Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Et tu quoque

Sharp eyed readers may have noticed an addition to the blog roll, an anarchist of my acquaintance (and prolific writer on the subject) here.

Going to his blog reminded me of why I am not an fuckinganarchist, and why I may not be the best person to chair a forum involving the Socialist Party and Ian Bone from class war (I'll put up a proper notice later). Suffice to say that I'm firmly of the opinion that fuckinganarchist is a compound noun that is now indivisible.

Especially so after reading the AFAQ for the first time in a while. Especially the stuff trying to claim that Anarchists aren't anti-democratic. After a string of tu quoque justifications, and talk of collective free association and federated delegates, we get this gem:
As a general rule-of-thumb, anarchists have little problem with the minority accepting the decisions of the majority (!!!) after a process of free debate and discussion. As we argue in section A.2.11, such collective decision making is compatible with anarchist principles -- indeed, is based on them. By governing ourselves directly, we exclude others governing us. However, we do not make a fetish of this, recognising that, in certain circumstances, the minority must and should ignore majority decisions. For example, if the majority of an organisation decide on a policy which the minority thinks is disastrous then why should they follow the majority? Equally, if the majority make a decision which harms the liberty and equality of a non-oppressive and non-exploitative minority, then that minority has the right to reject the "authority" of the majority
Now, there are only two choices in collective life, the dictatorship of the minority, or the dictatorship of the majority - this is an inescapable fact. Anarchists do not make a fetish (what others might dare to call a principle) of democracy. hence why they talk of small collectives federated so that everyone can join in the heated debates, rather than wider scale polities in which decisions may be delegated to some specific body covering a wider area, and all embracing solidarity. What if, to reverse their own example, one small collective began to implement racist policies, surely it would be for the majority to impose upon it and, by force if necessary, prevent such behaviour? (I'll note, racism might not be oppressive, if, say, the form was simply that of excluding certain types of people from community X, and thus wouldn't fall within the qualificatiosn given above).

Finally, I'll just point out the standard Socialist Party view, that anarchists, by denegrating democracy as an organisational principle and fetishising insurrection and revolt give grist to the mill of other totalitarian creeds, like fascism, and make the slaughter of workers in civil war more likely than less.

That is why I'm not an anarchist. That is why I oppose anarchism.

Update: While I'm here I note that AFAQ on Bakunin's criticism of Marx doesn't mention Marx wrote a reply to Bakunin's Statism & Anarchy - which directly rebuts some of the contents of that section of the AFAQ...

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Blogger ajohnstone said...

you no doubt know this quote from Emma Goldman
"In other words, the living, vital truth of social and economic well-being will become a reality only through the zeal, courage, the non-compromising determination of intelligent minorities, and not through the mass."

9:52 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Actually, didn't know that one - I left off criticism of anarchists unfortunate like for "Natural leaders" - in fact the FAQ rebuts claims that anarchists don't believe in leadership (from "Marxists") - they just don't believe in hierarchies and formal leaderships...

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Bill

Well, what can I say? So you subscribe to majority decision making, regardless of the decisions the majority reach?

So if the majority decide, say, to make it illegal for black and whites to marry and have children, then the minority should not do so?

And what if, say, a socialist party decides to support their state in an imperialist war. Should the anti-war minority within the party simply go along with that decision? Should they also accept the draft, if the majority vote for it?

If not, why not? Personally, I think the minority should reject the majority position and, say, burn their draft-cards. Or would this be anarchistic and anti-democratic and so a bad thing to do?

As for formal leaderships, well, I thought the SPGB did not have leaders? I'm sure that I read that somewhere in SPGB publications, but perhaps I am mistaken. Could that be confirmed?

As for "natural" leaders, well, if someone had a good idea and convinces others of it, is that to be condemned? And why should such people be placed in a position of power over others (formal leadership positions are usually that)?

An Anarchist FAQ

11:18 AM  
Blogger Bill said...


1) What if the majority reach a good decision the minority doesn't want? Ultimately, for the principle of free democracy, we have to go with the majority getting its way, otherwise we have the tyranny of minorities.
2) We don't have leaders. Formal or informal, we have democratic structures by which we make decisions.
3) "Natural leaders" it's a bad thing if people go around expounding the idea of natural leadership, and people begin to obey leaders based on reputation. Democratic processes shoudl be in place to stop that.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous JCS said...

The whole idea of an anarchist organization or anarchist FAQ with answers from one person or a small group seems a bit oxymoronic to me.

3:57 PM  
Blogger ajohnstone said...

In reply to natural leaders i KNOW you ALL know Debs famous quote .

"I don't want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out."

BUT there are others from him

"When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong."


"The rights of one are as sacred as the rights of a million."

Me mixing it again ;-p

10:54 AM  
Blogger stuart said...

There's nothing less democratic than a picket line. What you say is cobblers. A fuckinganarchist.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Now, I always thought the strength, and the demands, of the picket line were based on the democratic principle - that members of the union voted to strike, and even those who voted against would be expected to observe the strike. Those who are not members of the union expected to accede to the majority of their co-workers' desire to hold a strike...

7:40 AM  
Blogger stuart said...

What about all those workers affected by and perhaps opposed to the strike? All those disgruntled commuters we hear so much about?

Was thinking about this on commute home t'other night, and it reminded me of old battles between me and Dave and you and your comrades. They always used to insist that democracy WASN'T a principle, merely the sane, practical conclusion of wise, hard-headed strategists. Here you admit it is a principle. I'm with the anarchists – I'm all for principles, but democracy is no guide for deciding what is right and wrong or good and evil.

I don't think democracy is necessarily always the best organisational principle even within the coalition of the willing. I find Graeber's arguments for consensus compelling and, at times, I'm happy to submit to the will of a leader.... Within situations of trust, you don't necessarily need contracts!

Oh, and sorry for grumpy opening to this debate!

12:04 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

For me democracy is a principle, I am a socialist because I am a democrat first. I believe socialism is the only way to realise genuine democracy.

The commuter's have to accept strikes because we as a society have decided through democratic channels that workers have the right to withdraw their labour (yes, we had to fight for that right, but that was when we were denied access to democracy).

12:53 PM  
Blogger stuart said...

If that democratic/social decision was reversed, I would STILL support the right of (a relatively small minority of) workers to withdraw their labour. Wouldn't you?

1:43 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

No, if the decision was taken in a genuinely democratic way, then such action would be either doomed to fail, or worse, doomed to succeed...

2:04 PM  
Blogger stuart said...

Then you do genuinely believe what you say you do? Unbelievable! And no less likely to lead to fascism and totalitarianism than the views you oppose!

Do you draw the line anywhere? Have you no admiration for the brave even if ultimately doomed (and undemocratic) attempts to resist fascism in pre-Nazi Germany? Don't you pray that, in a similar situation, you'd have the courage to stand alone and die in the attempt rather than accept the will of the majority?

2:59 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

What about the brave souls declining to take up arms against Mugabe, but continuing the dangerous path of peaceful democratic challenge?

It was KPD voters who helped invalidate the democratic regime in Germany, and, yes, if the majority are against you lie low and try your best to change their minds.

Admiration isn't the same thing as thinking a course is right.

3:17 PM  
Blogger stuart said...

Quite right, admirable and brave indeed. Deciding which course is right – for example, lying low, or taking up arms – is best taken by those saddled with the risks and the costs of the choice. I have no a priori view either way.

3:52 PM  

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