why socialists should care about anarchism

Don’t worry, I have one going in the other direction.

THE ANARCHIST TENSION

I haven’t read the entire thing, and I think forcing myself to do so would be very much against the point contained within.  But I feel like the title alone gets to the point.  There’s something deeply personal about anarchism.  Rather than a structured theory of history like marxism, anarchism has that Fight Club feel to it – anarchism is about feeling the whole rest of the world pushing down on you from the outside, as a hostile force, and returning fire with a fuck you I won’t do whatcha tell mee, pushing back in every direction.  While most of my political theories remain largely marxism-that-is-compatible-with-anarchism, I find this emotional vibe alone to be reason to take up the old label again.  I am an anarchist.  I am against the system because the system is against me.  It’s personal.  I feel it every day – every second.

ALL POWER TO THE IMAGINATION

Marxists can get so dogmatic, analytic, intellectual, and systemic that it becomes impossible to even have new thoughts.  If perfection breeds conservatism, then marxists need to, once more, pull a Fight Club and disrupt themselves.  A periodic existentialist re-evaluation of your ideas is as necessary for mental hygiene as brushing your teeth.

Marxists are often the grumps who serve the sad-but-necessary role of reminding people that certain forms of struggle are just not yet possible or intelligent.  Insurrection, for example.  So we find other, lower-intensity forms of resistance to engage in.  But by acting as the reality principle of social movements, marxists sometimes miss the fact that conditions have shifted in our favor and that new, more aggressive tactics are now possible.  I don’t necessarily mean riots; maybe now we could start running candidates where it was previously just not worth the resource investment.

Because anarchists are always chomping at the bit to escalate the intensity while marxists are typically reminding people that it’s really not the insurrection yet, anarchists tend to win the day when circumstances have shifted and an escalation in tactics is appropriate.  For example, many socialists initially dismissed Occupy Wall Street as a “voluntaristic” action by a few that was ridiculous because nobody would camp for very long.  They might have been correct about the camping, but before Occupy fizzled out, it pretty much went globally viral, making many city governments feel physically threatened, and resulted in riots in many places.

As another example, while many marxists dismiss civil disobedience as a foolish anarchist fad for people who have no long-term strategy, actually it isn’t always bad.  Yes, it can get in the way of building a broad movement by creating an implied hierarchy of heroes vs. “passive” crowd, but actually sometimes it’s necessary.  When?  I’m not here to give you a schema, just think for yourself and figure out when it’s good for yourself.  But here’s one example: Wisconsin.  Maybe you can think of others.  Maybe you should just think creatively and independently.

For all the Trotskyist prattling about “transitional demands,” actually I think transitional demands are very simple.  They are about expanding the imagination.  Obviously you need to back up the checks that your mouth tries to cash – you need to prove that America is wealthy/productive enough to actually afford things like universal healthcare, abolishing tuition, massive redistribution of wealth, etc.  But no really, let’s dream wildly about the way the world could be, the way our lives could be, and place that directly into our political demands when we protest or demonstrate or talk or whatever.

SELF-GOVERNANCE

There’s a quote by some dude, Bakunin I think, “Freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice…Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.”  Don’t hold me to it, I wasn’t there and I don’t blog to make myself do more research.  Point is, he’s right.

                There is a tremendous lack of discussion of direct democracy in the USA’s political culture, even the US Left.  Socialists often make noises about believing in workers’ self-management, but don’t really acknowledge how they’re going to have to do the heavy lifting of popularizing direct democracy before workers’ councils can even be a concept in most people’s minds.  It seems that the groups most willing to discuss direct democracy are anarchists and especially anarcho-syndicalists.

The anarchist principle of self-governance is pretty much the corrective for almost everything that has ever been wrong with bolshevism.  Some nitpickers might say “true bolshevism was always about self-governance” but if I said true Christianity was always about kindness and not child rape, you might see my point about how labels can get abused regardless of good intentions at the beginning.  It becomes difficult to say “Stalinism is not true bolshevism” when so many people describing themselves as bolsheviks have either been Stalinists, Russian ultra-nationalists, or these days, orthodox Trotskyists who are dangerously close to Stalinism anyway.

When you have a nationalized economy without effective democratic control over that economy, it’s not anything deserving of the word “socialism.”  Having formal voting power, having formal workers’ councils while the KGB breathes down your neck threatening to send you to the gulag for saying the wrong thing, doesn’t count.  I really don’t care about the ortho-Trot arguments that nationalization is somehow magically workers’ property, while workers are ground beneath the gears and the apparatchiks enjoy their nice places and cars.  I don’t care about their sophistry, insisting that the theory of state capitalism violates the Gospel of Marx and Trotsky, as if the mission of human self-liberation centers around quoting dead people while ignoring clearly-existing but yet-unnamed structures of economic class and political power.  As Trotsky himself said in Revolution Betrayed,

If a ship is declared collective property, but the passengers continue to be divided into first, second and third class, it is clear that, for the third class passengers, differences in the conditions of life will have infinitely more importance than the juridical change in proprietorship. The first-class passengers, on the other hand, will propound, together with their coffee and cigars, the thought that collective ownership is everything and a comfortable cabin nothing at all.

Yes, I adhere to the left-revisionist deviation that a workers’ state must actually be controlled by workers.

NO REALLY – FUCK AUTHORITY – AND YES THAT MEANS YOU, PARTY HACKS

Everyone knows it, no one wants to admit it – there is something deeply wrong about how contemporary socialist/”Leninist” organizations deal with having paid staff.  Everyone knows it, no one wants to admit it – the way things are done now breed a culture of party hacks.  It is important to be anti-authoritarian within resistance organizations, not just in society broadly, and the organizations which claim to be anti-authoritarian are no exception.

Even if a group is organized to be “democratic,” the conferences where the democratic decision-making is performed are generally dominated hard by the paid staff of the organization.  It’s not just that they control the formal procedures.  It’s also that, after the same paid staff are in office for decades, an informal culture within the organization arises.  That unwritten rule says, “The only statements to take seriously are ones from the leadership; the rest are to be answered either with knee-jerk condemnation or awkward silent non-response.”  If you think this doesn’t apply to you, watch your own thoughts and behavior at your next political meeting (party hacks aren’t the paid staff; they’re the people who never question the paid staff).  I think it is impossible to ever remove these decades-long “cadre” (a word pretty much defined to mean “anyone who has been around a while and agrees with the leadership perspective”).  I think they are so entrenched, so hostile to being removed, because they have worked in a socialist organization for so long that their job history would make it impossible to do anything else.  You may think it’s necessary to build up people who have practice doing something, but I think it’s more important to spread those skills and experience out to have true democracy.  I think given the way the SWP leadership closed up around and defended Marty Smith from charges of sexual assault demonstrates how this decades-long clique becomes just that – a clique, with all the organizational implications that implies.  It begins to act as a faction campaigning within the organization, rather than just a leadership that administrates necessary functions and is free to send mixed signals by being internally divided on various issues.  This dynamic is obviously clear to anyone who has been following the crisis in the British SWP, though oddly enough it applies to some of the very organizations that have been giving encouragement to the SWP dissidents.

This isn’t just about being an anti-authoritarian for the sake of it.  In fact I think it’s necessary to keep an organization alive.  If you’re in an organization and you fall into the passive routine of going through the motions, selling your papers and holding your meetings, without any evaluation of your success, and you just go on doing it for years without any traction, this can literally spell death for an organization.  You need to constantly be applying critical thought and results-evaluation to your own efforts.  You need to completely liberate yourself from dogma or leadership pressure as you do this.  You need to be organic, to have a sense of the spirit of the times, perhaps borrowed from your leadership but also self-created by the process of being on-the-ground, hitting the sidewalk and the coalitions, trying to organize and educate.

Every organization could use a little more anarchy.

why anarchists should care about bolshevism

Don’t worry, I have one going in the other direction too.

BOLSHEVISM IS A STRATEGY

Many anarchists immediately think of the worst atrocities, flaws, and repressions of the USSR when they hear the word “bolshevism.”  Yeah, okay, I don’t entirely blame them; for a long time that’s why I identified primarily as an anarchist.  I’d go so far as to say that many anarchists are really just socialists who are afraid of being tarred by the same brush as Stalinism.

What many are unaware of is that when many marxists say “bolshevism” or “leninism,” what they are actually talking about is a long-term revolutionary strategy, something many anarchists lack.

So what is the bolshevik strategy?

  1. To simply have an organization of radicals only, and to persistently spread propaganda regardless of whether the revolution seems immediate or impossible.  The educational effort should be actually well-researched, not (always) cheap, sensational slogans.  Obviously the education should be focused on our core thrust (systemic change, revolution, workers’ power, class & wealth inequality) as well as things that might seem unrelated but are actually crucial to building an all-inclusive workers’ movement (fighting racism, sexism, homophobia) as well as other random shit like political discussion of what’s going on in pop culture.
  2. To “get our hands dirty” in movements which appear “reformist” or “electoral” on the surface.  One purpose is to train the organization in being a sort of nerve center that has a finger in every pie of the resistance and therefore becomes more capable of initiating, not reacting to, national events.  Another purpose is to increase the intensity and imagination of the progressive demands in that movement, as well as encourage the tactic of mass demonstration, in order to create greater social tension between the populace and the system at every point possible.  For this reason we also provide what logistical support we can, and what organizational advice anyone will care to listen to.  The second purpose is that protest movements are a great place to discuss shades of opinion with other leftists (pulling liberals into radicalism) and to recruit (pulling isolated radicals into organizing).  Firmness in principles, flexibility in tactics.
  3. When society reaches enough of a rebellious critical mass, brought about by a combo of spontaneous capitalist immiseration and long-term leftist educational subversion, to try to orient the Left toward an involvement in the labor movement.  Furthermore, if the labor movement gets to enough of a critical mass, with union struggles boiling over into outright workplace mutinies where workers take over and democratically run their jobs, the organization(s) created earlier should call for the creation of a federation of workers’ councils, or of workplaces that have been seized by workers or contested by unions.  (Before you think this is far-fetched, here are five instances of this actually happening from 1968 forward.)  Democratic community/neighborhood councils could possibly be included; the Venezuelan movement has utilized a workplace-neighborhood alliance.  This collection of delegates begins to act as a new, liberatory organizing center for society, standing as a counterweight to the old halls of power like Manhattan, Congress, the Pentagon or Langley.  But such a dual-power situation cannot last long without one side taking the other out…
  4. The organization(s) must act as a resolute voice within the workers’ council federation, standing up for both (1) the continued existence and survival of the federation, against outside attacks or internal disintegration (2) the dispersal of the old governing powers (by popular riots or pre-dawn raids as you choose), with the tasks of economic coordination and policy-making now falling to the federation.

This organizational-strategic outline has some commonalities in anarchism with platformism and syndicalism, but frankly I don’t meet many anarchists who have things explicitly thought out this far.  Which is a shame, because it’s necessary for revolutionary success.  (Also note that, while the above strategy is a revolutionary strategy, it requires no illegal activity in present circumstances.)

DON’T HATE THE ENTIRE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

The above also outlines another example of why anarchists should care about bolshevism: the above sequence of events actually happened.  Not only did the strategy actually succeed in overthrowing both the Tsar’s monarchy AND the capitalist provisional government, but the result actually was a federation of workers’ self-management.  (The word “soviet” is Russian for “council.”)  While it’s true that the Communists eventually deteriorated into something horrible that no one should support (creating many theories on why!), the initial revolution created that very federation of workers’ councils which I think any sensible anarchist should see as the fulfillment of their ideas, and of course many anarchists at the time actually did.

MARXISM IS A COOL PHILOSOPHY

There is a huge, rich library of Marxist philosophy and historiography, and it’s really your loss if you don’t take advantage of it because you’re an anarchist afraid that opening a marxist book will brainwash you into being a Stalinist head-stomper.  Perhaps there is too much academic marxism, but for the purpose of reaching some serious internal clarity, nothing beats it.

Anarchists seem to have no standard theory of history or theory of social change, whereas the very definition of “marxism” is precisely a specific theory of history and theory of social change (one which I happen to think is correct).  Mostly, marxism holds that when it comes to the overwhelming majority of people, their political and cultural ideas are strongly influenced by the economic system they live under – whether we’re talking about their rotten ideas, which come from a rotten life and wealthy control of media/education, or we’re talking about their good ideas, which tend to originate from breakdowns in the system like recessions or scandals.  Furthermore, continuing this materialist historical analysis is also a materialist theory of social change.  Major shifts in consciousness are triggered by major events emanating from the economic base (2008), but ultimately the demographic most capable of actually implementing social change is the demographic responsible for the material sustenance of society: working people.  This does not only apply to the core, “essential” workplaces like industry or transportation, but literally everything that produces profit for an owner, from raw materials to services and final sales.  (Rule of thumb: if someone pays you to do it, it must create value somehow or a businessperson wouldn’t front the money for it.)

HOW DO YOU EVEN BREATHE WITHOUT “OPPRESSING” SOMEONE OR SOMETHING

Finally, this brings me to a clarification of “vanguardism.”

Anarchists often accuse bolsheviks of “vanguardism.”  Depending on the context, this branches into three different results: (1) the bolsheviks are being dicks and the anarchists are just using a confusing word (2) the anarchists embrace vanguardism in practice without realizing or admitting it (3) the anarchists engage in all sorts of self-defeating silliness to avoid “being vanguardist.”

First, yeah there’s a long harsh history of Communists being assholes.  The Russian Communist Party often used its self-appointed status as The Vanguard Party as a papal right to crush any dissident ideas.  They then often exported this attitude to the Communist Parties of the world, which made creating unity within the Left very difficult internationally, with the Communists saying they had the sole right to represent the Left.  This has a lot to do with why the Left failed to defeat the fascists in Spain and why the Greek Left is not governing Greece at the moment.

And it’s not just Communists/Stalinists.  A lot of Trotskyists, often held up as the golden models of non-Stalinist, dissident marxism, also interpret their own group as the sole vanguard and place a horrific emphasis on stridently arguing with other groups rather than working together and building unity, or at least just keeping to themselves.

So what even is “vanguardism?”

It’s the idea that, among the working class, there are some workers who are more progressive and some workers who are more conservative.  There are some workers who are radical and some workers who aren’t – or if you believe in mixed consciousness, which I do, all workers are radical but only some of them have realized it and purified themselves of the old reactionary horseshit.

In old military language, when there was a column of marching soldiers, the front was the “vanguard” and the back was the “rearguard.”  It’s not an entirely helpful metaphor since all the soldiers marching in a column are on the same side, unlike in politics.  But the idea is, the “vanguard” is a sub-section of the working class who has realized its position as workers and the necessity of resistance.  Some leftists hope to create a “vanguard party,” or an organization which formalizes and roughly incorporates the vanguard layer of the working class.  In practice this will probably be split among several parties, and marxists have often implied that the one organization that they most agree with is “the real vanguard” or “more vanguard-ish” (though I don’t know that anyone but me has used the word “vangaurdish”).

So, here comes a frequent anarchist critique: any evaluation of your own ideas as better than anyone else’s ideas is elitist.  If you do it within the Left, it is vanguardism, it is authoritarian, and it is why the Russian Revolution derailed into Stalinism, which is basically identical to Leninism.

Besides disagreeing with that last part about how Stalinism happened, I have to ask – how is it possible to even walk down the street without thinking that some ideas are better than others?  Isn’t it a bad idea to step in front of a moving car?

On the political level, this idea is still ridiculous.  I think every anarchist would agree that Republican ideas are certainly horrible.  Yes, I am creating a HIERARCHY of ideas (not of people!).  My HIERARCHY of ideas places demographic tolerance, perhaps of gays, or Muslims, as a better idea than racism or homophobia.  I think most anarchists even agree that it’s not just conservatism that deserves a low place on the hierarchy of ideas, but even liberalism needs to be criticized.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that many anarchists themselves apply vanguardist ideas by promoting anarchist literature and sharply denouncing bolshevism.

Amazingly, some anarchists are actually self-aware of their circular mind games to the point of elevating them to a systematic theory called “postmodernism,” basically the theory that the truth is unreachable so you might as well not try, and also that promoting any one idea is an oppressive act that creates totalitarian regimes.  What’s more oppressive to you, allowing yourself to have an opinion, or holding to some theory that’s so restrictive that you’re not even allowed to form a thought without dismissing it as relativistic?

Give me “We are the 99%” any fucking day over this horseshit.  Now that’s high theory!

To be blunt I think a lot of anarchists use this childish game of “no idea is better than any other” as a copout for the fact that they have no revolutionary strategy, and they are often intimidated by the marxists who do have one, but are afraid of joining the dark side because they think their choices boil down to anarchism vs. Stalinism.

This issue of vanguardism to me is one of the worst embodiments of purist silliness in anarchism, taking many different forms, which I think anarchism could do without, and for which I think bolshevism could serve as a structure-providing counterweight.

the insanity of competing socialists

Competing socialists?  Really?  Isn’t competition for, you know, capitalists?

I once heard a socialist make fun of the group Solidarity by saying “they have two different positions on Syria – isn’t that INSANE?”  Actually no, I think it makes total sense.  Yes, there may be some people in the group who are attending different demonstrations on this ONE issue.  However, 99% of the time, the people in a socialist group are going to have similar positions, allowing organizational continuity.

There are these two other groups which allow internal disagreement, and are slightly more successful than America’s grassroots socialists, you may have heard of them – the Democrats and Republicans.

The genius philosopher Lukacs once made the observation that a group which means what is says must act accordingly, and therefore its members must be bound to carry out decisions collectively voted on.  This makes sense, and really it was a criticism pointed at socialist groups that did nothing but elect socialist legislators who were not held to any particular stance.  (These days I’m of the opinion that it’s not the rank-and-file who should have to follow the letter of the law, but any elected officials or delegates.)

The problem is that modern socialists have carried this idea to an absurd extreme, where every group can have only one centralized position on EVERYTHING from Syria to peanut butter, and difference of position must be followed by a split in organization.  Because the possibilities of fine-tuned disagreements are infinite, this leads to a continual process of splitting within socialist groups.  Is it true that different tactics require different subgroups?  Yes, different subgroups, of a larger socialist group that generally stands for socialism and collaborates most of the time.

Here’s the main thing: contemporary socialist groups are basically set up to be sub-factions of a greater socialist argument.  The problem is, there is no main public face of socialism in the USA.  THE LITTLE SOCIALIST GROUPS ARE SUB-FACTIONS OF NOTHING, AND THEREFORE UNNOTICEABLE.  When they are noticed, what people notice is that there’s a million groups, and they rightfully laugh and move on.

For reasons explained elsewhere, I think this historical moment is critical and we need to use any artificial means to establish a large-scale socialist group, plus some thoughts on how this will actually happen.

Think about it – the Bolshevik-Menshevik split, essentially over the all-important question of revolutionism versus reformism, occurred in 1903-1905 just as the 1905 revolution was happening.  Revolution was a real question.  But in the context of the USA, revolution is not an immediate thing we need to be splitting over right now.  And yet we split over so much less than that, we split over shades of opinion.  So anyone who says that being in a million different groups is “Leninist” is dead wrong.

THE UGLY REALITY OF SOCIALIST COMPETITION AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

There’s this idea that the incredible splittage within the socialist movement doesn’t matter because of the “united front.”  The idea is that socialist groups can have separate existence while cooperating in single-issue coalitions – over opposing budget cuts, antiwar stuff, unions, environmentalism, etc.  In my experience it’s the opposite.

There is a competitive rush within every single-issue movement or coalition, between all the socialist groups, to recruit as many people from it as possible, and in the process talk shit on every other socialist group present.  The pressure towards cooperation often comes from tactical decisions – the socialists in a coalition often have similar ideas about how to make the coalition a success.  The pressure towards competition and splitting comes from recruitment time.

The inter-group rivalry gets intense because of the market-like dynamic that if your group doesn’t gobble everyone up first, the other groups might get to them.  It can feel like being the one woman in a party full of dudes — everyone is hitting on you, everyone is laying on the pressure.  Pretty soon you just get sick of it and leave the party — or the movement.

Because many of these conversations are one-on-one rather than addressed to the whole coalition, socialists are individually pressed by would-be recruits to explain the differences between groups.  Except it’s only one person’s explanation of those differences.  This is where all the most disgusting exaggerations of every other group’s shortcomings are propagated.  So often rather than the socialist groups getting together and making one united presentation to their fellow activists about the need for socialism, with the discussion/debate of fine differences happening openly in front of everyone, the real discussion of ideology gets compartmentalized into different groups who talk shit on each other with no reality-check of open, daylight debate where absurd accusations can be corrected.  From the outside looking in, you might feel that there is more conversation of what is wrong with other socialists than what is right with socialism.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Now I know that we live in capitalism, and we can’t expect every facet of socialist organizing to mirror the socialist dream of cooperation, but this might be one of those areas where we can do better.  Right now we sound like a bunch of competing salespeople, trying to outdo each other for our own company’s product.  (To be fair I think the whispering campaigns of shit-talk also happen along the socialist-anarchist fault line as well.)

People say things like “it’s just criticism and debate, not sectarianism.”  But we end up discussing nuances that aren’t remotely relevant to the 2013 USA context just to score points against each other.  We need less of that, and more of a practiced belief that we are one united swarm.

Does this mean all socialist groups should drop their identities and converge?  That might be asking more than most organized socialists are ready for, though it wouldn’t be the worst idea.  This way we could stand together on the 99% of stuff we agree on, and the fine points of difference would be exactly that – fine points of difference.  (The fact that socialists emphasize the fine points of difference as their primary political identity is individualistic in the bad sense of the word.)

Maybe instead of total formal convergence, a few groups could get together, if they feel they are similar enough.  Maybe we could run candidates together, or hold joint-sponsored/organized meetings on issues where we share common ground (like the general need for socialism or environmentalism*).  Again, we could just generally stop viewing our fine points of difference as our primary political identity, being socialists first and partisans second.

If there’s anyone capable of getting over our differences and uniting, it should be us.
*Edit: credit where credit is due, Solidarity and the International Socialist Organization are overcoming some of the partisan BS by co-sponsoring the EcoSocialist Conference in New York City on Saturday April 20th.  I think some other groups are getting in on it too.

Can I be a non-purist anarchist?

anarchy lol

So when I became a radical first I described myself as an anarchist.  Eventually some things that bummed me about the anarchist scene pushed me towards a form of libertarian bolshevism.  Now I’m spreading my wings/tentacles, opening my mind a bit again, and I’m wondering – maybe I’m already an anarchist?  Maybe I’ve actually still been one for the last five years?  Help me out here.  (Also note I’m not abandoning the label socialist, I’m hoping a person can be both.)

Could we have an anarchism which is not a manic drive to eliminate all rules or functional hierarchies or routines, but instead is a mission to defeat the main ruling class of society, eliminate all oppressions of specific demographics, and to generally create a situation where nobody-is-in-charge-because-everybody-is-in-charge?

Note that I said “functional hierarchies.”  There are obviously material and ideological hierarchies in society that I oppose, whether it’s the main hierarchy of ruling-class-over-everyone or the dehumanization of specific groups.

However – THE HORROR – I think it’s okay for a political group to elect a leader (as long as they can be questioned, easily removed, etc).  And THAT is the kind of thing I am talking about.  Can I really be an anarchist if I hate bosses but believe in realistic organizing methods?

If I am a direct-democratic, anti-capitalist revolutionist who believes in workers’ self-management, huge redistribution of wealth, fighting demographic oppressions, and a healthy distrust of all formal leadership, do I qualify?

WHAT KIND OF ANARCHIST WOULD I BE?

I already know there is some vocabulary within anarchism to describe what I am.

For example, apparently I am a “specifist.”  That means I think it’s okay to have groups of people who are explicitly radical, and which disallows people who don’t fit the basic purpose of the group.  I think it’s okay to make that rule.  Some anarchists would call that oppressive.

I’m class-oriented and labor-oriented, so maybe I’m an “anarcho-syndicalist.”  Apparently this doesn’t precisely fit, because I embrace a variety of tactics regarding unions.  For example, I think it’s okay to faction-fight within a pre-existing union for improvements, whereas from what I hear the syndicalists think this is a bad idea, and stand for setting up a splinter or competitor union which is radical from the start.  Whatever; obviously I’d be some kind of red anarchist.

I am also apparently an “anarcho-collectivist” and not precisely an “anarcho-communist.”  Anarcho-communists believe in immediately de-commodifying absolutely everything, from the major banks all the way down to consumer commodities like pencils and oranges.  This places a heavy reliance on pure spontaneity, and frankly I don’t yet trust the entire population just as it emerges from capitalism.  I think it’s too open to exploitation, attempts by criminal cartels to seize and corner goods, etc.

Apparently “anarcho-collectivists” believe in placing all workplaces under collective ownership, but still requiring people to show up and work to get paid.  At first this sounds too similar to the same-old-shit of capitalism, but when you realize that we’ve eliminated the massive profits being skimmed off by private owners (pay hikes all around!), plus instituting workers’ democratic management of the workplace, it’s actually a huge, revolutionary difference.

Do I believe in starving people who refuse to work, even under such improved conditions?  No.  I just don’t believe in giving them free money to buy cell phones.  So maybe I’m a collectivist-communist hybrid.

I also know that I am NOT an “insurrectionist.”  I believe in insurrection, but a constant insistence that it should be right this second is stupid.  Revolution is a social process, of which insurrection is the climax.  I believe in uniting a huge majority around issues that truly affect them, and then convincing that huge majority to batter down the power structure (not the infra-structure!) and build a new arrangement for itself.  I believe that every step of that process is revolutionary (including right this second), not just the one day when the Senate gets raided.  I believe in social movements, not a few people either breaking windows or trying to become serious terrorists.

“DUDE YOU’RE NOT A TROO ANARCHIST”

There’s a lot of situations in which a person will be called “not a ‘true’ anarchist.”  This is what I’m worried about.

For one thing, I’m not really into the obligation to have a weird lifestyle, and I don’t buy into consumption-based politics.  I think every commodity is covered in blood, so I’ll enjoy my Gatorade.  I think that only certain types of movements have the capability to gain critical mass or physically alter the system, and that fair trade coffee is not one of them.  And until then, I think it’s obnoxious to lecture people about how they shop, given that we have so little time and money anyway.

There’s a crimeth.inc-driven “situationism” which seems to imply that a person must be constantly breaking laws and indulging in extreme hedonism in order to be a “troo anarchist.”  What if I’m tired from work, which I have to do to live, and I just want to go home and watch TV in between protests?  Does that make me a bad person too?  Would you place me on the low end of your implied hierarchy of evaluation?  (Note that I’m not against counterculture, just against the obligation.)

There also seems to be a marxist-anarchist dividing line on certain tactics and practices.  I’m trying to figure out if I just consistently fall on the marxist side or if there are splits within anarchism over these things.

For example, I think the black bloc can be counterproductive.  I tend to encourage demonstrations where the largest amount of people would feel safe and welcome.  I am also skeptical of the idea that deep down everyone at a demonstration constantly wants to riot and just needs a little boost.  There’s a time and place for it, but another problem is that “the bloc” tends to operate on a rogue basis without consulting the groups who set up a protest (say, during the long process of organizing and meetings during which a demonstration is typically planned).  Obviously once part of the crowd incites a riot, the police can crack down on everyone.  That’s bad for my broad-movement model, because it makes it hard to bring a stroller.

I also am against consensus decision-making.  I think simple democracy is good enough, and consensus is so time-consuming as to be unrealistic and repellent to working people who have busy schedules or kids.  Simple democracy satisfies my hope of an anarchism which is not purist, but creates a situation of everyone-in-charge.

Seriously, let’s keep in mind – in American society, democracy is actually radical.  We don’t have democracy at work.  We have hardly any democracy in politics, really effectively none (when’s the last time you actually voted on a policy?).  We also don’t have democracy or true democracy in most voluntary organizations, even many progressive organizations.  Achieving basic democracy in the USA would itself entail a tremendous revolution.

So what do you think?  Can I circle that A?  Or am I just an evil Leninist infiltrator?