The People's Poet!

The People's Poet!
Right on, kids!

Friday, 31 January 2014

It's the other Oscars

John Pilger presents, It's the other Oscars
I'm posting this article as a result of the following passage:
"Nelson Mandela was a great human being who became a celebrity. "Sainthood", he told me drily, "is not the job I applied for." The western media appropriated Mandela and made him into a one-dimensional cartoon celebrity tailored for bourgeois applause: a kind of political Santa Claus. That his dignity served as a facade behind which his beloved ANC oversaw the further impoverishment and division of his people was unmentionable. And in death, his celebrity-sainthood was assured."

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Why does class matter?

I posted this in a response to Pablo's post:

Why Does Class Matter? Contemplating Left praxis in a po-mo age.

  I think to understand why the politics of gender, race and sexuality are necessarily promoted as defining the impetus on which the Left should found its program we need to consider the effort corporate propagandists devote to defining what society should think about and how they see those subjects. From the corporate perspective 'gay money', 'Maori money' or 'woman money' is indistinguishable from 'straight-white-male money'; profit extracted from sexually, racially or gender-specific marginalised groups is no different than profit extracted from anyone else. As a consequence the politics of racial, sexual and gender equality is acceptable from a corporate point of view.

This is, of course, perfectly excellent. Discriminating against someone based on their sexual preferences, gender or race is wrong. The problem of accepting the corporate paradigm without question is its inherent bias against the marginalised majority – the working class. There has necessarily been a conscious and concerted effort to expunge class identity from public awareness, 'working-class' has become an un-word in the corporate vocabulary. The only time the elite allow use of the term 'working class' is when describing the history of some corporate functionary who is promoting the interests of big business – there is no shortage of stories gushing over the working class roots of the likes of John Key, Paula Bennett or , the latest to draw attention to her under-privileged past, Hekia Parata. What is not acceptable is using the term 'working class' in conjunction with words like Maori, women or homosexuals, these are all regarded as monolithic entities whom tend to be represented in the media by spokespeople who conform to corporate sensibilities.

The modern class structure being promoted through the mainstream begins with the beneficiary then jumps to the middle-class, which is pretty much anyone who isn't on a benefit. This achieves the goals of marginalising those on benefits while attempting to portray the working class as a group that has a shared identity with the coordinator class – cleaners are lower-middle class, John Key is upper-middle class. Anyone on a benefit is 'one of them' and not 'one of us'.

I haven't analysed any media to see if the term 'working class' has been disappeared in the manner I have suggested, but I imagine if anyone were to scrutinise most aspects of the media over the last thirty years or so they would find the use of the term has diminished dramatically.   

Sunday, 26 January 2014


Originally I wasn't going to link to any news sites, however, this story needs airing - Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world
The wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110tn (£60.88tn), or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world, added the development charity, which fears this concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving up social tensions

Working for the Few - Oxfam report

       Working for the Few - Oxfam report

Beatnik (The Clean)

He's a Beatnik!

Gaskrankinstation (Headless Chickens)


Elephunk in my Soup (Low Profile)


Bertrand Russell's, Secular 10 Commandments

(Thanks to Adam commenting over at The Standard for allowing this to resurface.)

The Liberal Decalogue

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found. 6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Subversive Threats

Real subversive threats are those that provide an example to others of how to extricate themselves out from under oppressive regimes. Oppressive regimes need not necessarily be totalitarian juntas, there are many oppressive regimes acting out of socially democratic nations that serve to undermine the sovereignty of the populations they target. Wikileaks provided an example of this behaviour being orchestrated against New Zealand when it published the cablegate files. Most New Zealanders would not regard Pharmac as a subversive organisation, but seen from the context of US pharmaceutical corporations Pharmac is a threat as it provides an example to other countries of how to provide affordable medication at the expense of corporate profits. During 2004 the subject of Pharmac's 'subversive' activity was the subject for discussion in a US's Wellington embassy cable.
1. (SBU) Summary: After trying in vain for years to persuade the New Zealand government to change its restrictive pricing policies on pharmaceuticals, the drug industry is taking another tack: reaching out to patient groups with information designed to bolster their demands for cutting-edge drugs not already covered by government subsidy. Several U.S. drug companies also hold out hope that a New Zealand-U.S. free-trade agreement could be a lever for improving their access to New Zealand's pharmaceutical market. 2. (C) The government contends it already is increasing drug availability by boosting the budget for pharmaceutical purchases over the next three years. In actuality, its spending on drugs in real terms is declining. U.S. pharmaceutical companies continue to struggle in what they view as one of the most restricted free-world markets. They are cutting local staff, and they are slashing investment in New Zealand-based research and development. Attempting to make inroads against a government mindset that is hostile to the drug industry, post is working with the industry to identify speakers and engage in other public diplomacy efforts that could help educate New Zealanders on the benefits of gaining access to a wider range of effective pharmaceuticals. End summary.
The embassy is effectively outlining a plan to undermine New Zealand's independent drug purchasing scheme in favour of a regime which serves the profit motives of US pharmaceutical corporations. New Zealand's current government's interest in pushing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has already seen the prospect of Pharmac's subversive activities being curtailed by corporate US predators - however, this attempt to dismantle Pharmac's established negotiating position is too politically toxic for even a government as far right as the current Key regime to contemplate.
Tim Groser is confident the TPP will have a marginal impact on public institutions like Pharmac. “It certainly won’t result in higher prices for pharmaceutical products for New Zealanders. This is really about protecting the model of Pharmac to ensure that they’re in a tough negotiating position with international pharmaceutical companies, and we’ve got some very good negotiators who are doing just that.” Groser says parallel importing will continue as long as it’s consistent with intellectual property law. “There’s some complicated issues about the interface of this with copyright and that’s a legitimate concern, and our negotiators will work their way through those issues.”
The Pharmac model is not a threat to the profits of the pharmaceutical giants, the New Zealand market is just too small to make a difference in this respect. Pharmac's threat is the idea provided as an example for other countries to follow, an example which if taken up could undermine the oppressive nature of the global pharmaceutical industry's regime.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

There is no New Zealand Left

The New Zealand 'blogosphere' can be a funny beast. Those who write blogs, contribute essays to sites or just participate in the comments are a fairly thoughtful bunch. My experience in participating has been quite positive. I cop some abuse on the right-wing blogs, but I would expect nothing less from that quarter. One of the more recent pan-blog exchanges, in which I sporadically engaged, was originally a dissection of the New Zealand Left by Paul Buchanan. His essential point was best summed up in this paragraph:
"There is no viable Left in NZ politics. The Labour Party gave up any pretense of being grounded in socialist principles decades ago when it embraced market-driven economics, and the CTU-led union movement are the embodiment of Robert Michel’s notion of the “iron law of oligarchy:” the purpose of the organization is to serve itself, and if that means playing the role of “responsible” corporate toadies, then so be it. The one true Left union, UNITE, has some decent socialists in it and working class interests at heart, but it is also fronted by several unsavory characters with Trotskyite and Stalinist inclinations (among other unpleasant traits), so its appeal is limited."
This quite necessary critique of those who would purport to be champions of working class interests and aspirations was seized upon by one of New Zealand's stridently right-wing blogs as evidence of the collapse of the Left. Kiwiblog's David Farrar ultimately concluding, "Looks like the revolution has been postponed." (Any anarchist worth their salt can point out that the revolution is everywhere and all the time.)To his credit Paul Buchanan took the time to explain his position in the comments section of the Kiwiblog thread. Next out of the traps came Chris Trotter over on The Daily Blog. Chris Trotter can be a mixed bag. There are times when I admire Trotter's insights and observations, then there are times when he appears to be doing little more than showing off his writing ability and knowledge of historical events. This latest effort was insubstantial and an attempt to defend characteristics which are more alienating than inclusive:
"First of all let’s deal with the charge that progressive ideas elicit “derision or disinterest” from those for whom they should be “the natural political choice”. Not to put too fine a point upon it, this is bullshit. The Pundit blog’s Poll-of-Polls shows an extremely healthy 46 percent of voters expressing support for the Labour, Green and Mana parties. In a country that has been subjected to an unrelenting barrage of neoliberal propaganda for the best part of 30 years that is a heartening result."
46% is pitiful when those who suffer from the imposition of the neoliberal agenda is a far greater percentage of the voting public. It is less that neoliberal propaganda is so powerful and more that the hierarchies of the Labour and the Green parties talk down to those they regard as their natural inferiors. There is a mentality within the coordinator class of New zealand which prevents them from engaging as equals with the designated subjects. Chris Trotter is a part of this upper tier of the contemporary class system and, as such, does not seem capable of appealing to the bottom 80% without a reflexive condescending persona. The Standard joined the party with The Pablo-Trotter interchange – whither the left?. Karol is always worth reading and this effort is both even and encourages engagement from its readers (I wouldn't have described Buchanan's analysis as Marxist) - 162 comments and counting. Paul Buchanan decided to re enter the fray with a reply to Trotter's piece:
"I should note that in his post Chris waxes positive about the Labour Party, the Greens, Mana and the CTU. In doing so he helps make my original case: none of these organizations are “Left” in the sense of being socialist or even primarily worker-focused, whatever they may have been at their inception. They may use socialist rhetoric and act “progressive” when compared to National and its allies, and they may be a better choice for Left-leaning people when it comes to electoral preferences and collective representation, but the hard fact is that play the game by the rules as given, do not challenge the system as given and, to be honest, just chip away around the superstructural margins of the edifice that is NZ capitalism."
I do not believe this exchange is going to disperse quietly into the ether. The Left needs to include those it claims to represent in the discussion.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Noam Chomsky, Howard Gardner, and Bruno della Chiesa discuss Brazilian writer/educator/dissident, Paulo Freire's, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful

Just brilliant, Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky discuss how the law is little more than another weapon in the arsenal of the ruling elite.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Debt: The First 5000 Years - Extended Interview

Debt: The First 5000 Years wasn't easy to read, but it was worth putting the effort in to understand the ideas David Graeber is pushing. This interview is a great little synopsis of the main theme of the book.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Noam Chomsky, Notes on Anarchism

Unashamedly swiped from the Chomsky info website.

Notes on Anarchism
Noam Chomsky
In Daniel Guérin, Anarchism: From Theory to Practice, 1970
A French writer, sympathetic to anarchism, wrote in the 1890s that "anarchism has a broad back, like paper it endures anything" -- including, he noted those whose acts are such that "a mortal enemy of anarchism could not have done better."1 There have been many styles of thought and action that have been referred to as "anarchist." It would be hopeless to try to encompass all of these conflicting tendencies in some general theory or ideology. And even if we proceed to extract from the history of libertarian thought a living, evolving tradition, as Daniel Guérin does inAnarchism, it remains difficult to formulate its doctrines as a specific and determinate theory of society and social change. The anarchist historian Rudolph Rocker, who presents a systematic conception of the development of anarchist thought towards anarchosyndicalism, along lines that bear comparison to Guérins work, puts the matter well when he writes that anarchism is not
a fixed, self-enclosed social system but rather a definite trend in the historic development of mankind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to become broader and to affect wider circles in more manifold ways. For the anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is influenced by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the intellectual culture of the society in which it has grown.2
One might ask what value there is in studying a "definite trend in the historic development of mankind" that does not articulate a specific and detailed social theory. Indeed, many commentators dismiss anarchism as utopian, formless, primitive, or otherwise incompatible with the realities of a complex society. One might, however, argue rather differently: that at every stage of history our concern must be to dismantle those forms of authority and oppression that survive from an era when they might have been justified in terms of the need for security or survival or economic development, but that now contribute to -- rather than alleviate -- material and cultural deficit. If so, there will be no doctrine of social change fixed for the present and future, nor even, necessarily, a specific and unchanging concept of the goals towards which social change should tend. Surely our understanding of the nature of man or of the range of viable social forms is so rudimentary that any far-reaching doctrine must be treated with great skepticism, just as skepticism is in order when we hear that "human nature" or "the demands of efficiency" or "the complexity of modern life" requires this or that form of oppression and autocratic rule.
Nevertheless, at a particular time there is every reason to develop, insofar as our understanding permits, a specific realization of this definite trend in the historic development of mankind, appropriate to the tasks of the moment. For Rocker, "the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement"; and the method is not the conquest and exercise of state power, nor stultifying parliamentarianism, but rather "to reconstruct the economic life of the peoples from the ground up and build it up in the spirit of Socialism."

But only the producers themselves are fitted for this task, since they are the only value-creating element in society out of which a new future can arise. Theirs must be the task of freeing labor from all the fetters which economic exploitation has fastened on it, of freeing society from all the institutions and procedure of political power, and of opening the way to an alliance of free groups of men and women based on co-operative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the community. To prepare the toiling masses in the city and country for this great goal and to bind them together as a militant force is the objective of modern Anarcho-syndicalism, and in this its whole purpose is exhausted. [P. 108]
As a socialist, Rocker would take for granted "that the serious, final, complete liberation of the workers is possible only upon one condition: that of the appropriation of capital, that is, of raw material and all the tools of labor, including land, by the whole body of the workers."3 As an anarchosyndicalist, he insists, further, that the workers' organizations create "not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself" in the prerevolutionary period, that they embody in themselves the structure of the future society -- and he looks forward to a social revolution that will dismantle the state apparatus as well as expropriate the expropriators. "What we put in place of the government is industrial organization."

Anarcho-syndicalists are convinced that a Socialist economic order cannot be created by the decrees and statutes of a government, but only by the solidaric collaboration of the workers with hand and brain in each special branch of production; that is, through the taking over of the management of all plants by the producers themselves under such form that the separate groups, plants, and branches of industry are independent members of the general economic organism and systematically carry on production and the distribution of the products in the interest of the community on the basis of free mutual agreements. [p. 94]
Rocker was writing at a moment when such ideas had been put into practice in a dramatic way in the Spanish Revolution. Just prior to the outbreak of the revolution, the anarchosyndicalist economist Diego Abad de Santillan had written: facing the problem of social transformation, the Revolution cannot consider the state as a medium, but must depend on the organization of producers.
We have followed this norm and we find no need for the hypothesis of a superior power to organized labor, in order to establish a new order of things. We would thank anyone to point out to us what function, if any, the State can have in an economic organization, where private property has been abolished and in which parasitism and special privilege have no place. The suppression of the State cannot be a languid affair; it must be the task of the Revolution to finish with the State. Either the Revolution gives social wealth to the producers in which case the producers organize themselves for due collective distribution and the State has nothing to do; or the Revolution does not give social wealth to the producers, in which case the Revolution has been a lie and the State would continue.
Our federal council of economy is not a political power but an economic and administrative regulating power. It receives its orientation from below and operates in accordance with the resolutions of the regional and national assemblies. It is a liaison corps and nothing else.4
Engels, in a letter of 1883, expressed his disagreement with this conception as follows:

The anarchists put the thing upside down. They declare that the proletarian revolution must begin by doing away with the political organization of the state....But to destroy it at such a moment would be to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious proletariat can assert its newly-conquered power, hold down its capitalist adversaries, and carry out that economic revolution of society without which the whole victory must end in a new defeat and a mass slaughter of the workers similar to those after the Paris commune.5
In contrast, the anarchists -- most eloquently Bakunin -- warned of the dangers of the "red bureaucracy," which would prove to be "the most vile and terrible lie that our century has created."6 The anarchosyndicalist Fernand Pelloutier asked: "Must even the transitory state to which we have to submit necessarily and fatally be a collectivist jail? Can't it consist in a free organization limited exclusively by the needs of production and consumption, all political institutions having disappeared?"7
I do not pretend to know the answers to this question. But it seems clear that unless there is, in some form, a positive answer, the chances for a truly democratic revolution that will achieve the humanistic ideals of the left are not great. Martin Buber put the problem succinctly when he wrote: "One cannot in the nature of things expect a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forth leaves."8 The question of conquest or destruction of state power is what Bakunin regarded as the primary issue dividing him from Marx.9 In one form or another, the problem has arisen repeatedly in the century since, dividing "libertarian" from "authoritarian" socialists.
Despite Bakunin's warnings about the red bureaucracy, and their fulfillment under Stalin's dictatorship, it would obviously be a gross error in interpreting the debates of a century ago to rely on the claims of contemporary social movements as to their historical origins. In particular, it is perverse to regard Bolshevism as "Marxism in practice." Rather, the left-wing critique of Bolshevism, taking account of the historical circumstances surrounding the Russian Revolution, is far more to the point.10

The anti-Bolshevik, left-wing labor movement opposed the Leninists because they did not go far enough in exploiting the Russian upheavals for strictly proletarian ends. They became prisoners of their environment and used the international radical movement to satisfy specifically Russian needs, which soon became synonymous with the needs of the Bolshevik Party-State. The "bourgeois" aspects of the Russian Revolution were now discovered in Bolshevism itself: Leninism was adjudged a part of international social-democracy, differing from the latter only on tactical issues.11
If one were to seek a single leading idea within the anarchist tradition, it should, I believe, be that expressed by Bakunin when, in writing on the Paris Commune, he identified himself as follows:

I am a fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow; not the purely formal liberty conceded, measured out and regulated by the State, an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest; not the individualistic, egoistic, shabby, and fictitious liberty extolled by the School of J.-J. Rousseau and other schools of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the would-be rights of all men, represented by the State which limits the rights of each -- an idea that leads inevitably to the reduction of the rights of each to zero. No, I mean the only kind of liberty that is worthy of the name, liberty that consists in the full development of all the material, intellectual and moral powers that are latent in each person; liberty that recognizes no restrictions other than those determined by the laws of our own individual nature, which cannot properly be regarded as restrictions since these laws are not imposed by any outside legislator beside or above us, but are immanent and inherent, forming the very basis of our material, intellectual and moral being -- they do not limit us but are the real and immediate conditions of our freedom.12
These ideas grew out of the Enlightenment; their roots are in Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, Humboldt's Limits of State Action, Kant's insistence, in his defense of the French Revolution, that freedom is the precondition for acquiring the maturity for freedom, not a gift to be granted when such maturity is achieved. With the development of industrial capitalism, a new and unanticipated system of injustice, it is libertarian socialism that has preserved and extended the radical humanist message of the Enlightenment and the classical liberal ideals that were perverted into an ideology to sustain the emerging social order. In fact, on the very same assumptions that led classical liberalism to oppose the intervention of the state in social life, capitalist social relations are also intolerable. This is clear, for example, from the classic work of Humboldt, The Limits of State Action, which anticipated and perhaps inspired Mill. This classic of liberal thought, completed in 1792, is in its essence profoundly, though prematurely, anticapitalist. Its ideas must be attenuated beyond recognition to be transmuted into an ideology of industrial capitalism.
Humboldt's vision of a society in which social fetters are replaced by social bonds and labor is freely undertaken suggests the early Marx., with his discussion of the "alienation of labor when work is external to the worker...not part of his nature...[so that] he does not fulfill himself in his work but denies himself...[and is] physically exhausted and mentally debased," alienated labor that "casts some of the workers back into a barbarous kind of work and turns others into machines," thus depriving man of his "species character" of "free conscious activity" and "productive life." Similarly, Marx conceives of "a new type of human being who needs his fellow men....[The workers' association becomes] the real constructive effort to create the social texture of future human relations."13 It is true that classical libertarian thought is opposed to state intervention in social life, as a consequence of deeper assumptions about the human need for liberty, diversity, and free association. On the same assumptions, capitalist relations of production, wage labor, competitiveness, the ideology of "possessive individualism" -- all must be regarded as fundamentally antihuman. Libertarian socialism is properly to be regarded as the inheritor of the liberal ideals of the Enlightenment.
Rudolf Rocker describes modern anarchism as "the confluence of the two great currents which during and since the French revolution have found such characteristic expression in the intellectual life of Europe: Socialism and Liberalism." The classical liberal ideals, he argues, were wrecked on the realities of capitalist economic forms. Anarchism is necessarily anticapitalist in that it "opposes the exploitation of man by man." But anarchism also opposes "the dominion of man over man." It insists that "socialism will be free or it will not be at all. In its recognition of this lies the genuine and profound justification for the existence of anarchism."14 From this point of view, anarchism may be regarded as the libertarian wing of socialism. It is in this spirit that Daniel Guérin has approached the study of anarchism in Anarchism and other works.15 Guérin quotes Adolph Fischer, who said that "every anarchist is a socialist but not every socialist is necessarily an anarchist." Similarly Bakunin, in his "anarchist manifesto" of 1865, the program of his projected international revolutionary fraternity, laid down the principle that each member must be, to begin with, a socialist.
A consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production and the wage slavery which is a component of this system, as incompatible with the principle that labor must be freely undertaken and under the control of the producer. As Marx put it, socialists look forward to a society in which labor will "become not only a means of life, but also the highest want in life,"16 an impossibility when the worker is driven by external authority or need rather than inner impulse: "no form of wage-labor, even though one may be less obnoxious that another, can do away with the misery of wage-labor itself."17 A consistent anarchist must oppose not only alienated labor but also the stupefying specialization of labor that takes place when the means for developing production

mutilate the worker into a fragment of a human being, degrade him to become a mere appurtenance of the machine, make his work such a torment that its essential meaning is destroyed; estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labor process in very proportion to the extent to which science is incorporated into it as an independent power...18
Marx saw this not as an inevitable concomitant of industrialization, but rather as a feature of capitalist relations of production. The society of the future must be concerned to "replace the detail-worker of today...reduced to a mere fragment of a man, by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of whom the different social functions...are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural powers."19 The prerequisite is the abolition of capital and wage labor as social categories (not to speak of the industrial armies of the "labor state" or the various modern forms of totalitarianism since capitalism). The reduction of man to an appurtenance of the machine, a specialized tool of production, might in principle be overcome, rather than enhanced, with the proper development and use of technology, but not under the conditions of autocratic control of production by those who make man an instrument to serve their ends, overlooking his individual purposes, in Humboldt's phrase.
Anarchosyndicalists sought, even under capitalism, to create "free associations of free producers" that would engage in militant struggle and prepare to take over the organization of production on a democratic basis. These associations would serve as "a practical school of anarchism."20 If private ownership of the means of production is, in Proudhon's often quoted phrase, merely a form of "theft" -- "the exploitation of the weak by the strong"21 -- control of production by a state bureaucracy, no matter how benevolent its intentions, also does not create the conditions under which labor, manual and intellectual, can become the highest want in life. Both, then, must be overcome.
In his attack on the right of private or bureaucratic control over the means of production,, the anarchist takes his stand with those who struggle to bring about "the third and last emancipatory phase of history," the first having made serfs out of slaves, the second having made wage earners out of serfs, and the third which abolishes the proletariat in a final act of liberation that places control over the economy in the hands of free and voluntary associations of producers (Fourier, 1848).22 The imminent danger to "civilization" was noted by de Tocqueville, also in 1848:

As long as the right of property was the origin and groundwork of many other rights, it was easily defended -- or rather it was not attacked; it was then the citadel of society while all the other rights were its outworks; it did not bear the brunt of attack and, indeed, there was no serious attempt to assail it. but today, when the right of property is regarded as the last undestroyed remnant of the aristocratic world, when it alone is left standing, the sole privilege in an equalized society, it is a different matter. Consider what is happening in the hearts of the working-classes, although I admit they are quiet as yet. It is true that they are less inflamed than formerly by political passions properly speaking; but do you not see that their passions, far from being political, have become social? Do you not see that, little by little, ideas and opinions are spreading amongst them which aim not merely at removing such and such laws, such a ministry or such a government, but at breaking up the very foundations of society itself?23
The workers of Paris, in 1871, broke the silence, and proceeded

to abolish property, the basis of all civilization! Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labor of the many the wealth of the few. It aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to make individual property a truth by transforming the means of production, land and capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labor, into mere instruments of free and associated labor.24
The Commune, of course, was drowned in blood. The nature of the "civilization" that the workers of Paris sought to overcome in their attack on "the very foundations of society itself" was revealed, once again, when the troops of the Versailles government reconquered Paris from its population. As Marx wrote, bitterly but accurately:

The civilization and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. Then this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge...the infernal deeds of the soldiery reflect the innate spirit of that civilization of which they are the mercenary vindicators....The bourgeoisie of the whole world, which looks complacently upon the wholesale massacre after the battle, is convulsed by horror at the destruction of brick and mortar. [Ibid., pp. 74, 77]
Despite the violent destruction of the Commune, Bakunin wrote that Paris opens a new era, "that of the definitive and complete emancipation of the popular masses and their future true solidarity, across and despite state boundaries...the next revolution of man, international in solidarity, will be the resurrection of Paris" -- a revolution that the world still awaits.
The consistent anarchist, then, should be a socialist, but a socialist of a particular sort. He will not only oppose alienated and specialized labor and look forward to the appropriation of capital by the whole body of workers, but he will also insist that this appropriation be direct, not exercised by some elite force acting in the name of the proletariat. He will, in short, oppose

the organization of production by the Government. It means State-socialism, the command of the State officials over production and the command of managers, scientists, shop-officials in the shop....The goal of the working class is liberation from exploitation. This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie. It is only realized by the workers themselves being master over production.
These remarks are taken from "Five Theses on the Class Struggle" by the left-wing Marxist Anton Pannekoek, one of the outstanding left theorists of the council communist movement. And in fact, radical Marxism merges with anarchist currents.
As a further illustration, consider the following characterization of "revolutionary Socialism":

The revolutionary Socialist denies that State ownership can end in anything other than a bureaucratic despotism. We have seen why the State cannot democratically control industry. Industry can only be democratically owned and controlled by the workers electing directly from their own ranks industrial administrative committees. Socialism will be fundamentally an industrial system; its constituencies will be of an industrial character. Thus those carrying on the social activities and industries of society will be directly represented in the local and central councils of social administration. In this way the powers of such delegates will flow upwards from those carrying on the work and conversant with the needs of the community. When the central administrative industrial committee meets it will represent every phase of social activity. Hence the capitalist political or geographical state will be replaced by the industrial administrative committee of Socialism. The transition from the one social system to the other will be thesocial revolution. The political State throughout history has meant the government of men by ruling classes; the Republic of Socialism will be the government of industry administered on behalf of the whole community. The former meant the economic and political subjection of the many; the latter will mean the economic freedom of all -- it will be, therefore, a true democracy.
This programmatic statement appears in William Paul's The State, its Origins and Functions, written in early 1917 -- shortly before Lenin's State and Revolution, perhaps his most libertarian work (see note 9). Paul was a member of the Marxist-De Leonist Socialist Labor Party and later one of the founders of the British Communist Party.25 His critique of state socialism resembles the libertarian doctrine of the anarchists in its principle that since state ownership and management will lead to bureaucratic despotism, the social revolution must replace it by the industrial organization of society with direct workers' control. Many similar statements can be cited.
What is far more important is that these ideas have been realized in spontaneous revolutionary action, for example in Germany and Italy after World War I and in Spain (not only in the agricultural countryside, but also in industrial Barcelona) in 1936. One might argue that some form of council communism is the natural form of revolutionary socialism in an industrial society. It reflects the intuitive understanding that democracy is severely limited when the industrial system is controlled by any form of autocratic elite, whether of owners, managers and technocrats, a "vanguard" party, or a state bureaucracy. Under these conditions of authoritarian domination the classical libertarian ideals developed further by Marx and Bakunin and all true revolutionaries cannot be realized; man will not be free to develop his own potentialities to their fullest, and the producer will remain "a fragment of a human being," degraded, a tool in the productive process directed from above.
The phrase "spontaneous revolutionary action" can be misleading. The anarchosyndicalists, at least, took very seriously Bakunin's remark that the workers' organizations must create "not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself" in the prerevolutionary period. The accomplishments of the popular revolution in Spain, in particular, were based on the patient work of many years of organization and education, one component of a long tradition of commitment and militancy. The resolutions of the Madrid Congress of June 1931 and the Saragossa Congress in May 1936 foreshadowed in many ways the acts of the revolution, as did the somewhat different ideas sketched by Santillan (see note 4) in his fairly specific account of the social and economic organization to be instituted by the revolution. Guérin writes "The Spanish revolution was relatively mature in the minds of libertarian thinkers, as in the popular consciousness." And workers' organizations existed with the structure, the experience, and the understanding to undertake the task of social reconstruction when, with the Franco coup, the turmoil of early 1936 exploded into social revolution. In his introduction to a collection of documents on collectivization in Spain, the anarchist Augustin Souchy writes:

For many years, the anarchists and the syndicalists of Spain considered their supreme task to be the social transformation of the society. In their assemblies of Syndicates and groups, in their journals, their brochures and books, the problem of the social revolution was discussed incessantly and in a systematic fashion.26
All of this lies behind the spontaneous achievements, the constructive work of the Spanish Revolution.
The ideas of libertarian socialism, in the sense described, have been submerged in the industrial societies of the past half-century. The dominant ideologies have been those of state socialism or state capitalism (of increasingly militarized character in the United States, for reasons that are not obscure).27 But there has been a rekindling of interest in the past few years. The theses I quoted by Anton Pannekoek were taken from a recent pamphlet of a radical French workers' group (Informations Correspondance Ouvrière). The remarks by William Paul on revolutionary socialism are cited in a paper by Walter Kendall given at the National Conference on Workers' Control in Sheffield, England, in March 1969. The workers' control movement has become a significant force in England in the past few years. It has organized several conferences and has produced a substantial pamphlet literature, and counts among its active adherents representatives of some of the most important trade unions. The Amalgamated Engineering and Foundryworkers' Union, for example, has adopted, as official policy, the program of nationalization of basic industries under "workers' control at all levels."28 On the Continent, there are similar developments. May 1968 of course accelerated the growing interest in council communism and related ideas in France and Germany, as it did in England.
Given the highly conservative cast of our highly ideological society, it is not too surprising that the United States has been relatively untouched by these developments. But that too may change. The erosion of cold-war mythology at least makes it possible to raise these questions in fairly broad circles. If the present wave of repression can be beaten back, if the left can overcome its more suicidal tendencies and build upon what has been accomplished in the past decade, then the problem of how to organize industrial society on truly democratic lines, with democratic control in the workplace and in the community, should become a dominant intellectual issue for those who are alive to the problems of contemporary society, and, as a mass movement for libertarian socialism develops, speculation should proceed to action.
In his manifesto of 1865, Bakunin predicted that one element in the social revolution will be "that intelligent and truly noble part of youth which, though belonging by birth to the privileged classes, in its generous convictions and ardent aspirations, adopts the cause of the people." Perhaps in the rise of the student movement of the 1960s one sees steps towards a fulfillment of this prophecy.
Daniel Guérin has undertaken what he has described as a "process of rehabilitation" of anarchism. He argues, convincingly I believe, that "the constructive ideas of anarchism retain their vitality, that they may, when re-examined and sifted, assist contemporary socialist thought to undertake a new departure...[and] contribute to enriching Marxism."29 From the "broad back" of anarchism he has selected for more intensive scrutiny those ideas and actions that can be described as libertarian socialist. This is natural and proper. This framework accommodates the major anarchist spokesmen as well as the mass actions that have been animated by anarchist sentiments and ideals. Guérin is concerned not only with anarchist thought but also with the spontaneous actions of popular revolutionary struggle. He is concerned with social as well as intellectual creativity. Furthermore, he attempts to draw from the constructive achievements of the past lessons that will enrich the theory of social liberation. For those who wish not only to understand the world, but also to change it, this is the proper way to study the history of anarchism.
Guérin describes the anarchism of the nineteenth century as essentially doctrinal, while the twentieth century, for the anarchists, has been a time of "revolutionary practice."30 Anarchism reflects that judgment. His interpretation of anarchism consciously points toward the future. Arthur Rosenberg once pointed out that popular revolutions characteristically seek to replace "a feudal or centralized authority ruling by force" with some form of communal system which "implies the destruction and disappearance of the old form of State." Such a system will be either socialist or an "extreme form of democracy...[which is] the preliminary condition for Socialism inasmuch as Socialism can only be realized in a world enjoying the highest possible measure of individual freedom." This ideal, he notes, was common to Marx and the anarchists.31 This natural struggle for liberation runs counter to the prevailing tendency towards centralization in economic and political life.
A century ago Marx wrote that the workers of Paris "felt there was but one alternative -- the Commune, or the empire -- under whatever name it might reappear."

The empire had ruined them economically by the havoc it made of public wealth, by the wholesale financial swindling it fostered, by the props it lent to the artificially accelerated centralization of capital, and the concomitant expropriation of their own ranks. It had suppressed them politically, it had shocked them morally by its orgies, it had insulted their Voltairianism by handing over the education of their children to the frères Ignorantins, it had revolted their national feeling as Frenchmen by precipitating them headlong into a war which left only one equivalent for the ruins it made -- the disappearance of the empire.32
The miserable Second Empire "was the only form of government possible at a time when the bourgeoisie had already lost, and the working class had not yet acquired, the faculty of ruling the nation."
It is not very difficult to rephrase these remarks so that they become appropriate to the imperial systems of 1970. The problem of "freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement" remains the problem of our time. As long as this is so, the doctrines and the revolutionary practice of libertarian socialism will serve as an inspiration and guide.


This essay is a revised version of the introduction to Daniel Guérin's Anarchism: From Theory to Practice. In a slightly different version, it appeared in the New York Review of Books, May 21, 1970.
1 Octave Mirbeau, quoted in James Joll, The Anarchists, pp. 145-6.
2 Rudolf Rocker, Anarchosyndicalism, p. 31.
3 Cited by Rocker, ibid., p. 77. This quotation and that in the next sentence are from Michael Bakunin, "The Program of the Alliance," in Sam Dolgoff, ed. and trans., Bakunin on Anarchy, p. 255.
4 Diego Abad de Santillan, After the Revolution, p. 86. In the last chapter, written several months after the revolution had begun, he expresses his dissatisfaction with what had so far been achieved along these lines. On the accomplishments of the social revolution in Spain, see my American Power and the New Mandarins, chap. 1, and references cited there; the important study by Broué and Témime has since been translated into English. Several other important studies have appeared since, in particular: Frank Mintz, L'Autogestion dans l'Espagne révolutionaire(Paris: Editions Bélibaste, 1971); César M. Lorenzo, Les Anarchistes espagnols et le pouvoir, 1868-1969 (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1969); Gaston Leval, Espagne libertaire, 1936-1939: L'Oeuvre constructive de la Révolution espagnole (Paris: Editions du Cercle, 1971). See also Vernon Richards, Lessons of the Spanish Revolution, enlarged 1972 edition.
5 Cited by Robert C. Tucker, The Marxian Revolutionary Idea, in his discussion of Marxism and anarchism.
6 Bakunin, in a letter to Herzen and Ogareff, 1866. Cited by Daniel Guérin, Jeunesse du socialisme libertaire, p. 119.
7 Fernand Pelloutier, cited in Joll, Anarchists. The source is "L'Anarchisme et les syndicats ouvriers," Les Temps nouveaux, 1895. The full text appears in Daniel Guérin, ed., Ni Dieu, ni Maître, an excellent historical anthology of anarchism.
8 Martin Buber, Paths in Utopia, p. 127.
9 "No state, however democratic," Bakunin wrote, "not even the reddest republic -- can ever give the people what they really want, i.e., the free self-organization and administration of their own affairs from the bottom upward, without any interference or violence from above, because every state, even the pseudo-People's State concocted by Mr. Marx, is in essence only a machine ruling the masses from above, from a privileged minority of conceited intellectuals, who imagine that they know what the people need and want better than do the people themselves...." "But the people will feel no better if the stick with which they are being beaten is labeled `the people's stick' " (Statism and Anarchy [1873], in Dolgoff, Bakunin on Anarchy, p. 338) -- "the people's stick" being the democratic Republic.
Marx, of course, saw the matter differently.
For discussion of the impact of the Paris Commune on this dispute, see Daniel Guérin's comments in Ni Dieu, ni Maître; these also appear, slightly extended, in his Pour un marxisme libertaire. See also note 24.
10 On Lenin's "intellectual deviation" to the left during 1917, see Robert Vincent Daniels, "The State and Revolution: a Case Study in the Genesis and Transformation of Communist Ideology," American Slavic and East European Review,vol. 12, no. 1 (1953).
11 Paul Mattick, Marx and Keynes, p. 295.
12 Michael Bakunin, "La Commune de Paris et la notion de l'état," reprinted in Guérin, Ni Dieu, ni Maître. Bakunin's final remark on the laws of individual nature as the condition of freedom can be compared to the creative thought developed in the rationalist and romantic traditions. See my Cartesian Linguistics and Language and Mind.
13 Shlomo Avineri, The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx, p. 142, referring to comments in The Holy Family.Avineri states that within the socialist movement only the Israeli kibbutzim "have perceived that the modes and forms of present social organization will determine the structure of future society." This, however, was a characteristic position of anarchosyndicalism, as noted earlier.
14 Rocker, Anarchosyndicalism, p. 28.
15 See Guérin's works cited earlier.
16 Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme.
17 Karl Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie, cited by Mattick, Marx and Keynes, p. 306. In this connection, see also Mattick's essay "Workers' Control," in Priscilla Long, ed., The New Left; and Avineri, Social and Political Thought of Marx.
18 Karl Marx, Capital, quoted by Robert Tucker, who rightly emphasizes that Marx sees the revolutionary more as a "frustrated producer" than a "dissatisfied consumer" (The Marxian Revolutionary Idea). This more radical critique of capitalist relations of production is a direct outgrowth of the libertarian thought of the Enlightenment.
19 Marx, Capital, cited by Avineri, Social and Political Thought of Marx, p. 83.
20 Pelloutier, "L'Anarchisme."
21 "Qu'est-ce que la propriété?" The phrase "property is theft" displeased Marx, who saw in its use a logical problem, theft presupposing the legitimate existence of property. See Avineri, Social and Political Thought of Marx.
22 Cited in Buber's Paths in Utopia, p. 19.
23 Cited in J. Hampden Jackson, Marx, Proudhon and European Socialism, p. 60.
24 Karl Marx, The Civil War in France, p. 24. Avineri observes that this and other comments of Marx about the Commune refer pointedly to intentions and plans. As Marx made plain elsewhere, his considered assessment was more critical than in this address.
25 For some background, see Walter Kendall, The Revolutionary Movement in Britain.
26 Collectivisations: L'Oeuvre constructive de la Révolution espagnole, p. 8.
27 For discussion, see Mattick, Marx and Keynes, and Michael Kidron, Western Capitalism Since the War. See also discussion and references cited in my At War With Asia, chap. 1, pp. 23-6.
28 See Hugh Scanlon, The Way Forward for Workers' Control. Scanlon is the president of the AEF, one of Britain's largest trade unions. The institute was established as a result of the sixth Conference on Workers' Control, March 1968, and serves as a center for disseminating information and encouraging research.
29 Guérin, Ni Dieu, ni Maître, introduction.
30 Ibid.
31 Arthur Rosenberg, A History of Bolshevism, p. 88.
32 Marx, Civil War in France, pp. 62-3.


Avineri, Shlomo. The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx. London: Cambridge University Press, 1968.
Bakunin, Michael. Bakunin on Anarchy. Edited and translated by Sam Dolgoff. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972.
Buber, Martin. Paths in Utopia. Boston: Beacon Press, 1958.
Chomsky, Noam. Cartesian Linguistics. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.
------. American Power and the New Mandarins. New York: Pantheon Books, 1969.
------. At War with Asia. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970.
Collectivisations: L'Oeuvre constructive de la Révolution espagnole. 2nd ed. Toulouse: Editions C.N.T., 1965. First edition, Barcelona, 1937.
Daniels, Robert Vincent. "The State and Revolution: a Case Study in the Genesis and Transformation of Communist Ideology." American Slavic and East European Review, vol. 12, no. 1 (1953).
Guérin, Daniel. Jeunesse du socialisme libertaire. Paris: Librairie Marcel Rivière, 1959.
------. Anarchism: From Theory to Practice, translated by Mary Klopper. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970.
------. Pour un marxisme libertaire. Paris: Robert Laffont, 1969.
------, ed. Ni Dieu, ni Maître. Lausanne: La Cité Editeur, n.d.
Jackson, J. Hampden. Marx, Proudhon and European Socialism. New York: Collier Books, 1962.
Joll, James. The Anarchists. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1964.
Kendall, Walter. The Revolutionary Movement in Britain 1900--1921. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969.
Kidron, Michael Western Capitalism Since the War. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968.
Mattick, Paul. Marx and Keynes: The Limits of Mixed Economy. Extending Horizons Series. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1969.
------. "Workers' Control." In The New Left: A Collection of Essays, edited by Priscilla Long. Boston: Porter Sargent, 1969.
Marx, Karl. The Civil War in France, 1871. New York: International Publishers, 1941.
Pelloutier, Fernand. "L'Anarchisme et les syndicats ouvriers." Les Temps nouveaux, 1895. Reprinted in Ni Dieu, ni Maître, edited by Daniel Guérin. Lausanne: La Cité Editeur, n.d.
Richards, Vernon. Lessons of the Spanish Revolution (1936--1939). Enlarged ed. London: Freedom Press, 1972.
Rocker, Rudolf. Anarchosyndicalism. London: Secker & Warburg, 1938.
Rosenberg, Arthur. A History of Bolshevism from Marx to the First Five Years' Plan. Translated by Ian F. Morrow. New York: Russell & Russell, 1965.
Santillan, Diego Abad de. After the Revolution. New York: Greenberg Publishers, 1937.
Scanlon, Hugh. The Way Forward for Workers' Control. Institute for Workers' Control Pamphlet Series, no. 1, Nottingham, England, 1968.
Tucker, Robert C. The Marxian Revolutionary Idea. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1969.

Maia Ramnath,Decolonizing Anarchism

I swiped this out of the front of the latest issue of Imminent Rebellion (An irregular journal from deep in the South Pacific), published by Rebel Press.


With a small a, the word anarchism implies a set of
 assumptions and principles, a recurrent tendency
 or orientation - with the stress on movement in a
 direction, not a perfected condition - toward more
 dispersed and less concentrated power; less top-down
 hierarchy and more self-determination through
 bottom-up participation; liberty and equality seen
 as directly rather than inversely proportional; the
 nurturance of individuality and diversity within
 a matrix of interconnectivity, mutuality, and
 accountability; and an expansive recognition of
 the various forms that power relations can take,
 and correspondingly, the various dimensions of
 emancipation. This tendency, when it becomes
 conscious, motivates people to oppose or subvert
 the structures that generate and sustain inequity,
 unfreedom, injustice, and to promote or prefigure the
 structures that generate and sustain equity, freedom,
 and justice.

 -Maia Rammath, Decolonizing Anarchism

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Leaderless Revolution

I have just finished reading The Leaderless Revolution by Carne Ross, it is not often that someone who is a senior diplomat in the British establishment does a complete 'about face' and embraces the philosophical objectives of anarchism. It is also a little odd that someone could write an entire book advocating anarchist ideas without once mentioning Noam Chomsky. Although I borrowed this book from the library I am going to be buying myself a copy. Well worth the read.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Hedgehog Wisdom

Hedgehog Wisdom

 Hedgehogs, having no written language, pass their wisdom and traditions down orally. There is one strand of hedgehog wisdom of which they are extraordinarily proud, being both infallible and self evident it is passed with reverence from the wizened hedgehogs to all the young and unworldly of hedgehogdom.

 You see, hedgehogs are not stupid. They know what cars are; they know what roads are; they understand that the lights whizzing around at night on the roads belong to cars; they know cars are deadly. Knowing all this led them to develop the most important strand of their knowledge. The wise, educated hedgehog knows how to cross a road at night and survive regardless of whether or not there are cars on that same road.

 When crossing the road at night, if the wise hedgehog is confronted by the oncoming lights of a car he uses hedgehog wisdom to survive by rolling into a ball. The hedgehog that rolls into a ball always survives.

 This is a self evident truth.

 If the hedgehog rolls into a ball and that hedgehog is placed fortuitously in a position on the road so that the wheels of the car pass either side and the car moves harmlessly overhead, then, that hedgehog is allowed the opportunity to perpetuate that greatest strand of hedgehog wisdom – Roll into a ball to survive.

 If, however, when crossing the road at night, that same wise hedgehog is confronted by the oncoming lights of a car and he uses hedgehog wisdom to survive by rolling into a ball and is flattened under the wheels of that car the hedgehog is prevented from warning others of this fatal flaw threatening hedgehog wisdom - thus the greatest strand of hedgehog wisdom always remains: Roll into a ball to survive.

 I have heard that the wizened old hedgehogs actually take the young hedgehogs out to show them the corpses of those hedgehogs flattened on the road to reinforce the importance of rolling into a ball, as the unfortunate victims of cars had, obviously, neglected to incorporate the ball technique in their road crossing regime.

Sunday, 5 January 2014


"A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it." Oscar Wilde


"As long as politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance." John Dewey


“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient allover the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.” Howard Zinn

The Consistent Anarchist

 "The consistent anarchist should be a socialist, but a socialist of a particular sort. He will not only oppose alienated and specialized labor and look forward to the appropriation of capital by the whole body of workers, but he will also insist that this appropriation be direct, not exercised by some elite force acting in the name of the proletariat. Some sort of council communism is the natural form of revolutionary socialism in an industrial society. It reflects the intuitive understanding that democracy is largely a sham when the industrial system is controlled by any form of autocratic elite, whether of owners, managers, and technocrats, a vanguard party, or a State bureaucracy." Noam Chomsky

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Annoying Peasant

Anyone familiar with the work of Noam Chomsky will be aware of the point he frequently makes about successful experiments in anarchism; those social experiments will always be attacked by powerful interests. No piece of popular modern entertainment illustrates this point better:

"Ohhh! Now we see the violence inherent in the system!"