Big step forward for the radical movement

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at
Sun Feb 3 15:23:42 MST 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at>

>>>. UC Santa Cruz
> professor Barbara Epstein, an expert on direct action, senses that
> anarchism has now become "the pole that everyone revolves around,"
> much as Marxism was in the '60s. In other words, even young activists
> who don't identify as anarchists have to position themselves in
> relation to its values.<<

If anyone wants the entire article being quoted here, I can send it to them off
list. The above sentence actually struck a fairly deep chord with me; as a
Marxist I need to constantly fight for Marxism without fighting against
Anarchism precisely as this is put- because to be "anti-anarchist" would be
political suicide.

The basic "lowest common denominator" is the value systems that can be
wonderful- when there is lots of time and no insurrection in the works. When it
comes to the real struggle, then we are going to have some rather deep problems
with the "anarchist" answer. The division between lifestyle anarchism and social
anarchism (the terms used by Bookchin in describing the two common trends) are
deep enough that social anarchists would rather deal with Marxists and others
than the Vegan Nazis (I am a veggie myself, before anyone gets offended).

The real problems are also the strengths. The movement, I had thought, was going
to dissappear after 9-11. The fact has been that there have not been the
wholesale collapses I foolishly expected. The G8 will be meeting only 14 hours
away in June ("only 14 hours" is a Canadian concept I suppose). The people who I
had met up with at the end of last summer are still organising on the same basis
as before. Perhaps- far too much the same.

In Vancouver, we recently were treated to a stop over of the Edmonton contingent
of the G8 planning session. I noted
A) There was almost zero talk of the connection between the current globalized
war and globalization itself, and
B) There were (as indicated by A) no real anti-war activists from the groups I
have been involved with that are fighting the imperialist war.
C)  The following observation was not popular in the room of the Spokescouncil-
the group that came had no real tasks that they wanted to be carried out, but
instead decided to simply "inform" us here as to what they were doing.
Personally, I want to help put together a Vancouver contingent- perhaps we can
agitate to get our friends in the ILWU to shut down the ports across the West--
or at least to do so in Vancouver.
The kind of "consensus" and "democratic" value structures that are held by our
anarchist comrades are anathema to giving out what might be construed as orders,
which in turn might indicate a hierarchy. This is a constant. Anything that
might give some structure to a leadership body- even a steering committee-- is
viewed with grave suspicion. This makes organising painfully difficult and makes
me quote Lenin inside my own head perhaps a dozen times a meeting.

The problems as things stand is this: People do not see how things are changing
with the war and the neo-fascists in Ottawa and Washington. Listening to people
talk in the "movement" makes me wonder if they can comprehend a society where
liberal laws do not protect the youthful (and primarily white) from persecution
for their politics. Obviously, this will need to change.

Ask the local "Mobilzation for Globalization" crew why they are not working with
the anti-war movement in town very closely, and the answer comes back: "We have
decided to work on globalisation issues". This is the next big hurdle. Once the
energy and militance of the "new radicals" gets the Bushie connundrum (as per
the Enron and Afghan connection) the movement as it stands will take on a
different edge.

Simply put, the "movement" will need to figure out how to maintain it's
militance while not simply mimmicking it's own history- nor that of seperate
generations. Today's crew needs to figure out how not to lose sight of itself
when it falls off the front pages. The WEF would have been two days worth of
major news in the absence of the war and the ensuing set of circumstances.
People will have to be alright with not being "it" all the time.

Again, the old dynamic comes up: While the NGO crowds and big labour try to sell
us out into the machinations of capital- what can a movement that has no centre
do to respond and fight against these betrayals?

Unfortunately, due to the increased surplus value of capital at the core of the
world economy- a First World radical movement will continue to have petty
bourgeois characteristics. The object for us is to have the same attitude
towards this as Marx did the German peasant uprisings, Lenin did the spontaneous
workers of the turn of the last century and Mao did to those of Hunan. We need
not to tell the existing movement what is wrong with it or how to be like a
great book says it ought- but rather we need to come up with the creative
thinking- born of direct infusion with the movement from the inside out- that
these leaders did in their time and find the way to push the bar and get the
movement as we see it a definition and ability to take on the next level.

We don't have the luxury to waste pointless time arguing with one another about
issues of only very little import to todays movement. Personally, I haven't had
an argument with an anarchist comrade over Kronstadt in several years. I do
debate the virtues of consensus all the time.

To our comrades in New York: *twinkle*.


PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list