Friday, January 18, 2019

Engels' anti-war transitional demands

Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. V: War and Revolution
by Hal Draper and Ernest Haberkern

 * * * * *

Volume 5 covers Marx and Engels and their writings on European wars and revolutions in their journalism and correspondence. Chapters 6 and 7 deal specifically with attempts by Engels to develop transitional demands against expanding war budgets in Germany and France. Engels wanted these transitional demands to thwart rightward shifts in the German and French sections of the Second International under growing pressure of chauvinist bourgeois public opinion in these countries.

*   * *

Chapter 6.3

Chapter 7.1-2


18 January 2018

"Change your course"

....We live in the epoch of imperialism, in the epoch of the greatest international and internal upheavals – and this creates the great rising revolutionary curve upon which our policies are based. But it is impermissible to think that this "curve" will carry us through under any and all conditions. This is false! He understands nothing who believes that we can build socialism even in the event capitalism is able to crush the proletariat for several decades to come. This is not optimism but the stupidity of national-reformism. We can be victorious only as an integral section of the world revolution. We must hold on until the world revolution, even if the latter is deferred for a number of years. In this respect, the trend of our policy is of decisive importance. By means of a correct revolutionary course, we shall intrench ourselves for a number of years, we shall intrench the Communist International, move ahead along the socialist path and achieve our being taken in tow by the great historical tugboat of the international revolution.

Our present party course is the main danger. It stifles the revolutionary power of resistance. What does your course consist of? You put your stake on the strong peasant and not on the agricultural laborer and the poor peasant. You steer toward the bureaucrat and the functionary and not the masses. You place far too much faith in the apparatus. In the apparatus you have tremendous internal support for each other, and mutual insurance for yourselves – that is why Ordjonikidze is unable to succeed even in reducing the staffs. Independence from the masses creates the system of mutual concealment and shielding. And all this is considered as the main prop of power. In the party, reliance is now placed on the secretary and not on the rank and file member. You rely now on Purcell and not on the rank and file proletarian. You rely not on the revolutionary miner but on Purcell who has betrayed the miners. In China, you steer a course toward Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei and not toward the Shanghai proletarian, not the coolie who drags cannon on his shoulder, and not the insurgent peasant.

You have placed on the order of the day the question of expelling us from the Central Committee. Assuredly, each one of us will carry out his work regardless of his position, as a rank and file party member. But this will not solve the question; you will have to draw further conclusions. Life itself will compel you to make these conclusions. You had better pause instead and change your course.


1926 speech at the Session of
the Central Control Commission

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Notes on Chapter 6 of Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. IV: Critique of Other Socialisms by Hal Draper.

Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. IV: Critique of Other Socialisms by Hal Draper.


Chapter 6.5 the history of society, anarchy tends to be the complement of despotism—as has been mentioned before 31—so also is this true in patterns of organization. "This transformation into its opposite," wrote Engels in another connection, "this final landing at a point diametrically opposite from the starting point," is the fate of historical movements that are directed toward "merely illusory goals."32

* * *

Chapter 6.9

....The Bakuninist movement time and again exemplified the historical tendency for anarchist revolutionism to turn into a hectic kind of reform.

Behind its terrible phrases about the dangers of "politics" lay extreme naiveté about reformist politics. We have mentioned the anarchist propensity to use the word 'state' to mean a despotic state only. The other side of this misapprehension is the propensity for the abrupt outbreak of the crudest sort of political opportunism.

....Instead of taking advantage of the republican turmoil to bring about the immediate overthrow of the new bourgeois state, as anarchist rhetoric demanded, the Bakuninist leaders
hailed the new state in these terms: "The Republic has been proclaimed; the French people have again become master of their own destiny." They gushed: "The cause of the French Republic is that of the European revolution, and the moment has come to give our blood for the emancipation of the workers and all of humanity." "This is the dawn of the new day.…"

This fulsome frenzy over the new bourgeois republic should be contrasted with the corresponding statement that Marx wrote for the General Council, an appeal to defend republican France against European reaction. In this "Second Address on the War" Marx warned the French workers not to be "deluded" by republican memories: "We hail the advent of the Republic in France, but at the same time we labour under misgivings which we hope will prove groundless." He cautioned against illusions about the new republic. And then Marx, with the General Council, unleashed a whirlwind of activity to mobilize working-class forces to achieve British recognition of the republican regime and to defend republican France against dismemberment.71

The contrast between these two documents illuminates a whole area of socialist politics.

....An even more extreme acting-out of the pattern took place in 1873, when during revolutionary turmoil in Spain the Bakuninists came to power locally here and there in peasant districts. In an article on "The Bakuninists at Work," Engels related how they had junked their anarchist principles about setting up state powers in revolution—in fact, had deserted elementary revolutionary principles by participating in bourgeois -controlled governments as powerless captives of the liberals. (This was history's rehearsal for the similar role of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.)

When the test of experience made nonsense out of the anarchists' rhetoric about the Instant Abolition of the State, they knew nothing to do except behave like the frenzied liberals they basically were.

....The Bakuninist Alliancists, "who here too, contrary to their anarchist principles, formed a revolutionary government, did not know what to do with their power." These enemies of all authority (which is basically evil) introduced passes to prevent people from leaving the city without authorization. In general, they presided over confusion and helplessness. (How can one run a revolutionary state which is not supposed to exist?)

....In Cordova, the same Bakuninists who a few months earlier had been arguing that to establish any revolutionary government was a betrayal of the workers "now sat in all the revolutionary municipal governments of Andalusia, but always in a minority," so that the bourgeois republican majority could do what it wished, sheltered behind the anarchists' responsibility. Instead of forming revolutionary governments that were systematically controlled from below by the workers in action, they joined coalition governments they did not control at all.

....They had no political guide for a situation that was not supposed to happen; they had been "against politics," and they had no politics—other than the crudest parliamentary politics of the liberals. Since the Bakuninist prescription of "decentralization" proscribed any "centralized leadership" of the revolutionary forces of the various towns, each town in the insurrection was defeated one by one by the counterrevolution, picked off separately.

....Engels summed up as follows: 1. As soon as they were faced with a serious revolutionary situation, the Bakuninists had to throw the whole of their old program overboard. First they sacrificed their doctrine of absolute abstention from political, and especially electoral, activities.

....Engels' fifth point was all-inclusive: "In short, the Bakuninists in Spain have given us an unparalleled example of how a revolution should not be made."72
Engels' fifth point was all-inclusive: "In short, the Bakuninists in Spain have given us an unparalleled example of how a revolution should not be made."72

*  * *

Chapter 6.10

....The reformist side of Bakuninism showed up most prominently where it gained something like a mass following locally. When it was not putschist, terrorist, or adventurist, it could make contact with reality only by shelving its antistatist rhetoric.

....his hopes of "riding the peasantry," utilizing elements of the lumpen-class (brigands and such), and topping this barricade fodder off with the elite dictatorship of a lumpen-intelligentsia.

....The "anarchist" tendency is no "extreme" wing of the German Social-Democracy … In the latter we have the actual historical movement of the working class; the former is a fantasy-vision of the jeunesse sans issue [youth with no future] who want to make history, and it shows only how the ideas of French socialism are caricatured in the hommes déclassés of the upper classes. Accordingly, anarchism is in fact everywhere defeated, and is only vegetating in those places where no real working-class movement has yet come into existence. This is the fact.75

....A circular written for the International by Engels in August 1872 summed up some facts about the Alliance. Bakunin, it charged, aimed to impose his "personal dictatorship" on the whole movement. It was naturally a startling accusation against the man who presented himself as the very paladin of untrammeled Freedom, especially since Engels did not then have the secret documents, now known to us, in which Bakunin separates members into two classes, the "initiated" who lead in secret and the "profane" who are led by the nose, through "an organization whose very existence is unknown to them" (the International Brothers, in Bakunin's scheme). The Alliance imposes the duty of "mendacity, dissimulation and imposture," in the first place to deceive the profane ranks as to the very existence of the secret organization and leadership.77

....While they demand that the International should be organised from below upwards, they themselves, as members of the Alliance, humbly submit to the word of command which is handed down to them from above.

....hidden control by a "secret society of dupers" who lead their dupes, like a flock of sheep, through "secret instructions emanating from a mysterious personage in Switzerland" (i.e., Bakunin).78

...."The ending of the present social order," the anarchist utopia explained, involved "concentrating all the means of social existence in the hands of Our Committee, and the proclamation of compulsory physical labor for everyone." Anyone who refused to join a work group "will be left without means of subsistence. All the roads, all the means of communication will be closed to him; he will have no other alternative but work or death."80 There are further revolting details.

...."What a beautiful model of barrack-room communism!" exclaimed the International's pamphlet.

Here you have it all: communal eating, communal sleeping, assessors and offices regulating education, production, consumption, in a word, all social activity, and to crown all, Our Committee , anonymous and unknown to anyone, as the supreme director. This is indeed the purest anti-authoritarianism.81

The pamphlet went on to highlight the atrocities: the bosses of "Our Committee"—"Messrs. Bakunin and Nechayev"—have reason to nourish their "competitive hatred of the state and of any centralization of the workers' forces." They have to wipe out every alternative to their own hidden dictatorship, to fragment society so that it is amenable to manipulation by "Our Committee" incognito. They would not be able to succeed "while the working class continues to have any representative bodies of its own," that is, its own democratic political organization.

....theocratic, bureaucratic-collectivist community founded by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century, based on the labor of the Paraguayan Indians: a model, by the way, which found admirers in the socialist movement as well as among anarchists. Bakunin often expressed his admiration for, and desire to emulate the example of, the Jesuit system of infiltrating centers of power with trained adepts.83

* * *

Chapter 6.11

....the opportunity to repeat its triumphant bore-from-within destruction of the First International. When the International Socialist Congress of 1896 voted to exclude them, and they could no longer have a form of existence as a parasitic growth, the anarchists were historically finished as an international working-class current; and even the national exceptions declined one by one.

At the same time that the socialist movement was separating itself from the anarchists, much of the right-wing Social-Democracy began to tend toward an attitude about anarchism that was basically different from Marx's. This attitude was largely taken over from liberalism. It was the view that anarchism was merely a lovely and saintly vision of the Good Society which was admirable but unfortunately impractical.

In part this delightful conception was made possible by one-sidedly seeing anarchism simply as an idea about a future stateless society—that is, by equating anarchism, the ideology, with what Marx and others sometimes called anarchy when they were referring to a future society in which the state had completed its destiny in ultimately dying away. The more the anarchist movement disintegrated as an organized phenomenon counter-posed to the socialist movement, the more the Social-Democrats tended to drop Marx's understanding of anarchism as one of the most antidemocratic currents in the history of society, as and saintly vision of the Good Society which was admirable but unfortunately impractical.

In part this delightful conception was made possible by one-sidedly seeing anarchism simply as an idea about a future stateless society—that is, by equating anarchism, the ideology, with what Marx and others sometimes called anarchy when they were referring to a future society in which the state had completed its destiny in ultimately dying away. The more the anarchist movement disintegrated as an organized phenomenon counter-posed to the socialist movement, the more the Social-Democrats tended to drop Marx's understanding of anarchism as one of the most antidemocratic currents in the history of society, as the mirror image of bureaucratism.

As against Marx's view, the new Social-Democratic opinion often met was that our increasingly bureaucratized society should be balanced out with the injection of a little anarchism, as a sort of antidote. The combination of a lot of state bureaucratism and a little "cultural anarchism" was even put forward by some thinkers as a desirable goal. Anyway, it is nice to have harmless people around talking up a little anarchism (with its frisson of revolutionary bravado) as a counterweight to what is really happening in society. Alice had a bottle labeled "Drink me" to grow smaller, and a little cake labeled "Eat me" to grow bigger: so, too, one should alternately sip from the
bureaucratic bottle and nibble at the anarchist cake in order to keep social "authority" at just the right size. A little later we find in Wonderland that the bureaucratic and anarchist potions are both taken out of opposite sides of the same mushroom; they had turned out to be the same fungal growth.

This common Social-Democratic attitude implied condescending or patronizing smiles at anarchist jesters who had a right to make fools of themselves as long as they supposedly told some home-truths about the bureaucratization of society, which was being nurtured by the Social-Democrats as by the bourgeois rulers. Marx's attitude was quite different.

Marx and Engels had little but scorn for "this clownish caricature" of the real movement,86 and for the "childish minds" of "the so-called anarchists, who in fact are props of the present order."87 Here Marx made an advance comment on the later liberal-Social-Democratic practice of showcasing anarchist sages as saints who were, unfortunately, too good and innocent for this world. (Like Prince Kropotkin, who was no Bakunin, to be sure.)

But socialist militants also knew of the role that the anarchist movement played in country after country—as even Kropotkin had done in France in his militant days before becoming an icon in England—in providing the reactionary governments and their police with ammunition to harass and smash the working-class movement. The governments' "black cabinet" (department of dirty tricks against subversives) had a positive need for something like anarchism to be played up as a "social peril' while remaining quite harmless to the real powers: in short, to be used as a bogy. So Marx remarked in a letter to his daughter Laura. As for the image of the Saintly Innocent, he recalled a parable: when Henry VII asked Pope Julius II to place Henry VI among the saints, the witty pope "answered that an innocens (otherwise known as idiot) is not thereby to be called sanctus." 88

But it was after Marx's death that the movement suffered most from the governments' use of anarchist outrages (indiscriminate bombings, assassination attempts, etc.) to direct blows at labor and socialism. This was why Engels wrote in an 1894 letter, "there is a great gulf between us and the anarchists."89 By the end of the nineteenth century there was literally a line of blood between.

For Marx anarchism was not a beautiful vision of saintly dreamers but a sick social ideology. Rooted in an idealist theory of the state, it oscillated between opportunism in politics and a frenzied flight from political reality to adventures in individual terrorism. Above all, it was an ideology alien to the life of modern working people . In the course of its development it reflected various class elements in a blind alley: artisanal workers fearfully confronting modern industry; recently proletarianized peasants fearfully meeting new societal pressures; lumpen-bourgeois elements fearfully facing an empty future; and alienated intelligentsia fearfully resenting the indignities of a money-obsessed society.

As time went on, the backward-looking labor element tended to fade out of this mixture—finally even in Latin countries—and anarchism as a creed tended to return to its starting point in Godwin and Stirner as an outbreak of bourgeois-idealist desperation, the ideology of a moorless Intelligenz . A year before Engels' death, the aforementioned brochure on anarchism by Plekhanov—immediately translated into English by Eleanor Marx—laid heavy stress on anarchism as a product of decadence in bourgeois society. While the brochure had many faults, it was good in conveying the reek of French fin-de-siècle littérateurs flirting with anarchist phrases to épater la bourgeoisie . "You will remain what you are now… bags emptied by history."90 Plekhanov's characteristic rhetoric this time had a fit target....

* * *

Chapter 6.12

....sum up the basic difference between Marx's views and those of anarchism, at three depths:

(1) For Marx, the "abolition of the state" could come about only at the end of a sufficient period of socialist reconstruction of society. For an anarchist, the decree "abolishing the state" must come, by an irrefragably
fixed principle, on the day of the revolution, with no "transitional" period or state form. It follows that, from the day that a socialist government takes power, all good anarchists must seek its instant destruction as an "authoritarian" menace.

(2) For Marx, the aim of the socialist movement is the democratization of political authority, and indeed of all authority. For an anarchist, any and all authority, however ideally democratic its basis, is the work of the devil, and must be destroyed. Besides, for Marx the abolition (or diminution, etc.) of state power does not yet necessarily entail the elimination of all elements of authority in political and social life, though the latter may become a still-farther goal of societal evolution.

(3) One way of summing up the difference in basic views lies in the definition, or interpretation, of freedom —the much exalted freedom whose abstract glorification is the stock in trade, if not the total content, of all anarchist rhetoric.

• The anarchist view of "freedom" is basically individual-solipsistic: it depends on the absolute inviolability of the sovereign Ego in relation to the outside world—the total impermissibility of any imposition of any authority, authority of any kind or source, upon the unconditional autonomy of that sovereign Ego. Anarchism is basically a solipsism, whether or not anarchists recognize this consciously in their philosophic outlook. It does not mean freedom through democracy, or freedom in society, but, rather, freedom from any democratic authority whatsoever or any social constraint: in short, not a free society but freedom from society.

• Marx's view of "freedom" is basically social in its reference, and depends on the relation of the individual to his membership in the human species, which is historically organized in a society. Briefly, this view of "freedom" makes it a shorthand term for democratic freedom in society ; and the "problem" of freedom is the interpretation and implementation of this approach. "Democratic freedom in society" means that relationship of the individual to the collectivity which involves the maximum extension of control from below (control of the collectivity and all its decisions). This control applies also to the determination through democratic institutions of the extent or degree to which the collectivity of society should exercise any control over its individual components. In Marx's view, this last relationship is not fixed by abstract fiat, but is an evolving thing, which, in the course of a socialist reconstruction, may set a series of farther and still farther goals for realization, in the historical process of maximizing individual autonomy in society. In this sense, socialism raises not only the potentiality of the dying-away of the state but also of the farther goal: the dying-away of the role of authority in society, whether or not this can be conceived as reaching an extreme terminus.

This, then, was what Engels, for one, was thinking of in speaking about the leap into the world of freedom, from the world of necessity....

* * *

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Revolutionary Party: Its Role in the Struggle for Socialism By James P. Cannon

A friend's Amazon review of

The Revolutionary Party: Its Role in the Struggle for Socialism
By James P. Cannon

At the time Jim Cannon wrote this (it was first published in a 1968 book entitled 50 years of World Revolution), there was no one more qualified than he was to write on the topic of how to build a revolutionary Leninist-type party. This may someday serve as a preface or an afterword to a future edition of What Is to Be Done.

Cannon went through the school of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Debsian Socialist Party before becoming a founding leader of the Communist Party in the United States in 1919, one hundred years ago (see The First Ten Years of American Communism; Revolutionary Continuity: Birth of the Communist Movement; James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism).

1n 1928 Cannon was expelled from the CP for remaining true to the program of Lenin; those who did so were called "Trotskyists (see The History of American Trotskyism; The Left Opposition in the US, 1928–31; The Communist League of America, 1932–34).

Everything by Cannon is worth reading, but the most relevant books for how to build a Leninist party are The Struggle for a Proletarian Party; Speeches to the Party; Letters From Prison.

The Cuban Revolution was made without a party; something that we can't expect to see repeated, especially in an imperialist country. But after winning the military battles, they had to form a party for the political ones. For how Fidel Castro's July 26th Movement fused with two other tendencies to become what was initially the United Party of the Socialist Revolution, see "I Will Be a Marxist-Leninist To the End of MY Life" in Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro.

The “theory” of socialism in one country

The Revolution Betrayed: What Is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going?
By Leon Trotsky

From the Appendices.

....The "theory" of socialism in one country – a "theory" never expounded, by the way, or given any foundation, by Stalin himself – comes down to the sufficiently sterile and unhistoric notion that, thanks to the natural riches of the country, a socialist society can be built within the geographic confines of the Soviet Union. With the same success you might affirm that socialism could triumph if the population of the earth were a twelfth of what it is. In reality, however, the purpose of this new theory was to introduce into the social consciousness a far more concrete system of ideas, namely: the revolution is wholly completed; social contradictions will steadily soften; the kulak will gradually grow into socialism; the development as a whole, regardless of events in the external world, will preserve a peaceful and planned character. Bukharin, in attempting to give some foundation to the theory, declared it unshakably proven that

"we shall not perish owing to class differences within our country and our technical backwardness, that we can build socialism even on this pauper technical basis, that this growth of socialism will be many times slower, that we will crawl with a tortoise tempo, and that nevertheless we are building this socialism, and we will build it."

We remark the formula: "Build socialism even on a pauper technical basis," and we recall once more the genial intuition of the young Marx: with a low technical basis "only want will be generalized, and with want the struggle for necessities begins again, and all the old crap must revive."


Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Lyons fiasco of Bakunin

I've spent the last week reading the first half of Hal Draper's Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. IV: Critique of Other Socialisms as an antidote to The Shock Doctrine of the Left by Graham Jones.

Compared to the obscurantism of Jones, Draper is a pedagogical joy: clear, careful, measured and jocular. I laughed out loud when I read:

....It is a recorded fact that some of the marxologists who have celebrated Bakunin's "libertarianism" as against Marx's "authoritarianism" have also claimed that Bakunin's instrument for taking over the International was organized without the "principle of authority." But in fact that sort of talk was for the goyim .

A high-point in the book is Draper's recapitulation of the "Lyons fiasco" (Chapter 6.3):


12 January 2019

Anarcho-opportunism for the 21st century: Reading notes on The Shock Doctrine of the Left by Graham Jones (2018).

The Shock Doctrine of the Left
(Radical Futures) by Graham Jones

[My notes appear in brackets-JR]


....Podemos ....Syriza

[Organizations to be admired and emulated, apparently. A classless left conglomeration employed to rationalize concessions to the E.U. ruling class in Berlin.]

....Some feared that starting another top-down organization would repeat the failures of the anti-austerity movement; others worried that a lack of leadership could see another Occupy-like mobilization that created no lasting institution. Some railed against leftist language which alienated the majority, while others feared that a lack of analysis of capitalism would lead to a movement that forever reproduced it. Some objected to the hostile location of a university building. Others were just thankful we had booked a wheelchair accessible venue.

....Chaos is not randomness – it is extreme sensitivity. Where there is disorder in a dynamic body – like a human body, a city, the earth's ecosystem – small changes can cause anything from no effect to earth-shatteringly large outcomes. Its future is still, however, determined by its past, but at a level of complexity that makes it impossible to predict.

....neoliberalism had come to power through manipulating chaos.

....Milton Friedman

....right wingers learned to use these moments to their advantage.

....Terror attacks, natural disasters, civil wars and economic crashes have all
been used to enact changes far beyond what would normally be possible.

[Policies and programs of the state whose interests represent the dictatorship of capital are not implemented by an academic cabal. Limiting austerity, warmaking, and anti-labor offensives that have been pursued by the bourgeoisie internationally for four decades to products of a think tank in "Chicago" is both incorrect and a disorienting approach to class reality. It leaves workers and farmers  unprepared for the self-activity of party-building and a program of independent labor political action. The revolutionary socialist party, and not nostrums cooked up at all-night campus bull sessions, is the irreplaceable instrument in organizing our class to overthrow the dictatorship of capital.]

....We can embed our visions in a network of organizations; align the left around a preparation for shocks; and in those moments enact rapid, irreversible change. move beyond reactive mobilizations and towards an active collective project.

[Is the program of the international petty bourgeois left (evidently populated by academics, professional squatters, and small-bore NGO potentates) to gird their loins for the next crisis? With cadre of zero social weight, will these meritocratic engineers use the crisis to shove tens of millions of workers into carrying out their blueprints? And what if the laboring masses reject their schemas? What corrective shocks to the body of labor will be employed to carry out such doctrine?]

....people come together across wide areas demanding social justice for oppressed people, restructuring our movements away from domination by the white, the male, the able-bodied, the neurotypical, the heterosexual, the cisgender.

....Are we actively building an entirely new world today that we hope can take over tomorrow? Are we healing ourselves and our communities from oppression, marginalization and exploitation? Or are we taming those problems through incremental changes enacted by the state? These four categories – Smashing, Building, Healing and Taming – will be used as lenses through which to examine how complex systems operate, while remaining relevant to political action.

[Jargon and obscurantist euphemisms used to paint-over the true relationship of class forces in any struggle, much less an anti-working class program of healing via smashing, is not a road to workers power. It is a road to self-satisfaction by a small coterie of self-selected leaders who, when their schemas fail, can happily blame the poor, dumb, racist, neurally typical workers for their fiasco's defeat.]

....From this we can develop a strategic framework that incorporates these different logics, while mitigating their failures. This meta-strategy is what I call the Shock Doctrine of the Left.

....language activates more than just definitions; it triggers emotions and networks of embodied knowledge. A word like 'system' links into such technical language as process, error, diagram, logic, administrator. In contrast, a word like 'body' will tend to trigger evocative and widely understood concepts like human, naked, sex, heart, soul, death. By using this more vivid, bodily language, we can make analyses more emotionally engaging. I propose to use an overarching metaphor of the body for this reason. Our existing bodily experience will be used to introduce new concepts. Where possible, language is re-framed: 'systems' become bodies, 'trajectories' become paths that we walk down, 'bifurcations' become forks in that path, and so on.

[No amount of absurdly manipulative nomenclature, aimed at turning democratic discussion away from clarity and toward acquiescence to our privileged left overlord, can shield the fact that this is just another get-rich-quick scheme, its actual political content a whateverist concoction cutting across class lines and ultimately aimed at saving our city, our country. It's the same social democratic class collaboration that led to defeat after defeat for our class in the 20th century. The proletariat can do without more Menshevism with a human face.]


1 The Body Model

....The human becomes part of a relationship, nested within a family, which is within a community, which is within a town or city, which is part of a global intercity network, which is part of the earth. In the same way, the human can become part of an organization, which is part of a local coalition, in a city-wide social movement, itself part of a national uprising, and a global revolution. A whole body can become a part of a larger body. This nesting of bodies-within-bodies-within-bodies allows us to picture the linkages between psychological, social and global organization.

....The body model of 'parts–relations–wholes, pasts–presents–futures' can be used as a tool for engaging in social struggle. When planning action, mapping the parts and relations within our opponents can highlight their weaknesses and our potential allies. When building organizations, a focus on how parts are interacting can inform how we design and structure bodies to create the powers we want to emerge. In mediating interpersonal disputes, and unlearning and healing from oppressions, it can help to understand how bodies on divergent paths have created conflict, and to ensure that the needs of all bodies affected are taken into account, in all their differences of experience and knowledge. And in navigating the corridors of power, it can help us understand how and why our paths can be corrupted, and what we can do to prevent this.

....every body is an organizer

....We are born into social bodies with histories that guide, constrain and empower us. Structures of oppression, poverty, neoliberal ideology, 'that is just the way things are'; all are the memory of bodies, of the clashes of the past, embedded in social and psychological structure. And yet it is we who reproduce this, in our individual and collective behaviour, in every moment. We create the present which will be the next generation's past, shaping the future for ourselves and for every generation to come.

....Making people aware of this power, and equipping them with the skills to use it, should be the focus of the left.

....An organization that is currently disconnected from social movements can become revolutionary, such as how churches formed the backbone of the civil rights movement. A whole city can become a revolutionary body, like the contemporary municipal movements in Spain, or a cross-country network of bodies like the Venezuelan system of communal councils.

[Municipal councils and communal councils in both Spain and Venezuela have been promoted for two decades by the revolt-without-taking-power wing of the left intelligencia, just as Chomsky and his ilk used to promote the Zapatistas. These are all anti-working class nostrums aimed at thwarting independent labor political action and the line of march toward workers power. They are presented as more 'realistic.' The workers of the world have been dying by inches thanks to the 'realism' of their misleaders.]

Further Reading

The Systems View of Life by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi provides an overview of the complex systems concepts which underlie the rest of this book. Political Affect by John Protevi translates the ideas of Deleuze and Guattari into complex systems terms, using the similar concept of 'bodies politic' to analyse events like Hurricane Katrina and the Columbine massacre. Process-Relational Philosophy by Robert Mesle is an accessible introduction to Alfred North Whitehead, whose 'philosophy of organism' shares aspects of our body model – the notion of 'concrescence' for example reflects the synthesis of past, present and future. Tektology: The Universal Organizational Science by Alexander Bogdanov was an early attempt (by a rival of Lenin's) to adapt Marxism towards a systems perspective similar to ours, and a precursor of today's complex systems theory. The Entropy of Capitalism by Robert Biel is in contrast one of the only sustained applications of complex systems ideas to contemporary Marxist analysis.

[The only moralizing habits Jones leaves out of this constellation of utopian structural sociology are vegetarianism and how to make one's own compost. But seriously, this low level grasping at ideas from academia is another bitter gift of Stalinism, which drew a curtain of suspicion over the hard-won body of thought called scientific socialism. So we are left with a reading list crowned by the god-builder and blood-transfusion crackpot Bogdanov! The weekly meetings at the local pub, promoted at the end of this chapter, must be something to behold.]


2 Smashing

....using disruptive actions to create our own chaos, as the initial spark of an accelerator of movement growth, to feed larger and larger shocks.

....left in Britain likes to focus on marches ending with long rallies, before going home. These are not necessarily useless, but alone they are. If these mobilizations were used to draw people into workshops teaching them new skills of self-organization and direct action, forming new organizations on the spot, this momentary empowerment could be made to last. Big central London marches could be the engine to accelerate swarms of action across the country.

....Compare this to the Russian revolutions of 1917. A network of Soviets – workers' councils – was already established prior to the October insurrection, providing an infrastructural vehicle which could take over governance. This body-of-bodies was therefore one of the 'initial conditions' which the chaos of the revolution could quickly realign around.

It is clear then why, with the collapse of the neoliberal order, we have seen such growth in the poles of both socialism and fascism. Shock in other words forces people to 'get off the fence', and this can increase public support for our movement, if we have prepared the ground. We have little control over when many such shocks will occur. To create an active and not simply reactive strategy therefore, we need to be able to plan our own chaos.

[The only cohort in politics today promoting the idea that racist and fascist forces are on the rise is the petty bourgeois left. In the U.S., every time a Republican candidate is elected president, hey-presto fascism is here!]

....The 'Stop the War' movement against the invasion of Iraq brought millions of people onto the streets. It included the largest protest in British history, and walkouts in schools, universities and workplaces. So why did it fail in its ultimate goal? In his book Rebel Cities, David Harvey argues that the key to successful mass action is found in disrupting urban processes, as witnessed in the effectiveness of transport and logistics strikes:

Jane McAlevey shows in her book No Shortcuts how those unions that take regular militant worker-led strike action to disrupt businesses get far more transformative results than those focused on closed-door negotiations. The workers are the parts of the workplace body that maintain it through their interactions, so a collective stoppage effectively kills the business.

....Mockery can be a powerful tool, but too often it remains merely symbolic – such as the liberal US comedians who failed to harm the rise of Donald Trump.

["Harm the rise" of Trump? Clearly it is for Jones the Republicans in the U.S. who cry out for defeat, and not capitalism, capitalists, and the dictatorship of capital. Harming the rise of any bourgeois politician is a dead-end: the bourgeoisie has ten thousand more Clintons, Trumps, and Sanders to step up and take over. Jones' politics are home-town in their horizon; Londonism, not internationalism.]

....Returning to 'Stop the War', action that directly targeted the metabolism of the state war-machine was minimal and ad hoc, the movement's leadership largely not supporting escalation. The strategy seemed to be to put pressure on the government through the sheer weight of public opinion. This can work, as politicians need popularity to win elections and keep their jobs. But in this case, it was clear when the war began, one month after the historic protest, that this strategy had failed. Alternative points of leverage would have needed to be found. Walkouts were symbolically powerful but did not cause enough disruption to the metabolism of war; sabotages in weapons factories, occupations of arms dealers, and blockades of ports might have been a different matter.

....We shouldn't discourage organic leaders in order to have equality in disempowerment; we should go out of our way to empower those who are less
decentralization not through destroying our own nodes of power but by massively proliferating them.

....If, however, we can absorb that released energy and feed it back into creating further shock, then we have a consistent engine, which I call an accelerator.

It involves mapping the bodies around us – their parts, relations and wholes, their paths and speeds – and developing interventions for altering them to our advantage. This allows us to expand 'acceleration' from a state-focused strategy (e.g. investing in technology), to one in which interventions can be made in bodies at any scale. Such analyses could also lead us to slow certain processes, or to accelerate not their growth but their collapse.

....New and existing parts – ideas, skills, interests – are combined to create new whole abilities, new powers – how to organize a strike, or a public assembly, or build a local campaign.

....If, following a shock, we are able to guide people towards friendly, accessible and holistic training, providing them with all the basic tools they need to keep organizing, then we stand a better chance of getting more sustainable results from waves of mobilization.

[The whole history of the middle class left refutes these self-important and egotistical daydreams.  The UK's pro-Hamas pro-Assad Stop the War Coalition is not an incubator for local "accelerationist" cadre who will disrupt the urban "metabolism." Stop the War leaders have no interest in giving organizational space to competitors. Like Momentum, StW is clogged with people who think it's been a good day when they can buttonhole someone and tell them about the pivotal role of Jews in the slave trade.

["Activism" is an endless Groundhog Day that demoralizes anarcho-liberal opportunists. Attracted by the idea that they can improve their life styles by being a do-gooder, burn-out is the only climax.

[The most weighty and "transformative" political movements in the U.S. were proletarian through-and-through. The building of the CIO in 1933-1948 was led by seasoned militants from earlier labor struggles. The subsequent mass proletarian civil rights movement stood on the shoulders of the CIO's rank-and-file leadership. These achievements paved the way for antiwar and women's movements in which bourgeois figures and Democratic Party hacks could not dominate. A broadening revolutionary leadership could have been built out of these struggles but for the corrupting impact of Stalinism internationally.

[Jones paints pictures in this chapter of massive disruptions of logistics and everyday like not for rulers but for workers. To what end? Making the ruling class swear-off Milton Friedman and embrace - what?

[These are political leaps in imagination are a lovely example of activism completely separated from working class reality. Jones can spend the rest of his life sucking these nostrums out of his thumb and demanding his friends join him in jumping over their own heads. It's fun and disruptive and completing reassuring to the class enemy.]


3 Building

....create the kind of resilient, large-scale, long-term bodies needed to replace dominant powers.

[With their own directing authority?]

....if we want a world of workplaces owned and run cooperatively, of political decision-making power in local community hands, we stand a much better chance if this is already being built in time for social shocks.

[A collection of progressive NGOs and recycled clothing cooperatives prepared to step in master the world market after a hurricane or stock market hiccup? ]

....creation and growth of alternatives


....workers' cooperative

....create the kind of resilient, large-scale, long-term bodies needed to replace dominant powers.

....The DNA of a social movement organization can be broken down into Story, Strategy and Structure. Story is the situation that the group is fighting against and what it is fighting for. Strategy is what concrete interventions the organization will take to bring about that vision. And Structure details the formal aspects of the organization that people need in order to participate – agreed principles, membership rules, democratic processes and so on. These core elements must be clear, memorable and accessible. It is essentially another way of mapping bodies: the relations between people within an organization, the relations between organizations in a social movement, and the relations between a movement and the broader social context. In contrast to this detailed DNA, Occupy was incredibly simple: a name, a tactic of occupying public squares, and the 'We Are the 99%' identity. This allowed it to spread rapidly and virally, and for it to adapt to varying geographical and social contexts. But it also meant that there was little to stabilize the different groups around, no shared goal or long-term strategy. Camps developed in incompatible directions, some liberal and pro-electoral, others radical and favouring militant direct action. Fractures within camps make synchronization between camps in various locations more difficult, and prevent a lasting global institution from forming.

[The dead-end of "Occupy" and its unscientific, emotionalized, and self-righteous understand of this epoch is correctly analyzed here.]


4 Healing

....The landscape, too, functions as part of the extended mind, constantly reminding of the past. Yet collective traumas also become focal points, which a community can come together around and create new healing relationships, such as the 'disaster communism' of self-organized aid that follows in the aftermath of events like Hurricane Sandy.

[So-called self-organized aid in the face of hurricanes requires first that workers and farmers have state power. Otherwise it is middle class charity work. Look at the United Way of the Red Cross].

....Our vision of the future likewise has power over us. If we believe there is 'no alternative' to neoliberalism, we lose all reason to fight. If we fear the consequences of an action, we are less likely to do it. When we are already on a particular path – our career, family, friendships – then options are judged against those existing futures. If it does not offer clear relation to our hopes and desires, an option will seem less relevant to our lives, and we are less likely to engage. The futures we see in the present set us on a path to creating them, but can
also obscure alternative possibilities.

....police then act as the white blood cells of the capitalist body. Activated at any sign of disorder, and using 'lawful' repression – such as protecting private property or 'public decency' – they cleanse the social body of this entropic population. Prison – as well as death from violent policing – produces a cycle of further community trauma, breaking up families and friends and local ties of support, putting further lives into chaos, pushing people closer towards homelessness, drug addiction and imprisonment. Once marginalized, people can become quickly entangled in loops that flatten difference from social norms and accelerate collapse in their ability to survive.

....In her book The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks argues that if we aim to create a future free from the drudgery of wage labour, we cannot simply argue that, for example, 'care work is work' or 'sex work is work' and imply they should be valued for that reason alone, because that still entails that work is inherently valuable. Our alternative definition of work in contrast shows that work is not inherently valuable ....

....Work is 'bullshit' to the extent that it works against this resilience or health. Digging a hole and filling it in may be equivalent work in energy terms to helping bathe an elderly patient, but the former is not essential to the creation of resilient bodies like the latter is. We need food; we do not need advertising or management consultancy. And we cannot just say that reproducing a body is valuable work, if that body (such as a corporation) is then destroying others through its practices.

....By foregrounding both the autonomy of cognition and the felt experience of consciousness, the Shock Doctrine of the Left wards off tyrannical uses of the strategy.

[Do Jones and his comrades pick and choose their places of employment by this moralizing criteria? I'll be curious to hear about the response they get going door-to-door telling "fellow workers" their jobs are b.s. curiously, the only types of jobs Jones mentions by name are care workers and sex workers.]


5 Taming

....Approaches to the state are often categorized as either reformist or revolutionary: you either aim to use the existing state to gradually tame the excesses of capitalism, or you wish to suddenly smash it whole and create something new in its place. Problems with the latter should be clear from the previous chapters – the huge unpredictability caused by chaos, the need to have alternatives already built, and the potential cycles of trauma caused by wide-scale violence.

....Reforms often patch up surface problems without dealing with their root causes. And being at the whim of the electoral cycle, while creating rapid mobilization at first, also brings unavoidable demobilization, rarely translating into a sustainable, organized movement beyond election day.

....The centralized state is fundamentally incapable of surmounting our current complex crises, and must be replaced with a more participatory, decentralized and adaptable structure in order for us to survive.

[Only a centralized workers state is capable of handling today's crises. The anarcho-opportunist daydream proposed here is worse than useless: it is misleading and a miseducation. (See Bakunin's Lyons fiasco for the first of countless examples.)]

....Although persuasion is important in building movement, we must recognize when the effort is not worth it. Thus the contemporary question: should we debate with Nazis?

[Who thinks this question demands more ink?]

....Extending this to a political body on the left, take the UK activist group Momentum. On the one hand, its close coupling to the Labour Party, and particularly Corbyn, has allowed it to influence its evolution, pulling it to the left and massively popularizing socialist ideas. At the same time, this coupling is a weakness. Actions will always be based around Labour, and any shock that hits one can reverberate through the other. At the time of writing it is unclear what might happen to Momentum should Corbyn step down; it will be interesting to see whether it has developed enough autonomy and a clear path to survive.

[Momentum was born with Corbyn's rise and will peter-out if his political career suffers further defeats.]

....When a government is young, the future feels open, with many opportunities and possibilities; years down the line, however, they will have accumulated many associations of failure, broken promises, scandals and so on. As time goes on, people will increasingly lose faith in that government. However, once every few years, all those connections are broken apart. New faces are elected, weak links are cast off, popular ones remain, cabinets are reshuffled, and the nation is reinvigorated with a sense of potential. This is one reason for the relative resilience and perceived legitimacy of liberal democracy: conserved energy is released in controlled, deliberate collapses, rather than a sudden total release, such as at the end of a decades-long dictatorship deliberate collapses cause chaos, and so open up the possibility of directing change, whichever party is in power. Being prepared for the effects of elections is therefore necessary, even for those who would otherwise wish to abstain from party politics. The alternative is simply to be swept up by its waves without any control whatsoever. The Shock Doctrine of the Left must reject incremental reformism which keeps us locked into the current path of the state. Neither, however, should it rely on totalizing shock to break away from such a path – 'smashing the state' – which leaves us vulnerable to hugely unpredictable chaos. This dilemma can be overcome through coordinating smaller but escalating shocks, each time increasing the power of people to organize beyond the state.


6 The Meta-Strategy

....All parts of the left should seek to develop and participate in an ecology of organizations. By this I mean a network of autonomous organizations that share no single organizational form, but which come together in a sustained pattern. It favours neither the hierarchical revolutionary party, nor the localized action group. Instead, the organizational form of any part will be shaped by both its local needs and its function within the ecology, rather than a dogmatic assertion of some ideal form.

....The ecology must both resist and aim to replace current power. Not a coalition of campaign groups alone, nor just trade unions, cooperatives, or NGOs, but networks which bring these together and create active relations between them. Not merely an abstract agreement, a name added to a list of supporters on a website, but the development of functional social economies which share skills, resources and platforms. The radical hairdressing salon should be able to play as important a part in this as the alternative media centre or the antifascist action group.

....The internal democracy could take many forms, but I would nonetheless suggest that alongside a nesting of assemblies, there be a sortition-based guiding coalition.

....'Guiding coalition' implies not a hierarchical leadership as in a central committee, but a body whose job it is to ensure the health of the ecology – its mandated 'body builder'.

....'Sortition' involves random selection, as in jury duty, from a pool of people willing to take on important roles

....Work is the source of oppression most widely shared by human beings. As the best potential site of common ground it absolutely must play a core role in a revolutionary movement. But given the initial conditions of our struggle will guide its direction, we cannot simply accept the concept of work as it currently exists, with its implications of an oppressive capitalist work ethic. We must struggle to redefine work. The Care Ethic recognizes the 'work' that people perform simply in order to survive, and how this is at present unevenly distributed. It recognizes that work is not inherently valuable, but only by virtue of the role it can play in building a resilient new world, and fighting against the current one. The Care Ethic requires that we are always open to the complexities of bodies, seeking to understand people, organizations, communities and so on in all their parts and wholes, pasts, presents and futures.

....We must avoid close coupling of the ecology to the state, but maintain room for those who do engage with it, such as NGOs, charities and so on. The question is always whether any action leads to an increase in autonomy and power.

....While different reforms could be argued for within the same model, I would advocate proposals such as: lowering the working week (giving more time and energy to organize); decriminalizing squatting (providing spaces in which to organize); decriminalizing solidarity strikes (allowing greater popular power); supporting workers to take over businesses and state-run services (expanding autonomy beyond state and capital); introducing a universal basic income (expanded autonomy from need to work); the 'universal basic services' proposal to extend free public services into food, transport, internet and housing (supporting individual and organizational metabolisms).

....The world is a body. You are a body. And every body is an organizer. So, organize!

[Anarcho-opportunists want to eat their cake and have it, too. Jones proposes replacing the capitalist state of today with small-scale decentralized coalitions and co-ops. How will the capitalist state be replaced? With a workers and farmers government? No, with activists leveraging natural and social disasters to herd workers and farmers in a binge of smashing. Which tells us something about the political level of thinking here, as well as the utter contempt felt toward the working class by geniuses like Jones and his ilk.

[A socialist revolution establishing a workers and farmers government and joining the international struggle for socialism is the only realistic response to the disasters wrought by capitalism in its death agony.]

12 January 2019