What if we build it and they don’t come? That was the experience of the left during the crisis - decades had been spent building organisations and a model of how crisis would create revolution but when the crisis arrived the left discovered that the masses weren’t convinced. The expected pattern of crisis leading to small strikes and protests, then to mass strikes and riot and then perhaps to general strike and revolution didn’t flow as expected. Under that theory the radical left would at first be marginal but then as conditions drove class militancy to new heights the workers disappointed by reformist politicians and unions leaders would move quickly to swell its ranks.
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.
This article is an attempt to investigate certain problems of the left via the lens of micropolitics and macropolitics, terms first introduced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (henceforth D&G). Faced with the challenging nature of texts from post-structuralist thinkers like D&G or Foucault, many people make the assumption that they are really motivated by an elitist desire to confuse, intimidate and befuddle the masses and divert theory into useless abstractions, far removed from the concerns of ordinary people for social transformation and liberation from oppression and exploitation. However a careful reading of D&G’s Micropolitics and Segmentarity chapter in “A Thousand Plateaus” (ATP) reveals they have two main objects in their theorising there - to make sense of the experience of fascism in the 1930s and 1940s and the (then) more recent uprisings of Paris May ‘68. We will try to extend that to looking at more recent problems, passing via the Poll Tax riots of 1990 to looking at today’s current controversies around intersectionality
IMAGE: By Azirlazarus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
For the last couple of months the radical left, across the English-speaking world, has been in the grip of a furious online debate around intersectionality. Near the start of that period author Mark Fisher published an article with the title ‘Exiting the Vampire Castle.’ In this piece he portrayed those who favored an intersectional analysis as monsters engaged in a campaign of online bullying which is intended to bring down important left leaders like Owen Jones and Russell Brand. In a later interview with Doug Henwood he made it clear that the intention of the piece was to exclude such people, including anarchists, from left debate.
Horizontalism is an emerging term used to describe the key common characteristics of the waves of rebellion of the last decade. Occupy in 2011 was the peak to date but the term Horizontalism itself appears to originate the rebellion in Argentina after the 2001 banking crisis there. Marina Sitrin in her book on that rebellion says the term (in Spanish obviously) was used to describe the neighborhood, workplace & unemployed assemblies that emerged to form "social movements seeking self-management, autonomy and direct democracy." [Translation into Catalan] [Greek]
Image by Author:Meeting in Gezi Park, June 2013
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.
The WSM had its Autumn national conference in Dublin on the 23rd November. National Conference is the ultimate decision making body in the WSM. It happens every six months usually over a day or two. As well as discussing motions time is also spent on discussing the past six months activity and prospects for the next period. Conference also hears reports of activity from all branches, officers and working groups. This covered areas like the Irish Anarchist Review, WSM Website, Dublin Anarchist Bookfair and our pro-choice and anti racist work.
The nostalgic left is a bit of shorthand I’ve started using for those on the left who have reacted to the disintegration of the old left by wishing for idealised simpler times. And perhaps more strangely blaming the collapse on what they see as threatening new developments, like intersectionality. They hold such newfangled nonsense responsible for the current failure of the left to get an echo from the general population.
Over the last couple of years the WSM has been going through a process of re-examining the way we relate to people interested in what we have to say. Alongside this we have recently begun to try and get a better understanding of what it is we do. Both these processes have some major implications in reaching an understanding of what the usefulness of a revolutionary organisation is in the modern era of broad and loose social networks.