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The Labyrinth of the Left Subculture

News ArchiveSubmitted by Mark McGuire:

Facing The Enemy: A History of Anarchist Organisation from Proudhon to May 1968, by Alexandre Skirda, published by AK Press, Price; Jura Books: $26.

From Rebel Worker Vol.21 No.5 (179) Nov.-Dec.2002 Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network. Subs: $12 pa in Australia and overseas airmail $25 pa.

The Labyrinth of the Left Subculture

A common tendency in much of the English speaking anarchist milieux in recent years has been its transformation from largely subcultures to congeries of sects. Self absorbed groupings often unconsciously influenced by the elitism and vanguardism of the surrounding left subculture, heavily influenced by the Leninist/Stalinist legacies. The recent mushrooming in North America of various Anarchist Communist Federations is the latest expression of this tendency. Certainly these groupings appear to have strong tendencies to becoming sects. Their "anarchist communist" ideology being essentially a theology. Whilst their practice is heavily informed by the particularly exotic left sub cultural codes of
behaviour predominant in North America a fascination with identity politics, an unquenchable thirst for participation in anti-globalist protest spectacles, an unwholesome attraction to navel gazing organisational formalities eg gender dynamics and involvement in all manner of causes/issues fashionable in the leftist milieu. Currently, they certainly lack any strategy and the associated long term program of work which would be decisive in assisting the emergence of an alternative revolutionary labour movement in North America. Involving the prioritising of long term work in strategic industries. Apart from these hazards of the left subculture in precluding within these groupings the flourishing of a climate favourable for scientific analysis and debate necessary for the developing an effective strategy, the basis of these formations being "affinity groups" is also likely to be an obstructive factor. Given personal loyalties which feature so much in such groups being likely to get in the way of rational analysis and discussion.

An important explanation of the dysfunctional character of these groupings formally anarchist
"organisations" but in fact lost in the leftist jungle of micro vanguard parties must be seen as the absence of generations of militant anarchist workers who could transmit anarchism as a revolutionary practice within the class struggle. Due to the rise of Fascism and Stalinism in the 20th Century and dictatorships and waves of state repression combined with ever tightening labour legislation and the development of Welfare States/Social Democratic Unionism which destroyed and marginalised anarcho-syndicalist labour movements throughout the world.

The book under review is basically a survey of the quest for explicit anarchist organisation with particular reference to Europe and France, in particular. The author's discussion of this quest does throw important light on the particularly malicious phenomena of the "left subculture" which today poses such a serious threat to international anarchism and the workers control project.

Following a brief discussion of the anti-social individualism of Max Stirner and the mutualist individualism of Pierre Proudhon, the author proceeds to look at the Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin's contribution to anarchist organisation, particular his programs for the "Alliance of Social Democracy" and the "International Brotherhood". The former was to draw as many labour organisations into the International Working Men's Association(IWMA) so that the Alliance's work "may be confined to the political and revolutionary development of said Association". The latter was to prepare for the revolution and substitute its strictly concerted and covert collective action for "any government or formal dictatorship--which is to say a new bourgeois rule". It was to act as an "unseen general staff". A sort of dictatorship by the clandestine anarchist party which Bakunin thought necessary given his lack of consideration of such political structures as workers and community councils. A concept, likely to be influenced by Blanquism with its conspiratorial elitist schemes which contradicts basic anarchist
principles which the author has no problems.

The author proceeds to a discussion of the conflict
between the Marxist and Bakuninist wings of the IWMA over the issue of support for activity on political party and parliamentary lines. This factional struggle which resulted in a split in the IWMA in 1872 leading to the formation of the Federalist IWMA which opposed collaboration with political parties and had many features associated with the anarcho-syndicalist tradition. The author fails to recognise that the decline of this organisation was associated with its move away from being a labour movement into largely a federation of anarchist groups. The author sees the decline purely due to organisational deficiencies.

"Propaganda of the Deed"

The author then sketches out the character of the anarchist movement in the decades prior to WWI. He throws some fascinating light on its largely informal character and its intoxication with "propaganda of the deed" by anarchist groups and the involvement by some sectors with terrorism. The author graphically shows how this orientation played into the hands of police infiltration and provocation's. However, the author fails to discuss important ideological reasons for this phenomena. Particularly following the death of
Bakunin, the rise into prominence of the spontaneist revolution is around the corner current associated with new anarchist theorists Errico Malatesta and Peter Kropotkin. Practical activity associated with this version of anarchism oscillated between the distribution of abstract propaganda and armed/insurrectionary action to inspire revolutionary action.

"Revolutionary Syndicalist Upsurge"

The author goes on to show that the predominance of this version anarchism was curtailed with the emergence of revolutionary syndicalism and the work of the anarchist Fernand Pelloutier. His propaganda on behalf of anarchists becoming involved in the emerging labour movement proved quite influential following the merger of the Federation Bourses Du Travail with the General Confederation of Labour (CGT). Most anarchists in France and subsequently other countries adopted this new orientation but not as part of some anarchist party building exercise. The author shows in graphic detail that a minority of those identifying with "anarchism" didn't adopt the syndicalist option and composed an "individualist tendency". Some of these elements became engaged in spectacular criminal activity such as Ravachol and the Bonnot Gang, encouraged by "individualist theoreticians" discrediting all identifying with the anarchist label. This illegalist behaviour of elements of the individualist current led to a major reaction amongst the predominant syndicalist current resulting in the formation in 1913 of the Anarchist Revolutionary Communist Federation (FCRA) which condemned individualism, and emphasised syndicalism.

The next major crisis affecting the labour and anarchist movements in France and elsewhere was the outbreak of WWI in 1914. The author shows how the outbreak of the war had a disastrous impact on the CGT with its senior officials being drawn into close collaboration with the French Capitalist set up and its war effort in the shape of the "Sacred Union". Whilst the CGT officials refused to call a General Strike to oppose the war, which had always been CGT policy during its syndicalist/anti-militarist phase.

The author mainly focuses on such factors as the likelihood of savage state repression against CGT militants in the event of such a General Strike and the overwhelming influence of jingoism amongst the French working class at the outbreak of WWI, in explaining this somersault by the top committees of the CGT. A more important factor which the author fails to adequately discuss is the predominance of the "reformist" current within the CGT prior to WWI and the failure of syndicalist militants to transform the unions associated with this reformist tendency into revolutionary bodies through encouraging participation in militant action.

"Anarchism in Crisis"

The successful Bolshevik coup in Russia in 1917 and the subsequent crushing of the anarchist movement in Russia by the Soviet State caused a major crisis amongst those in France and elsewhere who adopted "anarchist and syndicalist labels". The author shows the how the rise of Leninism in the shape of the newly formed French Communist Party seriously divided the revolutionary movement and contributed to a disastrous splitting of the labour movement which caused a severe marginalisation of the anarchist and syndicalist current. This process was particularly manifest in the CGT. During the war an opposition to the Sacred Union and the layer of union officials who supported it grew associated with the Revolutionary Syndicalist Committees (RSC). The author sketches the role of Pierre Besnard and a secret coterie of CGT militants involved in the RSC's who played a crucial role in this splitting process. These militants hoped to takeover the various important committees of the CGT to win the organisation back to the syndicalist fold by installing revolutionary militants in these bodies.

They helped initiate a major split from the CGT to form the CGTU (General Confederation of Labour United). Following the success of the early Communist Party with its cell network taking over the CGTU and curtailing syndicalist influence, Besnard helped spark a schism in the CGTU to form the CGTSR (General Confederation Revolutionary Syndicalist). This final split consisted largely of artisans, members of small craft unions. The CGTSR remained quite small with at its peak some 6,000 or so members and declining in size in its final years before the outbreak of WWII.

"Arshinov Platform Controversy"

The most important controversy in the interwar international anarchist movement focused on the "Arshinov Platform". This controversy and its subsequent ramifications provides a major focus of this volume. The author takes a fairly sympathetic view of this initiative. The basic thrust of the
Platform was to inspire the merging of the so called "anarchist movement" in various countries into a non-parliamentary "party" to compete with and out manoeuvre Leninist inspired parties in various arenas.

The author provides quite a bit of new detail in regard to the background and publication of the Platform. The authors of the Platform were the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad a group of Russian anarchist exiles who had fled the repression of the Bolshevik state. Particularly prominent in the group and in the drafting of the Platform was Peter Arshinov. Initially during his revolutionary career he had been a Bolshevik, but had subsequently moved toward a spontaneous style anarchist position. During the Russian Revolution of 1917-21, Arshinov had been very active in the anarchist influenced Makhnovist partisan movement in the Ukraine and had become its historian. The Platform caused quite a storm of hostile criticism and debate. In the case of the residual anarchist movement in the USSR the author shows the disastrous impact of some its members participation in the controversy. Following a group letter by Moscow anarchists endorsing the Platform, a major wave of state repression struck what remained of organised anarchism in the USSR effectively destroying it. In regard to the author's discussion of the international debate concerning the Platform, there is a major gap. As the author fails to refer to the particularly effective contribution of George Maximoff, veteran Russian anarcho-syndicalist exile with his book "Constructive Anarchism". In this book, Maximoff criticised the Platform's very crude and confused economic and social ideas for revolutionary transformation and emphasised the Bolshevik and vanguardist tendencies of the Platform. Particularly, the vanguardist notion of labour organisations being subordinated to the "anarchist party" via its cell structure.. Instead of this party building, Maximoff argues on behalf of fostering anarcho-syndicalist unionism. The author argues that the failure of the so called "international anarchist movement" of the time to adopt the Platform and hostile criticism received from its prominent figures, encouraged Arshinov to come out in support of co-operating with the Stalinist regime and return to the USSR, where he was killed in the purges of the late 1930's.

"Blood of Spain"

An anarchist movement which mostly ignored the
Platform was the Spanish. Although one of its largest groupings seems to have been heavily informed in certain sectors by the vanguardist tendencies implicit in the Platform. In particular, the Barcelona based FAI (Iberian Anarchist Federation). The author does a fairly shoddy job in discussing the activity of those associated with this particular organisation. He has little say about the destructive behaviour of important sections of the FAI in the late 1920's and 30's which led to the purging from the CNT (National Confederation of Labour) - mass anarcho-syndicalist union confederation of more coherent anarcho-syndicalist tendencies. Such as the Revolutionary Syndicalist Committees, later known as the BOC (Worker Peasant Bloc) and the Treintistas. The hysterical atmosphere associated with these purges based on slanders spread by FAI activists and the massive state repression affecting the CNT during the insurrectionary cycle encouraged by sectors of the FAI in the early 1930's, must be seen as very hostile for the consideration and discussion of revolutionary political strategies within the CNT. The author ignores this unfortunate development and how lacking such a political strategy a workers/peasants councils state, the CNT and FAI incorporation in the Popular Front Govt, during the Civil War was a very strong possibility. The author's discussion of the CNT's history is also somewhat inaccurate. He fails to grasp that the CNT when it formed in 1910 was in fact a loose alliance of labour organisations of different tendencies with those associated with anarchism being just one current. It was only later during WWI that that anarchist influence became predominant.

"Anarchist Resurgence in Post WWII France & Renewed
Crisis"

The author provides quite a lot of fascinating information about the resurgent anarchist and syndicalist movement in France following the end of WWII. France being one of the few countries which experienced such a major resurgence. On the level of propaganda, anarchist publications had relatively large print runs such as the French Anarchist Federation's weekly "Le Libertaire" with 50,000 copies. The anarcho-syndicalist union CNT-F had aprox. 40,000 members with bases in some strategic sectors such as in the auto industry at Citroen.

The author looks at various reasons for the subsequent marginalisation of the anarchist movement a few years later. A major reason, the author considers for this decline are internal developments in the French Anarchist Federation. In particular, a notorious grouping called the OPB (Thought-Battle Organisation) whose members considered themselves very much inspired by the Arshinov Program. The author sketches the changing role of this clandestine group from rearguard charged with combating provocateurs and spies to a sect with a strong entryist and vanguardist orientation. This group was able to capture control of the French Anarchist Federation via Bolshevik style manipulative tactics and changed its name to the FCL (Libertarian Communist Federation). The author tells the sorry tale of the FCL and how it sought to imitate the French Communist Party in many respects, but lacking the resources of the FCP failed to win away its base. However, in competing with the FCP in regard to the Algerian War it faced severe State attacks depriving it of premises and faced massive fines. The increasing Stalinist character of the FCL led also to the departure of many anarchist militants, who went on to re-form the FAF. After the late 1950's, it became the predominant explicit anarchist "organisation". An
important factor which the author fails to adequately discuss in explaining the decline of French anarchism is the impact of the formation of the FO, a major split instigated by the CIA in the CGT. With the formation of the FO, large sections of the CNT-F's key bases went over to the new union centre encouraging strong sect tendencies in anarchist groupings.

"Post 1968 French Anarchism"

The author proceeds to discuss the post 1968 development of French Anarchism. The impression given is of a largely propaganda movement characterised by a range of different groupings with strong left subcultural tendencies, with little influence as an industrial movement. The most significant grouping was the revived French Anarchist Federation influenced by the "Syntheticist Anarchism" of the Russian anarchist Voline, composed of different tendencies, but having a general support for syndicalism. The author shows how it has developed significant propaganda organs and infrastructure.

The other key grouping is the ORA/OCL (Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists) heavily influenced by the Arshinov Platform and according to the author possessing a "hidden policy leadership" and generally heavily affected by the surrounding leftist subculture.

In conclusion, the book under review certainly provides a detailed survey of the development of anarchist groupings since the 19th Century. However, the author gives the false impression that the key task of anarchists is the building of specific anarchist organisations informed by the Arshinov Program, which the volume provides ample evidence can often take on features of the Leninist/Stalinist legacy which informs the Left Subculture in many countries. Rather than assisting workers' militant self organisation and facilitating workers' control directed activity. As the emancipation of the working class can only be achieved by workers themselves.

Mark McGuire
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The Labyrinth of the Left Subculture | 66 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
comment by Harry Hope
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 09:42 AM CST
Ugh! At least AJODA and Green Anarchy\'s critiques come from a position with a number of people involved. When is anarchism going to get beyond the lone crank with a paper mentality. Except for the Match (which rocks of course).
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 09:43 AM CST
He has little say about the destructive behaviour of important sections of the FAI in the late 1920\'s and 30\'s which led to the purging from the CNT (National Confederation of Labour) - mass anarcho-syndicalist union confederation of more coherent anarcho-syndicalist tendencies. Such as the Revolutionary Syndicalist Committees, later known as the BOC (Worker Peasant Bloc) and the Treintistas.

So that\'s Mark\'s problem! He supports the Treintistas! Wow, I think I finally understand where he\'s coming from. He\'s still wrong. :)
comment by Makhno
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 09:57 AM CST
Although I\'m not necessarily a fan of anarcho-syndicalism, I think it is interesting to get an outside viewpoint on the North American anarchist debate on organizationalism and platformism. Incidentally, how does Harry Hope know that this article is the work of a \"lone crank\"? I wish the piece had been better written, though - the sentence structure seems very choppy and awkward.
comment by Arthur J. Miller
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 10:17 AM CST
I have to wonder about the purpose of this onslaught of attacks on anarchists that are organizing by those who view anarchists who organize together as some kind of enemy. You would think that with a war coming and the new wave of repression that they would have more to worry about. The way I look at ideas is how they are put into action and how much that action has an affect on things. From these rightwing anarchists I see nothing by more reasons to not deal with them on any level.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 10:19 AM CST
Because Harry knows something about the international anarchist scene that you don\'t.

I think Mark is a bit more than a lone crank, but he is the most dogmatic and sectarian (ironic isn\'t it?) of the anarcho-syndicalists in Australia. His general position is that anarchists should work with him on the \"Sparks\" newspaper, which is to be distributed among rail workers in Australia and that the content largely come from the rail workers themselves. Eventually, the rail workers would self-organize, drop their current union and form an anarcho-syndicalist one. Any deviation from this program, Mark reguards as creating a left subcultural micro-vanguard party. He thinks the Australian IWW is such a sect, he thinks the Australian IWA affiliates (and most of the IWA) is such a sect.

Now, I don\'t know if I entirely disagree with Mark. Atleast, I think anarcho-syndicalists need to think strategically. Frankly, I think the actions of the Treintistas were the more undemocratic ones in regards to the CNT... that\'s not to say the FAI didn\'t have it\'s problems. Probably the biggest difference of opinion I have with Mark is I see the need for specific anarchist organizations, that are seperate from the unions, and that I like affinity groups. I think it has been important for anarchist to be involved with the \"anti-globalization\" protests, and I think it is good to put some time into studying gender dynamcis and developing processes that mitigate patriarchial socialization.

However, there is one point that I do overwhelming agree with Mark on, and that\'s workers have to organize themselves.

I don\'t know Makhno, if you want a viewpoint on the debate on organization and platformism outside of the North American context, you could try READING THE BOOK, as it\'s author is from France.
comment by Harry Hope
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 10:21 AM CST
Ask someone from Australia.
comment by hardy har
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 10:25 AM CST
\"Stupid proletarian monkey face!\"
comment by Harry Hope
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 10:36 AM CST
Yeah. That\'s my favorite line from the movie. I should really read the book some day. Maybe after I finish Skirda\'s book.
comment by Makhno
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 11:17 AM CST
You\'re right, Flint, I should read Skirda\'s book at some point; even Jason McQuinn recommended it. One interesting thing about this particular article is that it shows that the association of the Platform with Leninism is not peculiar to the post-left critics, or even to North America. I know of at least one North American anarcho-syndicalist, Jon Bekken, who probably shares this author\'s opinion of platformism, and would by no means describe himself as post-left.

The idea that the Platform represented, at least in part, the desire of its authors to compete with Leninist groups by trying to out-organize them seems to be a fairly common one, as can be seen by the following quote from the Anarchist Organization section of the FAQ:

The Platform\'s basic assumption is that there is a link between coherency and efficiency. By increasing the coherency of the organisation by making collective decisions and applying them, the Platform argues that this will increase the influence of anarchist ideas. Without this, they argue, better organised groups (such as Leninist ones) would be in a better position to have their arguments heard and listened to than anarchists would.

The influence of such thinking on one modern platform-friendly group, Bring The Ruckus, is clear from their Statement:

A revolutionary organization for the 21st century needs to forge a path between the Leninist vanguard party favored by traditional Marxist parties and the loose \"network\" model of organizing favored by many anarchists and activists today.
comment by Reverend Chuck0
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 11:43 AM CST
The purpose? Pattern of attacks? Haven\'t anarchists always engaged in criticism of each other?

If anybody thinks that I\'m promoting something here by approving these articles, I\'m just approving what is being submitted. If there are other current articles from other anarchists that people want to share, then please post them.

Lastly, I\'m really disappointed that Arthur trots out this Leftist argument that we have to watch what we say because of a \"new war coming on\" or an \"increase in government repression.\" We all know about this stuff, but neither is a good reason for us to stop talking about politics.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 11:53 AM CST
No, it shows that McGuire regards any specific anarchist organization as being \"left subcultural micro vanguard party building\" being an influence of leninism/stalinism. For McGuire, if you would understand what he is saying, if your not building an anarcho-syndicalist union... that is a mass organization, you\'re engaged in Leninism.

McGuire would regard Anarchy:AJoDA, Green Anarchy, etc... as all \"left subcultural micro vanguard parties\".

I think Jon Bekken is perfectly capable of speaking for himself. I *like* Bekken. I even agree with him on many, many issues. That said, Bekken can sometimes be pretty dogmatic and sectarian in his interpetation of anarcho-syndicalism as well... less so now, I think. However, unlike McGuire, Bekken is not opposed to the formation of specific anarchist organizations (having been in the old Anarcho-Communist Federation, I believe and having been very supportive of NEFAC early on though he never joined), nor is he opposed to IWA. What Jon most has an issue with in regards to NEFAC is our willingness to work with existing mass reformist organizations (like AFL-CIO unions, ACORN, etc...). He thinks that our energies would be better spent building the IWW.

The last issue of Anarcho-Syndicalist Review did have a comment from one writer about how Platformism seem opposed to anarcho-syndicalism. I
disagree, particularly since platformist organizations seem to have several different positions in regards to anacho-syndicalism.

Eventually, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review probably will write some articles critiquing NEFAC. It should be an interesting discussion.

I think it\'s wrong to think that we \"compete\" with Leninists. However, there is a battle of ideas that is going on, conservative, liberal, leninist, social democrat, fascist, etc... anarchism, as an idea, is in opposition to all those. Obviously, if
the overwhelming majority of humanity is taking action on ideas that are imposition to anarchism... it\'s going to be pretty tough for the anarchists to live according to their ideals. That author of the FAQ could have used (such as fascist ones) or (such as capitalist ones). Your taking an example out of context and distorting it. See they said \"Leninist\" in a document about a document, obviously they document is influenced by Leninism! That\'s a really bad argument and alot of readers would regard it as dishonest.

Bring The Ruckus isn\'t a platform-friendly group. Look through their study materials, nothing about the Platform. BtR was in favor of cadre organization. There are alot of differences between BTR and NEFAC in regards to strategy, theoretical analysis, organizational form, emphasis, etc...

There are a couple of keep concepts that will clue you into whether a group is influenced by the Plaform. They are \"ideological/ unity\" (though NEFAC prefers \"theoretical coherence\"), \"tactical unity\" (though this seems to play out more as \"strategic unity\"), \"collective responsibility\"
(or \"collective action and discpline\"), \"federalism \". That\'s all from the \"Organizational Section\" of the Dielo Trouda platform.

What BTR has in common with modern platform-influenced groups is that it is an anti-statist anti-capitalist specific formal organization. Ofcourse, it shares that trait with the IWA (many anarcho-syndicalist unions), IFA (and affiliates, like the synthesist French Anarchist Federation), the anarcho-specifistas (like the FAG, and FAU). However, unlike all those groups, they aren\'t an \"anarchist only\" group.

I know you might be confused by the latest Anarchy articles that lump a synthesist group like Love & Rage, in with platformist groups, in with anti-statist anti-capitalist cadre group like BTR.
What all those groups hand in common is that they were (or became) specific formal organizations... and that they all had atleast some discussion on \"Dual Power\". That\'s actually something of a U.S. debate... as you don\'t see platformist organizations elsewhere discussing a \"dual power\" strategy. And that\'s because Love and Rage, a synthestist (though I don\'t think it would have indentified itself that way) federation, brought up that debate.

If you are going to smear platformists, atleast use quotes from them; not from unrelated organizations.
Really, it just makes you arguments seem either ignorant or dishonest.
comment by Arthur J. Miller
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 12:18 PM CST
Well Chuck, I did not say that anarchists should not discussion their endless differences, but when their endless differences seem to become more important than what is going on around them that makes anarchists look silly. When I read all these attacks I get the idea that to the rightwing (since they want to call organizational anarchists leftists it is only right to call them rightwingers) anarchists trashing other anarchists is their most important project. To me it is senseless to thing that organizational anarchists and anti-organizational anarchists have anything in common.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 12:29 PM CST
McGuire isn\'t \"anti-organizational\". I don\'t know if it\'s accurate to call him \"right-wing\", though if you were to say have a \"right-wing\" and \"left-wing\" to the Spanish CNT in regards to making a revolution immediately, or later.... then McGuire\'s support for the BOC and Treintistas (some of whom were in the FAI) would be to the right; while the Solideros/Nosotros group, and others of the FAI and much of the CNT that remained after the BOC left... would have been the \"left-wing\".

Anyway, McGuire\'s position isn\'t anti-organizational. It\'s that anarcho-syndicalists should be involved in organzing unions... that is, mass organizations, and only that... in terms of strategy. Or rather, that anarchists should be involved in encouraging workers in organzing themselves into mass organizations and that they should build those organizations according to anarcho-syndialist ideas.

So, McGuire is for \"organization\", his dispute with platormists (or anyone who doesn\'t agree with his presception) is what kind of organization.
comment by Roig San Martin
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 12:51 PM CST
Makhno (and anyone else who is interested) - in one of your posts above you expressed curiousity at a non-american perpsective on platformism, anti-organizationalism, and anarcho-syndicalism.

Perhaps I can share of my findings. Let me explain.

Recently I\'ve been talking to lots of my Latin American comrades about these very things on a variety of forums online. That is about the 3 ideas you mentioned. Interestingly enough, one finds some similarities with the North American perspective as well as certain notable differences.

To begin with, anarcho-syndicalism enjoys wide popularity in Latin America & the Carribbean. It has as you know a rich history in these regions. This of course has greatly contributed to the proliferation of these ideas (anarcho-syndicalism). It continues to be the dominant manifestation of anarchism in L-Am & Crbn.

With respect to anti-organizationalism, or as we say, \"Insurreccionalismo\", this is a relatively new tendency that is developing. It does not have the large following of anarcho-syndicalist ideas yet but is gaining some momentum. Especially among the younger folks. I think just as it is here in the states, some people do not relate or believe in some of the more \'traditional\' forms of anarchism such as anarcho-syndicalism and shall we say, workerist strategies.

Some of the main criticisms of Insurreccionalismo however are that certain people view it as an \"individualist\" type of anarchism, and that it has no vision, strategy, or coordination.

A brief sidenote, primitivist ideas are gaining some acceptance as well. Not nearly to the extent of the other points of view mentioned here however. That however could quickly change but it is impossible to predict.

Finally platformism in the manner that is espoused by say, NEFAC is relatively uncommon. The idea of anarcho-communism and basing organizations on such ideas is rare. Of the 3 tendencies discussed, it would have the least followers.

I am no expert anarchist theorist but my own opinion is that we are seeing, at least in Latin America, the rise of certain ideas which are challenging the traditional forms, i.e..., Insurreccionalismo vs. anarcho-syndicalism. Perhaps people want to try a new approach or it could be said that the world has changed and anarchists must change their tactics, I\'m in no position to say conclusively.
comment by Makhno
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 01:08 PM CST
Flint, part of your last post was so poorly written that it was hard to make out exactly what you meant:

That author of the FAQ could have used (such as fascist ones) or (such as capitalist ones). Your taking an example out of context and distorting it. See they said \"Leninist\" in a document about a document, obviously they document is influenced by Leninism! That\'s a really bad argument and alot of readers would regard it as dishonest.

Now, my argument about the FAQ is that the author of the Anarchist Organization section considered the Platform to be, at least in part, an attempt to compete with better-organized Leninist groups. Whether or not this point of view accurately reflects the attitudes of the authors of the Platform is certainly open to discussion. Anyway, here is the quote from the FAQ, again:

The Platform\'s basic assumption is that there is a link between coherency and efficiency. By increasing the coherency of the organisation by making collective decisions and applying them, the Platform argues that this will increase the influence of anarchist ideas. Without this, they argue, better organised groups (such as Leninist ones) would be in a better position to have their arguments heard and listened to than anarchists would.

The phrase, \"they argue\", in the above quote clearly refers to the authors of the Platform. If you have a different interpretation of Arshinov\'s and Makhno\'s motives, I would like to hear it.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 01:26 PM CST
The most similar current in Latin America to the way NEFAC interpets the platform is anachospecifismo.
This is an idea of Federacao Anarquista Gaucha (FAG) of Brazil, and the Federacion Anarquista Uruguay (FAU). However, there are a couple of other platformist-linked groups... Congreso de Unificaci
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 01:29 PM CST
We\'ll I imagine that author is \"anarcho\" who was debating this very point with you in the comments on a previous but related argument. Well, the authors of the Platform certainly were motivated by the defeat by the Leninists... so then anything they said or did would be \"influenced\" by that, and they certainly saw themselves in competition with the Leninists (for instance the sent appeals to soliders in the Red Army not to shoot them!)

Anyway, you\'re argument here is really bad.
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 01:29 PM CST
It is a little weird to call Love and Rage synthesist, though I think I understand why you might. In the wake of the Russian Revolution, anarchist movements around the world were thrown into the crisis and hemmoraged members to the nascent Communist parties. There were a number of responses to this. Platformism was one which emphasized unity around a pretty specific program. In contrast, the synthesists sought to \"synthesize\" the various ideological trends in anarchism within a common organization.

Love and Rage defined itself as a Revolutionary Anarchist organization and could be said to have attempted to synthesize a number ideological influences (some anarchist and some otherwise). But I think we were actually closer to the platformists in our belief in the importance of \"ideological unity\" or \"theoretical coherence.\" We published a number of articles in the paper that were pro-platformist, including one I wrote titled \"The Revolutionary Anarchist Tradition.\" Nobody in the organization ever identified in any way with the \"synthesists.\"

I don\'t think attempting to locate Love and Rage in terms of the arguments between platformists and synthesists in the 1920s is very useful for understanding what Love and Rage was or where it was coming from. Its an overly schematic kind of pigeon-holing. The influences L&R sought to synthesize had little to do with the trends the sythesists were attempting to unite and I think that the attitude of most L&R members to the sysnthesists approach -- which strikes me as apstiche of contradictory ideas -- would have been quite critical.
comment by mike
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 01:36 PM CST
I wouldn\'t say that anarcho-communism is uncommon in Lat-Am countries. Brasilian FAG (Fed. Anr. Gaucha; not \"left\" but Gaucha) and FACA (Fed. Anr. Cabocla) or uruguayan FAU are specifists.
Argentinian OSL and Chilean CUAC are clearly anarchist-communist. Lucha Proletaria in Peru, Juventudes Libertarias in Bolivia and ORA/JAR in Argentina has pretty much influence of a-c ideas and visions.

In fact I\'d say that anti-organizacionalist anarchy has been the main trend in the Lat-am anarchist movement until 2000. Maily because of the influence of anarcho-punks. But in the late 90s there have been a change in the minds of anarchists. \"If we don\'t organise on ourselves, the revolution is going to be authoritarian\". And then appeared groups in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, etc. calling for organised anarchist as the only way to change their fucking lives.

The reality is that (in our America - Latinamerica) anarchist groups tend to be tiny, with no real influence in the people, but steadily growing. Now there are anarchist groups everywhere. In mexico or Brasil it\'d be impossible to list them. The problem is the coordination between those groups (and that\'s beginning to change).

On the other hand are the autonomous struggles. Indigenous (zapatistas, magonistas, mapuche, kuna...), peasants (sem terra in Brazil; land squatters in Paraguay, Argentina, Peru and Chile, Cocaleros in Bolivia ...), women, black communities (Colombia, Ecuador), unemployed Piqueteros in Argentina, communities (Atenco in mexico)...

America is burning. And the good thing of these struggles is their way of organising. They don\'t believe in leaders anymore, they are millions of people who are beginning to run their lives on themselves. But they face many problems: repression, isolation, lack of experience... they don\'t consider themselves as anarchists but they act as if they were. unfortunately the anarchist movement is too weak to connect with these struggles and some struggles may be smashed by state repression or overtaken by any leftist/populist party (like Chavez in Venezuela, Lula Brazil and Evo Morales in Bolivia).

I am pro-organisation, but i don\'t defend any particular kind of organisation, all of them are valid in their context. Anarchist-unions, anarcho-commies groups, synthesis federations, anarko-punks groups, anarcha-feminists, radical ecologist, indigenous (CIPO and AZM considers themselves as Magonistas=anarchists).

pd. You should read the last response for Sub. Marcos to ETA. He says that he makes shit on all revolutionary vanguards.
comment by Makhno
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 01:44 PM CST
Flint, you haven\'t even addressed my argument, so how can you justify saying it\'s \"bad\"? I will try to make this even simpler for you. In my opinion, the author of the Anarchist Organization section of the FAQ, anarcho or whoever, was implying that the authors of the Platform were motivated, in part, by a desire to compete with Leninist groups for influence in workers\' movements, and that they (Arshinov, Makhno, et al.) considered the Leninist groups at that time \"better-organized\". Now, anarcho\'s interpretation of Arshinov\'s and Makhno\'s motives may or may not be correct, and if you think it is not, I would like to know why.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 01:52 PM CST
My understanding of Love and Rage (having never been involved in it or aware of it when it was around), was that it started out as a very loose network around the newspaper that tried to become a federation, a tigheter organziation, with a more specific political program, but it\'s starting point was \"synthesize a number ideological influences (some anarchist and some otherwise)\". And it didn\'t work, there were too many points of disagreement, so it never reached say the theoretical coherence and structure of say NEFAC or the WSM. So, while I know atleast part of Love & Rage probably disagreed with what Love & Rage was, it doesn\'t seem to have been able to grow succesfully away from being a synthesist network. Albeit, one with more structure and common agreement than say something like the Atlantic Anarchist Circle. Publishing articles in a paper that are \"pro-platformist\" is one thing... that actually being the position of the organization is quite another, isn\'t it?
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 01:58 PM CST
The question of to what degree Leninism influenced the Platform is typically preoccupied with notions of purity. The Platform was clearly a response to the rise of Bolshevism, not just in Russia but within the international revolutionary movement. It defines itself in opposition to the Bolsheviks but quite obviously incorporates some Bolshevik ideas about organization that were previously largely absent or unarticulated in the anarchist movement. Its true that Bakunin had his conspiratorial Jacobin side (which led reformists in the socialist movement to characterize Lenin as a semi-anarchist), but the full organizational implications of those concerns really only get spelled out first in the Platform. The problem for the Platform was that the anarchists most likely to sympathize with it were in pretty large numbers ditching the anarchist movement in favor of the seemingly more successful model represented by the Communist parties. The anarchists left behind were practically by definition the most doctrinaire in their opposition to anything with even the taint of Leninism -- the result being the largely marginal status of the platformists within the \"larger\" anarchist movement.

So long as you discuss questions of organizational form solely in reference to its conformance with anarchist orthodoxy is exactly as long as you will be condemned to the fate of that same orthodoxy -- namely complete ineffectualness. The platformists attempt to legitimize themselves as another variant on the anarcho-communist orthodoxy. The result is to cancel out the positive effects of what is innovative in their perspective by reattaching the chains to orthodoxy that were half-broken when the Platform was written.
comment by ???????????
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 02:02 PM CST
What the hell are you talking about?
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 02:09 PM CST
I think the most exciting thing going in Latin America is definitely the popular struggles like the Zapatistas or Sem Terra. But I think it is a stretch or anarchist wishful thinking to say that \"they don\'t believe in leaders anymore.\" Subcommandante Marcos may denounce vanguardism but he is quite obviously a leader and is so regarded by the Zapatista communities.
comment by MaRK
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 02:15 PM CST
Chris writes:

\"The Platform was clearly a response to the rise of Bolshevism, not just in Russia but within the international revolutionary movement.\"

To some degree this might be true, but I think it is more accurate to say that platformists were trying to re-orient the anarchist movement to its original Bakuninist routes (with the obvious experience of the Russian Revolution taken into account).
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 02:49 PM CST
Describing motive is always difficult. :)
I would rather say that Arshinov and Makhno (not the only authors of the Platform) thought that the anarchists weren\'t organized well enough to defeat the Bolshevicks and the Whites.
comment by non
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 03:14 PM CST
Flint, how dare you contradict Chris Day\'s authoritative hindsight of the Love and Rage Federation!

Only Day knows the true nature of Love and Rage, and only Day can correctly comment on this nature!

Down with incorrect corrections!
comment by anarchist
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 03:22 PM CST
C Day...\"Subcommandante Marcos may denounce vanguardism but he is quite obviously a leader and is so regarded by the Zapatista communities. \"

And so his actual circumstance as a leader defies his denouncement of vanquardism? What are you trying to say here?

Maybe its that Day still cant tell the difference between a leader and a vanguarde, as Marcos obviously does.
comment by Hardy Har
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 03:23 PM CST
The Iceman Cometh
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 03:36 PM CST
Not suprising since he also thinks army=state.
comment by
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 03:46 PM CST
A couple of points:

\"more coherent anarcho-syndicalist tendencies. Such as
the Revolutionary Syndicalist Committees, later known as the BOC
(Worker Peasant Bloc) and the Treintistas.\"

The BOC became part of the POUM and were Marxists at best,
Leninists at worse. As for the Treintistas, well, what about the
\"syndicalist party\" founded by the leading Treintistas? Hardly
\"coherent\" anarcho-syndicalism!

As for the Platform being influenced by Leninism. As I wrote the
FAQ section in question I can answer (as I did on a previous
thread):

\"In my opinion, the author
of the Anarchist Organization section of the FAQ, anarcho or whoever, was
implying that the authors of the Platform were motivated, in part, by a desire
to compete with Leninist groups for influence in workers\' movements,\"

This is true, as it is true for all the anarchists at the time. The synthesis
anarchists wanted to win people to anarchism and stop Leninism spreading.
The FAI (and the anarchist groups before it was formed) worked to stop
Leninists taking over the CNT. As did anarchists all across the world, as
they had \"competed\" with Social Democracy before that.

I assume that \"Makhno\" would avoid \"competing\" with Leninists by ignoring
the workers\' movement and anything else the leninists took an interest in
(such as the anti-capitalist movement and such like)?

\'and
that they (Arshinov, Makhno, et al.) considered the Leninist groups at that
time \"better-organized\"\'

Given that the Leninists had went from a sect to a mass movement in a
few months, it is save to say that there were \"better organised.\" Yes,
they were organised in a hierarchical and centralised fashion (although
that was ignored in 1917 to a large extent) and that had serious impacts
on the fate of the revolution. But it cannot be denied that the Bolsheviks
had out-organised the anarchists.

The question was, how do we stop that happening again? The Platform gave
a flawed answer. The synthesis people gave a flawed answer. But they shared
the same concerns -- how to spread anarchist ideas and help create a large
anarchist movement. The latter have been more successful than the former
(imho).

I should point out (yet again!) that the Platform is an inspiration to many people,
but not a bible. No Platform influenced group actually (as far as I know) actually
organises as the Platform suggests -- probably because they are aware that it
is both impractical and flawed from an anarchist pov (again, imho).

SO with that in mind, it does not matter what the original writers thought -- its
what people do with the ideas today. And pro-Platformist groups use the text
as a guide, not a blueprint. Its stress on co-operation, mutual support, co-ordination
are all valid, even if some of its specific suggestions are not.

I think its far better to debate this question -- should anarchists work together,
associate to further their ideas, and stick by the decisions reached to further
that task? If not, why not?

It is by raising that question and answering \"yes\" that the Platform is still source
of inspiration for many in the movement. Unsurprisingly, when the alternative
seems to be unorganised individuals...
comment by Reverend Chuck0
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 03:50 PM CST
OK. I understand. I think many of us are busy with activism and anarchist projects, yet need spaces like this to vent. I agree that if we get too caught up with arguments about political differences, then we lose sight of the big picture.
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:09 PM CST
\"Stick by the decisions reached\" is a loose way of talking about the whole organization, including dissenting minorities, carrying out the decisions of the majority. This is a basic principle of democratic centralism (DC). DC has a number of component parts, but this is the most elementary. My view is that DC in practice hasn\'t generally looked like DC in theory and has tended to be all centralism and too little democracy, but that certain aspects of the theory of DC are basically correct. A number of these get smuggled into platformism using alternative anarchist terminolgy (euphemism) and are less clearly stated than in the writings of Lenin, but the debt is unmistakeable.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:16 PM CST
Or maybe, we mean \"Collective Responsibility\" not \"Democratic Centralism\". Again, there is a complete abscene of \"Federalism\" in your ideas.
comment by historian
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:19 PM CST
\"but the debt is unmistakeable\"

And Lenin was of course SOOO original on this concept of DC. No one EVER thought or wrote about these concepts before, of course.

Uh, oh wait, there was this Marx guy...
comment by a
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:22 PM CST
Also not surprising since he equates Historical Materialism with God\'s word.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:30 PM CST
Makhno:
\"Yet, it is a fundamental principle, which guides each one of us in our way of understanding the anarchist idea, in our determination that it should penetrate to the masses, in its spirit of sacrifice. It is thanks to this that a man can choose the revolutionary way and ignore others. Without it no revolutionary could have the necessary strength or will or intelligence to bear the spectacle of social misery, and even less fight against it. It is through the inspiration of collective responsibility that the revolutionaries of all epochs and all schools have united their forces; it is upon this that they based their hope that their partial revolts - revolts which opened the path for the oppressed - were not in vain, that the exploited would understand their aspirations, would extract from them the applications suitable for the time and would use them to find new paths toward their emancipation.\"


Malatesta:

\"Certainly I accept and support the view that anyone who associates and cooperates with others for a common purpose must feel the need to coordinate his actions with those of his fellow members and do nothing that harms the work of others and, thus, the common cause; and respect the agreements that have been made - except when wishing sincerely to leave the association when emerging differences of opinion or changed circumstances or conflict over preferred methods make cooperation impossible or inappropriate. Just as I maintain that those who do not feel and do not practice that duty should be thrown out of the association.

\"Perhaps, speaking of collective responsibility, you mean precisely that accord and solidarity that must exist among the members of an association. And if that is so, your expression amounts, in my view, to an incorrect use of language, but basically it would only be an unimportant question of wording and agreement would soon be reached. \"


comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:31 PM CST
My point -- and its really quite simple -- is that it is NOT TRUE that popular movements in Latin America \"don\'t believe in leaders anymore.\" Most anarchists reject the idea of leaders and that is why it was important for Mike to assert that the popular movements in Latin America do so as well.

The question of \"vanguards\" is more complicated since the term gets used in several distinct ways.

Among anarchists it seems to mean \"obnoxious newspaper pushing self-appointed leaders who are really just members of tiny irrelevant sects.\" I am AGAINST that style of leadership just as much as I am against the \"we don\'t have any leaders but I\'m gonna throw this bottle at that cop and you are gonna get busted because I\'ll be gone before he looks in your direction\" style of leadership.

Historically, the term \"vanguard\" has often been used to refer to the most politically advanced sections of the masses. Lots of anarchist newspapers and organizations used the word in their names at least as late as the 30s.

The Leninist notion of \"the vanguard party\" is one of an organization that gathers together the most politically advanced workers. Obviously for every party to successfully do that there are a hundred that think they are the vanguard but are really just sects of the sort described above.

I don\'t think there is anything inherently wrong with the project of trying to gather together the most advanced in a single organization. The problems really arise when groups imagine that by asserting their vanguard status they can overcome the fact that they really haven\'t succeeded in rooting themselves among the oppressed. The complicating factor is that in non-revolutionary times the difference between a genuine potential vanguard and an obnoxious sect may not be entirely self-evident since both will be small and talking about revolution in a way that seems a little disconnected from immediate realities. I hope everybody here understands that they also fall into this (small and weird) category.

The term \"vanguardist\" is often used as a synonym for \"Leninist,\" so many groups that have quite clear conceptions of their leadership role avoid calling themselves a vanguard.

In my experience the term is usually used in such a sweeping manner that its not all that useful for understanding what is being criticized. Often when communist groups participate in coalitions they get accused of vanguardism for such nefarious things as bringing a lot of people to the meeting, having proposals written in advance, or having some agreement in advance about what they want to get out of the meeting. Of course plenty of those groups do pull stunts and behave badly in coalitions as well. But I think the practice of lumping all these things together under the heading of \"vanguardism\" is not fruitful.
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:40 PM CST
There is some truth in what Flint says here. One of the weaknesses of Love and Rage was that the looseness of its original structure created a culture that made it very difficult to implement the tighter structure that was agreed on later. I think that actually there was a lot of political development that took place and that on questions of white supremacy and womens oppression Love and Rage had a much more developed politics than NEFAC seems to, though that wasn\'t reflected in any official statement of the organization. Disagreements around the politics on white supremacy persisted to the end with the ex-RSL members (a couple now in NEFAC) generally adhering to a more class reductionist position. But the active majority of the organization had a pretty developed understanding of white skin privilege.

comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:46 PM CST
This is just plain silly. The Platform was written by people living in exile after being militarily defeated by the Bolsheviks. In practically every country leading anarchists were part of the founding nucleii of the new Communist parties. The Russian Revolution and the sudden hegemony of the Bolsheviks in the revolutionary movement was not a side event to the task of reorienting the anarchist movement. The Platform was an attempt to construct a lifeboat better than the one that had just been swamped by Bolshevism. The narrative you are promoting here is so insular and disconnected from the actual circumstances of the day that it makes the mind reel.
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:53 PM CST
Yeah I do equate the army with the state. And rightly so. So did the anarchist militias in Spain. The insistence on the militia structure was a rejection of a unified command structure that is at the heart of state power.

I know that Makhno and the Friends of Durrutti supported the creation of anarchist armies. So did I -- shortly before I realized I wasn\';t an anarchist anymore. But they did so in defiance of everything else in the anarchist tradition and were roundly condemned for their positions by the vas tmajority of their contemporaries.

I\'d love to hear how you think you can have an army without having thereby created the core of a state. Please define as precisely as you can what you mean by \"army\" and \"state\" so that we don\'t get too caught up in semantic differences.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 04:55 PM CST
\"though that wasn\'t reflected in any official statement of the organization\" shows an obvious problem. See, that\'s really the rub isn\'t it. You can have the best analysis, but unless you can get others to agree with that idea and take responsibility for implementing a program around it, it just remains an idea. What kinds of organization was Love & Rage if \"the active majority of the organization\" that \"had a pretty developed understanding of white skin privilege.\" was incapable of issueing an official statement that it was in fact the majority opinion? And the reason? \"the looseness of its original structure created a culture that made it very difficult to implement the tighter structure\".

You might not have wanted Love & Rage to have been a synthesist network, but the in ability of the organization to even issue an offical statement that the majority position of the membership of the organization was the majority position of the membership of the organization, seems to clearly make it one of the more dysfunctional sythesist organizations. And this is just for a statement! Much less a program actually developed around the idea that would have to be implemented on a day to day basis!
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 05:01 PM CST
Its absolutely true that I think a federated structure is inconsistent with the level of discipline demanded of a revolutionary organization. I think history bears this out. This doesn\'t mean that there shouldn\'t be any freedom of action on the local level, but rather that the degree of that freedom needs to be deternmined by the organization as a whole or by its democratically chosen leadership bodies.

I\'m not saying the Platformists are Democratic Centralists. Rather I\'m saying they go part way there. I agree with the notion of collective responsibility. But its my observation that this is consistently a heavily contested idea among anarchists and that even those who believe in it have enormous difficulty implementing it.
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 05:18 PM CST
Flint, its nots so tidy. Love and Rage spent a long time (too long by everyones estimation) working on a new statement of our politics. There were a lot of reasons for this, but they weren\'t primarily disagreements over these questions of analysis. Love and Rage was primarily concerned with practical activity. Our program was the work we did and we consistently prioritized discussing that over finishing our political statement.

There were disagreements over various points to be sure, but there is little doubt that a solid majority of the organization was agreed on some type of white skin privilege analysis and it informed the work we did and the content of the newspaper. The main opposition to this came from the ex-RSL folks who were (with a couple exceptions) largely inactive in the mass work of the organization. In retrospect I think it was a big mistake not to try to hammer out an explicit statement on this question early on.

L&R was certainly dysfunctional in many ways. I don\'t think it was moreso than any other anarchist organization I have seen, but that is clearly not good enough. I sincerely hope NEFAC has solved all the problems that plagued Love and Rage. Time will tell.
comment by mr x
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 06:21 PM CST
As someone from Australia I am impressed with how spot on Flint was in his assessment of the particular weirdness of Mark McGuire. He\'s an anarcho-spartacist uttering the same stock phrases and ritual denunciations in anything he writes, \'leftist subcultures\', \'congreries of sects\'. Despite his dismissal of youth \'left subcultural\' anarchists he still maintains a certain engagement with them in Sydney. Largely for recruitment purposes as his sect of four aging men is obviously in trouble.

The other main anarcho-syndicalist group here, the Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, is just as pathetic as Mark\'s racket but in a different way. Their main activity as far as I can tell consists of denouncing the Trots.

The australian anarchist scene is rightly the laughing stock of the rest of the anglophone movement. Although maybe that\'s a good thing as it has allowed space for more coherent autonomist/communist groupings to emerge.

On the Latin American struggles and leaders that Chris has been talking about, Marcos is not a leader as such he is a spokesman. He\'s a SUB commandante, there are I believe 24 commandantes in the Zapatista army. But the army is subordinate to the fairly autonomous insurgent villages. Whatever the many other faults of the Zaps this subordination of army to community is very important. That is precisely how an army is not a nucleus of a state.
comment by Dove
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 06:49 PM CST
A legitamate question.

Why do people even bother posting in these forums? Have you noticed that it is basically the same 8 or 9 people who dominate every discussion? Every other opinion is trivial or above even being addressed. Instead the goal is for the elite few, the-know-it-alls to post their opinions and denounce everyone else as wrong or irrelevant.

In theory anarchy speaks of not having hierarchy but in practice it is the same small group of self-chosen people who dominate - whether its a discussion such as here or a group. This is really no different than one finds in the authoritarian left.

Rather than promoting anarchism I think all this does is create hostility and obviously excludes many people. Why bother involving oneself in a movement when only a handful of people matter?

I personally know of at least half a dozen people who have come to this site, generally with lots of enthusiasm and who after being subjected to this \'hospitality\' - become disinterested and never return.
comment by Flint
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 07:00 PM CST
You know, this isn\'t an email list. You\'re not getting spammed by lots of messages you don\'t want to read. This site probably has 5 articles a day posted on it. Only 2 or so of them get any comments. About once a week there is an article that gets over 40 or so comments and it\'s usually in regards to organization.

That means the gross majority of articles could used some discussion. But nobody wants to discuss those.

If you think people will become anarchists because they visited a website, you are fooling yourself. If you don\'t want to see a debate, don\'t go to a forum! Seems pretty simple.

Tell you what, I won\'t post for awhile.
comment by snidely whiplash
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 08:53 PM CST
Yeah. Don\'t post and get a hair cut during all your new free time. I just hate it when people post their thoughts in a discussion forum. Can\'t we all just love each other and build a new world through self-esteem excercizes?
comment by Makhno
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 09:35 PM CST
Thanks, anarcho (you really should use some kind of pseudonym regularly when you post here), for clarifying the points you made in the FAQ regarding the Platform. To answer the rhetorical question you put to me in your last post, I am not interested in competing with Leninists in any way, since their goals are so dissimilar to mine, and I most certainly do not wish to emulate their organizational methods or rhetoric, as the authors of the Platform did. Arshinov and Nestor Makhno can perhaps be forgiven for their organizational fetish; those were different times, and there was not as well-developed a critique of organizationalism as is now available.

Unlike either the Platformists or the Leninists, I reject the notion that working people require any kind of leadership or guidance in their struggles from specialists in revolution, either of a straightforward political nature, or the wishy-washy \"leadership of ideas\" that platformists go on about. I also reject the idea that the best way to combat the power of State and Capital is to create bigger and better formal organizations; what all those left anarchists who see the Platform as an \"inspiration\" (rather than the piece of authoritarian garbage that it is) lack is a clear understanding of the nature of power, and how power relations have insinuated themselves into every aspect of our lives, and even shaped our own values and behavior to some extent. They (left anarchists) offer a choice which is really no choice at all, between the hierarchy and domination of the formal organizations comprising State and Capital, and their own formal organizations, which, while lacking the size and material advantage of the former, are no different in their emphasis on control.

The question you posed at the end of your last post is simply ridiculous. What serious anarchist do you know who doesn\'t believe in working with others, in associating with their comrades? The real question, in case you haven\'t been paying attention for the last thirty years or so (I am going as far back as the radical feminist movement of the 1960s and \'70s, and Murray Bookchin\'s critique in Listen, Marxist!) is what types of organizational methods are most consistent with anarchist goals of achieving personal and social liberation? The traditional Leftist reliance on formal organizations is much less appealing to a lot of people than it used to be, and will never again be accepted unquestioningly.
comment by Matt H
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 09:46 PM CST
Dove,

Sometimes things get repeated over and over in these threads - that much I can say in the negative. But overall, I don\'t see the big problem you\'re talking about.

People are free to post here. No one is controlling what I do or don\'t post - Unless I start slandering or flamebaiting, then ChuckO might (rightfully) delete the post. People may disagree with me or \"denounce\" my views if they choose. (really, this doesn\'t happen all that much - I think the majority of people are pretty polite) It\'s pretty easy to scroll past the stuff that you don\'t like or have no interest in.

Personally, I learn a lot from what people post here. Yeah, sometimes there are arguements and some bullshit, but not always. When people talk politics sometimes things get a bit heated.

So I\'d say, post if you like, or not if you don\'t want to. One way to make it so it\'s not the \"same 8 or 9 people\" is to speak up and make your voice known. Or you don\'t even have to read the posts after the news items if you\'re not so inclined.
comment by Request for NEFAC
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, January 17 2003 @ 10:42 PM CST
I suddenly saw an important role that a group like NEFAC could perform...in the event of a \'perfect storm\',(Iraq,N.Korea,South America/Nigeria)taking down the leadership of the US war state would/could NEFAC organize non agression pacts between parties like certain militia\'s and certain minorities including perhaps exchange of hostages in the event of a pre revolutionary situation developing? I\'d like to see that.
comment by Stirner
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 09:31 AM CST
Hey Flint,

I know you get all excited by the idea of \"specifismo\" (dont know if this is the correct spelling) but it\'s not really different from platformism. For one thing, you should know that the comrades of the FAG translate it to \'platformism\' when they are writting in english. Furthermore, it was developped by the FAU as a specific answer to their specific situation. But it was borrowed from the french who always speack of the \"specific anarchist organisation\" as opposed to the \"worker organisation\" who can be more or less revolutionnary. This said, when the comrades look at historical precedent, they find \"specifismo\" in Uruguay and \"platformism\" else where. I think they can be said to be synonim or close. It basicely mean the same thing except that the FAU didint need to discover the platform to apply the ideas...
comment by Miranda Rights
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, January 18 2003 @ 11:23 AM CST
The EZLN never lays out their organizational structure in extreme detail for good reason I\'m sure, but it can be frustrating for those of us who really, really want to know how they operate. I lived in Chiapas for a couple of years and worked in a Zapatista community. From this experience and reading a lot, this is what I know: Marcos IS a leader. As far as I can tell, he is a member of the CCRI-CG (the General Command of the Revolutionary Indigenous Clandestine Committee) although it is never explicitly stated anywhere. He is a part of the official commanding body of the entire Zapatista organization. While it is true that the army is subordinate to the communities, I don\'t think this makes in not a nucleus of a state. Afterall, according to the constitution the U.S. Army is subordinate to U.S. citizens.
The way I saw it work in Zapatista territory is something like this (I\'m using a non-military example): People want to be able to read. There a very few schools in Zapatista villages and teachers are hard to come by, most come from outside the community, don\'t relate well to the culture of the community and don\'t stay long. Most people have no more than a third grade education, if that much. There a usually a few people in the community who have enough education that they can teach others, but they can\'t teach because they have to work their milpas (fields) in order to feed their family.
The CCRI (there are regional committees under the General Command) hears what the communities are saying, makes a decision and issues a mandate: all communities have to open schools, you must have your people who have the most education (usually former EZLN soldies who have returned to civilian life) teach, and the community has to agree to support that person and their family because they can\'t spend so much time farming. And the communities have to comply.
I saw this happen where I was working. I had been gone for a number of months and when I came back there was a school that had classes in the days for kids and at night for the adult women. I was like, \"Wow, how did you decide to do this?\" People said, \"well, the comandancia told us to do it, so we did.\"

Now aruably, the communties could have done this on their own, without the CCRI mandating it, but it had been years and they hadn\'t done it even though they had been wanting a school with their own people teaching. This was also happening on a regional level, so thousands of people were now being educated. This is what the Zapatistas call \"mandar obedeciendo\" or leading by obeying. They listen to what the people say, crystalize it into a specific demand and then figure out how to make it happen. They may be following the will of the people, but the members of the CCRI-CG, including Marcos, are definitely leaders.
comment by Mick
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 19 2003 @ 02:03 AM CST
I have to concur with Mr. Day on this point. An \"army\" (with a system of ranks and the inability of soldiers to refuse orders from above without facing military punishment) is indeed the nucleus of a state.

I agree with the militia system for the defense of the revolution. Though in the likely case of civil war I do think it should be a highly co-ordinated system with centralized command (\"commanders\" would elected as delegates from the common ranks and recallable to them).
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 19 2003 @ 03:53 PM CST
A few questions for Mick:

Would the \"centralized command\" be elected only by fighters in the militias or would they be formally accountable to the civilian population in any way?

How would the decisions of the \"centralized command\" be enforced if various individuals or units disagreed with them? Your comments suggest that you are aware of the difficulty of this question. the fact is that in war it is sometimes neccesary to send some fighters to an almost certain death in order to secure a larger objective. If every fighter or unit has the freedom to disobey orders they don\'t like it can severly constrain what a military force can accomplish. When the opposing military force (the armed forces of your own capitalist state or an invading army) is not similarly constrained the difference often means defeat.

What happens to the \"centralized command\" when the immediate counter-revolutionary threat subsides?
comment by Durruti's Love Child
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 19 2003 @ 08:51 PM CST
Malatesta claimed that the Platform brought Anarchism one step away from Bolshevism. He was right.
comment by Durruti's Love Child
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 19 2003 @ 08:51 PM CST
Malatesta claimed that the Platform brought Anarchism one step away from Bolshevism. He was right.
comment by rise
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, January 19 2003 @ 09:33 PM CST
bullshit, the anarchists were the first to call for a unified, non-statist war effort.
comment by A Wob
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 20 2003 @ 12:50 AM CST
\"What Jon most has an issue with in regards to NEFAC is our willingness to work with existing mass reformist organizations (like AFL-CIO unions, ACORN, etc...). He thinks that our energies would be better spent building the IWW.\"

Right. Jon--and every Wobbl--should have issues with working with these ORGANIZATIONS. While the IWW can and should be in solidarity with unionized workers within the AFL, they should not be in sympathy with the AFL\'s \"principles\" and definitely not its leadership.

ACORN? Any self-respecting Wobbly would have nothing to do with ACORN. They are hypocritical union busters. The ACORN workers, Yes. ACORN, NO!
comment by Mick
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 20 2003 @ 12:56 AM CST
The central command would elected purely by the fighters of the units that they serve in. Civilians have no business electing military leaders, as they\'re not the ones who are going to have to trust the commanders with their lives in combat.

However, the militia as a whole would be directly subservient to the civilian power (workers councils, unions, soviets, - whatever form they take). The civilian power would be the highest decision making body who would set the *general political* strategy of the revolution. The civilian authority would also be the ones to order militia units into battle. The militia would be responsible for implementing the *military* strategy to achieve the civilian political goals.

As for how revolutionary militias would get soldiers to die to achieve a greater military goal. It\'s a simple answer with a very difficult implementation. They would have to do so voluntarily.

The only other way to get soldiers to do that is for commanders to have the power to execute soldiers for not obeying orders.

If you go down the latter path then, regardless of military victory or defeat, you are marching towards an authoritarian state and not any sort of libertarian society.

The former is much more difficult to implement, but people will voluntarily die for their fellow soldiers if they know and trust that their commanders are doing everything they can to achieve victory with the least loss of life possible.

Also, military commanders would be recallable by the soldiers; which would help ensure that a revolutionary militia wouldn\'t see the needless slaughters of soldiers that authoritarian armies do. If any militia commander tried to pull some crap like the somme (WW1) or hamburger hill (Vietnam) they would be sacked by their troops after the first attack and made a rifleman again. You can also bet that, without the threat of being executed, the soldiers would refuse to fight pointless bloodly battles or follow orders that were stupid and suicidal (as opposed to brave and sucidial ones that are nessasary).
comment by mick
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 20 2003 @ 01:07 AM CST
Also, if the counter-revolutionary threat subsided (which until world revolution will always be a hotly debated issue in any revolutionary pocket). Then the central command would disband and the militia units that made up the co-ordinated fighting force (It\'s not an army but what the fuck do I call it? A collumn perhaps?) would return to their nieghborhoods and workplaces. The people in arms is the best defense of the revolution.

The civilian authority would make the decision to disband the central command and return the militia units to their homes.
comment by Christopher Day
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 20 2003 @ 10:33 AM CST
It all sounds very tidy and pretty much what I expected. A few points:

The distinction between civilians setting political strategy and military commanders making all the military decisions tends to break down in real world situations. War is politics by other means. Military decisions have political consequences and vice versa. I believe that the highest command positions must be accountable (and therefore chosen by) the civilian power if you don\'t want to have some sort of de factor military dictatorship. The Chinese Communists and the Zapatistas, each in their own way, opted for the primacy of civilian command (over the Guevarist model of the politico-military organization) and I think they were right to do so.

Your ideas of libertarian military discipline sound great, but they have never worked in practice. The ability of an armed force to fight and win depends on a functioning chain of command that is able to make bad decisions. Simply put, bad decisions (which cost lives) are inherent under conditions of war. We all would like to think we would heroically volunteer to sacrifice our lives in revolutionary battle, but in the actual conditions in which that becomes necessary it will be at precisely those moments when one entertains the deepest doubts about the abilities of ones commanders. In actual combat a military force that lacks the discipline that comes from enforceable orders will consistently go down to defeat against a similarly armed force with such discipline. Since revolutionary armed forces tend to be more poorly armed than their adversaries this question is all the more crucial.

I highly recommend that anybody seriously interested in this question read \"Armies in Revolution\" by John Ellis. Ellis treats the military organization and strategies of revolutionary armed forces in seven situations starting with English Civil War and concluding with the Chinese Revolution. There is considerable discussion of the relations and contradictions between armies and militias.

It seems to me that you are struggling with this question and that is why you are fumbling around for the right terminology. You understand the problems with a simple reliance on militias but are reluctant to come out in support of the need for a revolutionary army. For understandable reasons. But this is not a semantic matter that can be solved with wordplay. There is a choice that needs to be made here between a structure and a strategy that sounds nice and flatters your ideals and one that can actually defeat the capitalist state and open the way to more sweeping social transformation.

comment by mick
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, January 20 2003 @ 01:10 PM CST
First off, I\'d like to ask have you ever been a soldier?

I have. I spent 5 years as an infantier in the reserves (ironically called a militia here in Canada). I also had a lot of \"regular force taskings\" where I worked in the regular army full-time for several months at a time. Thankfully I never saw combat (I say thankfully as a lot of my friends who did serve as UN \"peacekeepers\" in Yugoslavia came back either shot or screwed in the head and were cast aside by the state with no compensation).

My views on anarchist military organization stem as much from my experience as a soldier in a capitalist army as they do from theory and history.

The difference between our views of military organization is political. I am an anarchist-communist and I want the military to have a libertarian structure. You are a \'state socialist\' who wants a revolutionary army to have the same authoritarian aspects as the capitalist armies (If shooting soldiers for refusing to obey officers isn\'t authoritarian I don\'t know what is).

I agree with you that civilian authorities should be a higher decision making body than the military and set the general goals for the military.

However, I disagree that civilians should be able appoint military leaders. That right has to be reserved for the soldiers. Soldiers will elect people who are capable combat leaders. They will elect people who they trust and want to serve under. Soldiers won\'t freely obey the orders of commanders they don\'t trust. So, if the military is to have free revolutionary self-discipline and not the discipline of the pistol then they have to be the ones to elect (and fire) their military leaders. There is no contradiction between soldiers electing military commanders and civilian control of the military. At least not from an anarchist perspective.

I disagree with you that libertarian self-discipline has never worked in practice. To cite two well-known examples the CNT militias and the Mahknovist insurgents both used revolutionary self-discipline. Granted both were defeated, the CNT militias through militarization and the Mahknovists by the red army (the red army, at least in comparison to capitalist armies, also displayed a lot of free self-discipline in its early stages). However, in my analysis, their defeats were not from failures of self-discipline but from other material and political forces.

Unlike most anarchists, I recognize the necessity of a chain of command and I recognize that people will make bad decisions and that people will die in war. The difference is I want the commanders to be accountable to their fellow soldiers and you do not.

You cannot separate the organization of the military from the type of society you want. If one wants an anarchist society then you MUST organize your military according to anarchist principles.

We\'re not going to agree on this subject, though I think our discussion has sketched out the differences between a coordinated anarchist military and an authoritarian statist one.

An authoritarian military structure might, and that\'s a big might, be more efficient than a libertarian one but it would be the efficiency of organized murder. It is the efficiency of Auschwitz, not of liberation.
comment by NEFAC Checka
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 12:55 PM CST
This is basically NEFAC\'s position. Duh.
comment by huh?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, January 22 2003 @ 04:27 PM CST
Day, here\'s a simple example of your inability to concede a single point in a longer argument. YES, L+R was a \"synthesis\" federation, you even point out this fact in your descriptions of it, and you still fail to admit that it was a sythesis federation. Urgh!

Just apologize, comrade.

Take your spanking.
comment by NEFAC Checka
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 23 2003 @ 12:30 PM CST
Aaagh! PR, stop with your nuttiness.