Friday, November 16, 2007

The new anarchist communist organization 'Common Cause' in Ontario seems to have a website now. Linchpin may not be the "official" site, but a casual glance seems to indicate that this is pretty much what it is. Common Cause was founded at the end of September to give some sort of organizational pole to efforts to have a more class struggle/ordinary person/ organized anarchist presence in the province of Ontario. So far so good. Molly has added Linchpin to her links section under the 'Platformist' section. This may or may may not be totally fair. I think it is, but I'm open to other opinions. The website is great. It serves as a minor news aggregator , an introduction to the the politics of Common Cause, and a contact point for those interested in the organization. One of the best features is their blogs section where individual members post their news and opinions. Very worthwhile. The layout is simple and clear and the site is easy to navigate.
Being as Molly is an inveterate nitpicker here are the nits that I chose to pick:
*The existence of this website was hardly announced in a wide fashion in the general 'anarcho-net" let alone on other Canadian sites that people interested in anarchism might access. Molly stumbled across Linchpin purely by accident. Perhaps this low-key approach is a deliberate decision. I hope so. If not, it doesn't bode well for the idea of making anarchism "popular".
*The contact is purely an internet contact. This is understandable for a new organization, but it is a situation that eventually has to be improved if the organization wishes to be truly popular. Actual physical addresses, beginning with a PO Box if necessary are almost mandatory, and phone number contacts should follow soon afterwards. The website should contain a 'contact list" for various locations across their province rather than just one email response box. True legitimacy will be conferred by actually being present in the real world. If nothing else give an address of another organization where you can talk to a real person about the group and make a request to meet with them. There are a lot of such places in Ontario.
Aside from these quibbles, which are something that nobody should expect an organization 1 and 1/2 months old to live up to the website is great, and Molly recommends it highly.
The anarchist Common Cause: Report on Hamilton Oct 27 anti-Afghanistan Occupation Demonstration:
Even if they haven't publicized the existence of their website to the degree that they should have, Common Cause has, at least, sent out a report on their first public appearance at a demonstration. what follows is that report:
"The Common cause Hamilton members took part in the demonstration against the occupation of Afghanistan. Around 150 people gathered to listen to speeches and then march through downtown Hamilton. It was the first outing for the Hamilton Common Cause Local's new banner. There were also flags there from the Local 548 Postal workers, Elementary Teachers' Union and Local 1005 AFL-CIO-CLC Steelworkers. Organizations whose speakers addressed the rally included the New Democratic Party (NDP) whose speaker said that they were for immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops. Don Frazer, speaking for the Hamilton and district labour Council expressed full support for the demonstration. The Raging Grannies treated the crowd to a number of anti-war songs.
The speaker for McMasters University Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights said Afghani people need us to leave. , our obligation in doing so is to give them back the resources that were destroyed in the war, but rebuilding is a task for the people of Afghanistan and not an occupying military. The speaker for the McMasters Muslims for Peace and Justice said that it was a war against Islam and in particular against countries that are rising Islamically.
The President of 1005 Steelworkers said the US was preparing to attack Iran and reminded the audience that US Steel which had recently taken over Stelco in Hamilton was the first billion dollar global corporation, having reached that status in 1901. he raised the slogan a number of other speakers had mentioned, a demand for an anti-war government.
Pretty much the only idea put forward by any of the speakers on how we could actually concretely oppose the occupation was this demand for an 'anti-war government'. But this just feeds into the passivity of the anti-war movement globally, a passivity reflected in the low number who demonstrated on the day despite the quite high levels of support from passing motorists tooting their horns, etc.. In February 2003 on the eve of the invasion of Iraq millions of people took part in demonstrations across the globe. the failure of that mass movement to act when the western governments went ahead with the war despite mass opposition has resulted in demonstrations today that are tiny and largely composed of activists.
The challenge for anarchists, and all anti-war activists, is to answer the question of how a meaningful anti-war movement can be built. one that can answer the fact that the western governments really don't care whether the people are for or against the war providing they can be sure of a small number willing to fight in their armies and the passivity of the rest.
Molly Notes: The comrades of Common Cause have to be commended for identifying a real problem in demonstrations such as these. If you would take the total "membership" of the sponsoring organizations in a city the size of Hamilton it would total in the 10s of thousands. As it a fraction of those who have captured bureaucratic positions in same have chosen to show up. A fraction of the leadership. Of course these "organizations" do little or nothing to actually build support amongst their own membership, preferring to treat the whole matter as a "church observance" sort of affair. Perhaps this may be wise from their point of view. Actually "asking" their membership about demonstrations such as this would involve them in arguing with the passive membership upon which their captured positions depend, and it would involve the risk of activating opposition to them. It would be hard enough for them to argue the classical social-democratic position of "vote for the NDP so we withdraw from a useless and unethical war" with many of their members, though they could probably win a majority to their side if they were really interested-which would result in a much better turnout for events such as this (beyond the 0.001% level anyways). What you could never ask such people to do is to cut their own throats by appearing to side with organizations that think "rising Islamically" is a good thing.
All of this comes down to why Molly thinks that one aspect of "platformism" is an extremely bad idea in the situation of Canada (and pretty well all industrialized countries) today. The whole idea of "ideological unity" is a recipe for disaster". It isn't as if we have decades of history of well implanted popular agitation and thereby a well developed cadre of large numbers of people who can read the popular mood at the drop of a hat. Really bad ideas can become gospel just because they are accepted in a tiny milieu that most of the recruits come from. The demand for "collective responsibility" says that members of a platformist organization are "required" to defend the opinion of the organization no matter how absurd it is or how absurd they recognize it to be. Sensible people can easily recognize how different this is from the requirements placed on the ordinary member of a political party in our society or any other political pressure group. For what it is worth Molly believes that membership in anarchist organization should resemble membership in a normal political organization in our society and not that of a conspiratorial sect.
Much of this can be seen here. It isn't just the obvious, that, no matter how leftists feel, great distance should be put between any organization that hopes to be "popular" and those who think "rising Islamically" is a good idea. Let those who advocate such stew in their own juices, and don't let leftist guilt substitute for politics. What is much more important is the idea that 'triumphalism" can substitute for politics. Yes, the social-democratic advocacy of an "anti-war" government is a dead end, but simply pointing this out is not the presentation of an alternative. This obvious truism can far too easily be lost when members of an organization are required to defend rather than think.
To sum up, the whole idea of a "collective responsibility" is at least premature in a situation where the presumed popular anarchist organization has neither the experience, the numbers, nor the connection to ordinary people to have anything but the most general idea of what is both "right" and "expedient". Even organizations with much greater numbers and experience have made grievous mistakes. In conditions of immaturity there is a 100% guarantee that large chunks of the agreed ideology will have minimal connection to reality. Is it wise to demand unwavering defense of such things ? In the present context the criticism of the lefty speakers is obviously correct. This, however, begs the question- has a realistic alternative really been developed ?

1 comment:

Werner said...

In practice the lack of "connection" with everyday life means that left wing people are always jumping around from one "extreme" event to another. Even when many people are opposed to neocolonial ie. police action style, wars there is still the widespread feeling that this is a middle class thingy ... kids with time on their hands and all that. One of the obvious problems is the lack of a popular press (not websites) that is left-of-centre and widely read (and preferably libertarian). Why hasn't organized labour started their own newspaper(s)? The old "Daily Herald" and "Daily Worker" in England used to reach an audience of thousands. The answer to that of course is visible in your posting. Too much sucking up to the NDP and such things.