New Black Flag magazine out (and Russell Brand)

Well, we managed it – we got a new Black Flag (issue no. 236) out for the London Anarchist bookfair! So after a 2 year break, it looks like the Black Flag collective is back and viable. This is good news, particularly as there was a last issue of Freedom produced for the bookfair.  A movement without a paper or magazine is hardly a movement at all.

So what is in the new issue? Well, it includes a much edited version of my Boomtime in Poundland, articles on UKIP, “Clicktivism”, Anarcha-feminism (and the Afem conference), the Scottish Independence vote, the struggle of Iranian workers, an article to mark the 200th anniversary of Bakunin’s birth by Brian Morris and part 1 of an article by Robert Graham on the founding of the First International 150 years ago (plus a newly translated Bakunin letter for the Radical Reprint). There are also reviews of The Method of Freedom, Property is Theft! and Direct Struggle Against Capital – plus lots more…

Hopefully readers will find it interesting and we are always looking for new writers, editors, etc. – so if you are a class struggle anarchist and want to get involved, then please let us know. The Black Flag blog has not been updated yet, but I assume it will be shortly. The magazine can currently be bought at Freedom Bookshop, Housmans Bookshop and via AK Press (UK).

The bookfair went well, numbers seemed down until about 4pm which I assume is down to there being a TUC march on the same day. This is a good sign, though, as it suggests that many anarchists were at that and came along later. Hopefully, they spent their time trying to get anarchist ideas across to their fellow marchers rather than just walking or being all “Black Bloc”-like (my comments from a past students’ demo are always relevant although I hope they are being less so every year!). The Black Flag stall was stuck in a small side room between Catholic Worker and Peace News – so not an ideal location. However, our fault for late booking (we were not sure we would have an issue out in time!).

My talk (Kropotkin: Class Warrior) went well and I will, as usual, be writing it up and posting it here. I have just posted a review of Paul Avrich’s book The Russian Anarchists which was inspired by getting my talk together. Basically, I realised that whatever good points that book may have it did contribute many of the false clichés we suffer about Kropotkin (and Bakunin). Its impact has been for the worse due to the wrong picture it paints of Kropotkin, particularly due to him downplaying Kropotkin’s commitment to class struggle. This, at times, meant presenting summaries which really were at odds to the Kropotkin texts Avrich was referencing.

Talking of Kropotkin, I must note that every issue of Les Temps nouveaux from 1895 to 1914 has been made available on-line by the French National Liberty! I’m slowly but surely going through the issues and expanding upon my Incomplete Kropotkin Bibliography. Suffice to say, having this material easily available helps enrich our understanding of Kropotkin and his ideas. There are important articles (for example, ‘Les Congrès internationaux et le Congrès de Londres') which really need to be translated and made available to anarchists today. As I noted in my article which introduced the Incomplete Kropotkin Bibliography, there is still a lot of work needed to ensure we have a complete listing of all his many articles– particularly since he wrote (primarily) for French, British and Russian anarchist papers – and letters. That would be an immense task which would be hard for one person to do.

Anyway, when I finish my self-appointed task I will post list of Les Temps nouveaux articles here. Hopefully, people will find it useful.

Talking of Kropotkin, my last blog really went off the scale in terms of readers (over 30,000) and this seems to have produced a rise in other blogs (“Bakunin and Kropotkin on national liberation, Victor Serge and libertarian activity” is now over 17,000). It seems to have also impacted on Robert Graham’s excellent blog, who posted the translation I gave him of “The Action of the Masses and of the Individual” and stated that “[e]very once in a while one of my older posts starts generating traffic. The most recent example is Peter Kropotkin’s article on “Workers Organization [Part 1 and Part 2].” Given that I had linked to that article, this seems likely (unfortunately I forgot to link to Kropotkin’s Letter marking the 100th anniversary of Bakunin’s birth – posted to mark the 200th anniversary!).

While I would like to think this was due to an interest in Kropotkin, I’m guessing it had more to do with my comments on the Scottish Independence Vote (I pointed it out to a comrade from Dundee on the Anarchy mailing list). Suffice to say, this was much discussed with comrades who were down from Glasgow for the bookfair last Saturday. It appears that there is now an opening for radical decentralist socialism in Scotland, an opening which should grow as the Tories (as I predicted) use the “No” vote to their own ends, specifically to bolster their position in England and ensure that any future Labour (Austerity-lite!) government cannot tinker with their statist social engineering experiments). Obviously the threat of losing their single MP did not tip the scales in terms of their opportunistic utilisation of the Referendum result in Scotland.

Given that many working class people now see the SNP as a better hope for defending of their interests than Labour, this will produce tensions within that party. Any party is a cross-class body and this applies to one focused on nationalism. To gain popular support they will need populist (socialist!) policies and that will cause friction with those who see national independence as the priority – particularly those who are wealthy and hope to stay that way.

So interesting times – particularly as there seems to be a growth in anarchist groups across Scotland. Whether we can consolidate that will depend on whether libertarians can apply their ideas in popular movements. Are we up to the challenge? Hopefully. First, though, as I suggest in my review of The Russian Anarchists, we need to look outwards and be constructive, getting away from silly notions and into practical and realistic activities and theories – if anyone talks about “deepening the critique”, ask them to leave and create their own group…

I have been meaning to make a few comments over Russell Brand, mostly about the very obvious panic he has produced in the chattering classes. It appears that some people cannot handle it when you point out the facts of the matter - voting does not change that much at the best of times and currently we have a choice (if you can call it that!) between three neo-Liberal parties aiming to impose Austerity (on the many) to various degrees. So regardless of what Polly Toynbee may suggest, John Lydon dismissing Brand call to not vote is hardly surprising. If you thought the Sex Pistols were actually anarchists you clearly know very little about anarchism (as Lydon says himself, “I never preached anarchy. It was just a novelty in a song. I always thought anarchy was just a mind game for the middle class”). What is her message? Well, "Labour will never be good enough for the heavy freight of hope it always carries, but here’s a Conservative party undoing the entire 1945 welfare state settlement, from the NHS and council housing to social security and council services." So voting is important because in 1945 Labour did some major reforms which every government since -- including Labour ones! -- have dismantled. Ultimately, "Vote Labour because the Tories are (more) evil" is hardly inspiring nor a particularly good argument.

And where does it stop? Do we hold our noses and vote Lib-Dem to keep the Tories out? Then what? The Tories to keep UKIP out? UKIP to keep the BNP out? At some stage the awareness that electoral games are part of the problem will need to be addressed, not least the hard-work of convincing people that their interests are not served by voting for the right -- or for anyone and they need to organise in their communities and workplaces, seek to unite to change things by their own efforts and recognise that the interests they have in common as working class people. Without a libertarian message relevant to everyday life we should not be surprised that many turn to people and parties which offer false solutions -- particular false solutions which chime so well (as UKIP does) with the position of the ruling class? After all, UKIP is an ultra-Thatcherite party seeking to intensify the neo-liberal agenda and so gains significant media coverage as a result (compare this to the Greens never mind the trade unions or popular protests/marches).

The key thing to remember is that the anarchist critique of voting is not that there is no difference between parties -- there is (whether that much is another issue!) -- but that you cannot achieve socialism nor significant social change by the ballot box. You will not change the system, the system will change you. That was Bakunin's point against Marx and history has confirmed Bakunin's predictions rather than Marx's illusions. Except for the Socialist Party of Great Britain, Marxists now agree with Bakunin (and seek to ignore or downplay Marx's actual ideas). So we libertarians have won that argument -- the question now is whether voting for a less nasty party is worthwhile. How the argument has changed!

I've not been following Brand that closely but he is clearly saying something to cause the chattering classes concern. I will read his new book and review it but if he is serious -- and he seems to be -- and if he is aware of anarchist ideas -- and he seems to be (to some degree) -- then clearly he is not advocating not voting and nothing else. This seems to be lost on his critics who obviously cannot envision any form of politics other than the atomised, disempowering cross-on-a-bit-of-paper every five years farce we have now. For example, one commentator stated that "[w]hat Brand is good at is telling us what is wrong: our current system is destroying the planet and creating a disenfranchised underclass. Yet if you want to believe social change is possible, you don't have to look far." To state the obvious, that is direct action rather than voting and so the kind of thing Brand is advocating as his alternative. Given that the Tories have been grumbling about making their anti-union laws even more repressive in order to make it even harder to strike (a key form of direct action), our enemies are aware where the working classes real power lies -- in the streets and in the workplaces -- and act accordingly. To quote Kropotkin:

"And now we find that although parliamentary action has always been represented as the means for obtaining small concessions to the advantage of the worker, these concessions, however insignificant they may be, have been won, all of them, by strikes (such as the match girls’, the miners’, the dock labourers’, and so on), and by the standing menace of still more serious labour wars. The presence of a number of more or less Socialistic deputies in parliament does not, it appears now, dispense the working man in the least maintaining his trade organisations in full mental and material readiness for war. On the contrary, it is only by the constant menace of a declaration of war, and by real war - and in proportion to this readiness - that the workers have won any victories; while the tactics of the politicians have always been to weaken the anti-capitalist labour organisations, under the pretext of political concentration and discipline." ("Politics and Socialism", Direct Struggle Against Capital, 381-2)

I've linked to Kropotkin's articles from 1881 on workers organisation above, please read them for more details on the real alternative to voting (which is not doing nothing). Anyway, the attacks on Brand say more than their sources intended ("The lady doth protest too much, methinks"). They expose the hollowness of modern politics -- after all, if a comedian can produce such a response by basically stating the blindly obvious then it shows that "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" but you are not allowed to say so... Hmmh, enough Shakespeare quotes for one day...

(I should note that since writing the above, I've had a chance to look quickly through his book. His commentary on the start of Orwell's Homage to Catalonia is okay and it is clear he is aware of anarchism -- discusses Chomsky and Graeber. He is clearly presenting himself as a lover not a fighter and his alternative to voting is build co-operatives so it appears to be a mutualist position he is presenting. Still, that someone well-known is discussing workers' self-management as an alternative to capitalism is very good and important -- he will get this message across to more people than this blog or most anarchist books and magazines will (sad to say!). Nor do I agree with those who dismiss him as a hypocrite for being wealthy -- he was not always been and as far as I am aware, unlike Engels, he does not employ and exploit wage-workers in a factory he owns. It also smacks of the standard right-wing dismissal: the non-rich can be dismissed if they seek change because of "the politics of envy" while the few of the rich who attack the system are classed as "hypocrites" -- and if the latter give away their wealth to become the former than we are back to "the politics of envy"! As I've mentioned before modern day rightism is based on a popularist narrative which demonises certain working class people -- unionised public sector workers with their "gold-plated" pensions, most obviously -- and combines it with a "level down" solution. Hence the wonderfully self-contradictory comments/letters on the lines of "oh, I earn a pittance but you don't see me striking" -- it does not seem to cross their minds that perhaps those two facts are related...).

(The anti-Brand articles came thick-and-fast over the weekend, in both the Guardian and Observer. Hadley Freeman's article"Britain, don’t put your faith in Russell Brand’s revolution completely missed the point -- although that may be partly Brand's fault for, like Proudhon, using the term "Revolution" for a fundamentally reformist strategy. She proclaimed at one point that "I’m not entirely sure where he thinks he’s going to go with this revolution idea because [SPOILER!] revolution is not going to happen." Clearly all the world's actual revolutions -- the French revolutions of 1789 and 1848, the Paris Commune of 1871, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the post-war Hungarian and German revolutions, the Chinese Revolution, etc., etc., etc. -- never happened. And best not to mention all the near-revolutions we have seen over the years (France 1968, the revolt against neo-liberalism in Argentina, etc.). So it takes some ignorance of world history to proclaim that revolution never happens. And given that Brand is arguing for, in part, workers' control of industry, well, ever co-operative that exists shows how feeble her dismissal is. I won't bother linking to Nick Cohen's "review" of Brand's book as it is just an exercise of smuggness and non sequiturs. Suffice to say, I'm sure I'll find lots to disagree with when I get around to reading Brand's book but the reaction he has produced into the ranks of liberal journalists is fun to watch -- and it shows the weakness of their ideology if they are so bothered by a comedian!)

(I came across this a week after going through his book and it appears Brand is of the same opinion! Nice to know -- whether that is "great minds think alike" or "fools never differ" I will leave up to you! But the end of this belated aside)

Talking of 1945, Toynbee forgets that the Labour Government used troops to break numerous strikes between 1945 and 1951 (for example, the Dockers). Even during the height of the post-war social democratic consensus, Labour got into conflict with the union rank-and-file when they tried to make deals with the trade union bureaucracy to ensure industrial peace. Nor should we forget that the New Labour governments of 1997 to 2010 made no attempt to modify -- never mind abolish -- the Tory anti-union laws. If Toynbee was serious about fighting low-pay, reduced social mobility, the privatisation of what remains of the public sector (including the NHS) then she should be demanding the end of the anti-union laws.

Which reminds me, I got sent a review copy of Richard D. Wolff's Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism and at one stage he asserts that we needed to vote to get parties into power which would not use the power of the state against the working class. Well, fine, except that we have tried that and these parties have all changed and ended up using the state against rebel workers (the 1945-51 Labour Government, for example). Einstein was right ("Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results") and Marxists seem to be insane -- I thought they were meant to be "scientific" socialists and so meant to gather facts and draw conclusions from them? Yet even in the face of over 100 years of failed attempts to utilise "political action" they still keep going on about it... What other scientific community systematically ignores reality so? Well, most schools of economics -- but that is not a science. At least the council communists finally saw the reality -- but, then, Anton Pannekoek was a real scientist (like Kropotkin). Interestingly, Wolfe seems to be pointing to co-operatives as a solution (Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism: Mondragon shows the way), so yet another Marxist sees the merit in Proudhon's ideas (for example, this review). Of course his book does not mention the Frenchman... Needless to say, Labour always favoured nationalisation (state control) to workers' control (see Nationalisation and the new boss class by Tom Brown).

In terms of voting, faced with a right seeking to use state power to further its social engineering and enrich the many at the expense of the few, it is tempting to go to the ballot-box and put that cross on the bit of paper for the least-evil option (the least-evil likely to win, obviously). The Lib-Dems took advantage of that for years -- before ensuring their own destruction by going into government with the Tories (while still saying in speeches how evil they are and producing leaflets on how voting Labour in certain seats would let the Tories in!). Should you vote? Well, the anarchist analysis says that real power lies outside Parliament and that governments will adapt to that power. In normal times, that power is that of wealth/capital and that explains why parties end up reformist (at best) and pretty much the same as the opposition (at worse). The real task is to create a counter-power outside of Parliament which no government can ignore -- voting can distract from that if people think that that is enough (this was, as I predicted, Obama's fate -- unlike FDR, there are no popular movements pressurising him from below to do better). As such, Paul Krugman is right to state that the "truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy. And it’s by no means clear which side will win." He is wrong to think that official, formal democracy will win that battle -- only a democracy rooted in working class organisations and using direct action can.

So it is a case of not fetishising voting (or not voting) -- if that is all you do (or don't do) then that is the problem. The trade union bureaucracy's attempts to get a Labour party into power in the vain hope that this time it won't ignore them is definitely part of the problem, as is the Left's attempts to get any and all popular movements into the electioneering game. We need to stress the need for industrial and community unionism, for direct action, and let the left-sects, Labourites, Greens, do their thing outside of working class organisations. There can be "left-unity" but only on an "a-political" (i.e., direct action) basis -- but sadly the Left, with its nostalgia for a past which did not exist and unwillingness to learn from history, will be a handicap in the creation and growth of such a necessary movement.

Finally, on the economy I should point to one news item and one article. The news item is from this week when it was announced – surprise! – that “[b]orrowing last month was £11.8bn, £1.6bn higher than in September 2013… as the tax take failed to keep pace with government spending despite the recovery in the economy.”  It quotes the chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight stating this gives Osborne “little scope to announce any major sweeteners”, clearly someone who failed to pay attention during the Tory conference this year when a major bride of tax cuts was presented in the hopes of securing office. That this was uncosted and blew a huge hole in Tory claims of being financially prudent is unsurprising as “Austerity” was always an ideologically-driven policy which was always subservient to the desire to retain office and making the rich richer by grinding the face of working class into the dirt….

Oh, and if I were a Labour spin-master I would have replied to media noise over Miliband forgetting to mention “the deficit” in his big conference speech by simply reminding people that according to Osborne in 2010 it should have been eliminated by the general election next year and so that it still exists shows the impact of Tory economic incompetence.

Joke time: What is the difference between Ed Miliband and his father? Ralph Miliband was one of Britain’s leading Marxist intellectuals who argued that socialism would never be achieved by means of Parliament while Ed is simply proving him right.

The article is by a decent economist, Ha-Joon Chang (one of whose books I reviewed a while back). This echoes my own Boomtime in Poundland by noting “Falling wages, savage cuts and sham employment expose the recovery as bogus” and asking “Why did Britain’s political class buy into the Tories’ economic fairytale?” Sadly, the comments show that far too many people are willing to believe in the fairytale… anyway, worth reading.

I was in a second-hand bookshop and saw Milton Friedman's Free to Choose. With no rush to return to work, I had a quick look. There was a whole chapter on unions and how bad they were for... workers! Looking at the index, a few pages mentioned corporations and they referenced pages to where he mentions them in passing. No mention of economic power and inequality -- except for the assertion that the more free market capitalist a country is, the more equal it is (oh, the joy! Inequality soared when Thatcher and Reagan applied the ideas of a certain economist called... Milton Friedman!). Nothing like the detailed discussion on unions for corporations, of course not. And he what did he take as the examplar of a trade union? The American Medical Association! Still, what of his assertion that unions did not protect the worker, worse, actually raising unionised wages at the expense of non-unionised ones? Well, as union coverage has decreased so has the share of wages in national income in both the USA and the UK. In America, it has gone from around 60% in 1980 to 55% in 2011 -- union membership fell during the same period from around 25% to 12%. So applying Friedman's ideas have refuted his assertions... it is not the "free market" which protects workers, it is workers themselves when they organise to do so. The ruling class is aware of that and that is why they use the state -- bolstered by neo-capitalist economic ideology -- to undermine their ability to do so.

The same in Britain. Will Hutton is right to state "[a]s for falling wages, the real enemy is not immigration but gravely weakened trade unions. If the wage share in national income were the same as 35 years ago, the average worker would be £100 a week better off. The voters of Clacton, Rochester, and Heywood and Middleton would be better directing their anger at the way Britain’s leaders have weakened protections for average workers." Except, of course, it is up to workers to defend themselves as relying on politicians to do it for them -- as shown since year dot -- is not wise. Another commentator notes that by one estimate real wages "are some 20% below where they would be had trend wage growth continued over the past six years" and there has been a "a decoupling of wages from productivity" (as in America) so workers are no longer benefiting from improvements in economic efficiency with median wages per hour "growing below productivity since the early 1990s, and markedly so since the early 2000s". As with America, "the benefits from any efficiency improvement have disproportionately flowed to funding pensions and rewarding executives." Hence the rising inequality which marks the neo-liberal era (and falling social mobility). How income is being distributed has changed: "In 1977, of every £100 of value generated in the UK economy, workers in the bottom half of the earnings distribution received £16 as wages; by 2010 this share had fallen to £12. Workers in the top 10% increased their share of value from £12 to £14 over the same period."

The impact of this is simple -- a lack of effective demand and economic stagnation avoided by rising debt. The one-sided class war has become so bad that even a few members of the 1% are bemoaning it. Warren Buffett is right to state that "there’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won... the rich class has won." Given this, I find the rants of the right particularly crazy -- why is the Daily Mail so unhappy? It has got what it wanted for the last 30 years -- perhaps the ranting is to keep its readers blind to this awkward fact? In terms of economics, well, here is a venure capitalist telling it like it is (and noting that the rich winning the class war is actually bad for the rich!):

Particularly relevent part (from the transcript) is:

"I have started, or helped start, dozens of companies and initially hired lots of people. But if there was no one around who could afford to buy what we had to sell, all those companies and all those jobs would have evaporated... rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. Jobs are a consequence of a circle of life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a capitalist like me [...] Anyone who’s ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a course of last resort for capitalists. It’s what we do if, and only if, rising customer demand requires it. And in this sense, calling yourselves job creators isn’t just inaccurate, it’s disingenuous [...] That’s why our existing policies are so upside down. When the biggest tax exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer [...] If it was true that lower taxes for the rich and more wealth for the wealthy led to job creation, today we would be drowning in jobs. [applause] Thank you. And yet, unemployment and under-employment is at record highs."

As Paul Krugman notes, "right now we see a combination of high profits and sluggish investment". Yes, capitalism is based on the extraction of surplus value within production via the exploitation of human physical and mental labour (as Proudhon recognised long before Marx -- indeed, Marx mocks Proudhon for arguing that in The Poverty of Philosophy!) but it needs to be realised, that is the products need to be sold! Lack of effective demand makes that hard to do (which partly explains the Tories pension "liberation" policy, getting pensioners to spend more in the short term to bolster the economy going into an election -- partly, because it also benefits the Tories paymasters in "the City" and we will see them creating "products" to part pensioners with their cash which turn out to be "mis-selling" further down the line). To quote the French anarchist from the much maligned (but seldom read) System of Economic Contradictions:

'An English manufacturer: “The insubordination of our workers has given us the idea of dispensing with them. We have made and stimulated every imaginable effort of the mind to replace the service of men by tools more docile, and we have achieved our object. Machinery has delivered capital from the oppression of labour. Wherever we still employ a man, we do so only temporarily, pending the invention for us of some means of accomplishing his work without him.”

'What a system is that which leads a business man to think with delight that society will soon be able to dispense with men! Machinery has delivered capital from the oppression of labour! That is exactly as if the cabinet should undertake to deliver the treasury from the oppression of the taxpayers. Fool! though the workers cost you something, they are your customers: what will you do with your products, when, driven away by you, they shall consume them no longer? Thus machinery, after crushing the workers, is not slow in dealing employers a counter-blow; for, if production excludes consumption, it is soon obliged to stop itself.' (System of Economic Contradictions)

Still relevant today (as is: "Political economy - that is, proprietary despotism - can never be in the wrong: it must be the proletariat."). Of course, increased income from workers and increased trade union organisation and militancy will not stop capitalism being an unstable system. As discussed in section C.7 of An Anarchist FAQ, it would help solve the current crisis which is caused by capital being too strong but in so doing it creates the possibility of a new crisis caused by capital being too weak (as the working class is too strong). Given the memories of the last time that happened -- the 1960s and 1970s -- we can see why most of the ruling class are unwilling to actually do anything much to save capitalism from itself (hence why Proudhon denounced capitalism as a system marked by economic contradictions!). Which brings us back again to the fact that we workers need to organise and act to force them to. No one else is going to do it for us -- particularly well-meaning journalists dismissing Russell Brand in the Guardian and Observer.

And, finally, I should mention the Evening Boris's review of Brand's book. Pretty much to be expected, attacking the man and ignoring the serious points he is making (with added jokes). The reviewer complains that while Brand mentions the likes of Chomsky he fails to mention Thomas Hobbes -- for good reason, given how wrong Hobbes is (just because his ideas chime with the dominant economic system and its resulting culture does not make him correct). The review then proclaims that it is "the Left he embarrasses" because -- the reviewer proclaims -- Brand thinks people are naturally good for "the fundamental divide is between whether you believe human nature is naturally good, needing only to be set free, or fallible, needing governance." Ah, right, the right thinks people are "fallible" and so need to be governed. So who governs them? Oh, the very people who have just been proclaimed as unable to govern themselves! The logical contradiction is obvious and long-ago recognised by Kropotkin:

'Our space, is limited, but submit to the same analysis any of the aspects of our social life, and you will see that the present capitalist, authoritarian system is absolutely inappropriate to a society of men so improvident, so rapacious, so egotistic, and so slavish as they are now. Therefore, when we hear men saying that the Anarchists imagine men much better than they really are, we merely wonder how intelligent people cart repeat that nonsense. Do we not say continually that the only means of rendering men less rapacious and egotistic, less ambitious and less slavish at the same time, is to eliminate those conditions which favour the growth of egotism and rapacity, of slavishness and ambition? The only difference between us and those who make the above objection is this: We do not, like them, exaggerate the inferior instincts of the masses, and do not complacently shut our eyes to the same bad instincts in the upper classes. We maintain that both rulers and ruled are spoiled by authority; both exploiters and exploited are spoiled by exploitation; while our opponents seem to admit that there is a kind of salt of the earth - the rulers, the employers, the leaders - who, happily enough, prevent those bad men - the ruled, the exploited, the led - from becoming still worse than they are.

'There is the difference, and a very important one. We admit the imperfections of human nature, but we make no exception for the rulers. They make it, although sometimes unconsciously, and because we make no such exception, they say that we are dreamers, “unpractical men.”' ("Are We Good Enough?", Direct Struggle Against Capital, 609)

In terms of "the right" arguing that "we" need "governance", that is hard to chime with the current anti-regulations position of today. Ah, but of course. Capitalists and landlords do not need to be regulated but workers, protestors and unions do... You see, those with power (political or economic) are apparently good and just need to be set free while those without power (the working class and their organisations) are "fallible" and need "governance" -- by the former, of course. Neo-liberalism in a nutshell: free market capitalism with strong and centralised state.

There is an irony here, of course. The reviewer proclaims that Brand (and anarchists in general) view "human nature" as "naturally good" while an Leninist -- as I show in a series of blogs -- proclaims that the problem with anarchists is that we view that "human nature" has a "nasty" element to it. So both cannot be correct and, perhaps unsurprisingly, neither are. We do not think that people are "naturally good" nor "fallible", just that we have the potential to either. Which aspects of our evolved nature predominate is influenced by social relationships, material conditions, etc. It is because we don't think we are "naturally good" that anarchists advocate anarchy ("fallible" people are not best placed to govern others as power corrupts) and for self-management, federalism, elections, mandates and recall within our organisations. That is why Brand is advocating co-operatives because dictatorship in the workplace just benefits those in charge... It really is not hard!

How "human nature" expresses itself is not fixed -- people change through struggle, by fighting for freedom we become fit for freedom. We change ourselves by changing the world, not least by removing the servile and corrupting effects of inequality (as Bakunin suggested in Statism and Anarchy: “power corrupts those invested with it just as much as those compelled to submit to it.”). I could go on, but it is covered in An Anarchist FAQ (section A.1.15 and in a blog. Needless to say, Kropotkin did not view nature nor society through rose-tinted glasses -- as I show in the introduction of Direct Struggle Against Capital and at more length in Mutual Aid: An Introduction and Evaluation (the second edition available from AK Press).

Still, Brand probably knows of this Gandhi quote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Until I blog again, be seeing you...

Comments

A link was included in the

A link was included in the comment above but must've been removed by filters. You can find the #YestoAction joint statement on the ACE and Edinburgh Anarchists blogs.

"So interesting times –

"So interesting times – particularly as there seems to be a growth in anarchist groups across Scotland. Whether we can consolidate that will depend on whether libertarians can apply their ideas in popular movements. Are we up to the challenge?"

Hi Anarcho, you might be interested to know about the joint effort made by mainly Edinburgh-based autonomous groups* to respond to the situation in Scotland after the referendum and encourage people to get involved in collective direct action of different kinds. We've put out a short statement (constructive criticism welcome!), yesterday we did a collective stall at the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow and we'd like to do some public meetings. Feel free to share.

So we're trying to make a positive case for organising from below and work with people even if we don't agree on everything. Here's hoping it will make a difference. :)

*Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Coalition against Poverty, Edinburgh Anarchist Federation and the Scottish Assembly of the IWW.

Thank you for the come back.

Thank you for the come back. Out here on the short grass prairie we live along with the relics of civilization. These include the wreckage of the Grange, the Flying Farmers, and the murdered Cooperative experiments. They were killed by Archer Daniel Midlands.
Our rulers are now the oil companies backed by ever more powerful thug cops ready to have a shooting accident. The most recent arrival of the Cartels newly empowered by the tax collectors and the real estate drug warriors ready to jail the opposition to the drug lords buying up water and land to service the intentual drugging of the intellectual university-prison complex.
It appears that there are leaders of anarchists in the urban zones who toe either a Maoist or an IS line of thinking. Zizeck missed this in his analysis a delightful critique of the post Bordian movement. The leaders of anarchists in the urban zone seem to end in court with infantile charges for writing "fuck the whomever..." on an empty government building on a weekend.

Nice work! Thank you for all

Nice work! Thank you for all the effort in writing this article.

  


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