Bad Books, austerity, democracy and Thanksgiving myths

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First off, there have been two new articles posted since my last blog. First was “Mutualism: Fake and Real” which was written quickly in response to Tory proposals on turning public sector services into “mutuals” or “co-operatives.” It’s a con, a step towards yet more privatisation and little to do with mutualism. The second is a review of Allan Engler’s book Economic Democracy which is similar to Proudhon’s ideas in many ways.

I seem to be in a minority of revolutionary anarchists who are not automatically dismissive of co-operatives in the here and now (particularly in the context of occupying and expropriating workplaces, an argument which has been misunderstood by some – wilfully or not I cannot tell). By a strange co-incidence, my Property is Theft! seems to be coming out just at the right time to be of use in actual debates on co-operatives. As I said in my article, the only benefit to this talk of “mutuals” is that we should utilise the opportunity of raising the issue of associated labour and the evils of wage-labour in these debates. And that also means we need to raise the difference between reforms from above and change from below, something anarchists have been stressing from the start...

However, my basic principle is that if the Tories suggest something then it is always going to be a means of grinding the face of the working class – and so far, I've been 100% correct. This will not be any different – oh, and some relevant letters in the Guardian. And talking of grinding the face of the working class, here is American TV-Journalist Rachel Maddow on Ronald Reagan's Failed Trickle-Down Voodoo Economics:

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Hopefully that will be the last I’ll be writing on mutualism for a while (although I will be mentioning Proudhon, I would imagine). Obviously working on an anthology of Proudhon’s writings for nearly two years makes you focus on that subject more than you would normally. It is interesting stuff, particularly looking at the links between Proudhon’s ideas and the revolutionary anarchism which developed in the First International. I’ve been surprised to discover that much of what I assumed was Bakunin’s contributions to our ideas were, in fact, first expounded upon by Proudhon – before being implemented in the Paris Commune and being praised to the heavens by Marx. So to those who wonder why I bothered with the anthology, I would reply – Do you think the Paris Commune is important? Then so is Proudhon.

There are other reasons as well. He was a witty writer, he was an active participant in the 1848 revolution, he influenced and was influenced by working class movements, his critique of property and the state are still valid, his analysis of exploitation in production foreshadows Marx’s, his ideas on socio-economic federalism are still a core aspect of anarchism, and so on. His importance is not well known for four reasons. First, Marxists from Marx onwards have utterly distorted his ideas. Second, not many of his (voluminous!) works are available in English. Third, his flashes of insight and brilliance sit side-by-side with tedious passages (not to mention his sexism!). Fourth, his first advocates in English were the American individualist anarchists (notable Tucker) and many assume that Proudhon’s ideas were similar to theirs, which is not the case – his ideas are closer to communist-anarchism.

And talking of Proudhon, I thought I would utilise his seminal distinction between possession and property in relation to yet another myth raised by the American right, namely on how Thanksgiving shows the superiority of capitalism over socialism. The fact problems with this assertion should be well-known:

“In the right's version, the Pilgrims flourished after moving away from communal property, which made the first Thanksgiving possible. In reality, the first Thanksgiving was held two years before the settlers gave up on holding their property in common.” (Just in time for thanksgiving....)

So, like most of the stories used to justify capitalism, this is a “just-so” tale with no relation to reality. As Marx put it in Capital:

“This primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential. Never mind! Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defence of property.”

I was struck by this particular debunking to these stories, though. For example, The Pilgrims Were ... Socialists? summaries the right’s argument:

“Finally, the governor of the colony, William Bradford, abolished this system and gave each household a parcel of land. With private property to call their own, the Pilgrims were suddenly very industrious and found themselves with more corn than they knew what to do with.”

This is the story of the propertarians in a nutshell. The right’s notion of capitalism against socialism seems to flow from William Bradford’s 1650 History of Plymouth Plantation:

“At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other thing to go on in the general way as before.”

Ironically, though, the propertarians fail to recognise that this was not capitalism! Everyone had their own parcel of land – they were self-employed! They kept the product of their own labour. If it were capitalism, they would have given the land to a few landlords and turned everyone else into wage-workers. The landlord would have kept the product of the workers’ labour and the actual workers, well, they would get just a fraction of what they produced. As Marx suggested (echoing Proudhon’s distinction between property and possession):

“Political economy confuses on principle two very different kinds of private property, of which one rests on the producers’ own labour, the other on the employment of the labour of others. It forgets that the latter not only is the direct antithesis of the former, but absolutely grows on its tomb only.”

Even more ironically, the situation the colonists in Plymouth were rebelling against was capitalism! The situation was exactly the same as at Jamestown with the colonists working as employees on land owned entirely by the Merchant Adventurers Company and “historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism”:

“As for Jamestown, there was famine. But historians dispute the characterization of the colony as a collectivist society. ‘To call it socialism is wildly inaccurate,’ said Karen Ordahl Kupperman, a historian at New York University and the author of ‘The Jamestown Project.’ ‘It was a contracted company, and everybody worked for the company. I mean, is Halliburton a socialist scheme?’”

According to Wikipedia: “Many in the group were gentlemen unused to work, or their “manservants, equally unaccustomed to the hard labor demanded by the harsh task of carving out a viable colony." Shades of “Galt’s Gulch” as explored in this excellent sequel to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

As most forms of socialism involve some concept of workers owning the means of production they use, the moral of the tale is, ironically, that socialism is better than capitalism. And there is a wider issue here. After all, supporters of capitalism argue against socialism that property is required to ensure that people work efficiently and productively. Given this, you would think that they would be in favour of co-operatives, but no. Quite the reverse – probably because co-operatives has been an aspect of socialism from the start and all the leading socialists (with Proudhon and Bakunin at the lead) advocated them. In short, associated labour would replace wage-labour as only that could ensure the end of exploitation and increase liberty. This was the conclusion of John Stuart Mill, but then propertarian Ludwig von Mises dismissed him (rightly) as a socialist!

Aware of this, we find pro-capitalists finding various reasons why workers should not have property in the means of production and land. Thus Murray Rothbard (more on whom below) argued that it would be inefficient for workers to own the means of production they used as they would not be able to work out what was the contribution of labour, land and “capital.” This perspective does not filter through to the right’s Thanksgiving myth, where the inherent inefficiency of workers working for themselves rather than for a boss is not mentioned. I guess that would spoil the story…

Bradford, I should note, also invoked God on the folly of “community”: “and that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.” Except, of course, there are many passages in the Bible which suggest communism was God’s will:

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44–45)

Perhaps Bradford would have supported the Conservative Bible Project, hosted on Conservapedia it aims to rewrite the English translation of the Bible in order to remove terms described as “liberal bias.” Conservapedia also states: “After the Flood, these kangaroos, bred from the Ark passengers, migrated to Australia.”

This is related to Proudhon’s critique of “community.” This term is usually translated as “communism”, but as I note in my review of What is Property? this is not a form of communism which Kropotkin (for example) would recognise – as he put it:

“before and in 1848, the theory [of communism] was put forward in such a shape as to fully account for Proudhon's distrust as to its effect upon liberty. The old idea of Communism was the idea of monastic communities under the severe rule of elders or of men of science for directing priests. The last vestiges of liberty and of individual energy would be destroyed, if humanity ever had to go through such a communism.” (Act for Yourselves, p. 98)

Proudhon was referring, in the main, to the Utopian socialists and their vision of highly regulated and organised groups living together (often in one massive hotel-like structure). Work would be paid according to the both the labour provided and the amount invested in the project and class distinctions from capitalism were continued in the community. Proudhon argued that these communities were like capitalist firms, in that they were exclusive, not based on equality and property was not abolished but rather held by the collective (in practice, the rulers). In essence, his critique was very similar to that of libertarian communists and their criticism of state socialism in Russia as being a form of state-capitalism – with workers hired and exploited by the state bureaucracy rather than by individual capitalists.

This is not to say Proudhon was in favour of “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” (he was not, as can be seen from System of Economic Contradictions and General Idea of the Revolution) but his opposition to that maxim was usually directed against Louis Blanc and his scheme of centralised and state-run co-operatives. What is significant from Proudhon’s ideas is that he attacks “community” because he does so based on free access and socialisation of the means of production and land – his “universal association” against the partial, exclusive and unequal associations of “community”!

I have to admit to being very happy at reading Proudhon’s What is Property? all those years ago for An Anarchist FAQ. It opened a whole new area of anarchist thought which I had, mistakenly, dismissed. I remember how surprised I was by System of Economic Contradictions when I read that for, informed by various Marxist books, I expected the worse. I was mistaken – while not a perfect book, it goes contain a great deal of important analysis and basic libertarian positions (as my recent review makes clear).

I’ve read a lot of books over the years, particularly when working on An Anarchist FAQ and I was thinking about which ones I would say were the worse. I’m thinking in terms of self-contradiction, bad arguments, intellectual dishonesty and so on. There is nothing wrong with a bad novel as such, for example. I’ve read enough “bad” SF and Fantasy books to know that they have a certain charm.

A “bad” book, deliberately done, can be a useful force for critique. I recently found The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad in a second-hand bookshop. I knew of it via Michael Moorcock’s excellent essay on the politics of SF and Fantasy Starship Stormroopers which I read decades ago, so I was surprised to finally see it. Spinrad’s book is a metafictional alternate history novel in which Hitler immigrates to America in 1919 and becomes a Fantasy Writer, winning a Hugo for his science-fantasy novel Lord of the Swastika (written in six weeks in 1953). Hitler’s book parallels his real life-story, but with mutants and victory for his hero Feric. Spinrad does a good job of “bad” writing, as well as getting into the fascist mindset and how so much of SF-Fantasy writing has it. Ursula K. Le Guin’s comments in On Norman Spinrad's The Iron Dream are correct:

“Nobody would ask Spinrad to sacrifice such scenes as the winning of the Great Truncheon by the hero Feric and the subsequent kissing of the Great Truncheon by the Black Avengers, or the terrific final scene. These are magnificent. They are horribly funny.”

The book is followed by a faux scholarly analysis by a fictional literary critic, Homer Whipple, which is used to draw the obvious point – it can happen here, if we are not careful. So that is a book which is deliberately “bad” to make a point, particularly a satirical one as in Spinrad’s book. However, I’m not talking of those. Nor will I discuss bad novels – for example, Lord of the Rings which I found incredibly boring (perhaps I should have read it when I was 12 rather than 16!) and which I forced myself to finish (after reading most of Michael Moorcock’s books). My suggestion? Watch the movies as they get rid of the really boring bits…

No, I mean political books. Three spring to mind. Tony Cliff’s State Capitalism in Russia, Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty and Karl Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy.

The first is just terrible. Cliff’s analysis of why Stalinism was “state-capitalist” is a joke – essentially, the USSR was part of the global capitalist system and was, as a result, in military competition with the West. This (indirect) competition meant that the USSR was subject to “the law of value” and so could be considered as one big capitalist firm. If it were not, then it would not be capitalist. In short, the USSR was capitalist because America was capitalist. As insightful as saying Tesco is a capitalist firm because Asda is a capitalist firm. Which makes you wonder what he would have called if the world had been divided up into three competing bureaucratic super-states as per Orwell’s 1984! Perhaps they would not have a mode of production?

It is easy to discover the underlying reason why Cliff’s analysis is so superficial – for all the features which made Stalinist Russia non-socialist also existed in Leninist Russia. Rather than analyse the relations of production, he prefers to look elsewhere – as if capitalism were not a mode of production! Even if we take Cliff’s criteria seriously then Lenin’s regime must also have been state-capitalist for it was in (indirect and direct) military competition with the west. So why was it not? Because Lenin was a revolutionary socialist! In short, philosophical idealism of the worse kind with the nature of a regime determined by the good intentions of its rulers rather than its social and economic relations. This also applies to his followers like Chris Harman who wrote the SWP’s standard (short) account of how that revolution was lost.

And, of course, Cliff had the cheek to denounce Proudhon for ignoring the “relations of production”! Not that he did – as Proudhon argued in System of Economic Contradictions (chapter IV: section I): “The period through which we are now passing . . . is distinguished by a special characteristic: WAGE-LABOUR.” Section IV of the chapter on Property makes the point that property is “progressive” – that is, subject to change and development. Proudhon’s discussion of wage-labour and views on the need for workers’ associations shows that changing bourgeois relations of production within the workplace was a key aspect of his socialism. Indeed, it is hard to think of a socialist thinker who discussed workers’ self-management so much – probably because, unlike Marx, he was a worker and so, unlike Lenin, did not think it an optional extra!

Finally, it should be stressed that this so-called “Marxist” analysis is simply at odds with Marx’s own statements on the matter of commodity production, trade and so forth. Marx argued repeatedly that products could be sold as commodities from many different modes of production. As Marx argued in Capital (volume 2), the “character of the production process from which [goods] derive is immaterial” and so on the market commodities come “from all modes of production” (for example, they could be “the produce of production based on slavery, the product of peasants . . ., of a community . . . , of state production (such as existed in earlier epochs of Russian history, based on serfdom) or half-savage hunting peoples”). [pp. 189-90] It was not trade which determined an economy’s mode of production (that is why it’s a mode of production!). Thus trade "exploits a given mode of production but does not create it" and so relates "to the mode of production from outside." (Capital, vol. 3, p. 745)

This is discussed in An Anarchist FAQ, so I will leave it there (see also the excellent article in AufhebenWhat was the USSR? Part I: Trotsky and State Capitalism). Suffice to say, it is annoying that Cliff uses the term “state-capitalism” for his analysis as it implies some similarity to the earlier anarchist analysis of Lenin’s regime as state-capitalist. They are not the same.

Logically, the next “bad” book to discuss needs to be Marx’s. After all, it is ritualistically trotted out (pun intended) by Marxists. Why is it a bad book? Because it attacks Proudhon? Of course not – mutualism can and should be critiqued (as I have done). As I’ve said before, Marx does make some good points but most of his critique is intellectually dishonest – quoting out of context, tampering with quotes, falsely asserting that Proudhon argued one thing when he stated the opposite. It is from Marx’s Poverty of Philosophy that many of the myths about Proudhon can be traced, for example, that he was for small-scale property (he explicitly rejects this).

It is rare for a Marxist to read Proudhon – why bother, Marx has pronounced judgement? This can be seen from the chapter “The development of the Marxian project” in The Incomplete Marx by Felton C. Shorthall (Yes, it was me who added the comments!). All of Marx's inaccurate comments are repeated even though they are demonstrably false is neither here nor there. For example, Marx’s assertion that Proudhon stated that economists had not recognised the contradiction between use-value and exchange-value is repeated without thought. Think about it. Marx is saying that Proudhon, who was well read in political economy, was either ignorant of this or was seeking to con his readers into thinking he was the first to notice it – even though most of his readers would have been aware of this well-known aspect of political economy!

And the worse thing about this? That Marx does not show that Proudhon held this view! He quotes Proudhon as stating that the economists “have very well explained the double character of value; but what they have not set out with equal clearness is its contradictory nature” (Tucker translated this as “The economists have very clearly shown the double character of value, but what they have not made equally plain is its contradictory nature.”) Marx then goes on to state that, for Proudhon, the economists “have neither seen nor known, either the opposition or the contradiction” between use-value and exchange-value. Yet Proudhon, as Marx’s own quote shows, wrote no such thing – “not set out with equal clearness” becomes “have neither seen nor known” in Marx’s hands!

I sometimes wonder why Marx distorted Proudhon so. After all, anyone reading Proudhon would see where Marx had taken liberties. Did he assume people would read him but not Proudhon? That has subsequently come true, but that was unlikely to be the case in 1847! One thing is sure, his book was not a success. It had no impact in France and by the 1860s none of the French Internationalists remembered him or the book. It is only far later, when few people read Proudhon, that it has become a classic of Marxism and, thanks to its distortions, few people would read System and see Marx’s book as the hatchet-job it is.

I discuss the distortions in an appendix to Property is Theft! as well as footnoting its extracts from System of Economic Contradictions. Hopefully that will make people double-check any claim by Marx on Proudhon. So that is why I consider it a bad book – and it does lay the template for future Marxist attacks on anarchism with its distortions and inventions.

I’ve seen some Marxists proclaim that Marx praised What is Property? and attacked System of Economic Contradictions because Proudhon had changed his ideas. Yet reading both shows that this is clearly not the case. Proudhon deepens his critique of property and capitalism, being more explicit on certain subjects and changes some of his terminology (for example, 1840’s increase – aubaine – becomes 1846’s surplus). In terms of his criticism of “community” and state-socialism, Proudhon covers much the same ground – opposing it in 1846 as he did in 1840. Interestingly, in 1846 Marx wrote in a letter that the only thing he agreed with in System was Proudhon’s attacks on the socialists – although he changed his tune in 1847 and decades later when he argued that the tone of the book reflected his disgust at Proudhon’s treatment of the utopian socialists (you know, the only thing he said he agreed with when he first read it).

Last is “anarcho”-capitalist Murray Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty. When I frequented Usegroups I had lots of debates with “anarcho”-capitalists (I am still amazed that such a thing can exist, given the history of anarchism as an idea and a movement!). During those debates I made the obvious point (as I subsequently discovered Proudhon had… in 1840!) that the property-owner was the ruler of his property – and those who used it. Thus the landlord and capitalist had a monopoly of power over a given area and that was the typical “anarcho”-capitalist definition of the state. Moreover, capitalism and the economic power inequality generates meant that workers had no choice but to sell their liberty (sorry, labour!) to the property-owners. Thus, logically, a genuine libertarian had to be a socialist and so “anarcho”-capitalism was an oxymoron.

Now imagine my surprise when later reading Rothbard’s book when he acknowledged all this… and did not notice the obvious contradiction! He even thanks someone for reminding him that the property-owner has monopoly of decision-making power over his property! Thus when a property-owner does something (like deny freedom of speech and association) to their employees then this is an expression of “absolute liberty” but when the state does it then it is an evil! He even acknowledged that proletarians are subject to economic power and have “virtual masters” as a result – but only when said proletarians are ex-serfs and ex-slaves! When proletarians are dispossessed of the means of production by “market forces” then there is nothing to be bothered by – in spite of them being in exactly the same situation!

I summarise this in my article An Anarchist Critique of Anarcho-Statism where I use Rothbard’s own book to show the contradictions of his own ideology and confirm the anarchist critique. It is one thing to use, say, Proudhon to show the logical failings of a position but it is something else to use the ideologues own words… But such is the power of ideology… and what can you expect from someone who proclaims the need for “absolute property” and while happily stealing the name “libertarian” from those who created and used it?

Anyway, enough of that. Now for some videos… First off, a classic from earlier this year which has proven all too correct:

I’m not sure I linked to that before (I must have!), but it is worth doing so again! And this is somewhat amusing... Someone has changed the subtitles on DownfallDave Reacts to Student Protests:

Then is Captain SKA - Liar Liar. I do hope it is this year’s Xmas Number 1:

Following on from last year’s festive smash, Rage Against the Machine:

I wonder when that classic will start appearing in the “best-Christmas-songs-ever”-style compilations?

Now onto interesting articles. The System IS working – at least if you are massively rich. Anyone who objects that there is massive unemployment, cuts, and so on, fail to see that this is how the system is meant to work… the poor work for the rich, who get richer as a result of this exploitative and hierarchical relationship, unemployment is needed to keep the workers in check, and so on. That is why we need to end capitalism and replace it with a sane economic system.

In America, the deepest recession since the 1930s has not provoked the response expected. Perhaps it is a case of media-bias, but the Republicans seem to have benefited from the problems caused, in the main, by… the Republicans! As such, it was unfair of Sarah Palin to suggest that Obama had two years to fix the economy when the Republicans had 8 years to royally mess it up! Well, that is a massive over-simplification because the problems have systemic roots but the Republican neo-liberal agenda played its role (as well as Democrat adjustment to that agenda in the 1990s – as is the case now, with Obama giving in to Republican blackmail over tax-cuts for the already massively wealthy). However, part of the problem in America is that the Republicans seem to believe their own rhetoric and ignore the reality of capitalism!

But as I blogged recently, that is the power of ideology – the ability to ignore reality in favour of what your ideology must tell you is true. This can be seen from the Republicans, who argued that taxes were too high to allow the elite to invest and “create wealth.” That this destroyed their claims about their own Bush-era tax-cuts seemed lost on them (as lost as how bad those 8 years were). But what do you expect, no matter what, no matter what the issue, the answer for the right is “cut taxes”. So, in boom, cutting taxes is a good idea because we can afford it. In a slump, cutting taxes will boost growth... except, of course, growth has steadily fallen as taxes have fallen.

As neo-liberalism has been imposed and things have got worse, the problems which have got people angry can be solved by more of the same... who said insanity was doing the same thing over and over while hoping for a different outcome? It helps, of course, that these policies make the rich (far) richer... in such circumstances you can be as spectacularly wrong as you like, it will not dent your reputation as long as you make the rich richer… Which places the Tea-bag “revolt” in context: Message to the Tea Party -- What took you so long to get angry?

I argued when Obama got elected that unless there was pressure from below, by working class people acting for themselves, then he would adjust to the pressure from the right, from big business, from the state machine, and so on. That has happened. His years in office show the futility of leaving it to politicians to act for you.

In the short term, we need to resist the efforts of our economic masters who are keen to utilise the crisis to push through more of the neo-liberal reforms which caused the crisis in the first place. In Ireland, they are keen to solve the crisis deepened by austerity – by yet more austerity (see Eating the Irish by Paul Krugman). So the predictable, and predicted, consequences of cutting welfare and wages have come to pass – and in response, the elite are urging more welfare and wages cuts! Needless to say, the working class people who did not cause the crisis are being expected to pay for it. Austerity is making the poor pay to keep corp oration tax low.

In the UK, as in Ireland, they aim to make the poor, poorer to ensure that the rich stay that way. For example, the £7 billion saved in cuts to reduce the deficit is the same amount the ConDems are loaning to Ireland to bailout its bankers and capitalists. Meanwhile, the coalition wants to cut its meagre bank levy – because it is bringing in too much money from the banks! Needless to say, while the LibDems talk about having to “compromise” on tuition fees and welfare cuts they never ever talk about having to compromise on compensation for the bankers.

The ConDem increase in Student fees has provoked (rightly) massive protests and occupations. Good news. The Lib-Dems before the election made a very public show of signing pledges promising not to vote for increases in tuition fees. Now they are doing so. The students who took them at their word are (rightly) pissed-off (of course New Labour did the same thing, making a manifesto promise not to introduce fees and then doing so – they weren’t stupid enough to make a photo-op of signing a pledge on it!) Needless to say, right-wing commentators are praising the Lib-Dems for being responsible politicians, having “courage” and so on (although, like Blair, their courage is never directed to the capitalist class, always the working class). Which shows the utter contempt for democracy in certain circles. Thus breaking election promises is considered “grown-up” politics... that is, saying one thing and doing another is not hypocrisy but a sign of political maturity!

During the Cold War, the Stalinist regimes were attacked because they did not represent the views of those subject to them. Now, with that threat gone, politicians who “make tough decisions” (i.e., ignore the public – as in Blair and Iraq) are praised. That is, democracy works in-so-far as it does NOT reflect the wishes of the people! Democracy, in short, means seeking enough votes to have a mandate – to ignore the voters!

This position, I must note, is also reflected in Leninist discourse. For all its attempts to appropriate “socialism from below” (and given how Proudhon and Bakunin stressed the need for a revolution “from below”, an anarchist notion if ever there were one!), the likes of Lenin and Trotsky rationalised the need for the vanguard to ignore the masses and, when necessary, repress them. As such, Chomsky is right to note the similarities between the capitalist elite and Leninism. Of course, Marxists will point to Marx's comments in relation to the Paris Commune as proof of its commitment to “working-class self-emancipation” but the ideas of mandating and recalling delegates was advocated by Proudhon in 1848 (not to mention the ideas of federations of communes and workers’ associations). In short, key aspects of Marxism are lifted straight from Proudhon… Oh, the irony…

At which point I should do the obvious and contrast the current situation of the Lib-Dems breaking their pledge in a representative democracy and what would happen in an anarchy. Today, the Lib-Dems can vote how they like - they have been elected and their mandate (if you can call it that) is to do what they like for the next 4 or 5 years. Then then can return to the electorate and hope that the opposition are so bad that people will vote for them again. In an anarchist system, any delegate would be mandated and subject to instant recall. Which meant that the Lib-Dems would have been recalled and replaced by now. As Proudhon put it in March 1848 (a different translation is here):

“In the end, we are all voters; we can choose the most worthy.”

“We can do more; we can follow them step-by-step in their legislative acts and their votes; we will make them transmit our arguments and our documents; we will suggest our will to them, and when we are discontented, we will recall and dismiss them.”

“The choice of talents, the imperative mandate [mandate impertif], and permanent revocability are the most immediate and incontestable consequences of the electoral principle. It is the inevitable program of all democracy.”

“No more than constitutional monarchy, however, does democracy agree to such a deduction from its principle.”

Only that can ensure the end of government, “the EXTERNAL constitution of the social power” (to quote Proudhon) by which the people delegate “its power and sovereignty” and so “does not govern itself.” Anarchists “deny government and the State, because we affirm that which the founders of States have never believed in, the personality and autonomy of the masses.” Ultimately, “the only way to organise democratic government is to abolish government.” In short: democracy is undemocratic...

When people do take direct action, we get editorials, speeches and articles inflicted upon us saying that we live in a democracy and that we should participate in the democratic process. The students obviously have – the voted for one party which promised not to introduce fees and then did, they then lobbied another party which pledged to vote against fee increases and then voted for them. And all the while said commentators also proclaim it is “grown-up” politics and shows “courage” to ignore the promises you made when campaigning! The truth is that direct action is effective and empowering and shows that another world is possible. Hence it needs to be dismissed, attacked and repressed…

Then there was the front page of the Express (I think, that or the Mail) last week which proclaimed: “Penalised for being English” It was discussing how Scottish and Welsh students do not have to pay fees to go to university in their respective countries (thanks to devolution) while English ones did. I laughed because the headline
should have been: “Penalised for voting Tory” Do they really think that a Scottish or Welsh Assembly run by Tories would have publically subsidised education for the masses? Public subsidies are for the wealthy and capitalist firms! What is surprising is that Labour did so… but then New Labour was all about appealing to Tory voters… even though they grumble about the consequences of so doing (with handy scapegoats provided by the Express, Mail, Sun, etc. to distract people from the real causes – the current system).

And, needless to say, I’m sure that the chattering classes think that the “fair” thing to do would be to strap public support for students in Scotland and Wales… since “fairness” seems to mean grinding people down to the same lower level these days… the politics of envy used to level working class people downwards while, at the same time, brown-nosing the wealthy few. The irony of papers which consistently supported Thatcherism and which are now complaining about its consequences! So we see the likes of the Mail complaining about how the (privatised) railways and utilities are ripping people off! Well, don’t complain – it’s what you wanted…

I came across an excellent article by Luigi Fabbri on Victor Serge and his attempt to justify Bolshevism: Revolution and Dictatorship (On one anarchist who has forgotten his principles). Of course, Serge is invoked by the likes of the SWP/ISO as one of “the best of the anarchists” because he wholeheartedly converted to Bolshevism and argued for other anarchists to do the same. What is not mentioned is that Serge embraced Bolshevik elitism with a passion, agreeing with the rest of the Bolshevik leadership on the need for party dictatorship (I discuss this in both AFAQ and my article refuting ISO lies about Emma Goldman). His support for Bolshevik dictatorship continued until the early 1930s, although his attempts to work out what went wrong after the defeat of the (party dictatorship supporting) Left-Opposition made him re-embrace some aspects of communist-anarchism (aspects he rejected when he was an anarchist, as he was an illegalist who dismissed class based politics). Thus his Memories of a Revolutionary are focused upon, but not his rampant elitism of 1919 to the early 1930s (the same can be said of the rampant elitism of Trotsky, which is also ignored when not denied!).

I think Fabbri is a great writer, up there with Malatesta, and I wish more was available in English by him. I would particularly recommend his Anarchy and “Scientific” Communism.

And finally, we serfs are lucky, we get to fawn over a new royal couple... I produced a short article on this for Freedom. Not sure whether they have run it, but it is at the end of the blog… oh, hum. As the Sex Pistols said: “God Save the Queen, for tourists are money!”

Until I blog again, be seeing you…

The Big (Society) Wedding

A WMD has been released – a Wedding of Mass Distraction! We serfs can forget the regressive cuts being inflicted upon us for we are truly lucky: we get to fawn over a new royal couple! Oh, the joy!

My first thoughts were, I admit, cynical. Crap, I thought, the economy must really be expected to tank next year if those two are getting married. Then I put my cynicism to one side, as urged by “Call-Me-Dave” I then realised that this would be an ideal chance for Cameron to apply his “Big Society” rather than “Big Government.” He should pronounce that the royal wedding will be organised and funded purely by voluntary donations and labour (and, no, forcing people on the dole to do it does not count!).

Given how overjoyed the masses are by this wedding, at least according to the media and the government, “Call-Me-Dave” has nothing to worry about. If he actually believes that we are all overjoyed that our monarchy are injecting fresh genetic material into its inbred DNA and that “the Big Society” is a really good idea rather than a means to cover cuts in social spending on the working class, then he cannot argue for the state to fund and organise the Wedding. Particularly as the groom’s family, being one of the wealthiest in Britain, can afford it.

The first privatised, sorry, “Big Society”, royal wedding! How can he reject such a high-profile application of his “Big” idea? To reject it would suggest that “Big Society” is just for the serfs and not for the Royals, the banks, the capitalists and the rest of the elite our labour keeps in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

And, as an added bonus, if this works as well as the rhetoric “Call-Me-Dave” uses for his “Big Society” speeches suggest then it could be applied to all future public events. After all, what higher accolade could Thatcher wish than a privatised funeral? With competitive tendering, I’m sure we can get quite a few bids at zero from those who remember her and her works – including the building of the disco on top of the grave…

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