Monday, June 29, 2009

Honduras Coup A Wake Up Call

The era of coups is not over. While the CIA may not have been involved in this one – the US Government seems to be supporting the ousted president – the people who pulled off the coup were certainly trained in the infamous “School of the Americas.” The events in Honduras are indicative of two things. The first is, true to tradition, the Latin American oligarchs believe that any reform is too much reform. President Zelaya is no socialist, or “populist firebrand,” as the news media love to say, but a wealthy rancher, a Liberal who tried to introduce health care and education. With that time dishonoured Latin American tradition, comes political polarization. On the one side you have the reformist government, supported by the mass of working people and campesinos, and on the other the oligarchy. There is no third position, period, point final. If the reform movement is overturned in this polarized situation, the military takes over and repression, terror, “disappearances” are the result.

Hopefully, the Honduras coup will have a positive effect in Latin America – that it will serve to further radicalize the struggle and that people will not let down their guard for a moment with the machinations of the oligarchy and its wannabees.


For an anarchist view of the coup (in Spanish) see

Unity, Diversity and Divisiveness In Anarchism

One aspect of anarchism that differs from Marxist socialism is there is less divisiveness and sectarianism. This is not to say we do not have our dogmatists and hair-splitters. We do, but such people make up the minority, increasingly so, it seems as our movement grows and implants itself. Predominately, the trend is for anarchists to work together on projects even when they belong to different tendencies and to not see others as enemies, traitors or fools, just because they have a few different ideas.

One example of many; In France, a land of 50 million people with 55 million political views, Alternative Libertaire (AL) and the Federation Anarchiste (FA) work on common projects. Neither group spends time in their media castigating each other for doctrinal sins. This, in spite of the fact that the AL split off from the FA some years ago and the former is Platformist and the latter Synthesist. (1)

Unity In Diversity

It is possible to divide anarchists along a number of lines, "life style anarchists" vs. "social anarchists", is one possibility. Reformists and revolutionaries another. While these differences exist in theory, in reality it is more complex. Someone may engage in a lot of "lifestyle" activities but be a member of the IWW. Another anarchist might think a revolution in the American context a pipe dream, but see the possibility elsewhere. As long as you adhere to basic anarchist principles such as self-management, anti-capitalism and anti-statism, anarchists have not found diversity to be a problem. When people are willing to work together in key areas such as media, trade unions, community organizations and anarchist gatherings, diversity becomes a strength. Anarchists are divided in a number of ways – type of organizational approach, anti-religion vs, religious anarchists, type of future economy, and favored area of activity. As such, anarchists who favor a more "individualistic" approach will attract artists and poets to the cause, religious anarchists, a conduit for those who take the egalitarian words of ther Gospel seriously and eco-anarchists and anarcha-feminists link us to the environmentalists and women's movements.

There also exists a large number, many times more numerous than ideological anarchists, of semi-anarchists. These are people who favor some, but not all, of the anarchist program. These folks will say, be interested in worker self-management or popular power, but not consider themselves anarchist.

It thus becomes possible, as long as you refrain from dogmatism, to create a broad-based movement. One composed of anarchists and semi-anarchists based upon key common goals such as self-management, direct democracy and autonomy.

When the working population begins to act upon these ideas, you have the beginning of a social revolution.

What To Do Next?

What anarchists ought to do next, is a source of division within the movement. Revolutionary change can be made, but can it be kept? The traditional position anarchism had been more spontaneous in nature, encourage the masses to self-organize and the revolution will carry itself. The anarchist defeats in the Russian and Spanish Revolutions caused many to consider a tighter form of program and organization. These are the Platformists. At first there was animosity between the two groups, with the traditionalists accusing the Platformists of authoritarianism and the latter acting in a very divisive manner within the larger movement. But this was all in the past, and today's Platformists are Neo-Platformists, are not at all sectarian, and as shown above, work freely with other anarchists. It should be noted that the Platform is not an attempt to form a party ot organization standing over other anarchists or working people. The function of the Platform is to be a tendency within the broader movement to influence that movement in the direction of greater programatic, organizational and tactical coherence.

1. For The Platform See,

Synthesist anarchism seeks to unite several different anarchist tendencies within the same organization. Its program is thus more general and the different groups making up the federation are free to choose whether to support an action or not.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The War at Home, Up Close

The War at Home, Up Close
by Kevin Annett
East of Main, on occupied land called Vancouver

The iron fence went up quickly around Oppenheimer Park this week, closing off the last remaining common ground left to the people of our community: homeless mostly, half of them aboriginal, none of them with anywhere else to go save a piss-soaked alley, now that the walls have once again fallen and enclosed a green and quiet space.

It's fashionable these days among white folks to talk about "solidarity with native people", now that even the government is babbling about "reconciliation". But when the walls come down, and the killing starts, none of the whites are anywhere near the destruction. Not one.

There's been lots more violence this past week in Vancouver's downtown eastside, now that the park is gone: pimps and dealers beating their women even bloodier than normal, half-conscious Indians whacking away at one another, and the cops everywhere, stoking the crime. It's all how the war continues and drives out the expendables from what will soon be cute little boutiques and fancy condos, tailored to the Olympic hordes about to descend and kill forever this last free and open space for the destitute.

I watched the destruction for a few days, as city workers hammered up the iron fences around two square blocks of former parkland, and lots of people passed by as they moved their few belongings from what had been their home. One of them, Donna, a thin and tottering native woman from northern B.C., paused to talk.

"I hear women screaming most nights in the alleys towards the waterfront. It makes my blood go cold. It's the same noise that came out of that house on Campbell street where a john took me one night and was gonna cut my throat but I kicked him and got outta there. But a lot of girls died in that house."

I said something about cops being involved in the disappearing of women.
Donna grimaced and nodded.

"Everybody knows that. A mountie raped me over and over one night in the back of his car. He said he'd have me snuffed if I ever said anything. I know the same cop done it to a few of the women who Willie Picton had out at his farm, he was out there, he brought the girls out there to be killed and filmed."

I sat in the dying rays of the sun today as they angled red and beaming off the north shore mountains, and lit up for a moment all the tired faces of people suddenly searching for a safe place to sleep. A crowd of do-gooders chose that moment to descend, yet another crowd of concerned white, plump faces just wanting to help. I said to Donna that we should do a walk about their neighbourhoods and hand out candy and condoms to all the rich folks in Shaughnessy and West Vancouver, and stand and gawk at them as they prune their gardens and sip martinis on the veranda, and ask them how we can be of help to them.

She giggled briefly, then asked me if I wanted a blow job for ten dollars, which is enough to keep her in crack for a half a day.

There are a lot more white people in the hood these days, new shopkeepers and social workers and lawyers and nurses, doing studies, asking opinions, shoving needles in people, making plans that result in the destruction of our last free space. They call it development. I hear bones breaking and voices crying from alleyways.

The army's moving in, too, double the number of Canadian troops now in Afghanistan: over 4000 troops will be in and around Vancouver for the Olympics, doing what they do, which is to spread violence and fear. Even the transit cops are armed now.

Upstairs, above Co-op radio, a man is screaming his rage as I write this, yelling over and over to the four walls that some cocksucker killed his dog.

It's hard to sleep in the downtown eastside, where the noise and sirens never stop, anymore than does the relentless searching and dealing and conniving along its rat infested streets. I didn't sleep last night, because my friends are out in that mess, and half the night passes in searching for those not seen in days and feared lost. Just today, Harry Wilson, one of the first residential school survivors to tell his story a dozen years ago, sat all bloodied and bruised outside First United church after once more being beaten when he tried to sleep there, while the night staff looked on and did nothing.

Two nights without sleep causes the nervous twitching to begin, the sudden uncontrollable jerking of the muscles, the quick blackouts and long mental blanks as your mind tries to work. Serious heroin addicts can go a whole week without sleep, impossibly, but I've seen it. At three nights without sleep, the vomiting starts, and the hallucinations.

There is no rest for all the men and women evicted from Oppenheimer Park this week. Where can they go? Like the denizens of the Gaza strip, our people are hemmed in to a concrete prison where they are shot at, poisoned, experimented on, injected, milked like cattle and eventually killed off. The government calls it improvement.

I used to try practicing what some like to call "activism" in this battleground, but saw quickly how mere protest means nothing in the face of planned extermination. Yesterday, someone scrawled on the iron fence around the park, "An Insult to our Community", but the cops had ripped the slogan down by the next day. Some of the middle class staffers at nearby community centres are talking about holding a candle light vigil at the iron fence. And so on.

Old habits die hard, especially in those who aren't affected by the violence, and who therefore never have to assess their methods and assumptions, like all the political activists I know. The usual litany of polite petitioning or Saturday afternoon strolls called demonstrations that tie up nothing have less than no effect on the slaughter of our neighborhood and its people: I say less, because after doing nothing, the "activists" go home (they don't actually live down here) feeling they have.

What might stop the killing? Maybe pulling down the whole iron fence one day, and keeping it down. But that means challenging all the sacred cows drummed into our heads, like damaging property and being violent, which I understand are no nos - at least, when the poor do them.

I imagine fifty of us smashing the iron fence to bits and then sitting there and stopping anyone from re-erecting it. That before all else would be to declare that it's we who own this land, and it's we who alone can protect it. For that's the only way enclosures and evictions have ever been fought and ended.

Nobody has pulled the fence down, of course. The destitute are too busy trudging around sleepless, and the activists are too busy talking.

But the war continues, and the casualties mount, and so something must be done, and soon, before we're all locked away or dead somewhere.

I don't think I'll sleep tonight either. Will you?


24 June, 2009

Kevin D. Annett is a community minister, author and award-winning film maker who lives and works in Vancouver's downtown eastside. His website is:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Party, Organization and Social Change.

This is a response to Graeme's question on parties and methods of change.

I. To Party or Not to Party?

While I favour the formation of a party in the mid-nineneeth century concept ion of it – which at that time meant tendency or grouping, I do not favour the creation of what the concept became in the latter half of that century. Typically such parties are top-down and centralized. Such structure means they cannot help but become sclerotic, or opportunist or corrupt. The situation is even worse for parties in the parliamentary arena, where compromise and deal-making are the order of the day. Legislators soon become shut off from their party base, let alone the masses whom they are supposed to represent.

Revolutionaries should not form parliamentary parties, in my opinion, in order to stay true to principle. This does not mean revolutionaries cannot join or participate in a parliamentary party, just that the two groups should be separate.

Rather than a "party" with all the negative connotations of the term, I prefer the development of a Revolutionary Organization. (RO) The function of the RO is to advance the self-activity of the populace, to prevent the take-over of the popular movements by power-seeking groups and to encourage the socialist direction of the struggle. The RO leads by example, by loyalty to the people, by strength of ideas and practice, rather than top-down leadership which is only another form of bossism. In the RO, power flows from the base upwards in the form of recallable delegates. Each RO branch is autonomous – within the confines of the Program and Constitution, I should emphasize.

Three principles of the RO are "Theoretical and Tactical Unity", "Collective Responsibility" and "Social Insertion".

Theoretical Unity" ... an agreement on the theory upon which [the RO] is based. In other words, that members of the organisation must agree on a certain number of basic points, such as class struggle, anti-capitalism and anti-statism, and so on... While... everyone will not agree with everything... it is important to reach as much agreement as possible, and to translate this into action. Once a theoretical position is reached, the members have to argue it in public (even if they initially opposed it within the organisation but they do have the right to get the decision of the organisation changed by internal discussion). (1)

"Tactical Unity" mean[s] that the members of an organisation should struggle together as an organised force rather than as individuals. Once a strategy has been agreed by the [RO], all members would work towards ensuring its success (even if they initially opposed it). In this way resources and time are concentrated in a common direction, towards an agreed objective. (1)

"Collective responsibility" means while recognising each member's rights to independence, free opinion, individual liberty and initiative,[the RO] requires each member to undertake fixed organisation duties, and demands execution of communal decisions." (1)

"Social Insertion" means to be at the heart of the social struggles and not mere cheer leaders... to enhance the social and popular movements, to make them more militant, without trying to make them 'anarchist.' (2) Part of social insertion involves "social weaving" by which the RO reunites community organizations of the oppressed classes... to build solidarity. (2) The RO also works within trade unions and encourages syndicalist ideas and practices, and where possible helps build revolutionary syndicalist unions.

II. Social Change

I do not oppose reforms. On the contrary, nothing would please me more if this system could be peacefully and gradually reformed in the direction of equality and self-management. But through the advancement of neo-liberal policies of corporatization, cut- backs and increasingly authoritarian measures, the ruling classes have "burnt their bridges." Just to return to the mild 1960's style social democracy would require the mobilization of the entire populace. Thus, we have to think increasingly in a revolutionary direction.

I see social revolution coming about in four different ways.

1. A left-wing populist or left-social democratic government is elected and is continuously pushed from below by a mobilized populace. At some point this government is either pushed out of the way by popular power or dissolved into it.

2. Insurrection in the contemporary style. The government and corporations are seen as totally corrupt and unable to reform by the populace. Massive demonstrations, strikes and occupations bring the economy and government to a standstill. The army and police refuse to attack the people. New forms of governance arise based upon existing neighborhood committees and strike committees.

3. Dual Power – "Government From Below." Involves; a. Coordination of popular movements b. Regionalization of struggles, municipalities controlled from below. 3. consolidation of regional grass roots power. (2)

4. Any combination of the preceding.

End Notes

1. The Platform from the Anarchist FAQ

2. The Social Question: Latin America and "Social Insertion" by Micheal Schmidt

See also articles


And Wikipedia

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE STATE AND REVOLUTION - An Anarchist Viewpoint.

My intention here is not to make points against Lenin, but rather to analyze "The State And Revolution" as objectively as possible, yet remain within the context of anarchism. This analysis written by Lenin some months before the October Revolution, has been called his most libertarian work. Writers such as Hal Draper, Raya Dunayevskya, C.L.R James, therefore claimed that Lenin was something of a libertarian socialist and Trotskyists have also used it to claim that he was in favour of workers' power.

The State and Revolution, more than any other document, spells out the Marxist concept of revolution and its immediate aftermath. It also brings into clear focus the differences and similarities between Marxism (a) and anarchism over the nature of revolutionary governance. (b) A major bone of contention between anarchists and Marxists is over the notion of the "workers' state." Anarchists typically see these concepts as a Marxist desire to erect a powerful centralized state and party dictatorship over the working class.

What is a state in Marxist terms? According to Lenin the state develops where class antagonisms cannot be reconciled. (1) For Engels the state is a power standing above society to alleviate the conflict. The state requires a territory, the armed forces not coinciding with the people. If the state stands over society liberation therefore ultimately requires its destruction. (2) The final goal of Marxists and Anarchists is thus the same – a stateless and classless society. It is in the details of the intervening period between the old system and the new where we find differences of opinion.

Why A Workers' State?

It order to defend the revolution, revolutionaries must suppress counter-revolution and this is accomplished by the armed working population. By the very act of suppressing another class, the workers, in Marxist terms, have a "state." The state, ie, the proletariat organized as the ruling class. (3) The form that the workers state takes, Marx says, is that of suppression of the standing army and its replacement by the armed people. (4) Lenin too, saw the workers state as nothing more than the exploiting class being suppressed by the armed populace. But this"state" really is not a state in the regular sense of the word – a bureaucracy, standing army separate from the people, but is a "state" that is already disappearing. ("withering away") This is what is Lenin called the abolition of the state as state and is the fullest form of democracy. (5) 463 As soon as the revolution is successful and the workers have broken the power of the rulers, that remaining essence of the state begins to dissolve itself. For Engels, ...there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection...[there is] nothing necessitating a special coercive force or state. (6)

But workers simply cannot take over the existing state and use it. They must smash it and replace it with something new. In order for the revolution to be successful, it must be a people's revolution, (7) (peasants and workers) and the smashing of the state is the pre-condition of this alliance. This new form of governance is the Commune. The Commune is the form discovered by the proletariat under which the emancipation of the proletariat takes place. (8) The basic structure of the workers state or commune would be to ...elect delegates, all revocable, control and supervision by all, at wages the average of the worker. (9) Lenin mentions favorably Engels remark about the need to replace the term [workers] state with "commune" as more accurate and less confusing. (10)

A Contradiction?

While lauding the Commune and its direct democracy, Lenin also said that in this workers state, state power involves a centralized organization of forces – the vanguard "directing and organizing the new system... (11) But this seems contradicted by his favorable attitude to Engels rather decentralist view that in the early French Republic of 1792-98 each commune enjoyed complete self-government on the American model. (12) Engels also favored the Australian and Canadian system of provincial and municipal governments, seeking a situation where there was complete self-government for provinces, districts and communes... abolition of all local and provincial authority appointed by the state. (13)

We will see later, that Lenin seems to confuse centralization with unity and this confusion is one root of contention between Marxists and anarchists.

Two Different Analytic Tools.

By positing the state in its ultimate sense as one class suppressing another, Marxists engaged in an ontological definition – the state is essentially class domination. Anarchists, on the other hand view the state not as a concept or abstraction, but as the "really existing state". Their analysis is empirical (descriptive) – the state has a bureaucracy, a governing body and army separate from the people etc. Thus, for anarchists, the Commune is NOT a state, and for the Marxists it is the last vestige of the state. Both are right according to the choice of analytic tools, and the ontological and the empirical are both valid ways of looking at the world. Nor should Marxism be reduced to the ontological and anarchism to the empirical in some general way. Both tendencies use both methodologies, though sometimes in different ways.

Marx and Lenin Attack The Anarchists

If the above was all there was to State and Revolution, the situation between anarchists and Marxists would be "you say tomaytoe, I say tomahto." However, Lenin, and Marx and Engels before him, systematically misrepresented the anarchist position on revolution, organization and governance. While it is true that anarchists have also misrepresented Marxists, sometimes grossly, I would suggest that Marxist misinformation has only served to reinforce the negative stereotype anarchists often have of them. (c.)

Lenin states, contra anarchism, We are not utopians, we do not dream of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination. These are anarchist dreams. (14) Accordingly, The anarchists dismissed the question of political forms altogether (15) and only have a vague notion of what they wish to replace the state with. (16) They just want to destroy the state, period. Anarchism is thus a tactic of dispair, rather than taking into account practical problems.(17)

Let's see what Lenin's anarchist predecessors and contemporaries had to say about administration, political forms and their destruction. (All emphasis below is mine.)

On the other hand the State has also been confused with Government. Since there can be no State without government, it has sometimes been said that what one must aim at is the absence of government and not the abolition of the State. However, it seems to me that State and government are two concepts of a different order. The State idea means something quite different from the idea of government. The State, Its Historic Role, Peter Kropotkin

There is a need for a revolution... This conviction has led many to believe that the only important thing is the insurrection, and to overlook what has to be done to prevent an insurrection from remaining a sterile act of violence against which an act of reactionary violence would be the eventual reply. For those who believe this, all the practical questions of organization... are matters which will solve themselves... Yet the conclusion we come to is this: Social reorganization is something we must all think about right now... In order to abolish the police and all the harmful social institutions we must know what to put in their place... immediately, the very day we start demolishing. One only destroys, effectively and permanently, that which one replaces by something else; and to put off to a later date... would be to give time to the institutions one is intending to abolish to recover from the shock and reassert themselves, perhaps under other names, but certainly with the same structure. The Anarchist Revolution, Errico Malatesta

by the... federation of communes to replace the domineering, paternalistic state. Micheal Bakunin, Bakunin On Anarchy, Sam Dolgoff, Vintage 1971, P. 262

Collective power... workmen's associations in place of armies. Proudhon in George Woodcock, The Anarchist Reader, Fontana, 1980, p.293

A new form of political organization has to be worked out. And it is evident that the new form will have to be more popular, more decentralized, and nearer to the folkmoot self-government than representative government can ever be.

Kropotkin in Paul Berman, Quotations From The Anarchists, Praeger, 1972, p. 68,

The nation is a free association of communes. Mandatories are at all time subject to recall. Carlo Piscane in Robert Graham, Anarchism, Black Rose, Montreal, 2005, p.66

Lenin claimed that the anarchists thought that the workers should "renounce the use of arms, organized violence, that is the state... [they] repudiated all authority, all subordination, all power." (18) Were anarchists that naive?

We must play an active part in the necessary physical struggle... in order to destroy all the repressive forces of the government and to induce the people to take possession of the land, homes, transport, factories, mines, and of all existing goods... We must... encourage action... in order to prevent the emergence of new authoritarian groups, new governments, combating them with violence if necessary... The Anarchist Revolution, Errico Malatesta

Revolution means war... Either the bourgeois world will subdue... the people... or the working masses will... destroy to its roots bourgeois exploitation... the uprooting of all that is represented by the State. Pps 372-373 It is necessary ... there be a real force in the field, one that knows what should be done...capable of taking hold of the Revolution and giving it direction salutery for the people... a serious international organization of workers' associations. p.375. Begin by striking down those who oppress you... and having destroyed the power of your enemies... disarmed and helpless... invite them to live and work along side you....p.377 The Political Philosophy of Bakunin G. P. Maximoff Free Press 1964,

The purpose of revolutionary organizations is to help people toward self-determination... the least interference from any sort of domination. Bakunin- The Philosophy of Freedom, Brian Morris, Black Rose 1993, p.148

It is necessary to make sure the [revolutionary] movement... is not simply a blind movement... on taking up the Winchester we go forth decided, not upon the enthronement of another boss, but the reclamation of rights of the people.

179 War against the wage system, Mexicans! ...make the lands and machinery of production for common use; and this can only be achieved through means of force... And if those who ...oppose this work of supreme social justice, kill them!

Dreams of Freedom, Ricardo Flores Magon,, eds Chaz Bufe, M.C. Veter, p.155

In each Syndicate [union] a group for defense was formed... they exercised themselves in the management of arms... not to be taken unawares [by] reactionary conspiracy... These Syndicalist battalions were not a force external to the people, they were the people themselves the same time they seized the factories... they occupied... all the points where the reactionaries might have been able to concentrate... [they] were ruthlessly isolated... Emile Pouget, How We Shall Bring about The revolution, Pluto, London, 1990, p151

The structure of the CGT.. is neither centralist nor authoritarian...[it] is controlled from below...Confederal activities co-ordinated by the... delegates... In the regulation of collective affairs the Congress [of the CGT] is entirely sovereign. Pierre Monatte 1907 in George Woodcock The Anarchist Reader Fontana 1980. p. 214

Unless democracy is a fraud... each citizen in the sphere of his industry, each municipality, disctrict or provincial council, within its own territory, is the only natural and legitimate representative... The People is ... the organic union of wills... Such a union must be sought in the harmony of their interests, not in artificial centralization. Proudhon, Anarchism, Robt. Graham ed Black Rose 2005, p.57

Lenin claimed that Anarchists find no use in exploring past revolutions to find out what to replace state with. (18)

I would be unable to accept the view that all past revolutions though they were not anarchist revolutions were useless, nor that future ones which will still not be anarchist revolutions will be useless. The Anarchist Revolution, Errico Malatesta It should also be remembered that Kropotkin wrote an entire book on the French Revolution where he described the Parisian sections. Proudhon also wrote about it as well.

Marx disagreed with Bakunin and Proudhon on federalism and Lenin wrote it off as an aspect of the "petty bourgeois" nature of anarchism.. (19) For Lenin, Marx was a centralist and this was exemplified as The proletarians and poor peasants... organize themselves quite freely in communes, unite all the communes in... crushing the resistence of the capitalists, in transferring [industry] to the entire nation, won't that be centralism?

After reading the quotes from the anarchists above on organization and administration, there should be little doubt anarchists want to see the proletarians and poor peasants... organize themselves quite freely in communes, unite all the communes in... crushing the resistence of the capitalists, in transferring [industry] to the entire nation.. But this is seen not as "centralization" but "unity in action". For anarchists centralization means top-down control and no autonomy in the units that make up the centralized organization. We have already seen that Marx, Engels and Lenin all agree that control should be from the bottom up ...elect delegates, all revocable, control and supervision by all, and the communes should have the degree of autonomy necessary to carry out their functions, "complete self-government for provinces, districts and communes...

Lenin seems to confuse unity with centralization. Both he and Marx also seem confused about federalism. They deny the need for it, yet at the same time insist upon the complete self government of the communes. What is local autonomy combined with delegation, other than a form of federalism? It may be that Marx and Lenin thought federalism meant too loose a structure, communes or counties as virtual independent countries, and thus dis-unity and conflict. Perhaps like the thousands of petty German principalities during Marx's youth, or the "federalism" of business unionism where different trades scab on each other. But this was never the federal concept among social anarchists.

Finally there is the canard about "petty bourgeois anarchists". For sure there are such anarchists, just like there are "petty bourgeois" socialists. But these "individualist anarchists" are few in number compared with social anarchists. (d) This slander by Marxists has always seemed like psychological projection. Syndicalism is the most purely proletarian form of socialism, yet among the Marxist parties is where one finds lawyers, academics and the children of the middle class in charge.


Marxists who adhere to the principles of the Paris Commune and anarchists have much more in common than they think. Strip away the polemical exaggerations, strip away the fallacious arguments, and you have two groups who seek Popular Power for the working masses.

It seemed to 19th Century revolutionaries that they could defeat other revolutionary tendencies through polemics, and these were often of dubious honesty. Criticism of genuine weaknesses and errors are to be desired, as they help develop our practice. False or polemically exaggerated statements do nothing but exacerbate division and animosity. Tendencies can be almost obliterated by violence – witness anarchism in the 1930's and 40's as it was stamped out by fascism and Stalinism. But when the ground is fertile they are reborn. A tendency will only be permanently reduced to insignificance when it is totally disconnected from the reality of the times and the needs of the people. Witness the Socialist Labor Party which has been dying since 1900 and experienced no significant growth during any of the periods of revolt of the last century. 150 years of polemics between Marxists and Anarchists, and guess what? Both of us are still here, in most cases more alive than in several generations.

More important than tendency or ideology is practice, or desired practice. If you believe in worker and neighborhood assembles with recallable delegates, self-management and multi-tendency direct democracy, these common principles should take precedence over the quarrels of 150 years ago.


a. Except for " libertarian Marxism", which denies the need for any form of state.

b. I have chosen the word "governance" as a neutral term to describe the political organization of post-revolutionary society. Governance can be either statist or non-statist, in the anarchist usage of the term, state..

c. There have always been anarchists respectful of Marx, such as Albert Parsons, Daniel Guerin, Murray Bookchin and Kevin Carson. Furthermore, much anarchist animosity can be traced to Bakunin's understandable confusion between the German Social Democratic Party and the thinking of Marx and Engels.

d. Social anarchists are those with some level of class analysis, consider themselves socialists and favor, where needed, large scale organization. Social anarchists include mutualists, syndicalists and anarchist communists.

1. 387, 2. 387, 3. 402, 4. 418, 5. 397, 6. 395, 7. 416-17, 8. 432, 9. 481, 10. 440, 11. 404, 12. 447, 13. 448, 14. 425, 15. 431, 16. 484, 17. 488, 18. 436, 19. 427

All the above pages came from "The State and Revolution", in "Lenin's Collected Works" Vol. 25, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

ORGANIZATION THEORY – A Libertarian Perspective.

This latest work by Kevin Carson, expands many of the themes found in his groundbreaking STUDIES IN MUTUALIST POLITICAL ECONOMY published in 2004. In ORGANIZATION THEORY Carson first examines the literature on the economics of scale and finds the giant corporation to be highly inefficient. State intervention is the factor that allows the corporation to overcome this disadvantage. He next exposes the different variety of government policies which gave rise to and aided the growth of economic centralization and giantism.

In Part Two he examines the systemic effects and in Part Three examines the internal effects of top-down organization and centralization. There are three major problems, 1. the problem of having accurate knowledge 2. the problem of economic calculation given inaccurate knowledge 3. authoritarian irrationality and internal crises. He also tears into management fads and other attempts to reform the managerial system.

Decentralist alternatives to capitalism and authoritarian management are discussed in Part Four. These involve the abolition of state-granted privilege and the dissolution of the state into society. The potential for a libertarian economy that lies within the coming Peak Oil crisis and the new technologies and systems that make capitalism obsolete are examined, as are worker cooperatives and the provision of social services without the state.

Carson comes from a Mutualist anarchist perspective. But his critique of capitalism and the alternatives he presents are useful and applicable to the entire spectrum of anarchist and libertarian socialist thought. It is a devastating examination of the arguments put forth by capitalism's “libertarian”, liberal and neo-liberal apologists. This is truly a book that no anarchist or socialist should be without.

Some highlights from ORGANIZATION THEORY:

Mass production flooded America with goods, destroying local manufacturing, and creating a problem of over-production. To sell all these products , the "push model" of marketing with advertising, packaging and branding was created. The Sloan System of management at GM adopted in the 1920's, put manufacturing second, marketing first. Thus production was subservient to a marketing plan or strategy. Hence, contrary to the apologists of corporatism, the corporate economy is a planned economy.

The plutocratic system developed originally as the new capitalist class amalgamated with the land owners. Its legal basis lies with the creation of "artificial property rights" created by government. Natural property rights involve use – working vacant land, for example. Natural property rights reflect scarcity, while artificial property rights create it. Since land had been expropriated by landlords, it is very difficult for workers to create wealth on their own. Artificial property rights in land give the proprietor property rights in the labour of others. Capitalism could not exist without artificial property rights.

The guru of neo-liberalism, Friedrich Von Hayek, claimed that central state planning cannot work well due to problems of knowledge. Carson responds, if this is a point for the market system against state planning, it is also a point for the market system against the internal hierarchy of the corporation. Ludwig Von Mises, believed that double entry book keeping solved all managerial problems. So why not a centrally planned economy, if all managerial problems are solved? asks Carson.

The highly authoritarian nature of Mise's "libertarianism", is revealed in the following quote. [Corporate managers ]... have the courage to tell the masses what no politician tells them; You are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions... you owe to the effort of men who are better than you. If hierarchy works so well, why not put the CEO's in charge of a centrally planned economy? But in the real world that exists outside of the brain farts of economists and management gurus, hierarchy is a primitive mechanism for getting people to perform tasks which they have no rational interest in performing.

Steam and water power concentrated industry for obvious reasons. Electricity sent by power lines could be used anywhere and thus allowed for decentralized and small scale production. According to Carson, 10,000 people could be self-sufficient with no factory larger than 100 employees. But the corporate structure refused to go that route. The system selects against simple technologies... in favour of complex technologies that can be safely wielded by a priesthood. Furthermore, massive state intervention might also have tipped the balance between alternative forms of productive technology.

Apologists for corporate capitalism reject small scale and worker-managed production. They claim workers have shorter time horizons than capitalists, which must be the bad joke of the century, coming from people whose time horizon is the next quarterly profit statement. Small farming is stawmanned as being like subsistence farming as it was, not how it would have been minus rents, enclosures and state support for agribusiness, not to mention innovations like intensive gardening, composting, hydroponics etc.

What hinders the development of human-scale and anti-authoritarian alternatives is not a lack of organizations, but an overabundance of them. A way to overcome capitalist hegemony in the cooperative/social economy is to create linkages between the organizations – a need to start functioning as a cohesive counter-economy. In spite of the problems of realization, it is increasingly impossible for capitalism to prevent people turning to small scale and household production. Ever more people are living unplugged and off the grid.

The present economy is fundamentally state capitalist, and as libertarians it is our objective to dismantle the state, and with it, the corporatist economy. But attacking any aspect of the state must not be our goal. Dismantle first the structures that facilitate exploitation. Evaluating the functions of the state in terms of the class purpose they serve makes it easier to understand the importance of dismantling them in the proper order. When the working population is free from exploitation, then the existing social welfare measures can be converted into forms of non-governmental mutual aid.

ORGANIZATION THEORY is available through


Friday, June 05, 2009

The New Totalitarianism

The word "totalitarian" while politically loaded, is still a useful concept. As brutal and authoritarian as 18th and 19th Century England was it could not be considered a totalitarian state. Plain old authoritarianism is separated from totalitarianism by the high level of invasiveness of the latter. Also, the old authoritarian states were so inefficient and the techniques and technologies of domination so crude, they were highly ineffective. Even if they wanted to totally dominate the lives of the people they could not do so. The kings and tyrants of old wanted you to work for them obediently, fight in their wars and pretend to love them. Other than that, you could more or less do what you wanted.

Except, of course, for the Church. This was the real ancestor of totalitarianism. The first powerful institutions seriously interested in what you thought, what you ate, your sex life, what you read and talked about. And through their indoctrination, hierarchies of priests and their assistants, confession booths, Inquisitions, schools and media, they actually had the ability to dominate in a totalistic way. Indeed, the authoritarian churches are one of the roots of totalitarianism, both in the origins of fascism and the liberal tendencies to "benevolently" control the thought and actions of the general populace.

As everyone knows ,"classic" totalitarian systems are facism, nazi-fascism and Stalinism. The idea was to mold humanity in the image presented by the state ideology. This was achieved through terror, but also mass media, the education system, a party hierarchy that one had to join to get ahead, the creation of scape goats and demonic figures and an economic system geared to the needs of the state.

But classical totalitarianism suffered from a number of serious flaws. For the ruling classes, the the dictators they backed were unwilling to remain as puppets and had ideas of their own. Having the police and the army in their control they were able to attempt those plans. The second was the problem of succession, always a problem in a dictatorship. The third was inefficiency. Attempting to control everyone and anything proved an impossible task and the regimes bogged down in bureaucracy, corruption and gross inefficiency. People soon tired of their strutting tyrants and resented being directly told what to do and think, day in and day out. While overt unrest was impossible, the sullenness of the masses contributed greatly to inefficiency.

Due to the immense cruelty as well as the aforementioned flaws, serious revolutionaries have rejected the totalitarian (Stalinist) model of revolutionary governance. The ruling classses, in turn, have rejected classical fascism as an alternative. Consider the new form of "soft tyranny" as the ruling class version of EuroCommunism. (Do away with the really nasty stuff, but still have the same goal in mind.) Where old style fascism is still used, is as thugs against the popular movements, pseudo-gangs and scary puppets. They are handy for murdering trade union leaders and form the core of the Latin American Death Squads. The swastika flag popped up during the recent attempts by the far-right to break up Bolivia. P2 and Operation Gladio attempted to destabilize Italy on the CIA's orders in the 1970's. Otherwise, "old style" totalitarianism as a serious alternative to liberalism or democracy is in history's overflowing ash can.

Beginning with the Tri-lateral Commission's 1973 observation that there was "too much democracy" , the rulers have concocted a new form of totalitarianism that lacks the obvious faults of the earlier variety. Politically "democracy", still exists with multi-party elections. But the differences between parties has been narrowed to the cosmetic and any group that seriously tries to criticize the system is marginalized and demonized. The political spectrum has been moved sharply to the right. Yesterdays conservatives would be reviled as dangerous "socialists." Newspapers and the media all spew the same line, once again with cosmetic differences. Protest is disarmed by tactics such as no-protest areas, massive police presence, "kettling" and campaigns of slander and demonization. With "terrorism" as an excuse, our ability to travel has been restricted, and people are forced to "show their papers." just like in the old movies.

Public space and the freedom that used to go with it, has been sharply reduced by replacing streets full of shops with shopping malls. These, under a bizarre legal interpretation, are considered "private" spaces and so patrons are subject to the whims of the owners. By-laws have been enacted to prevent people from building their own homes, building small dwellings, using composting toilets instead of the sewage hook up. etc. Home owner associations and condo regulations infringe upon democratic rights (no election posters in the window) and all sorts of other invasive regulations apply. Indeed, in a supposed "age of individualism", the individual in North America has rarely had less freedom than now, with all the petty authoritarianism of city by-laws and strata councils.

Corporations have taken over virtually every aspect of life. Not only have businesses which were once local – hamburger joints, convenience stores, hotels etc. been swallowed by multi-nationals, but their advertising is everywhere, in schools, on people's clothing. Children are indoctrinated from birth to identify with corporate advertising. The spread of US style suburbs with shopping malls means the loss of the uniqueness of towns and a sameness everywhere. The notion of service is gone, every government institution must now make a profit and act like a corporation. Public-private institutions have amalgamated the corporation and the state, creating the corporate state of Mussolini's dreams. Massive corporatization of public services and agreements like NAFTA, which protect corporations from being nationalized, or in any way impinged upon, have stripped democracy of any meaning. The corporations are now a law unto themselves.

However, this "soft totalitarianism's" destruction of democracy and gagging of protest will backfire. By making improvement impossible, by eradicating the possibility of reform, by making us total slaves of corporate capitalism, they leave the people only one alternative. That is to cast aside the dream of petty reform and to overthrow the entire system.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Vargas Llosa Touts For Gangsters and Facists

Property is individual and private or it is not property, said the author Mario Vargas Llosa addressing a far-right conference entitled "International Conference for Freedom (sic) and Democracy (sic) held in Caracas. Er, I thought Venezuela was supposed to be a virtual dictatorship, and here they are allowing the enemy to hold a conference. For the record, I wouldn't. I would send these criminals packing, toute de suite. (For those who object to my statement, Venezuela is undergoing a revolutionary process, and you don't allow counter-revolutionaries a chance to regroup. (1) It is a matter of life or death, should reaction succeed in Venezuela, the outcome will be a bloodbath, that will make Pinochet look like Gandhi.)

Now Vargas Llosa is a fine novelist – I have read most of his books and enjoyed them – but he is a shitty politician and an even shittier anthropologist. Property is individual and private or it is not property, simply does not stand up to anthropological inquiry. Communal property is very common, almost universal among hunters and gatherers, early agriculturalists and the peasants of Russia until the end of the 19th Century. This line, was in fact, the very one the European invader used to steal First Nation's land. Since their communal property was not a legitimate form of property in the eyes of these land thieves, it was not owned and therefore open to appropriation. I wonder what the First Nations People think of Llosa's comment? I also wonder how the one billion members of cooperatives world-wide feel being told that their coops should not be recognized as property? Could it be the criminals for whom Llosa is the intellectual facade, are preparing for another robbery, seeking to pillage the social economy?

For someone who supports corporate capitalism, touting individual or private property, is laughable hypocrisy. Corporations are forms of collective capitalism. Apply Llosa's concept honestly and corporations are not legitimate property.


1. Make the lands and machinery of production for common use... And those who... oppose this work of supreme social justice, kill them! Ricardo Flores Magon in the 1910 Mexican Revolution.
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