Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To vote or not to vote, that is the question. To make this question a bit easier let's restrict it to voting in 'political elections' ie local, state/provincial or national. No one should (but I'm sure some will) doubt that, if anarchists take part in other organizations (unions, community groups, etc.) where voting is part of normal procedure, they should vote within these groups. The big question is what positions of responsibility anarchists should act in in such groupings. Leave that aside for the moment. Let's also leave aside the question of how decisions should be reached in an anarchist organization. The big debating point there is voting versus consensus. The latter is actually quite great provided that 1)the group is small and intends to stay that way, 2)the group is made up of personal friends, 3)there is basically nothing to decide as the group is of one general opinion anyways, 4)whatever decision the group makes doesn't matter much anyways and MOST IMPORTANTLY 5)the group contains absolutely NO, none, nada people who think that making decisions this way has any significance whatsoever. They should, preferably have never heard the word "consensus" in their lives. As I said, if all of these conditions are fulfilled then consensus is great. If only one condition is not met, especially the latter where those with a certain type of personal ethics disguised as politics make life intolerable for others, then it is destructive and very painful for anyone who has to endure their "righteous presence".

But...political elections ?? The "anarchist general line" has usually been that elections should be boycotted. Anarchists have often actually run 'Don't Vote' campaigns, and I've helped with a few of these in the past myself. There are, however, exceptions. Proudhon was actually a Deputy in the French Assembly before he came to a stricter anti-political point of view. In our own time the Communalist/Social Ecologist followers of Murray Bookchin made voting in municipal elections pretty well the key point of their strategy. There are actually many others, but the most telling one is the Spanish anarchists in the CNT and FAI in early 1936 when they deliberately "muted" their traditional anti-electoral stand in order that the Popular Front would win the election. I have read different versions of the actual organizational responsibility of this decision. One version says that the CNT carried out the low key campaign. The other said that the responsibility was passed on to the FAI. They had their reasons, most particularly the hope of release for thousands of political prisoners should the popular front win. In any case this may have been an unique situation, one where anarchists were influential enough so that their decision about whether to vote or not (or whether to tone down their rhetoric so that-wink,wink,nudge,nudge many would vote) actually made a significant difference. There is certainly no country in the world today where whatever anarchists say or don't say will make a tinker's damn to the results of an election. That's a reality, and recognizing reality is the first step to changing it.

Which brings me to some observations of 'votophobia'. The first observation is that voting or not voting is not a principle; it is a means to an end. Whatever their opponents may think of them anarchists are, by and large, a very moralistic bunch, and they far too often confuse means with ends. As a matter of fact that confusion is part and parcel of standard anarchist theory, and it has great merit- up to a point. The means very much influence the end result, and it is unrealistic to expect any political party, reformist or revolutionary, to usher in the sort of democratic, egalitarian, decentralized society that anarchists want. That being said there is a vast ocean of difference between the two poles of total stasis and total change. Some outcomes are more desirable than others. What anarchists far too often fail to do, however, is ask the hard question: "what do we actually hope to accomplish by publicly urging people not to vote ?" There is, of course, a trend in anarchism, most prevalent in the USA, which views any hard questions as something akin to treachery, and they do their damnedest to reply to such in as abusive and pseudo-intellectual form as they can muster.

In the presence of a large, dynamic and influential anarchist organization(s) with a well thought out course of action and the influence to at least carry out some of its plans there is actually an alternative that can be offered to the question from John Q. Sceptic, "What do you have as an alternative ?". Outside of Spain, and even there to a great degree there is no such organization on Earth today. The offer of benefiting from an identification with the anarchist movements, such as they are, is plainly pretty skimpy fair, and it's best that some of the more narcissistic elements get over their self love enough to recognize the absurdity of this 'alternative'. An organization can use an anti-electoral campaign to offer their own plan of action, but a vague subculture can not. All that it has to offer is its own proselytism. All that I can say to this is that we live in a world where at least images are transmitted to most of the world's population. If a certain anarchist subculture was inherently so much more attractive than ordinary life well then we would all be walking around with tongue piercings and eating nothing but vegan food today. As a matter of fact identifying anarchism with a subculture has more minuses than it does pluses. It recruits those who want such identities, but it also repells those who have no need of such crutches.
But back to 'voting'. What do we hope to accomplish by mounting a 'Don't Vote' campaign ? If we are realistic the answer is obviously "very little". If such campaigns are carried out in the absence of a legitimate anarchist organization, an alternative to dependence on political parties and at least the bare bones of a realistic 'plan' then the proper answer is "nothing". In such situations one is reduced to rather petty considerations ie whether an anti-voting campaign can "recruit" members for an organization or whether it can get publicity for same. The idea of recruiting 'members' to a vague, and often repulsive, subculture is absurd. That's best done by social contact in the non-political venues in which things properly belong.
So where do I stand today ? Presently I don't see the utility of mounting anti-election campaigns in either my own country, the USA or most of Europe. I'm inclined to view such things via the old commie label of "diversionary". There may indeed be situations where such campaigns are appropriate, especially as recruiting devices, but I haven't seen such in the last little while. As somebody who, from habit and inclination, takes a 'long view' I think that elections should basically be ignored. This wasn't my opinion years ago. It is my opinion now. If anarchism is going to be a potent reality it has a long road ahead of it, of building at the base. I see little reason to put effort into campaigns that cannot have any effect because of our present small numbers. If anarchism is ever a serious competitor for the 'public mind', which it is not today, then other, more Machiavellian considerations might come into play. I personally, however, don't expect to see such a situation in my lifetime, except perhaps in Spain.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The following revolves around a perennial question in the anarchist movement- what is our relationship to unions, and by implication other mass movements. To all intents and purposes this question was settled in the late 1800s when the French CGT advanced the theory of anarchosyndicalism in opposition to both the fad of individualist terrorism in their own country and the idea of "exemplary insurrection" in the Italian sense. The idea of anrchosyndicalism went on to "coonquer the world", at least that of anarchism, and the present labour movements of a large part of the world, in Europe and Latin America have an "anarchosyndivalist grandmother" in their family line. Needless to say anarchosyndicalism experienced an eclipse, losing ground to the totalitarianism of both communism and fascism and also to "liberal trade unionism" on the English/German?Americam model. Recent decades have seen a resurgence of anarchosyndicalism as anarchists seek for a realistic way to put their ideals into practice. The outstanding example is the Spanish CGT, but even the IWW has seen an influx of anarchists who are determined to see anarchism as a reality and not as a talking shop subject.
It is in the situation of this revival of anarchosyndicalism that Molly asks the two most recent questions on this blog. "What is the Anarchist Attitude to Unions ?". This has always been a big subject of debate in anarchism, and I doubt that I have covered the many nuanances of the participants by the questionaire that I have set up. There is first and foremost a section of so-called anarchism, most popular in the USA, which denies the relevance of social class entirely. For those people unionism would, of course, be something that they merely list as one more thing that they feel superior to. For the rest of us ordinary mortals, however, who live ordinary lives in class society and see no reason to listen to the superior pronouncements of those who preach an end to civilization- while living very high on the hog by its benefits-how we will go about remedying our situation is a valuable question.
The "new anarchists" who have come to the movement in the past few decades (unlike Molly who became an anarchist in the early 70s with all the socialist baggage attached) are gradually moving to practicality, and their influx into organizations such as the IWW is evidence of same. The new anarchists carry their own baggage. No...civilization won't end. It can't ( the last community in the world with a knowledge of metallurgy will conquer the rest in a few years), and any hoped for collapse will lead to a situation far worse than the one we have today. No...showing off the size of your balls in ritual combat with the police, where you are always defeated in the end, at international ruling class gatherings is not a sensible way to anything but more ritual combat. No...the claim of those "post-leftist" anarchists to the "individualist anarchist" heritage is tenuous at best. No...there is no quick and easy way to bypass long term organization amongst ordinary people (if this requires shedding subcultural badges of superiority so what) via either riot or terrorism.
We come back to the perennial question of "what is to be done". For the best of the new anarchists this means trying to carry their ideals into reality via a connection with ordinary people, and unionism is one of the primary ways in which this will be done. There are other ways, of course, such as community organizations, but unions should be a primary focus of anarchists today.
All of this, of course, eventually comes down to specifics. If there is one thing that a site such as Molly's Blog/Molly's Polls can provide it is an independent view of the possibilities for anarchist efforts today, without the need of any loyalty to a specific organization or point of view. Without the need of enthusiasm. In the spirit of this I lay out the following difficulties as to one anarchist effort at organization, the organization of places such as Starbucks. I do not do this out of a desire to discourage activists engaged in these efforts but merely out of a desire to point out the difficulties and discourage excessive optimism.
1)There is a simple fact. There is only one Starbucks that has been unionized in the entire world- one in Regina, Saskatchewan, organized by the independent RWDSU of Saskatchewan which is small but has a geographical concentration in an area that has a tradition of radical political action (of which the RWDSU is part). This fact should speak volumes about the difficulties of organizing such a workplace.
2)The record of organizing other "fast food joints" in the world is also negative. I cannot find any example of where a McDonalds has been organized anywhere. The record of failure, which at least in Canada, has involved major unions should give campaigners pause. Not all of the failure can be ascribed to the "non-libertarian" nature of a major union such as the CAW (in their campaign to unionize Starbucks in the 1990s). A lot of it can be ascribed to the simple difficulty of the task.
3)What is the nature of the difficulty ? From Molly's point of view the transition between "simple unionism" and "libertarian unionism" involves the situation where workers at a given workplace go from simply demanding better conditions of employment to seeing that they have property rights to their jobs and eventually to the workplace itself. this is all well and good and even possible at a factory where a worker expects to spend a good portion of their working life at. The whole idea of workers at a fast food joint or such a place as Starbucks (whatever bullshit the company puts forward) aspiring to spend years, let alone the rest of their life at the same job hardly accords with reality. This leads to point #4.
4)The workforce at any place such as Starbucks or any other such service outlet is necessarily transient. This doesn't mean that it is "unorganizable". It does, however, mean that any union in such a place will have to prove its worth to new membership at the rate of about every 2 years. Such an union may have staying power if it has enough community penetration that the bosses can be assured that any new employees are at least as troublesome as those that the business has shed. Hence the need for continued propaganda in the community in support of the union.
Where to go from here ? Frankly I don't know. All that I know is that the effort to unionize such places as Starbucks will require tactics that the ordinary run of the mill unions haven't even begun to conceive of. Hopefully anarchist inspired unions will be more successful.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Molly has posted before about the subject of how city managers, on duty during the Toronto civic workers strike, beat homeless man Brian DuBourdieu when he attempted to access a shelter in Toronto. Here from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) is what they intend to do tomorrow, July 20. If you live in the Toronto area try and show up to lend support.
Monday: Come Speak Out Against The Seaton House Beating‏:
Seaton House refused to release Brian DuBourdieu's incident report.
We are giving Seaton House July 20th to produce it.
Join us:
Monday, July 20th
Seaton House
339 George Street(east of Jarvis Street, south of Gerrard Street)
We will go back to Seaton House on the 20th and demand Brian get his incident report. We will continue to demand that charges be laid against the managers that assaulted Brian, that his missing property be returned and that an apology and restitution are given.
About 50 people, including Seaton House residents, CUPE picketers and supporters gathered to condemn city management who attacked Brian DuBourdieu. Towards the end of the press conference, Brian and OCAP member Gaetan Heroux went into Seaton House to get his incident report, a form that he has a right to have for a number of reasons, including to appeal his bar from the shelter.
City management, who are staffing the shelter because of the CUPE strike, refused to give Brian the report. They told him to file a freedom of information request(holy sweet Jesus, Freedom of Information requests are the privilege in our society of those who have both thousands of dollars to spend in legal fees and the patience to wait two years for whatever may come. this sort of thing is actually rarely used by news reporters, with all their backing, let alone homeless people and their cash strapped supporters. It looks good on paper but the reality of such laws is very far from the high sounding rhetoric of the law-Molly ) something the city doesn't even have to reply to for six weeks. The refusal of an incident report was unheard of by the people attending the press conference, including social services workers with years of experience with the shelter system.
Brian asked for something to eat and was told all that they had was a peanut butter sandwich (to which Brian has a serious allergy). The city manager then threw the sandwich at Brian. Upset, Brian threw the sandwich back and kicked a door (causing no damage). Five city managers then tackled him to the ground and three of them held him down while the other two kicked his legs repeatedly.
Two weeks after the beating, Brian's doctors could not tell him if he needs surgery because his leg is still too swollen to properly assess it.
Molly Note:
It sounds to me like Toronto city management are taking out their frustrations about actually having to work for a living on whomever comes into their sights. To say the least if city cops had done this there would have been a police inquiry under this or that piece of legislation. I guess that the managers who had been assigned the graveyard shift at the shelter that night thought that they could punch and kick their way through it without calling the cops. Well yeah...they could because they outnumbered the victim. The result, however, is such that there may have been serious injuries from their actions. Too bad the cops weren't called (or maybe the omission was deliberate) because the first question that shows up in the local papers about almost any assault is "whether alcohol was involved". One wonders. one wonders. One wonders. What exactly happens on the boneyard shift when it is manned by those who are unfamiliar with actually working.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The poll 'What Do You Think of Subcultures ?' is now closed, and the results were, perhaps expectantly, ambiguous. Perhaps I share this ambiguity, despite my long standing (decades !!!!) antipathy to self-styled "radical" subcultures here in Canada (actually usually "imported without value added processing" from the USA).
What exactly is a subculture ? First of all, I guess, it is obviously a "culture" that is a minority in the geographical location where it exists. A subculture may or may not, have political implications. Biker subculture, for instance, has few, if any, political implications (despite some bizarre attempts to say that it my living memory from both the left and the right). Other subcultures, for instance 'gay subculture' or the subcultures of various ethnic groups may have political implications...or they may not. Typically(but not always) such subcultures have "political demands" that may lead to social tension, but which can be, on the whole, satisfied without any major political or social change. Their demands are almost inevitably what Molly would define with the old fashioned word "progressive", but, in the end, these subcultures end up making up part of a dynamic mosaic that may enrich life in their societies but do little to change it beyond the limited horizons of their participants. Such subcultures have a pretty well inevitable dynamic in that they are the creation of people who self-identify as "oppressed" and who, in reaction, posit the idea that they are not just equal to but actually superior to others outside of the group. Fine and dandy, and I'll return to this later, but keep the following fact in mind. There are other such subcultures beyond the sort that Molly might have some sympathy with. These include those such as neo-Nazi, neo-fascist and 'white nationalist' groups whose dynamics are exactly the same as those with which I personally sympathize. There are factions within the sort of "identity politics" that might have some justification that are equally ugly as the fascists are. No doubt there are 'moderate' "white nationalists" with which I am unfamiliar (more or less because such people are the sort that translate their feelings into effective political action as the right wing parties have recently done in the European elections). Maybe I simply have little interest in following their twists and turns. The problem is that I cannot see, for the life of me, a reasonable way to distinguish the "nuts of the right" from the "nuts of the left". As to relying on "oppression" as an objective category the "nuts of the right" seem to fish in a sea of "failures in life" whose circumstances are, on average, lower in an economic and social sense than those of the average minority group.
So well yeah, subcultures are obviously, by definition, minority phenomena. They have to be distinguished, however, from other things that are similar such as "fads" and "enthusiasms". A "fad" can be distinguished by its very limited nature. Clothing fashions are an obvious example. The ever changeable nature of the fashion industry is perhaps the premier example of effective marketing, and has no implications beyond the bottom line of the companies involved. It's a "fad", just as the use of certain expressions in language ("like", "get a life", "mega" "dot... whatever", etc.) are. Then there are what I call "enthusiasms". These are typical of the social phenomenon called "fandom". There are dozens of examples. Music fandom. Comic fandom. Sci-Fi fandom. Fantasy fandom. The list could go on and on. Some of these memes may indeed shade into the category of "subculture", but they have to acquire particular characteristics to do so, especially a broadening of their frame of reference to include not just an enthusiasm for a particular product of mass culture but to the adoption of a whole set of other behaviors (affectations ?) that serve to identify the participant as an identifiable member of the group.
That's IT , patient reader, subcultures can be defined as the adoption by groups of people of a set of behaviors that distinguish the practitioners from the general society. Not just a choice of clothes. Not just a choice of language in the sense of common expressions. Not just a choice of favoured leisure activities (yoga versus baseball maybe ?). Sometimes not just a choice of what type of sex is "correct". Sometimes not just a choice of what is ethical or not. Sometimes not just a judgement about what sort of work (if any) is desirable. The list could go on endlessly. The point is that the adherent of a subculture accepts a "package", not just one or the other fad. The exceptions prove the rule. I know of a few adherents of "punk" who are sports fans, but very few. Their preferred mode of passive consumption is music events, either concerts or raves. I have also met ancient hippies and 'greenies'(and their imitators) who don't have a sympathy for half baked new age mysticism, but they are also the exception.
Here is where we get to the meat of the subject. There is no doubt that the traditional socialist movement (and the anarchist movement in countries where it was predominant such as Spain) saw the importance of a unique "culture" of the "oppressed". The difference is that such efforts were directed towards a culture that was, in many ways, already existing, and, most importantly, was the culture of what was seen as the majority of the population. At their best so-called radical subcultures adopt already existing cultural traditions that might potentially be majoritarian. At their worst such subcultures deliberately search for matters of "difference" to reinforce their self-perception as "superior" to those outside of the circle. In this way they imitate one of the great faults of subcultures based on things such as ethnic difference ie they search for a way to project the illusion of superiority. This is really and truly great for the self satisfaction of the participants of the so-called "movement". Looking at the larger picture, however, if the subculture claims political significance it is really and truly DEADLY. It is a rock solid guarantee of ineffectiveness. To be honest I'd have to struggle to conceive of anything beyond a commitment to terrorist methods that is so thoroughly guaranteed to "cut one's own throat" as such an opinion (or more commonly unthought-out assumption).
So there I stand. In the end anybody who wants to take anarchism seriously rather than as an 'add-on' to some sort of subcultural identity has to confront the question of effectiveness and has to choose. The matter may be made easier by the fact that the vast majority of subcultural adherents do eventually grow up and shed the fads of their youth. Hopefully anarchism will not be reduced to the status of a nose-ring that you will eventually see as pure silliness.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What I have written before on this blog refers, of course, only to the philosophy of Marxism as it was undoubtedly conceived of by Marx himself(from my own readings of both the "early" and the "late" Marx-if anything the silliness was worse in the young Marx) and the vast 99% of his historical followers. It was the "philosophy" that I learned as a teenager and later came to reject in favour of what Marxists refer to this day as "crude empiricism" ie the idea that facts matter.
There have been numerous attempts to 'reform" Marxism. Some of these have been purely political and economic, and, as I said before, I think that Marxism is made up of "sets" of beliefs that can be conveniently detached from each other. Most Marxists today, now that there is no longer any Vatican in Moscow or Beijing would agree with me. The "libertarian Marxists" are a long standing example of such. When Marx wrote 'Capital' he did indeed make properly religious bows to his earlier Hegelianism in the book. His mistaken!!!! claim to have deduced an inevitable end to capitalism, however, was more or less backed by a very restricted set of economic data that he abstracted beyond the evidence to some "general laws" that didn't exist in reality. His efforts in this case were, of course, influenced by his earlier Hegelianism in that, just as he was incapable of understanding some very simple mathematics he was also incapable of understanding the "scientific method" that was gaining ground in his time. He honestly believed that his mental calculus of abstractions was "scientific", in a bizarre sense no longer current in the modern world and only current in some countries in his own time.
I want to leave aside, for the moment, the assertions that have been made by Marx and his followers on other matters. These are best dealt with under headings such as "historical materialism" , "Marxist economics","Marxist sociology", "Marxist anthropology" and "Marxist political theory". To be honest the only places where I see a Marxist "approach" as valuable is in "historical materialism" and "Marxist sociology", and even there I see Marxism as merely (at best) a starting point and a model for things that are far more complex than Marx could conceive in his limited mind. to Marxist philosophy ie "dialectical materialism" I will similarly leave aside those post modernist word spinners who basically have nothing to say. I advise the reader who wants to waste their time over such matters to take pretty well any paragraph of their writings and parse it as to grammar to see if it actually says anything. I also advise the use of a dictionary as the primary tool to see how empty such things are. Check the unfamiliar words such as "epistemology", "hermeneutics" or even "hegemony" and NOTICE just how much the post modernists use such words without knowing what they mean. They sound "intellectual", but they mean nothing. This, however, is the realm of academic curricula vitae, something as far removed from an honest search for truth in our modern world as the Oprah Winfrey Show is. Plato has spun so much in his grave that he is half way to the centre of the Earth by now.
Aside from the silly what is "dialectical materialism" today. I'll say it plainly, a collection of truisms and platitudes that are pretty well obvious and need no grand philosophical "gathering" into a system. Such truisms include the following:
**everything exists in history. Nothing is permanent. Oh!!!
**it is often useful to examine a thing in its historical development. Oh!!!
**in social situations there are conflicts. Oh!!!
**one can, if one wants (though one loses a better grasp of reality by doing so) reduce any situation/conflict to an abstraction of binary opposites. One wonders why one would attempt to do so.
**one can pretend !!! that social reality is the same as intellectual abstractions and their "contradictions" and "syntheses", but this approach has no predictive value whatsoever.
Dialectical materialism has little (nothing ?) whatsoever to do with the original Greek idea of "dialectic" which meant a process of accepting and drawing conclusions from an opponents argument to finally result in a reductio ad absurdem. In conclusion I reject the philosophical underpinnings of Marxism in toto. There is nothing there of any value.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wow, this is actually a very large subject to tackle. It is an unfortunate fact that Marxism has pretty much been the overwhelming ideology that has been adopted by radical (and not so radical) opponents to the present order for over a century. Even anarchists, where they should have known better ie where they were a mass movement, often adopted Marxism in a reflexive way, just like Bakunin once did because of the limitations of his time and place.

To put in bluntly Molly agrees with practically none of the statements of Marxism insofar as they have any meaning in any modern language. She agrees with exactly one emphasis, but her agreement is hedged by some very extensive caveats. My general opinion, for what it is worth, is that Marxism, as the historically demonstrated ideological justification of a new ruling class, has pretty well no values that anarchism can accept and use. Even this new Marxist ruling class has been proven by events/facts to have been an useless historical detour in the "perfection of managerial society". Other forms of managerialism have been proved to be much more viable and productive. It failed plain and simple.

But let's begin at the beginning, with the most absolutely useless and strange aspect of Marxism ie "dialectical materialism". Please note that this matter has been extensively discussed over at the Anarchist Black Cat discussion board under their "Map Making" section. Most(but not all) of what I will say below has been covered there, along with the replies of people more sympathetic to Marxism. Unfortunatly the discussion wandered off into "historical materialism" which is really an amalgam of Marxist economics and sociology, rather than Marxist "philosophy". When the pronouncements of Marxists, including Marx, on such subjects are given they may bow to "dialectics", but their attempt to argue is very much muddied by what most of us consider a proper way of arguing. "Dialectics" is merely brought in as an extra justification- just as "the will of God" would be brought in in an intelligent prognosis by a religious fundamentalist ie as a last resort and "proof" of the coherence of the world view.. THAT is Marxism- a substitute for religion.

Please also note that I will be discussing Marxism as it has been interpreted by well over 99.99% of its adherents, including whole populations of certain very populous countries such as the USSR and China. There is a move afoot in the western academy to redefine Marxist dialectics. What this results in is the corruption of the word so that it has no real meaning whatsoever. It can mean whatever the speaker says it does. I hate to say the following, but, as somebody well familiar with animal behavior, this strikes me as nothing more than display behavior whose only goal is to establish the position of the speaker in some bizarre academic/leftist dominance hierarchy. Whenever such reformers of Marxist philosophy put forward their propositions they are pretty well inevitably doing two things: 1) saying something totally different from both what Marx said and what the vast,vast, vast majority of his followers have said throughout history and 2) saying in a "fancy" way what could be better said in plain English (or French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Hindi, Arabic or whatever). In other words "truisms" disguised as some sort of revelation only available to the "enlightened".

When I do attempt to tackle the meaningless word that "dialectics" has become I will try and give fair warning to the readers. Other than that, let's see what dialectics meant to Marx and the 99.99% of his followers.

The essential idea of "dialectics" is actually quite simple- and simplistic. It derived from the Hegelian philosophy that Marx imbibed as a student in Germany in the early 1800s. It simply says that you can take any situation and look at it as a binary opposition of abstractions that contend against each other until the conflict results in a new situation called a "synthesis". Hegel believed that these "contradictions" of "thesis" and "anti-thesis" were purely in the realm of ideas. In actual fact this may be an useful way to describe the progress (?) of academic philosophy, though its application to the world outside of the academy is doubtful in the extreme.

Marx made the supposition that you could use this method of viewing things to describe human history outside of the realm of ideas. The sound of huge distant thundering is the sound of the tens (hundreds ?) of millions of Marxists trying to hammer the square pegs of reality into the round holes of their ideology. Of course !!!!!!!!! human history doesn't work that way. It is a true tribute to the power of the modern academy that the first comment at the Anarchist Black Cat website on this subject was saying that Marxism was exactly what it is not ie a theory of "multiple causation", known in present day jargon as "complexity". Personally I find this very sad. The responsibility of leftist intellectuals should be to 1)teach facts!!!!!!!!(though I know that "facts" are anathema to many academics. leftist and otherwise) and, more importantly, 2)teach how to think in a "radical" questioning way. I know that a lot of these academics were semi-educated themselves- at best, but I would like to imagine that they could have overcome the bullshit of their ancient Maoist professors by individual effort with a commitment to truth. I guess not.

But here we are with the original meaning of "dialectics" in the Marxist sense. I have no doubt that one can divide up any situation into binary opposites and have a great intellectual exercise about their "contradiction". But what on God's green Earth does this add to a description in common sense language ? I say nothing!!!!!! In actual fact it obscures much more than it reveals. As the history of Marxism demonstrates it has allowed the advocates of a new ruling class to totally ignore the reality of what they have created.

As I must admit I am not an expert on Marxism. I have merely read everything written by him up to the end of 1848, the first two volumes of Capital and half of volume 3 (I gave upon due to boredom), and various works between these dates such as 'The Civil War in France' and 'The Eighteenth Brumaire'. In other words I have read more of Marx than the great 99.99% of Marxists and, once more, and I don't consider myself an expert. on the other hand I would be totally willing to set my knowledge of Marxism against that of the average Marxist university professor today. Especially as I don't have to bullshit because of academic fads.

But let's return to the original premise of this blog- dialectical materialism. In Capital Marx "attempted" to be scientific according to the definition that is common today. He took very limited empirical data and extrapolated from them to the "inevitable" demise of capitalism. That's fine. He was wrong, and his mistake was obvious over 100 years ago when Bernstein wrote the book presently called 'Evolutionary Socialism' in English. That's fine as well too; in the early years of the 20th century Bernstein operated from what is our modern definition of "science" ie that a theory should make predictions that are falsifiable. By Bernstein's definition- which is the same as our own today- what Marx predicted was wrong, and socialist ideology had to be adjusted accordingly.

Bernstein also recognized the semi-religious nature of "dialectics" and criticized it as an irrelevance, though that was hardly the heart of his so-called "revisionism". To say the least the term "scientific socialism" is inappropriate in our present age, and has been inappropriate for over 1oo years. In the days when Marx was conning the much more creative and intelligent Engels to support him financially "scientific" had a totally different meaning than it does today. At that time it could include any and every fantastical speculation of any "philosopher". Today we have a a totally different and more exacting definition of "scientific" (outside of the true believers in post modernism in the academy of course). Nowadays we believe that "scientific" demands the presentation of a wide range of actual facts which will be challenged in a collective way by others. In the days of Marx it demanded little more than taking a name and playing with it in some intellectual calculus by hammering it into categories. Such a sad definition of "scientific" !!!!!

Marx's view is, of course, silly from an intellectual point of view. You choose the so-called "thesis" and the 'anti-thesis" arbitrarily, and then you get to define the so-called "synthesis" as a situation that you want to come about. this was the great belief in the inevitability of socialism that informed the millions of Marxists in history who believed in this nonsense.
Teleology(the ideas that the future is predetermined via "development") is, of course, part and parcel of the Marxist philosophy of "dialectical materialism". It has spilled over into other parts of Marxism, but it is very much detachable from them.
Hence my first entry on this question, directed to the silliest part of Marxism. Other entries will deal with matters that are much closer to reality.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


The results of Molly's poll number 19, 'What Five Things Do You Think Are Most Important for Anarchists Today ?' are now in. Thirty five people voted in this poll, and the two top items chosen were 'Labour issues/organizing' and 'Community Politics'. These, of course, are the traditional big two in anarchism throughout its history, and it's not surprising (though in a way relieving) that they were chosen so overwhelmingly. It adds fuel to my contention that efforts on the part of such things as the primitivists and the post-leftists have been overwhelmingly unsuccessful in defining what anarchism is today, and that anarchism is what it always was...anarchism and not some American fad. But, as Larry Gambone of the Porkupine Blog has commented elsewhere, "it is possible that the crazies don't read Molly's Blog". Perhaps the results are more indicative of Molly's Blog readership than of anarchism in general.

It is interesting to look at the "near runners-up". While the big two got overwhelming endorsement other issues such as poverty, racism, and feminism received respectable votes. Is this reflective of anarchism in general or perhaps of the "Canadian content" of the readers of Molly's Blog ? In this country the first two issues have attracted large numbers of anarchists. Perhaps this is not true. The low number of votes for "indigenous issues" as compared to "racism" would suggest a readership from other countries rather than Canada. Here in the frozen North "racism" is largely a matter of "indigenous issues". Who knows ?

Beyond this second tier there were other items that gathered at least the same amount of support as the fingers on a hand. These included theory (7), anti-fascism (7), general solidarity work (7), prisoner support (6), publishing (5), music (5) and ecology (5). I suspect that, if this same question had been asked 10 or 15 years ago that the latter would have had a much larger following. Some of these questions are, of course, ambiguous. What sort of theory ? What sort of prisoners ? What sort of publishing ? General solidarity with whom and what ? Even what sort of ecology ? I now regret that I didn't include a 'specific anarchist organizing' category.

My own choices, for what it was worth were, in the following order: 1)labour issues, 2)community politics, 3)general solidarity work, 4)national politics and 5)feminism. I guess that this is pretty reflective of the issues that I tend to give priority to over at Molly's Blog.

That's about it for now. What do you think ? Are the results of this poll reflective of anarchism today in general or of the readership of Molly's Blog ? Or what is more likely somewhere in between. If it is reflective of the general state of the anarchist movement it seems to me to be quite hopeful, though the low number of votes for 'child rearing' and 'free schools' suggests to me that anarchism is unfortunately still very much ghettoized amongst the young and unattached, ie those without children. Hopefully this young crew will stick around.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Two questions here for the price of one. "Do Demonstrations Achieve Their Goals ?". Good question. If you were to sum up the total number of demonstrations in the world and ask whether they achieved their goals as an immediate result of the demonstration the answer is obviously No. this sort of thing is very rare actually. But there are caveats. How about 10 demonstrations over the course of several years around a given issue ? Do they contribute to the achievement of the goal ? What sort of thing is necessary in addition to the demonstration ? Political action ? Direct action ? How much do demonstrations actually contribute to achieving a goal ? The answer obviously varies with the situation. What sort of importance should be given to demonstrations in general ? Are there tactics that are more effective in demonstrations than others ? Are these always (a doubtful proposition) the best tactics ? Can demonstrations, if they are poorly attended or use the wrong tactics be worse than doing nothing ? What do you think ? Add your comments here.
"Is Space Exploration a Worthy Societal Goal ?" This one is one of Molly's hobby horses, being as one of her hobbies is amateur astronomy. The flip leftist response is, "No, spend it on the poor and other goals instead". Not being a leftist, Molly is rather unimpressed by this. take your average million dollars. Translate it through the first government bureaucracy (the giver) with all the costs involved in skimming the cream for the managers there. Translate it again through either a foreign government with both bureaucratic costs and "corruption costs" or through an NGO with perhaps less "corruption cost" but equal "bureaucracy costs", taken by the "professional leftists" that staff such organizations. How much is actually left for "the poor" ? The answer varies, from a low of about nothing for many evangelical religious outfits to perhaps 2/3rds for the best run aid outfit.
I am hardly willing to replay the technological benefits of space exploration here. They are many, and they have been well documented elsewhere. If nothing else I am willing to hazard the guess that the provision of satellite communication has done more for the world's poor by several times over than all the aid directed by both public and private agencies over the past half century. Is this wrong ? If it is how far off is it ? I will also merely mention the fact that much of so-called "aid" is siphoned off by either the donor country, the government of the recipient country or the professional leftists that staff NGOs. Some things are obvious and gross. Sending people from North America to hammer nails on a house in Honduras is obviously silly beyond belief. That puts the cost of each nail well above the dollar mark. How much actually does reach the presumed recipients ? How much does this compare with the "unintended consequences" that space exploration has delivered over the past half century ? Think about these things and reply here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Molly's latest poll asks, "What are the five most important things for anarchists today". I have tried to be as exhaustive as possible in the list. All items actually are things that anarchists do today and also feel are quite important. I have also tried to not let my own prejudices get in the way of making the list as complete as possible. In my view it ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime, with excursions into the inadvisable and the absolutely necessary. Despite this I am sure that I have missed more than one hobby horse in the listing. Feel free to comment here about what should be added.
The whole point of this is to try and get people to think "strategically". What should be the major focus of attention ? What should be given less attention ? What should be ignored entirely ?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

As regular readers of Molly's Blog probably know this blog is an addendum to the main blog, set up to do certain things that the old Blogspot cannot do. I've tried to transfer things over to the new Blogspot, but it results in disaster. get two blogs in one. there are other things planned for this secondary blog, but more of that in the future.
There have been a few changes to this blog recently, most significantly allowing people to vote for a longer time in most cases. One week hardly seemed sufficient. Look for other changes in the future, as well as more regular polls.
Anyways, over at Molly's Blog I have been doing a major editing job recently, listing the IWW separately from other anarcho-syndicalist links. Some in the IWW may, of course, say something to the effect of "it's about god-damn time". All that long argument aside, I have also featured the IWW in several recent stories. The question here is..."Can the IWW Become a major labour union ?" . It's an important question because the IWW is where a large part of the "sane" (excluding the primmies and the so-called "post-anarchists") anarchist movement in North America have "parked their chips".
When you exclude the obviously stupid and juvenile, such as "breaking windows and doing graffiti as propaganda" or "pretending you can prearrange a riot that will actually beat anything other than a police force composed of three officers" then you have to consider the perennial question. What is to be done ? Is anarchism a legitimate way to effect social change or is it merely a mutual masturbation society ? The "labour question" is actually the major question in society today- or in any historical society in the last few centuries.
What do we do in terms of labour organization ? Do we organize within present unions ? Do we attempt to build alternative unions such as the IWW or other "purer" anarcho-syndicalist unions ? Do we condemn unions entirely and put our faith in some spontaneous uprising ? Hence the question, nested within other questions. Can the IWW become a major labour union ? Is it even worth while to try and build such a thing ? Your opinions are needed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

As I am writing this there is a continued series of protests in the country of Iceland, and they have been significant enough that the riot police have had to use tear gas for the first time since protests against joining NATO in 1949. Iceland, of course, is the country hit hardest by the recent financial crisis, and the discontent with the government has united a wide spectrum of its citizens. These events follow on the rebellion in Greece last month which seems to be still simmering. In many other countries the economic hard times are coalescing with a host of other grievances to produce a rebellious mood not seen in decades.
Not that "rebellion" is anything near "revolution". Far from it in fact, despite the illusions of far too many rebels. It is a simple fact that there is no revolutionary ideal in any aspect except the broadest and most abstract feelings- rather than goals- afoot in the world today that has captured the imagination of even a significant minority in any country in the developed world. Leninism has been discredited. In some Latin American countries there is a coherent left socialism that has achieved popularity. Its own virtues, possibilities and faults are best left for another discussion. In the developed world it is indeed possible that rebellions will carry left social democratic politicians to power, but the chances of this resulting in any fundamental change are virtually zero.
But rebellions there will almost certainly be. European governments are planning crisis management for this eventuality/certainty (See Molly's Blog for further discussion). Are the present events in Iceland "significant rebellion" ? That is a matter of opinion. They may indeed overthrow the government and lead to a leftist coalition in new elections. Other countries in southern Europe have a longer tradition of militant rebellion. Other countries in eastern Europe are in economic straights that come close to those of Iceland. In China more people are suffering more grievously than anywhere in Europe. It is also possible that government attempts to stimulate the economy worldwide will lay a gigantic egg. Or maybe they will succeed.
So what is your opinion. take the poll. leave any other comments you might have on the situation as a comment here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This one is more or less for Canadians and for fun. As anyone who has visited Molly's Blog knows Steven Harper aka Sneaky Stevie is one of Molly's bĂȘtes noires. Here is your chance to voice your opinion about our Prime Minster. Please feel free to leave any other options or comments as a comment at the end of this post.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

This is actually a hard question. In situations such as that unfolding in the sad land of Gaza there is always more than enough blame to go around. the question revolves around the word "MOST". Most responsible is NOT the same thing as most brutal. With a death toll of about 100/1 of Palestinians versus Israelis it is obvious who is the "most brutal". The events of today in which the Israeli army opened fire on an UN relief truck, killing at least one person have led to at least a temporary suspension of the UN relief effort in Gaza. Israel seems to have the unique ability to get away with such things. During the Lebanese invasion a few years back they destroyed an UN observation post, killing soldiers from several different countries, including Canada. There were no consequences for this action that was probably quite deliberate. The firing on the relief truck today did take place during an agreed 3 hour ceasefire. It is as hard to imagine this as a "mistake" as it is to imagine the destruction of the UN post in Lebanon as a "mistake". The idea of "craziness" as a "strategy" is an old one in human history, and its modern expression as an Israeli "tactic" has actually been expressed by the Israeli state itself. The basic idea is that you have to prove yourself to be more than a little irrational so that this sort of viciousness acts as a deterrent to your enemies or rivals. Most members of street gangs know of this tactic. For a state that possesses nuclear weapons, such as Israel, which cannot be used except in a suicidal manner projecting the image of being "out of control" is a great way to magnify the deterrent force of such weapons.
But the question is one of "responsibility" rather than brutality. Molly is not an ideologue, and she doesn't think that every Palestinian is born with a set of angel's wings either. I have added some more abstract options to this poll to give respondents something to choose from besides the two parties to the conflict. No doubt I have missed some options. Feel free to mention them as comments. "Responsibility", by the way, is also not a reliable guide to the solution of a problem. One may feel a given party to a conflict is more "responsible" than another, but one shouldn't let abstract justice determine what is a sensible solution in the real world of politics, especially when there are elements of both parties to a conflict who are legitimately crazy and not just pretending to be. As for myself I have no solution to the Arab Israeli conflict that can fit in your back pocket. I am content to muddle along, and merely make comments of common sense on it. Common sense says that Israel should stop in slaughter.
Feel free to leave your own comments about the general situation here as well.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Well, I'm not living up to my ambition of "a poll a day", but It can sometimes be hard to frame good questions. It may also be for the best as I don't want to bore people. Poll number one, 'How do you describe yourself politically ?' is now closed. It seems I have a surfeit of anarchocommunists here (11), though anarchists without any other qualifier (8) weren't very far behind. Anarcho-syndicalist(4) and socialist (2) also came in with more than one vote. I will leave the poll up for a few days and then delete it as others come on line. I think that the results, with as few respondents as there were (22) gives a pretty accurate estimate of my "anarchist readership". When I repeat the question further down the line I hope to be able to draw in the majority, non-anarchist, who visit Molly's Blog.
Poll number 4, 'Who is your favourite historical anarchist ?' is obviously restricted to anarchists or those with some familiarity with same. There are still a few days left to vote in this poll. I've tried to be as comprehensive as I can with this poll, though, obviously, "Others not mentioned" could be a legitimate answer for many. I wonder what those "others" are. If you are one who replied as such hozza bout you make your suggestion plain as a comment here. So far Kropotkin is running at # 1, but there are too few votes in to say much for now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It has been pointed out that this poll doesn't contain enough shades of opinion to cover every possible opinion. That is probably true , and I apologize for this. I'll probably repeat the question sometime in the future with a different format. What I do see from the voting so far is that those who have bothered to respond have a realistic view of the immediate prospects for such a thing. I guess that I'm not getting the "readership" from the "have a protest so big the police run away in terror and THIS is THE REVOLUTION" crowd. YES, I once saw this proposed "seriously", by a person who is old enough to know better but who promulgates such nonsense for his own peculiar reasons. A revolution ,which I think neither desirable nor likely is , by the very necessity of reality, a violent and chaotic period when old political and economic "realities" are dissolved. It necessarily involves a great amount of human tragedy. It happens without the conscious direction of "revolutionists" (those who believe in revolution in the abstract as opposed to those "revolutionaries" who actually do revolution in revolutionary times instead of pretending that rhetoric and child-like petty terrorism is "the revolution" in non-revolutionary times). In non-revolutionary times the revolutionist prepares organization that will direct a revolution to a desired goal.
My own opinion....I can see the argument for revolution as necessary to clear away historical deadwood, but I cannot agree. I stand by my gradualist prescription as the best and least costly way to achieve a libertarian society. THAT'S my vote. Neither likely NOR desirable. The first is separate from the second. The first is a matter of cold calculation. The second is a matter of moral choice. The essential point is that the organization that a gradualist such as myself proposes is not different in any way from that which a revolutionist would propose to prepare the way for a revolution. All points are exactly the same, and disagreement would only revolve around particular tactics in the here and now. It is actually possible (inevitable actually) that the "revolutionists" would hold a less intransigent line at certain times than a gradualist would. That being said the general way that a sensible revolutionist and a gradualist would organize are virtually indistinguishable.