Saturday, January 20, 2007
Before it disappears from the front page of this blog I'd like to reproduce a comment that appeared under the "Marxism Under the Microscope' posting, from someone who signs themselves as "Joe". It is something that has to be answered because it goes to the heart of why I style myself an "anarchist" despite all the bad connotations that such a label evokes. "Joe" says,
"I would assume that there aren't many 'anarchist' professors as Marxist professors because anarchy is obviously not a workable system. Marxism isn't a workable system either as it appears to lead almost at once into brutal dictatorship. Personally I like constitutional republics."
"Joe" is an example of the intelligent ordinary person whom I have devoted decades of my life to talking to. I can pick apart what he said easily by pointing out that there is a difference between Marxism, as a way of organizing observations about the world (which I mostly disagree with by the way) and the organizational principles set down by what is known as "Leninism" which is probably what he refers to as "Marxism". There are numerous "Marxists" who differ so little from anarchists that the only reason I can see that they don't make the leap is the eternal human tendency to "mental conservatism". I can also point out that there are Marxists such as the Socialist Party of Chile (drowned in blood by the USA sponsored coup of Pinochet) who have been fully committed to the "constitutional republic" means of government, even if they were in alliance with a Communist Party which was not.
I can further point out that the degree of brutality varies from one Marxist dictatorship to another. Stalin's USSR was far more brutal in terms of "body counts" than his erstwhile ally and later opponent Hitler. NO government in human history has ever equalled the "body counts" of the communist dictatorship in China, and, whatever Noam Chomsky may try to say, NO government has EVER equalled the "body count as a percentage of the population" that the Kymer Rouge did in Cambodia/Kampuchea. YET... the dictatorship in say Cuba(which I have NO sympathy for, by the way) has been FAR less brutal than a great number of dictatorships sponsored in that part of the world by the "constitutional republic" of the USA. Without the consent of the citizens of said "constitutional republic" !
I also disagree with the idea that representation in the academy is some sort of litmus test as to the "workability" of a political ideology. History is far more complex than that. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of German professors in the mid 1930s to 1945 were good Nazis. Does this prove that German fascism was a "more workable system" than the alternatives. The answer was delivered by steel and bombs in the most direct way possible. The over-representation of Marxists in the Academy has roots in the situation in the early and mid 60s when there were viable Leninist models active in the world, when the working class entered the academy in large numbers and when anarchism was considered, unlike today, as an antique historical curiosity. Things are different now.
All that being said "Joe" is still right. His question has to be answered even if it was phrased in the wrong context. Is "anarchism" a realistic view of the world ? Maybe yes. Maybe no. It depends on what you mean by "anarchism". All that Molly can do is present her own view of anarchism, of why she calls herself an anarchist. In this exposition she will try to point out the varieties of anarchism-which is no one single thing. some of these varieties are very much "unrealistic" as Joe says. Some are simply insane and vicious. Some are idealistic statements of sainthood that lack a broader view of the failings of humanity. But....some are very much a workable political set of tactics, as Molly will hope to demonstrate. This series will continue on this blog as long as is necessary to give intelligent non-anarchists an idea of where Molly's own anarchism stands and how it relates to other strands of anarchism.
For now lets begin with an observation by the Canadian professor of political economy John Richards. This was originally stated, I believe, though I may be wrong, in his book 'Prairie Capitalism'. He noted that there were two stands in the agrarian rebellion that gave birth to such Canadian political parties as the CCF. Now, Richards is the furthest thing from an anarchist. His own political career is opportunism personified as he went from being a fervent supporter of 'The Waffle' to being an advocate of the extreme right wing of the NDP. His earlier work, however, named the cooperative and localist impulses of the movement that gave birth to the CCF as "libertarian socialist" as opposed to the "state socialist" of the majority of the Party. Molly sees herself very much in this tradition of "prairie populism" that is anarchist at its core. In future posts I will try and show how this tradition that didn't know its name connects with the larger worldwide tradition of libertarian socialism that is called "anarchism". I will also try to point out how there has always been a struggle for "the soul of anarchism" between various tendencies in said movement. That is not surprising. As an astute reader of the above can see there has been a struggle for the soul of Marxism as well. There have been similar struggles in all political ideologies, and such struggles continue today. So... see subsequent posts on this blog.