Monday, August 04, 2008


Over at the Anarchist Black Cat website a debate has begun on Wayne Price's article on Parecon- more properly styled "the tactics of Michael Albert". Molly has reprinted this essay previously. I reproduce Price's reply to my introduction and my further reply below. The debate at the ABC has taken many other turns, and I urge the reader to go there for matters far removed from what Price and I have to say here.
I appreciate Molly's reprinting my essay and I enjoyed his thoughtful comments, although he thinks I "fetishize revolution." We are mostly in agreement, I think, but in response:

(1) Do people have to be warned about the dangers of a declining ruling class attacking through fascism or other forms of repression? I think they do, and the dismal history of defeated workers' revolutions and successful bourgeois counterrevolutions supports my claim. Look around you, see the illusions which most people have in the capitalist-democratic system. Do you think that these will vanish overnight during a crisis?

(2) Molly is against "proclaiming a revolution." Me too. We are, obviously, far from a revolutionary situation in North America, but even if we get close to one, it will only be possible to prepare for a revolution, not for a few to organize one behind the backs of the working people.

(3) Molly denies that it is possible for the capitalists to "whip up" racist and sexual hysteria. He should read how Republican leaders deliberately decided to appeal to homophobia after Communism folded. Anyway, he refers to the whipping up of racism and sexual hysteria by "informal conglomerations of the ruling class, would-be rulers, [some] workers...and [parts of] the underclass", which is close enough to what I am talking about.(4) He thinks I think that fascism is a ruling class plot (which is supposedly the Trotskyist analysis). I suggest reading Daniel Guerin or even Trotsky on the rise of fascism, including Nazism, particularly on its appeal to the middle classes. Also Erich Fromm and Wilhelm Reich for the social psychology of fascism.


Molly's Response:

1) Does anybody need to be warned ? In the lead up to some sort of "revolutionary situation" there is ALWAYS a gradual escalation of aggression on both parts of the equation. In the end revolutions are defeated much more by military superiority than by any illusions on the part of workers and other lower classes. People have such "illusions" today because they are simply and plainly realistic. ONLY the partisans of revolution fail to recognize the inevitable losses and the "chancy" risks we have to undergo and undertake in order for a revolution to be a success. NO amount of 'consciousness" substitutes for a proper balance of forces. THIS is one of the many ways in which ordinary people are much wiser than those who wish to instruct them. In the end the lead-up to such a crisis situation would provide ample opportunity for an intelligent anarchist organization to shift its tactics and propaganda when they no longer have to worry about long term growth and the safeguarding of the organization from prosecution by the state and now have to worry about pushing social change as fast as possible. In the interim a realistic appraisal of where we are today, and a continued denunciation of the ruling class in many different ways-including their ruthlessness- is all that is required and all that should be done. As I have said before on this blog- calls to revolution merely lead to grounds to intercept an anarchist organization via prosecution as the "revolutionaries" sign their own confessions via their propaganda long before they can defend themselves politically rather than legally.

2) Obviously. I totally disagree with any conspiratorial acts in the here and now. In our present situation they are nothing but "acting on illusion", the illusion that "revolutionary" groups have about their own importance, which is minimal- to say the least.

3) Did "Republican leaders" "deliberately decide to appeal to homophobia after communism folded", and if they did what exactly were they thinking ? To say the least the idea that they did this to "preserve the power of the ruling class" is more than a stretch. There actually are a few instances in history where a state has deliberately decided to "create" the illusion of an external or internal threat in order to safeguard itself from its own people. Usually the threat is right at hand and hardly has to be "created". The American ruling class and its state hasn't been under a realistic threat from its own people in 150 years and the last instance of a "deliberate" creation of an illusion of an internal threat (NEVER SUPPORTED BY THE 'RULING CLASS' IN GENERAL) was McCarthyism over half a century ago. Since that time there have been no coordinated efforts to manufacture such a "threat", even if a tiny part of the ruling class ensconced in government (the Bush administration) has exaggerated the dimensions of a real threat.

What Wayne is referring to is probably the following. I have no doubt that between 1989 and 2001 there was serious contemplation amongst Republicans as to how to ensure their continued electoral success. I also have no doubt that the idea of "shifting from our strength in foreign policy once the threat of Communism is gone to another strength on 'moral issues'"" went through their minds and was probably often expressed in public venues. All that this means is that they were plotting to retain power as against the "goddamn Democrats". It was a shift of emphasis for reasons of presumed electoral success- not any grand plot to reduce an popular insurgency that simply didn't exist. It also played to an already existing sentiment, rather than trying to "create" it. This has relevance if you get beyond the leftist habit of referring to any and all, right wing opposition as "fascist". Right wing populism is not fascism, though it can turn into such.

4)The recommendations to read Guerin (a work that he wrote when he was still a Trotskyist) and Trotsky may appeal to others. I have been familiar with the theory for about 40 years. It was obviously wrong to me then and is even more obviously wrong today. Trotsky wrote his polemics without benefit of any -I repeat that ANY - reference to any actual facts about what sort of people joined fascist parties, their intellectual origins or their programs. He was actually a good Marxist when he did this, as he followed his sect follower-Marx- in denigrating facts as "mere empiricism" and relying on a deductive logic from first principles. The trouble was that his Leninist opponents, the Stalinists, could apply such "logic" divorced from facts just as well to call him and even social democrats "objectively fascist". The so-called "reasoning" was the same.

When Trotsky was writing his fantasies there were actually very few objective studies of the class composition of fascist parties., That was not the case 40 years ago when I first encountered these fantasies, and it is even less the case today. One can play "dirty" by referring to the socialist and syndicalist origins of Italian fascism, or even dirtier by referring to fascism of Peronism that was pretty well exclusively "working class". But one hardly has to go that route. There are numerous studies on the class composition of various fascist movements in the literature today. (I'd personally like to recommend 'The Rise of National Socialism and the Working Classes of Weimar Germany' edited by Conan Fischer if anybody is under the grip of the standard Marxist illusions that fascism was not a cross class phenomenon.

As to the last two shrinks mentioned. One should be very careful about citing Reich about anything considering the trajectory of his career. Why is his early work "valuable" when his later delusions when he resided in the USA are so obviously insane ? As to his earlier work, I am not so sad to say that the Freudian paradigm that he operated under hasn't been part of the legitimate science of psychology for over 30 years. Today it shows up more in books against quackery than it does in anything resembling a scientific publication. If you want a "lefty" take on this- I may be willing to admit that in other places and at earlier times there were large numbers of people who could be "described" using Freudian terms. TODAY, in developed countries, they are a vanishing few. We exist in culture of "narcissism" rather than "repression". I've met a few people in my life that the Freudianism of people such as Reich could describe(I just got reminded of one such person in the last day), but I haven't met any new ones in 20 years. They may soon be extinct. Fromm, for whom I have always had a soft spot, is a different matter entirely. He was hardly the hardened ideologue that Reich was, and his writings always make much more sense. BUT...they hardly say that fascism was some sort of middle class reaction to the working class, as traditional Marxism does. Mainly because it wasn't, but also because people like Fromm concentrate on the sort of individual reaction to "the group" that transcends social class.

That's it for now.


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