This is a frustrating book. On the one hand, it is nice to see a work dedicated to the importance of workplace democracy and which argues that (state) socialism was simply state capitalism. On the other, it would have been nice if the author, Richard Wolff, had some understanding of libertarian socialism so that he realised he was simply reinventing the wheel and avoided unnecessary jargon. This is understandable given that the author is clearly working in the Marxist tradition but it is not excusable.
This is a write-up of the notes of a talk made at the 2014 London Anarchist bookfair. I have made a few slight changes/additions. On the day I skipped the section of “small-scale” production (“Kropotkin the Medievalist?) and covered the differences between communist-anarchism and syndicalism in the discussion period. It is based, of course, on the work I did for Direct Struggle Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology. A newly translated article by Kropotkin from May 1890 (“The action of the masses and the individual”) is appended.
Anyone researching or studying a subject will quickly conclude that some authors are more reliable than others. However, even the best author makes mistakes and if these chime with the conventional wisdom on a subject then their groundbreaking work in one area can be used to justify repeating their mistakes in others.
With the UK economy finally reaching its pre-crisis peak, many are claiming austerity has been vindicated. We explain why this is nonsense -- the critics of austerity have been proven right while austerity has failed in its own terms.
Read this book.
Perhaps I need to write more? For those who do not know, Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) was one of anarchism’s greatest activists and thinkers for over 60 years. He joined the First International in 1871 and became an anarchist after meeting Bakunin in 1872. He spent most of his life in exile from Italy, helping to build unions in Argentina in the late 1880s and taking an active part during the two Red Years after the war when Italy was on the verge of revolution (the authorities saw the threat and imprisoned him and other leading anarchists before a jury dismissed all charges). Playing a key role in numerous debates within the movement – on using elections, participation in the labour movement, the nature of social revolution, syndicalism and Platformism (to name just a few), he saw the rise and failure of the Second International, then the Third before spending the last years of his life under house arrest in Mussolini’s Italy.
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the 1889 London Dock Strike. While this strike was preceded by others which showed of a new spirit of revolt amongst the unskilled, including the match-girls strike and the unionisation of London gasworkers, the dockers’ strike had more of an impact due to the numbers involved. As well as an important event in British Labour history, it also played a key role in the development of anarchism as it provided a concrete example of the power of organised labour and the importance of anarchist involvement in it.
“Either competition, – that is, monopoly and what follows; or exploitation by the State, – that is, dearness of labour and continuous impoverishment; or else, in short, a solution based upon equality, – in other words, the organisation of labour, which involves the negation of political economy and the end of property.”
– Proudhon, System of Economic Contradictions
This article appeared in Anarchist Studies (volume 22, number 1) in the spring of 2014
The links between the two schools of revolutionary socialism – Marxism and class struggle anarchism – have produced much debate, some more helpful than others. Into the helpful pile comes Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) edited by Alex Prichard, Ruth Kinna, Saku Pinta and Dave Berry. Twelve excellent chapters and a terrible one are sandwiched between a useful introduction and conclusion. Overall, it is essential reading for all those seeking to enrich libertarian socialism in the 21st century.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), the first person to proclaim himself an anarchist, is rarely treated with respect. Thanks to various hatchet-jobs (Marx, Schapiro, Draper), if he is mentioned it is often with contempt but usually with incomprehension. The notion that he was contradictory is so well engrained in the secondary literature (itself usually based on repeating previous secondary sources) that what Proudhon actually argued is lost. It is so bad that many people think he advocated ideas he publically refuted holding.
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