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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 24, 2008 8:01 pm

I am on a learning curve about anarchism in this thread and have not yet fully formed a view on what it is politically or what its potential is for implementation as a form of government. I'd say the immediate electoral prospects of an anarchist party would be small. Local councils would seem to be the logical place to start if they wanted to try. Having said that, who would have predicted the growth of Libertarianism in the US ? Changed times makes for all kinds of changed thinking.

I am not recommending the Cuban model as something for us, just remarking on its survival, albeit with Soviet backing.

There can be a tendency at times for people (myself included) to become overwhelmed by the appearance of irresistable power and ruthlessness of the US. They really can't take on everyone, everwhere at once and have very uneven success where they do intervene.

I read your piece on Hobsbawm with interest - there is another thread there I think, separate from this one on anarchism.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 6:01 am

Quote :
I.
The true object of moral and political disquisition is pleasure or happiness.
The primary, or earliest class of human pleasures is the pleasures of the external senses.
In addition to these, man is susceptible of certain secondary pleasures, as the pleasures of intellectual feeling, the pleasures of sympathy and the pleasures of self-approbation.
The secondary pleasures are probably more exquisite than the primary:
Or, at least,
The most desirable state of man is that in which he has access to all these sources of pleasure and is in possession of a happiness the most varied and uninterrupted.
This state is a state of high civilization.

II.
The most desirable condition of the human species is a state of society.
The injustice and violence of men in a state of society produced the demand for government.
Government, as it was forced upon mankind by their vices, so has it commonly been the creature of their ignorance and mistake.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but it offers new occasions and temptations for the commission of it.
By concentrating the force of the community, it gives occasion to wild projects of calamity, to oppression, despotism, war and conquest.
By perpetuating and aggravating the inequality of property, it fosters many injurious passions, and excites men to the practice of robbery and fraud.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but its effect has been to embody and perpetuate it.

III
The immediate object of government is security.
The means employed by government is restriction, an abridgement of individual independence.
The pleasures of self-approbation, together with the right cultivation of all our pleasures, require individual independence.
Without independence men cannot become either wise or useful or happy.
Consequently, the most desirable state of mankind is that which maintains general security, with the smallest encroachment upon individual independence.
from Enquiry Concerning Social Justice,
William Godwin, 1793.


Last edited by Auditor #9 on Sun May 25, 2008 1:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 1:31 pm

Hermes wrote:
WBS wrote:
Coercive - non? I must remember to avoid your militia aroud 2016...
But, I have to be honest, if you genuinely believe that people would
adopt it as a system 'once all the options are on the table and
understood,' I fear you're in for a disappointment. Quite simply the
proposals are so far off the scale of what is politically and
societally feasible as to be near pointless. Your thoughts about
inculcating self sufficiency - and I'm far from certain what you mean
and how that links into anarchist political projects - seem to me to be
simply not at the races as regards the actual educational structures
and curricula and paths actually extant. Which as it happens I have
direct personal knowledge of on both sides of the fence at second and
third level.

Even the phrase 'capitalist dictatorship' is I'd
respectfully suggest so far from the lived experience of most people
(including many on the left like myself who want to see it changed
profoundly) in this state that it simply undercuts your argument -
which has many valid aspects.

Not coercive in the least. People are quite free to be part of the system or to ignore it. The only time anyone would need to fear the militia would be if they tried to force us to behave and act as they dictated. That's a helluva lot fairer and more understanding than the current system.

You're correct to a degree with regard to the educational argument. Currently we do not educate half enough people, particularly to third level. Moreso, neither the mechanism nor the will are in place to fix this. I have no doubts whatsoever that this can be tackled and fixed, and indeed that we already have the personnel that could achieve it. Our capacity to educate would have to increase dramatically in order to facilitate self-sufficiency and an anarchist system. To do this is very possible. My seven or eight years might be a little on the optimistic side (particularly if we stick to current curricula and methodologies), let's say fourteen. In fourteen years, everyone would have healthcare when they needed it, everyone would have a home, everyone would have enough to eat and transport would be free, etc. All problems of self-sufficiency can be solved within the time required to educate and train the necessary people. How long would this take within our current system, is it achievable? I don't think so. It only seems so impossible because it is impossible to achieve from within our current model. You seem to know a lot about education: in your opinion, if you had carte blanche over the whole of the educational system, what would be the earliest age at which a student could be graduated from third level? Imagine a whole generation (or as near as is possible to it) educated to this level - imagine the possibilities this would present to the next generation.

What I mean by self-sufficiency is that we take care of all our needs internally, this would include amongst other things, tearing up patenting laws and manufacturing our own medical supplies etc. As Akrasia said, the invasion of anarchists wanting to come to Ireland would be the least of our worries. Knowledge cannot be owned exclusively. If Ireland was invaded for ignoring patenting laws etc. it would be a double edged sword. It could be a spark that might ignite the planet. So whilst there would be a danger from foreign forces who wished to enslave us, it would put them in as much peril as it would place us.

I think the term 'capitalist dictatorship' is very apt. Capitalism and democracy are political opposites. Capitalism seeks to subvert the will of the many to serve the few, whilst democracy seeks to exercise the will of the many. Democracy is wishful thinking on behalf of the many who are ensnared by and up to their necks and their children's necks in debt to capitalists. I'm not trying to invalidate what you've said, my aim is to clarify my own position and I hope my directness isn't considered offensive. In my thinking, education is the key to everything. The current system stifles education imo, it does so at an early age and it does so deliberately (this is probably veering slightly off topic, but nonetheless, education is an absolutely essential facet of anarchism).

Sorry if that militia crack seemed a bit snarky, I meant to, and should have, put a Smile after it. And can I also say it's a pleasure to discuss this issue with you and people who are genuinely interested in the area and are willing to engage. I have a longer response which I will respond with later today...
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 1:42 pm

Relieved to hear that you will not have us all up against a wall Hermes. Very Happy In all seriousness though, I recommend looking at what went horribly wrong in Cambodia. Whilst that happened in a country that had been illegally bombed to bits by the US, it could be safely assumed that any major shift in social framework would happen in difficult times. Moving back to the land, from a formerly complex economy, implies that the number of people who could be supported would diminish. American libertarians also seem to think that it is desirable to move to a self-sufficient localised national or regional economy. Does that not imply substantial contraction of productivity and livelihoods?
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 2:41 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Relieved to hear that you will not have us all up against a wall Hermes. Very Happy In all seriousness though, I recommend looking at what went horribly wrong in Cambodia. Whilst that happened in a country that had been illegally bombed to bits by the US, it could be safely assumed that any major shift in social framework would happen in difficult times. Moving back to the land, from a formerly complex economy, implies that the number of people who could be supported would diminish. American libertarians also seem to think that it is desirable to move to a self-sufficient localised national or regional economy. Does that not imply substantial contraction of productivity and livelihoods?

As much as I'd like to see (at times) certain individuals lined up against a wall, I'd never endorse it. To promote such actions would be to be no better than that we wish to replace. Debate and education are the way forward, for all, including us of the anarchist persuasion. Having said that, I'm a strong believer in the right to self defence. For me violence would be a last resort - however, it would probably surprise some folks how fast it could happen as I'd not spend any time contemplating an issue of defence or my right to exercise it. Methinks this is a negative subject to be focussed on, it's very easy to elevate it to being more than it is. Defence is a natural right that is recognised by all, it has no special place in anarchism other than it like many other subjects have been examined. In other words, we don't go around looking for or provoking fights.

I don't agree that the number of people who could be supported would be diminished by a shift to self-sufficiency, nor indeed do I believe that there would be a substantial contraction of productivity and livlihoods. All wealth can be equated in various formats - the format that anarchists prefer to use is work. Currently the vast majority of work in Ireland sustains a tiny minority and indeed most of this minority are not even resident in Ireland. If this work were re-directed back into the people of Ireland, we would see a phenomenal expansion rather than a contraction in productivity and livlihoods. Also such a shift would facilitate an expansion in population rather than a reduction.

WBS wrote:
Sorry if that militia crack seemed a bit snarky, I meant to, and should have, put a
after it. And can I also say it's a pleasure to discuss this issue with
you and people who are genuinely interested in the area and are willing
to engage. I have a longer response which I will respond with later
today...

No apologies required. I was looking back over what I'd said earlier and indeed what I'd said regarding the 'militia' was somewhat stark and out of the blue. Your comment afforded me the opportunity to clarify what I'd meant. Tis a pleasure to talk with yourself and others on this topic. Unfortunately, most talks on this subject tend to be either with the already-converted or those who just want to shut any such discussion down. MN is a breath of fresh air regarding the discussion of such a topic. I look forward to reading what you have to further add.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 4:18 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Relieved to hear that you will not have us all up against a wall Hermes. Very Happy In all seriousness though, I recommend looking at what went horribly wrong in Cambodia. Whilst that happened in a country that had been illegally bombed to bits by the US, it could be safely assumed that any major shift in social framework would happen in difficult times. Moving back to the land, from a formerly complex economy, implies that the number of people who could be supported would diminish. American libertarians also seem to think that it is desirable to move to a self-sufficient localised national or regional economy. Does that not imply substantial contraction of productivity and livelihoods?

A lot of people think enviornmentalism overlaps with anarchism - i.e. a way of life predicated on need and not on want (as in 'I fancy having a lot of...'). It has been estimated that globally we produce enough food annually to feed the entire population three times over - and yet a majority are living at or below the poverty line including many who are actually starving. What makes this figure even more staggering is that so much food production is grotesquely inefficient - and results in nutritionally polluted and depleted food. At the same time, of course, obesity is rampant among the rich nations and in places where poor people must eat cheap but fattening, health-destroying food. It's obscene. We talk about civilisation and progress and yet we cannot overcome a matter as simple and morally compelling as devising a means of resource distribution that ensures what ought to be a matter of birthright for every person born - food and shelter. In line with what Hermes says, putting food production alone on an egalitarian, environmentally friendly footing would actually involve an expansion in employment and massive improvements in the standard of living globally. There are, however, disgustingly wealthy people who want us not to understand or believe this and who call people like anarchists 'subversive' for pointing out the facts. If it is subversive to want to subvert greed, then I'm happy to be called a subversive.

Here's a polemic on the connection between environmentalism and anarchism, which offers a few thoughts on the similar nature of both:

http://a4a.mahost.org/biehl.html
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 5:14 pm

cactus flower wrote:
I am on a learning curve about anarchism in this thread and have not yet fully formed a view on what it is politically or what its potential is for implementation as a form of government. I'd say the immediate electoral prospects of an anarchist party would be small.

well the whole point is that should be able to do it without struggling to get into parliament or any legislator
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 6:57 pm

Reposted comment removed. drunken


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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 7:24 pm

lostexpectation wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
I am on a learning curve about anarchism in this thread and have not yet fully formed a view on what it is politically or what its potential is for implementation as a form of government. I'd say the immediate electoral prospects of an anarchist party would be small.

well the whole point is that should be able to do it without struggling to get into parliament or any legislator

Mass action of some kind?
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 8:24 pm

chekov wrote:
This is, to my mind, a pretty shocking comment from WBS:

Quote :
Interestingly a lot of what you're proposing sounds like a beefed up version of the status quo.

Shocked

I mean, I really can't see how one could possibly think that what I've described bears any relationship with the status quo. We live in a world where decision making power is more or less defined by property ownership. The various consultative processes and campaign groups that seem to be the basis of the comparison generally have no decision making power at all. Most important decisions are made in board-rooms on the basis of maximising shareholder value and the opinions of those affected are only considered in so far as they impact upon that metric.

Gosh chekov, it must be fun to go around pointing out others flaws and failings without actually considering the response I gave in a later post. You've basically reheated your first post that mentioned my ideological deviation and ignored the rest. Shocking indeed. But perhaps tilting into straw man responses... not impressive, a chara.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 8:37 pm

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Gosh chekov, it must be fun to go around pointing out others flaws and failings without actually considering the response I gave in a later post. You've basically reheated your first post that mentioned my ideological deviation and ignored the rest. Shocking indeed. But perhaps tilting into straw man responses... not impressive, a chara.

Whoops - I actually thought that I failed to post my message as I couldn't see it (hung over a tad today). I apologise for the total repetition.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 8:43 pm

Can I ask if there are any generally agreed principles (by anarchists) of what anarchism is, and any generally agreed texts?

Or is a very free-flowing adherence to the practice of not having top down leadership?
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 8:46 pm

cactus flower wrote:
lostexpectation wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
I am on a learning curve about anarchism in this thread and have not yet fully formed a view on what it is politically or what its potential is for implementation as a form of government. I'd say the immediate electoral prospects of an anarchist party would be small.

well the whole point is that should be able to do it without struggling to get into parliament or any legislator

Mass action of some kind?

Anarchists see the current electoral process as a joke (to put it kindly) and would never take part in it. Most of us don't even vote (might be worth starting a thread on this topic at some point).

Currently, the majority vote in this coutry is cast by those who don't vote. If the anarchist movement in Ireland were to grow to a significant size, a move would be made to declare ourselves separate from the state. The current system and the anarchist system are incompatible and neither can function within the confines of the other. Hence you'll never see some anarchist party at your door begging your vote come election time. Currently anarchist numbers are too small to merit any formal move to cede from the state. There's only one anarchist organisation that's any way developed; the WSM (I'm not a member). By my reckoning, we'll see anarchist numbers swell over the next few years as the reality of many different things become apparent, things like: peak oil, food crisis, globalisation, lack of healthcare and the fake war on terror that's used to restrict and remove basic human rights, etc. Folks will come to recognise that voting twice each decade has no impact whatsoever on any of these issues. Most people at heart have basic anarchist tendencies, and these natural tendencies will surface as the crap slams into the fan. The capitalist dictatorship is currently in its death throws, hence the amount of strife on the planet. Tis all well and fine to follow a joke like our current government when one knows where one's next meal is coming from. When that changes, Mr. Cowen and co. will be seen for what they are and their voices will be like farts in a hurricane.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 8:51 pm

Hermes wrote:
You're correct to a degree with regard to the educational argument. Currently we do not educate half enough people, particularly to third level. Moreso, neither the mechanism nor the will are in place to fix this. I have no doubts whatsoever that this can be tackled and fixed, and indeed that we already have the personnel that could achieve it. Our capacity to educate would have to increase dramatically in order to facilitate self-sufficiency and an anarchist system. To do this is very possible. My seven or eight years might be a little on the optimistic side (particularly if we stick to current curricula and methodologies), let's say fourteen. In fourteen years, everyone would have healthcare when they needed it, everyone would have a home, everyone would have enough to eat and transport would be free, etc. All problems of self-sufficiency can be solved within the time required to educate and train the necessary people. How long would this take within our current system, is it achievable? I don't think so. It only seems so impossible because it is impossible to achieve from within our current model. You seem to know a lot about education: in your opinion, if you had carte blanche over the whole of the educational system, what would be the earliest age at which a student could be graduated from third level? Imagine a whole generation (or as near as is possible to it) educated to this level - imagine the possibilities this would present to the next generation.


The problem is that however much I sympathise - which I broadly do - with your philosophy I can't see a practical course charted out within them. What political will would there be to do what you suggest? Fourteen years to change a system like that? How, with what degree of legitimacy? And what sort of change? The only way to do so would be to establish a political movement which was able to achieve state power. How long do you imagine that would take? Then it would be necessary to implement legislation in the education area which would permit the - so far unstated changes. How long would that take? Fourteen years suddenly seems not merely optimistic, but positively utopian. As for everyone having healthcare, and all the other issues you mention. How is that to be implemented? Even on a practical level, and in one of my employments I work in third level (which gives me no greater authority in these things but I merely mention it due to the following...) and have been directly responsible for setting up and implementing modular programmes, the crawl at which these things move, and the reality that they look to best practice internationally which is entirely indifferent to the ideological project you (and to a lesser extent I) support makes me very cautious about their feasibility.

Now, I'm certainly not denying that one might establish parallel networks of education, but without a broad societal momentum and support they will tend to wither on the vine... consider as an example gaelscoileanna and how long it has taken for them to establish themselves even with considerable localised support in communities...

And there is a further problem that people are already locked into a system which they're not unhappy with. People have careers, promotional paths, structures, a stake - however small - in the current structure. You're not talking about reforms, but about massive societal change. I think there is zero appetite for that. How to persuade people? I see no easy way forward there. And I speak (or write) as one very very dissatisfied with the current educational structures and keen to implement much of the sort of change that you seek.



Hermes wrote:
What I mean by self-sufficiency is that we take care of all our needs internally, this would include amongst other things, tearing up patenting laws and manufacturing our own medical supplies etc. As Akrasia said, the invasion of anarchists wanting to come to Ireland would be the least of our worries. Knowledge cannot be owned exclusively. If Ireland was invaded for ignoring patenting laws etc. it would be a double edged sword. It could be a spark that might ignite the planet. So whilst there would be a danger from foreign forces who wished to enslave us, it would put them in as much peril as it would place us.



I wonder how this would this work in a global system where Ireland depends massively with trade with others for basic materials to sustain what indigenous industry we have, in a situation where we are hugely dependent upon foreign investment and where we have a considerable and increasing services sector. Tearing up patent laws and manufacturing our own medical supplies sounds straightforward, but how certain are you that we even have the indigenous know-how, or infrastructure, to - taking pharma as an example - produce goods on our own. I don't believe its possible. That's the flip side of globalisation. And say, somehow, you were in a position to get to that point where you were trying to legislate what you suggest, as the unemployment began to rise as foreign companies divested themselves of their Irish subsidiaries, where we scrabbling to try to bootstrap a technological base we didn't have and couldn't sustain, I think you'd find support for your project leeching away rapidly.

Hermes wrote:
I think the term 'capitalist dictatorship' is very apt. Capitalism and democracy are political opposites. Capitalism seeks to subvert the will of the many to serve the few, whilst democracy seeks to exercise the will of the many. Democracy is wishful thinking on behalf of the many who are ensnared by and up to their necks and their children's necks in debt to capitalists. I'm not trying to invalidate what you've said, my aim is to clarify my own position and I hope my directness isn't considered offensive. In my thinking, education is the key to everything. The current system stifles education imo, it does so at an early age and it does so deliberately (this is probably veering slightly off topic, but nonetheless, education is an absolutely essential facet of anarchism).

Sure, capitalism and democracy can be at odds. I'm far from a booster of capitalism. However, I don't see capitalism as a self-conscious conspiracy, nor is it unified, nor does it appear in a single form. It is enormously malleable, as cactusflower mentioned earlier with variations from strongly social democratic (or even arguably faux-communist as in China) through to authoritarian right/fascist and all points in between. Indeed right libertarianism is clearly a variation too which throws in more than a dash of libertarianism. Rothbard et al are most interesting on that score. And there are aspects of it that any socialist society will have to take on board particularly on the production/distributive side. That said, for all its flaws this society is clearly better than that which existed in this geographic area in 1907 and no small part of that is due to the flawed democracy we have.


I strongly strongly agree with you that education is the key to everything. But can I give a small example as to my own concerns about the efficacy of the strategies you propose. My own belief is that we should have a single state, secular education system from primary through to third level. Now, again, being within the system I simply don't see how to progress that belief. No left parties seriously support it as a policy goal. I suspect that there is no popular support amongst the population. And if that's the way it is for something much less extravagant than your proposals, I just can't believe that they're realistic as a political project. And to me what that points to is the need to avoid 'quick fix' thinking and to prepare for not seven years, or fourteen but decades, possibly longer. Which is where like-minded people can - even if they differ on the aims - agree to work together towards the eventual goal.

A further thought, I think technology is our friend. I think that we already see the sort of movement through to take a very small example but one specific to t'internet, Creative Commons, etc, which provide - once again - parallel (or alternative) poles and means of doing things, in other words using the pluralism of contemporary societies to engage more broadly and to bring people over to the left in all it's broadly spread glory Smile . I also think that climate change means that the possibilities for placing the concerns Hobsbawm articulates of societies which value non-profit outcomes over profit are much greater. But either way it's going to be a long hard slog.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 8:52 pm

chekov wrote:
WorldbyStorm wrote:
Gosh chekov, it must be fun to go around pointing out others flaws and failings without actually considering the response I gave in a later post. You've basically reheated your first post that mentioned my ideological deviation and ignored the rest. Shocking indeed. But perhaps tilting into straw man responses... not impressive, a chara.

Whoops - I actually thought that I failed to post my message as I couldn't see it (hung over a tad today). I apologise for the total repetition.

Mutter mutter, grumble grumble... ah well I guess I might owe you a pint... Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 8:57 pm

WorldbyStorm wrote:
If I agreed with your characterisation of our society as consisting exclusively of capital owners on one side and then unions and campaigning groups on the other then I'd doubtless agree with your point, but I don't. I think it's hyperbole based on reductionist readings of this society.

If I had actually made such a characterisation, it would indeed by reductionist. I didn't and I wouldn't since I don't think anything remotely like that. I was responding to your apparent conflation of powerless voluntary groups and executive bodies.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
You ignore the state which regulates capital to no small degree, you ignore other forms of ownership, you ignore civil society.

I don't and, em, I don't. It is, however, trivial to demonstrate the fact that those with money have vastly more influence over state decisions than those without. The vast majority of legislation in all domains originates with industry bodies and apart from the vast number of lobbyists who work at turning the needs of their industries into legislation, there is a whole load of other ways in which the wealthy exercise effective control over state decision making - private media corporations, enormous PR budgets, campaign donations, corruption, personal connections, etc, etc.

It all boils down to a system where decision making power is, through a whole host of channels, essentially proportional to wealth. The direct dictatorial control that an owner has over the resources and labour that he or she employs is only the most obvious and direct ways in which this happens.

However, this is not to say that the state acts purely as the executive board of the capitalist class. It has its own perogatives and its own logic independent of this role, but those are no more under the control of civil society than the huge number of decisions which are more or less expressions of the aggregate opinion of the concerned capitalists.

Civil society, for its part, certainly can't be ignored. It places certain boundaries on the actions of the state and the corporations, but it is untenable to seriously argue that such a nebulous entity has any real positive decision making power on its own.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Nick Cohen is out of favour for obvious reasons but he used to be a sensible and perceptive commentator and no more so than when he wrote:

Quote :
however novel the ability of companies to shift money and jobs around the world, and however restrictive the limits on the autonomy of national governments have become, corporations remain weak. When all is said and done, they are hierarchical associations for the production of profit. They can’t raise armies or levy taxes or enact legislation. Governments can do all three and turn nasty if they have the inclination…

And thats why I think yet more levels of representation, or participation, while no bad thing in themselves don't per se point to new forms of economic or other activity and organisation. Nor would I overstate the situation we're in....capital is a huge part of the mix, but it's not entirely unfettered.

As I say above, what both yourself and Nick Cohen miss is the degree to which state decisions are dictated by the needs of capitalists. It is the height of naivety and wishful thinking to imagine, as both Cohen and yourself seem to do, that governments, as they are currently constituted, could choose to do things differently. It's hard to get into government, it's hard to stay in government. The chances of doing so while making decisions that piss off capitalists in general is zero.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Sun May 25, 2008 10:44 pm

chekov wrote:
WorldbyStorm wrote:
If I agreed with your characterisation of our society as consisting exclusively of capital owners on one side and then unions and campaigning groups on the other then I'd doubtless agree with your point, but I don't. I think it's hyperbole based on reductionist readings of this society.

If I had actually made such a characterisation, it would indeed by reductionist. I didn't and I wouldn't since I don't think anything remotely like that. I was responding to your apparent conflation of powerless voluntary groups and executive bodies.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
You ignore the state which regulates capital to no small degree, you ignore other forms of ownership, you ignore civil society.

I don't and, em, I don't. It is, however, trivial to demonstrate the fact that those with money have vastly more influence over state decisions than those without. The vast majority of legislation in all domains originates with industry bodies and apart from the vast number of lobbyists who work at turning the needs of their industries into legislation, there is a whole load of other ways in which the wealthy exercise effective control over state decision making - private media corporations, enormous PR budgets, campaign donations, corruption, personal connections, etc, etc.

It all boils down to a system where decision making power is, through a whole host of channels, essentially proportional to wealth. The direct dictatorial control that an owner has over the resources and labour that he or she employs is only the most obvious and direct ways in which this happens.

However, this is not to say that the state acts purely as the executive board of the capitalist class. It has its own perogatives and its own logic independent of this role, but those are no more under the control of civil society than the huge number of decisions which are more or less expressions of the aggregate opinion of the concerned capitalists.

Civil society, for its part, certainly can't be ignored. It places certain boundaries on the actions of the state and the corporations, but it is untenable to seriously argue that such a nebulous entity has any real positive decision making power on its own.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Nick Cohen is out of favour for obvious reasons but he used to be a sensible and perceptive commentator and no more so than when he wrote:

Quote :
however novel the ability of companies to shift money and jobs around the world, and however restrictive the limits on the autonomy of national governments have become, corporations remain weak. When all is said and done, they are hierarchical associations for the production of profit. They can’t raise armies or levy taxes or enact legislation. Governments can do all three and turn nasty if they have the inclination…

And thats why I think yet more levels of representation, or participation, while no bad thing in themselves don't per se point to new forms of economic or other activity and organisation. Nor would I overstate the situation we're in....capital is a huge part of the mix, but it's not entirely unfettered.

As I say above, what both yourself and Nick Cohen miss is the degree to which state decisions are dictated by the needs of capitalists. It is the height of naivety and wishful thinking to imagine, as both Cohen and yourself seem to do, that governments, as they are currently constituted, could choose to do things differently. It's hard to get into government, it's hard to stay in government. The chances of doing so while making decisions that piss off capitalists in general is zero.

A small point of clarification. I didn't actually make any such conflation of 'powerless' (your characterisation, again I'd differ) voluntary groups and executive bodies. If you look I referenced a range of groups from "unions in workplaces..." to "...my experience of business or the public service...". Seems fairly broad to me.

I'd also have a different analysis from your last contention while sort of agreeing with the second last one. You're right, it is difficult to get leftists into government, but of course reform and indeed regulation aren't just within the orbit of leftists. Social liberals, even those on the economic right aren't averse to regulation (often in the interests of capital but not exclusively), not least because despite the nonsense about the market being efficient, it isn't and it requires the lubrication of regulatory oversight. A fine example of same is the remarkable level of intervention by the Fed in the US into the financial markets.

Secondly governments make decisions which piss off capitalists on a daily basis, not least because capital isn't a seamless whole but is a patchwork of many - often competing - interests. That they are swayed by capital - sure. And far far too much. But not - I'd suggest - to the Manichean extent you propose. Farmers get it in the neck one day, small businesses the next. And so on. To see governments simply as instrumentalities of one aspect of the societal mix - capital, or rather a very narrow definition of capital - doesn't seem to me to be plausible or anything other than reductionist.

As for decision making power, civil society, indeed society is made up of many competing groups... unions, lobby groups, NGOs, cultural groups, etc, etc. To posit that collectively capital is able to dominate them all seems to me yet again to be a simplification. Sure, capital relations underpin societal relations, but that's not quite the same thing as suggesting that those who own capital dictate all that occurs within the social/economic sphere which is your underlying argument, unless I massively misrepresent it.

And to suggest that 'it all boils down to a system where decision making power is, through a whole host of channels, essentially proportional to wealth' is once more true to an extent, but only to an extent. Moreover it ignores the reality that capital is constrained in ways which were unthinkable a hundred or even fifty years ago. Neo-liberalism? Bad. Clearly. But look at the economic structures this state laboured under, essentially close to a moderated laissez-faire from 1922 to the first FF administration. Then a sort of protectionism with some degree of state intervention which faded as they atrophied in power, then a burst of interventionism in the first Inter-Party coalition. From then on, and even during the 1980s when a faux Thatcherite economics was supposedly dominant, particularly under FG and to a degree under FF's 1987 administration one can see a continual extension of state power to this day through differing instruments, bords, quangos, executives, etc. Sure, we've seen privatisation and the establishment of hand's off 'executives' and such like. But in pure economic terms this remains a strongly mixed economy with considerable state intervention and regulation and I suspect and hope the pendulum will shift further towards the public over the next decade. The point being that the relationships between state and capital are hugely significant and have, broadly speaking, led to a renegotiation where capital is powerful, but far from the only determining course, and that across a century. There is plenty of scope to shift the lever leftwards (or indeed rightwards).

Finally, way to go as regards positing my naive approach to such matters. I hold one view, you another.

I genuinely hope you get over that hangover soon.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon May 26, 2008 12:50 am

cactus flower wrote:
Can I ask if there are any generally agreed principles (by anarchists) of what anarchism is, and any generally agreed texts?

Or is a very free-flowing adherence to the practice of not having top down leadership?

If anyone has the patience to answer this ( advice to look at Wikipedia would be a good enough answer) it would be much appreciated. I'm not even sure who on this thread would consider themselves to be an anarchist.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon May 26, 2008 12:58 am

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Social liberals, even those on the economic right aren't averse to regulation (often in the interests of capital but not exclusively), not least because despite the nonsense about the market being efficient, it isn't and it requires the lubrication of regulatory oversight.A fine example of same is the remarkable level of intervention by the Fed in the US into the financial markets.

I don't see how a state intervention which provided a massive dose of cheap capital to the banks, at the behest of the demands of the world's assembled capitalists, bolsters your case rather than mine.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Secondly governments make decisions which piss off capitalists on a daily basis, not least because capital isn't a seamless whole but is a patchwork of many - often competing - interests. That they are swayed by capital - sure. And far far too much. But not - I'd suggest - to the Manichean extent you propose. Farmers get it in the neck one day, small businesses the next. And so on.

I said "decisions that piss off capitalists in general". The "in general" bit is important. Decisions that reduce the power of those with wealth in general are not very common at all and where they are made, it is invariably in the face of huge popular pressure or in order to counteract systemic defects in the interests of the maintenance of the overall system.

To flesh out what I mean, consider the fact that legislation diminishing property rights, capping inheritance, transferring wealth from the rich, increasing the relative contributions of capitalists to state funds or limiting the freedom of capitalists to move their wealth around and use it howsoever they please is not very common at all.

In fact, not one single party with any conceivable chance of having any say at all in government decisions is currently advocating anything even vaguely resembling any of these policies. This is not because such policies would be unpopular with the public - the available evidence suggests that they would be popular in themselves - but because they would be electoral suicide. This seeming paradox is down to several factors. Firstly, such policies would arouse the absolute and outright opposition of the media and the various capitalist bodies such as IBEC and CIF upon which political parties rely for funding, not to mention those of the wealthy private donors which would also come be overwhelmingly directed towards the opposition. Secondly, the public understands that such policies would, if there was any danger of them being enacted, lead to capital flight, trade boycotts and a whole host of such measures from beyond the country's borders which would lead to economic ruination. The media is not slow to point out such dangers to the public either. A great example was Sinn Fein's proposal to increase corporation tax by a few percent at the last election. After a bout of media coverage predicting economic ruination if the shinners got anywhere near power, they dropped the policy. Despite the fact that there was no real chance of such a policy actually being enacted, enough of a 'red-scare' was mounted to persuade them to ditch the policy.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
To see governments simply as instrumentalities of one aspect of the societal mix - capital, or rather a very narrow definition of capital - doesn't seem to me to be plausible or anything other than reductionist.

Again, you appear to have missed the bit where I said: "this is not to say that the state acts purely as the executive board of the capitalist class. It has its own perogatives and its own logic independent of this role". I also don't think it helps clarity to restate my point using formulations such as "instrumentalities of one aspect of the societal mix." I try to be precise in my language and I think such formulations are much less clear than the ones that I use. I'm specifically talking about decision making which is a much more well-understood and clear thing than whether something is an instrumentality or not. Moreover, if I understand what it means correctly, I don't think I even agree with it.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
As for decision making power, civil society, indeed society is made up of many competing groups... unions, lobby groups, NGOs, cultural groups, etc, etc. To posit that collectively capital is able to dominate them all seems to me yet again to be a simplification.

It is only a simplification if, in your formulation, you take 'dominate' to mean 'obliterate'. If, instead you take it to mean "has a much stronger influence on" then it becomes similar to what I've said. Moreover, as such it can't be a simplification. It is either wrong or right. If you can think of any metric at all which would suggest it was wrong, I would be amazed. NGOs and trade unions don't have daily national newspapers, television stations, huge PR departments, cash to sponsor multiple think tanks, lobbyists and so on. By any measure the wealthy can devote vastly greater resources to influencing government decision making and there is a huge volume of evidence which shows that the imbalance of resources is reflected in the actual decisions made - from studies into the provenance of legislation to the large number of well known cases where governments have changed policies in response to the direct and open demands of the bodies representing the interests of the rich.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Sure, capital relations underpin societal relations, but that's not quite the same thing as suggesting that those who own capital dictate all that occurs within the social/economic sphere which is your underlying argument, unless I massively misrepresent it.

You do, for the fifth or sixth time. I don't think it's possible for anybody to "dictate all that occurs" in any complex dynamic system. Societies and economies are dynamic systems of such mind-boggling complexity that any notion of 'dictating' an outcome is meaningless. My use of the word 'dictate' was in the context of claiming that you understimate "the degree to which state decisions are dictated by the needs of capitalists" and I think my point is entirely accurate. You haven't actually argued against it though. I most certainly don't think that government decisions dictate all that happens in society or the economy, I don't even think anything remotely similar to that.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Moreover it ignores the reality that capital is constrained in ways which were unthinkable a hundred or even fifty years ago.

Once again, you seem to have completely missed the bit where I said: "Civil society, for its part, certainly can't be ignored. It places certain boundaries on the actions of the state and the corporations". I am fully aware - and entirely supportive - of the myriad of ways in which civil society has been able to constrain the decisions of capitalists over the last hundred or even fifty years ago. I even spend a significant amount of time and energy trying to increase the ability of civil society to constrain the freedom of the powerful and wealthy to do whatever the hell they like.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Neo-liberalism? Bad. Clearly. But look at the economic structures this state laboured under, essentially close to a moderated laissez-faire from 1922 to the first FF administration. Then a sort of protectionism with some degree of state intervention which faded as they atrophied in power, then a burst of interventionism in the first Inter-Party coalition. From then on, and even during the 1980s when a faux Thatcherite economics was supposedly dominant, particularly under FG and to a degree under FF's 1987 administration one can see a continual extension of state power to this day through differing instruments, bords, quangos, executives, etc. Sure, we've seen privatisation and the establishment of hand's off 'executives' and such like. But in pure economic terms this remains a strongly mixed economy with considerable state intervention and regulation and I suspect and hope the pendulum will shift further towards the public over the next decade. The point being that the relationships between state and capital are hugely significant and have, broadly speaking, led to a renegotiation where capital is powerful, but far from the only determining course, and that across a century. There is plenty of scope to shift the lever leftwards (or indeed rightwards).

The last sentence is an assertion that is unsupported by any of the preceding points. The fact that the state has had different policies in different historical situations does not imply anything at all about the possibility of "shifting the lever leftwards". Your argument lacks a plausible mechanism by which such a shift could be carried out in the current situation.

I also think think that you are, once again, missing my point entirely. I don't think that the state is a static thing at all, nor do I think that the relationship between the state and capital isn't under continual renegotiation, nor do I think capital is the only determining course. I have argued that 'capital' (although I prefer not to use such uber-abstractions) exercises a very strong influence on state decision making. If you accept this, which is I think hard to disagree with, then your argument doesn't impact upon my point at all.

I also think that you are wrong to equate the multiplication of "bords, quangos, executives" and so on with an "extension of state power". The state has less power to control the economy or the society than it ever had before in the past. Economic globalisation and the electronic-communications revolution have both created great constraints on the actions of the state.

But, more to the point, if you look at who sits on the various "bords, quangos, executives" and so on that the state has created, it is hard to see how this trend diminishes the influence that capitalists have over state decision making. Typically such bodies are formed primarily from those who represent the views of those who own the industries in the relevant area. In many cases they represent the state transferring its regulatory role away from civil servants in favour of a group representing "concerned capitalists" of the industry in question.

WorldbyStorm wrote:
Finally, way to go as regards positing my naive approach to such matters. I hold one view, you another.

I genuinely hope you get over that hangover soon.

Touché Twisted Evil

But, seriously, I think the idea that you expressed is naive and springs from wishful thinking, not your good self. There are many people much smarter than me who hold the same view. It's the opinion that I consider to be flawed, not the person holding it. I hope you don't take offence.


Last edited by chekov on Mon May 26, 2008 1:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon May 26, 2008 1:34 am

cactus flower wrote:
If anyone has the patience to answer this ( advice to look at Wikipedia would be a good enough answer) it would be much appreciated. I'm not even sure who on this thread would consider themselves to be an anarchist.

The anarchist faq is a good place to start: http://www.infoshop.org/faq/index.html

Although it is very long, it starts off with the simpler questions and progressively goes onto more complex ones. The wikipedia page isn't great since it's heavily dominated by US users and, as everybody knows, US politics tends to bring out the bizzare (and when you're talking about a political philosophy as marginal as anarchism, this tendency is amplified considerably).

One difference with many other political approaches is that its basic principles are both specific enough in intent and general enough in applicability to be put into practice in one's day to day dealings with other people. By virtue of holding anarchist ideas, anarchism's adherents place themselves under a moral obligation. If you use power or wealth to exploit or oppress other people, or if you meekly allow others to exploit or oppress you, you're not doing it right.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon May 26, 2008 1:59 am

cactus flower wrote:
Can I ask if there are any generally agreed principles (by anarchists) of what anarchism is, and any generally agreed texts?

Or is a very free-flowing adherence to the practice of not having top down leadership?

you don't need to read book to do anarchism (or capitalism or democracy or libertarianism)...

mass gradual action i would say...doing and organising things yourself...
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon May 26, 2008 1:20 pm

cactus flower wrote:
lostexpectation wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
I am on a learning curve about anarchism in this thread and have not yet fully formed a view on what it is politically or what its potential is for implementation as a form of government. I'd say the immediate electoral prospects of an anarchist party would be small.

well the whole point is that should be able to do it without struggling to get into parliament or any legislator

Mass action of some kind?
Well, revolutionary collective action is one way and if Anarchism is ever going to succeed there will be flash points where the conflicts between the current system and the ideal are resolved, but in order to get anywhere near that point, we need to build and operate alternative models to inspire others that another world is possible. I have already mentioned the Po Valley in Italy, but there exists a very positive example of what we should be striving for in Ireland. We had a massively successful cooperative movement in Ireland, but over a few decades, we have seen the word cooperation replaced with competition.

It's an easy argument to make that mutual aid is much better than competition and individualism, the problem is that very few people are making that case anymore. All it will take is a shift in the discourse, and that can happen at any time.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon May 26, 2008 1:40 pm

The example of the Po Valley is a good image of a real society of co-operatives and i'm wondering if you know of more of such extended areas populated by co-ops?

What happened to us here with the moving away from mutual aid towards competition? Was joining the European Union anything to do with our shifts in attitude or do you or anyone else know if the EU has support for co-ops built into it?
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon May 26, 2008 1:43 pm

WorldbyStorm wrote:


Now, I'm certainly not denying that one might establish parallel networks of education, but without a broad societal momentum and support they will tend to wither on the vine... consider as an example gaelscoileanna and how long it has taken for them to establish themselves even with considerable localised support in communities...

In the 1890s, Horace Curzon Plunkett imported the idea of cooperatives into Ireland and within a decade, there were 800 coops all around the country.

Given the right conditions, a good idea can spread remarkably fast. Currently, there is a push towards individualism but this is not necessarily a permanent thing. We are heading into a new phase in the global economy and it is possible that there will be a shift towards collectivism. (there certainly is such a movement in latin america at the moment)


Quote :

And there is a further problem that people are already locked into a system which they're not unhappy with. People have careers, promotional paths, structures, a stake - however small - in the current structure. You're not talking about reforms, but about massive societal change. I think there is zero appetite for that. How to persuade people? I see no easy way forward there. And I speak (or write) as one very very dissatisfied with the current educational structures and keen to implement much of the sort of change that you seek.
Yeah, people have invested in the current system and they're going to try and protect that investment. But like all investments, there is a risk attached, and if they start to see losses, they can turn very quickly. Socialism always increases in popularity during times of economic crisis. In a severe depression, there can be a lot of resentment against the few profiteers who continue to do well while everyone else suffers, while in a boom, people see those same profiteers as a role model and drivers of the economy.
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PostSubject: Re: Anarchism - the most misrepresented and misunderstood philosophy?   Mon May 26, 2008 2:10 pm

To come at this discussion from a different angle, here is the text of an excellent post on the Media Lens message board about the decline of the Canterell oil field in Mexico and how deregulation in the US at the behest of the banks and oil industry giants is being used to squeeze the poorest - i.e the majority. It sums the situation up very well - recommend reading the articles at the links below:

Quote :
Oil prices are being inflated by the same controlling banking interests (JP Morgan and Citibank - the private owners of the US Fed) who helped to engineer house-price inflation in the UK by converting people's mortgage debts to high-yield off-shore tax-free investment bonds. The same people who engineered the 'credit crunch' crisis by Ponzi scams in sub-prime mortgages and asset-backed securities which led to the run on Northern Rock and the 'liquidity crisis' as banks refused to lend to each other. Gordon Brown solved Norhern Rock with over £100 billion in taxpayers cash and loan guarantees. And he solved the liquidity crisis with a further £50 billion in soft loans of taxpayers' cash to bail-out the banks, whilst doubling the tax rate for the poorest in society.

Now the same capitalist monopoly controlling interests are manipulating the oil price to make huge profits from economies which have been structured for high dependency on cheep oil. As with inflating house prices to treble their cost in relation to average wages, it's another strategy to induce poverty in order to enhance domination and control over the masses.

Alan Johnson on the Andrew Marr show yesterday pointed to these 'global shocks' and said there's nothing any government could do to prevent them. Indicating that he, at least, believes there is no link between the false markets neoliberal deregulation has helped to create and loophole tax schemes designed by Brown that have permitted wealthy investors and institutions to operate off-shore tax-free Ponzi schemes to increase wealth of minority capitalist interests, who are the same interests that the British and American economies are in fact being manipulated for. The idea that the consequences of these Ponzi schemes are 'nothing to do with government policy' is utterly absurd when they are creating the policy framework that allows minority capitalist exploitation of the masses in the housing and fuel sectors, and using billions of taxpayers cash to bail-out the financial sector, but doing little to protect the masses from the consequences of speculation and profiteering.


http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JE24Dj02.html

: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601086&sid=auA2G9v81BqM&refer=news


This is the essence of top down capitalist democracy at work. You can see the utter powerlessness of ordinary people in this situation - that their so-called democracies are utterly failing them/us. The only 'freedom' and 'democracy' the capitalists are ever referring to is their own freedom to wrestle as much control and profit as possible over the world's resources. As the poster of the message above makes clear, it isn't, either, just a matter of wreckless profiteering without thought for the consequences for society at large - though there is plenty of that around too. At political level it's well understood that when you keep a crtical mass of people in either relative or actual poverty - you have ultimate control over them - that consideration is very much a part of the strategy. The whole package is situated within other critical strategies to create the illusion of democracy - such as a media that stays almost wholly on message and an electoral pantomime every few years to help people convince themselves that the world is the right way up.

We have had a century or more of electoral party politics in certain western countries and it has been a sham to a very large extent. To put the quote above in an Irish context, how many Irish people had any idea that our oil and gas resources were being traded for nothing? Surely in that example alone we have as much evidence as we could possibly need that this is not a proper democracy. In a bottom up anarchist society, this scenario would have been impossible.

(Personally, I dont think oil should be the property of individual nations but should be treated and managed as a global resource so that those parts of the world that are not fortunate to own any are not vulnerable to exploitation by those who are - but that's kind of another discussion though not unrelated to the internationalism that is also crucial to successful anarchism or socialism.)
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