Individualist anarchism

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Firebrand
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Aug 21 2014 20:48
Individualist anarchism

Individualist "anarchism" seems to me to be better characterized as the left wing of classical liberalism as opposed to belonging to the same ideological family as anarchism of the class-struggle variety. I don't see any deep common denominators between these two purported wings of the anarchist tradition. They don't cohere at all except in that both oppose capitalism and the state, and for different reasons at that. The individualists see capitalism and the state as violating the autonomy of the atomized individual whereas the social/class-struggle anarchists see these institutions as an arbitrary exercise of power by a ruling elite over the working masses. Anarchism is part of the socialist tradition (broadly construed), and individualist "anarchism" is not socialistic since it ignores the issue of class and sees the supposed "freedom" of the individual as standing against social solidarity, rather than emerging from it.

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plasmatelly
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Sep 5 2014 16:52

Here we go...

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Railyon
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Aug 21 2014 21:38
Firebrand wrote:
The individualists see capitalism and the state as violating the autonomy of the atomized individual whereas the social/class-struggle anarchists see these institutions as an arbitrary exercise of power by a ruling elite over the working masses.

I think you are misrepresenting class struggle anarchism here. There is nothing arbitrary about the state, let alone capitalism.

Firebrand
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Aug 21 2014 21:59
Railyon wrote:
Firebrand wrote:
The individualists see capitalism and the state as violating the autonomy of the atomized individual whereas the social/class-struggle anarchists see these institutions as an arbitrary exercise of power by a ruling elite over the working masses.

I think you are misrepresenting class struggle anarchism here. There is nothing arbitrary about the state, let alone capitalism.

What I was trying to say is that capitalism and the state are instruments for the exercise of power by the ruling classes, and that such an exercise of power serves the interests of the ruling classes at the expense of everyone else.

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greenjuice
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Aug 25 2014 18:15

Anarcho-Individualism ( / Individualist Anarcism) is a school of anarchism as for example Anarcho-Collectivism ( / Collectivist Anarchism). It's about specific forms of political and economic organisation advocated by people who are anarchists.

Individualism and collectivism as philosophical notions are a different topic, concerning what one thinks should be the focus of philosophical and moral considerations- the individual or the collective.

An anarchist can be an individualist philosophically and be a collectivist politically, thinking that things would be the best for the individual in a anarcho-collectivist system. On the other hand, an anarchist can be a collectivist philosophically and be an individualist politically, thinking that the collective would be the best off in an anarcho-individualist system.

By espousing anarchism (opposition to the state, relations of domination, and exploitation), they are simply anarchist, it is not the case that one is "more anarchist" then the other, they are equally anarchist by virtue of espousing anarchism.

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cresspot
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Aug 25 2014 19:04

Apple is right (I think), indies usually have in common Stirner as their anarchist forefather, but there are really plenty of ways to appropriate that philosophy. And his "union of egos" from what I know is not anti-social or anti-collectivist even. But the egoistic indie will see revolution as an ego-driven matter... not in the sense of leggo my eggo, but individual will power and desire being realized en masse (rather than a collectively centered realization of class desire). That's egoist anarchism which seems to be the most serious individualist anarchism.

simiangene
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Aug 25 2014 21:32

I think you are only trying to classify a fledgling post-Marxist doctrine within a leftist vernacular. Anarchists in themselves, between Stirner and Bakunin, are QUITE definite about their agendas! A lot of conflation arose from the erroneous Freudian translation of the term 'egotist' and the more nuanced meaning of individual self-determinism described by Stirner. Sovereignty he explained as the will to be one's own president and pope.
Stirner is simple and unoriginal, there were many a Ranter and Leveller who preceded him in espousing the individual's inherent godliness and going to war over it 300 yrs before the Spanish episode.
How evolutionary would society be if it was left alone to ponder its future without any apocalyptic prophecies? It would stagnate and die because the very angst that these ideas create empower the will to seek natural justice. Thus, Anarchism,has existed for millennia under different psychic perspectives!,,
Initially the doctrine of Anarchism creates the overwhelming desire to escape and dissolve social regulation in the form of democratic nationalist forms, and in its latter form, as Individualist-Anarchism, it drops out of the the established grid in disgust. These type of anarchists are purists, yet quitters, a paradox possibly, hmmm?. Etched into every individual follower's veins is the need to live unfettered apolitical lives. THE CONTEMPLATION OF IRRELEVANT POLITICAL CONTROL IS AN ABOMINATION TO THEIR VERY SOULS!!
Can there ever be a Anarchist tradition? Another paradox!? Traditionalism is stagnation and counter-revolutionary. You must alter your political perspective and purge yourself of leftist doctrine to really understand Anarchist philosophy!
Don't worry! The quint-essential nature of modern Anarchism is no longer armed struggle but rather an avoidance of conflict and a withdrawal into what has now come to be called Nihilist- Capitalism, because selfish Stirnerist individuality MOST resembles it, which is the Freudian egotistical middle-class becoming narcissistic entrepreneurs.in the name of individual freedom .

Firebrand
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Aug 25 2014 23:42
greenjuice wrote:
Anarcho-Individualism ( / Individualist Anarcism) is a school of anarchism as for example Anarcho-Collectivism ( / Collectivist Anarchism). It's about specific forms of political and economic organisation advocated by people who are anarchists.

Individualism and collectivism as philosophical notions are a different topic, concerning what one thinks should be the focus of philosophical and moral considerations- the individual or the collective.

An anarchist can be an individualist philosophically and be a collectivist politically, thinking that things would be the best for the individual in a anarcho-collectivist system. On the other hand, an anarchist can be a collectivist philosophically and be an individualist politically, thinking that the collective would be the best off in an anarcho-individualist system.

By espousing anarchism (opposition to the state, relations of domination, and exploitation), they are simply anarchist, it is not the case that one is "more anarchist" then the other, they are equally anarchist by virtue of espousing anarchism.

But anarchism is a specifically class-struggle politics - by putting "anarcho-individualism" in the same boat as say, anarcho-syndicalism or anarchist communism, you're creating a fuzzy category that doesn't really cohere, whose sub-ideologies have at best superficial commonalities (i.e. opposition to capitalism and the state.) Class-struggle anarchism, the only type of anarchism if we are to commit ourselves to a clear and useful definition of the word, sees a meaningful individuality as emerging from social solidarity. Compare this to the individualists, who seem to define individuality as standing against others and freedom emerging from lack of constraint by others. Individualism and class-struggle anarchism are two completely different worldviews, despite superficial similiarities. As I said, "anarcho-individualism" is closer to classical liberalism than to the broad socialist/labor tradition (which encompasses anarchism.)

The result of trying to force two quite different ideologies into one label contributes to the common perception of anarchism as incoherent and self-contradictory. Black Flame makes a good argument in favor of limiting the definition of "anarchism" in the interests of getting to the essence of the movement and understanding its claims.

Firebrand
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Aug 26 2014 00:00
cresspot wrote:
Apple is right (I think), indies usually have in common Stirner as their anarchist forefather, but there are really plenty of ways to appropriate that philosophy. And his "union of egos" from what I know is not anti-social or anti-collectivist even. But the egoistic indie will see revolution as an ego-driven matter... not in the sense of leggo my eggo, but individual will power and desire being realized en masse (rather than a collectively centered realization of class desire). That's egoist anarchism which seems to be the most serious individualist anarchism.

Stirner's 'union of egoists' may or may not be anti-collectivist as such, but a society based on solidarity deriving from this conception starts at the level of the idealized, atomized individual, as opposed to the class-struggle anarchist starting point of social ties among individuals - not to mention that Stirnerism completely lacks a class analysis. From a 'union of egoists' it's disturbingly easy to arrive at possessive individualism and ultimately neoliberalism (or 'libertarianism' as neoliberalism is called in the US.) Even the classical anarchist writers, such as Kropotkin, saw the fundamental incompatibility between individualist and class-struggle anarchism (calling Stirnerism "misanthropic bourgeois individualism".)

And quite frankly, the idea that anarchism supposedly struggles over the individual vs. social dilemma isn't as meaningful as it may appear - in fact, that's the central dilemma of all Western political philosophy.

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Chilli Sauce
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Aug 26 2014 08:52

Good post, Firebrand.

Quote:
'libertarianism' as neoliberalism is called in the US.

Hmmm...I don't know. While the two aren't unrelated, neo-liberalism is the capitalist response to a weak global working class, an attempt to claw back half a century of social democratic working class gains.

"Libertarianism", on the other hand, is a fairly fringe ideological movement that seeks to remove all restraints on capital and wraps it all up in the language of American "freedom". What "libertarianism" would look like in practice is a different question, but if it followed through on all it's rhetoric, it would actually remove much of the stabilizing influence the state plays within class society. Even the architects of neo-liberalism are smart enough not to go that far.

[/end semantic derail]

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Aug 26 2014 11:42
Firebrand wrote:
But anarchism is a specifically class-struggle politics - by putting "anarcho-individualism" in the same boat as say, anarcho-syndicalism or anarchist communism, you're creating a fuzzy category that doesn't really cohere, whose sub-ideologies have at best superficial commonalities (i.e. opposition to capitalism and the state.) Class-struggle anarchism, the only type of anarchism if we are to commit ourselves to a clear and useful definition of the word, sees a meaningful individuality as emerging from social solidarity. Compare this to the individualists, who seem to define individuality as standing against others and freedom emerging from lack of constraint by others. Individualism and class-struggle anarchism are two completely different worldviews, despite superficial similiarities. As I said, "anarcho-individualism" is closer to classical liberalism than to the broad socialist/labor tradition (which encompasses anarchism.)

The result of trying to force two quite different ideologies into one label contributes to the common perception of anarchism as incoherent and self-contradictory. Black Flame makes a good argument in favor of limiting the definition of "anarchism" in the interests of getting to the essence of the movement and understanding its claims.

It's like you didn't even read my message. I've clearly mentioned the definition of anarchism and explained what it means for anarchists to be individualists/ collectivists politically and/or philosophically.

You are in fact even more wrong then I explained in the last message, because when push comes to shove, anarchism is primarily an individualist ideology- because if one thinks that tenets of anarchism (no state, no domination, no exploitation) can be violated over some individuals for the benefit of the collective, he is not an anarchist. For example, there's a big difference between anarcho-communists and left-communists, even though we all agree on "no domination", "no exploiation", and even on the prefered method of economic organization in a society free of domination and exploiation (namely- communism), the difference is in the notion of "no state"- anarchists are not for forcing people into communes, we are for free association, and there's no free association if you have only one choice. As Malatesta said: "Imposed communism would be the most detestable tyranny that the human mind could conceive. And free and voluntary communism is ironical if one has not the possibility to live in a different regime - collectivist, mutualist, individualist - as one wishes, always on condition that there is no oppression or exploitation of others."

augustynww
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Aug 26 2014 12:29
greenjuice wrote:
anarchism is primarily an individualist ideology- because if one thinks that tenets of anarchism (no state, no domination, no exploitation) can be violated over some individuals for the benefit of the collective, he is not an anarchist.

but on the other hand if one thinks that there could be egoist violations for the benefit of an individual at the cost of others, the collective, he is not an anarchist either.
So, anarchism is not "primarily individualist"; it's primarily collectivist but it take into account the individual (in contrast to authoritarian or totalitarian communists, leninists/stalinists where individuals are totally subordinated to "collective" in the form of state)

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Aug 26 2014 12:54
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So, anarchism is not "primarily individualist"; it's primarily collectivist but it take into account the individual (in contrast to authoritarian or totalitarian communists, leninists/stalinists where individuals are totally subordinated to "collective" in the form of state)

So, in anarchism, the individual is not "totally" subordinated to the collective, but in a lesser degree? Sorry, but you're talking about left-communism, not anarchism.

Anarchism is primary individualist- e.g. in an anarcho-communist system- as long as you don't oppress or exploit anyone, you can do whatever you want, produce individually, trade, use money, you will not be forced into the communist system, it will be voluntary communism, Bakunin even held that you should be allowed to exploit people if they voluntarily accept it.

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Chilli Sauce
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Aug 26 2014 13:01

That's not strictly true though, Greenjuice. People wouldn't be allowed to employ others, for example, regardless of whether they or anyone else view it as oppression or exploitation.

And, in general, I think it's important to recognize the communism (which is the end goal of anarchism) will not be a society without rules - people won't be able to do whatever they want. Although I do agree that if people want to produce individually, they can, just don't expect to get anything back from the collective.

radicalgraffiti
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Aug 26 2014 13:14

what burkunin thought cant be taken to be authoritative on what anarchism is or is not

augustynww
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Aug 26 2014 15:21

One can agree with Bakunin or not in some points but according to Bakunin society, ie. the collective, creates individuals and creates freedom of individuals. There is no individual without society and in society there are always some rules therefore "absolute individual liberty is absolute non-being". But the issue is if those rules are "natural" as Bakunin called it (social, bottom-up etc) or imposed on one part of this society, ruled classes, by ruling classes through the state (political, religious laws) - rules created to exploit the masses.
"Solidarity is not the product but the mother of individuality" - What is more fundamental in this fragment, collective or individuality?

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Aug 26 2014 18:49

The goal of communism is to overthrow capitalism as a world-order, which is not to uproot all exploitation. That would be impossible and could only be attempted by a huge state that would have to exterminate or imprison every reactionary. Instead, communism is the international working class overcoming the Bourgeoisie and instituting collectivist modes of living. But revolution and reaction depends on individuals working with other individuals, so it's an inherently uneven geographical process that must become territorial. Otherwise we'd just be imperialists dressed in red, comrades.

Firebrand
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Aug 27 2014 03:15
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Good post, Firebrand.

Quote:
'libertarianism' as neoliberalism is called in the US.

Hmmm...I don't know. While the two aren't unrelated, neo-liberalism is the capitalist response to a weak global working class, an attempt to claw back half a century of social democratic working class gains.

"Libertarianism", on the other hand, is a fairly fringe ideological movement that seeks to remove all restraints on capital and wraps it all up in the language of American "freedom". What "libertarianism" would look like in practice is a different question, but if it followed through on all it's rhetoric, it would actually remove much of the stabilizing influence the state plays within class society. Even the architects of neo-liberalism are smart enough not to go that far.

[/end semantic derail]

I was being slightly hyperbolic. But, as you said, there are many clear parallels between the two; and as I see it, right-neoliberalism overlaps even more considerably with "libertarianism." What drives me nuts is when people act as though "libertarianism" is some cutting-edge, outside-the-box, anti-establishment political ideology when in fact it's just about as 'establishment' as you can possibly get. It's essentially sociopathy dressed up as a political doctrine, and little more.

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Aug 27 2014 08:18

Well, comrade, I don't think you have to worry too much about those sentiments here on libcom.

boomerang
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Aug 27 2014 16:20

I've sen the label of individualist anarchism gets slapped on at least three very different political orientations: lifestyle anarchist, "anarcho"-capitalist, and class struggle anarchists who are anti-democracy (not just the bullshit electoralism, but direct democracy). I think the last type are not that different from the folks you tend to find here on Libcom. They just think that all decisions should either be made by (a) the individual, or (b) consensus. Their critiques of direct democracy are actually quite good, but I still favor it for decisions that affect a large number of people (while I don't mind consensus for small groups), because the alternative proposed by individualists seems unworkable to me. But I still think they're proper anarchists, despite the differences of opinion in that area.

There's a thread about this here (17 posts so not super long) http://libcom.org/forums/general/lib-commies-where-we-often-disagree-part-1-democracy-vs-liberty-06052014

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Aug 27 2014 16:48
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But I still think they're proper anarchists, despite the differences of opinion in that area

Nah, you're wrong mate.

boomerang
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Aug 27 2014 18:36
plasmatelly wrote:
Quote:
But I still think they're proper anarchists, despite the differences of opinion in that area

Nah, you're wrong mate.

Because they're opposed to democracy? I always thought being anti-state, anti-capitalist, anti-oppression (against racism, sexism, etc.), and pro class struggle was enough to qualify as an anarchist. You think that being pro-democracy is another requirement?

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Aug 27 2014 18:44

Nobody said that anarcho-communists are the only proper anarchists.

However, obviously they are the only ones worth being taken seriously.

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Aug 27 2014 18:46

Also as evidenced by Libcom many anarcho-commies don't consider just anybody who circles their 'A' a comrade.

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Aug 27 2014 18:56
Gepetto wrote:
Also as evidenced by Libcom many anarcho-commies don't consider just anybody who circles their 'A' a comrade.

I always used to appreciate a well crafted circled A but experience has taught me that almost without exception, anyone sporting one knows absolutely nothing about anarchism. Come to think of it, I've scraped, painted and penned hundreds of the bloody things myself over the years - what more proof do you want?!

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Aug 27 2014 18:57

Well first off, class struggle anarchists are not anti-democratic - anti-elected representative, anti-parliament, anti-deferring decision making to officials, but not ant-democratic (I appreciate you probably mean this, but it doesn't do us favours to call us anti-democratic IMO).
Lifestyle anarchist - though there are sceney people in the anarchist ranks, it isn't a school of political thought!
Next - consensus versus democratic federated process - well, fair enough if you are tiny and know everyone.. not so good when you are a collection of groups that don't know each other - and who just wants to always be so small that you suffer consensus all the time?
Lastly - class struggle anarchism as a school of socialist thought differs from others that are anti-state, anti-oppression and pro-class struggle - look at the difference between some of the left com groups and the anarchist groups hat post on here; very similar in the respects you point out - and more that you didn't - but enough to be so different in other respects. Fortunately, we have the looks.

boomerang
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Aug 27 2014 20:48
Gepetto wrote:
Nobody said that anarcho-communists are the only proper anarchists.

I'm not an expert on this stuff, but I've chatted (online) with anarcho-communists who were opposed to democracy... again, not just the "democracy" of elected governments, but also direct democracy.

plasmatelly wrote:
Next - consensus versus democratic federated process - well, fair enough if you are tiny and know everyone.. not so good when you are a collection of groups that don't know each other - and who just wants to always be so small that you suffer consensus all the time?

Yeah, that's why I favor (direct) democracy, and think that their proposed alternative to (direct) democracy is unworkable. So I disagree with them on this. But they were communists, anti-state, and believed we need class struggle and revolution to bring this about. Can't see why they wouldn't be considered anarchists. (And it's interesting to note that they questioned my legitimacy as an anarchist for not rejecting direct democracy!)

Their ideas of how class struggle and revolution would unfold are obviously different from what those who are pro-democracy have in mind. I didn't ask them, but I imagine they'd think it would happen through the lose coordination of small affinity groups.

plasmatelly wrote:
Lastly - class struggle anarchism as a school of socialist thought differs from others that are anti-state, anti-oppression and pro-class struggle -....

I'm not read up on the history or distinguishing schools of thought, beyond having read Black Flame some years back. Surprising to me that "class struggle anarchism" is different from those who are "anti-state, anti-oppression and pro-class struggle", but I'll take your word on it.

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Aug 27 2014 22:11

I've got to be honest, I can't imagine society or organisations functioning anarchisticly without democracy. I mean, if you want to be pedantic, you could perhaps argue that federalism isn't strictly democratic as it isn't one-person, one-vote, but it's still based on the concept of grassroots control and everyone having an equal voice. Heck, even consensus, despite it's many, many shortcomings, it's still an attempt on collective control. To not call these things democratic just strikes me as semantics.

Firebrand
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Aug 28 2014 00:00
greenjuice wrote:
It's like you didn't even read my message.

I very much did read your message; in fact, I thought I was responding to it point-by-point. The issue is that you and I are using different definitions of "anarchism". You are using the classic definition, which centers on an antistatism, derived from a general antiauthoritarianism on individualist grounds. I find this definition quite wanting, and am replacing it with a narrower, more refined, and more useful one - one which admittedly brings the meaning of "anarchism" close to left-communism. I see no problem with this, since the mainstream of anarchism has always focused on the class struggle and been involved with the labor movement, whereas the so-called "individualist anarchists" are, and have always been, marginal at best.

greenjuice wrote:
...because if one thinks that tenets of anarchism (no state, no domination, no exploitation) can be violated over some individuals for the benefit of the collective, he is not an anarchist.

Given your definition, it is understandable that you see anarchism as primarily individualistic. It's interesting that "no state" is the first thing that you mention when defining anarchism - as I said above, the classical definition of anarchism, which you seem to subscribe to, is primarily antistatist and secondarily opposed to hierarchy in general, at best. I would strongly disagree that the idealized, atomized individual is the unit of analysis of anarchism, as you suggest. The core of anarchism is about egalitarian social relations, diffusion of all types of power, and solidarity - not the absolute inviolability of individual wills. Domination relations are basically inevitable if your ideology is that one person's gain is another's loss, as you seem to, at least implicitly.

greenjuice wrote:
For example, there's a big difference between anarcho-communists and left-communists, even though we all agree on "no domination", "no exploiation", and even on the prefered method of economic organization in a society free of domination and exploiation (namely- communism), the difference is in the notion of "no state"- anarchists are not for forcing people into communes, we are for free association, and there's no free association if you have only one choice

Left-Marxism/left-communism to me shades quite readily into class-struggle anarchism. Putting aside all the dialectical mumbo-jumbo and teleological view of history, they occupy pretty much the same ideological space. Communist anarchists like Kropotkin or Malatesta are closer to say, Rosa Luxemburg, than to someone like Max Stirner. I don't know where you get the idea that left-Marxists are all about forcing communism on people - it's a very different type of Marxism from the Leninism that you're likely thinking of. Left-Marxists are very much about revolution from below, worker self-management, free communes, etc. You're simply mischaracterizing the movement. Look up council communism and tell me whether it sounds more like Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, or Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Malatesta.

Firebrand
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Aug 28 2014 00:14
Webby wrote:
Gepetto wrote:
Also as evidenced by Libcom many anarcho-commies don't consider just anybody who circles their 'A' a comrade.

I always used to appreciate a well crafted circled A but experience has taught me that almost without exception, anyone sporting one knows absolutely nothing about anarchism. Come to think of it, I've scraped, painted and penned hundreds of the bloody things myself over the years - what more proof do you want?!

I've had the same impression for as long as I've been familiar with anarchism, that the circle-A crowd is more lifestylist than socialist. Dropping out of society, rather than fighting to transform it, seems to be their MO. They're a large part of the reason for the negative connotation of "anarchism".

Firebrand
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Aug 28 2014 00:29
boomerang wrote:
They just think that all decisions should either be made by (a) the individual, or (b) consensus. Their critiques of direct democracy are actually quite good, but I still favor it for decisions that affect a large number of people (while I don't mind consensus for small groups), because the alternative proposed by individualists seems unworkable to me. But I still think they're proper anarchists, despite the differences of opinion in that area.

There are very obvious problems with insisting that all decisions must be made only by individuals, or by consensus. Individual decisions need no further approval, and do not need to be weighed against the will or decisions of others, if we're talking about a private matter only affecting the person in question. But as soon as we get to decisions affecting multiple persons, we need to find a way to balance the various claims in order to give everyone an equal say. One person, one vote. Consensus may be fine for small groups, but for larger groups it is simply impracticable and frankly antidemocratic in practice. It discourages dissent and destroys a lively and productive forum for self-management essential for settling competing claims of multiple parties. Consensus is just as, if not more, prone to coercive manipulation than majority-rule. I see nothing particularly libertarian about rigidly insisting on consensus for all situations.