Some of My Past Political Mistakes

  • Posted on: 16 April 2019
  • By: thecollective

From Anarkismo by Wayne Price

Re-evaluating a 1985 Dialogue on Anarchism and Marxism

In the 1980s I participated in a "dialogue" about anarchism and Marxism. Re-reading my writing now, when I am a revolutionary anarchist, I think that much of what I wrote then was wrong--with one exception. I went over certain key issues, such as the strengths and weaknesses of Marxism, the state, the revolutionary party, election participation, and national liberation--topics which are still important for anarchists and other radicals to consider and debate.

In 1985, I participated in a “dialogue” between the unorthodox-Trotskyist organization I was then a member of and an anarcho-syndicalist organization. The topic was “Where do anarchists and Marxists differ, and can we learn from each other?” From my current perspective as a revolutionary anarchist, I now believe that much of what I then said was wrong.

By the mid ‘fifties, the radical organization I was a member of—the Revolutionary Socialist League—no longer felt comfortable describing itself as Trotskyist or Leninist. We had held a libertarian-democratic-proletarian interpretation of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky. Almost all the other Marxists interpreted them as authoritarian and statist (and were for this). We were no longer sure that we alone had the correct (radically democratic) interpretation of Marx and key Marxists, while most everyone else was wrong.

To help us reassess our politics, we reached out to the anarchist movement. We participated in several continental anarchist gatherings. We made contact with members of the Workers Solidarity Alliance (then the Libertarian Workers’ Group in New York). Like us, they were revolutionary and based their politics on working class struggle, while supporting other struggles against oppression. This led to a forum where both organizations expressed their views, later reprinted in the WSA’s journal, ideas & action, (Winter 1985, no. 5; pp. 16—27). I spoke for the RSL and Mike Harris for the soon-to-be-WSA.

At the time I was in the process of developing my thinking, as were others in the RSL. We had never been orthodox Trotskyists. We never accepted Trotsky’s opinion that the Soviet Union under Stalin was still somehow a “workers’ state” due to its nationalized property. Instead, we had developed a version of “state capitalist” theory. We had always emphasized what we saw as the radically-democratic and libertarian aspects of Marxism. This included the goal of a classless and stateless society and the view that the working class must free itself rather than rely on elite saviors. We downplayed the authoritarian aspects. We had strongly supported women’s liberation and LGBT liberation.

Now we were in the process of evolving from unorthodox Trotskyism to anarchism—although individuals developed their own perspectives. (See Taber 1988.) We did not yet call ourselves anarchists, preferring the term “libertarian socialists” and saying we were for “participatory socialism.” (I was somewhat unusual in that, before I became a Trotskyist, I had been an anarchist-pacifist in high school. So I had some background in anarchist theory.)

Re-reading what I said and wrote about 25 years ago, I find that I still agree with the basic values expressed then. With my other comrades, I was for a bottom-up international revolution of the working class and all oppressed people, to create a free, cooperative, ecologically-balanced, and radically democratic society. I still am. But on almost all the specific questions in this discussion, I was mostly wrong—with one significant exception.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Marxism

While increasing critical of Marxism, I still believed that it had valuable lessons for revolutionary libertarian socialists. Speaking for the WSA, Harris also wrote positively of “our synthesis of anarchism and Marxism….We agree with the basic marxian critique of capitalism.” However, he emphasized, “we are more anarchist than Marxist.” (23)

I wrote then that the strength of Marxism was its analysis of how capitalism worked—Marx’s “critique of political economy.” Marx’s theory could lead to an understanding of the post-World War II period of prosperity and its crisis-ridden end, of the period we are now living through. It made it possible to understand capitalism’s drive toward ecological catastrophe. Strategically it explained the importance of the modern working class and its tendency to become self-conscious and to struggle for human freedom. (However, a “tendency” is not an inevitability.) While some former members of the RSL have since rejected all of Marx’s Marxism, I still believe this. (See Price 2013.)

The main weakness of Marxism which I then mentioned was “the same search for historical patterns…when the patterns are seen as rigid, objective laws, the ‘inevitable’ path of development, about which we can be 100% certain. With such a view, the struggle for socialism no longer requires workers’ self-consciousness and freedom….Socialist revolution ceases to be something that people do; it becomes something which happens to them.” (18)

Such teleological determinism leads to authoritarianism, opportunism, sectarianism, and elitist repression. Whether it is a “fair” interpretation of Marx is beside the point. This fatalist determinism does appear in some aspects of his work (even if not in all of it). It was adopted by the mainstream of the Marxist movement (both social democracy and Stalinism) and even by some of the more libertarian Marxists.

While this criticism of Marxism is an important insight, it is somewhat abstract. I should have also pointed to the weaknesses in Marx’s program. Marx believed in workers’ democracy, but he saw this as being implemented through a centralized state. He advocated that the workers establish a party which would take over the state—either the old one through elections or a new one through revolution. The state would nationalize and centralize the economy. He predicted that this state would—eventually—die out as a repressive, class-based, institution. But there would still be some sort of (presumably benevolent) centralized planning body. This was stated in the Communist Manifesto and never fundamentally altered.

Some of Marx’s work pointed in a more radically democratic and decentralist-federalist direction, such as his writing on the 1871 Paris Commune. But right after the defeat of the Commune, he began a campaign to get the First International to establish workers’ parties in every country it could, in order to run in elections and to try to take over the existing European states. The anarchists opposed this state-oriented, centralizing, program, which is why Marx expelled Bakunin and other anarchists from the First International. However much Marx believed in workers’ democracy, his program naturally led toward the pro-imperialist, statist, reformism of the social democrats and then to the totalitarian state-capitalism of Marxism-Leninism.

The State

I agreed with the radically-democratic version of Marx’s view of the state, which still accepted the need for a state. Our interpretation was based on his writings about the Paris Commune, and on Lenin’s State and Revolution (Lenin’s most libertarian-democratic work). Like anarchists, we believed that the existing states (the capitalist states) should be destroyed by the workers and oppressed and replaced by new, participatory-democratic institutions. Workplace councils, community assemblies, democratic militia units, and voluntary associations, should federate to create a new social power. This would be different from any state which had ever existed, because it would be the self-organization of the big majority. It would not be a bureaucratic-military-police elite machine, standing apart from and over the people, serving the interests of a ruling minority. It would not be the traditional state. I am still for this perspective.

However, like Lenin I continued to call this popular institution a “state” (the “commune-state”). I recognized the need for institutions to carry out certain tasks which the state had done in class society: social coordination, cooperative decision-making, protection against armed capitalist restorationists and against anti-social individual actors, etc. But as anarchists pointed out, by calling the proposed council-system a “state” I denied the big differences between the self-organization of the workers and the repressive elitism of all past states.

By accepting that the working class needed a “state,” then—like Lenin—I opened the way to accept more bureaucratic—statist—forms of a “state.” Lenin wrote in State and Revolution that the revolutionary state would “immediately begin to wither away,” but when he got into power he (and Trotsky) created a one-party police state. This laid the basis for Stalin’s totalitarianism. In my essay, I quoted several of Lenin’s more libertarian-sounding statements, without clearly stating my opposition to the main aspects of his strategy, especially his state-building.

The Party and Elections

I made a similar mistake when discussing “the party.” I believed that revolutionary libertarian socialists should gather themselves into a democratic federation. This would help them to develop their theory and programs and to coordinate their activities, as they worked among broader organizations (unions, community groups, anti-war movements, etc.). This is sometimes called“dual-organizationalism.” In anarchism, it goes back to Bakunin’s Alliance for Socialist Democracy, to Malatesta’s arguments with the syndicalists, to Makhno and Arshinov’s “Platform,” to the Spanish FAI, and to Latin American especifismo. It is not counterposed to the self-organization of the workers and oppressed but is a part of the process.

Yet I (mistakenly) continued to call this a “party.” This overlooked the difference between this conception and that of the traditional “revolutionary vanguard party” of Leninism. The anti-authoritarian revolutionary political association does not aim to take over the popular organizations. It does not aim to “take power” over society, through either elections or revolution. It does not want to create a new state. Rather it urges the people to organize themselves, to take over society for themselves, to form self-governing mass movements, and to reject the elitist politics of all the political parties (left, right, and center) which do want to become the new rulers.

On elections, again, my comrades and I were in general agreement with the anarchists in the abstract. We rejected “electoralism” (or “parliamentarianism”), the belief that the working class and oppressed could take over the state through elections, and then use the state to begin socialism. “U.S. capitalist democracy was not built so that workers could take capital away from the capitalists.” (22) It was built so that the factions of the capitalist class could resolve conflicts and make decisions (without relying on a dictator or civil war), and so that the working people could be fooled into thinking that they run society themselves. In particular, the Democratic Party has repeatedly served as a trap to capture left-moving movements, to enmesh them in state and capitalist politics, and to kill them off.

However, I still thought that it could be useful for a revolutionary grouping to run in elections, not to get elected but to use them as platforms to spread revolutionary ideas. I did not consider that this also spread the idea that even revolutionaries believe that elections are real reflections of popular power. It also spreads the idea that people should rely on political leaders to speak for them, to lead them, and to be elected in order to go to far-away places in order to be political for them.

I also spoke of the possibility of a U.S. labor party or a Black party, in which revolutionary libertarians should participate. I did not consider that such parties, in personnel and in programs, would continue the reformist, pro-capitalist, politics of the Democratic liberals, union bureaucrats, and African-American “community leaders.” This would simply be a third capitalist party, existing to head off independent mass action by a rebellious population. Like Sanders or Warren today, their programs would be wholly inadequate to deal with the crises we face.

I actually used the example of the German Green Party, as something which—if it developed in the U.S.—we would want to participate in. Since then, the German Greens have been ministers in the German imperialist government. Following the logic of government-participation, they have supported foreign wars and generally betrayed their principles.

Today I do not try to persuade friends, family members, and co-workers to not vote. Individual votes do not amount to much. Nor does it matter how the few radicals in the U.S. voted. But I argue that we should advocate a non-electoral program for large masses of people: for the unions, the African-American community, organized environmentalists, feminists, the LGBT community, the anti-war movement, immigrants, etc. This would include union organizing, general strikes, and mass demonstrations. As Mike Harris argued, “Wouldn’t it make more sense if movements used direct actions such as sit-ins, sit-downs, disruptions, occupations, and so forth to make some headway?” (24)

National Liberation

The most stubborn disagreement I have had with many anarchists, including the WSA, was over “national liberation.” Harris wrote, “We find it hard to accept that revolutionaries should support all movements for national liberation ‘regardless of who is leading them.’ ….There can be no middle ground.” (24-25)

Let me outline my views, which I still hold (as do most other former members of the RSL). (See Price 2017.) In particular, “national liberation” (or “national self-determination”) is not the same as “nationalism.”

Nations exist and people identify with their nations (whether we want them to or not). A minority of nations oppress the people of other nations. Some nations are directly oppressed by other countries which occupy and “own” them, as was true under colonialism. This is still the case for Palestine, the Kurds, Puerto Rico, Tibet, Chechnya, and so on. Under modern neo-colonialism, most nations have political independence but are dominated politically and economically by the big imperialist powers. The people of such nations (who are mostly workers and peasants) do not want to be dominated and exploited by the ruling classes of other countries. They want national liberation. They want to decide their own fate (“national self-determination”).

There are various programs which are proposed for such liberation. The most common is “nationalism.” This is the belief that the main issue is the oppression of the nation, which is treated as a bloc, downplaying divisions of class, gender, religion, or minority nationalities. Its goal is for each people to have its own national state and national economy (traditional capitalist or state capitalist). This results in a new ruling class and state with the continuation of internal exploitation, and continuation of international exploitation by the world capitalist market (dominated by the U.S. and other imperialisms). Revolutionary libertarian socialists reject the program of nationalism. We oppose the nationalist misleaders of the struggle who will take the people into this dead-end.

Instead, we believe that only a world-wide revolution of the working class and all oppressed people can free all nations, end all imperialism and national oppression, and bring about true national liberation—along with other freedoms. That is our program. We are for saying this.

When an oppressed people fight against an imperialist power, we should be in solidarity with that people, on their side against the oppressor. Our solidarity should not depend on whether they agree with us (are for internationalist anarchism rather than statist nationalism), but on their struggle against oppression. Meanwhile we should seek to win them over to our program of internationalist revolution. (This is, obviously, a general statement of principles, not a discussion of tactics and strategies to be carried out by a revolutionary grouping in any specific national setting.)

Our attitude is similar to our solidarity with workers who go on strike under the leadership of a conservative business union. We criticize the union’s bureaucrats and conservatism, we oppose its leadership, but we are in solidarity with the workers. And if the state jails union officials, we “support” the bureaucrats against the state and the capitalists in the immediate situation, because this is really an attack on the workers. But we are the political opponents of these officials.

Contrary to the ignorance of many anarchists, this view is consistent with anarchist tradition. Michael Bakunin asserted his “strong sympathy for any national uprising against any form of oppression…every people [has the right] to be itself…no one is entitled to impose its customs, its languages, and its laws.” (quoted in van der Walt & Schmidt 2009; 309)

Peter Kropotkin wrote, “If we say no government of man by man, how can [we] permit the government of conquered nationalities by the conquering nationalities?” (quoted in McKay 2014; 45-46) Iain McKay writes, “Kropotkin was a supporter of national liberation struggles….Anarchists, Kropotkin argued, should work inside national liberation movements in order to…turn them into human liberation struggles—from all forms of oppression, economic, political, social and national…the creation of…a free federation of free peoples no longer divided by classes or hierarchies.” (2014; 45—47)

Errico Malatesta was an influential Italian anarchist who had been a comrade of Bakunin and Kropotkin. He wrote, “We are internationalists…so we extend our homeland to the whole world…and seek well-being, freedom, and autonomy for every individual and group….Now that today’s Italy invades another country [Libya—WP]…it is the Arabs’ revolt against the Italian tyrant that is noble and holy….We hope that the Italian people…will force a withdrawal from Africa upon its government: if not, we hope that the Arabs may succeed in driving it out.” (In Turcato 2014; 357) This did not imply agreement with the Arabs’ leadership.

During the wars which followed the Russian revolution, Nester Makhno and other anarchists organized a military resistance in Ukraine. Their forces opposed the capitalists and landlords, integrating these class issues with a Ukrainian national war against German, Polish, and Russian invaders. Similarly, during World War II, Korean anarchists organized a military resistance to the Japanese invaders.

As Lucien van der Walt summarizes, “One anarchist and syndicalist approach…was to participate in national liberation struggles, in order to shape them, win the battle of ideas, displace nationalism with a politics of national liberation through class struggle, and push national liberation struggles in a revolutionary direction.” (van der Walt & Schmidt; 2009; 310–311) That means, in a revolutionary, internationalist, libertarian socialist, direction.

In Conclusion

The Revolutionary Socialist League continued for a while, until it dissolved, with some of its members joining anarchist organizations (Love and Rage, then NEFAC, etc.) Some former members now put out the journal The Utopian. We did not merge with the Workers Solidarity Alliance, which continues to exist.

I came to identify myself as a revolutionary anarchist, who has been influenced by libertarian-autonomous Marxism. Over time I have changed my views more often than I like to admit, always trying to do better. I am not ashamed of my mistakes. My values and overall goals remain the same.

References

McKay, Iain (2014). “Introduction.” In Direct Struggle Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology (ed. I. McKay). Oakland CA: AK Press. Pp. 1—97.

Price, Wayne (2017). “National Self-Determination, Internationalism, and Libertarian Socialism” Anarkismo
https://www.anarkismo.net/article/30659?search_text=Wayne+Price

Price, Wayne (2013). The Value of Radical Theory: An Anarchist Introduction to Marx’s Critique of Political Economy. Oakland CA: AK Press.

Taber, Ron (1988). A Look at Leninism. NY: Aspect Foundation.

Turcato, Davide (ed.) (2014). The Method of Freedom; An Errico Malatesta Reader (trans. P. Sharkey). Oakland CA: AK Press.

van der Walt, Lucien, & Schmidt, Michael (2009). Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. Oakland CA: AK Press.

*written for www.Anarkismo.net

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Comments

my past political mistakes: voting, not doing anything.
my present political mistakes: well, they'd be anti-political mistakes in any case, but among them, not doing anything
my future anit-political mistakes: naive forecast: not doing anything

If you don't use it you lose it!

something can't come from nothing, unless quantum things that i can't understand. i'm inert. maybe something will move me

i mean, a broken clock is still right twice a day, i'm sure there were plenty of times when doing nothing was the right choice

Wayne Price never lets the fact that he doesn't know what he's talking about get in the way of voicing his opinion about it -- and at stupefying length.

He tries to mash the Makhnovists into his once-an-icepickhead, always-an-icepickhead, bed of Procrustes, claiming the Makhnovists waged "...a Ukrainian national war against German, Polish, and Russian invaders." This is bullshit. They waged just as much of a war against Ukrainian nationalists. Crack open a book or two or three or four about the Makhnovists. Their movement was not in any way, at any time a "Ukrainian national war." Their movement included Ukranians, Germans, Jews, Poles, Russians and other ethnicities.

As always with Wayne's supposed break with something he calls Marxism, his Marxism is the minority version of post-1924 Comintern Leninism, heavily influenced by the 'Bolshevization' organizational conceptions of Zinoviev. There's no sign of Wayne having any awareness of, let alone engagement with, actual non-stupid Marxian revolutionaries like the Dutch and German left communists, Benjamin Peret and G. Munis, the Situationists, Paul Mattick, Gilles Dauve, etc, etc, etc. His Marxism is a straw man, and he's the main straw man here.

On top of which, fond reminiscences of these teeny-weenie groups are always strikingly shy of specific accounts of anything these People's Front of Judea/Front for People's Judea grouplets ever actually did in the real world with whatever set of perspectives they claim distinguished them from other itty-bitty grouplets. Three guesses why, and the first two are on me. You'll have to bring your own aluminum foil hat, though.

To be fair, he made some interesting and accurate observationss about Orwell, and he's articulate. Sure, his politics are loathsome, but in his society no one would go hungry, everyone will be a workerist, and voting would be compulsory, Better than starving to death in an anarchist commune ;)

The first anonymous (who begins "Wayne Price never....") seems to be bitterly hostile to my politics and me. He or she makes two specific arguments: (1) I misrepresent Makhno and his movement as waging "a Ukrainian national war," which is supposedly "bullshit." Actually I had written that the Maknovists "opposed the capitalists and landlords, integrating these class issues with a Ukrainian national war." Is Anon seriously claiming that the Ukrainian peasants who joined Makhno were not motivated, in part at least, by hostility to foreign invaders? In fact, the movement began after the Bolsheviks had ceded Ukraine to the Germans. Mahkno's army was organized to resist the German occupation (which supported the landlords and capitalists, of course). The other stuff which Anon refers to is true enough. The point is that the anarchists sought to integrate national liberation (against foreign invaders) with social revolution--just as Kropotkin had advocated. Anon does not otherwise comment on my references to classical anarchists who supported national liberation.

(2) Anon then criticizes me for being too critical of Marxism (an unusual response at anarchistnews!). He or she does not actually address my critique of Marxism's strengths and weaknesses. Instead Anon claims that I am really criticizing Marxism-Leninism and not libertarian-automous Marxism (apparently Anon's preferred flavor). That my comments are mostly directed to Marx, he or she does not mention. Nor my reference to "being influenced by libertarian-autonomous Marxism." I have written a fair amount on this topic, actually. My interpretation of Marx's critique of political economy is strongly influenced by Paul Mattick, Sr., the Johnson-Forest Tendency, and George Caffentzis.

Anon closes with sneers at "teenie-weenie groups" without saying how many are in his or her group (probably a group of one). And a claim that we did not accomplish anything--to refute which would require a history of the RSL., What has Anon accomplished, I wonder?

The second Anon ("To be fair...") wants to be evenhanded to me, even if my "politics are loathsome." I appreciate his or her effort at fairness. But Anon's view of my politics come out of his or her imagination. Anon apparently thinks I advocate a state capitalist totalitarian utopia--when I have fought that perspective all my political life. Anon claims that I want a society where everyone is well-fed but "everyone will be a workerist, and voting would be compulsory." (By "workerist" I assume he or she means "worker.") Actually I want a classless society where no one is specialized as a worker or as a boss (manager). Everyone will share in doing whatever work is still minimally necessary, but there will be plenty of free time, including time for craft-like productive activity, as people chose. And why Anon thinks I want a society where "voting would be compulsory" is beyond my imagination.

In short, I don't think that either of my anonymous respondents know what they are talking about.

Yeah Wayne, ever notice how 2/3rds of the commenters on this site are at best, semi-rational about anything to do with the left?

Why? MURIKA, that's why!!! Bunch of triggered mccarthyist snowflakes if you ask me!

Your Left Unity sentiment is showing, brah.

I don't think you have a good understanding of why individualists like me are reluctant about doing shit with lefties. I don't hate Leftists more than anyone else. The Leftists I've known were very often a bunch of hypocrite bullshitters who were all about filthy sexual intrigue while bad-mouthing in the back of those they don't like, or are undermining their influence on others. In other terms, capitalist politicians, but at a more base level... communitarian level.

I'm not that interested in what you think I understand brah.

For one thing, you're pinning your argument to biased, categorical thinking. Aren't you supposed to understand stirner better than this as an "individualist"? I already know most people suck … this doesn't even correlate with leftism except for the purposes of your scattershot, dogmatic rhetoric and it's BORING. Heard this tune before brah.

Im a Stirnerian Iron Bar ;)

wtf is an iron bar? XD

The opposite of a snowflake brah!

this is not a game

Is Anon seriously claiming that the Ukrainian peasants who joined Makhno were not motivated, in part at least, by hostility to foreign invaders?

And some of them were motivated by anti-Semitism -- that doesn't mean that the better elements among the Makhnovists were simultaneously "waging an anti-Semitic war" either. They struggled against that kind of counter-revolutionary garbage, as well as against Ukrainian nationalist false consciousness.

Some classical anarchists had pro-national liberation struggles perspectives. They formed these perspectives before the 20th century, and the endless evidence during the 20th century of the repetitive failure of national liberation politics in liberatory and egalitarian terms. This tends to inadvertently argue that revolutionary Marxism is more radical and clear-sighted than anarchism, since many Marixists, like Rosa Luxemburg and the Dutch and German left communists, and even some Bolsheviks, were clearer on the "national question" than some anarchists were. In a related example, Malatesta didn't care if money was still used after the social revolution; his blessing of this stupidity doesn't make it any less bankrupt a position then or now.

Wayne's supposed critique of Marxism is a straw man argument focused on the left-wing of capital, degraded brand of pro-wage labor Marxism he encountered during his politically formative period as a Trotskyist. That's not revolutionary Marxism; that's the politics of the counter-revolution in Russia.

As opposed to irrelevant hapless grouplets on the left-wing of capital's political apparatus, stuff I've done: good question. I'll address that in a moment.

I just finished reading an anecdote where Makhno found some anti-semitic posters put up by some fighters in the insurrectionary army and when the guys who did it fessed up, they shot them on the spot.

That was just a case of filtering out the crypto-nazis in his army.

Invariably, people who gain power become cruel and authoritarian, despite the righteous banner underwhich they march. Voline, one of his biggest supporters who was active for several months in the movement, reports that Makhno and his associates engaged in sexual mistreatment of women: "Makhno and of many of his intimates – both commanders and others... let themselves indulge in shameful and even odious activities, going as far as orgies in which certain Jewish women were forced to participate.
Like Assange, power ultimately corrupts, because the self has not been annihilated.

I think they call that Che Syndrome, although he was 50yrs before Guevara.

Cue the office noooo meme. That’s the damning report on the Makh, that he was makhing it up as far as the pussy goes. Sounds like porn come alive in a revolution to me. As for the force element, that might well be a subjective grey area call. Orgies during a revolution shows that unlike most revolutions it’s actually interesting

Voline sounds quite the prude.

Anything, ANYTHING which annihilates the walls of moral authoritarianism is a breath of fresh air.,.

This would be around the time Voline was negotiating his release from prison with the bolsheviks, who had been putting a lot of energy in to trying to discredit their chief competitors in the revolution (the makhnovists) … Not to mention this is all in the context of mass killings of the booj and a very bloody war, making a regular old orgy seem passé.

Lethal violence is a very casual thing, mass executions and collective punishment are totally normalized by everyone and we appear to be splitting hairs over vague allegations of lack of consent, towards an entire officer core? HMMM ...

PS: I missed this: "hostility to foreign invaders" is not necessarily the same thing as "waging a Ukrainian national war." This kind of moving of the conceptual goal posts smells like Trotskyoid spirit.

Anarkismo = Afartismo!!!

Wayne is right to ask "...What has Anon accomplished, I wonder?"

I don't know about "accomplished" but as far as attempted goes...

Since the early 1990's, actions in the San Francisco Bay Area around mass transit, described here,

https://libcom.org/library/anti-capitalist-actions-around-mass-transit-s...

the initial impetus behind this,

http://www.foundsf.org/index.php?title=MUNI_Wildcat_Fare_Strike_of_2005

http://lust-for-life.org/Lust-For-Life/_Textual/KevinKeating_LoveAndTrea...

Efforts to disseminate this among US military personnel,

https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/10/g-i-resistance-to-the-vietnam-war/

and the anti-gentrification Mission Yuppie Eradication Project,

https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/the-artist-formerly-known-as-nes...

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/justinesharrock/san-franciscos-last...

https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Battle-Over-Gentrification-Gets-Ugly...

have been part of an ongoing effort to establish a new kind of anti-state/anti-market, autonomous class struggle praxis among mainstream working people in the contemporary United States.

1. These efforts take place "on the terrain of everyday life" of the wage-earning class, where we confront what market relations do to our lives, and where the market system's antagonism to human needs gives rise to the possibility of an organized, conscious, mass collective response. These efforts have not been directed towards the left-liberal protest ghetto, or toward academic, anarchist or self-styled Marxist subcultures.

2. Mass collective class struggle includes the fight against the boss in the workplace, but is not limited to the workplace.

3. The methods used to help create a new politics of working class resistance to capital and it's political apparatus have to be qualitatively different from the politics of the left. In all its statist, populist and directly democratic flavors the left is simply the left-wing of capital.

4. Authentic enemies of capitalism in the 21st century cannot use strategies, tactics or communication methods used by pro-wage labor leftists in the 20th century.

5. The armed forces are themselves vulnerable to social forces at work in the larger society that spawns them. Revolt in civilian society bleeds through the apparent hermetic separation of the military from mainstream civilian life into the ranks of enlisted people. The relationship between officers and enlisted people mirrors the relationship between bosses and employees, and similar dynamics of class conflict emerge in the military and civilian versions of the workplace.

6. With the virtual disappearance of the conventional left, and the accelerating decline of the United States as a world power, the way is now open for the creation of a new type of autonomous working class oppositional praxis. We can borrow from the best insights of authentic revolutionary working class tendencies in the past. We can use these insights as a point of departure, but not as an end-point. Anarcho-syndicalism and council communism were both useful in their day. That day has passed. Everything has to be recreated from scratch.

Efforts like the ones around mass transit described in the articles above have a much greater future subversive potential than the Mission District anti-gentrification efforts of the late 1990's. They have the potential to directly involve a larger number of working people over an entire urban area, and under the right circumstances these actions can also have a "bleed-through" effect, spreading resistance in other areas of contemporary life.

What's being examined here is mostly a method of communication. These methods can be a template for similar anti-state/anti-capitalist proletarian actions elsewhere, including but not limited to fights around housing, social space and against austerity measures targeting employees and passengers of mass transit systems.

e-mail: leretif9@gmail.com

(1) On Makhno and national liberation: being opposed to foreign troops invading your country, shooting your people, establishing a puppet state, and supporting landlords and capitalists, is not similar to anti-semitism. It is bizarre to make the analogy.

To the argument that " 'hostility to foreign invaders' is not necessarily the same thing as 'waging a Ukrainian national war.' " Yes it is--if this hostility reached a point where Ukrainian peasants and workers picked up guns to shoot back at the foreign invaders (and their local stooges, including capitalists and landlords).

Charges that Makhno and the Makhnovist army had orgies where women were forced to participate were made by Voline (after he became a political opponent of Makhno). These charges have been argued against by others and seem dubious to me. The same for charges of the Makhnovists' anti-semitism, which have been refuted. Not that we have to see Makhno or his armed peasants as heroes without flaws, of course.

(2) As for Anon's listing of his or her "attempted" actions, I am glad to hear that Anon is an activis. But I only challenged his or her "achievements" because Anon denied that the "teen-weenie ... grouplets ever actually did [anything] in the real world."

Let me speak generally of the radical left. There are very few people who are anarchists, communists, Marxists, pacifists, and so on. To make their thinking and actions more effective, they often organize groups of the like-minded. Since there are few radicals, the radical groups are small (duh!). Can they still have an effect? Yes, when objective crises arise. Socialists and Communists were very important in the union organizing drives of the 30s radicalization. Trotskyists, Communists, and radical pacifists, were vitally important in organizing the movement against the Vietnam war in the 60s. And so on. I could cite the abolitionists before the Civil War, or the extremists in the U.S. revolution. So I find oh-so-superior sneers at "teeny-weenie groups" to be pretty arrogant. I am proud to have been a member of one of those groups during the 60s, to have participated in significant struggles, to have argued for libertarian-democratic, revolutionary politics, and to have "attempted" to make a better world. Like others, I still do.

There's a qualitative difference between contemporary real world communist action, like what's linked to above, and being a part of some hapless leftist sect that can't go anywhere with real people in the real world. The efforts above are contributions to the real movement that abolishes existing conditions, not mating rituals of left-wing of capital tendencies: Stalinists, Trots, apologists for nationalism and identity politics geeks.

Also this:

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/06/20/18738735.php

FUCKING KEATING!!!!

when you write all caps and add 4 exclamation marks it sounds so loud, i get a notification on my phone (it vibrates) and i don’t even have an rss feed set up for the comment section or anything

This all caps is nothing compared to the religious zealot who masquerades as various GODS and truly sends a fearful shattering tirade upon all those within earshot.

To be fair, one has to understand that some people get stuck in a time warp, and looking at this 4chan report on the demise of the far left is relevant for NA also. Libcom is a splinter groupof this fragmentation of Leftist politics in the last 20 years.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=K1_dRBCDfqo

lol, it’s bbc’s channel 4, not 4chan. u funny

Shows how BBC still has a soft spot in their hearts for these old tankie macho men. Approaching them through their gaming addictions or sexuality would have made it a more interesting study, but I can't believe how these grandpas as still fronting at their age. Duuude, I stopped that this in my '30s, and yet I was still an old teenager! What are these guys under the rug, retarded pedos? Cops? Both? Who knows!

For all the self-serving maoist ID pol shit thrown at Orwell, it's for a reason that the BBC was his inspiration for "1984".

Oh it just so happens 4chan and bbc 4 are the same in intent and affect upon my ultra non-ideological consciousness!

Anon (There's a qualitative...) misses my point. Before the "sixties" heated up, the Communists, Trotskyists, Maoists, and radical pacifists (many of whom were anarchists, btw) fit the criteria for what he or she calls " hapless leftist sect[s] that can't go anywhere with real people in the real world." They were "teeny-weenie." But when the movement against the Vietnamese-American war began (with the inspiration of the African-American struggles), these same groups became significant forces (as Anon recognizes) in affecting " real world communist actions." They never became really large, but they led a mass movement and shook the U.S.
A similar point might be made about the early abolitionists, who were regarded as marginalized crackpots at first, until their issues became the central concerns of the country in civil war.

Of course, as a revolutionary anarchist I am not disputing that most the left has terrible politics, an awful authoritarian-statist vision and horrible strategies, as they did in the 60s. I am merely saying that such tiny groupings (Stalinist and anarchist) mattered and, in certain circumstances, may matter again.

They did matter back in the late '70s to a limited extend, and had an upsurge at the turn of the '90s, then then went down, only to rise again to fame with 4chan and MAGA, or in Europe with the new nationalist tendencies. As long as liberal democracies will prevail there will be those brutish political tendencies to feed the more precarious among the new generations.

What I'd rather like you to think about, is when/how will the anarchist groupings start to matter again.

you said "matter"....matter has mass....did you just say mass? what're you some kind of collectivist?!!

WARNING WARNING I'm about to have an epiphany, read what I'm about to say at your own risk, it could cause brain damage WARNING. WARNING *****
Epiphany. --->>>> Revolutionary leftist politics is obsolete... BANG!!! MIND IS BLOWN!!! *Drools and collapses in Libcom office *

The anti-Vietnam movement represented the end of the interesting period as far a radical discourse went. The prime driver of radical discourse peaking in 1968 were the art and aesthetic movements that came out of the Beat Generation. This came right after the civil rights struggles. The Vietnam stuff was geo political noise that was actually a distraction from the more authentic everyday life critiques of the mid-late 60s period. As Bob Black pointed out the collapse of the radical movement was late 1970 and it was after that that it became all about Vietnam.

If you want another 1968 type radical movement you will have to return to the aesthetic poetic philosophical well that it sprang from which was not so political. You need your Beats and Lettrists before you have your radical prophets.

There's a good chance that an LSD trip could trigger a poetic and aesthetic awakening in Wayne, just as when used as therapy, it is known to save people from regressive and negative addictions, likewise, it can undo the malignant psychological belief systems and ideologies which plague all political milieus.
Just a thought, I worry about the damage ideological obsessions can do to the free will, especially during the Easter season.

"What I'd rather like you to think about, is when/how will the anarchist groupings start to matter again."

I don't know. I do know that there is increasing polarization and a weakening of the "middle." We see the rise of the fascist right as well as the MAGA respectable right of Trumpism. And we see the rise of "socialism" in that tens of thousands now identify as socialists, expanding the DSA, and being noticed by the rest of society (of course, so far they are mostly reformist state socialists; what else would we expect, at first?). And anarchism has also become a national phenomenon partly due to the collapse of Marxism due to the end of the Soviet Union). How quickly will the social-economic-political-ecological crisis develop into catastrophe? How quickly will popular consciousness react to the objective changes? How well will anarchists organize themselves to take advantage of these changes? Time will tell.

i don’t buy this.
this is very similar to the ups and downs, ebbs and flows of previous decades, close enough to more of the same.

i’m also suspicious as to what is meant by “mattering”. Is it referring to the degree of visibility within the spectacle?

do you matter to yourself as a person beyond a category?

When, oh when, will otherwise intelligent and articulate people stop using quotation marks to indicate irony or internal contradiction? Quotation marks are meant to indicate ... a quotation, something someone actually said or wrote. There are lots of ways to indicate that you disagree with something...

They're called """SCARE QUOTES""". Picture me flailing my arms a lot and knocking over something expensive.

Anon ("When, oh when...) declares, in a world-weary way, "this is very similar to the ups and downs, ebbs and flows of previous decades, close enough to more of the same." Nothing has happened in "previous decades," nothing will happen, so nothing matters (we are discussing organizing, political-economic change, and so on, not individual development and personal achievement--of course). So in the previous decades we didn't abolish legal Jim Crow, we didn't end the war in Vietnam and put a limitation on US aggression (really up to 9/11), didn't open up improved freedoms for women and for LGBT people, and generally changed the culture?? Of course nothing fundamentally changed (even aside from the inevitable backlash), because we still lived under capitalism (white supremacy, patriarchy, etc.), which is to say, there had not been a revolution.

But there have been revolutions, although Anon writes as if they never happened. The US revolution, the French revolution, the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, etc. None of these was a libertarian socialist revolution yet, but history has not ended Do not despair, my friends.

Are historically facilitated changes. There is already informational power processes going on that end Jim Crow, Vietnam ect. What makes anarchy challenging is that it is APPROPRIATED change not facilitated change. This is why insurrection is different from facilitation dominated revolution which always changes the power players but never the underlying power fusion.

Poeple are fickle Wayne. Look at Ukraine, popular stand-up comedian who supports Putin wins to becomes president, he got charm, he speaks in wit, the world is stage yes, he get script to read and we fall for it cos he makes us happy for 1 hr per day. Gas price go down and we get happy for 1 hr. Food get cheap feed family on 10 dollars, we're happy for 1 hr. Socialist politics we're always happy for 1 hr, 23 hrs we're pissed off! No real equality, I eat cabbage and chicken neck soup, regional party organizer eat caviar and strawberry icecream bombalaska!

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