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[l] at 3/2/24 5:47pm
Author: AnonymousTitle: Or Just Say NothingSubtitle: A Response to CrimethInc.’s Initial Statement on Aaron BushnellDate: March 2, 2024Source: Retrieved on March 2, 2024 from https://anarchistnews.org/content/or-just-say-nothing-response-crimethincs-initial-statement-aaron-bushnell “Revolutionary suicide does not mean that I and my comrades have a death wish; it means just the opposite. We have such a strong desire to live with hope and human dignity that existence without them is impossible. When reactionary forces crush us, we must move against these forces, even at the risk of death.” – Huey P. Newton, Revolutionary Suicide “It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us. But white Americans do not believe in death, and this is why the darkness of my skin so intimidates them.” – James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time Aaron Bushnell, before self-immolating in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., sent notice to a few radical platforms including CrimethInc. (henceforth: the Outlet) informing them of his decision to commit “an extreme act of protest” against the ongoing genocide in Gaza. He asked simply that they preserve the footage of his action and report on it. Most complied, but in the face of such a humble request, the Outlet was confused: “All afternoon, while other journalists were breaking the news, we discussed how we should speak about this. Some subjects are too complex to address in a hasty social media post.” It’s telling that they self-identify as journalists. Still, the white man’s burden of “anarchist” journalism demanded that they not ponder too long before releasing a statement , even if half-formed. Within hours, they hastily published their garbage take. Putting Aaron’s actions in the context of another self-immolation that occurred on December 1st by a woman in Atlanta, (who, despite the Outlet’s misinformation, is still alive) they said: “It is not easy for us to know how to speak about their deaths.” Such dis-ease surely disquieted the spin-doctors and self-appointed spokespeople of revolution. For a project which only contributes to struggle by knowing what to say, the imperative to speak is paramount. In light of what they wrote, it would have been better for them to contemplate a little longer, or just say nothing at all. After grossly overestimating their importance as journalists “speaking to people of action,” they ultimately write: “Just as we have a responsibility not to show cowardice, we also have a responsibility not to promote sacrifice casually. We must not speak carelessly about taking risks, even risks that we have taken ourselves. It is one thing to expose oneself to risk; it is another thing to invite others to run risks, not knowing what the consequences might be for them. And here, we are not speaking about a risk, but about the worst of all certainties. Let’s not glamorize the decision to end one’s life, nor celebrate anything with such permanent repercussions. Rather than exalting Aaron as a martyr and encouraging others to emulate him, we honor his memory, but we exhort you to take a different path.” While it would be easy to dismiss this as the Outlet cautiously mitigating any potential liability if self-immolation generalizes, the rejection of the framework of martyrdom demands attention. The question is not whether Aaron qualifies as a shahid within the Palestinian context, although demonstrators in Yemen have proclaimed Aaron a “martyr of humanity” and an argument can be made for him having become an anarchist martyr in the lineage of Louis Lingg, Avalon, and Mikhail Vasilievich Zhlobitsky. The bigger issue: the Outlet’s assertion that an individual’s death, particularly in the context of the US, is the “worst of all possible certainties” reveals a deep disconnect with the context of this entire decolonial struggle. In the days following October 7th, anti-colonial anarchist thinkers such as Zoé Samudzi argued that the figure of the martyr marked a fundamental contradiction for the secular left’s ability to fully comprehend and act in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance. The martyrs constitute a force in the present for all who live and continue to struggle. Aaron framed his self-immolation as “not that extreme” compared to the ascension to martyrdom of tens of thousands in Gaza. By implying that Aaron’s choice was too extreme, the Outlet dishonors the reality of the struggle within Palestine and undercuts the potential of Aaron’s sacrifice. In denouncing any action taken with “such permanent repercussions,” the Outlet reproduces the anti-death paradigm of capitalism itself. The philosopher Byung Chul-Han, commenting on an exchange between the filmmaker Werner Schroeter and Michel Foucault, says: “Schroeter describes the freedom unto death as an anarchist feeling: ‘I have no fear of death. It’s perhaps arrogant to say but it’s the truth… To look death in the face is an anarchist feeling dangerous to established society.’ Sovereignty, the freedom unto death, is threatening to a society that is organized around work and production, that tries to increase human capital by biopolitical means. That utopia is anarchist insofar as it represents a radical break with a form of life that declares pure life, continued existence, sacred. Suicide is the most radical rejection imaginable of the society of production. It challenges the system of production. It represents the symbolic exchange with death which undoes the separation of death from life brought about by capitalist production.” ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 4:47pm
Author: AnonymousTitle: The Anarchists of DuneDate: February 18, 2024Source: Retrieved on March 2, 2024 from https://thetransmetropolitanreview.wordpress.com/2024/02/19/the-anarchists-of-dune/ “The people who can destroy a thing, they control it.” -Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965 Across the world, the movie-watching public will soon behold the Fremen of Dune sack and destroy the Empire, starting on their homeworld of Arrakis. This irresistible moment, where the rebels actually win, is sure to sink into the mass-public consciousness, but despite all the Arabic names and parallels between spice and petroleum, the true story of the Fremen deserves to be told, especially now, given what’s at stake. Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, lived the happiest parts of his childhood in a failed socialist colony called Burley, located along the Salish Sea near the city of Tacoma, Washington. It was dreary and cold during the fall and winter, and back in the day, before Herbert was born, all the excitement further down the sea in the anarchist Home Colony, a much more successful experiment in collective living. While the socialists of Burley struggled to replicate their small colony, Home grew bigger every year, even converting some of Burley’s socialists into anarchist defectors. Regardless, both the anarchists and socialists were used to living a rugged lifestyle in the middle of nowhere, remote communities with no road access that were connected together by twice-a-day ferries, if that. Everyone had to chop wood, shovel animal shit, hammer nails, grow food, cook food, mill lumber, construct houses, erect piers, build bridges, and all the like. However, in the anarchist Home Colony, there was far more autonomy than in Burley, and teenage anarchists were building their own houses, using dynamite to blow up stumps, shoot rifles, pilot their own boats, and dancing late into the night by raging bonfires. When the young Frank Herbert was growing up, Home was known for many things, among them its Saturday night dances, the wildest and most popular around, and even when Herbert was himself a teenager, Home was where you went for a good time. Given the drabness of Burley and his own semi-Catholic upbringing, it’s hard to not see these dances as the infamous spice orgy of the Fremen, a moment when the rebels finally let down their rock-hard armor and feel good for a change, rather than being ruthless fighters committed to destroying the Empire. Make no mistake, Home housed some committed, dedicated, and fervent anarchists, and some of them weren’t just homesteaders like Frank Herbert’s family, they were anarchist homesteader militants who smuggled dynamite, fomented uprisings in the coal fields of Vancouver Island, sheltered fugitives, shot at private detectives during strikes, and called for the death of capitalism. Beyond this, these anarchists were directly implicated in the 1910 bombing of the ultra-reactionary and anti-labor Los Angeles Times building, given they helped hide the man who supplied the dynamite, the anarchist David Caplan. The anarchists who bought the land where David Caplan hid out were from Home, and their names were Ersilia Cavedagni and Leon Morel. Both of them ran the anarchist metal foundry at Home and could fabricate anything their community might need, including gears, keys, nails, fixtures, stoves, candlesticks, type-face for printing plates, anything metal, be it brass, iron, or copper. Just like the Fremen fabricate thumpers, sand-compacters, and still-suits in their hidden sietches, the anarchists of Home fabricated everything in their remote region, something they were well known for. Frank Herbert’s grandfather Otto had been a socialist and follower of Eugene Debs, and he moved his family to Burley Colony in 1905, just as the community was falling apart. Given how close Burley was to Home, the Herbert family learned much about their anarchist neighbors, especially when several of them were arrested during a nude bathing scandal. The Herbert family was in Burley from 1905 to 1919, the year Home ceased to exist as an anarchist community, and they were nearby for all the major intrigue and conspiracy that took place there. Given young Frank Herbert’s love for his grandfather Otto and grandmother Mary, both socialists, it’s likely he cherished their stories from the old days and sought them out over stories from his father, who became a cop. Born in Tacoma in 1920, Frank Herbert moved to Burley with his family in 1928, although the young boy was already familiar with the region, having gone on many family trips. Like the anarchists of Home, young Frank woke up in the frosty time before dawn, he milked the cow, collected eggs and fed the pigs, just as his family had a large vegetable garden, with corn, peas, beans, carrots, lettuce and other crops. This was the type of self-sufficient, backwoods living Herbert shared with the anarchists of Home, the living legends of their sleepy region. Just like them, young Frank fished for his supper, and especially liked to fish in Burley Creek, which was loaded with brook trout. In the fall, salmon were so plentiful that they would be caught with bare hands. There were many smokehouses in the area, some dating back to the days of Burley Colony. It was a picturesque creek, winding through a forest of cedar, alder and maple and falling across a sequence of rocky beaches. This primordial landscape was shared by the anarchists of Home, and similar to them, young Frank smoked much of the salmon he caught, and took it to school for lunch, along with fruits, vegetables and hard-boiled eggs from the family farm. Even in regards to hunting deer, Frank Herbert would recall, there was no sport to it. They just went out and got meat for the family. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 4:15pm
Author: Nikolai Bukharin, Luigi Fabbri, Rudolf Rocker and Albert MeltzerTitle: The Poverty of StatismSubtitle: Anarchism vs Marxism, A DebateNotes: Translated by Paul Sharkey.Source: Retrieved on February 14th, 2011 from libcom.org Introduction by Albert Meltzer Nikolai Bukharin was regarded by many as Lenin’s favourite, in spite of his many differences with the leader of the Bolsheviks, the Benjamin of the Party which seized power in (or more precisely, after) the Russian Revolution. He was the youngest of the leadership, a merry extrovert among the more grim-faced professional revolutionaries, and above all, was popular with the Party both in Russia and abroad. After Lenin’s death, Bukharin was considered the most likely successor to the leadership; indeed, looking round the assortment of Party hacks and armed scholars, there was no one else to recommend themselves who had the necessary background and the talents to conquer. As against the vainglorious flamboyant Trotsky and the sinister Zinoviev, Bukharin impressed greatly, and above all, there was his undoubted popularity with all but a handful of the Central Committee, including the obscure Georgian, Stalin, whom nobody took very seriously at the time. However, the race is not always to the swift, and Stalin won; and by a quirk of fate future neo-marxist generations made a cult of Trotsky, and forgot Bukharin. Bukharin, originally counted among the ‘Left Bolsheviks,’ and whose anti-statist arguments and conclusions Lenin drew upon for his famous State and Revolution, settled down after Lenin ‘s death to resignation with Stalin’s victory. Like Trotsky he became one of the minor functionaries of the Party, but whereas Trotsky departed in glory with an entourage and ample cash, like a departing prince, Bukharin stayed on in Russia to come into inevitable conflict with the Stalinist bureaucracy. Originally one of the enthusiasts for world revolution, he came to accept the Stalin dictum that they had better be content with one country, and moved steadily to the right until one day the world was surprised with the news that Bukharin was in disgrace, accused of plotting with the German General Staff, and numerous other charges of sabotage, murder and ‘Anti-Soviet activity,’ for which he was shot on March 15, 1938. Was the story true? All the opponents of Stalin, and this goes for anarchists too, were convinced at the time that it was a put-up job by Stalin to disembarrass himself of the .Old Bolsheviks’ who might have constituted a danger. But what danger had they ever been? All obeyed meekly, all lived under the shadow of the Kremlin without raising any standard of revolt, all dutifully attacked the anti-Stalin worker revolutionaries, all with the sole exception of Bukharin, who defended himself vigorously, ultimately went to their deaths without shouting a word in their own defence. There was a good leninist precedent for plotting with the German General Staff; even Stalin, within a year of Bukharin’s execution, was himself doing it in the name of Holy Russia. Since to the Old Bolsheviks revolution against the regime was anathema, and the only way of altering it was by foreign intervention, if they could have done a deal, why not? It would not have been the first time.... At all events, Bukharin was shot as a spy, a traitor, and a ‘right-wing deviationist’ but once he was the hero of Russian leninism and the genius of the left-wing within the Bolsheviks (not to be confused with the ‘ultra-leftists’ outside the party, but inside the soviets). It was in this capacity that he was asked to write something to pulverise the anarchists, with Italy particularly in mind. It may not only have been Italian anarchism that the author had in mind. In a passage which Fabbri particularly resents, Bukharin attacks thieves and bandits who ‘pass off’ as anarchist revolutionaries. Nothing could have been more calculated to ruffle the feathers of a puritanical anarchist of the old school, Fabbri in particular, saintlike, aesthetical, who had suffered poverty, hardship and imprisonment for the cause. In rebutting Bukharin, in this reply desired of their mentor by Italian workers, he at this point quivers rage and describes the author as a ‘mad dog.’ Bukharin wasn’t exactly that; indeed at this point he was probably using the anarchists as a decoy duck to shoot at quite a different bird, the stalinists in the party who had contributed heavily to party funds with their bank robberies. Even under Lenin one could not attack the old Georgian burglar for his expropriations, but one could safely blaze away with both barrels at... the anarchists! And with all respect to Fabbri it was true of some, if a few, anarchists in Russia and in other countries. Why quibble? Nor was it necessarily solely because they wanted to raise money for ‘funds,’ though generally this was the case. They turned to crime because they needed the money. There is nothing more immoral in robbing a bank than in running one, and what worker conscientiously working for the capitalist system in return for wages can afford to scorn the bank robbers as being dishonest? This is not to glamorise the ‘individual expropriationist’ (wonderful word!) but one feels one individual business is not better than another. One cannot blame Fabbri, the world was much simpler and less sophisticated in those days. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 4:14pm
Author: Rudolf RockerTitle: The Order of the HourDate: 28 November 1941Source: Retrieved on 3rd March 2024 from www.katesharpleylibrary.net That the present war, which spreads itself over all continents and is engulfing mankind like a bloody flood, cannot be measured by the standards of military conflicts of the past, is beginning to be realised even by those who believe that historical facts can be denied through aged theories. The habit of considering every historical event as the outcome of fixed economic laws which ultimately lead to a higher stage of social life, is a terribly blind belief and has contributed in no small measure to the development of the present situation. Even though one is the bitterest opponent of the present economic system, to assert that the present war is being waged solely in the interests of capitalist groups is such a twisting of the truth that worse could not be invented. Even if it is accepted that certain capitalist circles are profiting from the great slaughter of the people, it nevertheless cannot be denied that the present catastrophe is transforming itself into a bloody menace to capitalism itself, and is against the interests of its servants and representatives. A social earthquake on such a vast scale must become a threat to every social system; that is why this fearful catastrophe is not simply a problem of certain classes, but of the whole of society itself. It is a poor consolation to assert that the workers could have prevented the war if they had been more alert to their “class interests”. That they had the power to do so, no one wishes to deny: but that they nevertheless did not prevent it, and that the great tragedy of our time has come just the same, is also a fact. To-day we know already that the broad masses of the French Labour Movement have aided in weakening the opposition to Hitler’s hordes. Had the German workers done the same, it might have been a gain; but they did not do so, and the internal collapse of France therefore led to the bloody yoke of the German occupation upon the French Labour Movement. The same story repeats itself in every European country. Just because the workers have too closely understood their so-called “class interests” and have underestimated the menace which threatens everybody, they, together with the whole of society, became the victims of the bloodiest tyranny in history. The present war is not only an economic issue. It is first of all a power problem between two different forces of social evolution. One of these leads back to the epoch of absolutism, to the common enslavement of mankind, whereas the second slowly raises the people to a higher social and cultural level, and carries with it the historical legacy left to us by the revolutions of the past. The abolition of feudal absolutism and of the economic reign of feudalism through the democratic and liberal revolutions, was necessary in order to provide the pre-conditions for the development of the modern Labour Movement and Socialism. Without the political rights and liberties which have been achieved the social movements of our epoch could not even have been thought of. Through them social aims have been developed. The rights which we now enjoy to-day in the democratic countries have not been received by the nations as gifts from their governments; they are the results of hard and bloody struggles and were often paid for with great sacrifices. Whoever fails to take into account these rights and is in agreement with Lenin’s phrase that “freedom is but a middle-class prejudice” is altogether lost for a movement which strives towards social liberation. One doesn’t serve social liberation by squandering, without a struggle, rights already gained, but only when one is always ready to broaden these rights and create for them a wider field of effectiveness. It is not less rights and smaller liberties that we demand, but more rights and greater liberties. Whoever thinks differently is ripe for dictatorship and for the totalitarian state, and is consciously or unconsciously assisting the development of social reaction. If it is true that democracy and liberalism have prepared the way for the modern Labour Movement and the social aims of our time, then it cannot be denied that the abolition of all democratic and liberal achievements must automatically lead to the abolition of the Labour Movement and of all libertarian aims. That this is not a vain assertion can be seen from the present bloody reality. The totalitarian regime has made a hell for liberty; and if this was not understood at the beginning, it was a great error which is now being paid for in blood. The terrible tyranny in all countries which have been poisoned by the totalitarian cliques in the occupied countries; the cowardly and conscienceless murdering of so-called living hostages; the daily executions of anti-fascist workers and peasants in Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, Czecho-Slovakia, Roumania, Serbia, Hungary, &c., create the existence of the totalitarian state. The ancient laws against the Jews; the frightful condition of millions of people in Europe who have been placed outside the law; the fear of the concentration camp; the barbaric suppression of all cultural achievements will bring about the collapse of civilisation in general, if Hitler should unfortunately be victorious. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 4:02pm
Author: Cindy MilsteinTitle: Democracy Is DirectDate: 2000 / 2010Notes: This essay first appeared in the Spring of 2000—as a contribution to the Bringing Democracy Home booklet, which was distributed at the A16 demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank in DC—and most recently in an updated form, as chapter 3 in Cindy’s book Anarchism and Its Aspirations in 2010.Source: Retrieved on 30 April 2023 from revolutionbythebook.akpress.org. These days, words seem to be thrown around like so much loose change. “Democracy” is no exception. We hear demands to democraticize everything from international or supranational organizations to certain countries to technology. Many contend that democracy is the standard for good government. Still others allege that “more,” “better,” or even “participatory” democracy is the needed antidote to our woes. At the heart of these well-intentioned but misguided sentiments beats a genuine desire: to gain control over our lives. This is certainly understandable given the world in which we live. Anonymous, often-distant events and institutions—nearly impossible to describe, much less confront—determine whether we work, drink clean water, or have a roof over our heads. Most people feel that life isn’t what it should be; many go so far as to complain about “the government” or “corporations.” But beyond that, the sources of social misery are so masked they may even look friendly: starting with the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cone of “caring” capitalism to today’s “green” version, from the “humanitarian” interventions of Western superpowers to a “change we can believe in” presidency. Since the real causes appear untouchable and incomprehensible, people tend to displace blame onto imaginary targets with a face: individuals rather than institutions, people rather than power. The list of scapegoats is long: from Muslims and blacks and Jews, to immigrants and queers, and so on. It’s much easier to lash out at those who, like us, have little or no power. Hatred of the visible “other” replaces social struggle against seemingly invisible systems of oppression. A longing for community—a place where we can take hold of our own life, share it with others, and build something together of our own choosing—is being distorted around the globe into nationalisms, fundamentalisms, separatisms, and the resultant hate crimes, suicide bombings, and genocides. Community no longer implies a rich recognition of the self and society; it translates into a battle unto death between one tiny “us” against another small “them,” as the wheels of domination roll over us all. The powerless trample the powerless, while the powerful go largely unscathed. We are left with a few bad choices, framed for us by the powers that be. Slavoj Žižek termed this “the double blackmail.” He used this concept in relation to Yugoslavia in the late 1990s: “if you are against NATO strikes, you are for [Slobodan] Milosevic’s proto-fascist régime of ethnic cleansing, and if you are against Milosevic, you support the global capitalist New World Order.”[1] But this choiceless choice all too easily applies to many other contemporary crises. Global economic recession seems to necessitate nation-state interventions; human rights violations seem to call for international regulatory bodies. If the right answer, from an ethical point of view, lies outside this picture altogether, what of it? It’s all talk when people are dying or the climate is being irreversibly destroyed. At least that’s what common wisdom purports, from government officials to news commentators to the person on the street. Even much of the Left can see no other “realistic” choices to control an out-of-control world than those that are presented to us from on high. Given this, the leftist horizon narrows to what’s allegedly achievable: nongovernmental organization or global South participation in international decision-making bodies, or for that matter, Left-leaning heads of state in the global South or a Barack Obama in the global North; or the rectification and greening of the wrongs of capitalism. These and other such demands are bare minimums within the current system. Still, they are a far cry from any sort of liberatory response. They work with a circumscribed and neutralized notion of democracy, where democracy is neither of the people, by the people, nor for the people, but rather, only in the supposed name of the people. What gets dubbed democracy, then, is mere representation, and the best that progressives and leftists can advocate for within the confines of this prepackaged definition are improved versions of a fundamentally flawed system. “The instant a People gives itself Representatives, it ceases to be free,” famously proclaimed Jean-Jacques Rousseau in On the Social Contract.[2] Freedom, particularly social freedom, is indeed utterly antithetical to a state, even a representative one. At the most basic level, representation “asks” that we give our freedom away to another; it assumes, in essence, that some should have power and many others shouldn’t. Without power, equally distributed to all, we renounce our very capacity to join with everyone else in meaningfully shaping our society. We renounce our ability to self-determine, and thus our liberty. And so, no matter how enlightened leaders may be, they are governing as tyrants nonetheless, since we—“the people”—are servile to their decisions. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 2:20pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: Worker Management of the Barcelona Public Transit System, 1936-1939Date: 24 November 2014Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from workerscontrol.net. The history of worker management of Barcelona's transit system during the revolution and civil war is an illustration of the ability of workers to directly manage the industries where they work. *** In the years leading up to the revolution in Spain in 1936 there had been bitter struggles of the workers...such as the long but defeated streetcar strike in 1935. A number of leading activists in that strike were sent to prison. With the victory of the liberals and social-democrats in Spain's national elections in February 1936, imprisoned unionists were freed, and the workers on the Barcelona transit system began rebuilding their union, which was to play an important role in the city during the revolutionary events of 1936. In Barcelona in 1936 the main part of the transit system was a large streetcar system, operated by Barcelona Tramways (Tranvias de Barcelona), a company owned mainly by Belgian investors. The streetcar company operated 60 routes that criss-crossed the city and ran into the nearby suburbs. Of the 7,000 workers for this company in 1936, 6,500 belonged to the Transport Union of the National Confederation of Labor, known by its Spanish initials as the CNT. The CNT was a libertarian syndicalist labor organization. The Transport Union was a highly democratic organization, run through worker assemblies (general meetings) and councils of elected shop stewards (delegados). Being syndicalist means that the union was part of a revolutionary social movement that aimed to have the workers take over direct, collective management of the industries, replacing the bosses and the capitalist investors, and creating an economy based on ownership of industry by the whole society. In response to the mass mobilization and strikes of the Spanish workers, the heads of Spain's army, with direct support of the country's capitalist elite, attempted to overthrow the liberal government, beginning July 19 1936, so as to crush the country's radical labor movement. Union defense groups fought back with the support of much of the rank and file of the police, defeating the army in two thirds of the country initially. The worker unions then formed their own "People's Army" to fight the fascist Spanish army. In the days following the defeat of the army in Barcelona, the unions moved to expropriate most of the country's industry and new organizations of direct worker management were created. The workers of the Transport Union participated in the fighting. They seized an armored car that the company used to haul streetcar fares and deployed it as an armored car in the fighting with the army. On July 20th an armed group from the CNT transport union discovered that the top management of Barcelona Tramways had fled. A mass meeting of the transit workers was held the following day and the assembly voted overwhelmingly to expropriate the transit companies in the name of the people. Three private bus companies, two funiculars, and the Metropolitan Railway (subway) were taken over along with the streetcar company. The streetcar system had been badly mauled in the street fighting — tracks were damaged, overhead wires were knocked down in places, equipment boxes were shot up, and streetcar tracks were blocked by barricades. Working night and day, the transit workers got the streetcar network working within five days. Over time the streetcars were repainted in the diagonally divided red and black paint scheme of the syndicalist movement (photo below). Prior to July 19th, equipment boxes of the electric power company in the middle of streets made it necessary for Barcelona streetcars to negotiate tight curves around them; this had been a source of derailments. After the union takeover, the workers arranged with the worker-run public utility federation to relocate the electric power equipment so that the tracks could be straightened out. Under private management, the private electric utility had built power boxes in the middle of the street and streetcar tracks were curved around them. Workers arranged to move these power boxes to the sidewalk. On a number of lines center line poles in the street had been used for suspension of the overhead wire and these were replaced with crossspans from poles on the sidewalk, as this was considered safer. The various modes — buses, subway, streetcars — were separate union "sections", as were the repair depots. These all were managed through elected committees, answerable to assemblies of the workers. An engineer was elected to each administrative committee, to facilitate consultation between manual workers and engineers. There was an overall assembly for decisions that affected the transit-system as a whole. There was no top manager or executive director. A 7-member elected worker committee was responsible for overall coordination. Barcelona Tramways had operated with a fare zone system which meant that it cost more for people in the outer working class suburbs to get into the city center. The worker-run transit operation switched to a flat fare throughout the metropolitan area, to equalize fare costs to riders. Despite this lowering of the fare, the worker-run transit system operated at a profit. A sizeable part of this profit was donated to the anti-fascist war effort. Workers also donated their time on Sundays to work in factories set up in transit system workshops to make munitions for the People's Army. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 1:47pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: Challenges in a Time of AusterityDate: 1 September 2010Notes: Essay prepared for a panel discussion at the third Class Struggle Anarchist Conference held in Seattle, 2010.Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from znetwork.org. American capitalism faces multiple worsening crises. Vast unemployment, huge numbers of home foreclosures, and cuts to public services are symptoms of an economic system in crisis. The role of the USA as world cop to protect corporate exploitation of labor and resources throughout the world creates human casualties — as in the endless war in Afghanistan — and also shifts resources away from social services that would benefit the working class population. Capitalism profits off the domination and exploitation of labor but also from plunder of the earth’s resources and shifting costs onto others through pollution. The threat posed by climate change is a clear and present danger and evidence that capitalism is not ecologically sustainable. Radical economists usually distinguish two kinds of economic downturns. First, there are the recessions that are part of the normal business cycle. And then there are less frequent "structural" crises that reflect more deep-seated problems. The present epic recession seems to be a severe structural crisis. The present economic crisis does not give any sign of ending any time soon. Huge numbers of people have been out of work now for record lengths of time. There are six unemployed for every job opening. The real unemployment rate is somewhere between 16 and 19 percent and much higher in African-American communities. More houses continue to fall into foreclosure. 140 banks collapsed last year and 110 so far this year. The FDIC has another 829 banks on its endangered list. Although the big banks sit on a cash hoard of $1 trillion, the IMF estimates their bad assets at $2 trillion.[1] Lending to small to medium-sized businesses has dried up. As happened in the ’30s depression, the economic crisis will tend to discredit capitalism — especially the "free market" neoliberal variety — in the eyes of many people. Pundits have long heralded American capitalism as the system that provides “prosperity.” Now it can’t deliver. This discredit and increasing austerity — declining ability to earn an adequate living, worsening working conditions, sharp cuts to government supports — provide a motivation to increased struggle by working people. This situation will provide us an opening for anti-capitalist popular education. People will be more open to hearing about a libertarian socialist alternative to the present system. People will be looking for an overall perspective or explanation for what is going on. For this reason, we should study the various theories or explanations of the economic crisis. We need to be informed so we can provide a plausible “big picture” view of the situation. An effective working class response to the crisis will require a massive increase in struggle and numbers of people involved. But it would be way too mechanistic or deterministic to suppose that either an upsurge of mass struggle or an increase in support for libertarian socialism will happen as some sort of automatic response to increasing deprivation. Shrinking state budgets can also generate internal conflict in the working class as people fight over scraps. “Immigrants take our jobs” is a complaint that leads to further division, as immigrants are scapegoated for problems not of their making. These kinds of internal divisions are a danger in the present period. Capitalism today is a zero-sum game between labor and capital. When business taxes are increased to sustain social services, this cuts into profits. When workers raise their wages or benefits, this also reduces profits. When companies increase their profits, they use these funds to move operations to lower wage zones, hire more managers to enforce a harsher work regime, and re-organize work to reduce jobs and speed-up the jobs that remain. But the union bureaucracy and a variety of liberals and socialists often argue that “win-win” solutions are possible where both capitalists and workers will benefit. The labor bureaucracy try to sell “partnership” to the employers by using arguments of this sort. But productivity since the late ‘60s has risen by about three-fourths but wages have been stagnant. This means the employers can scarf up all the gains as profit – this is the big reason for the increases in corporate profits since the ‘70s. The employers believe that the best way for them to win is to avoid unions. Ironically the one reform that might have benefitted American employers would have been single-payer health insurance, which would cut the health insurance premium costs of employers by increasing the efficiency of health insurance provision. But the capitalist elite generally do not like any program that converts some area of the economy into a purely nonprofit operation because this shrinks the total set of areas where profits can be made. And so the health insurance capitalists were powerful enough to keep single-payer off the table. There are those on the Left now who talk about a "new New Deal", which they envision will come about through coalitions of bureaucratic business unions, the bureaucratic 501-c-3 nonprofits and liberal Democratic party politicians. We need to be able to argue convincingly that this reformist path is unrealistic. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 1:36pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: What is Democratic Planning?Date: 19 July 2009Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from znetwork.org. It’s true that there are many avenues of technical change in various areas that would be more environmentally friendly…such as wind and solar and wave power for electricity generation, or "green chemistry" for cleaners and plastics, or a switch in transport away from the pivate auto. But what assurance do we have that social ownership of the land and means of production and "democratic planning" will lead to those changes? Capitalism is a system of private accumulation of wealth and one of the key profit strategies is cost-shifting…shifting costs onto workers and shifting costs onto others in the population (through polluting them) and shifting costs off into the future (through rapid using up of resources…loggging, over-fishing, green house gas accumumulation, etc). Cost-shifting behaviors are facilitated because capitalism is a system of social domination. As Murray Bookchin has always emphasized, the ecological crisis is rooted in social relations of domination. When groups are in a weaker, vulnerable, dominated, or powerless position in the political economy/society, they can be polluted or stripped of their resources. So it seems to me that a key part of the solution has to be preventing cost-shifting behaviors through empowering the people costs are shifted onto. And this is linked to the other aspect of the solution: You can’t have proper incentives in technical development in industry without an accurate way of calculating environmental costs. Now, if we think of the environmental crisis as rooted in cost-shifting, this says it is a product of the way that capitalism is a system of social domination. That’s because costs are shifted onto vulnerable and dominated populations…such as workers, communities of color or other working class communities living near polluting facilities, or the entire population who breathe polluted air, indigenous communities whose resources are stolen, etc. Consider the cost-shifting behavior of the massive information technology industry. It’s manufacturing end is more damaging to its workforce than any other manufacturing industry…as measured by rates of illnesses and injuries. But the workers are just the front line of pollution that then impacts surrounding areas. I worked for about 14 years for two computer hardware manufacturing firms in Silicon Valley, beginning in the early ’80s. At that time there were about 1,500 high tech manufacturing firms in Silicon Valley and 70-80 percent of the assemblers were women of color…many of them immigrants. Later studies show how patterns of illness such as cancer have shown up in this population. At the same time, that industry completely destroyed the underground acquifer of Silicon Valley…there are 29 Superfund sites there, more than anywhere else in the USA. Now that they’ve moved the manufacturing to China, the Mexican maquiladora zone, Malaysia and other third world or eastern European sites, the same pattern is being repeated…even more recklessly. (There is a lot of good information about this in the anthology Challenging the Chip, organized by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.) Similarly, farm workers are the front line in the huge damage to human health from massive use of pesticides, herbicides and petro-chemical fertilizers in industrial agriculture. This suggests to me that the solution has to begin by empowering two groups of people: Workers need to have complete management authority over the industries they work in and they need to have control over technical research and development, to ensure that techniques that are employed facilitate democratc control and are safe to the health of workers. There needs to be public governance bodies in local communities and regions, beginning at the level of neighborhood assemblies, so that the population can exercise direct stewardship over use of the environmental commons in their areas…land, water, air. This is necessary in order to be able to intitute an "ecological rationality" because this presupposes that (1) we have a way to accurately assess ecological costs of different possible technical avenues of change, and (2) we need to be able to force production organizations to eat their environmental costs or to ban certain pollutants or practicess altogehter if they are too risky. We can’t say that we will just ban anything that is damaging. At a given point in time we may not yet have a technique for producing something we need or strongly want that is free of pollution effects. What we do need is a way of providing an incentive to production organizations to develop ever more superior techniques from the point of view of their ecological effects. This suggests that we need to have a planning process that involves an interactive negotiation between production organizations and the democratically organized populace to be able to work up a plan for production. Although I also favor "democratic planning," I don’t think we can rely too much on that phrase because it is so vague. Contrary to what Joel Kovel seems to suggest, "central planning" is not synonymous with a top-down hierarhical apparatus such as the old Soviet state. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 1:20pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: From Self-managed Solidarity Unionism to a Self-managed SocietyDate: 15 June 2009Notes: Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications.Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from znetwork.org. When Marx drew up a draft set of principles for the first International Working Men’s Association (the "First International") in the 1860s, he began with the statement: "The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves." Capitalism is built on various forms of oppression and structural inequality. But the subordination and exploitation of the working class remains at the heart of the system. A liberatory program and strategy for a remake of society needs to explain how workers can escape the class cage. 1 The unfreedom of workers begins with the fact that we are forced to rent out pieces of our lives to employers, to pursue ends they define. Liberal ideology was designed to deny there is unfreedom here. The liberal idea of freedom is "negative" freedom — freedom as the absence of coercion or restraint. Since an employer isn’t putting a gun to your head when you get that call offering you a job, it’s a free relationship, they say. But if you’re about to be tossed on the street and are facing destitution, you may have no acceptable alternative. As we say, you’re forced to take the job. The concentration of ownership of the means to making a living in the hands of a small minority puts the working class (roughly three-fourths of the population in the USA) in this situation. And once you’re on the job, coercion is rife in the capitalist workplace. If you or your co-workers object to unsafe conditions, arbitrary changes in your job or anything else, managers can threaten to fire you, or the company can threaten to move elsewhere. This is coercive authority. Managers and investors, working with their professional advisors, control decisions about where to invest, what technologies to use, what products to make, how the jobs are defined, how the work is organized. Workers sometimes organize to gain a bigger piece of the pie, but we don’t own or control the bakery. Firms have an incentive to shift costs onto others as this is a basic profit strategy. They can try to shift costs of production onto workers by intensifying the pace of work or exposing people to unsafe chemicals or other dangerous conditions. Or they can shift costs onto us in the areas where we live through toxic air and water pollution. Capitalism tends to remove skill and discretion from workers and concentrate this into a hierarchy of managers, engineers and other professionals. Skills and training are a public good. If a firm creates programs to develop skills in employees, they can then go to work for another company…and thus the firm has trained the workforce of its competitors. Transfer of expertise and decision-making authority to a hierarchy is not just about costs but also about control. The upshot is that the system systematically under-develops the skills and capacities of the working class and also builds a bureaucratic control layer, or coordinator class, to which workers are subordinate. 2 "Positive" freedom gives us a richer idea of what freedom is. An essential part of this is self-management. Escape from the class cage requires that we evict the corporate hierarchy and replace it with workers self-management. Self-management is an inherent capacity and need of humans. People have the capacity to foresee future courses of action, for ourselves and for groups we are a part of. We can plan…think out in advance…the steps to achieve our goals. We can learn through doing and develop the skills we need to be effective at self-managing our activities. Some decisions affect mainly you. These are decisions about how you conduct your own life as a distinct person. Being self-managing means you get to control these decisions yourself. But many spheres of decision-making that affect or govern our lives are social. They affect not just one person but a group of people. Many of the decisions that govern work are social in this sense. We can think of workers self-management of industry as a layered structure of spheres of decision-making. Where there is a group of people who are mainly affected by a certain area of decision-making, the face-to-face democracy of assemblies provides a foundation for their control of these decisions. Some decisions affect an entire factory or a large supermarket or some other facility and there are general assemblies of the entire workforce to control those decisions. Other decisions affect mainly people in a particular department, and they have their own assemblies for those decisions. If a decision affects only you, you get to call the shots in that area. Collective self-management doesn’t mean that all decisions are made in meetings or that no delegation of tasks or responsibilities can occur. But direct democracy is the essential foundation for collective control. Workers self-management should not be confused with weak notions of "worker control" (such as Lenin’s proposal of workers having a veto or check on management) or systems of "co-management" — schemes that leave management hierarchy in place. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 1:07pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: Erik Olin Wright on the transition to socialismDate: 30 March 2009Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from znetwork.org. In his new book Envisioning Real Utopias, Erik Olin Wright suggests that proposals for a what he calls "democratic egalitarian socialism" — and strategies for transition to such a society — should be evaluated "scientifically" — that is, based on evidence and our best understanding of society — and his book attempts to do this. In what follows I will look only at Wright’s discussion of strategies for the transition to democratic, egalitarian socialism. Wright divides transitional strategies into three types, which he calls ruptural, interstitial, and symbiotic. Ruptural transition In talking about "ruptural" transitions, Wright has in mind the traditional concept of revolution, of a fundamental break with capitalist institutions. For most Marxists historically as well as for anarcho-syndicalists, this was conceived of as arising out of the class struggle. But Wright completely ignores the syndicalist conception of a ruptural transition, which looks to events such as a mass general strike and widespread worker takeovers of workplaces. This is a major hole in Wright’s discussion. When thinking of ruptural strategies, Wright seems to have in mind traditional Leninist conceptions of a revolution. For example, he defines the force for transition as "classes organized into parties." He then defines what he calls "an optimistic scenario" for a "ruptural" transition this way: "Suppose that a democratic process an emancipatory socialist party were to gain control of the state with a large majority of the vote and had sufficient power to launch a serious program of socialist transformation." And he considers that this "transformation" might be either his preferred solution of market socialism based on thinks like cooperatives and democratization of local government, or it might be "a democratic version of a statist socialist program of state ownership and control of the most important economic organizations." Wright’s scepticism about an "insurrection" against the state in the present era is surely warranted, at least in the more developed capitalist countries. And not only because of the vast armed power of the state. In countries where Communist revolutions were propelled by guerrilla armies in the post-World War 2 era an authoritarian regime emerged in all cases where they "succeeded" and became an instrument of a bureaucratic dominating class. But Wright isn’t thinking about an extra-parliamentary path. He’s thinking about an electoral socialist party with a strong commitment to a rapid and totalistic sort of program of change. He thinks it unlikely that such a party would be able to sustain victories in elections long enough to be able to carry this out, given the likely degree of conflict and opposition such a program would invoke. In particular, Wright emphasizes the likely social costs of the conflict and struggle in such a period, and how this is likely to scare off "middle class" support. There is, as I see it, another problem to the socialist party path that Wright doesn’t consider…the way in which being a successful party undermines commitment to the empowerment of the working class. The aim of such a party is to implement its program through the hierarchical institutions of the state. An electoral party also tends to focus attention on the individual leaders who are presented for election. Both of these aspects of partyist socialism tend to favor concentration of decision-making authority and expertise into the hands of a few. This is itself the very basis of the class power of the bureaucratic or coordinator class. Liberation of the working class requires that this concentration of authority and expertise be broken down, through democratization of skills and expertise, and by expanding the role of direct, participatory forms of democracy. Thus the mistake in Wright’s conception of a "ruptural" path is that he only thinks in partyist terms. It’s true that partyism was always a central feature of Marxism. But there is also the non-partyist alternative of mass movements rooted in the working class. Syndicalism was the main historical example of an extra-parliamentary path to socialism that tried to root this in directly democratic mass worker organizations…as an alternative to the hierarchy and bureaucracy that seem to be an inevitable consequence of the partyist strategy. The syndicalist strategy is especially relevant if you think that direct worker management of workplaces and industries is essential to the liberation of the working class from managerial hierarchies and exploitation. Although Wright rejects a totalistic rupture with the institutions of capitalist society — at least in the advanced capitalist countries — he doesn’t totally reject the idea of rupture: "Partial ruptures, institutional breaks, and decisive innovations in specific spheres, may be possible, particularly in periods of severe economic crisis. Above all the conception of struggle within ruptural visions — struggle as challenge and confrontation, victories and defeats, rather than just collaborative problem-solving — remains essential for a realistic project of social empowerment." ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 1:01pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: Guild socialism as a precursor to partcipipatory economicsDate: 1 February 2008Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from znetwork.org. Ideas about workers’ self-management would remain just a "nice idea" were it not for the fact that such ideas have at times gained a sizeable following within the working class, and helped to inspire sections of the labor movement. The period between 1900 and 1920 was an era when in fact issues of worker control were being fought over and many strikes in the U.S. were conducted over issues related in some way to control — over defense of union work rules, to get an abusive supervisor fired, to protect a reasonable supervisor against discharge, to have a say over how layoffs would be carried out, and the like. The vision of workers managing industries was a solution put forward by a radical minority in the labor movement in that period. Between 1909 and the early 1920s this trend was associated with what was called the "new unionism." The existing unions of the American Federation of Labor — the "old unionism" of that era — were based on organizing mainly skilled workers, and used strategies of exclusion, which tended to limit the appeal of these unions to native-born white men. The "new unionism" is sometimes called "industrial unionism" but this is misleading since the idea wasn’t just forming organizations on an industry rather than craft basis. The "new unionism" after 1909 was based on the idea of a broad appeal to class solidarity, was aimed at organizing the legions of less skilled workers in the newer industries, from goods manufacturing to oil refining to mining. In that era this led to organizing and strikes in industries with large numbers of limmigrants from eastern and southern Europe. The strikes and new unions in the garment industry and the attempts to organize the auto manufacturing industry are examples of the "new unionism", as is the organizing by the Industrial Workers of the World. In response to Henry Ford’s radical transformation of auto-making, a group of socialists in the auto industry captured a defunct AFL craft union and rebuilt it into a militant industrial union, the first Auto Workers Union (AWU). Their refusal to accept AFL craft divisions got them expelled from the AFL in 1918. Auto workers joined the AWU en masse in 1919, with membership in Detroit growing to 40,000. The union was fiercely democratic, run by elected shop steward committees with one delegate for every 10 workers. Ford’s system of internal spying and stool pigeons made a direct assault on Ford difficult. The AWU attempted a strategy of organizing the supplier firms, and Ford countered by expanding the River Rouge plant to make his operation less dependent on suppliers. The idea of class-wide solidarity was made very vivid by the intense struggle in Philadelphia in 1910 that saw the city’s unions wage a 20-day general strike that involved 146,000 workers at its peak. That struggle was waged in response to attempts by the city to break the union of workers on the city’s transit system. The "new unionism" was propelled by a massive wave of strikes between 1916 and 1921, with 4,450 strikes in 1917 and 3,360 strikes in 1919 — a year that saw a general strike in Seattle and very nearly a general strike in Los Angeles as well. Syndicalism versus State Socialism The era from 1900 to 1920 was also a period of very great growth for American socialism as an organized movement with the Socialist Party taking on tens of thousands of members and electing hundreds of local officials and state legislators in various parts of the USA. The American Socialist Party (SPA) of that period was quite heterogeneous in terms of how its members conceived of their aim. In 1911 John Spargo, a writer associated with the SPA, wrote a little book, "The Common Sense of Socialism." The book lays out a conception of socialism as an economy managed by the state: "Under Socialism, the state would control…those things which could not be owned and controlled without giving them undue advantage over the community, by enabling them to extract profits from the labor of others." In Spargo’s technocratic vision, workers would still be subordinate to the hierarchy of experts and managers in the state. His book says nothing about workers managing industries. The only power workers would have would be as voters. Within the "new unionism", however, there was a very different conception of how a socially-owned economy would come about and how it would be run. This was the idea that it would be from below, not through the state, that workers would gain control of the industries and manage them, perhaps through a period of a mass general strike throughout the country. The massive national general strike in Russia in 1905-06 had influenced many radicals in the labor movement in Europe and the USA to envision an alternative to electoral politics as the strategy to expropriate the capitalists. This alternative conception of how to socialize the American economy was called syndicalism. Although people remember the IWW as an important exponent of the idea of workers themselves taking over and managing the industries and the economy as a whole, the idea had a broader following in that era than just the IWW. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 12:53pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: About AnarchismDate: 29 August 2003Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from znetwork.org. How about if we start by trying to situate anarchism today. Are there main strands that you think compose the whole? Anarchism is a rather vague term, covering a variety of anti-authoritarian stances and its influence can be rather diffuse. Quite a few people who engage in civil disobedience around issues likethe war in Iraq, against institutions like the WTO, proposals like the Free Trade Act of the Americas are probably influenced by anti-authoritarian, direct action ideas, ideas about direct democracy. This gets reflected to some extent in the ways that protests get organized, like the use of spokescouncils and affinity groups for things like the anti-war protests here in San Francisco. Of course, at one extreme, there are the primitivists, and extreme anti-organizationalists, but their influence is limited by their unwillingness to see themselves as part of a broader “left” and their limited involvement in broader struggles. The main influence of these ideas comes about from their being the dominant sort of view found in two longstanding anti-authoritarian publications, “Anarchy” and “Fifth Estate.” Extreme individualism is not inherent in all forms of anarchism — not in social anarchism — but this is one of those tensions or contradictions in the anarchist milieu. Among those influenced by the more individualistic strain, this can be reflected in anti-organizationalism, or nihilistic styles or in the refusal of voting, things like that. Individualism is also reflected in those who think of anarchism in terms of how the individual personally leads their life, a lifestyle statement, rather than as method and goals of collective social struggle. When some anarchists say they are against “all forms of authority”, for example, well, what happens if a community directly self-manages its own collective economy? Wouldn’t it be exercizing “authority” over its members? So, the slogan of “opposition to all authority” could be interpreted in an individualist way — or it could mean opposition to top-down power hierarchies, like the state or class systems or patriarchy. Social anarchists will take the second position, but an extreme individualist is against any control on the individual. This is an example of the ambiguity in anarchism. People who see the class struggle as central to social change tend to be more organizational. In this camp you you have syndicalists and platformists and those influenced by European autonomism and council communism. Platformism has grown in its influence in the U.S. in recent years. Platformists agree with the thesis of the “libertarian communist platform” that was developed in the ’20s by the Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno and his associates. Reflecting on the disorganization of anti-authoritarians that contributed to their defeat in the Russian Revolution, the “Platform” advocates a disciplined, democratic cadre organization, organized as a horizontal federation of groups, to exert influence within broader struggles. A key difference from Leninism is that the “Platform” holds that it is the masses of the population who are to take over the running of the society through mass organs of self-management like workers councils. The anarchist activist organization is to assist this process. They view the Leninist idea of a political cadre organization taking power as substitutionist, that is, it empowers the party elite, not the mass of the population. The largest Platformist group in the U.S. is the North East Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC), which publishes “The Northeastern Anarchist.” There are a number of similar but smaller groups elsewhere. NEFAC is involved in a variety of tenant and union struggles. I think quite a few of the people in NEFAC came out of the anti-corporate globalization protest movement, and have decided to try to build local struggles and movements. And then you have the anti-authoritarian syndicalists. Syndicalism is the thesis that social change in an anti-authoritarian direction is to be brought about by developing mass industrial organizations that rank and file workers directly self-manage, as a means of not only more effective struggle at present but the creation ultimately of an economic system based on self-management. And here you have to include the IWW — the wobblies, which may have something like a thousand members at this point. The IWW does not call itself “anarchist” — it is billed as a union run by its members and committed to an anti-capitalist program, of workers eventually taking over the management of industry. And then you have Workers Solidarity Alliance, which does not define itself as a union but as a group of anti-authoritarian activists. WSA also does not use the word “anarchist” in its statement of priniciples. As tactics towards developing a revolutionary labor movement, WSA advocates both attempts at revamping existing AFL-CIO local unions into more militant, self-managed unions, as well as the formation of new unions self-managed by their participants. WSA is involved in various worker solidarity efforts like the Taco Bell boycott, and extends the concept of syndicalism to self-managed community organization, that is, to spheres other than the workplace. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 12:45pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: The CityDate: 1 January 2003Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from znetwork.org. In the early 20th century, radical workplace activists put forward the idea that, in building workplace organizations or unions self-managed by rank and file workers, and in challenging the bosses for control of production, they were “building the new society in the shell of the old.” They envisioned rank and file self-management of the union or organization of workplace struggle as foreshadowing grassroots bodies through which workers would manage production in a non-market, post-capitalist society. The assumption here is that self-management, having control over your life, having a say over the decisions that affect you, should be central to our vision of a post-capitalist future. But self-management isn’t relevant only to our control over our work, the sphere of production, but to the sphere of consumption as well. What sorts of housing to do we want to live in? What sorts of services do we want available in our neighborhoods? What do we want the layout of the city to be? What products do we want produced? Our economic vision needs a means of providing people with say over consumption decisions that affect them. This idea is reflected in the Participatory Economics vision which proposes both workers councils and neighborhood consumption councils as building blocks of self-management. For cities, Participatory Economics poses the possibility of a horizontal, self-managing regionalism in planning investment in transportation and other infrastructure as well as in meeting social needs such as housing, child care, and health care. Participatory planning would mean that people, starting in their local councils, would develop proposals for what they want to be produced. Both as individuals, for private consumption, as well as for items of collective consumption, we figure out what we want to to consume, and what work we want to do. These proposals filter outward through organizations over a larger geographic scope insofar as they have impact on a larger area. Through a process of give-and-take between workers and consumers, proposals would be refined into a comprehensive agenda for social production. Land use decisions are also a part of this give-and-take process, and issues like the relationship between housing and worksites becomes a negotiated process among production groups and neighborhood councils. For example, would people most prefer to move back more in the direction of the pre-capitalist artisanal city, with work and housing in close proximity? Well, if so, we would expect that to be reflected in decisions about investment in the built environment. Participatory economics implies the elimination of some of the main forces that have shaped the capitalist city. Work site decisions would not be simply a question of what the CEO thinks best. The spatial sorting of the population by class and race in the capitalist city is built on huge disparities in income and power, which would no longer exist in an economic system where remuneration is based on work effort or sacrifice and coprorate-style hierarchies no longer rule. From a participatory economic point of view, the principle of self-management says that each person is to have a say over decisions that affect them and in proportion as they are affected. This implies that there can no longer be external negative impacts like air pollution that are simply imposed dictatorily on people without those people having a say about it. The huge environmental burden of polluting uses, such as over-reliance on private auto transport, will have to be properly taken into account in a self-managing, participatory economy. We can envision participatory economics emerging as a real alternative through the development of mass, self-managing social movements, from a resurgent, self-managed form of worker unionism, in the sphere of production, to self-managed tenant organizations and mass organizations of all kinds. Housing is a major area of consumption that is also a source of much conflict, from people securing shelter by squatting in vacant buildings, to renters organizing tenant unions and rent strikes. Within capitalism, the status of land and housing as a commodity, and the cycle of investment in the built environment, generates both periods of decay and deterioration of working class neighborhoods as well as re-investment and displacement, when professional and business people use their higher incomes to outbid the working class for housing. Peter Marcuse has written: “The opposite of gentrification should not be decay and abandonment but democratization of housing.” An interesting tactic for democratization of housing that has emerged in the U.S. in the last two decades are community land trusts, which are typically formed in response to either rising rents and displacement or in response to deterioration and decay. Community land trusts are land cooperatives that enroll members in a geographic area and act as a non-profit developer of resident-controlled housing. As a democratic membership organization, the community land trust can empower people in a neighborhood to control what is done with the land there, what services are provided in the neighborhood, and ensure that an adequate supply of housing is provided at prices working people can afford. ...

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[l] at 3/2/24 12:33pm
Author: Tom WetzelTitle: Participatory Economics and the Self-emancipation of the Working ClassDate: 31 March 2003Source: Retrieved on 2 March 2024 from znetwork.org. A slogan that has been popular among quite a few syndicalists, anarchists, and Marxists was Flora Tristan’s saying from 1843: The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the workers themselves. This slogan assumes that it is possible for the working class, through its own collective action, to create an economic system where workers are no longer a subjugated and exploited class. I am assuming here that class is to be understood as differentiation that is caused by the existence of power relations over the system of social production. Social production I take to be the system by which humans create goods and services for each other. The “self-emancipation of the working class” thus assumes that a classless society is possible. How is this possible? My take on Participatory Economics is that it is an attempt to specify, in an economic program, what the necessary conditions are that would need to be achieved to have a sustainable economic system in which workers are no longer an exploited, subjugated class; that is, Participatory Economics is an attempt to specify the structure of a classless economic system, and thus an economic program for the “self-emancipation of the working class.” What is Class? From the point of view of radical political economy, a plausible account of how capitalism works requires that we look at the various ways that different groups exercise power over production and allocation in the economy. A basic explanatory hypothesis, then, is that there is a division of society into classes based on the most basic power differences in social production. Larry Ellison doesn’t have the same power at Oracle as a janitor or system administrator. But what sort of power is the basis of class difference? Here is where Participatory Economics differs from Marx. Marx held that class antagonism in capitalism is based on the ownership of the means of production. This leads Marx to hold that there are only two main classes in developed capitalism.[1] The people who own the means of production are the capitalist or investor class. The proletarian or working class are those who are forced to sell their capacity to work to capitalists, due to the fact they do not have means of production which they could use to earn a livelihood within the market. The worker who sells an employer the right to make use of her working abilities for a period of time can’t separate herself from the abilities she sells. She can’t tell her working abilities to go to the office or store and stay in bed. She has to be there herself. But will she be motivated to use her working abilities in ways that would be profitable to the owners who hire her? That is not a foregone conclusion. Marx considered the distinction between a worker’s capacity for work and the work he or she actually does for the capitalist firm as the basis of a struggle, a class struggle. The Techno-managerial Class But Participatory Economics points out that, in fully developed capitalism, there is not only the capitalist class and the working class. There is a third class, another group of hired labor whose role is to control the labor process, to control the working class. This is the group I call the techno-managerial class; Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel call this the “coordinator” class but the meaning is the same. Entrepreneurial owner-managers like Larry Ellison or Bill Gates are of course capitalists, but many managers do not have major holdings in companies they manage; they are members of the techno-managerial class. Also in this class are the various financial officers and key advisors and consultants who help run corporations and control the workforce – lawyers, top engineers, architects, and so on. This is the group into whose hands are concentrated the levers of decision-making power, of conceptualization of how things are to be produced and what is to be produced, and of supervision and control over the workforce. The power of this class is based on things like credentials, education, expertise, connections, knowledge related to power and production. A person who does financial analysis and decision-making about production month after month gains a concentration of knowledge about the running of production. A person who runs a lathe or sweeps the office, even if he or she has gone to college, isn’t as likely to gain that kind of knowledge critical to power in the economic system. The techno-managerial class tends to have a meritocratic or professionalist outlook reflecting the basis of its power. This class is separate from the working class in virtue of the power they have over it, yet they are separate from the capitalist class because, like the working class, the power and economic prospects of the techno-managerial class are not based on ownership but on their work abilities, their knowledge and expertise. This class has conflicts with the investor or capitalist class above it, and struggles with the working class below it. ...

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[l] at 3/1/24 10:36am
Author: Murray BookchinTitle: Summer in FranceSubtitle: I Love Paris When it FallsDate: July 1968Source: Rat Subterranean News The barricades have been cleared away and the paving stones replaced in their traditional arc like design along the streets. Revolutionary posters still remain on the walls, but they are tattering rapidly and many are nearly covered up by the drab election appeals of the Communist Party and the Gaullists. If you wander around looking for radicals who you befriended before the May events, many of them have disappeared. In most cases they’re hiding, not in prison. Carried along the grand boulevards by the latest flood of summer tourists, you begin to wonder if reaction hasn’t triumphed completely over the spirit of revolution—that is, until you meet your first French university students. After talking for hours to over a dozen of them during my first few days in Paris, there is one thing that can be said with certainty: they mean to try it again. There is no evidence of despair or malaise; to the contrary, one phrase comes from every student’s lips: “Wait till the next time…” “Next time” usually means October, when the universities and high-schools open again. As if to underscore these predictions, street fights have been breaking out since the eve of Bastille Day along the Boulevard St. Michel, at the Place de Bastille, and along the Boulevard St. Germain. On the night of July 13, the air at the foot of Saint Michel was acrid with tear gas and the helmeted CRS, the “riot” police, were roaming the boulevard in packed formations, arresting people up to three A.M. On the same night at the Place de la Bastille, the crowds, mainly young unemployed workers, carried red flags and were subjected to gas and clubbings. The red flags had nothing to do with the Communists, who were conducting their own Bastille Day demonstration on the Isle de St. Louis bureaucratically oblivious to the clashes on their flanks. On the next night, crabs again appeared near Odeon, along St. Germain, and the clashes were renewed. They burned a tricolor, clapping their hands to calypso beat that means “Ce/n’est/qu’un debut/continuons/le combat!” (“It is only the beginning. Let us continue the fight!”) Again tear gas, clubbings, skirmishes through the streets, arrests. The elan, the enthusiasm, the courage and festiveness of these crowds is absolutely infectious. You now know with certainty that the Gaullists have won a sham victory at the polls. The electoral success of the regime is as a feeble thing compared with this revolutionary ardor. Looking at France from America, it is difficult to sense the scope and intensity of the May movement. Whatever may have been the original grievances that brought the students into the streets, these have long since been transcended by goals of an extremely revolutionary character. These goals represent a decisive departure from the demands raised by the “classical” revolutionaries of history. The revolutions of the past centered around “bread”—around scarcity, survival, and need. The student uprising takes its point of departure from an era of potential abundance. Its appeals cry for freedom, life, desire. The walls of Paris, scrawled in black and red paint, proclaim intoxicating slogans like: “Imagination to power” “Life without dead times” “Culture is the inversion of life” “Society is a carnivorous flower” “No more work” “Creativity, spontaneity, life” Inside the Sorbonne itself, a slogan sweeps around the curve a large classical alcove at the foot of the stairway to the main auditorium. “I take my desires for reality, for I believe in the reality of my desires.” Slogans of this kind are so numerous that they make up the contents of several recently published books. In fact books on May, photograph and poster collections, compendia of manifestoes and documents, an excellent biweekly, titled Cahiers de Mai, which is ferreting out the details of the student-worker movement throughout France, new periodicals like L’Enragé and the fiery, more authentic L’Action, are heaped on bookstalls and kiosks. The Magazine Littéraire, the equivalent of the Saturday Review in America, has discovered the anarchists and the cover of its latest issue proclaims “Les anarchists—d’ou viennent? Qui sont? Que veulent?” A fever of reading has gripped the city. Everyone is buying this material—part of it obvious exploitation by the publishing industry, but much of it surprisingly good and informative. Marcuse’s works, virtually unknown to most French students up to the may events have been touted by the bourgeois press as the primary intellectual “influence” in the revolt. So now there’s a sudden run on French translations of his books. The point of course, is that the May events have turned from an effect into a cause. Not only are they events in their own right, but they have increased the social metabolism of the entire country, adding a greater momentum to the crisis. Far from closing that remarkable phase in the revolutionary development of France, they have opened a new epoch of hope, passion and self-discovery. Millions of people in France have been stirred into a new sense of their power over the social system, and for an incalculable number this revolutionary awakening has converged into a resolution to take up the conflict on an even more advanced level. ...

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[l] at 3/1/24 5:49am
Author: European Federation of Alternative SyndicalismTitle: Statute of the European Federation of Alternative Syndicalism — FESALDate: 2005Notes: Translated by Ainfos.Source: Retrieved on 1st March 2024 from www.ainfos.ca Art. 1) Name and address of the organization An international federation of workers is hereby constituted, with the name European Federation of Alternative Syndicalism (in short, FESAL). The FESAL has already been present, since September 2003, on the European scene in the Education sector, using the name FESAL-E. The creation of other sectors of the FESAL will be possible through the consent of the FESAL-E Assembly which, until such times as new sectors are created is hereby invested with the full rights of the FESAL Assembly and full entitlement to the name FESAL, which can be used indifferently together with FESAL-E. The official address of the Federation is Via Tuscolana 9, Rome, and can be changed on the instructions of the Assembly. Art. 2) Nature of the organization The FESAL is a non-profit organization with syndicalist objectives. It is a federation based on the solidarity and self-management of the workers. Furthermore, it declares itself to be independent of political parties, pressure groups, economic lobbies and anyone who wishes to suffocate the freedom and self-determination of the workers. Its aim is to promote the creation of the first European grassroots, alternative syndicate, totally independent of the partnership mentality of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). The FESAL stands for peace between peoples, the defence of the environment and the struggle against every form of discrimination. Art. 3) Aims of the organization The FESAL is constituted in order to: protect, defend and organize European and migrant workers and unemployed workers syndically and politically, together with the rights of these persons recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; promote and organize a front of action on a European level against capitalist and neo-liberalist policies; guarantee and promote individual and collective union and political rights and freedoms; struggle for secularism, pluralism and independence is the public institutions of civil society; promote self-organization and grassroots, militant syndicalism; combat the commercialization of culture and education, schools and universities; guarantee everywhere the right to an education and to the protection of students’ union and political rights without any discrimination. Art. 4) Organization The organ of the FESAL is the full Assembly of all member organizations, which is called with at least 30 days notice, through the members designated by the organizations themselves, such Assembly to meet at least once every calendar year in order to set out union policy according to the criterion of unanimity between the various member organizations present. Administrative and representative responsabilities and administration are assigned by the Assembly when deemed necessary, to such people who, apart from being willing, also reflect general agreement. These tasks are temporary, recallable at any moment and in no way constitute privilege or power. Art. 5) Finances The FESAL is financed mainly according to the principle of self-taxation of the various member organizations. It is provisionally proposed that each organization contribute an annual quota equal, as a rule, to one month’s average net wage in the country in question. Management of the accounts will be rotated every two years with each member organization taking its turn. Art. 6) Legal responsibility All responsibility and obligations of the FESAL remain solely the concern of its social patrimony. All personal responsibility of its members, either individually or as organizations, is excluded. Responsibility for the external political representation of the FESAL is assigned by rotation, country by country, every two years to a member nominated by one of the member organiztions, designated by the Assembly of each sector of the FESAL according to Article 4. The Assembly is called by the representative thus nominated or by at least two member organizations. Art. 7) Statutary changes Modification of this Statute is possible at Assembly through the unanimity of all member organizations and does not require further legal documentation. Art. 8) Regulations With regard to everything that is not established herein, the Assembly of the FESAL can provide itself with specific regulations for its functioning. Decisions regarding this must be made unanimously in Assembly. Art. 9) Membership and dissolution Until the first congress, those organizations who demonstrate their goals to be those of the federation may join the project. Following the first congress, the unanimity of the Assembly will be required. Every member organization can leave the FESAL by communicating its intention to do so at least 30 days beforehand and by providing reasoned written motivations. Any organization that leaves will retain its own patrimony and prerogatives. The FESAL may be dissolved on the unanimous vote of an Assembly called for that purpose. Rome/Lisbon, 20 February and 18 September 2005 ...

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[l] at 2/29/24 1:54pm
Author: Tom HawthornTitle: Treasuring the West Coast's anarchic historyDate: December 10, 2008Source: http://tomhawthorn.blogspot.com/2008/12/treasuring-west-coasts-anarchic-history.html VICTORIA Camas Books is a busy place. By day, there’s a children’s free school. By night, teens gather for all-ages gigs featuring ska and punk bands. Every second Friday is Burning Fort Cinema Movie Night. On Saturdays, a volunteer from the Devil’s Club Community Apothecary is on hand to answer questions about the contents of the jars in the wooden cupboard that serves as a shared herbal dispensary. The Victoria Anarchist Reading Circle gathers on Tuesdays. The reading homework for last night’s scheduled meeting was a 16-page essay on the Black Panther Party. Last week they discussed fascism. Then you have your meetings of the anti-Olympics “No 2010” group, not to mention assorted workshops, benefit concerts, bicycle maintenance demonstrations, and what is billed as a not-so-silent auction. You wonder how the anarchists ever find the time to smash the state. The not-for-profit bookstore is operated by a collective. No salaries are paid. Bookkeeping, book ordering and book reshelving is all handled by volunteers. Any revenue from book sales goes back into retaining the space. The address provided for the store is “Lekwungen territory (colonial jurisdiction of Victoria, B.C.)” The oppressive-reactionary-bourgeois street address is 2590 Quadra St.[1] Camas Books and Infoshop takes its name from a herb popular with indigenous people, who cooked the bulb to a thick liquid like molasses, or dried and ground it into flour for bread. Camas fields disappeared to grazing cattle brought by settlers. By building neighbourhood autonomy and challenging authority, the collective states, they “envision the camas flower one day being able to blossom forth from beneath the pavement that now restrains it, flourishing on this land once again.” Among those who helped launch the bookstore a year ago was Allan Antliff, who holds the Canada Research Chair in art history at the University of Victoria. His graduate seminars includes the topic “New York Dada.” Mr. Antliff, who gives $200 monthly to support the bookstore, has made his own contribution to the shelf of anarchist literature by writing three books. He also donated his personal collection to launch an Anarchist Archive at the university. “As a historian,” he said, “I was acutely aware that people were not saving their history.” While researching the modern art movement of the early 20th Century, the professor sought documents seized from Emma Goldman’s Mother Earth magazine. These had been taken by American authorities during the Great War, when the publication’s 8,000 subscribers were investigated and harassed. Turns out the government destroyed what they had taken. “I don’t want to see the history of anarchism in Canada pulped by the authorities, or thrown into a garbage bin because they’re moving and don’t have a place to keep it anymore.” One of the better finds for the Victoria archive came from an editor of the Toronto publication Ecomedia, whose files and correspondence had been gathered because of a court case. The cache was being stored in poor condition in an attic before being donated. What do donors get for handing over their materials? “They do what they do because they want to change the world,” Mr. Antliff said. “They get the knowledge that what they’ve done — and the ideas — aren’t going to disappear.” The archive includes flyers and zines, posters and pamphlets. A stack of newspapers leaves the impression anarchists have black ink for blood. The titles tell the story — “Clash,” “Clamour,” “Class War” are unsubtle calls for strife; “Bulldozer” and “Slingshot” match theory with weaponry; “Endless Struggle” is either a call for never-ending confrontation, or a recognition of the task at hand; “Practical Anarchy” and “Anarcho-Syndicalist Review” promise a less-than-thrilling literary experience; “Strike!” and “Storm Warning!” are exclamatory!; “Demolition Derby” expresses the revolutionary and humourous nature of much anarchist expression. The political philosophy has deep roots on the West Coast, where a respect for nature and a connection to the indigenous peoples are defining elements. George Woodcock, the prolific writer who in 1962 produced an important overview of anarchism, settled at Saseenos, outside Sooke, before moving permanently to Vancouver after the Second World War. A friend of George Orwell, he also maintained a correspondence with the English anarchist poet and art critic Sir Herbert Read, whose papers are also part of the holdings at the McPherson Library at the University of Victoria. Less literary and more Yippie were the pie-throwing Groucho-Marxists. Four years ago, Arsenal Pulp Press published “Only A Beginning,” an anarchist anthology edited by Mr. Antliff. Some of the livelier writing is to be found in “Open Road,” which published irregularly from 1976 to 1990. The largest print run was 20,000 copies for an issue dedicated to Bikesheviks, who figured we’d all pedal our way to utopia. One of the Open Road founders was Bob Sarti, who contributed a short overview to the anthology in which he acknowledged the newspaper’s outsized influence even if the results were thin. ...

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[l] at 2/28/24 8:18am
Author: Alexander BerkmanTitle: Don’t Become a Murderer!Date: 1916Notes: The editorial from ‘The Blast’, Vol. 1, No. 7, San Francisco, Saturday, February 26, 1916, edited and published by Alexander BerkmanSource: Retrieved on February 28, 2024 from <mgouldhawke.wordpress.com/2022/12/23/why-war-the-blast-1916/#dontbecome> YOUNG MAN! You whom the government is trying to entice into the army and navy, beware! Bethink yourself before taking the step. Consider what you are about to do, and the purpose you are to serve. Ask yourself the meaning of military service and of war. Do you want to prepare for murder? Do you want to be trained for wholesale slaughter and, when ordered, to kill your fellow-men, men like yourself, whom you have never even seen and who never did you any harm? Think of it, and if there is a spark of manhood in your heart, you will be filled with horror and disgust at the very thought of military service. You may be one of the unemployed, without money or friends. But better a hundred times to suffer need and hunger than to don the uniform that stands for cowardly obedience and the murder of your brothers. Consider that it is this military power which you are asked to join, that is upholding the conditions which are keeping you and thousands of others in starvation and misery. If you put on the uniform, you help to strengthen and perpetuate this power and you become the blind tool of the class that robs and kills under the guise of patriotism. It pays them well. They even instill the little school-children with the spirit of boastful jingoism and murderous hatred, because patriotism enlarges profits and increases dividends. Do you want to help them? It is unworthy of a thinking man to be a blind, obedient tool. But still more unworthy it is to train oneself for the purpose and to subject oneself to humiliation and inhuman treatment in order to learn how to kill and murder. Young Man! You are a poor man, a child of the poor. It is a terrible and shameful spectacle that in every land the sons of the workingmen constitute the army whose purpose it is to perpetuate the slavery of labor. Can you complain of oppression and exploitation if yon lend yourself to uphold the system of economic robbery, if you take up arms to defend it? As long as there are enough young men who permit themselves to be driven to slaughter like a herd of sheep and who are willing to participate in expeditions of robbery and murder (for that’s what war really is), just so long the possessing classes will continue to rob and to murder, to slaughter by the wholesale and exterminate whole countries. You, the sons of the people, you young workingmen of the land, you alone can put an end to these terrible things and their frightful consequences, by refusing to join the army and navy, by refusing to be used as hangmen, manhunters and watchdogs. Already ‘‘great’’ generals and other well-paid patriots speak of conscription. They want to introduce forced military service in this country, as has been done by the tyrannies of Europe. It is time to show them that the people see through their infamous schemes. Let the young generation remain away from the recruiting offices and refuse to be used as food for cannon. The mission of the soldier is no different from that of the professional cutthroat who kills a man to order, except that the soldier receives less pay for his services, though he must be prepared not only for one murder but for wholesale killing. In bitter irony of his position, he is even commanded to sing the praises of the Lord who is supposed to be love and justice personified, and who is said to have commanded, ‘‘Thou shalt not kill.” The military uniform that seems so gay holds nothing but subjection and humiliation for the common soldier, and only a very meagre existence. He gets the mere crumbs when the glory and the profits of the bloody game of war are distributed. For the glory is all for the generals, the diplomats and statesmen, and the dollars are pocketed by the swindling suppliers of provisions, the cannon makers and manufacturers of arms, the ship builders and steel trust magnates. Young man, can you not understand why all these people with their hired slave drivers and paid newspaper writers are so patriotic? They are at all times ready to sacrifice the lives of poor devils for ‘‘the honor of the country.”‘ It means profit for them, and for that they cheerfully send to slaughter thousands who have been careless enough to fall into the net spread by the gaily decked agents of hell. Beware of their traps! Too late will be regret when you are already caught. According to statistics about five per cent of the men desert from the United States Army. It is a striking proof that the fine promises of the merry and happy life of military service are nothing but a lie and a snare. Don’t be duped, young man. Your true interest lies with the great body of the toilers, in solidaric effort with the producers to possess themselves of the land and tools of production for the use and benefit of all. Down with the slaughter of mankind! Long live humanity!

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[l] at 2/28/24 1:38am
Author: Murray BookchinTitle: The Next RevolutionSubtitle: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct DemocracyDate: 2015 Foreword by Ursula K. Le Guin “The Left,” a meaningful term ever since the French Revolution, took on wider significance with the rise of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The Russian revolution installed a government entirely leftist in conception; leftist and rightist movements tore Spain apart; democratic parties in Europe and North America arrayed themselves between the two poles; liberal cartoonists portrayed the opposition as a fat plutocrat with a cigar, while reactionaries in the United States demonized “commie leftists” from the 1930s through the Cold War. The left/right opposition, though often an oversimplification, for two centuries was broadly useful as a description and a reminder of dynamic balance. In the twenty-first century we go on using the terms, but what is left of the Left? The failure of state communism, the quiet entrenchment of a degree of socialism in democratic governments, and the relentless rightward movement of politics driven by corporate capitalism have made much progressive thinking seem antiquated, or redundant, or illusory. The Left is marginalized in its thought, fragmented in its goals, unconfident of its ability to unite. In America particularly, the drift to the right has been so strong that mere liberalism is now the terrorist bogey that anarchism or socialism used to be, and reactionaries are called “moderates.” So, in a country that has all but shut its left eye and is trying to use only its right hand, where does an ambidextrous, binocular Old Rad like Murray Bookchin fit? I think he’ll find his readers. A lot of people are seeking consistent, constructive thinking on which to base action—a frustrating search. Theoretical approaches that seem promising turn out, like the Libertarian Party, to be Ayn Rand in drag; immediate and effective solutions to a problem turn out, like the Occupy movement, to lack structure and stamina for the long run. Young people, people this society blatantly short-changes and betrays, are looking for intelligent, realistic, long-term thinking: not another ranting ideology, but a practical working hypothesis, a methodology of how to regain control of where we’re going. Achieving that control will require a revolution as powerful, as deeply affecting society as a whole, as the force it wants to harness. Murray Bookchin was an expert in nonviolent revolution. He thought about radical social changes, planned and unplanned, and how best to prepare for them, all his life. This book carries his thinking on past his own life into the threatening future we face. Impatient, idealistic readers may find him uncomfortably tough-minded. He’s unwilling to leap over reality to dreams of happy endings, unsympathetic to mere transgression pretending to be political action: “A ‘politics’ of disorder or ‘creative chaos,’ or a naïve practice of ‘taking over the streets’ (usually little more than a street festival), regresses participants to the behavior of a juvenile herd.” That applies more to the Summer of Love, certainly, than to the Occupy movement, yet it is a permanently cogent warning. But Bookchin is no grim puritan. I first read him as an anarchist, probably the most eloquent and thoughtful one of his generation, and in moving away from anarchism he hasn’t lost his sense of the joy of freedom. He doesn’t want to see that joy, that freedom, come crashing down, yet again, among the ruins of its own euphoric irresponsibility. What all political and social thinking has finally been forced to face is, of course, the irreversible degradation of the environment by unrestrained industrial capitalism: the enormous fact of which science has been trying for fifty years to convince us, while technology provided us ever greater distractions from it. Every benefit industrialism and capitalism have brought us, every wonderful advance in knowledge and health and communication and comfort, casts the same fatal shadow. All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned. Yet we can’t stop the process. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth; as he observes: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide.” We have, essentially, chosen cancer as the model of our social system. Capitalism’s grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status. Murray Bookchin spent a lifetime opposing the rapacious ethos of grow-or-die capitalism. The nine essays in this book represent the culmination of that labor: the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it. He critiques the failures of past movements for social change, resurrects the promise of direct democracy and, in the last essay in this book, sketches his hope of how we might turn the environmental crisis into a moment of true choice—a chance to transcend the paralyzing hierarchies of gender, race, class, nation, a chance to find a radical cure for the radical evil of our social system. Reading it, I was moved and grateful, as I have so often been in reading Murray Bookchin. He was a true son of the Enlightenment in his respect for clear thought and moral responsibility and in his honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope. ...

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[l] at 2/27/24 5:50pm
Author: Tom Wetzel & Alan MacSimóinTitle: Syndicalism & RevolutionDate: 2003Notes: A debate on Alan MacSimóin, "Syndicalism: Its Strengths & Weaknesses" (originally published in Red & Black Revolution #1, October 1994, and re-published in The Northeastern Anarchist #8, Fall/Winter 2003).Source: <workersolidarity.org> (1), <workersolidarity.org> (2), <workersolidarity.org> (3) Syndicalism & Revolution The working class is a subjugated and exploited group within capitalism. As class struggle anti-authoritarians, both Workers Solidarity Movement and Workers Solidarity Alliance believe that the working class has the potential to emancipate itself from class oppression, and in doing so it creates a new social structure without a division into classes. Despite Alain MacSimoin's rejection of syndicalism, there are in fact broad areas of agreement between the WSA and the WSM. In exploring this I'll look, first, at how I understand class, and, then, how I understand the path by which the working class can emancipate itself. Two Classes or Three? A class is a group differentiated by power relations in social production. There can be different structures in society that can provide power that is the basis of a class. First, there is ownership of land, buildings, and other means of production by a minority capitalist class. The rest of us are thus forced to sell our time to the owners in order to live. Marx held that ownership is the only basis of class division. From this he inferred that capitalism has two main classes, workers and capitalists. The WSM adheres to this two-class theory: "Classes are defined by their relationship to the means of production; their relationship to the factories, machinery, natural resources, etc. with which the wealth of society is created. Although there are groups such as the self-employed and the small farmers, the main classes are the workers and the bosses. It is the labour of the working class that creates the wealth. The bosses, through their ownership and control of the means of production, have legal ownership of this wealth and decide how it is to be distributed." But this is an inaccurate picture of advanced capitalism. Ownership is indeed the basis of the vastly powerful capitalist class. And the smaller assets of the small business class is the basis of what power they have. But modern capitalism created huge corporate hierarchies to control the labor process, and also required a huge expansion in the state, with similar hierarchies running various government operations. In the process, capitalism created a third main class, which I call the techno-managerial class. This class includes managers, and top experts who advise managers and owners, such as finance officers, lawyers, architects, doctors, engineers and so on. These are the people who make up the chain-of-command hierarchies in the corporations and the state. The bosses who working people deal with day to day are mostly the techno-managerial class. The members of this class may have some small capital holdings but mostly they live by their work. The basis of their prospects in society are things like university educations, credentials, connections, accumulated expertise. The power of this class resides in a relative monopolization of expertise and the levers of decision-making. This class was created through the way capitalist development changed the labor process and the division of labor. Redesigning jobs and work processes, to remove conceptualization and autonomy from the workers and putting control into the hands of a managerial hierarchy, enables firms to enhance their control over what workers do on the job, minimize training costs, and reduce the wages they must pay for scarce skills. The techno-managerial class participates to some extent in the exploitation of the working class but also has conflicts with the owners — the recent cases of bosses looting corporations like Enron are an example. There is a conflict of interest between managers and owners, and periodic struggle between them. An important feature of the techno-managerial class is that it has the potential to become a ruling class. This is the historical meaning of the various Marxist-Leninist revolutions. Those revolutions eliminated the capitalist class, created economies based on public ownership, but, nonetheless, the working class continued to be subjugated and exploited. Each of the Marxist-Leninist revolutions consolidated a techno-managerial ruling class. The potential for a new ruling class of this type to emerge was hinted in a prescient remark of Bakunin. Bakunin warned that Marx's proposal for a party of "scientific socialism" taking power through a state "would be the rule of scientific intellect, the most autocratic, the most despotic, the most arrogant and the most contemptuous of all regimes. This will be a new class, a new hierarchy of sham savants, and the world will be divided into a dominant minority in the name of science, and an immense ignorant minority."[1] Despite Bakunin's insight, traditional anarchism never developed a theory of the techno-managerial class. This led anarchists to misdescribe the Soviet Union as "state capitalist." Workers Solidarity Movement says: "Since the early 1920's anarchists have recognised that the Russian economy is capitalist because it maintains the separation of producers from their means of production and undervalues their labour to extract surplus value for a ruling class as in all Capitalist countries." ...

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