Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Poverty of "Anarchism" Part I

I've always described myself as having anarchist sympathies. Anarchism is about having no authority over and above the individual's free will. In practical terms, anarchism is about having the minimum of authority over sovereign individuals. Leftist anarchists, unlike libertarians, believe that individual freedom is maximized by providing social supports for individuals as a human right, so that they are not forced to rent themselves out to dictatorial employers or to jump through the hoops of exploitative governments. Anarchists also make it a point to challenge all assumptions of authority or power-over others. Anarchists therefore attack the state. They attack capitalism. They attack patriarchy. They attack militarism. They attack oppressive schools and prisons. They attack the assumption that humans have dominion over the earth and all the living things upon it.

But where I part company with the anarchists is the childishness that masquerades as "radicalism" and believes that inconvenient truths about the world and society can be merely wished away. They don't participate in the formal political process because it's a sham. It's an elite-dominated system and to participate in it is to be a willing dupe in your own exploitation and oppression.

You know, except for the fact that people fought and died for the right to vote and for the right to a fair trial and for social justice. The important thing for these childish anarchists is that past revolutions haven't completely broken the power of entrenched elites and therefore their accomplishments are of no account.

It is better, for these childish anarchists, to limit themselves to incoherent meaningless protests and small discussion groups/ (Hopefully you can talk like a fucking idiot using incomprehensible gibberish that alienates and excludes pretty much everyone else from being able to follow your pointless conversations. That's always a plus for some reason.)

Are you capable of fathoming the depths of this delusion? Think about it! Feudal Europe had been stuck in an ossified hierarchy of "nobles" and "commoners" wherein some people were born to privilege, and often, wealth and power, while others were forever excluded from these. There were no equal rights (except in the Bible, in certain cases), there was no religious freedom (to speak nothing of freedom FROM religion), there was no legal equality, there was no political equality. Everyone was bound to a social hierarchy where everyone subjugated those under them down to the lowest ranks of society. Kings ruled nobles, nobles ruled gentlemen, gentlemen ruled peasants, peasants subjugated those poorer than them, priests subjugated each other in their own hierarchy and imposed their delusions upon everyone else. Men dominated women and adults dominated children.

Revolutions erupted in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Freedom of speech was won. Religious freedom and freedom of thought were won. People won the right to elect their own representatives giving them a share of power in what happened in their societies. Whether to co-opt the people, or whether to husband the "human resources" of the state, or whether as a reflection of the will of the people (or perhaps some combination of all three), people won labour rights, pension rights, rights to education, rights to healthcare. Along the way, totalitarian systems (Fascism, Leninism/Stalinism/Maoism) emerged, as a sort of mutation of the demands for democracy and social justice. Thankfully, these genocidal monstrosities were bested. (Even if at times they seemed to possess a dynamism that our own systems appeared to lack, this turned out to be only a temporary condition and they all sank under their own delusions, contradictions and from losing out in their competition with the liberal-capitalist West.)

I say "liberal-capitalist" because that is the system that we live in. "Liberalism" is about "liberty." It is about individual freedom. Freedom of speech. Freedom of thought. Freedom of assembly. Economic freedom. Capitalism is the economic aspect of liberalism. The freedom of individuals to maximize their "capital." Liberalism has achieved a great deal, but it has definite limits. Capitalism has achieved a great deal, but it is founded in inequality and its basic premise of profits before people is inhuman. Liberal-capitalism is the dominant paradigm of our age and its time has passed. It is fomenting socially-destructive selfishness as a virtue. It is tearing societies apart at the same time that it binds the world together in a world community based on short-term profit. It is destroying the earth through consumerism and profit maximization. As I said, fascism and Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist communism arose out of the struggle for democracy and social justice.

Fascism saw that bourgeois-capitalist society was moribund and corrupt. It saw that class within capitalist society was dividing the community (if only from an imaginary unity of the pre-industrial past) and corrupt politicians and businessmen were weakening the nation. Individual freedom was producing degenerate thoughts, degenerate art, a degenerate culture. People needed to be united under the authority of the state. The culture had to be turned to things higher than material profit. Individual classes had to be praised for the contributions to the community and virtuous individuals rewarded from all classes for their services and morals. In the case of Germany, it took the cataclysm of defeat in World War I, with all the paranoid conspiracy theories which resulted from that, and two major economic crises, to produce and sustain Adolph Hitler's political movement and eventually bring it to power. Hitler's rise was very much tied to the crises-prone nature of the capitalist economic system.

But the fascist beliefs in an imaginary national unity (a "people"), and in militarism as the highest form of virtue, and in struggles between cultures, and in the supremacy of a great leader and the suppression of individual freedom, brought about the ruinous Second World War and the eventual destruction of fascism.

World War I also produced Leninist communism. Lenin saw Russia's backwardness as the result of its feudal political system, combined with its exploitation from the advanced capitalist societies. He saw the salvation of the Russian people as coming through communism. He had seen the way that workers' movements had been crushed by bourgeois politicians, who conveniently discarded their liberal principles to defend their class interests. He saw what a sham liberal democracy was in late-19th Century Europe. He saw how trade unionists had resigned themselves to liberal-capitalism and were pathetically (in his view) trying to win gains within capitalism, rather than overthrowing it. (With their gains almost always coming at the expense of their fellow workers.) Lenin saw that the surest way to communism was to form a tight cadre of ruthless, driven professional revolutionaries, who would smash liberal-capitalists at their own game and who would drag the working class into the 20th Century.

World War I destroyed Russia's old feudal order, and the German military's high command saw Lenin and his call for peace as an effective way to quickly knock Russia out of the war. If not for the German military delivering Lenin from his exile in Switzerland to Russia, he might never have been anything more than a disagreeable crackpot organizing the acrimonious meetings of a dwindling movement. But history is what it is. Lenin rose to power and kept power by being willing to shoot anyone who opposed him or might have opposed him. His disciplined party was full of similarly ruthless individuals who believed that the world was a cruel place, dominated by the strong. To bring social justice to the people in the face of capitalist repression, one had to kill not only those directly challenging them, but anyone who would steer the country in the wrong direction. Shoot the Tsarist's agents. Shoot the capitalists. Shoot their generals. Shoot their soldiers. Shoot the liberals. Shoot the peasants who refuse to provide food for the revolution's soldiers. Freedom and human rights is a luxury for AFTER the battle is won.

But Lenin's ruthlessness, and his dictatorial methods produced Stalinism. An even more brutal totalitarianism. And Lenin's methods inspired Maoism, an even more psychotic personality cult. Like fascism, communism could produce enormous practical results. In fact, the achievements were far more impressive. Literacy rates soared from previously abysmal levels. The living standards of the majority who survived were higher than for the majority under the decrepit feudal systems they came out of. Industrial production soared. Russia/USSR might not have survived the Nazi onslaught but for Lenin and Stalin's achievements. (The early days of the war might not have been as disastrous if it weren't for Stalin's blunders though.) China's present industrialization is surely the product of the foundation laid by the Chinese Communist Party in literacy, basic skills and industrialization.

But in the end, they failed. They failed because the capitalist West had more resources (both stolen from around the world and from out of their own development). They failed because they spent too much on armaments (partly to counter the threat of the capitalist West). But I think one of the main reasons for their failure came from the centralization of power in the hands of unaccountable dictators. There were no checks and balances on flawed policies. People could not be rewarded significantly for their own efforts. Human creativity and ingenuity was stifled by oppressive cultures. The post-industrial "knowledge" economy depends upon human freedom, artistic, academic, scientific, personal. To a very great degree, liberal-capitalism triumphed over dictatorial communism. Whether we like it or not, more people were attracted by the culture produced by liberal-capitalism than were attracted by the culture of Stalinism or Maoism.

But, as I said, there are many weakenesses and failures of liberal-capitalism. It needs to be confronted. It needs to be defeated. This is already a long blog post. I'll post this for now and continue tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini were all dictators, with very similar characteristics. All of them were paranoid control freaks.

Those dictators, lied, deceived, thieved, were corrupt, used dirty politics, dirty tactics and all of them cheated to win. Sound familiar? It should.

Harper is taking us right back to the Feudal system. The Feudal monsters of today, are the bottomless pits of greed corporations. Every time corporations line up at the trough and squeal for more money? Harper gives them another $60 billion in tax reductions. Harper has been sneakily working on the TPP which, is another corporate give-a-way.

Make no mistake, Harper is one evil monster.

opit said...

I came across accounts that Hitler was 'programmed' in Britain, not merely educated at U.S. expense. Certainly he had no belly for war with the West; but needed to repair the ongoing damage of the settlement of World War One : both in lost territory and reparations.
Earlier, there are also accounts of thousands of U.S. trained agents destabilizing the Russian government circa WW I. The same should be said of today and NATO Colour Revolutions.
And then there are sanctions - economic warfare which kills by the thousands....mostly women and children. In Iraq, for instance, attacks on infrastructure targeted water treatment and supply as well as the power grid, vital for schools and hospitals.
The Shah purchased nuclear generating plants. Then as now, the U.S. 'suspected' the motives of those building things designed NOT to go Boom and stole their funds.
Interesting reading :

thwap said...

I believe Hitler was just who the history books say he was: A deluded, right-wing crackpot, embittered by Germany's defeat and subsequent humiliation in World War I, who was able to rise to power because economic catastrophes made many Germans, rich and poor, look to radical solutions to their problems.