To let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, a fellow townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. Or to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the organization and the individual are harmed. This is one type of liberalism.
To indulge in irresponsible criticism in private instead of actively putting forward one’s suggestions to the organization. To say nothing to people to their faces but to gossip behind their backs, or to say nothing at a meeting but to gossip afterwards. To show no regard at all for the principles of collective life but to follow one’s own inclination. This is a second type.
To let things drift if they do not affect one personally; to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong, to be worldly wise and play safe and seek only to avoid blame. This is a third type.
Not to obey orders but to give pride of place to one’s own opinions. To demand special consideration from the organization but to reject its discipline. This is a fourth type.
To indulge in personal attacks, pick quarrels, vent personal spite or seek revenge instead of entering into an argument and struggling against incorrect views for the sake of unity or progress or getting the work done properly. This is a fifth type.
To hear incorrect views without rebutting them and even to hear counter-revolutionary remarks without reporting them, but instead to take them calmly as if nothing had happened. This is a sixth type.
To be among the masses and fail to conduct propaganda and agitation or speak at meetings or conduct investigations and inquiries among them, and instead to be indifferent to them and show no concern for their well-being, forgetting that one is a Communist and behaving as if one were an ordinary non-Communist. This is a seventh type.
To see someone harming the interests of the masses and yet not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop him or reason with him, but to allow him to continue. This is an eighth type.
To work half-heartedly without a definite plan or direction; to work perfunctorily and muddle along—“So long as one remains a monk, one goes on tolling the bell.” This is a ninth type.
To regard oneself as having rendered great service to the revolution, to pride oneself on being a veteran, to disdain minor assignments while being quite unequal to major tasks, to be slipshod in work and slack in study. This is a tenth type.
To be aware of one’s own mistakes and yet make no attempt to correct them, taking a liberal attitude towards oneself. This is an eleventh type.
We could name more. But these eleven are the principal types. They are all manifestations of liberalism.
Having a criticism of a policy does not lead to whole-sale negation of a project unless it relates to identity politics it seems. Cuba’s initial backwardness on gender issues can never be forgiven by Trots because they don’t actually care that Cuba now has transgender people elected into office, one of the highest ratios of female representation in government, and a national day against homophobia. They care about proving that their pure ideology is never tainted by such inconvenient things as culture, history, and reality.
I try not to get down on anarchists, firstly because I was one for many many years, and secondly because I genuinely think we can accomplish some pretty important short-term goals together. But seriously, Bookchin is the -worst- scholar ever, and gives all anarchists a bad name. I like Uncle Noam though, hes forthright as hell.
"We have already heard from some Anarchist theoreticians that at the time of such “exceptional” circumstances as war and revolution, it is necessary to renounce the principles of one’s own program. Such revolutionists bear a close resemblance to raincoats that leak only when it rains, i.e., in “exceptional” circumstances, but during dry weather they remain waterproof with complete success."
One of the most thoroughgoing authoritarians in the history of radicalism is none other than the “Father of Anarchism,” Proudhon, whose name is periodically revived as a great “libertarian” model, because of his industrious repetition of the word liberty and his invocations to “revolution from below.”
Some may be willing to pass over his Hitlerite form of anti-Semitism (“The Jew is the enemy of humankind. It is necessary to send this race back to Asia, or exterminate it …”). Or his principled racism in general (he thought it was right for the South to keep American Negroes in slavery, since they were the lowest of inferior races). Or his glorification of war for its own sake (in the exact manner of Mussolini). Or his view that women had no rights (“I deny her every political right and every initiative. For woman liberty and well-being lie solely in marriage, in motherhood,in domestic duties …”) – that is, the “Kinder-Kirche-Küche” of the Nazis.
But it is not possible to gloss over his violent opposition not only to trade-unionism and the right to strike (even supporting police strikebreaking), but to any and every idea of the right to vote, universal suffrage, popular sovereignty, and the very idea of constitutions. (“All this democracy disgusts me … What would I not give to sail into this mob with my clenched fists!”) His notes for his ideal society notably include suppression of all other groups, any public meeting by more than 20, any free press, and any elections; in the same notes he looks forward to “a general inquisition” and the condemnation of “several million people” to forced labor – “once the Revolution is made.”
Behind all this was a fierce contempt for the masses of people – the necessary foundation of Socialism-from-Above, as its opposite was the groundwork of Marxism. The masses are corrupt and hopeless (“I worship humanity, but I spit on men!”) They are “only savages … whom it is our duty to civilize, and without making them our sovereign,” he wrote to a friend whom he scornfully chided with: “You still believe in the people.” Progress can come only from mastery by an elite who take care to give the people no sovereignty.
At one time or another he looked to some ruling despot as the one-man dictator who would bring the Revolution: Louis Bonaparte (he wrote a whole book in 1852 extolling the Emperor as the bearer of the Revolution); Prince Jerome Bonaparte; finally Czar Alexander II (“Do not forget that the despotism of the czar is necessary to civilization”).
The mentality perpetuated by anarchists and liberals creates a peculiar line between the “good” and “bad” socialists. It seems that anarchists and liberals vehemently support communists/socialists who didn’t win their revolution (yet), or were swiftly defeated, such as: The Black Panthers, Communists who suffered under the Pinochet regime in Chile, American Communists black-listed under McCarthy, Malcolm x, academics like Walter Benjamin, and the occasional exception being support for Che, who they absurdly distance from communism and the Cuban revolution. Granted there are some people reactionary enough to distance themselves from all of these fighters.
The “Bad” communists are those who made their revolutions and held on, Castro, Lenin, Kim Il-Sung, Mao, and of course Marx and Engels themselves…
Liberals tend to rely on paying lip-service to radical figures, while distancing their legacy from the actual ideas they represented. They repackage revolutionary figures into “democracy safe” distortions. Radical histories become legitimate expressions of anger, but locked in their particular time period: the illusion being that legal methods have developed to address all of the ailments radicals have historically confronted.
Anarchists pretend to take the historical moral high ground by distancing themselves from all notable instances where the character of a revolution would be tested; or else they rewrite events like Makhno’s military dictatorship to be the epitome of anti-hierarchical egalitarian perfection. This way the difficult questions are never asked, and their politics are never put to the test— Questions like “Do we dare to win?” , and “How are we going to suppress the bourgeoisie counter-revolution?” (you know, that thing that has happened after every working-class revolution EVER?) Purity in intention subsumes all practical demands, and history is cherry-picked to present a story of the courageous martyrs with an uncompromising vision of liberty, and the tyrants who played the role of opportunist.
By taking authority out of the equation instead of seeing it as a problem to be solved, the difficult tasks of serious revolutionary activity are sidestepped. The stage is set for future coup attempts, and self-righteous anger when the legitimate revolutionary forces don’t cave to the minority vanguard of moral champions. This is not paranoid, this is already happening, and whereas many of us may not be totally sympathetic to “Stalinists”, and probably nearly none of us are sympathetic to the cultish RCP, the attitudes reflected in this attack are not isolated, but represent a historical continuity. When the weak and diffused anarchists outlets find themselves burnt out time and time again, and are sick of making grungier versions of Church style charity institutions, they get violent at other leftists groups, because it gives them the illusion that they are not utterly powerless. Let me be clear: this is not true of all anarchists by any means. Many anarchists supported the Bolsheviks, and fought alongside them. Many anarchists today are legitimately interested in left solidarity and wouldn’t dream of attacking other left groups; but in history and in modern practice we have to be aware and prepared of such profoundly counter-revolutionary sentiments from anarchists, and wingnut left-communist groups.
I am proud to stand in the legacy of revolutionary fighters from nearly every country on earth who were informed by Marxism-Leninism; I accept our historical faults and problems, and confront them directly. Struggle doesn’t mean having the right belief system, and it doesn’t mean not making mistakes, it means analyzing historical trends, adapting and evolving. To throw the baby out with the bathwater is to erase the most profound and successful tools the working class has developed to fight bourgeoisie class oppression. It is to distance yourself from global anti-colonial struggle, and resistance against imperialism. A-historical categories like “State” and “Power” say nothing about the current character of a revolutionary struggle: sometimes it is progressive to support people, places, or things, that you don’t agree with, or are doing something you think is “fucked up”, because there are larger conditions at work. Sometimes revolution isn’t about your desires.
“The first myth about Kronstadt is that it was a rebellion of the very same soldiers who were heroes of the October revolution. While it is true that many of the Kronstadt sailors were anarchists in 1917, they nevertheless loyally served Soviet power. During the Civil War, Kronstadt training camps provided elite and thoroughly revolutionary troops to the fight to maintain Soviet power. However, as more and more of the revolutionary sailors had to be sent to the front lines, green conscripts began to flood in, replacing the revolutionaries. By 1920, the Kronstadt garrison had been swamped with more than 10,000 fresh recruits. That brought the total number of soldiers and sailors at Kronstadt to 18,707. Most of these came from Southern Russia and the Ukraine, areas strongly influenced by Makhno. Only 5000 out of this number took part in the uprising.
But what of the ordinary participants of the Kronstadt rebellion? Were these sailors really ready to die for “communism without Bolsheviks”? Sailor Dmitry Urin wrote on March 5, in a letter to his father in the Herson province of Ukraine, “We dismissed the commune, we have Commune no more, now we have only Soviet power. We in Kronstadt made a resolution to send all the Jews to Palestine, in order not to have in Russia such filth, all sailors shouted: ‘Jews Out’…”. If anyone had any doubts about the “real revolutionary” content of this letter this phrase is sufficient to dispel that. It is so stark that it needs no further comment.
From the very beginning of the rebellion, the Communists suffered repression. On the third of March, 170 Communists in Kronstadt were arrested. Then, on the 15th of March, many old revolutionary sailors were arrested. But it was not only Communists who were repressed. A 17-year-old boy was sent to prison for asking why members of the RevCom received better food and bigger portions than ordinary workers.”
basicmarxism asked: Alright alright, I do hold that a socialist state is not necessary as it's open to opportunists historically. What's your position on this?
Well I notice your name is now “Dialectical Revolution”: one of the most fundamental tenants of Hegelian/Marxist dialectic thought is that change only occurs from within the context that is being changed. If you have not read Engels “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific” it is essential read on this topic. The French utopians believed we could change everything in one day, and start living completely differently. Unfortunately because of reification, our economic and social relationships under capitalism are deeply influenced by it. Can we eliminate all of these complex social arrangements, and reeducate the next generation of children on a completely new basis in such a short amount of time? How are we going to eliminate and oppress the interests of class enemies who want to return to power after a revolution? We need a state to prosecute and combat counter revolution, we need a state to build schools and educate people about new ideas in a centralized fashion, we need a state to coordinate infrastructural programs and resource distribution… it takes a long time to build communism. The state can be extremely positive, and is not the same thing as bureaucracy. For instance in Cuba the healthcare program is one sentence long, it says something like “Every individual has complete access to health care, from the day they are born, until the day they die”. They needed a state to plan strategically where to locate hospitals and send guerrilla doctor units, but when people come they are simply treated, no 20 page forms like in the U.S.
I could go on forever about this, but I will leave it at this for now. I am willing to answer any other specific questions you have as well. Problems with authority and the state are only amplified if we remove them from the equation instead of seeing them as a problem to be solved.
With clashes between peasants and landlords on the one hand, and clashes between peasants and workers on the other, Makhno was pressed to institute policies that were far from “libertarian”. The real conditions of life for the peasants of the Ukraine from 1919-1921 were cruel and repressive. The cities in Makhno’s territories were not ruled by Soviets. Instead, they were ruled by mayors drawn from Makhno’s military forces. Makhno’s movement was severely centralized, with the leadership in the RevCom deciding everything. Makhno even established a police-security organization (!) led by Leo Zadov (Zinkovsky), a former worker-anarchist who was to become notorious for his brutality. Incidentally, in the early 1920s Zadov returned to the USSR – to join the GPU! He was rewarded for his services with his own execution in 1937. In the Ukraine, we see clearly that the anarchists were committing the same crimes that they accused the Bolsheviks of.
In September of 1920, Ivanov V. (representative of the Southern Front Revolutionary Soviet) visited Makhno. He later wrote this description of Makhno’s camp: “The regime is brutal, the discipline is hard as steel, rebels are beaten on the face for any small breach, no elections to the general command staff, all commanders up to company commander are appointed by Makhno and the Anarchist Revolutionary War Council, Revolutionary Military Soviet (Revvoensovet) became an irreplaceable, uncontrollable and non-elected institution. Under the revolutionary military council there is a ‘special section’ that deals with disobediences secretly and without mercy.”