Sunday, March 20, 2011

Unlike the Chinese proverb says I don't think it is a curse to be "living in interesting times". I've seen two before, one the worldwide revolts of the late 60s/early 70s and the other the wave of revolutions that toppled communist dictatorships in the late 80s. In both these cases the waves of revolt that passed from country to country were, to all intents, totally unpredictable. Now the Arab world has risen in revolt, and none of the talking heads of any political persuasion predicted such a thing. This is because such things are by their very nature too complex for any ideological viewpoint to understand. No doubt I've "endured" more than 40 years of the pseudo-science of Marxism predicting the imminent end of capitalism, and in that they hold to an old and hoary tradition first started in the 1850s by their founders who laid their bets on an abstract schemata that was too far removed from reality to take account of actual facts.

It's simple actually. NO so-called revolutionary group has EVER predicted a revolution accurately in the last 200 years. That's fine and good, but there is a corollary to this. NO revolutionary group has actually produced a revolution either, if you exclude the armies disguised as parties of 60 (Cuba) to 80 (China) years ago. I suppose Vietnam deserves mention in this category. I'm not speaking here of the seemingly endless nationalist "revolutions" which are an ever present factor in human history and which the three aforementioned revolutions were very much a part of. I'm speaking of actual "social revolutions" that change the class system of a country, and I certainly don't mean only "libertarian" revolutions, merely ones that resulted in socioeconomic change.

Let's take some obvious objection to this view. Did Solidarnosc actually carry out the Polish revolution that overthrew communism ? Of course not. It certainly prepared the ground, but the actual revolution depended upon external events in the Soviet Union. Did the "conspiracy of mullahs" produce the Iranian revolution of 1979 ? Of course not. They merely were the most skillful in the resulting faction fights. Was there even a 'Bolshevik Revolution' or was the establishment of the first communist dictatorship merely the result, like Iran, of the seizure of power by a disciplined party during a revolutionary process that had been going on for 8 months before ? A process that the "scientific socialism" of the Bolsheviks led them to believe couldn't happen.

There are many other examples. Some of them are from the anarchist tradition where a continuing series of insurrectionary attempts by Italian anarchists always failed. This was magnified by perhaps a factor of magnitude in Spain where localized insurrections meant to inspire the masses of people always failed. The result was similar, if you descend closer to the level of comedy, in modern urban guerrilla actions that were either Maoist (mostly) or anarchist and were closer to comedy than anything else. They always failed, they fal now and they will always fail. Risings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria resulted in exactly the same result. It CAN'T BE DONE.

There is a reason for this, and leftists have expressed it at least vaguely in saying that revolutions occur with "a certain conjunction of objective and subjective factors". Marxists are particularity poor at taking subjective factors into account. Anarchists are particularly poor at taking objective factors into account. In any case even the "greatest theoretician" could never predict the occurrence of revolution simply because the factors are so complex. Don't depend on a computer program to do it either. It's the old "garbage in, garbage out".

The risings in the Arab world depended on a lot of things, of which demographic factors were quite high on the list of causes as were modern methods of communication. Still, all the countries involved have had long standing Islamist and Communist groups, none of whom had any part in initiating the risings. Not that either couldn't take advantage of them as the Bolsheviks did in Russia and the Islamists did in Iran. Whether they will succeed in this is a very open question, and personally I doubt it.

What does this mean to the people I identify with, the anarchists ? What it should mean is abandoning any hope of actually "creating a revolution" even if our own small groups were 1000 times more powerful than they are today. What it should mean is that we should make the maximum efforts to diffuse "libertarian ways of acting organizing" amongst the people who are not anarchists today so that these people will act accordingly in whatever unpredictable revolutionary situation that may occur.

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