Rethinking Anarchism


Losing the Battle, Winning the War
November 1, 2010, 2:19 am
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” But revolution is the only form of “war”… in which the ultimate victory can be prepared only by a series of ‘defeats.'”

-Rosa Luxemburg,  “Order Prevails in Berlin”  1918

Every year, labor organizations launch hundreds of campaigns to wrest economic gains from employers, and hundreds more campaigns to put pro-labor politicians in office. Many of these campaigns end in victory, others go down in defeat. In the past few decades, the defeats have outnumbered the victories. Much ink has been spilled on diagnosing the cause of the labor movement’s ills. Some theorists focus on objective changes in the system of production, scapegoating outsourcing and the rise of a service economy for labor’s weakness. Others blame the rise of aggressively anti-union management styles backed by right-wing politicians. Still others claim that cultural factors come into play- in the ‘postmodern’ era, new age management techniques have supposedly rendered class struggle obsolete.

Of course, in any struggle there are also tactical decisions that impact the outcome. It’s always possible to say- “if we had only done this instead of that, we would have won!”

But the fact is that we didn’t win. And there will be many campaigns that don’t win, even after substantial changes in the economic and cultural climate. We certainly need to figure out how to win the battles, but we also need to develop a strategy that will allow us to win the war. We are only truly defeated if we refuse to learn lessons from our losses.

What would it mean to win the war? Put simply, victory in the class war would mean the seizure of the means of production by the workers, organized in councils or other democratic organs, and the abolition of the centers of capitalist decision-making, the state and para-state fascist organizations.

The question then, is what would it take to pull this off? First, the working class would have to be organized on a truly global scale. Second, workers would need to have the desire and confidence to kick out the bosses in some kind of general strike or insurrection. All of this depends on the emergence of working class leadership- a rejection of the authority of the bosses from the CEOs, politicians, and bankers all the way down to store managers and supervisors.

How do workers become leaders? I think it’s by getting angry, and seeing their own anger reflected and validated by those around them, and then learning how to fight the bosses. Working class leadership leads to working class autonomy- workers deciding for themselves what is right for them.

As Rosa Luxemburg would say, the road of history is paved with the thunderous defeats of working class autonomy. But with each of these failed revolts, the working class learned lessons about its power, and also about the violence that the ruling class will employ against us to maintain their dictatorship. It is up to us to ensure that the lessons of these battles are carried on in the hearts and minds of a growing body of workers, schooled in struggle, so that every lost battle is a step toward winning the war.



Alienation and Commitment
June 6, 2010, 5:25 am
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I’ve been reading John Reed’s “Ten Days that Shook the World.” There is a preface to the mid-1960s edition I am reading that describes the alienation Reed felt as an upper class intellectual who saw the horrors of war and exploitation that undergird the peace, prosperity, and happiness of the possessing classes. Alienated from the community of the bourgeoisie, he found a place in the movement of the workers against their oppression. Today, some might say he ‘bore witness’ or ‘accompanied’ the oppressed in their struggles. Reed overcame alienation through commitment to the cause of the proletariat, pursuing this commitment to an early death. He is buried in Red Square in Moscow.

Almost 100 years after the October Revolution, the world is still in the hands of a bloodthirsty and greedy capitalist minority. Their rule is now entirely global. The geographic breadth of the reign of the bourgeoisie’s reign is complemented by the depth of their cultural hegemony. The specter of communism still haunts the world. but it has been reduced to just that- a spectral apparition appearing only faintly, washed out by capital’s brilliant projection of itself as an eternal Reich.

The situation is basically hopeless. The proletariat is nowhere to be seen. I wish I could say otherwise, but there have been no large, serious autonomous workers movements in the US since before World War II. There have been occasional ruptures, even up to the present with the May Day 2006 marches for immigrant rights, but nothing stays. The movement does not grow, the struggles do not intensify, even as the horrors of global capitalism become even more horrific. The situation is alienating in the extreme.

In the face of total alienation from the mediated bourgeois society, some seek to create a kind of “community” with vegan potlucks, radical community meetings, countercultural bike collectives, and worker co-ops. The contrived “communities” of the radical left are merely the mirror image of the alienated “community” of the commodity society. The radical left seeks to elevate community as a value in itself, severed from any rooting in a material base. By attempting to overcome alienation, the ‘radical community’ succeeds only in commodifying, and thereby alienating, the concept of “community” itself. There is no way out. We are in the desert of advanced capitalism.

What flower can grow in this desert? We need forms of organization and modes of struggle that can flourish and thrive in these toxic sands. Such forms can only be derived from the proletarian struggle itself. We must scatter our seeds on the most fertile ground, the substrate upon which capital reproduces itself must also be the ground upon which we build the struggle.

The task of revolutionaries today is to take on the most difficult tasks- to accept total alienation , to go into the desert and seek to put down roots amongst the exploited and oppressed masses to participate in and build the struggle. From our alienation must come our commitment to build the workers movement. If there is any happiness to be found on this earth, it can only be in the struggle.



Fascism in the USA
March 26, 2010, 5:30 am
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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.



HOLY FUCKING SHIT– WORKERS OCCUPY FACTORY IN CHICAGO
December 8, 2008, 5:51 am
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This is awesome. I don’t have time to write about it now, but here’s a link to a blog with lots of updates and information: http://pilsenprole.blogspot.com/

The Revolution is ON.



“What’s Left After Obama?”- Anarchist Analysis of the Election
November 16, 2008, 2:37 am
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This is one of the best analyses I have read so far about Obama and the election.

http://www.adbusters.org/features/after_obama.html

Interestingly, it’s by Simon Critchley, author of Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance. His book was revied by Zizek here. And Critchley’s rejoinder here.

Maybe when I get some time I’ll write about this.



Howard Schultz Needs to Shut the Fuck Up
November 15, 2008, 8:21 am
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He lays of 12,000 workers in order to keep Wall Street happy, and then has the nerve to say that big business is the answer to the economic crisis. “Yes Business Can.” How witty…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-schultz/yes-business-can_b_141969.html



Wobbly Baristas vs. Post-Left Anarchists
November 15, 2008, 8:15 am
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From Infoshop.org:

Baristas Present 500 Petition Signatures Demanding Improved Security at a Minneapolis Starbucks

Scroll down to the comment section- some Post Leftists have a problem with workers demanding a security guard. If the post-leftists anarchists ask for insurrection or nothing, they’re going to get nothing. The question is how to get from point A to point B.

And I doubt the answer to that question involves the crew change or butt flaps.