"If there was an anarchist revolution in Russia..."

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 31 2009 14:00

that's not a very accurate summary though is it? you might not agree with all power to the soviets, factory and neighbourhood councils, but it is a strategy. one which Bolshevism opposed historically and presumably would today with its fixation on state power. the degeneration of an isolated council-based revolution is likely to be much less murderous than the Bolshevik counter-revolution for the simple reason people are more likely to internalise the material limits on the situation than vote to repress themselves, hence the workers' co-op analogy. i mean look at the workers' co-ops in Argentina; there's been some conflict with the state but largely, isolated from any wider movement they're likely to slowly go the way of Mondragon as the logic of commodity production and exchange reasserts itself. you don't get Zanon workers voting to shoot their less productive members.

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Oct 31 2009 18:04
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
My interest in this discussion is in finding out what anarchists have to say about (a) how a revolution in the future could be successful and (b) how their ideas could have led a successful revolution in the past.

The Anarchist FAQ argues that Makhno and the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of the Ukraine showed how to do it.
http://www.infoshop.org/faq/append46.html

Quote:
As historian Christopher Reed notes, the "Bolsheviks' main claim to legitimacy rested on the argument that they were the only ones capable of preventing a similar disaster [counter-revolution] for the workers and peasants of Russia and that their harsh methods were necessary in the face of a ruthless and unrelenting enemy." However, Reed argues that "the Makhno movement in the Ukraine suggests that there was more than one way to fight against the counter-revolution." [From Tsar to Soviets, pp. 258-9] This is why the Makhnovist movement is so important, why it shows that there was, and is, an alternative to the ideas of Bolshevism. Here we have a mass movement operating in the same "exceptional circumstances" as the Bolsheviks which did not implement the same policies. Indeed, rather than suppress soviet, workplace and military democracy in favour of centralised, top-down party power and modify their political line to justify their implementation of party dictatorship, the Makhnovists did all they could to implement and encourage working-class self-government.

As such, it is difficult to blame the development of Bolshevik policies towards state-capitalist and party-dictatorship directions on the problems caused during the revolution when the Makhnovists, facing similar conditions, did all they could to protect working- class autonomy and freedom. Indeed, it could be argued that the problems facing the Makhnovists were greater in many ways. The Ukraine probably saw more fighting in the Russian Civil War then any other area. Unlike the Bolsheviks, the Makhnovists lost the centre of their movement and had to re-liberate it. To do so they fought the Austrian and German armies, Ukrainian Nationalists, Bolsheviks and the White Armies of Denikin and then Wrangel. There were smaller skirmishes involving Cossacks returning to the Don and independent "Green" bands. The anarchists fought all these various armies over the four years their movement was in existence. This war was not only bloody but saw constant shifts of fronts, advances and retreats and changes from near conventional war to mobile partisan war. The consequences of this was that no area of the territory was a safe "rear" area for any period of time and so little constructive activity was possible.

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Oct 31 2009 20:37
Joseph Kay wrote:
if you're talking about ordinary workers taking up arms then a lot of training will be needed to create an effective fighting force.

Conscripts in a war only get about 3 weeks' training. But on the other hand the 'top' of a state army has centuries of expertise and tradition in command chains, logistics, strategy and tactics...

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Oct 31 2009 20:59

I don't know how much this applies to modern warfare. Israeli ground infantry get at least six months of basic training, and I think that's just physical adjustment and basic tactics. Tank staff get four months basic, then a few months of a progression of courses to learn how to use a tank and then how to use it as a part of a company of tanks. I'm not sure how effective a three-week trained army would be against that.

Ultimately, the basic tool an anarchist would have is combined class interest with members of the force, and the mutiny and division within the ranks that this would entail. Hoping that a rag-tag team of half-trained shop workers could take on any regular military unit, especially considering that, since this is open class warfare, all Geneva-related limits will be taken out, is pure fantasy.

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Nov 1 2009 00:57
tojiah wrote:
Hoping that a rag-tag team of half-trained shop workers could take on any regular military unit, especially considering that, since this is open class warfare, all Geneva-related limits will be taken out, is pure fantasy.

Except that they have repeatedly done so throughout history, given the correct conditions. My point about the three weeks thing is that in any large scale prolonged war there isn't the time to or resources to give most of the army more than three weeks training but they are still an effective fighting force. Anyway, not relevant sidetrack, sorry...

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Nov 1 2009 10:39

My point is that the fight needs to be made as unfair towards the regular army as possible. There are many ways of doing this, such as hiding behind civilians when the military involved has qualms about killing them (terrrrrists do this a lot), making sure to assert control of dead capital that is important to those sending in the troops (which is what factory occupations are all about), pamphleting the unit to encourage mutiny and desertion (more applicable during open class conflict, or when the unit's supply lines have run low for a while, or when morale is low for whatever reason) but dismissing a modern professional or conscript military as basically equivalent to 3-week-old emergency recruits is counter-productive.

john
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Nov 1 2009 10:53
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
My interest in this discussion is in finding out what anarchists have to say about (a) how a revolution in the future could be successful and (b) how their ideas could have led a successful revolution in the past. This is an anarchist (or anarchoid) website after all.

all power to the soviets might be one way to do it?

but the counter-history we'd need is one where Trotsky (and Lenin) get the ice-pick in 1917 rather than 1940

ernie
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Nov 3 2009 13:38

Irrationally angry has raised a very important question concerning would an anarchist lead or even a revolution lead solley by the most pure and error free revolutionary workers have avoided being trapped into destructive dynamic due to its isolation. Basically, the question is can a revolution survive in isolation? The answer can only be no. Unless one believes that the laws of capitalism can be aboloished in one country, that a isolated revolution would be able to hold out against the whole of the bourgeoisie.
Within such a bastion the duty of revolutionaries would be to struggle against any ideologies putting forwards the idea of the possibility of a victorious isolated revolution, because it could only lead to paving the way to the defeat of he revolution either through its crushing by capitalism or the emergence of a state to defend the status quo.
We could argue all day and night about military training, etc but that does not change the basic question: can an isolated revolution be victorious. As Irrationallyangry points out the Bolsheviks understood this, but they did not understand that the counter revolution could crept up 'behind' through their integration into the state. As for the Anarchists I do not know enough about the different currents, but a lot of assumptions in the arguments against the Bolsheviks appears to be that if only the right policies were followed or the Workers' council really held power: everything would have been OK. So you end up with the idea of anarchism/communism in one country.

ernie
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Nov 3 2009 13:52

In response to madashells point:

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In the short term yes a system based on factory assemblies probably could have survived, for evidence of this we ca look at how makhnos forces defeated the poor quality white armies sent against them. In the long term things would have een more difficult, but then as we know, it was bolshevism that became the biggest stumbling block to international revolution in the 20th century, so your arguments kinda pointless.

I think his hatred of the Bolsheviks has got the better of him. Unless he really wants to let the main weapons of the ruling class in its counter-revolution off the hook: democracy and the trade unions. Like it or not, the 100s of thousands if not millions of workers who mobilised for the revolutionary wave did so wanting to overthrow capitalism and to have a revolution as had happened in Russia and were inspired by the Bolsheviks. And it was the Communist Parties that the most militant workers went to. Against this it was the unions and Social Democracy that mobilised to defend the capitalist state, who mobilised workers to fight against the fellow workers. The CPs in the early 1920s made many error but they were not Stalinist puppets then but genuinely struggling to overthrow capitalism. It was only the CPs that were capable of carrying out a massive international struggle against the fores of reaction, though they did not fully understand just how central the unions were to this.

The growing opportunism of the CPs certainly helped to disorient the working class faced with the increasingly difficult situation of the revolutionary wave, but they were not the main defenders of the capitalist state. The KAPD, at the time one of the clearest parties on the unions etc, still fell into the opportunist error of supporting the march 23 uprising that helped to further undermine the proletariat's confidence in itself. Was the KAPD as counter-revolutionary force, because it defend Bolshevism and enrolled some of the most militant workers in to a destructive adventure?

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Nov 3 2009 13:55
ernie wrote:
As for the Anarchists I do not know enough about the different currents, but a lot of assumptions in the arguments against the Bolsheviks appears to be that if only the right policies were followed or the Workers' council really held power: everything would have been OK. So you end up with the idea of anarchism/communism in one country.

i'm not aware of any anarchist tendency that holds to 'anarchism in one country' (although given the fact many anarchists are retarded, it wouldn't surpirse me if there are some, probably of the DIY drop-out variety rather than communists). the argument i've been making at least is that a genuinely council-led revolution is going to degenerate differently, and probably less murderously, than one where a party seizes state power 'on behalf of' the working class. but of course revolution must spread or die, i think that's a given.

ernie
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Nov 3 2009 13:55

JK do you think that the CNT betrayed the class in 1936? From the post on page one it would appear that you do not think its collaboration was an act of treason to the working class, is that right?

ernie
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Nov 3 2009 14:29

JK thanks for the clarification. One would like to think the degeneration would be less bloody in a situation where the workers councils remained in control. However, in such a situation the working class would be faced with a terrible contradiction:
- to maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat in a situation where there is growing and irreconcilable tensions between the workers councils and the structures of the state (we see the workers councils has being separate from the structures of the state in order to maintain the working class's autonomy). A situation where the proletariat may have to engage in armed struggle against the structures of the state, which would be seeking to maintain the status quo. An armed struggle that could become another civil war between the proletariat and the other other strata of society. We may disagree on this possible outcome because if I have understood your position you do not think there will be state structures if the workers councils are in power, am i right?
- the working class through the workers councils deciding that due to the lack of spread of the revolution that it was better to retreat and abandon the idea of trying to maintain an isolated proletarian bastion, than letting the revolution degenerate into a counter-revolution. How this would be done is very difficult to say, but there is a very real possibility that this could be a very real situation for one part of the proletariat in the future. We saw this on a very small scale in 1919 with the Bavarian Soviet Republic where the workers were isolated and there was little chance that the revolution would be successful in other areas of Germany for the moment. In this situation the CP saw that the Republic was doomed and tried to organise a ordered retreat, which would lead to the less number of deaths as possible. Basically in the end it is a question of whether the proletariat would decided to suffer bloody counter-revolution at the hands of the ruling class, or through a terrible destruction of the revolution from within: a situation which would give rise to yet another heavy ideological defeat for the class.

One thing we possibly can all agree on is that what ever you think of the Bolsheviks their and the proletariat's experience of trying to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat through the class electing a party to power has given us a very bitter lesson concerning not only the role of the party but also the danger of the isolation of the revolution.

Let hope we do not have to face making such decisions in the future!

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Nov 3 2009 14:27
ernie wrote:
JK do you think that the CNT betrayed the class in 1936? From the post on page one it would appear that you do not think its collaboration was an act of treason to the working class, is that right?

i think there were elements in the CNT who were well on course to betray the working class far before 1936, only their advances were rebuffed by a ruling class that preffered pistolerismo to social partnership. in 1934 on learning of secret talks between the CNT leadership and the state, Durruti wrote:

Durriuti quoted in Paz, Durruti in the Spanish Revolution. p.342 wrote:
Why did we fight 'the Thirty' if we are also practicing "thirty-ism"? Isn't it a form of "thirty-ism" to complain to [Catalan President] Companys about the fact we're persecuted? What's the difference between [Republican Left] Companys, [Republican] Casares Quiroga, and [repressive Conservative] Maura? Aren't they all declared enemies of the working class? Aren't they all bourgeois? They persecute us. Yes, of course they do. We're a threat to the system they represent. If we don't want them to harass us, then we should ust submit to their laws, integrate ourselves into their system and bureacratize ourselves to the marrow. Then we can be perfect traitors to the working class, like the Socialists and everyone else who lives at the workers' expense. They won't bother us if we do that.

Two years later, the day after the defeat of the military in Barcelona, Lluis Companys met with CNT leaders and offered his resignation (offering to become 'just one more soldier against fascism' in fact). The CNT saw the choice as CNT dictatorship (substituting union for class as the Bolsheviks did with Party) or collaboration. Wary of Russia, they chose the latter. Either would have been counter-revolutionary.

As far as i can tell, in the discussions about whether to 'go for everything' (the euphemism for workers seizing power and smashing the state), establishing a system of free councils was never discussed, despite being part of the IWA statutes. The only explanation for this i can find is that the CNT was always an uneasy tension between revolutionary syndicalists who had a representative model of unionism and anarchists/anarcho-syndicalists who opposed all representation, political and economic, and pushed for self-organisation. The latter tendency, expounded by Durruti above was always the minority.

Consequently it was taken for granted that the CNT 'represented' the working class and therefore the question was posed as collaborating with other representatives or sidelining them and having a dictatorship (that is to say the question was posed on the terrain of bourgeois politics - which is what representation is - not the terrain of class struggle). the error/betrayal was in substituting union for class, and thus representation for self-organisation, which i think is constitutive of revolutionary syndicalism in the CGT/majority CNT vein, but not inherent to anarcho-syndicalism of the kind pushed for from within the CNT which sees the union as an agitating, revolutionary force rather than a representative of the workers (Durriti talks of an ongoing conflict between the 'straight union activists' [revolutionary syndicalists] and the 'anarchists' [anarcho-syndicalists]).

but back on the topic of the thread, i think even the establishment of a council system and the military defeat of Franco wouldn't have meant a long-lasting successful revolution unless it spread internationally, an unlikely prospect with the CGT already well in class-collaborating territory and fascist/Stalinist counter-revolution in full swing accross the rest of Europe/the USSR.

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Nov 3 2009 14:46
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The only explanation for this i can find is that the CNT was always an uneasy tension between revolutionary syndicalists who had a representative model of unionism and anarchists/anarcho-syndicalists who opposed all representation, political and economic, and pushed for self-organisation. The latter tendency, expounded by Durruti above was always the minority.

Are you saying the CNT wasn't anarchosyndicalist?

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Nov 3 2009 15:01
georgestapleton wrote:
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The only explanation for this i can find is that the CNT was always an uneasy tension between revolutionary syndicalists who had a representative model of unionism and anarchists/anarcho-syndicalists who opposed all representation, political and economic, and pushed for self-organisation. The latter tendency, expounded by Durruti above was always the minority.

Are you saying the CNT wasn't anarchosyndicalist?

it was founded as a Revolutionary Syndicalist union in 1910. in 1923 it voted to adopt libertarian communism, which was a 'political' break with the apolitical Charter of Amiens style Revolutionary Syndicalism of the French CGT and generally considered when it became 'anarcho'. Its subsequent development was marked by considerable internal tension between 'simple syndicalists' [Revolutionary Syndicalists] and 'anarchists' [anarcho-syndicalists].

i don't think 'the CNT' was a single coherent entity, and the majority current were probably Revolutionary Syndicalists rather than anarcho-syndicalists yes, although the distinction was a developing one that is clearer in hindsight. A lot of those were also anarchists, as was the case in the french CGT, but their organising model was one of building a mass union to 'represent' all workers, and what happened in '36/'37 was a consequence of that representative model. i don't think it's particularly far-fetched to say that joining the state isn't very anarcho-, and that decision was rooted in the material logic of a certain organisational model as i've outlined - not the only one held by CNT members by any means, but the one which won out when it mattered most.

the problem is anarcho-syndicalists are often keen to claim everything from the CNT to the french CGT to the IWW and even the GNCTU as part of our heritage to inflate our historical importance, when in truth we've always been a minority, albeit an influential and significant one at times, like in Spain. today's CNT has very much shifted away from such a representative model as far as i can tell (hence the split with the spanish CGT etc), although they also confusingly claim there are no ideological membership requirements, oh, apart from wanting the revolutionary overthrow of the state and capital and the establishment of a system of free councils and libertarian communism.

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Nov 3 2009 15:04

So the CNT wasn't anarchosyndicalist, it was a union that contained anarchocyndicalists?

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Nov 3 2009 15:07
georgestapleton wrote:
So the CNT wasn't anarchosyndicalist, it was a union that contained anarchocyndicalists?

i know you're just fishing for a soundbite to quote 'JK says most famous anarcho-syndicalist union isn't anarcho-syndicalist!!!', so how about reading what i wrote eh?

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Nov 3 2009 15:14

I did and it seems to say explicitly that the CNT wasn't anarchosyndicalist, it was a union that contained anarchosyndicalists. If i'm interpreting you wrong then correct me. At the moment it just seems like you are trying to avoid the 'soundbite'.

For clarity, here's the question put again. Do you agree or disagree with this statement "the CNT wasn't anarchosyndicalist, it was a union that contained anarchosyndicalists". Its a yes or no answer.

If you say no, I'd like you to explain how you square that with what you've written.

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Nov 3 2009 15:42

the question is whether you are interested in soundbites or understanding the nuances of the actual situation. demanding yes or no answers is a useful rhetorical device in polemical debate, as Paxman will tell you, but it inherently oversimplifies things.

the CNT was founded in 1910 as a revolutionary syndicalist union in the french CGT vein. the idea was you create one mass union federation to represent as many workers as possible. as in france this was supported by many anarchists, who were among the activists making it happen. in 1923, they voted to adopt libertarian communism as their specific goal. that was a break with hitherto existing revolutionary syndicalism (of the Charter of Amiens) and is widely considered when the CNT became 'anarcho-'. however the organising model remained the same. this created a potential tension betwen being a mass federation for all workers and being libertarian communist, but at the time since revolutionary ideas were widely held in Spain this tension was not particularly noticable.

despite retaining the revolutionary syndicalist model of representation, the CNT was heavily repressed and bosses didn't want to recognise them. that meant that de facto the CNT pursued an anarcho-syndicalist approach of self-organsation and direct action in the workplace and wider community, and didn't generally mediate between bosses and its membership. but this seems to have been a product of necessity in the particular conditions of Spain in the 1920s and 30s, when bosses and the state didn't want to recognise them more than an ideological anarcho-syndicalist opposition to representative unionism.

Durruti said that "We anarchists are really very few in Spain. Although our ideas and propaganda influence the working class, this only happens in the right conditions" (Paz, p.386). These are the conditions i mention. Consequently, i think the CNT was a revolutionary syndicalist union heavily influenced by anarchism and containing many anarcho-syndicalists, that through particular circumstances functioned in an anarcho-syndicalist manner and had the usual (materially rooted) development of revolutionary syndicalism towards class collaboration delayed until July 20th, 1936.

i think it's only subsequently that the lesson has been learned and the anarcho-syndicalism of the modern CNT more clearly defined vis-a-vis revolutionary syndicalism which sees no problem participating in state structures as a representative of the working class (i.e. the split with the CGT over works councils). so the CNT has chosen to shrink to 5,000 members than compromise its anarcho- principles by acting as a representative of its members in works councils.

There's a good quote from SolFed's predecessor DAM on this:

DAM wrote:
The unions offer stability in the workplace, they channel workers anger, shape and influence their demands and, if need be, act to police the workforce. Perhaps this is best summed up by a quote from the boss class themselves: a manager when asked by a reporter why his multi-national had recognised unions in South Africa replied "have you ever tried negotiating with a football field full of militant angry workers?" And it was this threat of an uncontrollable militant, if not revolutionary workforce, that first persuaded the capitalist of the need to accept reformist unions, seeing them as a way to control the workforce.

since bosses and the state refused to recognise the CNT, they were forced to act in the latter manner - for all intents and purposes anarcho-syndicalist. however there were repeated attempts to get the CNT recognised as a legitimate representative of the working class, which would likely have opened the door for latent creeping reformism and bureacratisation to take hold. it was only the success of the initial Barcelona uprising in July '36 that forced Companys to take that offer seriously, although by that time the CNT held all the cards. consequently the old tensions between 'simple syndicalists' [i.e. revolutionary syndicalists] and 'anarchists' [i.e. anarcho-syndicalists] re-emerged, perhaps exemplified by the staunchly anti-collaborationist stance of the Friends of Durruti.

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Nov 3 2009 16:08

sorry ernie i missed this post:

ernie wrote:
We may disagree on this possible outcome because if I have understood your position you do not think there will be state structures if the workers councils are in power, am i right?

yeah i'd tend to follow Rocker's view that councils are the negation of the state, and only co-exist in an uneasy, temporary situation of dual power. i reject the concepts of 'dictatorship of the proletariat' and 'proletarian state' for reasons i've gone into elsewhere, but again Rocker's argument for councils is pretty close to mine:

Rudolph Rocker wrote:
For the despotism of dictatorship stands in irreconcilable contradiction to the constructive idea of the council system, that is, to a Socialist reconstruction of society by the producers themselves. The attempt to combine the two by force could only lead to that soulless bureaucracy which has been so disastrous for the Russian Revolution. The council system brooks no dictatorships as it proceeds from totally different assumptions. In it is embodied the will from below, the creative energy of the toiling masses. In dictatorship, however, only lives barren compulsion from above, which will suffer no creative activity and proclaims blind submission as the highest laws for all. The two cannot exist together. In Russia dictatorship proved victorious. Hence there are no more soviets there. All that is left of them is the name and a gruesome caricature of its original meaning.
ernie
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Nov 3 2009 17:57

So the workers councils will control the police, prisons, military forces, relations with the other strata. Are these not state functions?
Your conception raises two questions:
1. How will the proletariat defend its autonomy if its carrying out state functions, whether you call it proletarian or not. As you know we do not hold the conception of the workers or proletarian state.
2. how will other social strata participate in society? We see these strata as having to have some representation within the social structures and that this will be through territorial soviets which will regroup proletarian and other strata in order to organise the necessary social structures need to hold society together in a period of social turmoil and transition, i.e, military forces, police, prisons, economic organisation etc.
I am unsure about your point about not holding the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat: aren't the proletariat going to be the dominate class? How is it going to deal with the exploiting classes, if not to suppress them? In countries where they are a minority, are they still not going to defend their political autonomy faced with the other strata?

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Nov 3 2009 18:13
ernie wrote:
I am unsure about your point about not holding the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat: aren't the proletariat going to be the dominate class? How is it going to deal with the exploiting classes, if not to suppress them? In countries where they are a minority, are they still not going to defend their political autonomy faced with the other strata?

the proletariat is the dispossessed class. if they've seized possession of the means of production, they've essentially abolished themselves. the proletariat can never be a ruling class, by definition, and therefore the concept of a 'proletarian state' is meaningless by the Marxist definition of a state (instrument of class rule). so i think a discussion of 'state functions' is misleading, as is using a word that means a top-down imposition of class rule onto society to describe its negation, the self-organised expression of a class abolishing classes.

this doesn't mean communism breaks out fully and equally everywhere at the same time. but a period of revolution is a period of open class conflict, not a period of class dictatorship. if there's armed conflict with the forces of reaction, there very clearly isn't a dictatorship but a war. if the war is won, there is no class dictatorship because there are no classes, the bourgeoisie having been expropriated and the proletariat having taken possession of the means of production.

'proletarian dictatorship' is a contradiction in terms, since the dispossessed can't, by definition, possess dictatorial power. the term has its origins in the statist side of the first international, and Marx in particular. at the time the favoured strategy was to seize the state by either democratic or Jacobin means, but since for Marxists the state is a class dictatorship this was justified as replacing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with 'the dictatorship of the proletariat', a meaningless turn of phrase to rationalise a woefully inadequate practice.

at the same time, the idea of a system of councils was being formulated as the negation of the state amongst the libertarian side of the first international (1869 was its first written appearance, iirc). i fully agree with Rocker that the council system and the dictatorship of the proletariat are radically opposed, and that a dictatorship of the proletariat cannot but be a dictatorship over the proletariat since it assumes the continuance of their dispossessed condition.

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Nov 3 2009 22:17

JK Something I don't get about your characterisation of the CNT in 1936 is that the "betrayal" was not carried out by "simple" syndicalists but by the FAI, whose whole raison d'etre was to oppose "thirtyism" and re­affirm the anarcho aspect of the CNT. While I'm happy to accept that the division between anarcho and simple was an important one, I don't see how it works as an explanation for '36.

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Nov 3 2009 23:44
Dannny wrote:
JK Something I don't get about your characterisation of the CNT in 1936 is that the "betrayal" was not carried out by "simple" syndicalists but by the FAI, whose whole raison d'etre was to oppose "thirtyism" and re­affirm the anarcho aspect of the CNT. While I'm happy to accept that the division between anarcho and simple was an important one, I don't see how it works as an explanation for '36.

well FAI people took ministerial positions, but weren't entirely responsible for the decision. as far as i can tell, some of them opposed it i.e. Garcia Oliver wanted to "go for everything", but felt bound by the organisation's decision and sought to make the best of it - i obviously think he should have refused such a mandate. Durruti basically ducked out when he was most needed, grabbing his rifle and heading to the front rather than criticising the CNT when there was a possibility to influence things - the membership only went along fait accompli so i don't know what would have happened if 'influential militants' openly opposed collaboration. obviously 10 months later the Friends of Durruti were threatened with expulsion for making those criticisms.

the thing is, the FAI weren't necessarily anarcho-syndicalists either, but anarchists doing syndicalism. the distinction might seem subtle, but it's important. revolutionary syndicalism was an anarchist initiative, but the idea was you create a mass (economic) union for all workers, and the (political) anarchists enter it and try and keep it on a revolutionary course through force of argument. i think that practice has been a historical failure. the french CGT for example reached around 3 million members in the early part of the 20th century, but since the majority of those members didn't hold anarchist politics, and it was fairly internally democratic, it acted contrary to anarchist principles in supporting the fratricidal slaughter of WWI.

i think the FAI's attitude to the CNT was based on the same premise; the CNT handled the economic, the FAI ensured the purity of the political. i think that's a symbiosis between revolutionary syndicalism and anarchism, like say AF members being members of the IWW, rather than a fusion of the two worthy of a hyphenation into a new practice of 'anarcho-syndicalism.'

of course it's more nuanced than that - lots of FAI members, particularly in Barcelona did argue for the CNT itself to become anarchist, while many rank-and-file CNT militants were already ideologically anarchist and organised accordingly. those people could certainly be described as anarcho-syndicalists. the CNT as a whole varied from place to place due to the relative balance of the different tendencies and the conditions in which they operated (e.g. wanting to be a recognised union gets you nowhere if the bosses want you dead).

so i would actually argue the fact the CNT ministers were also FAIistas actually supports the argument i'm making - that the failures of the representative, revolutionary syndicalist model are material, class collaboration is inherent to the logic of representation and therefore anarchists, no matter how sincere trying to argue to keep a revolutionary syndicalist union 'true' are engaged in futile idealism. rather the need is for an anarcho-syndicalist organisation that doesn't seek to recruit all workers and represent them, but fuses (political) anarchism and (economic) syndicalism to organise industrially and locally on a class basis but from a clear revolutionary perspective.

i think the contemporary CNT, whilst still in many ways contradictory generally seeks to organise in this way, accepting that principles can cost membership when revolutionary ideas are not widespread , but not worrying unduly about it since they seek to organise all workers not into the union but via mass meetings (such as in Puerto Real), and by extension in a revolutionary situation into a system of free councils (as per the IWA statutes).

Dannny
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Nov 4 2009 07:31

ok, so is the idea that the FAI, who had until recently been violently opposing all other tendencies within the CNT ­- including organising strikes to try and get members of the Opposition Union sacked according to Chris Ealham - were suddenly suckered into the logic of representation/class collaboration at the moment of truth? Was this prompted entirely by the internal logic of the organisation or did it take fear of fascism to hasten the volte­-face?
Incidentally how do we know Garcia Oliver wanted to go for everything? When you say "went along with the organisation's decision", whose decision was this if it was presented to the members as a done deal?
Incidentally I think your analysis is very interesting and probably right, I'm just trying to clear up a few niggles in my mind, ta.

Jason Cortez
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Nov 4 2009 10:27
Joseph Kay wrote:
ernie wrote:
As for the Anarchists I do not know enough about the different currents, but a lot of assumptions in the arguments against the Bolsheviks appears to be that if only the right policies were followed or the Workers' council really held power: everything would have been OK. So you end up with the idea of anarchism/communism in one country.

i'm not aware of any anarchist tendency that holds to 'anarchism in one country' (although given the fact many anarchists are retarded, it wouldn't surpirse me if there are some, probably of the DIY drop-out variety rather than communists). the argument i've been making at least is that a genuinely council-led revolution is going to degenerate differently, and probably less murderously, than one where a party seizes state power 'on behalf of' the working class. but of course revolution must spread or die, i think that's a given.

well looky http://libcom.org/forums/theory/transition-anarchist-society-issues-31102009?page=1 twisted

I am glad someone finally got around to mentioning the Makhnovists, which if such forms of organising had been widespread they would have indeed brought the revolution to the limits of the self management of exploitation, which would have been an unstable and unsustainable situation, which would have led to the reincorporation of soviets into capital eventually without a widespread global revolt. But it would have done this without drowning the 'revolution' in the blood of millions.

Jason Cortez
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Nov 4 2009 10:27

I would argue that the tendencies and tensions within the CNT were not simply between the revolutionary syndicalists and anarcho-syndicalists, I think the situation was much more complex and messy. I think that the benefit of hindsight here is that it has enable us to see more clearly the problematic nature of mass revolutionary 'unions' and what needs to be done to ensure we address these issues.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 4 2009 15:35
Dannny wrote:
ok, so is the idea that the FAI, who had until recently been violently opposing all other tendencies within the CNT ­- including organising strikes to try and get members of the Opposition Union sacked according to Chris Ealham - were suddenly suckered into the logic of representation/class collaboration at the moment of truth? Was this prompted entirely by the internal logic of the organisation or did it take fear of fascism to hasten the volte­-face?

i need to read more on the FAI, but i think there's a lot of factors (for instance some mention Frederica Montseny's background as an 'intellectual' rather than a worker), Garcia Oliver himself wrote about his experiences and takes the line that he argued against it but went with it, which is also Paz's assessment* (but he's quite sympathetic to FAI). Jose Peirats writes:

Peirats wrote:
The idea of taking revolutionary power did not cross anyone's mind, not even Garcia Oliver's, who was the most Bolshevik of us all. It was later, when the extent of the rebellion and the popular initiatives became apparent that there was a discussion about whether we should go for everything.

so i don't know; a misjudgement that they were simply stopping a coup when they had already made a revolution, perhaps coupled with the strenghth of revolutionary syndicalist tradition whereby the union is both the vehicle and the administration of the revolution meaning councils weren't formed, plus the strength of 'anti-fascist' class collaborating ideology faced with Franco's forces. i can only give a tentative answer at the moment, we've got a couple more books on the FAI i want to read through. but i think in many ways the turn of the CNT is similar to that of the CGT, and the impotence of political anarchists to keep it 'true' the same, although the CNT was a far more complex beast than the french CGT and pioneered anarcho-syndicalist methods, albeit as much through force of circumstances as choice.

* I'm quoting Paz a lot as i have the book to hand, a lot of the other texts on Spain are with our SolFed local's 'librarian' atm

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 4 2009 15:46
Jason Cortez wrote:
I would argue that the tendencies and tensions within the CNT were not simply between the revolutionary syndicalists and anarcho-syndicalists, I think the situation was much more complex and messy.

yeah fair point, i mean you had revolutionary syndicalists (who were perhaps the orthodoxy), anarchists of the FAI, anarcho-syndicalists (who overlapped with both camps), 'straight union activists' who massively emphasised union work over revolutionary aims, and then within those groups you also have tactical differences. on account of this speaking lazily of 'the CNT' can be really problematic as it didn't have that level of coherence - a trap we fell into in Strategy & Struggle.

Jason Cortez wrote:
I think that the benefit of hindsight here is that it has enable us to see more clearly the problematic nature of mass revolutionary 'unions' and what needs to be done to ensure we address these issues.

like i say i think the difference, rather than the mass/minority distinction we made in S&S, is between a representative model - where you recruit as many workers as possible into a notionally revolutionary, democratic union - and a self-organised model where you get revolutionary workers to agitate and organise with their non-revolutionary fellow workers through mass meetings, councils etc. but yes this is definitely a distinction clearer in hindsight, the two were born of the same ancestors and conditions and co-existed in the same organisations, but obviously we do have the benefit of hindsight so i think it's worth going over the history and trying to make sense of it.

ernie
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Nov 5 2009 12:22

JK

sorry for delay in replying to your detailed post, but wage labour has got in the way and still is. I cannot give a detailed response at the moment but want to take up two points:
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Quote:
'proletarian dictatorship' is a contradiction in terms, since the dispossessed can't, by definition, possess dictatorial power. the term has its origins in the statist side of the first international, and Marx in particular. at the time the favoured strategy was to seize the state by either democratic or Jacobin means, but since for Marxists the state is a class dictatorship this was justified as replacing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with 'the dictatorship of the proletariat', a meaningless turn of phrase to rationalise a woefully inadequate practice.

Yes Marx talked about taking power and how this was to be done was not clear until after the commune, but following the commune it was clear that Marx did not have have Jacobin conception of the proletarian revolution. He saw the revolution as the mobilisation of the whole class. Yes Marx does defend the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, because it will impose its political will over the deposed bourgeoisie. As the only revolutionary class it has to defend its autonomy after the revolution and not allow itself to become submerged into the other classes. I think we will probably not agree on this, but I would suggest that you read our pamphlet on the Period of Transition where our understanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the period of transition is developed much more clearly and deeply than I can.

2

Quote:
at the same time, the idea of a system of councils was being formulated as the negation of the state amongst the libertarian side of the first international (1869 was its first written appearance, iirc). i fully agree with Rocker that the council system and the dictatorship of the proletariat are radically opposed, and that a dictatorship of the proletariat cannot but be a dictatorship over the proletariat since it assumes the continuance of their dispossessed condition.

It is not clear why the formation of the workers councils into the means of the proletariat defending its autonomy represents the dictatorship over the proletariat. If the proletariat is consciously impose itself own objectives as the dominant class in a revolutionary situation. The proletariat is still a dispossessed class in the fact that it does not have its own property rights to impose and is consciously seeking to bring about a society where it disappears, but that does not mean it does not have political power or that it should not strike to gain that power in order to construct communist project.

May be we are both coming at this from slightly different angles, but it is very interesting to see what the difference is between a Marxist/Left communist analysis of the revolutionary process and that developed by yourself, I am not sure what political tradition you see yourself as coming from. I do not know a lot about Rocker. Anyway hopefully it will help to clarify things.

Sorry this is rather hurried but I have to get off now.