Rethinking Anarchism


Fascism in the USA
March 26, 2010, 5:30 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

This last weekend I drove through the lower midwest. I visited the major cities, each separated by a three or four hour drive through rural areas from the next. These rural areas are the primary base of the so-called “Tea Party” movement, a loosely-organized network of extreme right-wingers opposed to Obama and any kind of basic liberal agenda. Since Obama took office, they have been stockpiling ammunition and arms, holding protests, and organizing. I”ve been hesitant to take them seriously. Their numbers are VERY small, but their voices have been amplified by the corporate media. They are a small white working class base for more reactionary, inflexible elements of the US elite.

Earlier this week, the US congress passed a health care reform bill. It’s still unclear how beneficial the changes will be to working class Americans, but the bill has been fought tooth and nail by the Republican Party and the Tea Party activists. After the bill passed, there were reports of vandalism of Democratic Party offices and death threats against Democratic politicians.

What is really going on here?

The reality is that the US ruling class has its back against the wall. There is currently no major mass movement for health care, education, or any other serious reform. The Obama administration is entirely oriented toward pre-empting the emergence of autonomous working class self-activity, ensuring Wall Street profits and stability.

This kind of pre-emptive counterinsurgency tactic is too much for the right wing of capital- they prefer to risk greater resistance and use brute force to put down rebellions. If they feel that the left wing of capital is becoming too socialistic, likely due to pressure from the working class, they will orchestrate a fascist coup. During FDR’s New Deal, a group of businessmen led by George W Bush’s great grandfather prepared exactly this kind of putsch.

The Tea Party movement are the Freikorps of American fascism. They are willing to overthrow the US government in order to install a government that would put down the workers movement with brute force.

Politics in the US are muddy and unclear, the actors often don’t understand themselves what they are doing, but the historical dynamics are clear. Should the working class begin to organize seriously, the Tea Party movement will provide the shock troops for a seizure of state power by the extreme right of corporate america.

What does this mean for us on the radical left? We may eventually find ourselves in the position of revolutionaries in the 1930s, stuck propping up an embattled liberal regime under attack by the fascist right. I don’t think this prospect is exactly around the corner, but things are developing in this direction.

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Rethinking Syndicalism
March 16, 2010, 6:47 am
Filed under: Analysis | Tags: , , ,

In organizing, you have to develop a theory and an understanding of society, make a plan for action, and fully devote yourself to carrying out the plan and reaching your goal. There can be no half-measures if you want to be successful. Only by carrying things through to their logical conclusion can we decisively determine whether we were correct in our strategy. This kind of committed, dedicated, singleminded attitude is the polar opposite of the mode of operation of much of the rest of the activist left, which typically proceeds from a fuzzy, hazy theory of society, does not clearly identify goals, and does not follow through with tasks, instead jumping from project to project in what a friend of mine has dubbed “fast food activism.”

The benefit of an all-or-nothing approach is that it gets results. The downside is that you have to maintain a kind of tunnel vision while working on a project in order to avoid getting distracted. Because of this, it’s important to reflect on your organizing every now and then, measuring your accomplishments against your goals, aligning tactics with strategy, and strategy with principles, and make adjustments if necessary.

I’m at such a point with workplace organizing. I am committing to at least another solid year of organizing, so I’d like to make sure I’m on the right path. I am reconsidering my basic assumptions and retracing my steps.

The goal has always been to abolish capitalism instituting some form of workers democracy. This means building organizations that are capable and willing to:

1) Take over production on a global scale

2) Defeat the reaction of the possessing classes

I am not sure that workplace organizing in and of itself is capable of reaching these two goals. In workplace organizing, you build a struggle against the boss with your coworker. The idea is that participation in the struggle builds the organization, which can then take on bigger fights with a broader section of the class. The growth of the mass organization is supposed to lead to a dual power situation, with higher and higher levels of conflict between the working class and the capitalist class, culminating in some sort of final battle.

Here’s my concern. In most struggles, “victory” is attained through some sort of compromise. The working class agrees to give up the factory occupation, go back to work, or take down the barricades in exchange for some kind of “recognition” and a set of concessions. We decide to allow capitalism to go on existing in exchange for some benefits. If we didn’t do this, the capitalist class would literally wipe us out. Historically, this has been the fate of almost every single working class insurrection. Those that have triumphed, avoiding bloody liquidation, have had to confront the same choice- defeat, or some degree of accommodation to the existing system and a partial victory.

The dilemma is this: how do we win fights, make gains, and force settlements with the bosses within the trajectory of an escalating cycle of struggle? This question can be summed up as: how do we move from the workplace struggle to the struggle against the capitalist class as a whole for the possession of the means of production and destruction of the capitalist state?

It seems to me that in most cases historically, workers have overthrown the government only as a defensive measure against fascist attacks on their gains. Ofte, these gains were won through direct action.

Here’s the problem. In the current conjuncture- the capitalist class either grants an immediate concession and incorporates resistance into its structure, or moves to totally destroy radical opposition. As anarchist communist revolutionaries, we have no way out. It is basically impossible to prepare for revolution, building through gains, and remain revolutionary.

This topic has been dealt with in some depth by Brighton SolFed and others. I don’t have the answer, but at this point, I’m partial to a strategy that rests on building up small groups of militants, increasing the frequency and intensity of struggle, the strength of network of resistance, while not relying on formal recognition of any kind. This is a highly “cultural” strategy, but would also involve formal organization. This seems to be the only way to build power while avoiding the twin dangers of repression and cooptation. We need to build a vast, global network of class war militants, active in real direct struggle against the ruling class and actively building the organs of revolutionary proletarian dual power.

So basically- let’s start some fights. And build an organization to unite the militants who start those fights, and are developed through them. At this point- the development of militants in the struggle is far more important than where those struggles occur.