after some back and forth at workers' liberty
, i decided to conclude what seemed like a fruitless argument by clarifying some of the political ideas that i find important and useful, and areas where i thought it might be possible for socialists and anarchists to work together. i've reposted it below.
i don't feel that this debate is taking a fruitful path as we both [myself and an awl member] seem to be convinced of our own viewpoints and unconvinced by the other's. you say that my theories are vague and wishy-washy, i say that yours are rigid and authoritarian. you point to revolutions of the past, i point to insurrections of the present. whilst this can be frustrating, hence my rather over the top statements at times, i don't wish to be rude or invasive. my only purpose in engaging with this debate was to say: yes, i do agree with socialists on a lot of points. there can be no doubt that a revolution of class and property relations needs to be achieved, for the benefit of humankind. this alone is enough to draw anarchists and socialists together on a great deal of issues. on these it would be mutually advantageous to work together where possible.
on the other hand, i feel that the classical anarchist critique of the state and political parties is important, and too easily ignored by socialists. power does corrupt even those of us with the best intentions, and the dictatorship of the proletariat, in anarchists' opinion, is bound to corrupt the struggle for a just society.
further, more recent post-left tendencies within anarchism, critique the workerist approach of traditional left-wing socialists and anarchists. this approach questions the paramount importance given to the worker within leftist traditions, and indeed, whether work itself is a force for good or bad. a good exposition of this kind of thinking can be found in bob black's 'the abolition of work'
, but the start of a trend towards this mode of thinking can be traced through the work of the situationists
, who derived their theory from traditional marxist thought, whilst taking it further. work, post-leftists would suggest, is resolutely not "what defines human beings", but is merely a spook (in stirner's terminology). spooks are those abstractions instilled by religion, the state, morality, etc. that prevent the satisfaction of desire. (for more on desire, repression, and revolution, the works of wilhelm reich, who was a marxist writing in the '30s who became disillusioned with the cause, are instructive. maurice brinton gives a good introduction in 'the irrational in politics'
.) the work ethic is clearly a spook, as it does not benefit the worker, only the worked-for. work means the continual delaying of satisfaction both in work time and in leisure time, that rationed portion of time left over when the best part is already consumed by work. we surely do not want to align ourselves with the statement 'arbeit macht frei'.
related to this is the post-left critique of technology. whilst most socialists, like most others in society, consider advancements in technology to equal 'progress', many in the green anarchist movement are opposed to technological 'advance'. technology and industry, they argue, are at the heart of our lurch towards ecological collapse. there can be no maintenance of our current technology without the total devastation of the climate and biosphere. most socialists imagine technological fixes to these problems, but the only answer that i see as pragmatic is a massive shift towards local organisation of production, and away from heavy industries. many, like yourself, see these changes as a regression, but this is, i would suggest, a reference to the myth of progress as inextricably linked with technology. for me, it would not be "going back to the Middle Ages" because the middle ages were marred by an intensely oppressive feudal social organisation. obviously, we would wish to arrange our society according to principles of consent, rather than repression.
this is linked to the abolition of work, because, were we to embrace a ludic rather than workerist view of life, we would necessarily need to live without factories and large-scale industry. after all, who would choose to work on a production line?
the primitivists, like john zerzan whose 'future primitive'
is a classic text, would go further still. their beef with technology is that it out of necessity requires a division of labour, and the creation of specialists. specialism means that some individuals have access to knowledge and skills that others don't, and can subsequently use that as social leverage, in coercion. this cannot create a harmonious society, say the primitivists. instead they take inspiration from hunter-gatherers who are self-sufficient, have a much greater awareness of their ecosystems, and 'work' for very little time each day, leaving the majority of their lives free for socialising with their families. whilst there can be no doubt that it is impossible to expect an immediate shift towards such a lifestyle, i think that many of these are desirable aspects of society that many of us would want, if we were able to obtain them.
i hope that this has given a flavour of some of, what i find, the more relevant and consistent tendencies within anarchism of the recent past. whilst there are many who might call themselves libertarian or anarchist who cling to spooks like nation, organised religion, rights, or the principles of capitalism, as i find them inconsistent with the core anarchist principle of antiauthoritarianism i do not consider their pretentions to those titles as credible.
as far as practical progress is concerned, i also have a tendency to agree that many of the tactics pursued by socialists are important. collective action within the workplace is, of course, an important way of challenging the bosses, and capitalist thinking. however, we must be careful to avoid mediation by union hierarchies, or disempowering petitions to authority. that is why i would promote, not fetishise, direct actions (not 'Direct Action', a label that seems to be limited to jumping in front of bulldozers, blockading roads, and smashing american bombers), actions that allow an individual to realise their power and act for themselves. these are actions that make the corruption of unions and other organisations by power-seeking individuals harder, because people are more likely to think critically, and for themselves, rather than following the leader.