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

The Capitalist Nature Of The Soviet Famines



The Soviet Union is often viewed in the same manner as Nazi Germany in the circles of polite society. Likewise “communism” is often compared to Nazism and Fascism. One of the reasons for this is that in the early 1930s the Soviet Union experienced a series of brutal famines. Specifically the famine in Ukraine in this period has been claimed to be a deliberate act of genocide by the Soviet government against the Ukrainian people, thus being dubbed “Holodomor”. Wikipedia explains “Holodomor is a compound of the Ukrainian words holod meaning “hunger” and mor meaning “plague”. The expression moryty holodom means “to inflict death by hunger””1. In retaliation plenty of Stalinists, seeking to defend the political legacy of the Soviet Union as a model for socialism assert that the Ukrainian famine was not a genocide, and was either caused by weather, or, in some cases, never happened at all. The purpose of this article will be to explain the real nature of the Soviet famines, arguing that instead of being the result of the failures of communism, and instead of being completely natural, or made up conspiracies against the Soviet Union by it’s enemies, that the famines were a product of the Soviet Union as a capitalist society.
The first thing to understand is the Soviet Union is that it was not “communist”, or even a non-capitalist society. The Soviet Union didn’t even refer to itself as “communist”, but “socialist”, and saw communism as a far off future goal. While the Soviet Union’s official and governing ideology claimed that it was socialist, rather than capitalist, it’s system of production and distribution was in no way distinguishable from capitalism. The basic element of capitalist society, that defines what is and is not a capitalist society, is a system of production where all units of production produce things to be sold and where distribution takes place through buying and selling. The state owned firms of the Soviet Union produced, bought, and sold consumer items, raw materials, and means of production. These state firms even competed with one another to generate the most revenue for the state. Capitalism was not eliminated, but placed under state-direction.
The second thing to understand is that the famines were not a deliberate genocide of Ukrainians. The famines affected different parts of Russia, and were an incidental result of policy. At the time Soviet policies were directed toward carrying out industrial and agricultural development, not coming up with ways to eradicate and mass murder Ukrainians for whatever imagined reason. Despite this the famines certainly happened and were certainly not the simple result of bad weather.
The third thing to understand is that capitalism is an exploitative system. This means that in capitalist society one class of people forcefully makes use of the human energy of another for it’s own gain. This is accomplished by a small class of people privately owning resources and forcing the rest to work for it in exchange for money that can buy life sustaining goods such as shelter and food. What this labor produces is extracted as the private property of this class and turned into profit by selling it on the market. In the Soviet Union this capitalist class was the party bureaucracy that controlled the state which owned all production. Now to the famines themselves.
Russia, before the Russian Revolution and up until the time of the famines was underdeveloped economically. The roots of capitalist production had just taken hold in the country primarily through foreign investment by capitalists of other countries. This meant that the majority of the population were a self-sustaining peasantry rather than an exploitable working class with no property, but it’s ability to perform labor. Thus the Russian economy under the new Soviet Union was desperate for peasants to put their product up for sale on the market rather than simply consume it themselves, or horde it for a high price. Thus, once Stalin came to full power within the communist party he carried out a full scale industrial revolution. Deeply involved in this undertaking was complete and forceful expropriation of the peasants. Stalin’s forces in the countryside indiscriminately robbed the peasants blind and tore down their traditional institutions, forcing them into collective farms profited from by the state. This is an example of what Marx called “primitive accumulation”. Marx identified this as an important process in capitalist development.
Marx’s “primitive accumulation” describes the process by which coercion and trickery is used to rob the producer themself of what they produce. In this case the henchmen of the Stalinist state confiscated peasant property and destroyed the peasantry’s subsistence lifestyle. This process is essential for capitalist development because, once again, capitalism requires the exploitation of labor. This kind of naked coercion inevitably has human cost.
The combination the peasants being robbed of their subsistence resources and the ill-thought out implementation of the collectivization process on the part of the Soviet regime lead to famine in different parts of the country. Towards our argument that the famines were of capitalist origin they were kicked off by the extraction of grain for the International market. Millions of people met their ends, starvation ensued and resulted in parents mercy killing their children, consumption of tree bark, and cannibalism. The collective farms that the peasants were forced into ran as capitalist firms (just as all other units of production in the Soviet Union). Thus the collectivizations were the process of transforming the Russian peasants into a working class for labor exploitation. In resisting this “proletarianization” peasants burned crops, slaughtered livestock, and fought with state forces. Despite the fact that such peasants were predominantly middle class, or poor the regime labelled them “kulaks” (rich peasants). This label was applied liberally to any peasants that resisted grain requisition. Resisting peasants were killed, or deported to Siberia. This is reminiscent of a similar process in Europe where developing capitalism kicked peasants off of commonly owned land and punished them with death, or jail for not taking up wage labor jobs in capitalist production. Accordingly the collectivisations destroyed a peasant commune system in Russia called the “mir” in which peasants commonly owned land and organized life communally.
A “communist” society which is communist in more than name would not be one where a ruling class ruthlessly exploits the laboring classes for economic development to the point of famines with massive body counts. A communist society would have no ruling, or exploited class. Labor would be freely carried out and associated to provide for each member of society and thus there would be no reason for a coercive state apparatus in the first place. A really “communist” society would be much more akin to the mir communes than the Soviet Union and it’s collectivization policies. Thus the Soviet famines do not show the failure of “communism”. Despite this they do show the failure of the Soviet regime, not as an alternative to capitalism, or as “socialism”, but as a capitalist society. They show the system modern Stalinists wish to bring back to be just as miserable as any other capitalist set up. Accordingly the Soviet famines should not be put on communism’s rap sheet, but should be laid at the feet of the capitalist system which dominates global society to this day.
Notes:
2. See Chattopadhyay’s Did The Bolshevik Seizure of Power Inaugurate a Socialist Revolution? for a short discussion of the mir.
Bibliography:
The great famine of 1932–3 in Soviet Ukraine: Causes
and consequences, Bohdan Krawchenko
The Road to Terror Stalin and the Self-Destruction
of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939, J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov
State Capitalism: The wages System Under New Management, Adam Buick and John Crump
The So Called “Primitive Accumulation”, Karl Marx

Against Ballot Evangelism: The Political Uselessness Of The Vote

Image result for vote for nobody

Yesterday was election day in my country so I thought I would outline exactly why “exorcising” your “democratic rights” does precisely nothing. I mean this very literally. Your vote has literally no impact on the political-economic system, nor even the trends that push it forward. This conclusion is very jarring for those who believe in the political system known as “representative democracy”.  This is especially true in America where that “democracy” is celebrated as the mechanism which keeps state power accountable. The idea behind representative democracy is that by electing the officials that staff the state the public effectively controls the state from below. If you buy into this idea then you no doubt expect that the public can very easily effect politics and the economy by voting for certain politicians with certain political platforms. There are even radical leftists who believe that voting is vital in “harm-reduction”, i.e. preventing right wing attacks on workers and oppressed people.
This idea that simply writing someone’s name on a ballot and handing it in can fundamentally affect society has galvanized it’s adherents to, what I would call, evangelize the vote. These people preach to others about the necessity of voting. They say “if you don’t vote then welfare and union packages will be cut!” and “if you don’t vote some right winger will get into office!”, or if said people are right wing themselves they say “if you don’t vote then the leftists will destroy our country!”. This idea and practice of voter evangelism is based on two fundamental presuppositions; that when you vote you have a meaningful political choice and that politicians can be expected to carry out the platforms they are elected on. My contention is that both of these presuppositions are wrong.
Is There A Meaningful Political Choice When I Vote?
In the United States there are two big parties that mutually control the political system; the Republican and Democratic parties. Theoretically third parties, or independents can run in elections, but the two big parties take decisive action to marginalize, or even sabotage any efforts in this direction.1 Really, if you want your vote to matter it comes down to a choice between the republicans, or the democrats. How meaningful is this choice?
To put it bluntly; not at all. Both parties are political machines which perform the function of providing ideological legitimacy to the status quo (capitalism) by mobilizing the masses of people to politicaly engage with one or the other party. This is done through employing activists who campaign for the party. Politically the Democratic Party claims to be a progressive party of the people that fights for people of color, queer people, women, peace, and the working class. In reality the Democratic Party has simply channeled movements for peace, labor, and civil rights under it’s control to secure electoral victories and public support. When in power the democrats declaw these movements and carry out the repression of civil rights, waging wars internationally, and repression of the labor movement as needed by the capitalist economy. The Republican Party politically claims to be for the defense of the patriarchal family unit and the cultural values that uphold it. In reality the republicans enact the same, or similar policies the democrats do in service of capitalism. In addition, the patriarchal family system the republicans appeal to is based on the marginalization of people of color, women, and queer people, which also serves capitalism by providing a marginalized and thus easily exploitable labor force and/or marginalizing the surplus population that can’t be integrated into the capitalist economy. In the United States, your choice when voting is effectively two capitalist political machines that carry out more or less the same policies in pursuit of economic interests.
Now, not all countries have the same restrictive political system as the United States. Many countries have multiple political parties to choose from. Unfortunately, each one of these countries have the same sociological forces at play that have led to the restrictive two-party system in the United States. That is that every country on earth, even “socialist” regimes such as Cuba, or North Korea, have capitalist economies.
Every country on earth, and certainly every country with a “representative democracy” has a system of production and distribution based on buying and selling to produce a return. This system of production and distribution is called “capitalism”. The fluctuations of buying and selling in capitalism form what is called the “economy”. Every nation has an economy and every nation participates in the large global economy. The governments of every nation are set up to ensure that economy is in good health producing a financial return that keeps production running smoothly and expanding. Thus, every and any politician who ever gains an official position in the capitalist state is first and for most a maintenance man and technocrat for the capitalist economy. Effectively the only “choice” you have in any “democratic” state is between agents of capitalism. This shows us that there is no meaningful choice to be made when casting your ballot.
Can I trust The Politicians I vote For To Carry Out Their Political Platforms?
A key part of “representative democracy” is that politicians run their campaigns for election on certain platforms. They say that they will do x if the public elects them. The only way that voting would make a political difference is if the politicians that are elected can be trusted to do the things they got elected to do. So can they be trusted to do those things? Lets revisit the point about the capitalist economy.
As we have seen the state in capitalist society is instituted to secure the health of the capitalist economy. If the state doesn’t do this the system of production will falter leading to the state’s power possibly being compromised. This means that the bureaucracy of the state, i.e. politicians, will always pursue policies that are conducive to the health of the capitalist economy. If a politician promises to do x to get elected, but y would be more conducive to a lucrative capitalist economy then said politician will always go for y instead of x absent popular pressure (or sometimes even in the face of it). To find a real world example of this we need only look to the latest two presidents of the United States.
One of Barack Obama’s promises during his campaign was a national healthcare system paid for by the government. Note that government encroachment on private health insurance companies would threaten their profits to a certain degree. In Obama’s two terms in office he failed to implement even the most watered down form of national healthcare called “public option”. Instead he instituted his Obamacare which essentially meant forcing each American to have a private insurance policy. Lance Selfa called this a “corporate give away”. One of president Trump’s campaign promises was that he would ramp up pressure on companies to keep jobs in the United States. This would mean that corporations would be barred from moving production to locations of cheaper labor in the third world. Despite his promises Harley Davidson has carried out a huge relocation of jobs to the third world under Trump. Ultimately the only way politicians will actually enact the things they promise to do is if they are conducive to a lucrative capitalist economy.
Conclusion, Forget The Ballot, Organize!
If, as we have seen, you have no meaningful political choice when you vote and politicians can’t necessarily be trusted to do the things they are voted in to do then whether you vote, or don’t vote, has no meaningful social impact. This is jarring because we are in dire need of social change. The world we inhabit is based on oppression and class exploitation. The very foundation of the “economy” is that the mass of people have no control over social production and must labor for capitalist firms in order to receive a wage, or salary to survive. Thus the very basis of capitalist society is subservience and exploitation. So what can make social change?
The only way those in power have ever conceded to the interests of the masses of people is that the masses of people have mobilized to put pressure on those in power. Racial segregation between white and black people only ended in the US and South Africa through a militant civil rights struggle. Countries with the highest living standards are those with the most militant workers movements. Whether you vote, or don’t vote couldn’t matter less. Whether you mobilize people in your community and workplace to demand from the state and bosses what we deserve couldn’t matter more.
Notes:
1. In 2004 the Democratic Party forced Ralph Nadar’s campaign to pay over 80,000 dollars in legal fees and overturned thousands of his signitures based on technicalities such as voters writing their names as “Bill” rather than “William”.
Bibliography:
Why Bad Government’s Happen To good People, Danny Katch
Democrats: A Critical History, Lance Selfa
State Capitalism: The Wages System Under New Management, Adam Buick and John Crump, 1. What Is Capitalism?
State: and introduction, Libcom
https://libcom.org/library/state-introduction
Wage Labor and Capital, Karl Marx
Class: an introduction, Libcom
https://libcom.org/library/class-introduction
Direct action: and introduction, Libcom
https://libcom.org/library/direct-action-introduction

How Pink Tide Failed Brazil

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Brazil’s runoff election has been won by the right wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Among Bolsonaro’s less than savory traits are colossal misogyny, and nostalgia for Brazil’s military dictatorship. This is naturally a dark time for Brazil’s working class and oppressed people. Regardless, Bolsonaro did not fall from the sky. His victory was the direct result of the failure of the so called “Pink Tide” in Latin America.
At the turn of the 20th century Latin American social movements in resistance to neoliberal policies of exploitation lead to the election of left-wing officials and governments. This has been called “Pink Tide”. From Pink Tide came significant left-wing governments on the continent such as that of Correa in Ecuador, Morales in Bolivia, and Chavez to Maduro in Venezuela. These new leftist regimes were suppose to be popular governments that actively resisted neoliberalism. They were suppose to create economically self-sufficient nations. If the goals of Pink Tide governments were met at all, it was only in very limited ways.
The fundamental problem with Pink Tide was two-fold. Firstly the popular energy of Pink Tide was transformed into state power. Prominent figures in social movements were absorbed into the state bureaucracy and the state, as it always is, was constituted as a sovereign power completely uncountable to popular demands. Secondly, and most obviously, capitalism was left in tact. Effectively Pink Tide tried to resist the pressures of the global capitalist economy through a national capitalism controlled by left-wing governments. This plan did not account for the fact that capitalism can not be channeled by leftists for their aims. Capitalism only cares about the maximization of profit which is only accomplished through the exploitation of labor and the environment.
Pink Tide amounted to nothing more than another leftist attempt at managing capital and the state. The problem with such attempts as can be seen in so called “Nordic Social Democracies” and Stalinist regimes is that they are attempting to manage the very foundation of modern people’s misery. Rather than overthrowing the systems of domination that keep the working class subordinated to the capitalist class, these leftists become participants in them. In Pink Tide’s case this meant the continuation of the extraction of natural resources such as oil for the world market, often against the will of indigenous people. Fundamentally, it also inherently meant the continued exploitation of the working class. In order for capitalists to make profit they need a workforce that can only survive on the wages they get in exchange for producing commodities for the capitalists. This is the backbone, not only of every national capitalist economy, but the global capitalist economy as a whole.
Capitalism is also prone to periodic crises because of the instability of it as an economic system based on the fluctuations of the market. Thus the recent global economic crises hit the Pink Tide countries just as it hit the rest of the world. The fact that Pink Tide regimes continued to be capitalist governments based on the exploitation and thereby misery of the masses meant workers often became fed up and turned to the political right. In the case of Brazil the country has elected left-wing presidents for the past 20 years. Former president Dilma Rousseff was impeached as a result of a corruption scandal and her still popular predecessor “Lula” is serving a twelve year sentence on corruption charges.
The fact is that Bolsonaro is promising law and order and shake up of the Brazilian government in a time of crises where even the left-wing Pink Tide has failed to create an alternative to the miserable capitalist world we all live in based on oppression and exploitation. Of coarse the Pink Tide is not directly responsible for Brazil’s turn to the right. Despite this the unavoidable truth is that the failure of Pink Tide to deliver real change gave the political right an opening in Brazil to mobilize on the basis of popular frustration. Since left-wing capitalism got us into the mess of right-wing capitalism the only way out is capitalism’s abolition. Since the poverty of left-wing politicians has delivered the predictably regressive Bolsonaro government the solution is not to simply replace Bolsonaro with a leftist when his term is up.
There is no way to utilize the capitalist state for the goals of fundamental social change. The state is in fact THE coercive mechanism for the maintenance of the status quo. The state and every politician from Bolsonaro to Maduro must go along with the capitalist mode of production. This requires an international movement of the working class and oppressed people, independent of all political parties and state influence, carried out through self-managed organizations, for the transformation of society along the lines of common ownership of production, meeting human needs, harmony with the natural environment, and directly democratic management of society without coercive political mechanisms.
Bibliography:
The State: It’s Historic Role, Peter Kropotkin
Capital Volume 1, Karl Marx

Anarchist Analysis Of The Russian Revolution

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The Russian Revolution was perhaps the most important event in the history of revolutionary socialism and the struggle against capitalism. For the first time in October of 1917 workers took power on a grand scale and eventually the change in regime inaugurated by the revolution lead to Stalinism and it’s export around the world to countries such as China, Vietnam, Cuba, Germany, and North Korea, which captured the imaginations of radicals for most of the 20th century and today is used as an argumentative stick to beat anti-capitalists over the head with. An understanding of this all important event can not be overlooked by revolutionary socialists. Different Leninist sects from Stalinists to Trotskyists celebrate the Russian Revolution every year with dogmatic allegiance to what they proclaim “the greatest moment in human history”. Anarchists should analyze this historical event, from our anti-authoritarian perspective as opposed to Leninist worship of Trotsky and Lenin, and determine it’s implications for radical politics today.
In 1905 a bread riot organized primarily by women stirred a pot of social forces which would become fully unleashed in February 1917. Russia under the Czar was an autocracy which republicans had been struggling against for decades. Lenin’s brother was put to death for attempting a terrorist act in pursuit of this goal. It’s economic set up was primarily feudal with a small but developing capitalist economy in the urban areas largely dominated by foreign capital. All though there was a mass of workers there was an even larger mass of peasantry. This peasantry was subject to feudal exploitation by the landed gentry. To compound matters Russia had involved itself in World War One which was sapping resources from the country and killing it’s people. This combination of autocratic semi-feudal oppression and opposition to the war lead to the outbreak of the revolution.
In February 1917 the masses of people rose up against the Czarist regime and forced the Czar to flee the country leading to the smashing of the Czarist state. New organizations of class struggle sprung up called “soviets” (Russian for “council”). A liberal “provisional government” was created that eventually came under the leadership of a man called Alexander Kerensky.  Meanwhile the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (the Russian Marxist party) had split in two on the question of the revolution. The reformist and stageist faction were known as the “Mensheviks”. They argued that the Russian Revolution would need to establish a liberal republic before transitioning through reform to a socialist society. The revolutionary socialist faction known as the “Bolsheviks” argued instead that the Russian Revolution should carry out the “bourgeois revolution” against semi-feudal social set ups (the purpose of the liberal republic argued for by the Mensheviks) and then immediately carry out the socialist revolution. Menshevik Leon Trotsky would develop a theory called “permanent revolution” which argued that the socialist revolution could itself carry out the tasks of the “bourgeois revolution” which Lenin would end up signing on to leading to Trotsky joining the Bolsheviks.
One of the main impetuses behind the revolution was opposition to Russian involvement in the war. The provisional government never pulled back from the war and continued to wage it. This lead to the idea that the provisional government was not the hoped for change the Russian Revolution was to bring about. Meanwhile on the ground the Soviets had grown to include workers, peasants, and soldiers. The soviets were federal councils organized to wage the revolution through democratic means via the self-organization of the producers and soldiers. They were a revolutionary form of organization because they allowed workers to organize directly for control over society within militant class struggle. In addition to the soviets organizations at the point of production for workers’ were set up called “factory committees”. They were worker organized groups that fought for better conditions and in some cases took over production itself and kicked out the capitalist owners bringing it under direct worker control. The factory committees were revolutionary in that they were self-organized organs of class struggle for workers to fight against the bosses and take control of production themselves.
The Bolsheviks took up the popular slogan created by Anarchists of “all power to the soviets” given the strength of the soviets as revolutionary organizations. In reality the Bolsheviks (as with other groups such as the Mensheviks) treated the soviets as a means for mobilization under their influence looking to elect Bolshevik majorities within them. When the time came to dethrone the provisional government the Bolsheviks refused to wait for a democratic mandate from the congress of soviets and Lenin declared that the congress had nothing to offer the Russian people.  “the Congress will give nothing and can give nothing. ….. First defeat Kerensky, then call the Congress”. The Bolsheviks as such began pushing for the overthrow of the provisional government. This was not a hard sell since the liberal republic of Kerensky could not, fundamentally, resist the need to continue the disastrous war as like the Czarist autocracy it was a nation-state vying for military and economic power in the global order. On October 25, 1917 (November 7 on the western calendar) the working class rose up against the provisional government, forced Kerensky to flee like the Czar before him, and took over Russian cities, leading to working class power on an unprecedented scale. The hope of all socialists was that this revolution would lead to a new society controlled and organized by the masses of workers’ and peasants. This dream quickly died.
Since we are analyzing the revolution from an Anarchist perspective we should document the far too often overlooked part Anarchists played in the Russian Revolution. As mentioned earlier Anarchists created the slogan “all power to the Soviets”. Anarchists and Anarcho-syndicalists organized the Kronstadt soviet. The Russian Anarchist movement was critical to the February and October Revolutions. Anarchist Communists set up revolutionary communes and Anarcho-syndicalists set up factory councils. Later when the white army and western forces would attack the young Soviet regime Anarchists fought in it’s defense. The Russian Anarchist movement so critical to the Russian Revolution would be torn to shreds by the Bolshevik counterrevolution that destroyed the dream of a revolutionary Russia under worker and peasant control.
Almost immediately after the October victory the soviets and factory committees were assaulted. The soviets were simply integrated into the state as bureaucratic state organizations for the carrying out of low level political affairs. From then on the Soviet Union was only “soviet” in name. The factory committees were promised a national congress by the Bolsheviks and attempted to organize into a national federation. The promised congress never happened and the factory committees were essentially abolished and what was left of them integrated into the state central planning organs. Mensheviks and Left Social Revolutionaries who campaigned for the soviets and factory committees as independent revolutionary and class organizations were assassinated. Political repression of opposing groups whether or not they were left wing/working class became a main fixture of Bolshevik rule early on. Even dissident Bolsheviks were assassinated. The Anarchist movement that was indispensable to the revolution, that viewed the Bolsheviks as comrades and fellow revolutionaries, was deconstructed with Czarist like methods of repression. Anarchists were vanished, arrested, thrown in jail, executed, and had their newspapers shut down. As a result of this political intolerance and reactionary attack on a revolutionary movement the remainder of the Russian Anarchists languished in Stalin’s gulags.
So why had the Bolsheviks turned on a dime from revolutionaries to policemen? There are two major reasons. The first is that the Bolsheviks never saw the emancipation of the working class as the task of the workers themselves. Their idea of proletarian power was that political representatives from the working class would form a revolutionary party (the Bolshevik party) that rules the state in the interests of the working class. Much earlier Lenin had written in “What Is To Be Done” that in all countries the working class by itself would never reach true social democratic (read Marxist) revolutionary consciousness without guidance from the social democratic party. He argued that the theory of socialism didn’t come out of the struggles of the working class, but out of the minds of the intellectuals of the “propertied classes”.1 These points of view put forward the notion that the party must guide the workers to power rather than the workers taking power for themselves. This gives a justification and motive for repression of real working class control and left-wing political opposition. There was however more than just an ideological element. Equally as important is the second major reason for the Bolshevik counterrevolution. Instead of the workers and peasants taking over production for themselves it was nationalized by the Bolshevik state. This recreated the capitalist relation of private property where the vast majority of people have no control over the production process and thus no inherent means to attain the consumption goods necessary for survival. Thus the mass of people sold their ability to work to the state for a wage that allowed them to purchase items of consumption so they could subsist. The state took the bulk of what was produced and realized it as profit for itself by selling it on the market. This meant the capitalist economy with it’s wage labor, money and markets, private property, class division, and state machine were all preserved. The working class and peasants remained the exploited laboring population that generated capital and profit for a capitalist class who owned and controlled the production of wealth. As such the Bolshevik party was the capitalist class that imposed it’s rule, exploitation, and oppression of workers through it’s capitalist state with the ideological justification that the Bolsheviks as revolutionaries represented the working class. In accordance with the class nature of the newly minted Soviet Union the Bolsheviks crushed strikes which occurred after the Russian Civil war killing anywhere from over 2 to 3,000 people.
The Bolshevik state morphed further and further into a capitalist nation state like any other, factions within the party were banned, the Kronstadt uprising of sailors demanding workers’ control and political democracy was mercilessly crushed, a secret police was set up that carried out terror in imposing the regime’s rule, the remnants of the Russian Revolution in the Ukrainian Anarchist insurrectionary movement were stomped out, and a treaty was signed that allotted Russian land and production to the German capitalist state. In the 1920s the Soviet one man management system of strict hierarchy over workers in production was established. Later in the decade Stalin would maneuver the established party bureaucracy and repressive state mechanisms with the help of his lackeys to come to dictatorial power. This involved the execution of the remaining Bolsheviks (save for Stalin and his allies) on trumped up charges. Stalin fully developed the USSR into a capitalist nation-state, ideologically enshrining “socialism in one country” (a complete oxymoron by the standards of the historical socialist movement) and building the USSR up into a neo-colonial super-power with nuclear capability. This model of Stalinism was exported throughout the world through Stalin’s command of the Comintern and military expansion into Eastern Europe. The Russian revolution was no more and on it’s ashes stood a number of police states where capital continued to exploit labor. The Soviet Union itself collapsed and China and Vietnam went through market reforms for the installation of typical private capitalism and the deconstruction of the state capitalist system of “socialism in one country”. The selling off of Russian industry to foreign investors and Russian oligarchs has accomplished the same there. The dissipation of the “socialist world” and the failure of these regimes to produce a free and equal society has haunted the left for generations. Communism is discredited as an authoritarian failure.
So what are the lessons that Anarchists should take from the Russian Revolution for the construction of a revolutionary movement today? The first and fore most lesson is that the emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves. A socialist society is one where production is governed freely through the cooperation of producers. This can only be achieved through working class self-organization within the class struggle. Vanguard parties and similar “leadership” formations are categorical obstacles to socialism. The second is anti-statism. The state is a top down organization used to coerce the majority of the population under the rule of a small exploitative elite. The state will always reproduce class divisions so long as it exists and prevent a socialist society which is necessarily governed by the collective freely associated producers. The third is the need for collectivized production over nationalized production. Nationalized production simply puts production under the control of the state bureaucracy reproducing the relationship of private property which gives real control over production to a small group of owners. Production needs to be seized from the capitalist class and immediately made the collective property of the workers and oppressed people, then operated through workers’ self-management to meet the needs of the population. Hopefully the next great revolution can break through the barriers the Russian Revolution faced and make the final leap from world capitalism to global free socialism, or as a I call it, libertarian communism.
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 labour 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.”
2. A key factor in the failure of the Russian Revolution was the defeat of revolutions in other parts of Europe and the isolation of the Bolshevik regime. I ignored this in the article because Anarchists can’t draw many “lessons” from it. The revolutions in Italy and Germany were defeated by capitalism and this left the Bolsheviks surrounded by hostile capitalist and reactionary forces. I mention it here both because it’s an important aspect of the history and because it does tells us about the need for an international revolutionary effort for the abolition of global capitalism.
3. Despite the powerful Russian Anarchist movement Russian Anarchists never successfully conceptualized the Bolsheviks as counterrevolutionaries in order to defend themselves from repression. Anarchists and Anarcho-syndicalists saw the Bolsheviks as their comrades and collaborators in revolution. They thought, particularly after the publication of Lenin’s book “State and Revolution” which gives lip service to self-management and the Paris Commune, that the Bolshevik idea of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” would be the same thing as direct working class power advocated by Anarchists. Even while the Anarchists were being killed and imprisoned they never really began to see the Bolsheviks as traitors, or enemies.
Bibliography:
From The Russian Revolution of 1917 to Stalinist Totalitarianism, Agustin Guillamon
Beyond Kronstadt; the Bolsheviks in power
How Lenin Lead To Stalin, Workers’ Solidarity Movement
The Importance of Russia, Workers’ Solidarity Movement
Anarchists In The Russian Revolution, Paul Avrich
The Persecution Of The Anarchists, Emma Goldman
No Gods No Masters, Part 2
Anarcho-Syndicalism In The 20th Century, Vadim D.
Did The Bolshevik Seizure Of Power Inaugurate A Socialist Revolution? A Marxian Inquiry, Paresh Chattopadhyay
There Is No Communism In Russia, Emma Goldman