The SWP versus Anarchism

These are two letters and part of a leaflet related to an article in the SWP's Socialist Review by Pat Stack on anarchism. This article (imaginatively entitled "Anarchy in the UK?") was an attempt to rubbish anarchism in the eyes of the "anti-globalisation" movement at the time (around 2000). It had to be the worse article on anarchism I had seen (and there is stiff competition for that honour, usually from the SWP!).

The first letter was published in an edited form. That produced a reply from an SWP and I sent in the second letter, which was not published (no reason was given). I also used Pat Stack's article in a leaflet handed out at one of the SWP's Marxism events. In it I contrasted what Stack proclaimed about Bakunin and Kropotkin with what they actually advocated.

My account of attending Stack's Marxism meeting on anarchism can be found here. Here is a humorous (I hope!) sketch inspired by a comment said at one of the meetings (yes, a SWPer DID proclaim that "we are all individuals"): The Dead Dogma Sketch.

First letter to Socialist Review Magazine

(published in edited form)

Dear Socialist Review

It is difficult to know where to start in Pat Stack's "Anarchy in the UK?" article (issue no. 246). It contains so many inaccuracies that I can only assume that Stack either knows nothing about anarchism or is deliberately lying. I know that the SWP wish to combat anarchist influence in the anti-globalisation movement but this article will surely backfire on you. This is because anyone with even a small understanding of anarchist theory and history will instantly know that Stack's "analysis" of anarchism is so flawed as to be laughable.

Needless to say, I cannot reply to every mistake in the article. I will, however, concentrate on a few of the more glaring ones in order to give your readers a taste of the level of inaccuracy it contains.

The most amazing assertion is that anarchists like Kropotkin and Bakunin did not see "class conflict" as "the motor of change, the working class is not the agent and collective struggle not the means." Obviously the author has never read any of Bakunin's and Kropotkin's work. Indeed, Kropotkin's The Great French Revolution was written explicitly to show "the part played by the people of the country and town in the [French] Revolution." He did not deny the importance of collective class struggle, rather he stressed it. As he wrote, "to make the revolution, the mass of workers will have to organise themselves. Resistance and the strike are excellent means of organisation for doing this." Kropotkin could not be clearer on this subject.

He always stressed that "the Anarchists have always advised taking an active part in those workers' organisations which carry on the direct struggle of Labour against Capital and its protector, the State." Such struggle, "better than any other indirect means, permits the worker to obtain some temporary improvements in the present conditions of work, while it opens his eyes to the evil done by Capitalism and the State that supports it, and wakes up his thoughts concerning the possibility of organising consumption, production, and exchange without the intervention of the capitalist and the State."

Similarly, Bakunin argued "the natural organisation of the masses . . . is organisation based on the various ways that their various types of work define their day-to-day life; it is organisation by trade association." He thought that the International Workers Association should become "an earnest organisation of workers associations from all countries, capable of replacing this departing world of States and bourgeoisie." In other words, the "future social organisation must be made solely from the bottom upwards, by the free association of workers, first in their unions, then in the communes, regions, nations and finally in a great federation, international and universal."

He stresses this vision in his last work Statism and Anarchy: "the Slavic proletariat . . . must enter the International [Workers' Association] en masse, form[ing] factory, artisan, and agrarian sections, and unite them into local federations" as "a social revolution . . . is by nature an international revolution." Which, I must note, makes a mockery of Stack's claim Bakunin did not see "skilled artisans and organised factory workers" as "the source of the destruction of capitalism" and "agents for change."

Bakunin, like Kropotkin, saw a socialist society as being based on "the collective ownership of producers' associations, freely organised and federated in the communes, and by the equally spontaneous federation of these communes." Thus "the land, the instruments of work and all other capital [will] become the collective property of the whole of society and be utilised only by the workers, in other words by the agricultural and industrial associations." The link between present and future would be labour unions (workers' associations). These played the key role in Bakunin's politics both as the means to abolish capitalism and the state and as the framework of a socialist society (this support for workers' councils predates Marxist support by five decades, I must note).

Bakunin, like Kropotkin, thought the strike was "the beginnings of the social war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. . . Strikes are a valuable instrument from two points of view. Firstly, they electrify the masses . . . awaken in them the feeling of the deep antagonism which exists between their interests and those of the bourgeoisie. . . secondly they help immensely to provoke and establish between the workers of all trades, localities and countries the consciousness and very fact of solidarity: a twofold action, both negative and positive, which tends to constitute directly the new world of the proletariat, opposing it almost in an absolute way to the bourgeois world." This would accumulate in "a general strike" which could "only lead to a cataclysm which would make society start a new life after shedding its old skin." This would be combined with " an insurrection of all the people and the voluntary organisation of the workers from below upward."

Indeed, you do not have to read Bakunin to find this out, you can read Marx and Engels. As Marx noted, Bakunin thought that the "working class . . . must only organise themselves by trades-unions." Engels acknowledged that the anarchists aimed to "dispose all the authorities, abolish the state and replace it with the organisation of the International."

As can be seen, the claim Kropotkin or Bakunin, or anarchists in general, ignored the class struggle and collective working class struggle is either a lie or indicates ignorance.

All this indicates that Stack's claim that "the huge advantage" anarcho-syndicalists have "over other anarchists was their understanding of the power of the working class, the centrality of the point of production (the workplace) and the need for collective action" is simply nonsense. Bakunin and Kropotkin, as can be seen, also understood all this. Little wonder that all serious historians see the obvious similarities between syndicalism and Bakunin's anarchism. As Kropotkin put it: "Syndicalism is nothing other than the rebirth of the International -- federalist, worker, Latin." Stack shows his ignorance yet again.

Kropotkin's comments on the state as the "protector" of capitalism, I must note, indicates the false nature of Stack's claim that "the idea that dominates anarchist thought" is that "the state is the main enemy, rather than identifying the state as one aspect of a class society that has to be destroyed." Anarchists, as Kropotkin indicates, are well aware that the state exists to defend capitalism. As he wrote elsewhere, the "State is there to protect exploitation, speculation and private property; it is itself the by-product of the rapine of the people. The proletariat must reply on his own hands; he can expect nothing of the State. It is nothing more than an organisation devised to hinder emancipation at all costs."

Similarly with Bakunin, who argued that the state "is authority, domination, and forced, organised by the property-owning and so-called enlightened classes against the masses." He saw the social revolution as destroying capitalism and the state at the same time, that is "to overturn the State's domination, and that of the privileged classes whom it solely represents." Thus the state and capitalism must be destroyed at the same time. In the words of Bakunin, "no revolution could succeed . . . today unless it was simultaneously a political and a social revolution"

To state otherwise is to misrepresent anarchist theory.

The difference between anarchists and Marxists on the issue of the state is the recognition that the state bureaucracy has interests of its own due to its hierarchical nature. This means that any state-like organisation will develop a bureaucracy with interests separate and opposed to the people it claims to represent. As Kropotkin argued, Anarchists "maintain that the State organisation, having been the force to which minorities resorted for establishing and organising their power over the masses, cannot be the force which will serve to destroy these privileges." The so-called "workers' state" is not exception to this as it is based on the same principles of delegation of power into the hands of the few every state is based on.

Stack's discussion of Kropotkin's idea of Mutual Aid is simply false. Stack's examples of "mutual aid" were, in fact, examples used by Kropotkin to show that people could organise themselves and social life without the government and without capitalist economic values. He used these as evidence that libertarian communism was not utopian but rather expressed the logical outcome of certain tendencies in social life towards anarchy and communism (see his Anarchist Communism for details).

As far as mutual aid goes, Kropotkin simply argues that it was "a factor of evolution." He wrote the book Mutual Aid to refute capitalist claims that competition was natural and only key to change. Kropotkin saw mutual aid (i.e. solidarity or co-operation) as an evolutionary response to difficulties faced by animals and humans to survive in a hostile world. Unsurprisingly, when he talks about mutual aid in modern society he discusses labour unions and strikes. He stresses that unionism was an "expression" of "the workers' need of mutual support." In other words, the realities of capitalism, of exploitation and oppression by the boss and by the state, forced workers to practice mutual aid (i.e. solidarity) and take collective action (strikes) to survive. Mutual aid (or co-operation), in other words, was the outcome of class conflict in Kropotkin's eyes and definitely not its replacement as a means of social change. As he wrote elsewhere, "the strike develops the sentiment of solidarity."

As for anarcho-syndicalists rejecting "political action," well this is not true. They reject bourgeois political action -- the standing of socialists in elections. As Rudolf Rocker noted in his classic work Anarcho-Syndicalism, "the point of attack in the political struggle lies, not in the legislative bodies, but in the people" and so anarcho-syndicalists, like other anarchists, think that it "must take the form of direct action", using" instruments of economic power." Why do anarchists reject electioneering? To quote Bakunin, the "worker-deputies, transplanted into a bourgeois environment, into an atmosphere of purely bourgeois ideas, will in fact cease to be workers and, becoming Statesmen, they will become bourgeois . . . For men do not make their situations; on the contrary, men are made by them." The history of Marxist Social Democracy and the German Greens confirmed this analysis.

Moreover, Marxist support for electioneering is somewhat at odds with their claims of being in favour of collective, mass action. There is nothing more isolated, atomised and individualistic than voting. It is the act of one person in a closet by themselves. It is the total opposite of collective struggle. The individual is alone before, during and after the act of voting. Indeed, unlike direct action, which, by its very nature, throws up new forms of organisation in order to manage and co-ordinate the struggle, voting creates no alternative organs of working class self-management. Nor can it. Neither is it based on nor does it create collective action or organisation. It simply empowers an individual (the elected representative) to act on behalf of a collection of other individuals (the voters). Such delegation will hinder collective organisation and action as the voters expect their representative to act and fight for them -- if they did not, they would not vote for them in the first place!

Given that Marxists usually slander anarchists as "individualists" the irony is delicious!

Stack revives the old Marxist myth that anarchism "yearns for what has gone." This is not true. Anarchists have always based their ideas on current developments and have always looked forward, not backwards, as would be obvious from even a quick reading of Proudhon, Bakunin or Kropotkin. Proudhon, for example, argued for "the mines, canals, railways handed over to democratically organised workers' associations . . . We want these associations to be models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies woven into the common cloth of the democratic social Republic." He stressed that workers' associations would manage production and while under capitalism "large industry . . . come to us by big monopoly and big property: it is necessary in the future to make them rise from the association."

The author claims that Bakunin "industrialisation was an evil." Actually Bakunin argued that "to destroy. . . all the instruments of labour [i.e. technology]. . . would be to condemn all humanity -- which is infinity too numerous today to exist. . . on the simple gifts of nature. . . -- to. . . death by starvation . . . Only when workers "obtain not individual but collective property in capital" and capital is no longer "concentrated in the hands of a separate, exploiting class" will they be able "to smash the tyranny of capital." Indeed, as noted above, Bakunin considered one of the first acts of the revolution would be workers' associations taking over the means of production and turning them into collective property managed by the workers themselves. Hence Daniel Guerin's comment:

"Proudhon and Bakunin were 'collectivists,' which is to say they declared themselves without equivocation in favour of the common exploitation, not by the State but by associated workers of the large-scale means of production and of the public services. Proudhon has been quite wrongly presented as an exclusive enthusiast of private property

 

With a similar disregard of facts (and logic) Stack asserts that Kropotkin's "ideal society would be based on small autonomous communities, devoted to small scale production. He had witnessed such communities among Siberian peasants and watchmakers in the Swiss mountains." Firstly, if Kropotkin actually saw these communities then how could they be "what has gone"? Secondly, Kropotkin based his classic work Field, Factories and Workshops on detailed analysis of current developments in the economy and came to the conclusion that industry would spread across the global (which has happened) and that small industries will continue to exist side by side with large ones (which also has been confirmed). From these facts he argued that a socialist society would aim to decentralise production, combining agriculture with industry and both using modern technology to the fullest. As Kropotkin argued, the "scattering of industries over the country -- so as to bring the factory amidst the fields . . . agriculture . . . combined with industry . . . to produce a combination of industrial with agricultural work -- is surely the next step to be made, as soon as a reorganisation of our present conditions is possible." He did not argue for "small-scale production" (he still saw the need for factories, for example) but rather the transformation of capitalism into a society human beings could live full and meaningful lives in.

Thirdly, the obvious implication of Stack's comments is that the SWP think that a socialist society will basically be the same as capitalism, using the technology, industrial structure and industry developed under class society without change. After all, did Lenin not argue that "Socialism is merely state capitalist monopoly made to benefit the whole people"? Needless to say, capitalist industry has not developed neutrally. Rather it has been distorted by the twin requirements to maintain capitalist profits and power. As Kropotkin stressed, the concentration of capital Marxists base their arguments for socialism on simply is "an amalgamation of capitalists for the purpose of dominating the market, not for cheapening the technical process."

The first task of the revolution will be to transform the industrial structure, not keep it as it is. Anarchists have long argued that that capitalist methods cannot be used for socialist ends. In our battle to democratise the workplace, in our awareness of the importance of collective initiatives by the direct producers in transforming the work situation, we show that factories are not merely sites of production, but also of reproduction -- the reproduction of a certain structure of social relations based on the division between those who give orders and those who take them, between those who direct and those who execute. Kropotkin's vision of a decentralised, federated communal society was one in which "the workers" were "the real managers of industries."

The real differences between anarchism and Marxism can be seen from the discussion on Kronstadt. In spite of Stack's assertion, the "central demand" of the uprising was, essentially, "all power to the soviets" (as Paul Avrich noted, "'Soviets without Communists' was not, as is often maintained by both Soviet and non-Soviet writers, a Kronstadt slogan."). They rejected the idea that soviet power equalled party power.

Thus the Kronstadt revolt was an attempt to re-introduce the soviet democracy and power abolished by the Bolsheviks before the start of the Russian Civil War. The Bolshevik suppression of Kronstadt was the end point of a series of actions by the Bolsheviks which began with them abolishing soviets which elected non-Bolshevik majorities, elected officers and soldiers soviets in the Red Army and replacing workers' self-management of production by state-appointed managers with "dictatorial" powers. While the Kronstadt revolt is an important event in showing the anti-working class nature of Bolshevism it is not the only one. The activities of the Bolsheviks before the start of the Russian Civil War indicates well Kropotkin's argument that "revolutionary government" is a contradiction in terms.

Therefore, it seems somewhat strange to here Stack blame all the repressive acts of the Bolsheviks on the Civil War. After all, they started before it. Moreover, Lenin had argued in 1917 that "revolution is the sharpest, most furious, desperate class war and civil war. Not a single great revolution in history has escaped civil war. If Bolshevism cannot survive the inevitable then it is hardly a model to follow.

Stack argues that the Russian working class had been "decimated" by 1921. While there is no denying that the urban working class had been greatly reduced in number, it cannot be said to have disappeared. Nor had its ability for collective action (and so collective decision making) been destroyed. After all, the Kronstadt uprising was provoked by a wave of strikes, protest meetings and demonstrations (and Bolshevik repression of them) in Petrograd. Similar events occurred in Moscow. As Bakunin argued, strikes showed "indicate a certain collective strength" and, after all, it was a similar spontaneous wave of protest which had created the soviets and factory committees in 1917.

This indicates that Stack's argument is flawed. Rather than objective factors eliminating soviet democracy, we can point to Bolshevik politics and actions as contributing to its destruction. After all, the Russian workers were strong enough to strike, to take collective action, in the face of terrible objective conditions. Why could they not collectively manage society in their soviets? Perhaps because the Bolsheviks would not let them as the workers would not have voted for the "workers" party?

Similarly, Stack argues that the Bolsheviks could not allow workers to vote freely after the end of the Civil War as this would inevitably result in White victory, a victory Stack argues the working class "would have paid a huge price." Yes, by repressing Kronstadt Lenin and Trotsky saved the revolution -- saved it for Stalin. The ramifications of suppressing Kronstadt and the arguments used to justify the "revolutionary" Bolshevik dictatorship paved the way for Stalinism, but the SWP appear incapable of seeing this.

Ultimately, Stack's comments show that the SWP's commitment to workers' power and democracy is non-existent. If the party leaders decide a decision by the masses is incorrect, then the masses are overridden (and repressed). What is there left of workers' self-emancipation, power or democracy when "the workers state" turns on the workers for trying to practice these essential features of any real form of socialism? As Trotsky put it in 1921: As if the Party were not entitled to assert its dictatorship even if that dictatorship clashed with the passing moods of the workers' democracy!" He continued by stating the "Party is obliged to maintain its dictatorship . . . regardless of temporary vacillations even in the working class . . . The dictatorship does not base itself at every moment on the formal principle of a workers' democracy."

In this he followed Lenin. While the SWP like to say they are for "socialism from below," Lenin argued in 1905 that "the principle, 'only from below' is an anarchist principle." For Lenin, Marxists must be in favour of "From above as well as from below" and "renunciation of pressure also from above is anarchism" According to Lenin, "pressure from below is pressure by the citizens on the revolutionary government. Pressure from above is pressure by the revolutionary government on the citizens." Needless to say, having the weapons and armed forces makes the "pressure" of the "revolutionary" government much stronger than the pressure of the citizens (as the Russian workers discovered). In 1920, he was arguing that "revolutionary coercion is bound to be employed towards the wavering and unstable elements among the masses themselves." Who is such an element? Anyone who does not do what the party decrees.

It is the experience of Bolshevism in power that best refutes the Marxist claim that the workers' state "will be democratic and participatory. Once workers have taken power they will set about the task of creating a new world free from exploitation and class struggle." Rather than the workers' taking power in Russian, it was the Bolshevik party which took power (as Trotsky noted, "the proletariat can take power only through its vanguard.") Rather than the working class as a whole "seizing power", it is the "vanguard" which takes power -- "a revolutionary party, even after seizing power . . . is still by no means the sovereign ruler of society." (Trotsky) Which is, of course, true. They are still organs of working class self-management (such as factory committees, workers councils, trade unions, soldier committees) through which working people can still exercise their sovereignty. Let us not forget that it was precisely these organs which the Bolsheviks came into conflict with and abolished or undermined in favour of party/state power.

Anarchists are well aware of the fact that there is an "uneven consciousness" within the working class. That is why we organise into groups and federations to influence the class struggle as equals within working class organisations. However, the Leninist solution to this problem (party power) creates minority rule as the party uses its so-called advanced ideas to repress workers who refuse to accept them. A revolution will solve social problems in the interests of the working class only if working class people solve them themselves. For this to happen it requires working class people to manage their own affairs directly and that implies self-managed organising from the bottom up (i.e. anarchism) rather than delegating power to a minority at the top, to a "revolutionary" party or government. This applies economically, socially and politically. As Bakunin argued, the "revolution should not only be made for the people's sake; it should also be made by the people." Bolshevism in theory and in practice justifies the repression of workers in their "objective" interests (as determined by the party). Little wonder the Bolshevik tradition is being rejected by a new generation of activists.

As I noted above, there is so much more I could write but space excludes it. For example, I could have discussed Proudhon's ideas more fully and shown that he, like Bakunin and Kropotkin, saw the central role of the working class in changing society and how his ideas were not solely for the artisan or peasant. Similarly, I could discuss how anarchist's organise to win people to our ideas in more depth. Equally, I could indicate why the events of the Spanish Revolution indicate a failure of anarchists rather than a failure of anarchism. If your readers are interested in finding out what anarchism really stands for as well as an anarchist discussion on the Spanish Revolution I would suggest they visit this webpage: www.anarchistfaq.org

yours in disgust

Iain McKay

Second letter to Socialist Review Magazine

(submitted but unpublished)

Dear Socialist Review

I must admit to being bemused by Howard Miles reply to my letter (Socialist Review no. 249). He states that the "nub of the issue in this debate seems to consist of disagreement over two fundamental notions," namely that "democratic centralist revolutionary party is necessary for a successful socialist revolution" and, secondly, "the necessity of a workers' state arising from a socialist revolution." Nothing could be further from the truth. While these are two fundamental disagreements between anarchism and Marxism, they had absolutely nothing to do with my letter, which indicated how Pat Stack had misrepresented anarchist thought in his article. That Mr. Miles fails to acknowledge this is sad, if not unsurprising. It seems that Stack is not the only SWP member who considers accuracy as an irrelevance when discussing other points of view.

I am happy to discuss Miles arguments, in spite of their irrelevance to the content of my letter. He asks "do anarchists imagine that the capitalist class internationally will just give up and go away" after a revolution? The "threat of counter-revolution," he argues, necessitates "both local and national structures, under the control of the mass of the working class." Anarchists are well aware of this. To quote Bakunin:

"the federative alliance of all working men's associations . . . constitute the Commune . . . all provinces, communes and associations . . . by first reorganising on revolutionary lines . . . [will] constitute the federation of insurgent associations, communes and provinces . . . [and] organise a revolutionary force capable defeating reaction . . . [and for] self-defence . . . [The] revolution everywhere must be created by the people, and supreme control must always belong to the people organised into a free federation of agricultural and industrial associations . . . organised from the bottom upwards by means of revolutionary delegation. . ."

As can be seen, we are clear on this issue (and the others he wonders about). Not that Miles did not know this already, as this quote is contained in the same article as the "fighting fire with fire" analogy he uses (www.infoshop.org/texts/swp.html). Perhaps his use of this analogy is pure co-incidence, but I doubt it.

Now I turn to his argument that the "political unevenness that exists within the working class" makes federalism impractical. Miles talks about "enabling the class to seize power." Is this the actual aim of Leninism? Let us quote Trotsky: "the proletariat can take power only through its vanguard." Thus, rather than the working class as a whole seizing power, it is the "vanguard" which takes power -- "a revolutionary party, even after seizing power . . . is still by no means the sovereign ruler of society." Which is, of course, true -- they are still organs of working class self-management (such as factory committees, workers councils, trade unions, soldier committees) through which working people can still exercise their sovereignty. Such working class organs do conflict with the sovereign rule of the party and so have to be undermined. Little wonder the Bolsheviks disbanded soviets with elected non-Bolshevik majorities, decreed the end of soldier democracy in the Red Army and urged "dictatorial" one-man management instead of workers' self-management.

Why does the "revolutionary party" have to be the "sovereign ruler of society" rather than the working class as a whole? Simply because of the latter's "political unevenness." As Trotsky argued:

"The dictatorship of a party belongs to the barbarian prehistory as does the state itself, but we can not jump over this chapter. . . Abstractly speaking, it would be very well if the party dictatorship could be replaced by the 'dictatorship' of the whole toiling people without any party, but this presupposes such a high level of political development among the masses that it can never be achieved under capitalist conditions. The reason for the revolution comes from the circumstance that capitalism does not permit the material and the moral development of the masses."

In this he was just repeating the Platform of the Left Opposition and its "Leninist principle" ("inviolable for every Bolshevik") that "the dictatorship of the proletariat is and can be realised only through the dictatorship of the party."

Such a position necessitates centralism, of course, but it is a denial of workers' power and any claim that the working class seizes power in the so-called "workers' state." Centralism was designed for minority rule and to "exclude the mass of people from taking part in decision-making processes in society" in class society (again Miles is paraphrasing my article), so it comes as no surprise that Bolshevism argues for it.

Miles states that "failure to use the only form of revolutionary organisation that has worked in the past" will "inevitably condemn future revolutions to failure." Strange. Did the Russian Revolution actually result in soviet democracy? Far from it. The Kronstadt revolt was repressed because it demanded soviet power. Nor was this an isolated example. The Bolsheviks had been disbanding soviets with elected non-Bolshevik majorities since early 1918 (i.e. before the start of the Civil War).

It will, of course, be argued that the Civil War caused the degeneration of the revolution. Let us ignore that this had begun before it started (as well as Trotsky's arguments) and instead assume that the Civil War was the cause of party dictatorship. Lenin argued in 1917 that "not a single great revolution in history has escaped civil war." If Civil War is inevitable and Bolshevism cannot survive it without degenerating then, clearly, Bolshevism failed in the Russian Revolution. Bolshevism, with its centralism, party power and statism did not work in the past, as Russia proved.

The real "nub" of the issue is whether you confuse workers' power with party power. Leninism clearly does. Anarchism does not. We do not deny that there is political unevenness within the working class. Indeed, that is why we support federalism (and the need for specific anarchist organisations to influence the class struggle). Only by encouraging the active participation of working class people in their own organisations, struggles and revolution can the political development of the working classes be ensured. By discussing and debating the needs of the class struggle and revolution, by organising from the bottom up and using federated workers' councils to co-ordinate struggle, the political awareness of the majority will be increased. By centralising power in a state, this process is aborted as the working class is divested of its power to manage its own revolution and its organisations just become fig leafs for party power.

That is why anarchists follow Bakunin when he argued for "the free organisation of the working masses from below upwards" as the basis of a real working class revolution. If you are interested in real "socialism from below" discover anarchism ("the principle, 'only from below' is an anarchist principle" -- Lenin). I would again suggest you visit www.anarchistfaq.org.uk for details and a further discussion of these issues.

yours sincerely

Iain McKay

The SWP versus Anarchism

(from an leaflet handed out at the SWP's Marxism event)

Here are a few quotes from Pat Stack's Socialist Review article "Anarchy in the UK?" which formed the basis of his talk at Marxism 2001. Ask yourself why the SWP leadership systematically lies about anarchism and, more importantly, why its membership lets them get away with it. Can you trust anything they tell you?

"Anarchism... despises the collectivity... By dismissing the importance of the collective nature of change anarchism, of necessity, downplays the centrality of the working class... For... anarchists, revolutions were not about... collective struggle" (Stack)

"Organise ever more strongly the practical militant solidarity of the workers of all trades in all countries... you will constitute an immense irresistible force when organised and united in the universal collectivity." (Bakunin)

"To be able to make the revolution, the mass of workers will have to organise themselves. Resistance and the strike are excellent means of organisation for doing this... It is a question of organising societies of resistance for all trades in each town... of giving more solidarity to the workers' organisations... of federating them." (Kropotkin)

"the idea that dominates anarchist thought, namely that the state is the main enemy, rather than identifying the state as one aspect of a class society that has to be destroyed." (Stack)

"The Anarchists consider the wage system and capitalist production altogether as an obstacle to progress... while combatting the present monopolisation of land, and capitalism altogether, the Anarchists combat with the same energy the State."(Kropotkin)

"I think that equality must be established... by... the collective ownership of producers' associations, freely organised and federated into communes... [and] by the development and organisation... of the social power of the working masses... The future social organisation must be made solely from the bottom upwards, by the free association or federation of workers, firstly in their unions, then in the communes, regions, nations and finally in a great federation, international and universal." (Bakunin)

"State is there to protect exploitation, speculation and private property; it is itself the by-product of the rapine of the people. The proletariat must rely on his own hands; he can expect nothing of the State. It is nothing more than an organisation devised to hinder emancipation at all costs." (Kropotkin)

"For Bakunin . . . skilled artisans and organised factory workers, far from being the source of the destruction of capitalism, were 'tainted by pretensions and aspirations' . . . the 'uncivilised, disinherited, illiterate', as he put it, would be his agents for change." (Stack)

"Organise the city proletariat . . . unite it into one preparatory organisation together with the peasantry . . . Only a wide-sweeping revolution embracing both the city workers and peasants would be sufficiently strong to overthrow . . . the State, backed as it is by all the resources of the possessing classes." (Bakunin)

"Kropotkin, far from seeing class conflict as the dynamic for social change... saw co-operation being at the root of the social process... It follows that if class conflict is not the motor of change, the working class is not the agent and collective struggle not the means." (Stack)

"Anarchists... have endeavoured to promote their ideas directly amongst the labour organisations and to induce those unions to a direct struggle against capital, without placing their faith in parliamentary legislation." (Kropotkin)

"The union is absolutely necessary. It is the only form of workers' grouping which permits the direct struggle to be maintained against capital without falling into parliamentarism." (Kropotkin)

"The huge advantage [anarcho-syndicalists] had over other anarchists was their understanding of the power of the working class, the centrality of the point of production (the workplace) and the need for collective action." (Stack)

"To become strong you must unite... nothing less is needed than the union of all local and national workers' associations into a worldwide association... It means workers' solidarity in their struggle against the bosses. It means trades-unions, organisation." (Bakunin)

"Anarchists have always advised taking an active part in those workers' organisations which carry on the direct struggle of Labour against Capital and its protector - the State." (Kropotkin)

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Pat Stack proves my point

Oh man, Pat Stack strikes again... and using the same false arguments I refuted 10 years ago! Here it is:

Is anarchism more radical than socialism?

This "new" article repeats the same nonsense as the one 10 years ago. And that article was SO bad I used it extensively in An Anarchist FAQ (I discuss where at the end of this blog -- On the Picket Line). I'll extract a few claims and link to the appropriate sections of An Anarchist FAQ (AFAQ).

Unlike the leading anarchists of the 19th century, Marx recognised the progress capitalism represented.

Note no quotations to bad that up -- it is just assumed to be true. Yet Proudhon, for example, recognised that society evolved and changed. He looked to tendencies within capitalism which pointed to a system after it, one which would solve the contradictions within capitalism. Still why let facts get in the way?

Leadership does however mean battling for ideas.

J.3.6 What role do these groups play in anarchist theory?

They are organised democratically and they act in a centralised way.

H.5 What is vanguardism and why do anarchists reject it?

For anarchists, the question of organisation remains a largely unanswered one.

J.3 What kinds of organisation do anarchists build?

Historically, organisation is either rejected outright or attempts to build it have floundered because of its loose and confused nature, or conversely because of the building of conspiratorial and elitist formations.

H.2.14 Are anarchist organisations "ineffective," "elitist" or "downright bizarre"?

Small elitist groups carrying out acts that make no sense to the majority who support their cause are likely to leave those supporters confused and demobilised.

H.2.11 Are anarchists "anti-democratic"?

and:

H.2.2 Do anarchists reject "class conflict" and "collective struggle"?

While Marxists see the state as an apparatus that acts to protect the class system, anarchists tend to see it as the enemy in and of itself. This can lead to utter confusion.

H.2.4 Do anarchists think "the state is the main enemy"?

The father of anarchism, French socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, is most famous for stating that “all property is theft”.

Christ, he even gets Proudhon's most famour quote wrong. It is Property is Theft!

But his alternative to the growing power of big capitalist firms was to look to small-scale production linked by a network of exchange of goods and services.

Not remotely true. As Proudhon stressed in 1846: “M. de Sismondi, like all men of patriarchal ideas, would like the division of labour, with machinery and manufactures, to be abandoned, and each family to return to the system of primitive indivision, – that is, to each one by himself, each one for himself, in the most literal meaning of the words. That would be to retrograde; it is impossible.” (System of Economic Contradictions). Proudhon argued for workers associations to run large-scale production. I discuss this in the introduction to Property is Theft!

I also cover it in AFAQ, using Stack's words from ten years ago:

I.3.8 Do anarchists seek "small autonomous communities, devoted to small scale production"?

This view of the state leads anarchists to reject not just the capitalist state, but post-revolutionary workers’ states that would be necessary to defend the revolution against its capitalist enemies.

B.2 Why are anarchists against the state?

and:

H.2.1 Do anarchists reject defending a revolution?

and:

I.5.5 Are participatory communities and confederations not just new states?

Stack's new piece is a sad, sad article... He has still not read an anarchist book after ten years... and so, in other words, proving why re-posting this article made perfect sense...

Congrats.

There's sectarianism, and then there's dredging up sectarian squabbles from a decade ago... Very constructive. You should be proud of yourselves.

The SWP will repeat these arguments...

"Sectarian squabbles"? Correcting complete and utter distortions about anarchism, more like! 

And the sad thing is, articles like Stack's come out all the time in Leninist circles. I'm sure that the events of 26th of March will produce another article along these lines. So in terms of being "proud of yourselves", well, as long as the SWP produces rubbish against anarchism then articles like these are necessary.

I've lost track of how many times I've seen the SWP come out with rubbish like Stack's -- so it is useful to, firstly, counter these incorrect claims and, secondly, to show that these distortions are an all too regular feature of Leninism.

good prediction

 I think Anarcho wins this one, here on que is the latest rubbish SWP article on Anarchism repeating all the same old sad lies dealt with a decade and longer ago

A reply to the new sectarian attack by the SWP

Another anarchist has replied to the new SWP sectarian attack:

An open letter to Socialist Worker on autonomism and the fight for change

I've add a few comments, including a link to this article as evidence that the SWP has a (long) track record of producing dishonest articles about anarchism.

Now, I would say, that shows that republishing these replies here was a very useful thing to do... and my prediction that the SWP would produce more sectarian nonsense like Stack's has come true....

Opps, the SWP did it again...

In situations like this, anarchists can appear very radical—let’s take the small group we’ve got and go for it! Marxists, in repeating the importance of “mass action” which involves more than just a small group of activists, can seem a bit tedious by comparison.

Ah, that is what Stack asserted over ten years ago! And I exposed that claim as nonsense back then...  So I could now link to my article, which is handly!

One important form of capitalist organisation is the state. The state is a tool the rich minority use to maintain their class rule, sometimes violently.

Needless to say, anarchists have long recognised this. In fact, Proudhon argued this in 1846 and revolutionary anarchists have all argued precisely this point.

Autonomists and Marxists often disagree over what to do about this.

Need I point out that Automists ARE Marxists? Strange that the SWP do not mention that...

To build a revolution that will last, workers have to smash the capitalist state.

As if anarchists did not argue that....

Socialists stand side by side with autonomists in united fronts, in working class struggles and in front of police lines .

Wait a minute, did you not just claim that autonomists rejected mass struggles?

Karl Marx identified the key to overthrowing capitalism—the mass power of the international working class.

As if Bakunin had not argued the same... and it should be mentioned that for Marx that power was political -- he disagreed with Bakunin over "political action", on political parties seeking votes to get socialist parties into power. Bakunin argued for revolutionary unionism, for economic struggle and direct action. One from the archive:

Syndicalism, Anarchsm and Marxism

I think looking at the subsequent history of the labour movement, you would have to conclude that Bakunin was right...

No,

This is sectarianism at its most transparent.

If "articles like Stack's come out all the time in Leninist circles"--SO often in fact that you've actually "lost track"--then why not take a more recent one to respond to, instead of dredging up one from a decade ago? You must be spoilt for choice.

If the SWP does produce another anti-anarchist article in the near future that caricatures anarchism, then by all means respond to that. If that's the case, then the SWP would be at fault. But this 'pre-emptive' polemic is absolute bullshit sectarianism.

Leninism vs anarchism is such a circus. Neither side seems capable of a good-faith critique of the other. It's all caricature and pointless esoteric sectarianism that means nothing to anyone outside of the various sects. Bakunin this, Krondstadt that - no ordinary working person cares in the least.

This absolutely stinks of bad feelings and personal baggage.

The point is to help build a revolutionary workers' movement.

Has the SWP ever done this, dredged up an anti-Leninist article from a decade ago?

It is not sectarianism to state the facts

This is sectarianism at its most transparent.

Really? No, it is correcting an extremely sectarian attack by the SWP...

If "articles like Stack's come out all the time in Leninist circles"--SO often in fact that you've actually "lost track"--then why not take a more recent one to respond to, instead of dredging up one from a decade ago? You must be spoilt for choice.

I'm at a lost for words... I originally wrote this when the SWP printed the article and posted it on my old webpage. I regularly transfer old articles from that site here. It just happens that after an exchange on my picket line (see here -- includes a list of replies to other inaccurate attacks by the ISO/SWP on anarchism) with a member of the SWP I thought it was time to transfer this old article as well. Hardly sectarianism...

In terms of "more recent" articles by the SWP, there was another deeply inaccurate one a few months back in International Socialism. However, I did not reply due to lack of time. Unlike transfering old articles, writing new ones take time. Time which I currently have little of and think is better spent doing other things.

If the SWP does produce another anti-anarchist article in the near future that caricatures anarchism, then by all means respond to that. If that's the case, then the SWP would be at fault. But this 'pre-emptive' polemic is absolute bullshit sectarianism.

Sorry, WTF? How is this "pre-emptive" when it is replying to a previous anti-anarchist article? And it is useful to remember previous distortions by the SWP -- it shows that these are not accidents.

Leninism vs anarchism is such a circus. Neither side seems capable of a good-faith critique of the other. It's all caricature and pointless esoteric sectarianism that means nothing to anyone outside of the various sects. Bakunin this, Krondstadt that - no ordinary working person cares in the least.

Ah, I love false equivancy! The SWP publish an article full of distortions about anarchism and anarchists reply by pointing out the facts -- and they are both sectarian!

This absolutely stinks of bad feelings and personal baggage.

Or, more accurately, a desire to explain the truth about anarchism by refuting SWP lies about it.

The point is to help build a revolutionary workers' movement.

Quite -- and how is the SWP lying about anarchism going to do that?

Has the SWP ever done this, dredged up an anti-Leninist article from a decade ago?

As I explained, I am in the process of transferring material from my old webpage. A recent exchange on the picket line made me think that this article would be a good one to transfer (and I've transferred a significant number of articles before this).

Now, in terms of the SWP they keep repeating the same old myths about anarchism -- time and time again. These distortions keep getting debunked but they keep getting raised. This is an contribution to this debunking.

I do find it interesting, though, that while you criticise my reply you are silent on Stack's work. Unlike Stack's article, my reply is based on actual evidence -- namely quotes by anarchists explaining what they actually argued. Now, how is it "sectarian" to point out how Stack utterly misrepresents anarchist ideas? For example, to claim that Bakunin or Kropotkin rejected collective class struggle is demonstrably false -- as I have demonstrated. It is hardly sectarian to establish the truth.

...

Really? No, it is correcting an extremely sectarian attack by the SWP...

No, it's reprinting a 'correction' of a sectarian attack the SWP made ten years ago in an effort to pre-empt any similar attacks they might make in the immediate future. It is therefore nothing more than a pre-emptive attack on the SWP. That is, a pre-emptive attack on another left sect. That is, sectarianism at its most transparent.

Sorry, WTF? How is this "pre-emptive" when it is replying to a previous anti-anarchist article? And it is useful to remember previous distortions by the SWP -- it shows that these are not accidents.

It is pre-emptive because it is not "replying to a previous anti-anarchist article", it is the reposting of a decade-old reply to a decade-old anti-anarchist article, in case some of the same kinds of people might have it in mind to say some of the same kind of things in the near future. It is the equivalent of putting words in people's mouths and is intellectually in extremely bad faith.

Ah, I love false equivancy! The SWP publish an article full of distortions about anarchism and anarchists reply by pointing out the facts -- and they are both sectarian!

Yes.

You think what you've written are "the facts", the SWP think what they've written are "the facts". To a disinterested or skeptical observer you all look like bickering, territorial grudge-holders with a hugely inflated sense of your own political and cultural relevance. The entire repetitive spectacle is embarassing and, speaking from personal experience, tremendously disappointing, demoralising and frustrating.

I am not remotely interested in the content of the 'Leninist vs anarchist' squabbles, given that they typically take the form of "my dead heroes are better than your dead heroes!" Nobody outside of irrelevant left sects gives a crap about what Bakunin or Kropotkin did or did not believe. No one even knows who they were. The working classes do not care about these arcane, esoteric squabbles, and they never, ever will.

Or, more accurately, a desire to explain the truth about anarchism by refuting SWP lies about it.

Right right right... The 'truth' and 'lies' about anarchism. And then the SWP responds to explain the 'truth' and 'lies' about Leninism. And round and round we go, circling the drain.

Quite -- and how is the SWP lying about anarchism going to do that?

It's not. And nor is some anarchist organisation 'lying' about Leninism. Nor is any intra-left bickering over obscure historical minutiae.

I do find it interesting, though, that while you criticise my reply you are silent on Stack's work.

I have not criticised the content of your article. I have criticised the intentions behind reposting it. Which you now seem to be on the backfoot about.

You first admitted your intentions were to pre-empt the alleged 'certainty' of "another article along these lines", and to make a broader indictment of Leninism in general, of which such articles, you claim, "are an all too regular feature".

So, in a word, sectarianism.

Now you're trying to make it seem like you were just innocently transfering articles from another site and that instinctual territorialism, grudges and egos don't have anything to do with it.

Yeah, right.

No one ever admits to sectarianism. It's a bit like racism in that regard: "Now, I don't mean to be sectarian, but *some transparently sectarian remark*."

The SWP should not be your rivals or your enemies. And the same goes for the SWP's attitude to anarchists. Although in my experience Leninists seem to spend a lot less time denouncing anarchists than anarchists do denouncing Leninists.

stating the facts is not sectarianism....

No, it's reprinting a 'correction' of a sectarian attack the SWP made ten years ago in an effort to pre-empt any similar attacks they might make in the immediate future. It is therefore nothing more than a pre-emptive attack on the SWP. That is, a pre-emptive attack on another left sect. That is, sectarianism at its most transparent.

Well, I explained why I republished this article. I'll repeat myself. I was on the picket line and I got into a discussion with an SWP member there to sell papers. That got me thinking about Stack's article, so I decided that it would be easy and quick to transfer it over from my old webpage as part of my continuing task of moving material over. Hardly "pre-emptive" -- although I was sure (from experience) that such inaccurate claims would be repeated by the SWP or some other Leninist sect again.

I did so because I think it is useful to have an archive of material like this because, first, it shows that the SWP have a track record in this kind of thing and, second, the distortions raised by Stack are sadly all too common and need to be debunked. Stack's article is particularly bad because he makes claims which are easily shown to be the exact opposite of the truth (which I did). Interestingly, even though the SWP published my initial letter Pat Stack repeated the same lies at Marxism 2001....

It is pre-emptive because it is not "replying to a previous anti-anarchist article", it is the reposting of a decade-old reply to a decade-old anti-anarchist article, in case some of the same kinds of people might have it in mind to say some of the same kind of things in the near future.

Ah, right -- so the fact that a leading member of the SWP just made stuff-up in their magazine is of no import...  But I've explained (again) why it is posted. Personally, I think having archives is important -- being able to point people to old articles is useful. So, for example, if I say that the SWP have a record of distorting anarchist ideas and people do not believe me, then I can give them links which show it.

It is the equivalent of putting words in people's mouths and is intellectually in extremely bad faith.

Ah, right, I guess I should leave that to the SWP and their articles on anarchism? Look, I did not put these words in the mouths of a leading member of the SWP. I did not force the SWP editors to commission and publish Stack's article. I did not force any of them to make-up nonsense about anarchism. What I did was to expose their lies at the time and consider this lying by the SWP important. 

I've been to SWP meetings on anarchism and read their articles on anarchism for over 25 years. The same nonsense is made time and time again. Exposing this and showing the facts is important. Perhaps if enough people read replies like this then it will get the SWP to have an honest discussion about anarchism. As it stands, it is useful to have resources available to back up claims that you cannot trust anything the SWP say about anarchism.

You think what you've written are "the facts", the SWP think what they've written are "the facts".

Stack proclaimed that Bakunin and Kropotkin rejected collective class struggle. That is easily disproved -- I disproved it. Please point to anything in my article which is incorrect. I pointed to, and provided evidence, distortions in Stack's article. The facts are on my side.

To a disinterested or skeptical observer you all look like bickering, territorial grudge-holders with a hugely inflated sense of your own political and cultural relevance. 

Actually, no. The sceptical observer would see that I am showed, by means of actual quotes, that Stack's claims were false. They would, I hope, ponder why the SWP would publish an article on anarchism which was so obviously false.

I am not remotely interested in the content of the 'Leninist vs anarchist' squabbles, given that they typically take the form of "my dead heroes are better than your dead heroes!"

Oh, right, you are not interested in whether the SWP accurately reflected the ideas of anarchism. That, I think, sums it up pretty well. In short, the SWP can lie about anarchism as much as they like but if anarchists object and prove this is the case then it is sectarianism!

Nobody outside of irrelevant left sects gives a crap about what Bakunin or Kropotkin did or did not believe. No one even knows who they were.

Sadly true, but that does not stop the necessity to expose false claims about Bakunin and Kropotkin. Stack, clearly, did not give a crap about what Bakunin and Kropotkin believed. He wrote an article and gave a speach showing that. Readers of that article could think that Stack knew what he was talking about. Hence the pressing need to show that, one, he did not and, two, that even a little bit of basic research would show that they believed the exact opposite of what Stack claimed.

The working classes do not care about these arcane, esoteric squabbles, and they never, ever will.

Well, I'm working class. I care about trival things like facts and whether debates within our movement are based on facts and accuracy.

Right right right... The 'truth' and 'lies' about anarchism. And then the SWP responds to explain the 'truth' and 'lies' about Leninism. And round and round we go, circling the drain.

Clearly you do not care about honest and accurate debate. Shame.

It's not. And nor is some anarchist organisation 'lying' about Leninism.

And where am I lying about Leninism?

Nor is any intra-left bickering over obscure historical minutiae.

Correcting someone who proclaims that anarchists reject collective class struggle is not "bickering over obscure historical munutiae". To state that, say, Bakunin rejected collective class struggle is to state the exact opposite of the facts. How can you have a real debate if one side just makes things up?

You first admitted your intentions were to pre-empt the alleged 'certainty' of "another article along these lines", and to make a broader indictment of Leninism in general, of which such articles, you claim, "are an all too regular feature".

And, believe me, they are. I've been to enough SWP meetings on anarchism, read enough SWP articles on anarchism over the many, many years to know that this is a comment feature of the party. That is why having these kinds of articles available, as an archive, is useful. You know, so you can save time and effort having to write new replies to the same old assertions....

So, in a word, sectarianism.

Nope, replying to sectarianism. If I thought the SWP would start producing honest accounts of anarchism I would not bother. I would mark this as a one-off. It is not.

Now you're trying to make it seem like you were just innocently transfering articles from another site and that instinctual territorialism, grudges and egos don't have anything to do with it.

I explained my actions. I'll explain again. Provoked by an exchange on the picket-line with an SWP member, I decided that I would transfer this article from the old webpage. Why? Because I knew that at some stage we would get another sectarian attack from the SWP (which we have) and so would be useful to have. It would also be good to combine the initial reply, the second letter and the quotes into one article (there were in three different ones on the old site) Also I thought visitors to this site may find this reply of interest (and it seems many do) as they may not know of my old site nor been in the movement ten years ago.

I think it is useful to provide resources like this because when a SWP member proclaims that we anarchists reject collective class struggle when this article can be linked to. The reply shows how wrong that kind of claim is -- with relevant quotes. Still, I'm sure saying "that's not true" is just as effective as providing a link to an article which shows, with evidence, why such claims are false.

No one ever admits to sectarianism.

Quite. And explaining the facts in response to a sectarian attack is not sectarianism.

The SWP should not be your rivals or your enemies. And the same goes for the SWP's attitude to anarchists.

So why did the SWP publish such an obviously incorrect article about anarchism? I sense yet more false equivalency...

Although in my experience Leninists seem to spend a lot less time denouncing anarchists than anarchists do denouncing Leninists.

I rarely plan to write articles on Leninism. I almost always write articles about, say, the SWP when I read an inaccurate attack on anarchism by them. If someone makes a claim about anarchism which is factually incorrect, then I will often take the time to refute those claims (with appropriate evidence). I consider having an archive of such articles, like my other articles on other subjects, as useful so that I (and others) can link to them when others make similar claims.

Still, I guess it is sectarianism to have resources available to refute sadly all too common distortions about anarchism. I guess we should just shut up and let the likes of the SWP make up rubbish about anarchism... I'm sure the facts will come out, eventually, by themselves...

How can you expect Leninists and anarchists to cooperate?

Why should people be forced into some broad coalition when they have vastly different political opinions? This strategy has been tried before and you can see how well it's worked. How many Internationals are there now? Four? Last I heard Chavez was trying to start a fifth! Hey, maybe it will finally work the sixth time around. Everyone knows that when you keep doing something and it doesn't get the result you want, the only solution is to do it harder!

You say that "Leninism vs anarchism is such a circus. Neither side seems capable of a good-faith critique of the other. " And you expect these same sides, which aren't even "capable of a good-faith critique of the other," to hold hands and get along? Really?

Also, what do Leninism and anarchism really have in common? The central tenet of the first group is to strengthen the state (once it gets power, of course) and the central tenet of the other is to abolish it. How can people with such radically different desires cooperate? Sure, they both might dislike capitalism and the capitalist state, but once the capitalists and their state are gone, then what? You can't have a state that is both strong and non-existent! One side is going to have to give up on its central tenet by definition.

So no, neither side should be worried about sectarianism. What they should be worried about is groups that try to get them to give up some of their core beliefs in the name of "solidarity." Those that want you to compromise are often the ones least likely to do so themselves.

Oh look - a case in point.

I said nothing about coalitions or 'holding hands', and you clearly have no idea what you're talking about. The four internationals you're referring to (in the context of Chavez's notions of starting a fifth) are historically consecutive. They didn't coexist. In fact there are now innumerable associated sects around the world laying claim to the same title.

And this is exactly the problem! Pointing out the problem does not dissolve or solve the problem.

You act as though I haven't charged Leninists with the exact same criticism.

- You say that "Leninism vs anarchism is such a circus. Neither side seems capable of a good-faith critique of the other. " And you expect these same sides, which aren't even "capable of a good-faith critique of the other," to hold hands and get along? Really? -

This is gibberish. Yes, I expect (or, in fact, I don't, but I would like) these people to stop behaving the way they're behaving. If they are incapable of informed, good-faith critiques of each other, as they clearly seem to be, then they should simply stop critiquing each other, as it is, a) pointless, and b) sectarian.

They are wasting their time and reinforcing divisions in the movement.

- Also, what do Leninism and anarchism really have in common? The central tenet of the first group is to strengthen the state (once it gets power, of course) and the central tenet of the other is to abolish it. How can people with such radically different desires cooperate? Sure, they both might dislike capitalism and the capitalist state, but once the capitalists and their state are gone, then what? You can't have a state that is both strong and non-existent! One side is going to have to give up on its central tenet by definition. -

The exact kind of misinformed drivel that I'm referring to.

If you believe that "the central tenet of [Leninism] is to strengthen the state" then you do not understand the first goddamn thing about Leninism, or Marxism, or the state. And I'm not about to tutor you here. If you ever develop some genuine intellectual curiosity and start reading outside your anarchist comfort zone you'll find out easily enough.

- So no, neither side should be worried about sectarianism. What they should be worried about is groups that try to get them to give up some of their core beliefs in the name of "solidarity." Those that want you to compromise are often the ones least likely to do so themselves. -

Juvenile, ineffectual, territorial purism, a product of 'leftism' as a personal lifestyle choice rather than leftism as any kind of serious, practical struggle. Though I'd expect nothing else from someone who thinks anarchists and Leninists don't share political aims.

The fragmentation of the left is crippling, so yes, we should all be very worried about sectarianism. That is, if we're really interested in affecting change, and not just smug and comfy in our 'adventurous', 'rebellious' lifestyles.

Leninism and the state....

If you believe that "the central tenet of [Leninism] is to strengthen the state" then you do not understand the first goddamn thing about Leninism, or Marxism, or the state.

Well, a central tenet of Leninism is to create the so-called workers' state. They are quite explicit about it. Sure, in Lenin's State and Revolution he suggested that the state would start withering away right from the start. That was the election manifesto.

What happened when the Bolsheviks seized power? Well, an increase in state power -- the creation of an executive power above the soviets, an executive which degree for itself legislative power, which created a political police force (the Cheka), that decreed the abolition of elections in the armed forces, that repressed strikes, gerrymandered and disbanded soviets, and so on.

What lessons did the Bolsheviks draw from their experiences? By 1919 the necessity of party dictatorship was an ideological truism. The need for the party to hold state power is at the heart of Leninism. Here is Trotsky from 1938:

"The very same masses are at different times inspired by different moods and objectives. It is just for this reason that a centralised organisation of the vanguard is indispensable. Only a party, wielding the authority it has won, is capable of overcoming the vacillation of the masses themselves . . . if the dictatorship of the proletariat means anything at all, then it means that the vanguard of the proletariat is armed with the resources of the state in order to repel dangers, including those emanating from the backward layers of the proletariat itself." ["The Moralists and Sycophants against Marxism", pp. 53-66, Their Morals and Ours, p. 59]

Needless to say, by definition everyone is "backward" when compared to the "vanguard of the proletariat." Moreover, as it is this "vanguard" which is "armed with the resources of the state" and not the proletariat as a whole we are left with one obvious conclusion. How Trotsky's position is compatible with the idea of the working class as the "ruling class" is not explained.

I would suggest that this shows that anarchists do understand quite a lot about Leninism and the state. As for Marxism, well, I know that Lenin does not equal Marxism and that Marxism can go from Social Democracy to Council Communism and Autonomism. The latter are close to anarchism, which is probably why Leninists lump us together.

In short, proclaiming "the vanguard of the proletariat is armed with the resources of the state" does imply a strengthening of the state. Perhaps Trotsky did "not understand the first goddamn thing about Leninism, or Marxism, or the state"?

Obeying others's commands is freedom

"I said nothing about coalitions or 'holding hands'"

Well then what is the opposite of sectarianism?

"This is gibberish. Yes, I expect (or, in fact, I don't, but I would like) these people to stop behaving the way they're behaving. If they are incapable of informed, good-faith critiques of each other, as they clearly seem to be, then they should simply stop critiquing each other, as it is, a) pointless, and b) sectarian."

Capitalists and communists are incapable of informed, good-faith critiques of each other. Should they give up on critiquing each other too? Oh, and before you answer that they're completely different: they both want republics with democratically elected representatives. See, they should struggle together! Stupid NATO and Warsaw Pact splitting them into sects!

"If you believe that "the central tenet of [Leninism] is to strengthen the state" then you do not understand the first goddamn thing about Leninism, or Marxism, or the state. And I'm not about to tutor you here. If you ever develop some genuine intellectual curiosity and start reading outside your anarchist comfort zone you'll find out easily enough."

Actions speak louder than words. I don't care what some dead Russian leader said or wrote, what's important is what they did. Speaking of which, how many genuinely democratic dictatorships of the proletariat have there been? And how many dictatorships of the party heads have there been? Keep trying, I'm sure some day you'll get to the state socialist utopia.

"The fragmentation of the left is crippling, so yes, we should all be very worried about sectarianism. That is, if we're really interested in affecting change"

Yes, but whose change? As I said, these groups are separate for a reason. If they're going to cease to be sectarian one of them will have to give up on the changes they desire. And really, if you're promising people freedom, that makes no sense. "OK sect, you'll be free to do what you want, just do what I tell you to first! You'll be free... eventually. Just keep doing what I tell you to do, otherwise the capitalists will take over and tell you what to do! Aren't the freedoms I allow you to have wonderful?"

  


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