'Official Anarchism'

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Devrim
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Jan 10 2010 15:40
'Official Anarchism'

There were some comments on the ICC's use of the term 'official anarchism' on another thread:
http://libcom.org/forums/theory/im-looking-some-direction-05012010

The term comes, as people probably know, from the ICC's basic positions:

ICC wrote:
All factions of the bourgeoisie are equally reactionary. All the so-called ‘workers’, ‘Socialist’ and ‘Communist’ parties (now ex-’Communists’), the leftist organisations (Trotskyists, Maoists and ex-Maoists, official anarchists) constitute the left of capitalism’s political apparatus. All the tactics of ‘popular fronts’, ‘anti-fascist fronts’ and ‘united fronts’, which mix up the interests of the proletariat with those of a faction of the bourgeoisie, serve only to smother and derail the struggle of the proletariat.

I would like to comment on one of the point made there without derailing that thread.

Vlad336 wrote:
And official anarchists means anarchists who are part of an anarchist organization, not WW2 collaborationists.

No, it doesn't. It means the anarchist groups which took part in supporting the allies in WWII. I don't think that it is a good term or particularly clear, but that is what it was supposed to mean. I imagine that, like a lot of ICC terms it came from the French, and referred to the Fédération anarchiste, hence official anarchism, and was intended to differentiate criticism of that from other groups.

Devrim

Boris Badenov
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Jan 10 2010 16:25

if that's what it actually means, unclear is a bit of an understatement. Since when does "official" mean "collaborated with the state during WW2" in French or any other language? And given that the ICC's criticism extends to today's AF and other anarchist organizations, I don't think my inference was that far-fetched.
Is there such a thing as "unofficial anarchism" btw, and if so how does the ICC define it and what does it make of it?

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Jan 10 2010 17:53
Jack wrote:
Devrim - is that the definite "official line",

The "official line" is those anarchists that supported the war.

Jack wrote:
An ICC member on here (can't remember who and can't find the post, but it may have been Alf) has definitely defined it as being IAF/IWA sections in the past

Yes, I think very few people in the ICC have much knowledge of the anarchist movement at all. I think that a lot of them would be pressed to explain who 'official anarchists' are.

Vlad wrote:
if that's what it actually means, unclear is a bit of an understatement.

I never said that the ICC were masters of explaining themselves well. Actually, I think we are often very poor at it. This is just one example.

Vlad wrote:
Since when does "official" mean "collaborated with the state during WW2" in French or any other language?

It doesn't. The term comes from deeming the French anarchist federation 'official anarchism', and might have actually been understood in France at the time. I certainly don't think that it has translated to different countries very well.

Vlad wrote:
And given that the ICC's criticism extends to today's AF and other anarchist organizations, I don't think my inference was that far-fetched.

Well, when we don't explain things clearly, people end up having to infer things, far fetched or not.

I think that there is a difference between criticism, and declaring that somebody is the 'left-wing of capital'. The text you referred to on the other thread ( http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2009/07/Solfed-AF-unions-debate ) is harsh on the AF's position paper. It does actually refer to anarchist as 'comrades' though.

Vlad wrote:
]Is there such a thing as "unofficial anarchism" btw, and if so how does the ICC define it and what does it make of it?

I think that originally it meant not the FA. I think that the term itself needs to go really as does some of our other terminology. We need to be more clear about what we are saying.

Devrim

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Jan 10 2010 21:50

This piece is genuinely terrible, though. And the "View related topics:
Political currents and reference >> Leftism >> "Official" anarchism >> Anarchist Federation" bit would seem to confirm that you see the AF as both leftists and official anarchists. And claiming that "The degree to which the AF has broken with its leftist past can be measured by their position on the trade unions that is virtually indistinguishable from the typical leftist approach." is just completely inexplicable.

RedHughs
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Jan 10 2010 22:18

I can get some rough understanding out of the term "official anarchism". There are brands of anarchism that can seem fairly indistinguishable from a left-close-to-trotskyism position.

But the term "official anarchism" is still just not very accurate.

I think the ICC gets into trouble by talking about phenomena that have some validity but speaking loosely at the same time. When they get criticized for this, they sometimes circle the wagons and defend their terms rather than looking for a clearer way to express their ideas. Clearly explaining their ideas would work better.

Official anarchism might be replaced in the original ICC text by "anarchists aspiring to official recognition within the left". I would say just making this substitution is better than get embroiled in terminology arguments.

Once you're using a somewhat accurate terminology, talking about where the different groups are going would be easier.

Anarcho
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Jan 10 2010 22:45

"anarchists aspiring to official recognition within the left"?

As opposed to those who give weirdos on the ultra-left the time of day?

Black Badger
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Jan 10 2010 22:48

I would agree with Red, especially considering the fuller context of the diss at "official anarchism" being included with Trotskyists and (ex-)Maoists. Too many self-described anarchists are creepily cozy not only with individual Trots and Maoists, but also tactically and ideologically with their groups. The desire to be an indispensable part of The Left is one of the most serious dividing lines distinguishing anarchists from each other. The coalition builders, the popular frontists, the ones who are happy to be arrested, the ones who lobby for improved media coverage/reception... they are the ones who should be avoided. Even if they call themselves "class struggle" anarchists, they seem to have little understanding of the class position of Leftists as the left-wing of capital...

nastyned
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Jan 10 2010 23:18

The ICC has described the AF as 'anarchist defenders of capitalism' and 'the bourgeoisie masquerading as proletarians' so if they write other shite about us it's hardly inexplicable. It's just their standard operating procedure.

And what I've read about French anarchism during World War 2 I don't think the ICC's line has any basis in reality either. Certainly despite very poor health Voline, who I know is a big influence on the French speaking Anarchist Federation, was actively engaged in putting out internationalist propganda against the capitalist states on both sides.

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Jan 10 2010 23:44
Farce wrote:
This piece is genuinely terrible, though. And the "View related topics:
Political currents and reference >> Leftism >> "Official" anarchism >> Anarchist Federation" bit would seem to confirm that you see the AF as both leftists and official anarchists. And claiming that "The degree to which the AF has broken with its leftist past can be measured by their position on the trade unions that is virtually indistinguishable from the typical leftist approach." is just completely inexplicable.
nastyned wrote:
The ICC has described the AF as 'anarchist defenders of capitalism' and 'the bourgeoisie masquerading as proletarians' so if they write other shite about us it's hardly inexplicable. It's just their standard operating procedure.

As I understand it from conversations with members of the UK section of the ICC in the spring, they have reconsidered their position on the AF, and decided that they had mischarecterised them, and that they were not a 'leftist' group. They were talking about writing an article about it, and I suggested calling it, "We are sorry we have been wrong for the last twenty years". I think they thought I was joking. I wasn't. The article, as far as I know, hasn't appeared yet.

nastyned wrote:
And what I've read about French anarchism during World War 2 I don't think the ICC's line has any basis in reality either. Certainly despite very poor health Voline, who I know is a big influence on the French speaking Anarchist Federation, was actively engaged in putting out internationalist propganda against the capitalist states on both sides.

Yes, actually Voline worked together with Marc Chirik from the ICC, who also took German lessons, which he didn't really want from Voline as he was too proud to just accept money from Marc.

I think that you will find though that there were many anarchists in France who did support the allies in the Second World War.

Devrim

Black Badger
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Jan 10 2010 23:48

Not just in France. Most famously, Rudolf Rocker supported the Allies.

RedHughs
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Jan 11 2010 02:31
Quote:
As I understand it from conversations with members of the UK section of the ICC in the spring, they have reconsidered their position on the AF, and decided that they had mischarecterised them, and that they were not a 'leftist' group. They were talking about writing an article about it, and I suggested calling it, "We are sorry we have been wrong for the last twenty years". I think they thought I was joking. I wasn't. The article, as far as I know, hasn't appeared yet

Hey, I think the new blood in the ICC might be working...

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Jan 11 2010 10:06

I agree that this wording is poor and inaccurate.

It seems that sorting this out and picking more accurate terminology would go some way towards mending functional relations between internationalists.

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Jan 12 2010 11:31
Steven. wrote:
It seems that sorting this out and picking more accurate terminology would go some way towards mending functional relations between internationalists.

Yes, I think that it would. It is not as easy as it sounds though. I don't know for sure but I presume that changes to the basic positions would have to be made an an international congress, which only takes places every two years, so even if you had full agreement, and had worked it out linguistically in all of the languages we publish in, it still couldn't be done tomorrow.

Devrim

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Jan 12 2010 15:03

It comes to me somehow strange how revolutionary anarchists here see "official anarchism" as offending. Personally I think official anarchism is clearly implying a relation with collaborationism and probably it might even first "invented" by anarchists like Baluis of Friends of Durruti against the CNT and not Left Communists themselves;

http://recollectionbooks.com/anow/arch/tafr/
http://www.spunk.org/texts/places/spain/sp001780/

Obviously there is not any government anarchists in existance right now but as many people here said anarchists aspiring for "official recognition" within left is not a phenomenon of distant past. In fact probably in countries where anarchism is relatively weaker such as turkey, one of the most important problem of anarchism is finding themselves isolated and thus vacilliating between left and marginal activism. So I find this term still very relevant. If ICC changes this term I think that would not be the result of an "opening towards anarchism" because as far as I can observe it is actually -maybe also with the CWO- the most open organization in communist left towards the anarchists.

Boris Badenov
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Jan 12 2010 15:13
mikail wrote:
It comes to me somehow strange how revolutionary anarchists here see "official anarchism" as offending. Personally I think official anarchism is clearly implying a relation with collaborationism

Sorry mikail but it really is not clear for anyone not versed in the details of the Spanish Revolution, which is most people in the "proletarian milieu" (awful name btw, you should change that one first.). I certainly had no idea that CNT collaborationists were called "official anarchists" (and I'm still not sure whether that was a derogatory/ironic name that others gave them or if they called themselves that; the former I assume). At the very least you could explain exactly what you mean by adding a footnote in that article. You should also say whether official anarchism is an entirely historical development or whether you see it as extending to today's anarchism (in particular the IWA-affiliated groups and other non-platformist groups).

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Jan 12 2010 18:10
Quote:
Sorry mikail but it really is not clear for anyone not versed in the details of the Spanish Revolution,

When I was an anarchist there was basically three historical moments that defined my positions, 1st International- Paris Commune, Russian Revolution and Spanish civil war. So I generally tend to think that the experiences of FoD was really important and crucial for anarchists. Sorry if I am mistaken.

Quote:
you should change that one first

Obviously it is ICC's concern first. Not mine

Quote:
I certainly had no idea that CNT collaborationists were called "official anarchists" (

I did not say that. But probably this line of reasoning first belonged to anarchist revolutionaries like Berneri and FoD. I might be wrong though... I hope I am not.

Quote:
in particular the IWA-affiliated groups and other non-platformist groups).

I can speak only for myself since I am not in ICC; I am impressed by the activities of groups like IWA and AF. When I was an anarchists my comrades -and at first me too- were more inclined towards a WSM kind of a platformism; At that time IWA or AF was much more less appearent -at least for us-. As far as I can follow IWA and AF which are clearly internationalist are getting stronger and I regard that as a positive development - clearly related to the relative strengthening of working class strugles.

Mark.
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Jan 13 2010 15:44

Just out of curiosity - I'm not thinking about joining - but would the ICC accept members who called themselves anarchists? I'm assuming it isn't necessary to be Marxist as I think Devrim has stated somewhere that he wouldn't call himself a Marxist.

I can think of a couple of groups with fairly coherent politics that had both anarchist and Marxist members. Stinas' group in Greece and the old Solidarity group in Britain are two that come to mind.

nastyned
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Jan 13 2010 17:21

The ICC is very much a Marxist organisation.

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Jan 13 2010 18:35
Quote:
can speak only for myself since I am not in ICC;

since no one else will, i'll bite. a very short honeymoon then?

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Jan 13 2010 20:59
nastyned wrote:
The ICC is very much a Marxist organisation.

Yes, it is.

JH wrote:
Just out of curiosity - I'm not thinking about joining - but would the ICC accept members who called themselves anarchists? I'm assuming it isn't necessary to be Marxist as I think Devrim has stated somewhere that he wouldn't call himself a Marxist.

I can think of a couple of groups with fairly coherent politics that had both anarchist and Marxist members. Stinas' group in Greece and the old Solidarity group in Britain are two that come to mind.

No, I have never described myself as a Marxist. I don't like the term at all. I haven't described myself as an anarchist for a couple of decades either though. Membership of the ICC is open to those in political agreement with its platform, if that answers your question.

Devrim

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Jan 13 2010 23:26

Devrim;

Quote:
No, I have never described myself as a Marxist. I don't like the term at all. I haven't described myself as an anarchist for a couple of decades either though. Membership of the ICC is open to those in political agreement with its platform, if that answers your question.

ICC platform;

Quote:
Marxism is the fundamental theoretical acquisition of the proletarian struggle. It is on the basis of marxism that all the lessons of the proletarian struggle can be integrated into a coherent whole.

http://en.internationalism.org/node/606

confused

We have an old saying in turkish for that;

Bu ne yaman çelişki

ernie
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Jan 14 2010 22:07

Redhughs point is valid

Quote:

I can get some rough understanding out of the term "official anarchism". There are brands of anarchism that can seem fairly indistinguishable from a left-close-to-trotskyism position.

But the term "official anarchism" is still just not very accurate.

I think the ICC gets into trouble by talking about phenomena that have some validity but speaking loosely at the same time. When they get criticized for this, they sometimes circle the wagons and defend their terms rather than looking for a clearer way to express their ideas. Clearly explaining their ideas would work better.

Official anarchism might be replaced in the original ICC text by "anarchists aspiring to official recognition within the left". I would say just making this substitution is better than get embroiled in terminology arguments.

Once you're using a somewhat accurate terminology, talking about where the different groups are going would be easier.

We can form up the wagon's sometimes, and he is correct to say that we need to try and think of better ways of explaining what we mean at times.

To this end I would like to just take up his point

Quote:
"anarchists aspiring to official recognition within the left"

This is not too clear either, it imparts the idea that those defending the positions of the Left of Capital are seeking to do so to be accepted. Some of them may do this, but others would say they are hostile to the Left. So this does not really clarify things. The point we try to make in the Platform is that they adopted positions of the Left of capital, for whatever reason. It is a question of what positions you defend, above all around the question of internationalism, not intentions. As with other leftists, those anarchist that adopt the same general framework as the rest of the left, may have the best of intentions, but despite themselves end up defending state capitalism

It may worth quoting the whole of Point 13 of our Platform to explain this in greater detail

Quote:
All those parties or organisations which today defend, even ‘conditionally’ or ‘critically’, certain states or fractions of the bourgeoisie whether in the name of ‘socialism’, ‘democracy’, ‘anti-fascism’, ‘national independence’, the ‘united front’ or the ‘lesser evil’, which base their politics on the bourgeois electoral game, within the anti-working class activity of trade unionism or in the mystifications of self-management, are agents of capital. In particular, this is true of the Socialist and Communist parties.

These parties, which were once real vanguards of the world proletariat, have since undergone a process of degeneration which has led them into the capitalist camp. After the death as such (despite the formal survival of their structure) of the Internationals to which these parties belonged (2nd International for the socialists, 3rd International for the communists), they themselves survived to be progressively transformed, each one separately, into (often important) cogs in the bourgeois state apparatus in their respective countries, into faithful managers of the national capital.

This was the case with the socialist parties when in a period of subjection to the gangrene of opportunism and reformism, most of the main parties were led, at the outbreak of World War I (which marked the death of the 2nd International) to adopt, under the leadership of the social-chauvinist right which from then on was in the camp of the bourgeoisie, the policy of ‘national defence’, and then to oppose openly the post-war revolutionary wave, to the point of playing the role of the proletariat’s executioners, as in Germany 1919. The final integration of each of these parties into their respective bourgeois states took place at different moments in the period which followed the outbreak of World War I, but this process was definitively closed at the beg definitively closed at the beginning of the 1920s, when the last proletarian currents were eliminated from or left their ranks and joined the Communist International.

In the same way, the Communist Parties in their turn passed into the capitalist camp after a similar process of opportunist degeneration. This process, which had already begun during the early 1920s, continued after the death of the Communist International (marked by the adoption in 1928 of the theory of ‘Socialism in one country’), to conclude, despite bitter struggles by the left fractions and after the latter’s exclusion, in these parties’ complete integration into the capitalist state at the beginning of the 1930s with their participation in their respective bourgeoisie’s armament drives and their entry into the ‘popular fronts’. Their active participation in the ‘Resistance’ in World War II, and in the ‘national reconstruction’ that followed it, has confirmed them as faithful agents of national capital and the purest incarnation of the counter-revolution.

All the so-called ‘revolutionary’ currents – such as Maoism which is simply a variant of parties which had definitively gone over to the bourgeoisie, or Trotskyism which, after constituting a proletarian reaction against the betrayal of the Communist Parties was caught up in a similar process of degeneration, or traditional anarchism, which today places itself in the framework of an identical approach by defending a certain number of positions of the SPs and CPs, such as ‘anti-fascist alliances’ – belong to the same camp: the camp of capital. Their lesser influence or their more radical language changes nothing as to the bourgeois basis of their programme, but makes them useful touts or supplements of these parties.

[url=The counter-revolutionary nature of the "workers' parties"]http://en.internationalism.org/node/618[/url]

Steven raises the question of accurate terminology and it is clear that this is important. However, the main question is the understanding of the principles and method for understanding a question. This is where the Platform is important. We are all agreed on the method used by the Platform to address this question, which as Devrim says is the basis of membership of the ICC, but precisely how to explain it there can clearly be differences. Thus, in discussion with other groups, comrades etc it is important to establish whether there is agreement on the principles and method or not or whether it is a question of terminology. We may not be too good at this a times, but this is our concern.

As for the question of the level of understanding and following of anarchism within the ICC, this varies from comrade to comrade. But as comrades of a organisation whilst we may not have a high level of understanding of this or that question through being part of a collective organisation we can draw on and contribute to the organisation's understanding of say anarchism. So for example on the question of the AF, as Devrim said, there is a discussion of our position on this group in order that all comrades can contribute to our understanding and discussion of this question. In this way we are trying to ensure that when we do come to a final position all comrades understand why we have adopted such a position, and any disagreements there may be are as clearly understood as possible.

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waslax
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Jan 15 2010 08:51
Devrim wrote:
No, I have never described myself as a Marxist. I don't like the term at all. I haven't described myself as an anarchist for a couple of decades either though.

Devrim, what do you describe yourself as, then? I assume you would call yourself a communist. What about historical materialist?

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Jan 15 2010 09:43
waslax wrote:
Devrim wrote:
No, I have never described myself as a Marxist. I don't like the term at all. I haven't described myself as an anarchist for a couple of decades either though.

Devrim, what do you describe yourself as, then? I assume you would call yourself a communist. What about historical materialist?

A communist. It is nothing particularly against 'Marxism'. I just don't like the term for semantic reasons. I am not fond of the idea of naming political ideas after individuals.

Yes, I am a 'historical materialist' too. Though it's not how I usually describe my politics.

Devrim

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Jan 15 2010 22:24

This makes good sense to me, and I am sympathetic. There is also the baggage that comes with 'Marxism', the fact it is claimed by Stalinists, Maoists and Trotskyists, with their tendency to revere 'great leaders' and gurus. I think it easier to convince people who are new to revolutionary politics that these counter-revolutionary tendencies are not communist than that they aren't 'Marxist'. It is also more important to do so.

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Jan 16 2010 09:26
ernie wrote:
Steven raises the question of accurate terminology and it is clear that this is important. However, the main question is the understanding of the principles and method for understanding a question.

But it doesn't matter how well somebody understands something if they fail to communicate it to others.

Devrim

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Jan 16 2010 09:39

I appreciate Devrim's attempt to convey meaning to those "outside the fold" because, honestly, a lot of the ICC's terminology is indecipherable outside of it's membership (speaking from a personal perspective). Often terms used by the ICC end up meaning something very different from what I read them to be. This probably leads to lots of stupid and acrimonious threads on here, and who knows what else otherwise.

petey
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Jan 16 2010 14:39
Tarwater wrote:
Often terms used by the ICC end up meaning something very different from what I read them to be.

in my case, 'decadence'. a comparison of the plain dictionary meaning of this word, with the performance of markets since 1918, would leave a person baffled. tho' i've come to know what it means, i think it was a poor choice of term.

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Jan 16 2010 15:05
petey wrote:
Tarwater wrote:
Often terms used by the ICC end up meaning something very different from what I read them to be.

in my case, 'decadence'. a comparison of the plain dictionary meaning of this word, with the performance of markets since 1918, would leave a person baffled. tho' i've come to know what it means, i think it was a poor choice of term.

While I wholeheartedly agree, I don't think the word, in this context, was coined by the ICC.

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Jan 19 2010 08:18

While I understand what the ICC are getting at here, surely a term like "official anarchism" is bound to cause confusion, particularly if it's applied to groups like the AF, who, despite any political disagreements we might have with the ICC, are not by any means leftist or in favour of collaboration with the state.

Perhaps "leftist anarchists" would be less prone to misunderstanding?

30bananasaday
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Jan 19 2010 11:50

Hello.

Devrim states above that he is a historical materialist. I wonder if he or another could provide me with a definition of this term. The precise meaning of it is unclear to me at present.

Goodbye for now.