'Marx for anarchists'

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 26 2009 14:46
'Marx for anarchists'
Django wrote:
I would certainly love to be involved in writing a basic marx pamphlet at some point - anything which can help put an end to "anarchism vs marxism" pissing matches is a good thing in my book. However I do not have the time currently to do the reading to do this justice and think certain other writing projects should take priority.

this came up here.

i agree a basic marx pamphlet written by anarchists would be a good thing, but also that it's a lot of work to do justice to. was chatting about this in the pub with jack, because i have scintillating conversations like that, and we thought that a less ambitious 'marx for anarchists' type pamphlet introducing his main ideas would be more feasible.

we've just about finished our (brighton solfed) pamphlet on anarcho-syndicalist strategy and organisation, which is about 6-7000 words and 18-20 pages. something that kind of length that aimed to introduce marxian concepts and analysis to anarchists/fellow travellers in plain english would be much more achievable in the short term. so does anyone think such a pamphlet would be useful? and would anyone be interested in collaborating on such a project?

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Jan 26 2009 14:52

I think it's a good idea. As for helping out, I'm not nearly as schooled on Marx as some of you lot.

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Jan 26 2009 15:06

I like the new political Refused.

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Jenni
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Jan 26 2009 15:46

yeah i think this is a great idea too, and some of you folks definitely have the writing skills to make it worthwhile. if this takes off and i can contribute somehow i will, even if just (as is likely given my own fairly basic understanding) checking its readability for someone not so well versed in marx.

Hungry56
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Jan 26 2009 15:50

It would be great, I would definetely order half a dozen or so copies. I could try to help out, maybe you could send me a list of subheadings or something, but I'm a shit writer.

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Jan 26 2009 16:06

It's a good project. I don't think I can be that involved (I'd rather put my energy into a potential Palestine pamphlet), but I'd be happy to proofread, check for readability/clarity and all that.

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Jan 26 2009 17:08

Definitely put libcom penguin on the cover.

tigersiskillers
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Jan 26 2009 17:13

I think it's a great idea - as a young anarchist I just equated Marx with Leninism - a mixture of pure ignorance and taking Leninists' claims to the heritage of Marx at face value.

I can see a couple of issues to resolve first - is it about Marx's writings only or would it include the libertarian marxist tradition? It would make more sense to me to cover the whole tradition, but that has implications for either the length or the depth of the pamphlet.

Would it be a summary of key ideas or would it be more analytical? There are aleady plenty of summaries around already, though they're often aimed at apolitical students. If it's the latter there needs to be a reasonable degree of agreement between the collaborators - eg, this might count me out, as I'm not totally convinced (beyond its usefulness as a simplified description of exploitation) by the labour theory of value as set out in Capital*.

*Before anyone derails the thread this is still something I'm trying to work through, it's not straight in my head, let alone something I'm ready to have a full discussion on.

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Jan 26 2009 17:32

I think that this sounds potentially like a good idea.

However, it seems to me to be pretty inward looking - just aimed at anarchists.

On this site we generally try to aim at a wider audience - workers in general. Even for some sort of advanced text though I think it could be aimed wider - I would say the average member of most "Marxist" groups has almost no understanding of Marx either, or activists of varying levels in the official labour movement, or various related single issue campaigns (environmentalists, etc), or just quite politicised people in general.

So something aimed at this sort of level might be more worth the effort it would take.

Mike Harman
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Jan 26 2009 18:14

I reckon the writing should be aimed at 'potentially interested people' rather than anarchists as such -i.e. it shouldn't spend much if any time hashing over the usual marxism vs. anarchism stuff even if it's to point out where it's wrong. Having said that, I quite like the title 'Marx for anarchists' as a title.

Doesn't seem like a bad idea, but like others I don't have much time to put into something like that at the moment

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Jan 26 2009 18:42
Steven. wrote:
However, it seems to me to be pretty inward looking - just aimed at anarchists.

~

Mike Harman wrote:
I reckon the writing should be aimed at 'potentially interested people' rather than anarchists as such

as you guys know, i share this general orientation. the thinking was that there's a million and one introductions to marx out there, as well as stuff like prole's WCPW which does an excellent job of introducing communist politics to an interested lay reader. this, coupled with the fact that realistically the people who buy pamphlets from the AF (from whom this pamphlet was originally posited; but solfed too for that matter) are already anarchists or fellow travellers, meant me and jack felt something more inward looking could be useful.

i think propaganda has two functions, the outward-looking stuff we focus on with much of libcom, and the stuff aimed at making the people who agree 95% with us (capitalism is bad, the state is bad etc) into libertarian communists - like our debate with parecon advocates - (currently in progress and unpublished for anyone wondering). all that said, a 'marx for workers' pamphlet could straddle both audiences if done well.

tigersiskillers wrote:
I can see a couple of issues to resolve first - is it about Marx's writings only or would it include the libertarian marxist tradition? It would make more sense to me to cover the whole tradition, but that has implications for either the length or the depth of the pamphlet.

good question. it's not a concrete proposal as yet, just a brainstorm, so i don't know. my suggestion off the top of my head would be to focus on marx, but maybe have a post-script introducing marxists of interest and recommending further reading.

tigersiskillers wrote:
Would it be a summary of key ideas or would it be more analytical? There are aleady plenty of summaries around already, though they're often aimed at apolitical students. If it's the latter there needs to be a reasonable degree of agreement between the collaborators

again, my gut feeling would be not too analytical, beyond relating the concepts to everyday life. but like you say there's lots of basic introductions already. actually the more i think about this, a 'marx for workers' or 'everyday guide to marx' makes more sense than an anarchist-aimed one. at the meeting on the crisis in brighton recently, one of the speakers gave an accurate but technical talk introducing marxian concepts (labour/labour power, organic composition etc), i made a contribution from the floor stressing the important thing was to relate these concepts to our everyday lives, and gave some examples from work. this went down pretty well, a few people came up to chat to me between sessions about it, so maybe something aiming to do that - relate the concepts to daily life in capitalism would be best.

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Jan 26 2009 19:48

I do think that theres some merit to a 'Marx for anarchists' project, certainly in attempting to mobilise the ideas for the libertarian communist movement and break through some of the conceptions among anarchists about Marx's ideas being a bizarre amalgamation of Engels, Lenin and Althusser. There are some academic articles in a similar vein to whats being talked about, but nothing accessible I can think of aimed at anarchist types.

I do think we'd have difficulty circulating a pamphlet amongst a general audience for the reasons JK has described - and I tend to think that publications should be as outward looking as possible. There are plenty of alternatives for an introduction to Marx that people could arrive at before something we might put together, wheras people looking for say, an introduction to anarchist communism or contemporary anarcho-syndicalist strategy are much more likely to arrive at what we publish. Saying this, there could easily be a happy medium - a pamphlet about the libertarian implications of the critique of political economy etc, aimed at countering common conceptions of what Marx's writings tell us amongst both ordinary people and anarchists - presuming we put it online it would get a number of views from non-anarchoids.

I suppose whether we address the whole teleological question of "anarchism vs Marxism" would depend on who we orient the project towards. A brief foreword about the ideas, not the personalities behind them being what is important would suffice for something for a general audience, wheras something aimed at anarchists would likely require something lengthier. But again, there is a medium that could be reached.

I'd hope to contribute in some capacity, though if the internationalism/national liberation pamphlet thats been discussed elsewhere gets mandated by the AF I can see that taking up a lot of the time I could devote to something like this.

Angelus Novus
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Jan 26 2009 19:48

Assuming there is a focus on Marx's critique of political economy and the fetish character of bourgeois society, I would be interested in assisting.

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Jan 27 2009 10:04

Hi all.
I would love to help.
rebel love
Dave

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Jan 27 2009 13:06
weeler wrote:
Anarchists are morons who ruin everything they touch. How about 'Marx for normal people who aren't mentals'.

how about read the thread and not just the title therefore preventing yourself from diving in unconstructively on a point which is already being discussed?

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Jan 27 2009 13:22

personally i'm thinking a 'marx for normal people' is pointless, because if you're interested enough in marx to read it you're gonna be a bit politicised, and in any event as an introduction to libertarian communist politics i'd sooner give a copy of Work. Community. Politics. War. to a curious 'normal' than anything on marx per se.

there'd be two possible approaches here i think, which would influence the content, structure and style. as has been noted a 'marx for anarchists' would dwell more on why the anarchist vs marxist division is unhelpful, and why you need to understand capital as a class relation to be consistently anti-state. the structure would be constructed polemically to this end, to pique an interest in marxian ideas and introduce them to people already convinced that 'capitalism' and the state are bad, but who don't necessarily have a great grasp of what they are.

the second approach would be an 'everyday guide to marx', which would be aimed at politicised people more generally and try and relate the concepts to everyday experiences in capitalism. this would require a lot of thought as to the structure, as marx starts with the commodity for logical reasons (imho), it may or may not provide a good starting point for relating to everyday life (perhaps work would be better, then generalising from the specific selling of labour power to commodities in general...).

as i say, i'm coming round to the latter. perhaps both would be worthwhile projects. i don't necessarily have the time at the moment to commit to this, but i think it's worth brainstorming out, and i could probably make time in the future.

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Jan 27 2009 14:42

"Anarchists for Marx"?

tigersiskillers
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Jan 27 2009 14:47
Joseph K. wrote:
(perhaps work would be better, then generalising from the specific selling of labour power to commodities in general...).

I think work is the perfect place to start. The whole idea of working for an employer is treated by a lot of people as if it's almost a natural relationship. Breaking it down into what it actually is - you selling the only commodity you have - does three things. It immediately relates the text to everyday life, encapsulates class relations and leads into a wider analysis of the commodity without it all seeming too abstract.

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Jan 27 2009 14:56
Refused wrote:
"Anarchists for Marx"?

there's a danger of making it about personalities rather than ideas that way around, imho

tigersiskillers wrote:
I think work is the perfect place to start. The whole idea of working for an employer is treated by a lot of people as if it's almost a natural relationship. Breaking it down into what it actually is - you selling the only commodity you have - does three things. It immediately relates the text to everyday life, encapsulates class relations and leads into a wider analysis of the commodity without it all seeming too abstract.

the question would be where to go from there. if you start in the 'hidden abode of production' (wages; work done not for use but exchange etc), you could progress logically to circulation (commodities, consumption etc) then reproduction (domestic chores and the like). i wonder if it would be patronising to introduce it with a chronology of a 'typical day', then relate each part of the day to the different spheres of analysis in turn. like i say, would need a lot of thought, it's all inter-related so the structure is non-trivial.

capricorn
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Jan 27 2009 15:41

Would this be any help?

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Jan 27 2009 19:36

Agree with everything Joseph K has said, I think there's definitely a need to increase awareness on the libertarian aspects of Marx's work within the anarchist movement.. I think its part of the debates that happen within political minorities and a 'Marx for workers' type thing has already been done pretty well by prole, imo.

Agree with Steven's point on Trots not understanding Marx either though, and they'd probably get a lot from a pamphlet like this. Maybe putting "(and Leninists too..)" would still be sufficiently provocative for both anarchists and Leninists to be interested in reading. Or maybe not, I dunno..

Think it would be good to also have a little section (before the Marxists of interest section maybe) on where the shit stuff from Marx comes from (i.e. late Marx and that bastard Engels).

Anarcho
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Jan 28 2009 09:33

Anarchism, Marxism and Leninism?

Well, I suppose I should recommend section H of An Anarchist FAQ here. It tries to show how Marxism and Leninism are related, but different. It also discusses the anarchist critique of Marx, as well as summarising Bakunin's critique. It also notes that some Marxists are closer to anarchism (such as the council communists) -- in fact, I would argue that closer to Bakunin than Marx on many key issues (but I won't get into that again).

Also, there is The Paris Commune, Marxism and Anarchism, which discusses the Paris Commune and its lessons, contrasting the anarchist position with both Marxism and Leninism. It places the Commune in the wider context of Marx's ideas on the state, as well as discussing the limitations of the Commune which anarchists like Bakunin and Kropotkin pointed to.

Marx is an important thinker, someone who need to know and understand -- and more importantly build upon. Just as Marx built on the socialists that preceded him (like Proudhon, Owen and so on).

Saying that, I would argue that the anarchists got more right on Marx did -- Bakunin predicted the rise of reformism in Social Democracy, for example, as well as predicting that the dictatorship of the proeltariat would become the dictatorship over the proletariat (both, of course, related to the nature and role of the state). Which is why I'm an anarchist!

Angelus Novus
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Jan 28 2009 09:55
Ed wrote:
Think it would be good to also have a little section (before the Marxists of interest section maybe) on where the shit stuff from Marx comes from (i.e. late Marx and that bastard Engels).

WTF? "Late Marx" is the Marx of the critique of political economy and the ethnological notebooks, as well as the letters exchange with Zasulich. Those are his primary contributions to communist critique. If you strike "late Marx", what the hell is left of Marx's legacy?

Anarcho wrote:
Well, I suppose I should recommend section H of An Anarchist FAQ here. It tries to show how Marxism and Leninism are related, but different.

Admin: no flaming the FAQ says nothing about the critique of political economy, which is what most communists have in mind when they refer to Marx.

Your persistent attempts to re-fight the factional battles of the First International are reminiscent of a Dungeons & Dragons game, but even more nerdy.

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Jan 28 2009 10:03
Anarcho wrote:
Anarchism, Marxism and Leninism?

Well, I suppose I should recommend section H of An Anarchist FAQ here. It tries to show how Marxism and Leninism are related, but different. It also discusses the anarchist critique of Marx, as well as summarising Bakunin's critique. It also notes that some Marxists are closer to anarchism (such as the council communists) -- in fact, I would argue that closer to Bakunin than Marx on many key issues (but I won't get into that again).

Also, there is The Paris Commune, Marxism and Anarchism, which discusses the Paris Commune and its lessons, contrasting the anarchist position with both Marxism and Leninism. It places the Commune in the wider context of Marx's ideas on the state, as well as discussing the limitations of the Commune which anarchists like Bakunin and Kropotkin pointed to.

Marx is an important thinker, someone who need to know and understand -- and more importantly build upon. Just as Marx built on the socialists that preceded him (like Proudhon, Owen and so on).

Saying that, I would argue that the anarchists got more right on Marx did -- Bakunin predicted the rise of reformism in Social Democracy, for example, as well as predicting that the dictatorship of the proeltariat would become the dictatorship over the proletariat (both, of course, related to the nature and role of the state). Which is why I'm an anarchist!

I think you're missing the point and spirit behind this a little. I think its a mistake to get into who got what "right" historically, because as I understand it the people interested in doing this are doing it because they want to get away from these "anarchism vs marxism" debates. The point isn't really about who got what "right" (Bakunin may have got some things "right", so did Marx, Bakunin also got some things horribly wrong, as did every "anarchist" I can think of), but that Marx's work on the critique of political economy and that which precedes it has no comparable peer, and that familiarity with it is important to understanding capitalism and how to get rid of it. The antique spats of long dead personalities have no interest to me, and no bearing on my politics. Ideas which allow us to understand capitalism and the state and think about how to get rid of them do.

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Jan 28 2009 10:33
Anarcho wrote:
Anarchism, Marxism and Leninism? (...) some Marxists are closer to anarchism (...) closer to Bakunin than Marx (...)Saying that, I would argue that the anarchists got more right on Marx did -- Bakunin predicted the rise of reformism in Social Democracy, for example, as well as predicting that the dictatorship of the proeltariat would become the dictatorship over the proletariat (both, of course, related to the nature and role of the state). Which is why I'm an anarchist!

the thing is there's no singular 'anarchism' to contrast to a singular 'marxism', nor do i think it's useful to focus on which dead celebrity "got it right." i mean Marx's critique of political economy and capitalist social relations is basically unrivalled, his practical politics were statist and social democratic and his political manouverings questionable. thus any 'marx for anarchists' pamphlet would need to focus on the critique of political economy and capitalist social relations, and not on 'how to run an International' or 'how to seize the state apparatus', i.e. on the ideas which remain useful and not the failings of the man who penned them.

same way a basic kropotkin pamphlet wouldn't have a section on how to pick sides in imperialist wars (these kind of things are of interest in biographies, like proudhon's misogyny or anti-semitism, but aren't of any interest in a pamphlet that's trying to promote ideas of use in the class struggle today).

i think it would be imperitive to avoid an 'anarchist' vs 'marxist' line, because (a) that's precisely the spurious division the pamphlet would be trying to overcome and (b) 90% of what passes for both anarchism and marxism is reactionary shite. the purpose of such a pamphlet would be to introduce what's useful in marx to people already critical of capitalism and the state, but lacking a developed class analysis or understanding of what capitalism actually is (a social relation etc).

i've just had a fresh look at the FAQ, and it looks like it deals with the differences between anarchism and leninism, as well as the similarities between anarchism and council communism etc. i think this is important, particularly in dispelling leninist misrepresentations of anarchism (i've been laughed at by trots for saying 'anarchist organisation', they really don't have a clue). but i think it falls outside the scope of the pamphlet under discussion, which would be to introduce communist analysis to anarchists/fellow travellers.

edit: cross-posted with Angelus/Django

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 28 2009 10:41

Angelus, no flaming. future ad hominems will be deleted.

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Jan 28 2009 13:00

Hi all. Perhaps it could be organised on the basis of concepts - commodity fetishism, surplus value, alienation etc. Like a 'tool box' of Marx that anarchists (and others) might find useful.
rebel love
Dave

yoshomon
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Jan 29 2009 00:53

What would this contribute that Fredy Perlman's 'Commodity Fetishism' and 'Reproduction of Everyday Life' did not?

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Jan 29 2009 01:08

Readability maybe?

BB
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Jan 29 2009 13:45
888 wrote:
Readability maybe?

wink

'Reproduction of Everyday Life' I've attempted to read this twice, maybe i can comment when i do...

Anarcho
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Jan 29 2009 14:30
Angelus Novus wrote:
Admin: no flaming the FAQ says nothing about the critique of political economy, which is what most communists have in mind when they refer to Marx.

What? Sorry, but there is a whole section (section C) critiquing capitalism. It also quotes Marx and Marxists approvingly.

And, apparently, nothing else Marx wrote is of any consequence, just his critique of political economy? Sorry, but, really, who takes that seriously? Marx is an important thinker, but you need to evaluate his whole contribution. Limiting comments just to the bits you happen to like is unlikely to happen.

Angelus Novus wrote:
Your persistent attempts to re-fight the factional battles of the First International are reminiscent of a Dungeons & Dragons game, but even more nerdy.

Man, you really do not get it, do you? We need to learn from and build upon people like Marx, and that means evaluating their whole contribution. I fail to see how pointing out where Marx was wrong means "to re-fight the factional battles of the First International" And you really have a problem with anarchists saying that they are anarchists because they think anarchists got more right than Marx!

I guess Angelus Novus will now (yet again) turn a discussion on Marxism and anarchism into a discussion of me... I'm flattered that he thinks I'm so important that I need to be cyber-stalked on libcom -- apparently no anarchist can suggest that anarchists got more right than wrong....