No Cheers For Anarchism Sheri Berman ▪ Fall 2015

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Dec 22 2015 20:17
No Cheers For Anarchism Sheri Berman ▪ Fall 2015

I'm sorry to post this, but I just read this article and I'm so frustrated with the supposed 'intellectuals' who write suposedly critical articles which in the end only serve to enforce the current political discourse. This article in Dissent magazine has nothing to do with Dissent - more with policing dissent.

The introduction says already a lot....

"What are the uses of anarchism? The short answer is “not many.” Although anarchists have often been motivated by worthy aspirations and occasionally raised awareness of crucial issues, in general, anarchism is an ineffective way of improving the world. Anarchists are better dreamers than doers, and politics is the art of the possible. Although it may disappoint many on the left, a successful movement requires compromise, organization, and yes, even leadership, to actually get things done."

And later even:

"While these movements did raise important issues—most notably the need to go beyond the political and economic achievements of the postwar order to consider social problems and injustices as well—they also exhibited some notable pathologies. Some praised the likes of Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, and Fidel Castro—hardly icons of freedom—and showed scorn for public opinion and for the “masses” who didn’t share their vision of the world. "

Which is truly ridiculous!

Check the whole article: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/no-cheers-anarchism

I've send a pissed off mail to Dissent magazine to ask why they even published this. Because even from a liberal perspective its just highly suggestive, stereotyping and historically incorrect. I'm curious what you folks think.

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Dec 22 2015 20:44

Total crap - none of it unprecedented or original.

Anarchists are better dreamers than doer.

This is classic. A truly ancient shit-hearted jab (at libertarians more generally) that probably owes it's existence to French liberals in the 1700s - maybe even assholes further back. It's been handed down from fuckhead to fuckhead for centuries and continues to be employed from barrooms to blogs by the indiscriminate (in terms of argument strength and quality) blow-hard. I'm always disappointed to see this historical artifact surface - seems the internet is it's favorite haunt nowadays.

Your other selection from the article is almost unbelievably shit - incoherent even. Who were these anarchists? Why do these individuals carry so much weight in a broad, historic understanding of anarchism? Despite all the wacky bullshit orbiting the tendency over the years - there is a traceable and coherent class-struggle position that reaches further back than the coining of the term.

Anyway, good on you writing that letter. Hope they offer a chance for published response.

Having looked at the 'about us' section of their site they don't seem keen on having coherent politics. Instead, they are 'leading intellectuals' or something - apparently pontificating on whatever bullshit struck them while they were on the john.

syndicalist
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Dec 23 2015 00:07

For the most part I agree with this for a majority of anarchists who have come and gone thru the ranks:

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Anarchists are better dreamers than doer.

radicalgraffiti
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Dec 23 2015 00:18

aye, but that also applies to marxists

syndicalist
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Dec 23 2015 00:32
radicalgraffiti wrote:
aye, but that also applies to marxists

Maybe, I'm not a Marxist......but there's no doubt in my my this cuts across lots of radicals boundaries

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Dec 25 2015 08:27

Actually I don't agree on this at all. In my circles the problem I run into is that most people are more doers then thinkers (dreamers) which lead to the problem people lack a good analysis. This is why this article also annoys me so much as well, its so generalizing.

Next, it focusses on things which I think are very weird, saying that anarchists most important role was in the Paris Commune?! I mean, there were certainly anarchists active, and they also played an important role, but other radicals did too. Next, it neglects the many labourstruggle-movements from South-America to Asia, the Ukrainian anarchists and Spanish ones who were no dreamers - they had a practice and took shit over - they had a dream (which we all need) and seeked to realize it (and did so).

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Dec 24 2015 03:56

The parts on the interwar socialist parties and the Spanish Civil War are just completely wrong. Like I'm amazed any editor would let that shit through.

Apparently whenever you write about anarchism you don't have to have any knowledge of its history or theory or read anything written by anarchists...

rooieravotr
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Jan 2 2016 19:19

Actually, the article is wholly in line with what Dissent Magazine is all about: a left-sounding, but thoroughly anti-radical publication, created and built by anti-Communist former radicals like Irving Howe during the Cold War 1950s. It is very mildly social democratic at best (and we know what social democrats think about anarchists). In the 1960s the thing excelled in attacking the radical New Left movement of those days., attacking opponents of the Vietnam War of being one-sided and so on. It provides some left cover for people who are actually hardly more than liberals. Of course they attack anything that is even a bit radical. That is what the whole thing is about. The whole name Dissent is a misnomer: they dissent mainly from any serious dissent. They indeed police it, as WithDefiance notices in his original post.

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Jan 3 2016 14:55

WD, I'd be curious to see your the response you sent.

I think the problem with the original article isn't so much their presentation of anarchists. Having spent a lot of time around the US anarchist scene, a lot of that shit rings true. And even with explicitly class struggle anarchists, we're often better at articulating an idea than we are at putting it into practice.

The problem is their conception of what makes for successful politics:

Quote:
Although it may disappoint many on the left, a successful movement requires compromise, organization, and yes, even leadership, to actually get things done.

And, let's be honest here, when they talk of "organization" or "leadership", they mean hierarchical organization and leadership.

So even if Dissent Magazine were (because the author definitely doesn't) to engage with class struggle anarchist ideas and groups, their fundamental approach to politics is going to keep them from developing a worthwhile analysis of anarchism.

Jschul05
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Jan 4 2016 02:45

Agreed that the Dissent article we're talking about was pretty pathetic in its treatment of anarchism.

But did folks see the Sitrin defense of anarchism in the same issue? It was bad in a different way--a largely vacuous engagement with the political power and nature of anarchism today.

I've often found--recently at least--some poor defenses of anarchism. Did anyone catch David Harvey's argument with Simon Springer? Springer's rejoinder too was rather weak.

Seems like Graeber has a significantly more complex defense going on. But not as powerful as it could be.

This is all to say that the problem seems to be not only that the same old tired critiques of anarchism keep getting trotted out, but also that defenses of a. Are frequently a problem.

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Jan 6 2016 05:37
Quote:
This is all to say that the problem seems to be not only that the same old tired critiques of anarchism keep getting trotted out, but also that defenses of a. Are frequently a problem.

The problem is that whenever publications like Dissent grab someone to "defend" anarchism, they get individualists, academics, or celebrity leftists who describe anarchism in an unclear way and end it up making it sound more like radical liberalism...

Groups/people that understand class struggle and libertarian socialism as central to anarchism are almost never talked to.

xx
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Jan 22 2016 21:14

That this article is nonsense doesn't detract from the fundamental fact that anarchism is dead as a useful political current, probably globally; although I don't know enough to be 100% sure it's not a going concern in Eritrea or somewhere.

What of use to working people have anarchists achieved since the failed revolution of Spain?

Sure there's been a few successful stunts and some short lived movements like Argentina in 01 that have utilised much good Libertarian influenced ideas, but apart from that?

Isn't it time those of us who believe working class people need to get organised and take power where possible develop new and relevant models?

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Jan 22 2016 21:18
Quote:
What of use to working people have anarchists achieved since the failed revolution of Spain?

You can say that about any political current.

Quote:
Isn't it time those of us who believe working class people need to get organised and take power where possible develop new and relevant models?

By all means. What do you think people are actually trying to do?

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Jan 24 2016 11:31

xx is part of a very small UK political network titled 'workers self organisation' apparently just set-up with a public face from individuals it claims from a variety of past anarchist/socialist organisations with which they have become disillusioned. They appear to want to map out networks and engage with people in the existing institutions of capitalist society from NGO's to trade unions and churches etc, presumably with 'ordinary workers' rather than what they regard as the sort of individuals like us who post here. Difficult to see at this stage what their practice might involve or produce of value but perhaps xx will still engage with contributors on libcom later with a more developed set of arguments based on their experience? If so I'm sure they would be welcomed then.

Anarcho
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Jan 24 2016 11:38

That was a piss-poor article -- quite shocking that it is being presented as part of a discussion! It says more about the non-anarchist "the left" than about anarchism, I would say.

Historically illerate (the Paris Commune was not anarchist even if it had some anarchistic elements -- as argued by anarchists!) nor was a Tzar assassinated by an anarchist (they were Russian Populists). As for the "New Left", well, some elements may have been libertarian but not the ones singing the praises of the totalitarians like Castro, Mao, etc.

So lots of guilt-by-association which just shows a basic unawareness of anarchism or its history -- which, as I said, says more about the author and the editors of that journal than anarchism.

Ultimately, our job is to show what anarchism really stands for by means of popular struggle, organisation and theory.

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Jan 24 2016 11:44

What, so you mean xx wasn't just posting when bladdered on a Saturday night???

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Jan 25 2016 05:35

There's many reasons to disown anarchism, however not anarchism in itself. If you have given up on anarchism it does not mean you should disown other people's anarchism.