stock for sale on Wall Street, folks, and it often results in people becoming "instant paper millionaires"...at least for a while.)
Change begins with the individual and progresses one person at a time.
No, usually it's not "one" person at a time. Occasionally it's thousands and even millions of people "at a time".
Unfortunately, I have lost hope that enough people will make the necessary changes before some major disaster befalls us, so that's where most of my pessimism comes into play.
Mid-life crisis? I noticed it in myself...and I'm still not sure if I was reacting to objective conditions -- the Reagan years, etc. -- or if it was entirely subjective.
In any event, I went through the cycle: youthful optimism, middle-age pessimism, and now I feel optimistic again. (!)
Things are pretty fucking awful in a lot of ways, no question about it!
But I do detect a little breeze...as if perhaps the winds of change are beginning to rise again.
I don't expect to live long enough to see proletarian revolution actually happen...but with a bit of luck, I might see the real beginnings of that.
That would be pretty cool.
First posted at Che-Lives on February 3, 2004
Ed Abbey constantly struggled with the concept of industrial society...socialism offers no advantage over capitalism if it ignores the non-human.
I always find it hard to understand what people actually mean by statements like this.
No one literally "ignores" the non-human, so obviously something else is meant.
The question is what.
Left biocentrism supports identification, solidarity, and compassion with all life.
All life? The mosquito? The bubonic plague bacillus? The AIDS virus?
Sorry, my "identification, solidarity, and compassion" have limits.
Some life forms I would happily see driven to extinction.
It's them or us!
"Left" as used in left biocentrism, means anti-industrial...
Do they merely wish to degrade us to medieval serfs...or is it back to the stone age?
Human societies must live within natural biological and geophysical limits so that all species may continue.
Humans don't care for "limits" much; unless you lock them up, they'll start figuring out ways to exceed those limits or get around them altogether.
Humans must find inward transformation...
Too mystical for my taste...though it may "play well" on the American west coast.
Although a desirable goal, an egalitarian, nonsexist, nondiscriminating socialist society can still exploit non-human species.
And will. Guaranteed!
Humans cannot live by sucking rocks...therefore we will continue to eat plants and animals.
In summary: this stuff is essentially irrelevant to proletarian revolution.
First posted at Che-Lives on February 4, 2004
Kids come out of U.S. schools taught not to question authority, say the pledge, support the President and go to college. Add a good dose of religious fundamentalism and viola! you've got yourself a brainwashed drone.
So it would seem...which makes you wonder how it is that revolutions ever happen or that people can even imagine the possibility.
Somehow, people do "slip through the cracks" and it can seemingly happen at any age.
What happens when the cracks get bigger?
A lot bigger?
In fact, they'd probably like to kill you. They see folks like you as worthless leeches that deserve nothing but contempt.
Don't I know it! But that's the nature of social reality, isn't it? In the last analysis, there are those prepared to kill to defend their privilege (real or imagined) and those prepared to kill to end those privileges.
Some are amenable to the "arms of criticism"...others require the "criticism of arms".
...even if my individual effort at living in place and in harmony with geophysical cycles made zero difference, I'd still do it because it's the right thing for ME to do.
I have no quarrel with that position. There are many ways to partially "opt out" of the system on a personal basis...and I would never advise anyone "not" to try one or more of them that appealed to them.
I would, for example, urge everyone on this board to throw away your dummyvision set! Not because it would "make a significant difference" but because it's "the right thing to do"--to stop putting up with being lied to.
On the other hand, I can't manage to muster up much indignation with people who keep watching...perhaps the distraction is what allows them to function at all.
So I respect your personal choice and that of anyone who rebels in some fashion, however limited it might be.
It's when we get to the "big picture" that I question individual life-style choices as significant.
Ecosystems need diversity to survive. Humans need flourishing ecosystems to survive, but in order to have a diverse, flourishing ecosystem, you must have a balanced food chain.
Too vague! How much diversity? "Balanced" in what way?
Ecosystems are naturally unstable; even if the human species did not exist, they would still change over time.
The "general principle" is not of much assistance. What is really worth saving and what is not? And how could such decisions possibly be made in other than a "human-centric" way?
The AIDS virus is just "trying to make a living" like everything else. Perhaps a "deep ecologist" would want to step forward and argue on its behalf.
He'd lose the argument.
"...but we cannot have freedom without wilderness, we cannot have freedom without leagues of open space beyond the cities, where boys and girls, men and women, can live at least part of their lives under no control but their own desires and abilities, free from any and all direct administration by their fellow men."--Edward Abbey
You really like this guy, eh?
Well, I'm not so sure about this sentiment. It depends upon how he's defining "any and all direct administration".
No one is "directly administering me" while I'm typing this post, for example. Or later on this evening, when I make myself a burger and fries and sit down to eat with a novel to read...is anyone "directly administering me" then?
The truth is, I don't think most humans much like real wilderness...I'm certainly not fond of it myself. It was one thing to look out upon the "wild and rugged" Sierra Nevada mountains from the windows on the California Zephyr as it snaked its way through the peaks...but I didn't really feel "at ease" until the train pulled into downtown Reno.
Of course, I'm an "inner city" guy...I've always lived in or near downtown. Others, I know, feel very differently.
Perhaps "feeling free" involves more subjectivity than Mr. Abbey realized.
...but one thing we've learned, if we've learned anything, is that violence begets violence, no exceptions. Most who advocate a violent revolution have never encountered violence personally, only read about revolution in books. They've never experienced the process of revolutionary change, so they have no concept of how to get from here to there.
Actually people do have "concepts"...more or less directly copied from past revolutions.
And the real thing will almost certainly be very different from what they expect.
But when you say "violence begets violence", I think you obscure the real source of modern violence.
It is not revolutionaries who "impose violence" on an otherwise peaceful scene...violence is routine in class society and its source is the ruling class.
You normally see very little of it...it's only rarely covered in the media, etc.
And it's not even limited to overt "acts of force"--the things that cops do a thousand times every day.
When workers are injured or killed on the job, that's ruling class violence. Some "cost-analysis" guy decided that this particular business could "afford" so many injuries and so many deaths per time period...and "top management" approved his decision. It was "cheaper" than the cost of the safety measures required to prevent those injuries or deaths.
When a product that is known to be unsafe is marketed anyway, that's ruling class violence. Someone decided that they could afford a certain number of food poisonings or hand injuries or whatever the danger might be...it would be "too costly" to prevent those injuries with a production or engineering change.
With regard to violence, Mark Twain had it right: "I read much complaint about the four years of terror that the French people inflicted on the aristocrats; I read no complaints, however, of the thousand years of terror that the aristocrats inflicted on the French people".
They don't understand that violent revolution means babies cut in half and your intestines spilling out onto the street.
No, I don't suppose they do. No one who has ever seen real violence first hand retains any romantic notions about it.
It ain't like the dummyvision or the movies at all.
But what are we to do? Pacifism has rarely been effective even in gaining changes that were far short of revolutionary. People like to offer the American civil rights movement as an example of what pacifism can accomplish...but can you imagine confronting the Confederacy and freeing the slaves non-violently?
The reason that "college kids" (and others) talk about violent revolution is that, thus far, it offers the best chance of success. That's what they've learned from their history lessons.
Can anyone reasonably dispute that?
Peace, equality, freedom and liberty start with peace, equality, freedom and liberty...personally, between the ears, and works its way outward from there.
Yes, I agree...you have to conceive of all those good things as real possibilities before you can make any attempt to acquire them. They certainly won't fall in your lap by sheer chance.
But, to coin a phrase, what is to be done?
I don't think that non-violence as an "over-arching strategic framework" will do us any good at all.
Tactically, on the other hand, it may often be useful.
Not as tough as yours, mate. We'll see how well your program sells when it's time to start facing the bullets. I have a feeling many of your "converts" are going to be returning the goods and asking for a refund.
Always a possibility, of course. My way may lose and lose badly. Your way, as far as I can tell, can't win.
First posted at Che-Lives on February 4, 2004
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|...only the mentally childish think that "father knows best".
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