Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Responses To "Anarchism And Radical Governments"

Unfortunately much of the response to this article has gotten bogged down in secondary matters. (1) Such as the reality of the situation in Venezuela, my real or alleged lack of historical insight and confusing analogies. I don't see where this has much bearing on the question of how we should act. I would like to re-emphasize what I wrote only applies to specific circumstances 1. a radical/populist/reformist government that has grown out of, or is backed by, a mass movement of workers and peasants. 2. Where we have no mass base.

There is no disagreement about the need to influence such people, and we are in accord that we should avoid losing our identity. Disagreement is over the level or type of criticism we should engage in.

Just to clarify matters. I am NOT saying we should keep quiet or uncritically accept what a mass-based populist govt is doing. What I am saying that this criticism must be framed in such a way that it does not alienate the mass movement and leave us on the sidelines irrelevant and despised. It is better to aim criticism where the populist govt does not live up to its own program – few rank and file members are "true believers", and are not at all adverse to criticizing an organization that waffles on it policies. But the best form of criticism in terms of advancing anarchism is the implicit or positive form, which is reiterating our program. The contrast between a program of genuine self-management and governmental half-hearted measures will have far deeper impact than negative propaganda. Of course, this implies that anarchists actually have a program rather than a vague wish list.

I have come to this position through experience in working within non-anarchist organizations such as trade unions and community groups. Indeed, every anarchist I know, other than a small minority of "crazies", acts in a similar manner within such groups. To say that there is a difference between such organizations and the mass movements giving rise to a radical govt. is to ignore the possibility that these unions and community groups are the very ones that would give rise to or back a populist govt in Canada, should that unlikely event occur.

Does anyone really think they can build an anarchist movement through having ten people stand on a street corner shouting denunciations at the tens of thousands who march by in a quest for a better life? How do you avoid the extremes of liquidationalism and sectarianism? If my attempts at finding a middle path between the two are seem unsuccessful, then please come up with an alternative.

1. Responses in the Anarkismo version See:



Blogger William said...

To be contrarian, actually I think there are some distinct advantages at the very least to being outspoken and despised beyond the facile moral highground it provides after things go horribly wrong.

Sure it marginalizes us, but that marginalization has a restorative element to our own ranks. We have to proactively justify, to clarify our own opinions constantly. This is not easy, and thus sheds off the populist taint that has historically infected us when we've made our worst decisions. It's easy to slide into the wrong decisions when we're seen as (somwhat) fellow comrades with the people in power and popularity.

I think you're underplaying the degree to which we're hurt by being seen as hypocritical by the people we might otherwise be marginalized from. Yes we need to build, but building intelligently means preserving our capacity to THINK intelligently. Failing to generate friction against populist forces can end up corrupting our own ideas and projects.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

The problem with your statement, William, is that no where am I saying we should hide our anarchist message, much less not think intelligently.Why is the middle path seen as the same as liquidationalism? Corrupting our own ideals and projects is precisely what liquidationalism is, and precisely the other side of the dichotomy that I wish to avoid. People do not view you as a hypocrite if you are up front about your ideas. I WANT people to talk about self-management, federalism etc. not ignore these issues and pretend to be social democrats or something. Lets take an extreme example. A couple of Spartacist Leaguers in a meeting, shouting and insulting people. What good does it do them? It may bolster them psychologically, but in terms of gaining any support or impact, zilch.

I am really talking about a style of organizing when one is in a minority situation, one that has been tried and tested through years of application. Rather than standing on the sidelines telling people what they ought to think and do, you; 1. Involve yourself with them in some manner which is neither invasive or exploitative. 2.listen to them and ask questions, finding out what are their common needs and problems 3. relate your experiences and knowledge to these 4. Make SUGGESTIONS based on #3

3:26 PM  
Blogger Frank Partisan said...

Your post has exposed, the sectarianism found not only amongst anarchists, but amongst the whole of leftist sects. These anarchists are no different than even some Trotskyist groups.

Like it or not, the PSUV in Venezuela, has millions of members. It's the largest socialist party in the world. Inside the IMT was able to defeat, hack candidates endorsed by Chavez.

Ted Grant made one point, that is a cardinal rule. If you are outside the working class's organizations, you are nowhere. Last summer at a Nader meeting, sponsored by the CWI, a member of the Mandelites, came and denounced Nader as petit bourgeoise, reformist etc. All true, but why ignore people of the Nader movement?

You come from a different tradition, than young anarchists today. You came from when the left was secular, red, and against dictatorship. You are used to debating strategy, while todays radicals only care about tactics.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

I wouldn't be so quick to write off the younger generation. My generation sort of had to re-invent the wheel, as almost no one in Canada at least, was talking about self-management, workers councils, revolutionary syndicalism etc. We spent much of our lives re-introducing those concepts and the strategic thinking you see in my writing came originally through practice rather than any theoretical development. It was just the way we tended to do things being such a tiny minority at the time. It is only after the fact that some of us came to unite our practice with theory. (Though I may only be speaking for myself here.) As for the younger generations, it is from them that the Platformist Tendency has developed, and the New Syndicalists, another serious, working-people oriented movement developing since the late 1990's, I see as very promising tendencies. The New Mutualists also follow a dual-power strategy and they too are from the generation younger than me. I think where you live anarchists may still be in the "pure action" stage and have not really thought about how they are intending to change society in any programmatic and strategic way.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Frank Partisan said...

The leader of the local IWW moved to another city. She had political skills.

They are in Minneapolis, into direct action or if I don't get my way on everything I'll leave. Both sides are fed by the Maoists.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Frank Partisan said...

I found this, you might find interesting.

8:20 PM  

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