Friday, April 4, 2008

I must assume

From "The Unity of Ideals and Practice" by Murray Bookchin.
Certain basic concepts are fundamental to traditional leftists, especially to social anarchists, and when I encounter people who call themselves social anarchists, I must assume that, if their politics is to have any meaning, they still uphold these concepts. I must assume that social anarchists, like other leftists, understand that capitalism is a competitive market system in which rivalry compels bourgeois enterprises to continually grow and expand. I must assume they understand that this process of growth is absolutely inexorable, driven by the "competitive market forces" of production and consumption—as the bourgeoisie itself acknowledges. Nor can these "forces" be eliminated as long as capitalism exists, any more than a class-dominated economy could ever put an end to the exploitation of labor. Social anarchists, I must assume, understand that if capitalism continues to exist, it will yield catastrophic results for society and the ecological integrity of the natural world. So inherent are these features to capitalism that to expect the capitalist system not to have them is to expect it to be something other than capitalist.

Further, I must assume that social anarchists, like other leftists, believe that if humanity is ever to attain a free and rational society, capitalism must be completely destroyed. Social anarchists are distinctive among leftists, however, in maintaining that the social order that must replace it must be a collectivist, indeed a libertarian communist society, in which production and distribution are organized according to the maxim "From each according to ability, to each according to need" (to the extent, to be sure, that such needs can be satisfied given the existing resources of the society). Social anarchists agree, I must assume, that such a libertarian communist society cannot be achieved without the prior abolition not only of capitalism but of the state, with its professional bureaucracy, its monopoly over the means of violence, and its inherent commitment to the interests of the bourgeoisie.

Social anarchists agree, I must further assume, that the state must be replaced by a democratic political realm, one that comprises "communes" or municipalities of some kind that are in confederation with one another. Anarchosyndicalists believe that it is essentially workplace committees and libertarian unions that will structure these confederations. Anarchocommunists advance a variety of other forms, and my own will be summarized later. But when I meet a social anarchist, I assume that he or she shares these minimal, underlying common principles: the basic analysis of capitalism and its trajectory that I have described, as well as the imperative to replace competitive market-oriented social relations with libertarian institutions.

Didactic as my presentation may seem, I contend that to abandon any of these principles is to abandon the defining features of social anarchism, or of any revolutionary libertarian Left. To be sure, it is not easy to advance such ideas today. Former leftists who have themselves surrendered some of these principles in order to accommodate themselves to the existing society incessantly sneer at revolutionary leftists who still maintain them, accusing them of being "dogmatic," dismissing the coherence they prize as "totalitarian," and impugning their resolute social commitment as "sectarian." Moreover, in a time when social and political ideas are being blurred beyond recognition, principled leftists are advised repeatedly to relinquish their militancy—and presumably succumb to the mindless incoherence and pluralism that is commonly hallowed in the name of "diversity." Most of all, they are subjected to pressures to renounce the Left and blend in with the accommodation that is prevalent today, as so many of their former comrades have done.
Posted simply because it's about as concise an explanation of the basic assumptions of social anarchism as I've seen. Bookchin's view both of what is wrong with the system, how to address it, and what to replace it with is quite similar to my own.

1 comment:

  1. i never read bookchin before, but he really hit the nail on the head. wow, excellent summation, nothing in it i dont agree with.