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 Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?

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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sat May 31, 2008 8:57 pm

chekov wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
We took the process of co-op forming seriously and did a lot of work before setting up on what our shared aims were and on co-op structures and methods - there is a Co-operative Support Unit run by FAS and we got help from them. We also met up with a couple of small co-ops that were up and running to see how things were going for them. We were not able to find any producer co-ops that had been running long and the others we met were very small groups of people who had been working well together for a long time before they set up. We drew equal pay and had equal say.

My experience was that ultimately self-interest was what motivated people in the co-op structure. Producer co-ops are I think probably much more difficult that distributor co-ops like the dairies, where there were such clear and enormous benefits of the co-op over any other available system. In a producer co-op, what do you do if the majority of people decide they want to do the minimum work, but collect the same salary as people working twice the hours? Or award themselves 6 month paid sabbaticals to do training and then leave. A couple of us had to deal with the rest who proved uncommitted in turning up and doing work but very keen on coming to meetings and complaining.

These days hardly anyone commits for life to one work place as work. The idea that people will pull their weight in a co-op because its in the long-term interests of the co-op is not the case as a proportion in any case will be intending to move on at some stage.

On a personal level, the experience was exhausting and financially damaging, as it took me a full year's work at crazy hours to clear the debts left behind. My self-interest in doing that was that my future prospects and income depended on my reputation, as well as not wanting to leave people in a financial mess. I have worked in a few different types of conventionally structured workplaces before and since all of which were more productive, efficient and pleasant to work in.

In retrospect, simple majority decisions were a disaster and perhaps some form of veto system would have helped, as the views and interests of minorities then might have had a chance. Pay should be related to skills, investment and input, as otherwise why would people both to put in the hours and resources. Some people will buy into the cooperative ideal and other people will take it for a ride.

I would be interested to know how things work in the Po Valley co-ops.
A quick google showed up a fair bit of research both friendly and critical on worker producer co-ops and as well as the problems I described underinvestment seems to be an ongoing issue - again, when people don't intend to stay they have no interest in giving up pay to invest in the future well-being of the co-op.

Oh and I assure lostexpectation it is my feeling that it would have taken a militia to get at least one of my former colleagues out of bed to do a normal working day.

I'm reading this thread with great interest but I am not convinced at this stage that co-ops or anarchism offer a viable and sustainable replacement for capitalism, although given the state of the planet I am thoroughly convinced it does need to be replaced.

I think such problems are fairly typical of alternative collective economic type of things. They stem, I think, from two basic problems. The first one is the fact that they are surrounded by a capitalist society and economy which creates all sorts of pressures. The second one is the fact that they are often imbued with a utopian idealism with regards to human nature.

The existence of such cooperatives in a sea of capitalism creates lots of powerful forces which act against the success of the endeavour. The fact that the collective is competing with the produce of capitalist enterprise on the market is the most basic force. Capitalist enterprises continually seek to cut costs by increasing worker productivity, which generally means less pleasant conditions for workers. Cooperatives can't really compete on this front - as that would really defeat the purpose. Although cooperatives have an advantage when it comes to the fact that surpluses can be re-invested rather than going directly into the bank accounts of shareholders, they are still affected by the drive to the bottom. They also generally have very limited access to investment capital in comparison to their capitalist competitors. This means, amongst other things, that they are especially vulnerable to below-cost selling from competitors trying to drive them out of business.

Another strong force created by capitalism is ideological and motivational. The more skilled and capable collective members often have the option of getting better pay and more status elsewhere. This can cause the coop to lose its most useful members and, short of that, can create reservoirs of resentment.

The second major problem that I refer to is the utopian view of human nature. Basically, it is common for those who are most collectively inclined to assume that, given the right conditions, the collective instincts of others will emerge. While I think this is right, to some extent, I think it's likely that, in the short term at least, you will always have a significant minority of irresponsible freeloaders. A human system that is incapable of dealing effectively and efficiently with freeloading is destined to collapse in acrimony. The thing is that people really resent others freeloading and if it is seen that people can freeload without any consequences, they will serve as a strong force on the collective - pulling people to a position of "why should I bother killing myself if s/he is just going to stuff him/her self off the produce?"

Given the strength of these forces, I think it is amazing that coops have managed to flourish and survive within our globalised capitalist society. It's a testament of the strength of the cooperative instinct.

Again much to agree with. However, capitalism didn't develop out of nowhere. Hierarchical and competitive instincts also exist within individual social dynamics and societal dynamics. How do you view anarchist systems integrating the latter (I think you've given a pretty good rationale as to how to avoid the former)? Or do you think it is possible to extirpate those instincts?
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:52 am

One thing that came up in a post by Aragon (I think) was the idea of recall of politicians / governments during their term of office if there is need for it.

I think this is a very powerful idea. It is ironically already present in Corporate organisation and most political parties as an A.G.M. can be called if a certain number of members require it.

Is this the same as a suggestion that citizens in sufficient numbers should be able to call a general election if enough of them demand it? It would not be likely to be open to abuse due to the cost - the cost could be slapped onto our income tax to stop us doing it casually.

Kate P started a thread about the problem of electing politicians who go off and do stuff we don't want but there is nothing we can do about it. I would think this would be a pretty good solution to that problem. It would need to work at european as well as at national level.

As a note of caution - it is quite likely that the British would not have gone to war against Germany in the Second World War, or at least much later, if there had been a plebicite on it. Any thoughts about that.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Jun 03, 2008 10:15 pm

Recall of politicians is an idea widely accepted by Marxists influenced by Trotsky. And it is a very popular idea.

But I suspect that the issues you raise above would be considered to be answered if all were within an anarchist societal structure. In other words conflicts like WW2 couldn't arise.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Fri Jun 13, 2008 2:29 am

can I just interrupt this discussion to whore out a link to a discussion I started on Boards.ie about 2 years ago
http://boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2055009758

The input of people on this forum would be very much welcomed (even those opinions critical of the big (A)
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Fri Jun 13, 2008 2:38 am

WorldbyStorm wrote:

Again much to agree with. However, capitalism didn't develop out of nowhere. Hierarchical and competitive instincts also exist within individual social dynamics and societal dynamics. How do you view anarchist systems integrating the latter (I think you've given a pretty good rationale as to how to avoid the former)? Or do you think it is possible to extirpate those instincts?

I think game theory has a lot to say about this. If there is an overwhelming bias towards individualism, collective strategies will fail (marginally) the majority of the time, but if there is an overwhelming bias towards cooperativism, (along with a conscious disregard for those who are selfish) then cooperative strategies will provide almost exponential benefits.

Cooperatives can have enormous benefits if they are in the right environment.

Almost all of societies greatest advancements have been as a result of sharing information and building on the strength of their predecessors. Individualism taken to extremes restricts knowledge by leading to sub optimal path dependent outcomes.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Fri Jun 13, 2008 3:06 am

Is WorldbyStorm there saying that capitalism is sort of instinctual - that we'd need to bio-engineer ourselves out of it almost?

I keep thinking of Maslows hierarchy of needs and technology during the course of this thread - a lot of technology makes smaller communities possible where those primary needs are satisfied - of course our food is globalised but doesn't have to be ... I'm mainly thinking of energy, home building, food.. all these needs can be supplied locally in Ireland. In Spain too as referred to in the boards thread - they produce a lot of their electricity from wind there now and they use appropriate farming and the sea for food. Weather isn't as much an issue.

Societies try to provide the basic needs by grouping together and solving problems related to those basic needs and I can't help thinking either that capitalism has a hand to play on the way to anarchist societies which I see as natural progressions downwards from larger groupings anyway - mainly because technology can provide the means.

If there's a taste for anarchism or if it is itself an instinct that is getting somehow played out over History then surely there must be anarchist groupings beginning to emerge? I believe in Mayo there exist communities which use alternative means of credit?
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Aug 19, 2008 10:45 am

This is how part of it may emerge through fairly simple technologies using local resources..

A local summit in Alabama where some speakers show how indebted America is in comparison to the rest of the industrialised nations and how biofuels should be important in reversing that deficit.

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PostSubject: Worker Co-ops   Mon Oct 20, 2008 11:24 am

Akrasia wrote:
WorldbyStorm wrote:

Again much to agree with. However, capitalism didn't develop out of nowhere. Hierarchical and competitive instincts also exist within individual social dynamics and societal dynamics. How do you view anarchist systems integrating the latter (I think you've given a pretty good rationale as to how to avoid the former)? Or do you think it is possible to extirpate those instincts?

I think game theory has a lot to say about this. If there is an overwhelming bias towards individualism, collective strategies will fail (marginally) the majority of the time, but if there is an overwhelming bias towards cooperativism, (along with a conscious disregard for those who are selfish) then cooperative strategies will provide almost exponential benefits.

Cooperatives can have enormous benefits if they are in the right environment.

Almost all of societies greatest advancements have been as a result of sharing information and building on the strength of their predecessors. Individualism taken to extremes restricts knowledge by leading to sub optimal path dependent outcomes.

We discussed worker co-ops on this thread. There was some evidence that they were better able to survive recession than privately owned firms. This story made it through to Breaking News.ie today. Perhaps it was the only good news story on the wire ?

Former employees of a now-defunct Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper have formed a co-operative to publish a new English-language daily.
The Puerto Rico Daily Sun will be available from Wednesday by subscription and at news-stands across the island.
Director Rafael Matos says a portion of the 120 employees who worked at The San Juan Star are involved in the project.
Mr Matos declined to say last night how much money was invested in the project and how much the paper will cost. He expects to provide details at an upcoming press conference.
Puerto Rico has three major Spanish-language newspapers and several smaller ones. It also has a weekly business newspaper in English.

When Cappoquin Chickens closed, was taken over and bought up, with the employees pay going down to minimum wage, I wondered if the option of forming a co-op had been thought about. There are plenty more companies that are going to close, and some of them might be viable as co-ops. Should there be a fund, possibly set up by Trade Unions and Credit Unions, to give loans to start-up Worker Co-ops?

If there is any interest in this, it could be split into a Worker Co-ops thread.

And good luck to the new newspaper! cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:43 am

cactus flower wrote:
One thing that came up in a post by Aragon (I think) was the idea of recall of politicians / governments during their term of office if there is need for it.

I think this is a very powerful idea. It is ironically already present in Corporate organisation and most political parties as an A.G.M. can be called if a certain number of members require it.

Is this the same as a suggestion that citizens in sufficient numbers should be able to call a general election if enough of them demand it? It would not be likely to be open to abuse due to the cost - the cost could be slapped onto our income tax to stop us doing it casually.

Kate P started a thread about the problem of electing politicians who go off and do stuff we don't want but there is nothing we can do about it. I would think this would be a pretty good solution to that problem. It would need to work at european as well as at national level.

As a note of caution - it is quite likely that the British would not have gone to war against Germany in the Second World War, or at least much later, if there had been a plebicite on it. Any thoughts about that.

Recall is a mechanism enshrined in the Californian constitution. Remember that was how Arnie got in. Its also in 24 other US states as well as being in Venezuela (kudos to Chevez for having it in his constitution). We need it now in Ireland obviously.

Regarding WWII and the British people, I wouldnt be too sure about that, though certainly it is something to consider. Initially I would be supportive of a plebicite. After all if every war required a referendum, mankind probably would have been spared many wars and deaths. Ultimately the foot soldiers are not the politcians but are drawn from the ranks of the ordinary citizens. Surely its right that those who suffer most have a say.
(I know though historically there is an incident somewhere were the people overturned their governments peace negotiations and declared war through plebicite) Very rare though.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:48 am

Respvblica wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
One thing that came up in a post by Aragon (I think) was the idea of recall of politicians / governments during their term of office if there is need for it.

I think this is a very powerful idea. It is ironically already present in Corporate organisation and most political parties as an A.G.M. can be called if a certain number of members require it.

Is this the same as a suggestion that citizens in sufficient numbers should be able to call a general election if enough of them demand it? It would not be likely to be open to abuse due to the cost - the cost could be slapped onto our income tax to stop us doing it casually.

Kate P started a thread about the problem of electing politicians who go off and do stuff we don't want but there is nothing we can do about it. I would think this would be a pretty good solution to that problem. It would need to work at european as well as at national level.

As a note of caution - it is quite likely that the British would not have gone to war against Germany in the Second World War, or at least much later, if there had been a plebicite on it. Any thoughts about that.

Recall is a mechanism enshrined in the Californian constitution. Remember that was how Arnie got in. Its also in 24 other US states as well as being in Venezuela (kudos to Chevez for having it in his constitution). We need it now in Ireland obviously.

Regarding WWII and the British people, I wouldnt be too sure about that, though certainly it is something to consider. Initially I would be supportive of a plebicite. After all if every war required a referendum, mankind probably would have been spared many wars and deaths. Ultimately the foot soldiers are not the politcians but are drawn from the ranks of the ordinary citizens. Surely its right that those who suffer most have a say.
(I know though historically there is an incident somewhere were the people overturned their governments peace negotiations and declared war through plebicite) Very rare though.

On WWII - if people had decided not to go to war I think it would have been for the right reasons. The recall seems like an even better idea now that when we first wrote those posts Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Oct 21, 2008 10:58 am

I look admirably at some of the movements that sprouted up in America about a 100 years ago. Examples like the Direct Legislation League come to mind and their goal was to fix the inherant problems of representative democracy. Their legacy is Initiative, Recall and Referndum which is now enshrined in about half of all the American States. The leading figure in all of this was William S. U'ren, a self-educated man from a modest background but one who was motivated to act after seeing the corruption of parliamentary politics and how it was creating injustice and inequality. He put it like this:



Blacksmithing is my trade,
and it has always given color to my view of things. When I was
young, I saw some of the evils in the conditions of life, and I
wanted to fix them. I couldn't. There were no tools. We had
tools to do almost anything in the shop. Beautiful tools.
Wonderful. And so in other trades, arts and professions; in
everything but government.


In government, the common
trade of all men and the basis of all social life, men worked
still with old tools, and with old laws, with constitutions and
charters which hindered more than they helped. Men suffered from
this. There were lawyers enough: many of our ablest men are
lawyers. Why didn't some of them invent legislative implements
to help the people govern themselves? Why had we no tool makers
for democracy?


Last edited by Respvblica on Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:12 am

Respvblica wrote:
I look admirably at some of the movements that sprouted up in America about a 100 years ago. Examples like the Direct Legislation League come to mind and their goal was to fix the inherant problems of representative democracy. They're legacy is Initiative, Recall and Referndum which is now enshrined in about half of all the American States. The leading figure in all of this was William S. U'ren, a self-educated man from a modest background but one who was motivated to act after seeing the corruption of parliamentary politics and how it was creating injustice and inequality. He put it like this:



Blacksmithing is my trade,
and it has always given color to my view of things. When I was
young, I saw some of the evils in the conditions of life, and I
wanted to fix them. I couldn't. There were no tools. We had
tools to do almost anything in the shop. Beautiful tools.
Wonderful. And so in other trades, arts and professions; in
everything but government.


In government, the common
trade of all men and the basis of all social life, men worked
still with old tools, and with old laws, with constitutions and
charters which hindered more than they helped. Men suffered from
this. There were lawyers enough: many of our ablest men are
lawyers. Why didn't some of them invent legislative implements
to help the people govern themselves? Why had we no tool makers
for democracy?

Great stuff. Democracy can be inhabited by any agenda. So long as most people don't see it as part of their daily business, it will be run by the
powerful, for the powerful. It sounds as if the tools he was talking about were for keeping people involved.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Oct 21, 2008 11:27 am


Blacksmithing is my trade,
and it has always given color to my view of things. When I was
young, I saw some of the evils in the conditions of life, and I
wanted to fix them. I couldn't. There were no tools. We had
tools to do almost anything in the shop. Beautiful tools.
Wonderful. And so in other trades, arts and professions; in
everything but government.


In government, the common
trade of all men and the basis of all social life, men worked
still with old tools, and with old laws, with constitutions and
charters which hindered more than they helped. Men suffered from
this. There were lawyers enough: many of our ablest men are
lawyers. Why didn't some of them invent legislative implements
to help the people govern themselves? Why had we no tool makers
for democracy?

I love you
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:10 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Respvblica wrote:
I look admirably at some of the movements that sprouted up in America about a 100 years ago. Examples like the Direct Legislation League come to mind and their goal was to fix the inherant problems of representative democracy. They're legacy is Initiative, Recall and Referndum which is now enshrined in about half of all the American States. The leading figure in all of this was William S. U'ren, a self-educated man from a modest background but one who was motivated to act after seeing the corruption of parliamentary politics and how it was creating injustice and inequality. He put it like this:



Blacksmithing is my trade,
and it has always given color to my view of things. When I was
young, I saw some of the evils in the conditions of life, and I
wanted to fix them. I couldn't. There were no tools. We had
tools to do almost anything in the shop. Beautiful tools.
Wonderful. And so in other trades, arts and professions; in
everything but government.


In government, the common
trade of all men and the basis of all social life, men worked
still with old tools, and with old laws, with constitutions and
charters which hindered more than they helped. Men suffered from
this. There were lawyers enough: many of our ablest men are
lawyers. Why didn't some of them invent legislative implements
to help the people govern themselves? Why had we no tool makers
for democracy?

Great stuff. Democracy can be inhabited by any agenda. So long as most people don't see it as part of their daily business, it will be run by the
powerful, for the powerful. It sounds as if the tools he was talking about were for keeping people involved.

Totally agree there. As an aside isnt it interesting that while many american states have developed some very enlightened systems, the US federal system remained basically unchanged, perhaps due to the size. There is a relationship between democracy and devolving as much power to the most local level.

Perhaps this deserves a separate thread but heres another link to direct democracy, this time from a British Conservative of all things:
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/daniel_hannan/blog/2008/10/13/why_lefties_should_support_my_localist_agenda
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:31 pm

There is a whole world of left and right libertariansm out there. Can be hard to know where the dividing line is.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:54 pm

CF, one could really throw a spanner in the works and ask if Capitalism is a political ideology as distinct from a mere economic framework as is touted by its adherents.

Why I think this is possibly a good debating topic and related to your last post is because there are many who regard themselves on the right or left who cannot delineate between political frameworks and economic frameworks. Maybe these two frameworks should be studied in isolation to find out what binds similiar opposites (oxymoron ?) as distinct from the political-economic totality. Is the entire Marxist model whereby it that can't distinguish between political structure and economic structure an impedement to reform on both level?

Just a muddled thought.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:58 pm

Some insightful debate and discussion on the historical development of anarchist ideas, hosted by Melvyn Bragg can be found at. Its a really good, and objective ( Bragg hasntyet declared himself an anarchist)

A very well informed piece, and many readers and posters on this thread would find it useful in terms of getting to grips with some of the nuances of anarchism, anarcho syndicalism etc

Also deals with Bakunins rejection of Marx's reduction of oppression purely being class exploitation, as well as the organisational element of the state that Marxs misses. Also charts the meaning and misrepresentations, and limitations of anarchism as a political philosophy as well as anarchist press

can be found at http://www.archive.org/details/AnarchismOnLine

I guess while mentioning press , i'll plug the new radio show from the irish anarchist organisation WSM broadcast originally on Near FM
link to stream and download at
http://www.archive.org/details/RadioSolidarityShow1FromTheWorkersSolidarityMovementIreland
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Dec 30, 2008 12:25 am

soundmigration wrote:
Some insightful debate and discussion on the historical development of anarchist ideas, hosted by Melvyn Bragg can be found at. Its a really good, and objective ( Bragg hasntyet declared himself an anarchist)

A very well informed piece, and many readers and posters on this thread would find it useful in terms of getting to grips with some of the nuances of anarchism, anarcho syndicalism etc

Also deals with Bakunins rejection of Marx's reduction of oppression purely being class exploitation, as well as the organisational element of the state that Marxs misses. Also charts the meaning and misrepresentations, and limitations of anarchism as a political philosophy as well as anarchist press

can be found at http://www.archive.org/details/AnarchismOnLine

I guess while mentioning press, i'll plug the new radio show from the irish anarchist organisation WSM broadcast originally on Near FM
link to stream and download at
http://www.archive.org/details/RadioSolidarityShow1FromTheWorkersSolidarityMovementIreland

Thanks for that soundmigration - I'll be able to listen to that later. Does Marx exclude other forms of oppression? If you take in Marx and Engels as a double act, gender and other factors are looked at - but they did not think that a workers revolution would necessarily solve non-class forms of oppression.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Dec 30, 2008 12:53 am

Jaysus, but theories are great aren’t they?
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:15 am

tonys wrote:
Jaysus, but theories are great aren’t they?

Stooge of the oppressor!
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:17 am

tonys wrote:
Jaysus, but theories are great aren’t they?

For sure. Way better than hypotheses.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:22 am

toxic avenger wrote:
tonys wrote:
Jaysus, but theories are great aren’t they?

Stooge of the oppressor!
I got new jackboots for Christmas, how’d you do?
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Dec 30, 2008 2:34 am

tonys wrote:
toxic avenger wrote:
tonys wrote:
Jaysus, but theories are great aren’t they?

Stooge of the oppressor!
I got new jackboots for Christmas, how’d you do?

Two ornamental swans and a DVD. Nice and all, but no good for crushing dissenters like cockroaches...
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Tue Dec 30, 2008 3:00 am

Further up this page some posters (Akrasia, WBS, Chekov, etc) mentioned taking over factories and co-operatives and going on from there.

Here's an interesting analysis by Michael Albert on what happened in Argentina when people took over factories (occupied them basically, after the recession) without really knowing where to go economically, and having the old values and the old structures re-surface.

The underlying institutions, the division of labour, the market, none of these were touched.

The first video is more interesting. I think.


Real Utopia-Left Forum '08: Michael Albert (1/3)
http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=FcuQLkzhvgk




Michael Albert on Argentina Movements
http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=9iWiicd1n_k




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