Friday, April 19, 2019

In Defense Of A/S: Unionism

1922 congress of the Free Workers' Union of Germany

A short while ago I started a series of articles on this blog that was to defend the ideas and practice of Anarcho-syndicalism from critical arguments against it. This article is a continuation of that series, this time, addressing the issue of unions. Anarcho-syndicalism advocates revolutionary, self-organized labor unions for it's strategy of the liberation of the working class and achieving workers' control. This has lead to debate among radicals since the ideas of Anarcho-syndicalism were first fleshed out. Many radicals have seen, and still do see, labor unions as a dead end.

The radical left argument against labor unions typically comes in two different forms. Firstly (but in no definite order), there is the argument from the union movement's decline. In the west the union movement is as close to dead as it has possibly ever gotten. Despite talk of "big labor" no such thing has existed, especially in the United States, for decades.1 Union membership is down to minuscule numbers and the unions that do exist are predominantly bureaucratic unions which are controlled by a paid, reformist leadership, rather than workers themselves. This has lead many to claim that labor unions have become a lost cause, they have been completely recuperated into capitalism.

The second form of the anti-union argument is that unions, as institutions, are inherently reformist. They only exist to facilitate compromises between labor and capital, rather than overcome the capitalist system itself. Firstly, it is pressing to ask what the alternative to labor unions are. A labor union is simply an organization of workers convened for carrying out class struggle against capital. How would a revolutionary movement get around forming such organizations? Workers have to organize in some capacity since they are the exploited class in capitalist society. Only workers have a defined, compelling interest in demolishing capitalism to replace it with the free association of producers, since workers are the class which is separated by capitalism from control over society's productive resources. A real question which often isn't answered by opponents of unions is; "if not unions, what?". Some might answer that workers and revolutionaries should participate in existing unions despite their limitations. The problem with this is that it's very difficult to imagine a weak, reformist, and bureaucratic union movement prevailing over capitalism in the class struggle. Some might answer that "soviets", or "workers' councils" should replace unions as the organizational form of the class struggle. If these councils are organizations convened by workers for class struggle against capital, however, then functionally they are no different from labor unions. Now we will proceed to answering these arguments directly.

The Defeat Of Labor? 

As outlined above the labor movement has certainly been beaten back quite a bit by capital, but does this mean that unionism is a dead end? If it does than any antisystemic, revolutionary goals are as well. Just because a social force is in a state of momentary defeat does not mean it can not come back to prominence with the right strategy. There are certainly more people in labor unions today, even in the west and the United States, then in Anarchist federations, revolutionary political parties, or "ultra-left" groupings.

Further the idea of organized labor's complete integration into capital is certainly extremely eurocentric. Obviously there are bureaucratic, reformist unions in the third world, but in much of the third world unions are completely suppressed, rather than brought to the bargaining table. Those who try to unionize their workplaces, or industries, are harassed by management, or even attacked by hired thugs, or state forces.2 Even in the United States, recent strikes by teachers that have broken with the existing unions show an opening for the creation of a new, militant, worker controlled labor movement.

The Soul(s) Of Unionism

Now we address the second version of the argument. Are unions inherently reformist mediating agencies between labor and capital? The short answer is no. There is nothing that ordains that organizations of workers convened for class struggle at the point of production must be mediating agencies between labor and capital. In fact, in so far as a union fulfills it's ostensible purpose, it performs the opposite function. Unions are suppose to be organs of struggle, rather than organs of mediation. Of coarse, many reformist unions with bureaucracies that are brought to the bosses' table exist to manage labor's militancy in the interests of capital.

Bureaucratic-reformist unions have proliferated in the west since the beginning of the post-WW2 period. After the war the "post-war compact" was enacted. Capitalists offered workers a middle class standard of living (the so called American dream) in exchange for union bureaucracies policing worker militancy. This put the capitalist class in the perfect position to enact the neoliberal assault on unions, who's bureaucracies now managed labor's decline. This kind of unionism may be called "reformist", or "bureaucratic" unionism. Unionism, however, has two "souls", both going back to the beginning of organized labor.

One "soul" of unionism is reformist/bureaucratic, the other is militant and gets it's impetus from rank and file workers. Syndicalism, as a revolutionary movement which utilizes unionism to carry out the struggle against capital, has used the latter tendency to develop revolutionary unions which are controlled by their working class membership, and fight continuously for the overthrow of capitalism and the exploitation of labor. This is called "revolutionary unionism", syndicalism being a synonym. The CGT in France was a primary example of the struggle between the two souls of unionism. The CGT was a syndicalist union split between revolutionaries and reformist socialists. The CGT only became the reformist and bureaucratic union it is today after the reformists won a struggle for control of the union against the revolutionaries, people such as the Anarcho-syndicalist Emile Pouget.

The same struggle could be found in the CNT -FAI, revolutionary Anarchist unions which organized the revolution of July 1936 against Franco's attempted Fascist coup in Spain. In the beginning when the CNT-FAI was controlled by the rank and file workers and devoted to a libertarian communist politics which called for a movement to overthrow capitalism, it created working class control of urban areas and agricultural peasant collectives which organized agriculture according to the needs of the peasants themselves. Once the CNT-FAI began to consolidate power in the hands of leading Anarchists rather than the workers in assemblies it assimilated itself into the capitalist republic which destroyed the revolution's spirit by rolling back working class control in favor of state-capitalism. In other cases unions remained revolutionary until their dying breathe.

The FAUD in Germany organized a working class cultural movement and workers' councils that took over factories under workers' control. It was driven underground by the Nazis after a battle against Hitler's armed forces. The member section of the International Workers' Association (Anarcho-syndicalist international since the early 1920s), FORA of Argentina opposed the CNT-FAI's alliance with the Republic. The revolutionary union Industrial Workers' of the World in the United States organized masses of workers across racial lines in the United States until the US government crushed it.

Participation In Reformist Unions? 

One last point we will discuss is whether revolutionaries and workers should boycott reformist-bureaucratic unions, or participate in them. Many believe in the strategy of "boring from within" which usually simply entails replacing the reformist bureaucracy with a group of militants. The problem with this strategy is it doesn't challenge the reformist and bureaucratic nature of the union, it simply replaces one set of bureaucrats with another. Some would have us disregard reformist unions completely, but even reformist unions can achieve victories for workers. The best strategy would be organizing inside reformist unions for workers' interests while building an alternative revolutionary union movement, or "dual unionism".  Here is an example of "dual unionism": if your workplace is already organized by the AFL-CIO, dual unionism would entail participating in actions carried out by workers as members of the AFL-CIO (possibly being a member oneself), while working with your co-workers to build an alternative militant workers' organization.

Conclusion

Unionism can not simply be written off. Workers need to organize themselves in the class struggle somehow and there is no other form this can take but through organizations convened by workers for struggle against capital and for working class interests. Critique of existing unions needs to be made on the basis that they fail to form organizations that challenge capital and fight for a new society. Now more than ever workers need revolutionary organizations to carry out these two tasks.

Notes:

1. Richard Wolff, Economic Update, The Great American Purge
2. The True Cost, 2015

Bibliography:

Fighting For Ourselves, Solidarity Federation
Anarcho-syndicalism In The 20th Century, V. Damier
Boring From Within Won't Work, Tom Wetzel
Anarcho-syndicalism,Thomas Beckmann, Barbara Uebel and Markus Hoffmann in cooperation with "Videozeitung"




Sunday, March 31, 2019

Communism Without Workers: An Anarcho-syndicalist Critique Of The Communisation Current


The communist, socialist, and Marxist movement has undergone a fundamental change since the late 1960s (as has the global capitalist system itself). While Stalinists, Trotskyists, and social democrats continue to hang around like a bad headache, much newer tendencies that claim to be innovative in theory and practice have cropped up to jockey for the position of interpreting communism through the modern capitalist system and it's adaptations since the late 20th century. Once such tendency  which has gained some intellectual fan fair is "communisation". Various things go under this label, but this discussion will focus on the the tradition of "ultra-left" Marxism this label is often used to describe. Since the uprisings of 1968 by workers across the world (especially in France) and their repression by capitalist forces and, shockingly (depending on how you look at it), leftist parties and governments, certain Marxism oriented activists and thinkers have tried to redraw the lines of struggle for a communist society.

These militants have gone back to Marx's theory of value to emphasize value (in Marx's sense) as a social relation at the base of capitalism, and taken a critical stance toward the leftist efforts of the past from Leninist, to Anarchist, to social democratic. The basis of this "communisation current" is threefold; a critique of capitalism along with a critique of the existing left, from which fallows "communisation", or the strategy purposed by the "communisation current" for achieving communism. We will address all of these in order to evaluate communisation's ability to really provide a winning strategy for attaining a communist society. We start from the conclusion that a communist society is not only desirable, but necessary. For this reason we shall define communism to generally outline the fundamental necessity of it's success.

For A Communist Society 

Communism, as articulated by the 19th century workers' movement and dissident, libertarian strains of the workers' movement today, is a society without any coercive mechanisms of domination, without division of society into classes with different levels of wealth accumulation and economic power, and with the self-organization of producers who own the productive resources of society in common and manage the social product for social consumption that meets human needs. This communism is in complete opposition to the "communist" states which cropped up in the 20th century. For these regimes "communism" was a far off utopia that would one day be achieved through developing a national economy that could compete as part of the global capitalist system. These states erected state bureaucratic control of production and social life to extract what the laboring population produced. This product was sold by state firms in the national economy and the world market so that industry and the military could be invested in and developed. Effectively all these regimes created was the state accumulation of capital, or state-capitalism, under the authority of a bureaucratized Leninist party.

By contrast a communist society would abolish the accumulation of capital and production of things to be sold. Freely associated producers would create things that meet the needs of themselves and their community. Such a society is needed because societies build on class divisions, coercive institutions like the state, and domination of one group by another rely on the social marginalization of the vast majority of people. These societies, which we have lived in for the last 10 to 20 thousand years, keep the vast majority of us producing, thus expending our lives, for the enrichment of an elite stratum of rulers who live off of our subjugation. We are denied access to the vast resources we produce, psychologically terrorized by social and legal penalties on failure to comply with the system, and done bodily and psychological harm by those penalties (often times whether we step out of line, or not).

In capitalist society class relations take on the form of our freedom from our own means of subsistence. The major resources of our society are commodities that can only be bought and sold by those with the financial means to do so. The rest of us have nothing to sell but our physical and mental ability to work. Thus we agree, through "free" market transactions, to produce commodities that the owners of resources (capitalists) can sell on the market for a return that can be invested into more production and their own living as individuals. We get just enough of those proceeds back from the capitalist in order to buy the essentials for life in the modern world. Thus capitalism runs on our exploitation and domination, that is, the exploitation and domination of the working class.

The need for capitalists to constantly gain more and more revenue fuels their need to constantly expand production, so the natural world is constantly accumulated by capitalist production to create more and more masses of commodities. Thus from capitalism's birth in the industrial revolutions in Europe to now levels of pollution have consistently increased creating an era that might be called the "Anthropocene" characterized by human domination of the natural world. The problem is that the same natural world we are consuming also provides all of the resources we need to live. Thus capitalist society is paving the way for increasing natural disasters destroying our homes and livelihoods in addition to doing untold physical harm to our species as well ass the depletion of the species and resources we need to consume to survive.

To escape this nightmare, our only option is a free and equal society based on common ownership and free association, communism. Thus we as workers and oppressed people must find a way, a strategy, to achieve communism. This involves understanding our enemy (capitalism) and charting a path of action to achieving our goal (communism). The second requirement for strategy leads to a third requirement, critiquing ineffective communist strategies. Below is an evaluation of the "communisation" current as a critique of capitalism, critique of the existing anti-capitalist movement, and strategy for achieving communism, wholly described as a "communist strategy".

The Value Form

The communisation critique of capitalism is one which focuses on Marx's concept of "the value form", the idea that value is composed of the ability of a product to be a commodity that gains it's commodity status through being exchangeable for a certain amount of money. From this, "communisers" argue that "value" is not simply an economic unit of measurement, but a full social relation. It requires a chain of relations in which people produce a product and then exchange it, making production subordinate to the transfer of product for payment. Since the exchange of value is the basis of capitalism, the communisers argue that the key to overcoming capitalism is overcoming value.

If value is not overcome, then human relations will be subordinate to the capitalist logic of exchange. Instead of producing through their own free efforts to meet their needs people will be forced to carry out their own exploitation, producing and transferring value because production is subordinate to the value form. This means that communism must first and for most be an effort to abolish the value form. Taking over production and having workers' control, or an economy nationalized by a communist party lead state won't do, because neither of these necessarily entail the abolition of value.

It is indeed true that value is a social relation which subordinates human labor to the production of marketable commodities. But honing in on it as the locus of capitalism ignores that there are many more, just as important mechanisms which perpetuate capitalism's existence. For instance, commodities can only be commodities, and thus be imbued with "value", if they are the property of those who have gained the rights to them in market transactions. If the commodity is not upheld as my property, then I can not receive it, nor exchange it. There also needs to be a mechanism that enforces this property claim on a social scale. This mechanism needs to have control of weapons and top down coercive institutions in order to enforce property relations for the whole society, i.e., there needs to be a capitalist state. There also needs to be a class which finances this state and employs it to maintain control of property relations and production in the society, i.e. a capitalist ruling class.

Because communisers hone in on value, as the locus of capitalism, they conceive of getting rid of capitalism and instituting communism as a matter of "negating" the value form. This leads to their fallacious critique of modern left and communist tenancies and their efforts to abolish capitalism. We will hone in on two of the these critiques in particular, the communisation critiques of Stalinism and and of class struggle Anarchism.

You Forgot To Abolish The Value Form!

This part of our discussion will be based heavily on "When Insurrections Die", by the premier communisation theorist Giles Dauve, as well as his other work; "Eclipse and Reemergence of The Communist Movement". In these works Dauve argues that in the Stalinist case (e.g. the Russian Revolution for example) the party took over the means of production through the state and in the Anarchist case (specifically the Spanish Revolution of 1936) the workers took control of production under worker self-management, but in neither case was the value form, and thus capitalism, abolished. Instead the value form came be administered either by a Leninist party, or Anarchist labor unions.

State-capitalism under the communist states, and the joining of the counterrevolutionary capitalist republican government by the Anarchist CNT and FAI labor unions were thus the logical result of the failure to go beyond the value form. Today Leninists and Anarchists, in advocating seizure of state power, or seizure of the means of production, have forgotten to learn from history. In so doing they continue the leftist failure to hone in on the locus of capitalist relations. These arguments about the existing left made by Dauve are generally echoed by the rest of the communisers. After all, if failing to abolish the value form as the first task of the revolution means failing to abolish capitalism, then what you will get, simply, is more capitalism. However, this critique, being rooted in the communiser critique of capitalism, is inherently limited and analytically flawed.

Firstly, this isn't how the actual history played out. It isn't true that that what lead to the triumph of capitalism over the revolutionary efforts of the 20th century was specifically ignoring the value form. The Bolsheviks had a specific political attitude in terms of how to carry out the struggle for communism which was later shared by the communist parties that came to power outside Russia. Far from it being the case that state-capitalism was the result of failing to consider the abolition of the value form, in the case of the communist regimes, the leaders explicitly thought that state-capitalism was the first step to communism. In his work "State and Revolution", a work that is objectively his most anti-state, even there Lenin argues that socialism is a matter of setting up state controlled capitalist industries like the war time economy of Germany, or the US postal service. In Stalinist Russia Marx's capital was purposefully augmented to remove the beginning which focused on the commodity, out of the specific fear that people would apply it's analysis to the economy of the USSR. All the way up to Khrushchev the preoccupation of Soviet leaders was catching up to the economic development of the west through the state owned economy. In China the hundred flowers campaign of open criticism was squashed right after it's participants began to articulate that the communist state owned the Chinese economy and existed as a power above the workers. In Cuba the first major policies carried out by Castro and Che were reforms drawn up by the capitalist Batista regime that came before it.

A political situation in which the revolutionary masses did not take possession of the means of production and social functions themselves meant that the Leninist career revolutionaries were left to do so. These Leninists, far from simply being unaware of the value form, actively thought that the development of a certain type of capitalism was the requirement for their social project. The idea that Leninism was blind to the value form simply doesn't cut it as an explanation of the historical failure of Leninist theory and practice. So what about Anarchism?

The communiser analysis of the 1936 revolution ignores that the CNT-FAI was "libertarian communist", meaning that, although it wasn't expressed in these terms, effectively the Anarchist movement wanted to replace the value form with self-managed production to meet human needs. When workers took over production and towns in the initial July uprising, they organized it to provide for social use rather than for commodities to sell. Many of the agricultural collectives that were established either replaced commodity exchange with labor vouchers, or direct cooperative distribution of the social product. What doomed the 1936 experiment was twofold. The leading Anarchists of the CNT-FAI union movement were paranoid that the Fascist counterrevolution was going to close in on them. They were given the opportunity to join the liberal republican state and in making this decision they ignored the process of rank and file control through mass assembly. This allowed them to abandon the project of Libertarian Communism for the hallow "anti-fascist" struggle carried out by the republic. This meant that the CNT-FAI leadership took power out of the hands of the working class Anarchist movement and worked for the republic's program of replacing worker self-management with state-capitalism. Once gain, far from the value form being the critical factor it was the political failure of leading Anarchists in making peace with counterrevolution that was the main issue.

The wider implication of this flawed historical analysis is that the communisation critique of modern Leninism and Anarchism is inaccurate. Leninists are explicitly for state-capitalism as they always have been and the vast majority of class struggle Anarchists are for replacing the value form with Libertarian/Anarchist communism. Whatever problem's these tenancies possess, being blind to the value form is not one of them. So what is the communiser strategy that is extrapolated from the communiser critique of existing leftism? What are it's problems?

Communisation 

Since, according to the communisers, what failed last time was seizing the means of production, or political power, the communist movement needs to go in a new direction. Instead of developing a political program based on working class conquest of power the working class must spontaneously, and immediately, undo capitalist society. Instead of taking over the means of production, or political power, the working class must act against it's status as the working class. It must immediately rebel against the capitalist state and private property, it must start producing things to meet human need and owning the means of production in common.

By doing this, it is held, the working class undermines the basic social relations of capitalist society, thus proactively preventing the reproduction of the capitalist system. In negating capitalist society, new communist relations are affirmed, put into place to generate the basis for a communist society. This approach is not completely wrongheaded. It is completely true that taking political power through the state does nothing to hinder the capitalist mode of production. In fact, whoever is in charge of a state in capitalist society must keep that state afloat in the global capitalist economy and geopolitical order. Stalinist state-capitalism and the betrayals of would be reformist/electoral socialists prove this. Communisation moves in the right direction by criticizing the left's historic obsession with using state power to change society and arguing for a communism that is in fact a revolt against the state.

Communisation's error is in it's attempt to break with working class power and workers' control. While any "transition" that includes administering capitalist relations would simply lead to more capitalism, rebelling against capitalism and organizing new relations won't cut it on their own. There needs to be a social force that can transform society itself. The state needs to be toppled, production needs to be brought under collective control, and production itself needs to be retooled for it's new purpose of serving human needs. The only force that can accomplish this is the organized working class, taking over production and the functions of society. The immediate negation of the working class as a class under capitalism is not possible, the working class needs to leverage it's collective strength as the largest class in capitalist society and fulfill it's interest as the exploited class in capitalist society in creating a non-exploitative social formation. This is part of the error with fixating on the value form.

If the value form by itself was what reproduced capitalism then workers simply rebelling against commodity production and work would be sufficient to abolish capitalist society. As mentioned above there are many entrenched mechanisms that support the value form. In this sense, what is needed is actually to go back to the theory and practice of working class self-organization and workers' control. There is no communist project without the working class as the agent of revolutionary change. There have been many attempts at a communism without the working class. As mentioned above there was the Leninist project of having disciplined revolutionaries instate communism from above as well as the social democratic project of elected officials implementing the new society on a piecemeal basis. Both of these simply lead back to capitalism as the communisers have pointed out. The Anarchist Murray Bookchin also tried to ignore the working class as the agent of revolutionary change. Bookchin thought that a communal movement for social justice with oppressed minority groups as the agent of change could abolish capitalism. His theory never caught on, likely because it was just another version of a sectarian tenancy of anti-capitalist movements to separate the struggles of marginalized identity groups and the working class which had been fundamentally challenged by the uprisings of 1968. Bookchin tried to go back to an old mode of thought at a time when it was being actively resisted. Like Bookchin the communisers are trying to separate the communist project from working class power, and like all other attempts to do this, it will either be met with little success, or lead straight back to capitalism. It should be no surprise then that "communisation" is much more of a theoretical "current" than an existing movement.

Conclusion

Communisation is well intentioned in that it attempts to rethink the communist movement in terms of the modern situation in global capitalist society. Unfortunately, it's insular theory that puts a hyper-focus on theorizing about the value form inherently limits its potential for actually bringing about a communist society. In attempting to rethink communism what the communisers have effectively done is disregard the basic element of the communist project (working class power and workers' control) and hand wave about some kind of new, nihilistic strategy that is designed to not really be a strategy in the first place. When communisers outline what it is they "want to do", i.e., how they want to achieve a communist society, such as "Communisation" by Troploin and "Communisation As A Way Out Of Crisis" by Bruno A., all that they seem to be able to come up with is a vague idea of an insurrectionary movement against capitalism that seeks to implement communist relations.

They say that workers can rise up against the state, build communities based on common ownership that negate commodity production, and organize relations in a non-class dominated way. This directly avoids the crucial question of what social force is actually going to take production, the natural environment, and the management of society out of the hands of the capitalist class and the capitalist state, and transform those things to eliminate class society, the value form, and capitalist production. Unfortunately for the communisers the old ideas of workers' power and workers' self-management can't be done away with. This brings us to the importance of the old, but continuing theory and practice known as "Anarcho-syndicalism".

As I have outlined elsewhere Anarcho-syndicalism is the synthesis of the traditions of revolutionary unionism and Anarchism (in Bakunin's words "Stateless Socialism"). It advocates the organization of the working class through self-managed labor unions to fight for the rights of workers and eventually, once critical strength is built, topple the state and bring production, the earth, and social affairs under the control of the collective producers, all through the collective force of the working class and those oppressed by the capitalist world system. Communisers typically object to Anarcho-syndicalism, as shown above, on the basis that worker control doesn't necessarily = communism. Workers could take control of production, but leave capitalist relations of producing commodities to be sold in tact, thus only accomplishing the self-management of capitalism, rather than it's replacement by communism.

This is true, for instance around the world there are a large number of "cooperative enterprises". These are capitalist firms that are owned collectively by their workers rather than share holders who hire boards of directors. These pose essentially no challenge to the capitalist system since, despite being worker controlled, they still have to make profits in the capitalist economy and compete with the other firms. However, Anarcho-syndicalists are not blind to this. For this reason Anarcho-syndicalists are strong proponents of "libertarian communism".

According to the theory of libertarian communism the revolutionary unions that organized the social revolution against capitalism would complete it by transforming into the networked structures of democratic assembly and delegation through which producers, consumers, and communities commonly organize production and social affairs. Production is done cooperatively by freely associated producers to meet their needs. There is no "value", or commodity production because things are now exclusively produced to be distributed on the basis of people's need for them. Thus communism is achieved through Anarcho-syndicalism.

Of coarse we can't just repeat the old Anarcho-syndicalist movement since it failed to achieve a communist society. This, actually, means that developing a new Anarcho-syndicalist movement that can accomplish this goal is more important than ever. Anarcho-syndicalism is theoretically equipped to bring us a communist society in the basic ways that communisation is not. Communisation is an interesting theoretical quandary, but it offers essentially nothing in the way of actually making a better world. We need concrete strategies for achieving the new world, and communization disregards this reality to offer up half baked ideas about the "immediate negation of class society". In other words, not out with the old, but in with the renewed.

Note:

I was once influenced by the ideas of the "communisation current", so this critique has been a long time coming for me. It's point is not to belittle the theorists and activists of communisation (though of Dauve specifically I have a less than positive assessment of personal character). It's only point is to show the limitations of communisation and point out that while it may have useful ideas, it is not fit to bringing about a social revolution and communist society in the real world.

Bibliography:

For Communism:Wage Labor and Capital, K. Marx, The Modern World System As A Capitalist World Economy: Production, Surplus Value, and Polarization, Immanuel Wallerstein, World Systems Analysis: An Introduction, Marx, Marxism-Leninism, And Socialist Experiences In The Modern World System, I. Wallerstein, State-Capitalism: The Wages System Under New Management, Buick & Crump, Capitalism and The Destruction Of Life On Earth, R. Smith

The Value Form: Eclipse and Reemergence Of The Communist Movement, Dauve & Martin, When Insurrections Die, Dauve, Notes On The New Housing Question, Ednotes, Private Property, Exclusion, and The State, Junge Linke, Wage Labor and Capital, K. Marx, Capital Vol. 1, K. Marx

You Forgot To Abolish The Value Form!: Eclipse and Reemergence Of The Communist Movement, Dauve & Martin, When Insurrections Die, Dauve,  Marx, Marxism-Leninism, And Socialist Experiences In The Modern World System, I. Wallerstein,  State-Capitalism: The Wages System Under New Management, Buick & Crump, Anarcho-syndicalism In The 20th Century, V. Damier, The Evolution Of Anarcho-syndicalism, R. Rocker, Anarcho-syndicalism: Theory and Practice

Communisation: Eclipse and Reemergence Of The Communist Movement, Dauve & Martin, Endnotes 1, Communisation, Troploin, Communisation As A Way Out Of Crises, Bruno A., The Ghost Of Anarcho-syndicalism, Bookchin, Anarchism Without The Working Class, Price, Murray Bookchin, Vissions Of A New Society [Interview]

Conclusion: Anarcho-syndicalism Theory and Practice, R. Rocker, Libertarian Communism, Issac Puente, Communism and Anarchy, P. Kropotkin, Stateless Socialism: Anarchism, M. Bakunin, Statutes Of The International Workers' Association, On Exchange, Joseph D., Anarcho-syndicalism In The 20th Century, Damier




Saturday, March 16, 2019

Global Capitalism, Empire, White Supremacy: The Mosque Shooting In Perspective


Image result for islamophobia

As this is being written last night two New Zealand mosques were attacked by a white nationalist wearing army fatigues, carrying four fire arms as well as being armed with explosive devices. The attack was brutal, 49 people being killed and more injured, one man who was interviewed by ABC News had blood spatter on him while hiding. The gunmen live streamed his attack on the internet. Even the mainstream media is connecting this attack with wider trends of white supremacy, ABC reporting that the FBI (the same agency which was part of campaigns in the United States to repress liberation movements of people of color) shows that hate crimes went up in the US 17  percent in 2017 alone. They also report that "counterterrorism experts" know that 70 percent of the terrorist attacks in the country in the last decade were carried out by white supremacists, or the far right (Sam Harris' head must be spinning). Unfortunately the mainstream media narrative here is not spotless. While ABC clearly shows that President Trump's assertion that white supremacy is only a problem with a few cooks to be demonstrably false, it fails to appreciate the bigger picture. On ABC's narrative white supremacy is simply a growing trend of hatred, rather than an overt tool used by the global political-economic system.

Racism is not simply an attitude, or a bigotry. It was born as and remains a system of social control. It is a societal hierarchy which gives social, political, and economic power to those who meet a socially constructed standard of "whiteness" and allocates this power away from people of color based on socially constructed criteria that portray said people as the "other". Racism has it's genesis in the historical moment when the capitalist economy, expanding out of Europe, had those who are today considered "white" conquer the lands of people of color, reducing these societies to colonies for naked economic exploitation and complete cultural and political control. This process always involved killing off huge swaths of indigenous populations and enslaving people of color as a source of free labor. To justify this domination the colonizers came up with a pseudo-identity, whiteness, in which they were ranked above people of color in terms of basic human value. The white was fully human, but those of color were not, they were something else, something different, which meant treating them differently was justified. Although formal colonialism was abolished after the second world war, colonialism as a system of power remains. The old colonial states are now the economically and geopoliticaly powerful countries, while the former colonies, even though they now have status as independent nations, are fully subordinate to the former geopolitically and economically. Formal colonialism set up a situation where the "core" countries could become so economically and geopolitically powerful that global politics and the global economy would always sideline the "peripheral", or semi-peripheral former colonies.

Since colonialism remains so does racism, this time, in modern western societies, under the veil of post-racial harmony. Sure white people control the vast amount of wealth and power, sure the state criminalizes people of color, sure people of color are still viewed as essentially different from white people, but it's impolite to express open racist views in public. So the ideological veil of progress (rather than it's actual existence in many instances) hangs over the reality of white supremacy in the 21st century. One of the most acute forms of racism today is Islamophobia. When this phrase is uttered many respond that "Islam is a religion, not a race, non-Arabs can be Muslims too!". All that this does is ignore the racialization of Islam in the west. Since 911 a clear picture of the Muslim as the Arab terrorist has been constructed by the United States and many other western societies. We have even been portraying Arabs as shady, unscrupulous, and even stupid characters in our films long before the events of 2001.

The reason white nationalism is on the rise and the reason they direct their hate toward Muslims is because the system they live in is a racist one. Without taking the blame off of individuals who make the choice to harm others, it is impossible for a racist system not to produce violent racists. The US and general western empire have been using Islamophobia to demolish middle-eastern countries, accrue resources, and thus maintain global power and economic superiority for over 20 years. Hate crimes against Muslims have spiked in the US since 911, and the government has even arrested, detained, and deported Muslims on an Islamophobic basis. While white nationalists are indeed our enemy, they are simply foot soldiers of the "final boss". We should remember that the gunmen of the recent shooting named President Trump as a force for "white identity", the president of the United States, capitalism's most powerful political agency. Colonialism, and it's modern incarnation, neocolonialism, and thus racism itself, are mechanisms of the capitalist system.

Formal colonialism spread capitalism throughout the world, using racism as the ideological justification, and neocolonialism holds the modern capitalist world order together, once again, using racism to accomplish this. Until we end racism, colonialism, and global capitalism horrendous violence such as this will continue. Multi-cultural capitalism is essentially an oxymoron because capitalism requires that labor is squeezed to produce more and more profits, this will always, and has always meant that some groups dominate others. The world we need to create is one without racial categorization, without "whiteness", without colonialism, and without capitalism. One where people meet each other as equals to cooperatively organize production, distribution, and societal affairs. One crucial way of working toward such a world is defending the marginalized here and now. Communities must come to the defense of people of color, develop a social struggle where people of color can exorcise autonomy in addressing their concerns, and a militant rank and file infrastructure that can defend communities of color from racist violence. The social revolution for a just society and the resistance against white nationalism begins with you.

Bibliography:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ho1VqjRKvso

Colonization and Decolonization, Zig Zag

Reel Bad Arabs, Sut Jhally, Jeremy Earp, Jack Shaheen, 2006

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A3DQODh-oc

The Rise of the States-System: Sovereign Nation-States, Colonies, and the Interstate System, Immanuel Wallerstein

Lexicon: Colonialism, Institute For Anarchist Studies

Monday, February 25, 2019

Self-Management

Anarchists advocate not only a self-managed society, but a self-managed movement to achieve it. Why? What does "self-management" even mean? Firstly, self-management is a synonym for "self-organization". It means that administrative powers are shared among each person within a given association. Specialized positions are allotted by the group based on merit and given no powers of control over others. Power is vested in the collective with no one person holding power over others. Nobody is given orders, instead, everyone decides using their full intellectual capacity.

This sets off alarm bells for many people in a society where pretty much every complex institution is organized from the top down. The economy consists of wealth and production and distribution processes owned and controlled by a tiny group of the very rich. When most people go to work they have a boss who tells them how to work and what to work on. While our society has collectively enforced cultural norms there is also a long list of "laws" put into place and enforced by powerful officials and the bodies of hierarchically organized individuals that use organized violence to enforce them. Even many of our collectively enforced social norms empower certain groups over others, whites over people of color, men over women, cisgender people over trans/gender-nonconforming people, straight people over homosexuals, the able bodied over the disabled, and the mentally "healthy" over the mentally ill. Our society is a series of boss, worker relations. Even those with authority over many of us, such as managers at a factory, office, or store, are subordinated to those with authority over them such as higher level managers and ultimately share holders.

This means that most of us have been conditioned to accept that society runs on institutionalized orders and order taking. To many people a society where nobody takes orders an everyone decides sounds like a fantasy. Even leftists who proclaim they want equality and self-determination see a self-managed movement, or even society, as a pipe dream. Many of them prefer to play the game of "realism" where leftist movements and social visions are made possible through the existing society's leadership from above. There are tons of leftists who believe in electing politicians, constructing political parties of professional revolutionary leaders, and taking control of the most top down institution in history, the state, to implement their goals. Lets look at a few common objections to self-management from both leftists and non-leftists.

Non-Leftist Objections

The most common argument against self-management is that there is no reason to trust the common person with the management of society. People are thieves, murderers, war makers, liars, selfish, and lazy. How could they possibly come together to smoothly run society? It's true that people have these traits and that in fact all people technically have the capacity to display them. This objection, however, ignores that many people don't display these characteristics in major ways. Most of us attempt to be good people and have a positive impact on our communities. The reason people even take up revolutionary politics in the first place is because they want to make the world a better place.

Many people do in fact display these socially destructive tenancies in major ways, however the society they live in overtly pressures them to do so. Since the most well off in our society are the very rich and powerful people are given the option of stepping on others to become rich and powerful, or of being destitute and oppressed themselves. This isn't to excuse this behavior, or to say that in a self-managed society everyone will be completely compassionate and moral. Rather, it's to say that one can't argue that people are too amoral to organize society collectively by referencing a society which rewards amorality and punishes compassion. In that same vein, as Peter Kropotkin points out in "Are We Good Enough", those that run our society are people just like us. They are not ordained with compassion and morality by god, they are not fundamentally any different from the rest of us. In fact they are usually the most amoral and anti-social people given that such a disposition and such acts are rewarded by our society. Politicians start war after war while large companies fund and benefit from them. Police use excessive force and kill the innocent, judges throw people in cages, or order them killed by the state, states repress social movements for justice, so on and so forth. Clearly there is no basis to show that people are too amoral to run things collectively.

Another objection to self-management is the argument from competence. We need educated people to organize things rather than the broad rabble. It's extremely presumptuous to say that most people are not qualified to make decisions that affect them. I think workers and communities are much more qualified to make decisions about how production is carried out, because they are the ones who have to carry it out and consume the product. This objection clearly comes from a place of elitism rather than objective observation of reality.

Imagine of the millions of impoverished people the world over got to decide what to do with the wealth produced in their communities, poverty would be made history. Another objection is the "free market" objection. Full self-management of society would mean the elimination of economic competition and impersonal market exchange in favor of coordinated planning of the production and distribution processes. People who believe in economic doctrines of capitalism object that this would mean bureaucratic planning by a central body which would lead to inefficiency and authoritarianism. Central planning is blamed for the failures of the USSR and other communist party regimes. The economist Ludwig Von Mises even wrote and essay arguing that planning in place of market price signals would lack the ability to make necessary economic calculations and thus the planned economy will inevitably fail. There are a few things which must be said in reply to this objection.

1. The communist party regimes were not total economic failures. An industrial revolution with far reaching economic growth was carried out in the Soviet Union during the Great Depression. The communist party regimes generally used their state compelled economies to develop agricultural societies without large commercial economies, or even modern nation states, into world powers. China and Russia would not be where they are now without their communist party regimes.

2. Communist party regimes were/are not "centrally planned" in the way that most people think. The state bureaucrats did not have the final say on economic matters. State firms still needed to be financially solvent through producing, selling, and buying for and on the market. The "central plan" organized by the state was simply a mechanism for ensuring this financial solvency.

3. Planning exists in literally any society so capitalism doesn't escape it. Managers and share-holders decide policy in capitalist firms. The market itself requires a division of labor where those with commodities, means of production, and money set prices, decide what to produce and how to produce it, and decide who to sell it to.

4. Centralist bureaucracies organizing everything isn't really direct and effective planning because decisions are made by a few officials for the whole public. In a self-managed society the whole public makes the decisions that effect them among themselves, i.e. the most direct and effective planning.

Markets, despite being seen as"free" compel one produce for exchange. You can only satisfy your needs through exchanging money for the items that fulfill them. This is why there are millions of people in capitalist society who go without basic necessities because they can't afford them. "Competition" is how the market privileges those who already own means of production, commodities, and money. These things should be eliminated in a humane and rational society with complete democratization of production and distribution.

Leftist Objections 

Many leftists who proclaim a desire for a free and equal society nevertheless reject self-management. The most common of these objections is that the broad workers don't have a revolutionary understanding of the world (revolutionary, or class consciousness) and thus need specific individuals trained in revolutionary ideology to instill this consciousness in them. The prominent leader of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin held this belief, thus arguing that the working masses the world over will only achieve "trade union" consciousness by themselves and can only attain revolutionary consciousness through the guidance of Marxist intellectuals from "the propertied classes".1 This argument fails in that the vast majority of revolutionaries have not been intellectuals of the "propertied classes", but rather everyday working people. They achieved their revolutionary consciousness through involvement in struggles for social justice and their innate interests as workers to end their own exploitation at the hands of capital. Individuals only ever come to any conclusions through their own life experiences. Any teacher knows that if the pupil doesn't want to learn through their own initiative, then they simply won't learn. "You can lead a horse to water, but not make em' drink". You can instill revolutionary values and analysis from "without", in Lenin's terms. People have to arrive at these positions for themselves and revolutionaries can only work with them to provide assistance in this regard. Revolutionary consciousness is achieved through self-activity of the oppressed, i.e. self-management.

Many leftists who want to eliminate the market through planning of production object to self-management on the basis of that planning requires centralization of production under one authority. They effectively agree with believers in "free markets" that planning cant happen on any other basis than from above. Influential 19th century Marxist Karl Kautsky essentially makes the argument for soviet style planning before the existence of the Bolsheviks, or the Soviet Union in the last of his three part series of essays on the state:

 If commodity production [production of things to be sold] is removed and in its place is put the production of use values, then, as in the family or the Indian commune, also all labour branches must again be united, brought under a higher authority.........The free society will be a federation of nations and not of groups or communes; whose production will be left neither to free choice nor to the spontaneous formation of groups, nor even to sheer force of social attraction; instead, production will be placed under the direction of a well-organised administration.2
The heads of state in the USSR believed that they were carrying out this rational planning to meet social needs through the plan implemented by the state which controlled the whole economy. To retread some territory from above; top down planning falls short of self-managed planning. Instead of the producers and consumers decided what is produced and how it is produced a group of officials far removed from their situation does so. This decreases efficiency and erects a class structure of planners and non-planners ultimately defeating the leftist goal of a free and equal society. Even the goal of meeting people's needs will be defeated by such a centralist set up. The planners will have to compel the producers to work for them rather than produce to meet their needs. They will be non-laborers that extract the surplus produced by the laborers for themselves.

Many revolutionaries who actually took power never even had a conscious objection to self-management. They saw themselves as the principle agent for enacting revolutionary change so naturally they were the ones to take power and implement changes from above. Any challenge to their power from below was thus obviously a counterrevolutionary effort by reactionary saboteurs. Workers who resisted state policy in communist party regimes were labelled "counterrevolutionary", "bourgeois", "rightest", and other variations for this reason. What these revolutionaries turned rulers never considered, and then had to openly deny once in power, is that having a group of actors at the top of society who institute policy from without requires the existence of power structures that give these policy makers control of production, the social product, and coercive institutions of the state such as the army, the bureaucracy, and the police. The goal of a free and equal society is thus lost.

Why We Need Self-Management 

Our society is built upon the misery of the vast majority of us. For thousands of years a small group of people have controlled the organization of society and ensured that we grind our bodies down producing to sustain them. It is said that in modern capitalism we have power through making choices as consumers and voting for our representatives. Even if to some degree we can choose what we "consume", we have no choice, but to be "consumers". We have to get jobs, to make money, to buy what we need to survive from the same institutions we work for. The politicians we elect are 1; bought out by very rich individuals, the people who's companies we work for, and 2; make the fundamental decisions for us. They decide whether we go to war, what the minimum wage will be, whether prisons are run for profit, whether we all will have access to healthcare regardless of ability to pay, what amount of environmental destruction is allowed for industry, whether excessive force by the police is punished effectively, who goes to jail for what, and on and on and on. We have no input in any of these decisions besides voting for the people who do make them based only on what they tell us they will do. We urgently need a society where we decide what goes on. We should decide how justice is administered, how production is carried out and what it produces, what to do with the product of production, how communities are organized, how and what infrastructure is built, ect. ect. This is a self-managed society.

How To Implement Self-Management 

If these arguments for self-management have been convincing you are likely now asking "ok, but how do we create a self-managed society, what can I do?". A self-managed society can naturally only be achieved through a self-managed movement. This movement must be the product of the masses of people, in capitalist society, the working class. We are the only ones who have a direct interest in creating a self-managed society since we are the powerless who are dictated to by the powerful decision makers and the only ones who numerically have the strength to defeat the power institutions holding this society together such as the police, military, and bureaucracy. This movement must be international because we want to free all people and societies. We want to create a global, self-managing human community and we can not win isolated from the rest of the world. To built this movement you must act in your everyday life, as soon as possible. Such actions can include writing articles like this one, talking to the people in your life about the social situation and your belief in self-management, studying to be aware of our current situation and it's needs such as reading articles like this, convincing people in your community and workplace to take direct action against their corporate and state institutions to make the powers that be hear your voice on issues that effect you. You can create organizations that agitate for self-management such as militant labor unions. You can get involved with such organizations that already exist such as Workers' Solidarity Alliance in the USA. Together, we can create a world worth living in!

Notes:

1.“We have said that there could not have been Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. It would have to be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labor legislation, etc. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals.”-What is To Be Done, Lenin

2. The Free Society, Karl Kautsky

Bibliography:

The Economics Of Freedom, Solidarity Federation

The Economy Of Freedom, Vadim Damier

State-Capitalism: The Wages System Under New Management, Buick and Crump



















Saturday, February 9, 2019

Anarcho-syndicalism and Anarchist Communism: Different, But Conjoined


In my experience those who are new to Anarchism frequently ask what the difference is between Anarchist Communism and Anarcho-syndicalism. Are they the same? Are they opposed to one another? Can one be an Anarcho-syndicalist without being an Anarchist Communist, or vice versa? To answer this question we must spell out what Anarchist Communism and Anarcho-syndicalism are in the first place.

Anarchist Communism


We will start off with Anarchist Communism since it might be the most confusing to the uninitiated. For most people the word "communism" conjures up the most ruthless statism and the "totalitarian" regime while Anarchism conjures up images of chaos and disorder. Neither of these things describe communism, or Anarchism respectively. These meanings are instilled in the popular consciousness by the powers that be, for their benefit. Political propaganda has long associated Anarchists with bomb throwing terrorists who want to destabilize every semblance of order and drop bodies wherever they go. In this sense the joker from Batman might be considered an "Anarchist". Image result for anti-anarchist poster Something similar has occurred with the word "communism". When the revolutionary Marxist party "Bolsheviki" took over Russia in 1917 western capitalist powers called this new government "communist". They continued to do so after Stalin had taken power in Russia and did the same with the regimes that cropped up elsewhere in the world during the 20th century that were inspired by that in Russia such as China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea. The Bolsheviks considered themselves to be Marxist communists, but never considered Russia to be a "communist" society. After Stalin took power he declared in the 1930s that Russia was "socialist" which is what the subsequent communist party ruled regimes considered their societies. They maintained that socialism was a path on the way to communism which they were supposedly fallowing. During the cold war capitalist powers called the communist party regimes "communist" to defame what were it's geopolitical enemies while the communist party regimes maintained that they were on the path toward communism to justify their own power. This continues to be the dynamic between the US and it's allies and the remaining communist party regimes such as Cuba and North Korea.

To understand the actual political philosophy behind these terms we have to turn to the respective movements which employed them. For the Anarchist movement from the 19th century up to today Anarchism meant the desire for and practice of dismantling capitalism and replacing it with a society organized through voluntary cooperation and mutual support. To Anarchists this society will be "libertarian socialism", achieved through horizontal social organization without command and obedience and one where production is owned and operated cooperatively through this type of social organization. For the corresponding communist movement (some of which's members were Anarchists) communism meant the vision of a future mode of production where society is a classless commonwealth made up of freely associated producers who collectively own the product of social labor. Once Bolshevism morphed into Stalinism this vision of a future mode of production became less and less important to "communists" as most of them fallowed the ideology of the ruling classes in the communist party regimes who certainly didn't want a classless society.

After the death of the International Working Men's Association (the first ever international socialist and working class organization) in the 19th century Anarchists adopted the idea of communism as the form libertarian socialist society should take. These Anarchists, including Peter Kropotkin who was introduced to Anarchism through the international, Errico Malatesta, and Rudolf Rocker thus founded "Anarchist Communism" which attached Anarchist political philosophy to the goal of a communist society. Anarchist Communism continues to be the hope of Anarchists in the 21st century.

Anarcho-syndicalism


Tomes can be written about Anarcho-syndicalism, but for our purposes it will be the simplest of these two concepts to explain. Anarcho-syndicalism developed at the end of the 19th century through to the beginning of the 20th, particularly in France with the CGT labor union. It continued through the 20th century hitting a low point after the first world war, but surviving the late 20th century until the 21st century where Anarcho-syndicalist unions and propaganda groups (political action organizations) exist in various parts of the world generally united by the Anarcho-syndicalist international, International Workers' Association. Anarcho-syndicalism is the combination of the political philosophy of Anarchism and the method of class struggle by the name of "syndicalism" which entails forming labor unions to fight against the capitalist class at the point of production.

The Difference? 


As you have probably detected from the above Anarcho-syndicalism is not the same thing as Anarchist Communism. The latter is an Anarchist vision for a post-capitalist society while the former is an Anarchist strategy to achieve such a society. Despite their difference these two ideas and practices have an essential connection. Firstly Anarcho-syndicalists have often been Anarchist Communists and vice versa. Rudolf Rocker, the founding father of Anarcho-syndicalism, was an Anarchist Communist before becoming an Anarcho-syndicalist and argued for an Anarchist Communist society in his book "Anarcho-syndicalism: Theory and Practice". The Anarchist Communist Peter Kropotkin had ideas of labor associations that prefigured Anarcho-syndicalism while the later Russian Anarchist Communists who wrote "The Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists" advocated "syndicalism as the method" of class struggle. The modern Anarcho-syndicalist international advocates "Libertarian Communism" (another word for Anarchist Communism) as the society it seeks to create. Secondly I want to argue that both ideas and practices need each other.

Anarcho-syndicalism Needs Anarchist Communism


One does not have to be an Anarchist Communist to be an Anarcho-syndicalist, yet Anarcho-syndicalism can only be successfully carried out with the goal of Anarchist Communism. Anarcho-syndicalism is a strategy to achieve libertarian socialism (defined above). Libertarian socialism requires bottom up organization and the end of class society through the collective ownership of production. Anarchists have historically conceived of libertarian socialism in non-communist ways. For instance the first person to call himself an Anarchist as a political label, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, argued for a libertarian socialism based on collectively owned enterprises which buy and sell to each other. The Cuban Anarchist Fernando Tarrida del Mármol and the Russian Anarchist Volin argued that Anarchists should unite against capitalism and put the question of what should come after capitalism aside until the completion of the revolution.

Neither of these perspectives would suit the victory of Anarcho-syndicalism. Proudhon's schema would not lead to socialism at all because the collective ownership of production requires the collective ownership of it's product. Individuals and separate firms buying and selling in private exchange thus could not exist without monopolization of production for a specific class. The schema of Volin and Marmol simply refuses to answer the question of how to create a free society, thus it has no hope of implementing libertarian socialism. The only way to implement bottom up socialism would be to have collective ownership and cooperative organization of production and it's product. This will require all of human society to be a classless commonwealth where production and distribution are carried out explicitly to meet people's needs through self-managed communal planning, i.e. communism.

Anarchist Communism Needs Anarcho-syndicalism 


One does not have to be an Anarcho-syndicalist to be an Anarchist Communist. For instance the Anarchist Federation in the United Kingdom rejects Anarcho-syndicalism as the strategy for class struggle revolutionary Anarchism. It rejects Anarcho-syndicalism because it believes unions to be mediation agencies through which capitalists manage conflict with workers. This ignores the point of Anarcho-syndicalist revolutionary unions, which Emma Goldman points out; "The fundamental difference between Syndicalism and the old trade union methods is this: while the old trade unions, without exception, move within the wage system and capitalism, recognizing the latter as inevitable, Syndicalism repudiates and condemns present industrial arrangements as unjust and criminal, and holds out no hope to the worker for lasting results from this system.".1 She goes on; "Of course Syndicalism, like the old trade unions, fights for immediate gains, but it is not stupid enough to pretend that labor can expect humane conditions from inhumane economic arrangements in society. Thus it merely wrests from the enemy what it can force him to yield; on the whole, however, Syndicalism aims at, and concentrates its energies upon, the complete overthrow of the wage system. ".2

Anarchist Communism is Anarchist because it understands that communism can only be achieved through the self-organized struggle of the working class against the capitalist system. The only form in which this can be done is to organize into associations of workers, organized by workers themselves, to carry out class struggle and eventually take control of society to re-organize it along libertarian socialist lines. These are revolutionary labor unions. When Anarchists organize revolutionary labor unions for class struggle they are carrying out the revolutionary strategy of Anarcho-syndicalism.

Conclusion


Anarchist Communism and Anarcho-syndicalism are two distinct theories and practices. Despite this they are not at all contradictory, in fact they need each other. For Anarcho-syndicalists to achieve a libertarian socialist society they must implement Anarchist communism and for Anarchist Communists to achieve their vision of such a society they must build an Anarcho-syndicalist labor movement. This is why historically the vast majority of Anarcho-syndicalists were Anarchist Communists and vice versa.

Notes:

1. Syndicalism: The Modern Menace To Capitalism, Emma Goldman

2. ibid.

Bibliography:

Fighting For Ourselves, Solidarity Federation

Anarcho-syndicalism In The 20th Century, V. Damier

Communism and Anarchy, Peter Kropotkin

Note On Individualism and Anarchism, E. Malatesta

Property Is Theft, Pierre Joseph Proudhon

Anarchism Without Adjectives (1890), Robert Graham

Anarchist Synthesis, Volin

Introduction To Anarchist Communism, Afed

 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Right-Wing Propaganda At It's Least Subtle



Image result for fox news Fox News, being the overtly bias media arm of the republican party that it is, has put out an article warning about the "dangers" of "socialism". It is designed as a guide for, put honestly, indoctrinating your kids into your conservative political ideology. I'm going to go over these supposed truth bombs Fox aims to drop on the topic of "socialism" and see whether they really have any actual truth to them (this is Fox News, so expectations should be riding pretty low in that department). It should first be pointed out that this article contains almost no sources to back up it's claims. If we are going to tap into the history of socialism to argue that it should be avoided, we should probably actually cite historical studies. Anyway, on with the show!

"Survey data show that most Americans have no clue what socialism is despite the fact that it's regularly discussed in the media"

No, it actually isn't. Aside from right-wing scare media like this and the few politicians such as Bernie Sanders who openly purport to be "socialist", socialism and communism in pretty much all major American institutions, including the media, is a taboo subject. During the period of McCarthyism and the red scare even the discussion of things such as socialism and communism were near completely purged from American political discourse. So much so that even talking about it produces articles like this one aimed at shouting you down. Right-wingers today love complaining about "political correctness", yet vigorously uphold it by deeming socialism and communism as politically incorrect.

"Socialism is the collective ownership and management of property. In a purely socialist society – an idea Karl Marx called “communism” – all or nearly all property is owned and managed by the collective."

Despite claiming that it will deliver an accurate definition of socialism this article gives us an intentionally vague definition. What does "property" mean? What does "collective ownership and management" mean? Who is "the collective"? The article fills in none of these blanks.

"Even their homes are owned collectively."

No they aren't. The article seems to use this vague notion of "property" to argue that socialism means the collective ownership of everything from your toilet, to your dish rag. Socialism is specifically concerned with the means of production, i.e. the tools, equipment, machinery, and technology used to produce for mass consumption. The means of production are the cranes, bulldozers, and trucks used to build houses for consumers, not the houses they live in themselves.

"In the case of democratic socialism, this means that people are forced to live according to the desires of the majority. In many situations, a small group of people is given power by the majority, and that group typically ends up becoming tyrannical, as we’ve seen in China, North Korea and Venezuela."

How can "the majority" give power to a small group of tyrants? Isn't the point of "tyranny" that iron fisted leaders take power for themselves and repress all dissent? It's also really telling how the article provides no other information about the political situation in three very different countries with very different social, political, and economic landscapes.

"For example, in a socialist country, vegetarians would be required to be part owners in a slaughterhouse."

OH NO! PEOPLE DECIDING WHAT TO PRODUCE TO MEET THEIR OWN NEEDS! WHAT A VIOLATION OF LIBERTY!!!! MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!!!

"In socialism, individual “rights” are mere illusions. Even free-speech rights are limited if they are deemed “harmful” to the rest of society – which means these “rights” don’t really exist at all. This is why human rights abuses are so common in countries that try to enact socialism."

Once again, no actual information is provided regarding these human rights abuses. You are just suppose to take the article's word for it. Socialism is a society without class divisions and distinctions, meaning that coercive institutions that empower a group of rulers over everyone else, such as the state, are abolished. How exactly does free speech and individual rights get repressed without such institutions? Will "the collective" Thanos snap them away?

Under the assumption that "socialists" view the welfare state as the solution to our current problems the article makes this argument; "This conversation allows parents to make a very important moral argument: Charity is morally positive, because it means people are voluntarily helping those in need, but government welfare programs – however well-intentioned they might be – are not forms of charity. They require the government to use force and coercion. Those who don’t want to pay for a government program because they think it isn’t helpful – or perhaps believe it’s harmful – are forced to pay their taxes and participate anyway. Those who refuse can end up in prison." I don't see why I should care about the "liberty" and "voluntary" decisions of very rich individuals and institutions to not be taxed by the state in order to fund social programs for those with nowhere near that amount of economic power. These kinds of arguments ignore the class dimensions of capitalist economies, the "rights" of rich individuals and institutions who buy out politicians and make their fortunes off of the labor of those who work for them out of need for income are considered the same as the "rights" of people who are many thousands of dollars in dept, unemployed, and about to loose their house. Even barring this, socialists do not see the welfare state as the answer to modern problems. Socialists argue that the capitalist system's class structure is the fundamental problem and that the solution is abolishing it for democratic organization of society. As a side note, corporations pay very little effective tax as a result of their ability to offshore their finances, and this has left us with a reality of crumbling public infrastructure.

"Here’s a startling fact about socialism that every child should hear: During the past century, tens of millions of people have been killed, exiled or imprisoned by socialist and communist parties, and no country has ever successfully enacted a system that matches Marx’s vision for the world – a reality even the staunchest Marxist will admit."

Once again, no actual information is provided about these tens of millions of people killed, imprisoned, and exiled. It's true that "communist" regimes have killed millions of people, just like every other government in history. Pretty much every western nation was built up through killing millions of indigenous people. The American government killed millions of people in the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As to the point about "Marx's vision for the world" never being enacted exactly, good, that's not what socialists want in the first place. Socialism is not "the exact vision held by Marx himself".

"Furthermore, history has repeatedly shown that government can’t fix many of our most complex societal issues, even when it socializes just one part of the economy. For example, since the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges first opened, insurance premiums have doubled and deductibles have skyrocketed."

What's conveniently left out here is that Obamacare got millions of people who wouldn't have it otherwise access to healthcare. It's also left out that every other advanced nation on the planet has a public healthcare system and they get much better healthcare results for much cheaper than we do.

This article is a sad excuse for Journalism, much like Fox in general. Right-wing media hacks trying to get parents to indoctrinate their children to ensure that the next generation won't get any ideas about radical change, and that the status quo of oppression and exploitation will continue. Parents, let your children come to their own conclusions. Even if you have the same asinine positions expressed in this article, it is not your right to beat your children over the head with them.

Bibliography:

How To Get Your Child To Just Say No To Socialism, Justin Haskins

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2NNxyxc2Ao

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yEiv1fIhyE

Colonization and Decolonization, Zig Zag





Monday, January 14, 2019

The Capitalist Nature Of The Great Leap Forward



Like “Holodomor”, The Cultural Revolution, The Combodian Genocide, and the Great Purges the Great Leap Forward is widely viewed as proof of the failure and bloodthirsty nature of communism. It and it’s victims are used to compare the old “communist” regimes of the 20th century to the Third Reich. Supposedly the Great Leap forward is more proof than anyone needs to show that communism is irredeemable and that revolutionary anti-capitalism is at best a utopian idea that paves the road to slaughter and economic collapse. This cold war ideological narrative is designed to paper over the real events that took place, specifically that they were a result of capitalism and the prevention of a genuine, radical alternative to it.
Then, of coarse, the Stalinist left will attempt to defend these events. They flip the script on the anti-communist version of events and contend that, in this case, the great leap forward was part of a genuine socialist project carried out by a genuinely revolutionary communist regime. They effectively invert anti-communism. Stalinists will claim that the number of people who are said to have been killed in the Great Leap Forward is a fabrication and/or that the resulting famines were purely a result of bad whether. This inverted anti-communism is just as deceptive as anti-communism proper. It paints the economic and political projects of capitalist states, founded on rolling back social revolutions, and sporting a distorted version of Marxism as their ideological veil, as “achievements” of socialism in action. A real revolutionary analysis of the events of the Great Leap Forward implies showing the real culprit in capitalism and counterrevolution while at the same time acknowledging the human toll this capitalism and counterrevolution caused in terms of oppression and exploitation of ordinary working people.
The Great Leap Forward was carried out by the People’s Republic Of China starting at the tail end of the 50s. The people’s republic was established after decades of civil war which themselves were the result of revolutionary convulsions that ended the old Chinese imperial and Confucian dynasties. The Chinese Communist party had come to power as a result of rallying the Chinese peasants to their side in the civil war and thus, in 1949, officially created the people’s republic. Instead of the masses of Chinese workers and peasants taking control of society and the means of production a state controlled by the communist party was established with control over both. It’s essential purpose was to carry out economic development in China through extracting what workers and peasants produced, which in a global capitalist society means the accumulation of capital and the development of a national capitalist economy.
Like in the Soviet Union, the industrialization used to carry out this development was based on the exploitation of the working class (as is all capitalist development) and thus industrialization far outstripped the living standards of the workers themselves. The working class remained subordinated to an alien class which extracted what they produced to turn profit in exchange for giving workers just what they needed to live. The communist party controlled the state which itself controlled the economy through state-owned enterprises. It thus constituted the capitalist class which lived off of profit made from said enterprises, effectively owned production as it’s property, and employed labor which it paid under the “full value” of to make profit. This is the essential make up of capitalist society. The only real difference between it and western capitalist “democracies” was that instead of the capitalist class being constituted of private owners who compete on the market it was constituted by one state bureaucracy which owned firms that it compelled to generate profits through the state organized and developed “central plan” (this plan in reality being the mechanism that facilitated the market activity of state firms).
The Great Leap Forward was an agricultural development strategy to carry out the development of this capitalist economy. Initially the Chinese “communist” state allowed peasants to carry out “self-exploitation” where they could produce and market their wears on their own initiative for their personal benefit. The Great Leap Forward was Mao Tse-Tung’s attempt to develop the Chinese economy further from this situation. Unlike other party bureaucrats, such as Deng Xioping, Mao did not want to fallow the traditional Stalinist path (as fallowed in the Soviet Union) of breakneck industrialization and forced collectivization. Mao, and the following on this issue he amassed, wanted a more self-directed process that wouldn’t require the adoption of new and larger scale production tools and techniques. They wanted to construct a project where peasants could carry out agricultural development with their more traditional techniques and tools and through this development incentivize urban Chinese to move to the countryside to take part in the rising economic tide. This agricultural development, through producing for the urban economy, would in turn develop the latter. Party cadres were to teach the peasants in using their traditional tools and techniques to contribute to further economic development.
The GLF (Great Leap Forward) was thus carried out by party cadres going into the countryside to mobilize, and supposedly teach the peasants. The latter were mobilized into communes where they would supposedly carry out communal production of a communist nature through free associated labor, and to melt down huge amounts of steel in backyard furnaces. The communes themselves were a farce. They were organized to be completely controlled by party officials, rather than the peasants themselves. This was compounded by the introduction of draconian standards, not only for producing surplus that could be extracted for the state and for the officials’ own income, but also preventing the peasants from leaving the communes with threat of legal penalty. Communism is a society without set divisions of labor that empower a group of managers to extract the product produced by laborers, let alone do this through the imposition of draconian legal standards. In a communist society production is the property of all and thus managed by all in collective agreement and discussion processes. In the communes it was instead the property of the state and managed by state officials above the producers themselves compelled by the forces of capital accumulation. As such, from the standpoint of communism, or socialism, or even a standpoint of a working class social revolution, the communes of the great leap forward were a farce. In fact, one could compare them to feudal estates as a result of the draconian surplus extraction and limitations on the peasants’ movement. There would be a key difference however. Feudal estates simply performed the function of providing for the feudal ruling class through extracting tribute from the producers. In the case of the GLF communes’s surplus was extracted for the state’s accumulation of capital. The draconian standards were always imposed with a view towards providing the state with an income that could then be used to develop the urban economy. The communes were state-capitalism at work.
The cadres that were suppose to teach the peasants in self-directed traditional production simply assumed authority in the process. Production was organized by the cadre bureaucrats with little to no input from the peasants themselves. This is because the accumulation of capital requires exploitation. A surplus needs to be extracted from the worker and then sold on the market. This requires managerial authority that imposes the standards of capitalist production on the worker. Mao’s fantasy of a self-directed, traditionally peasant centered agricultural capital accumulation could have never been implemented in real life. When the GLR began a tail spin and it was obvious to the communist party ruling class that the project was rapidly failing they reduced the pressure on peasants to produce surplus and allowed a small scale return to “self-exploitation”. Despite this the needs of a rapidly declining agricultural capitalism made a complete return to those salad days impossible.
The extraction of surplus carried out by the great leap forward and the managers and officials in charge of it rapidly became to much for the peasants to meet. Officials in the countryside began falsifying the amount that was produced in their report backs to the regime. Famine and with it starvation began breaking out in the country. Once the regime proper became privy to the situation it was far to late to halt the decline and Chinese agricultural state-capitalism was in full force economic crises. Mao and his faction were completely discredited. While Soviet Industrialization produced massive famine and misery for the peasants, unlike the great leap forward, it didn’t fall into complete crises and actually fueled urban economic development during the world capitalist crises of the Great Depression because the peasants were sucked dry. They were forced into collectives and proletarianized (transformed into wage workers). This meant that the Soviet regime didn’t have to scramble to meet quotas like the people’s republic. The GLR simply didn’t carry out the needed exploitation and immisseration of the peasantry. This is obviously not to call for Soviet style expropriation of the peasants, but to show state-capitalism is the same as any other form of capitalism in that it requires fierce exploitation of ordinary people, otherwise it will break down. Capitalist crises are crises of exploitation, situations were the effectiveness (not necessarily the severity) of worker exploitation has failed.
The GLF and it’s miseries were the product of developing capitalism and it’s crises, not the bloodthirsty nature, or economic failure of communism. In turn the real failures and human impact of state-capitalism can not be ignored, or washed away in order to claim that Stalinism was in fact genuine socialism. The GLF illustrates that anti-communism and it’s loyal Stalinist opposition are about concealing the real nature of the “socialist world” in the 20th century by masking it in ideology. This is done with the goal of further domination of the working class. Stalinists dream of one day again coming to power through their party and developing a national economy on the backs of peasants and workers, and establishment neoliberal capitalism goes through pains to instill in workers that overthrowing their masters will only lead to famine and death.
Bibliography:
Political Economy Of The Great Leap Forward: Permanent Revolution and State Feudal Communes, Satya J. Gabriel
Towards An Anarchist History Of The Chinese Revolution, Andrew Flood
State Capitalism: The Wages System Under New Management, Adam Buick and John Crump