Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia, 1921-2021: Two day Teleconference

Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia, 1921-2021

March 20-21, 2021: A two-day online conference to commemorate the Kronstadt Commune of March 1921

We invite you to “Kronstadt as Revolutionary Utopia: 1921-2021 and Beyond,” an international convergence to remember history’s repressed revolutionary hopes and explore the “living past” struggle of authoritarianism vs. humanism.

Conference site:

https://kronstadt2021.wordpress.com

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WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

Trumps Capital Chaos

Trumps Capital Chaos

Short Statement by the Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA)

On Wednesday, January 6th 2021, an attack organized by a far right wing mob on Capital Building of the United States took place while congress met to certify the presidential election results. They were encouraged by a deranged authoritarian and outgoing President of the United States, Donald Trump and focused heavily on his corrupt grift and inflated ego. Even though the event was anticipated and all but announced publicly, the police initially appeared to treat the mob with “kid gloves” especially when compared to how they have treated Black Lives Matter protests and others just this year, something even the mainstream media has commented on. 

The take over of the Capital building has long been in the making. The Nixon era gave a phenomenal rise to the white ultra-right authoritarian. Christian evangelicals. The rise of the Reagan right was the first “wink and nod” by elements of the political establishment to ultra-right elements. The wink and nod to so-called “patriot” groups. Many pretend they are right to bear arms groups, using them as a cover to arm, train and reach out to young men and women in the military. Running alongside the shift to the mainstream hard right, there was a slow growing pro-nazi and white nationalist current developing. The “Tea Party” within the establishment helped to inspire authoritarianism and to nudge the floodgates open. Trump, his allies, merely were the final expression of a 40 year descent into a longing for an open, racist, pro-white supremacist persona to help manifest and untrue, or at least encourage, an open acceptance, tolerance and place for an American authoritarianism

Laws used against the “right” today, are the same used against the left and workers movements yesterday. Defeat the ideas of authoritarianism daily. Because the laws you may cheer today, may be used against you tomorrow.

The battle against authoritarian ideas (religious, political, racial) within the working class is part of the class struggle. The battle against the state, right wing religious power mongers, and the petty bosses manipulating working class folks is a class struggle. The struggle against hate and bigotry as manipulated by those in power or wanting to be in power, while crossing class lines, will ultimately need to be won within the working class. Patient organizing and education of the issues, against those within the class who will sell it out at the sniff of money or power (or both) and a place to dominate is a must. In order to defeat the larger enemy, we must defeat it within our own ranks for starters. Our struggle will always be a parallel one

Trump isn’t the problem. The system is. Organize, educate, overthrow.

“The Rank and File Strategy”: A Syndicalist View

By Tom Wetzel

“Kim Moody’s writings on “the Rank and File Strategy” have gained a broad hearing within a variety of socialist groups, such as Democratic Socialists of America and smaller socialist groupings. His original pamphlet from 2000 talks about the strategy in terms of both rebuilding socialist influence in the labor movement and as a way to build a more worker-based socialist movement in the USA.”

Continued: http://ideasandaction.info/2020/12/the-rank-file-strategy-syndicalist-view/

CAN UNIONS LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR THE NEXT UPSURGE?

Comments by long time libertarian syndicalist Tom Wetzel on Mark Meinster’s new “Labor Notes” article: “How Unions Can Lay the Ground for the Next Upsurge”
https://labornotes.org/2020/10/how-unions-can-lay-ground-next-upsurge?fbclid=IwAR2GP8vsEmIfqKjtilgUGAT0pN7b0OjNx8sRbUs8DCM4vzgMY5rwK-ZWiB8  

Tom writes: 

“Interesting piece by Matt Meinster (a staff organizer with UE). He points out that union membership surges have historically only happened in great spurts or waves, usually in periods when there are major social changes, crises, social movements that challenge the legitimacy of the system — like during the World War 1 era, or the 1930s, or the growth of public sector unionism between early 1960s and 1970s, during the period of the civil rights and other new social movements. 

He points out that the conditions for this are hard to predict. But he notes three points: (1) Major strikes, strikes coming in waves. (2) Large number of militants with the capability of developing organization and assisting struggles, this is what syndicalists called the “militant minority”, (3) A willingness to build unions independent from what he calls the “mainstream” unions, that is, as I’d say, independent of the more bureaucratized inherited unions. As he points out the paid layer of officials tend to be skittish about strikes and worry about running afoul of the law, whereas successful strike movements in the past have found ways to roll over the law.  

Some of his arguments are similar to my argument in “The Case for Building New Unions.” [ http://ideasandaction.info/2020/03/case-building-unions/]

I think the massive upsurges of strikes in the World War 1 era and the early 1930s show that in both cases large numbers of workers (1) had been radicalized, and (2) were prepared to build unions outside the inherited AFL unions.”

(Originally posted http://www.ontheline.work/2020/11/21/can-unions-lay-the-groundwork-for-the-next-upsurge/ )

What Is the Workers Solidarity Alliance?

For us, the  Workers Solidarity Alliance is an organization that believes in grassroots empowerment and strives for a future self-managed society. Which means that ourstructure and method of operation are based on the following principles:

DIRECT DEMOCRACY – We advocate workers, tenant and community organizations where the membership directly controls them, charting their direction. This means that key decisions need to be made through assemblies of the members,through direct democracy, not by hierarchies of paid officials and professional staff. Delegates, representatives or shop stewards are directlyanswerable, accountable and serve at the discretion of the membership. Theyare also subject to immediate recall by a majority of the members.

DIRECT ACTION – In our opinion, this type of action which is most effectiveand most empowers working people. Through direct action we retain control ofour own struggle and avoid surrendering that control to so-called “experts”of often questionable loyalty.

SELF-MANAGEMENT – Ultimately we wish to participate in the building of asociety where all distinctions of class and privilege are eliminated. A new,self-managed society where the wealth we produce is shared equally andfairly by all. We do not think it is possible to build such a society by surrendering authority to new political parties and new politicians. History has demonstrated that such parties, however good their stated intentions might be, often backslide and become not much better then the one they replaced. It is the concept of the ruling elite which we must oppose, and it is only by grassroots struggle that wealth and power can be fairly and equally shared by all. We therefore seek to create member-controlledorganizations within the workplace and community. These organizations are the foundation upon which a society based on direct democracy, solidarity and self-management may be built.

Metro New York / New Jersey W.S.A.

“On The Line: An Anarcho-syndicalist newsletter”

“On The Line: An Anarcho-syndicalist newsletter”. Over the years this host has been involved with several anarcho-syndicalist newsletters by the same name.  I hope to be able to carry on the tradition of publishing timely news from the workplaces, the communities and the struggles against oppression, no matter what form that oppression takes.

A look at printed issues of “On The Line” can be found on the excellent resource site Libcom: https://libcom.org/library/line-libertarian-workers-group

The reader is encouraged to send in news about your struggles, comments and links to articles of interest. We encourade “debate” and “discussion”  submissions as well. All we ask is the submissions and discussions be comradely, yet principled. Civil yet engaging.

Class struggle is the order of the day. The fight is real and the goal is freedom.

Thank you for reading and bear with me as I find my sea legs.

http://www.ontheline.work

Remembering Sam Mbah

Was thinking about Sam’s trip to NYC the other day. Thinking about how, for a short glimpse in time, there was a libertarian socialist, pro-anarchs-syndicalist organization in the most populous African country of Nigeria.
African Anarchism by Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey
African Anarchism by Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey

On November 17, the blog administrator for Sam Mbah’s website announced that Sam had died on November 6, 2014, “of complications arising from his heart condition. His recovery had appeared to be going well, but then a crisis arose and he was rushed to hospital. He died a short time later.”

On behalf of the Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA), we send our condolences to the family, friends and comrades of Sam’s. Some of us met Sam when, on very short notice, hastily organized his US tour some years ago. We reflect back on the key and pivotal role Sam and the Awareness League played in Enugu State, Nigeria in the struggle against the then military dictatorship of Abcha.

We remember well the WSA’s initial efforts at developing relations with the AL, a relationship which was partially successful in bring the AL into the fold of the International Workers Association. And, to help develop international relations between the AL and countless other anarchist, libertarian socialist and syndicalist individuals, groups and unions throughout the globe.

It was delightful and pleasing to read the (then) new AL declaration, proclaiming themselves “a social libertarian organisation inspired by and committed to the ideals, principles, objectives, goals, ends and purposes of revolutionary socialism and anarcho-syndicalism, characterised as the anti-theses of statism as well as their manifestations and institutions thereof.”

Perhaps, just perhaps, the efforts of former members of the US Revolutionary Socialist League, Bob McGlynn (of Neither East Nor West) and the WSA have helped our Nigerian comrades move from your typical marxian socialist views to that of anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.

The relationship deepened and develop. Many of us worked especially hard to make sure our pre-internet and pre-cell phone campaigns to aid AL prisoners, try and purchase a computer and other supportive and solidarity oriented activities gained as much support as could be garnered. In some aspects, we were successful, in others not. Certainly the campaigns that we helped to initiate and push were some of the best that some of us can recall.

Additionally, during this time period, Chaz from See Sharp Press worked hard to publish the landmark book “African Anarchism”.

Sam’s tour to the US was less then stellar. We had two weeks to arrange a national tour. Again, this was done pre-internet and pre-cell phone. It was tough, it was uneven, very last minute and it was clear to this writer Sam was terribly disappointed and let down. His hopes that a big, effective and well financed and oiled movement existing in the US were dashed. When dropping him off at the airport, I sensed his disappointment. Communications thereafter dropped off precipitously.

After a number of years of not hearing from the AL, in reply to one of our letters, WSA get a communication which started off in the most pleasing and satisfying manner: “It has indeed been a long time since the Awareness League last communicated with the WSA. Suffice it to say that the AL holds the WSA in special esteem and will continue to. We continue to look forward to improved relations and a deepening of our ties through future co-operation/collaboration.” (May 2001) I believe that was the last communication we had with the AL.

WSA tried to keep up with the AL even after we were no longer part of the IWA. Apparently the AL was dissipating in membership and activities due to a number of factors, most of all the downfall of the military dictatorship.

As Sam explained in his 2001 letter:

“With the advent of civil rule, many in our ranks have tended to lower their guards. The philosophical and ideological underpinning of the struggle for a truly free society remains at best, underdeveloped in these parts. And this coupled with the fact that life here is an everyday struggle, to be able to eke out a living or survive.

Yet those who were left in the AL continued to have “high hopes and expectations of transition to civil rule give way to frustration, cynicism, despair and discontent threatening to boil over. We are gradually and steadily returning to the trenches once again.” Whether or not significant numbers returned to the trenches to keep the AL alive is unclear. It seems like they were not able to hold the necessary numbers together.

In his last interview in 2012, Sam was clear and sober in making this point, a point
that many in countries that have developed or historical libertarian socialist, syndicalist and anarchist traditions oft times never seem to get or understand:

“ I want to say a few words to our anarchist friends and groups that in the past associated with us, supported us, in one way or another, especially from Europe and North America. I say to them that anarchism is not dead in Africa. But it is important for them to appreciate that anarchism as a movement, as a political movement, as an ideological platform, is still going to take some time to crystallize here.”

The take away being, that anarchism, as many of us in the West know it, will take its own path. Perhaps not even a straight one. But we should not sit in judgment, but offer the type of solidarity required to help keep comrades connected, even broadly, to the global movements.

There are no perfect souls, only those who try their best.

Sam tried his best at helping to build, develop, nurture and organize an effective libertarian socialist and syndicalist movement in the heart of Africa. With no real resources, under the iron heel of a military dictatorship he did his best. And the WSA is glad that we were able to do our small part aid their efforts.

Sam, comrade, as the slogan of the AL was “Holding aloft the banner of the struggle”, in our memory, you will always be holding that banner aloft. Farewell comrade, farewell.

“African Anarchism” can be found on Libcom: https://libcom.org/history/sam-mbah-i-e-igariwey

“On The Line – An Anarcho-syndicalist Newsletter”

Something I’ve just started elsewhere.

What’s it all about?

“About

Whether we are on the picket line, the bread line, the school line  or any other lines, ON THE LINE believes:

That it is not enough to try to reform society. The boss-workers relationship, protected as it is by all of the governments and churches the world over, must be done away with. The capitalist system, in which one person works for another and the lives only to work in the framework, is full of contradictions and shortcomings. The decision on what will be produced and distributed, on how housing and community problems will be solved and on how natural resources will be allocated must be made by the working class on a local level through democratic organizations controlled by the rank-and-file. Education must be available to all and must be combined with technical skills useful in the modern world. Racial and sexual barriers must be abolished. In short, the working class must emancipate itself. We think it can only do so by building democratic organizations in which all workers can participate and from which all workers will benefit. The center of these organizations must be the workplace and the community. The tactics we think are most useful – are the social and general strike – mass civil disobedience by working people – for rank-and-file control and for necessary immediate gains. Revolutionary unions, workers action committees and other forms of direct shop floor organization must be created to fight for decentralized economic planning and real workers and community self-management. Anarcho-syndicalism is the sum total of these objectives and offers the means by which to obtain them.

ON THE LINE will post news articles by various authors and organizations.  Sometimes they may hold views we may not embrace. On The Line  embraces the concept of workers solidarity. This solidarity transcends the hosts personal and guiding views.  And there will be times when someone might get offended by the author or organization. While we walk a fine line in what we will publish, we believe information and solidarity should, when required, transcend our differences.

It is hoped that this small effort will help to inform the reader of struggles as they happen. And to share news and views of the day. And our revolutionary history. As this developer, I hope to have more original writings. Think of this as a work in progress.

Reader participation is welcome. Original stories, shorts and comments invited.”

Check it out!

http://www.ontheline.work

WSA In Solidarity with IWA “International week against unpaid wages”

From restaurants to factories to hotels and construction sites, bosses have long tried to cheat workers of their paid labor.  Be the worker an immigrant,  born in the US,of any gender, a person of color or a young person just entering the workforce, bosses will find ways to cheat you– some more than others. Working off the clock, stealing tips, not paying overtime, or misclassifying workers are just a few ways bosses tend to steal wages.

Wage theft is just one symptom of the real problem at hand– a society based on exploitation is at the core of this is the wage system and how the boss uses it to extract your labor for their benefit. And if wage cheating is to their benefit, they will do that as well. We understand that the root of this exploitation is based on the endless accumulation of capital. Wage theft is part of this process. 

At the core of capitalism is the extraction of surplus value from workers, including incarcerated labor. Thus the boss aims to save on labor by keeping wages as low as possible, thus shifting the costs of the workers’ survival more and more on to the workers themselves. This is what the bosses are doing when they fail to pay what a worker has earned. 

Workers here in the US and globally have been battling wage theft for ages. Currently, the International Workers Association’s member sections have been fighting this method of exploitation all over the world. In Poland, Serbia, and the UK, the Anarcho-syndicalists of the IWA have used direct protest to force the bosses to pay the wages they promised workers, but then attempted to withhold. As a working class, Anarcho-syndicalist organization, Workers’ Solidarity Alliance has stood in solidarity with striking incarcerated labor and joins with the IWA in it’s week-long campaign against wage theft. Like the IWA, WSA is working for a world where nobody will rely on wages from their employer to survive; for a life after capitalism where wealth and resources are collectively controlled and each individual is free to pursue their passions. 

Against wage theft! Against capitalism! For Workers Solidarity and Libertarian Socialism!

Join us!

Workers Solidarity Alliance

workersolidarity.org.

Anarcho-syndicalism

This talk by Tom Wetzel was presented at a small conference initiated by the Workers Solidarity Alliance in New York City in October 2002: “Anarcho-Syndicalism Into the 21st Century”.

The opinions expressed are Tom’s alone. Although many of the basic premises and ideas are shared by others.

I’m going to talk a bit about the theoretical presuppositions of anarchosyndicalism, and I’m going to make some comparisons with Marxism since both political perspectives claim to base themselves on the class struggle.

Actually they aren’t exactly comparable because Marxism purports to be a complete worldview whereas I would argue that anarchosyndicalism is best understood as merely a revolutionary strategy, or strategic orientation.

The basic idea of anarchosyndicalism is that by developing mass organizations that are self-managed by their participants, particularly organizations rooted in the struggle at the point of production, the working class develops the self-activity, self-confidence, unity, and self-organization that would enable it to emancipate itself from subjugation to an exploiting class. The self-management of the movement itself foreshadows and prefigures self-management of production by the workforce, which is the movement’s revolutionary aim. I think that is sort of a nutshell summary of anarcho-syndicalism.

1. Minimal Materialism
There is one commonality between Marxism and anarchosyndicalism that I want to take a look at. This is what I call “minimal materialism”.

“Minimal materialism” is the idea that class structure, based on power relations between groups of people in social production, is the most fundamental or basic structuring in society. The class structure is the basic structure of control over social production, the basic economic structure, according to minimal materialism. This structure is supposed to be the background against which everything else about society is to be explained or understood.

Two arguments for it being fundamental:

i. Production is necessary to human life.

But this argument doesn’t work. There other other things that are equally essential to human life — for example, sexual reproduction and consumption.

ii. People spend a huge amount of their waking time at work, and their prospects in life are very much dependent on their relationship to social production.

I think this is a better argument.

To explain what I mean by “structure” I’m going to use an analogy. Let’s say I pull out a match and strike it on the sole of my shoe and the match bursts into flame. The end result is a burning match. The stimulus event was me striking the match. But the stimulus by itself isn’t sufficient to explain what happened. What if the match head was wet? What if it was a fake plastic match? What if the match stick was so rubbery I couldn’t get any traction? So, to explain why the match burst into flame we need to bring in these more stable factors that we take for granted — the chemical composition of the match, its dryness, the rigidity of the matchstick, and so on.

Okay, those are what I’d call “structural” factors in the explanation. They are part of the more or less stable background in which the causal process of getting the match to light happened. Well, the idea of “minimal materialism” is that the class division in capitalism is a background “structure” like this, it is something you have to look at if you want to get a complete and accurate picture of why things happen the way they do.

The idea is that the class structure is like a causal force field that shapes everything that happens in society.

2. The Doctrine of the Class Struggle
One thing that follows from minimal materialism is the doctrine of the class struggle, that this is how society changes over time. The idea is that class struggle is the central factor in the evolution of human social formations.

Marx said that one of his most important ideas was the distinction between labor and labor-power. Within capitalism the ability to work is what the proletarian sells to the employer.

She sells her ability to work to a firm to use for a certain period. She can’t tell her labor power to go to work and stay at home in bed; she has to drag herself into work with her labor power. There is then inevitably a fight between the employer and the worker over exactly how the worker’s ability to do work is going to be used. Advanced capitalism developed a very elaborate hierarchy of bosses and their professional advisory groups precisely to try to control workers, to protect the interests of the owners in maximizing profit over the long run.

So, this generates an ongoing class struggle, the fight against the power that the bosses have over us in social production.

Minimal materialism by itself does not entail any commitment to economic determinism or any idea of there being any inevitable direction to history. It just says that the class structure, and the conflict it generates, is very central to understanding what happens in society.

Historically the anti-authoritarian left has rejected the idea of an inevitable collapse of capitalism, and has been sceptical about Marx’s crisis theory. The anti-authoritarian left — both councilist Marxists and anarchists — have emphasized the positive role of worker self-activity, personal development, solidarity and self-organization in the process of self-emancipation.

3. Is Minimal Materialism Class Reductionist?
As minimal as it is, minimal materialism has been subject to a certain criticism in recent decades, namely, that it is “class reductionist.” The complaint goes something like the following. Because the materialist says that class is the only fundamental structural element of contemporary American society, it can’t do justice to the oppression and conflict on lines of gender and race and political authoritianism. That is, we can’t reduce the struggle against gender oppression, against racism, against political authoritarianism to just the class struggle. This criticism became increasingly salient over the past half century, with the struggles of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay and lesbian movement having a big impact on how people perceive faultlines in society.

To activists of color, racism seems just as fundamental a faultline; feminists are likely to see things in terms of the struggle around gender inequality.

For example, some feminists will argue that the “family wage” system in the USA in the 19th century, which helped to cement the subordination of women as a gender caste, was a kind of deal between workers and capitalists, to control the labor of women, with male workers gaining control over women in the home. Thus for some feminists, gender is the most basic structure and the conflict between male workers and male bosses was just a conflict internal to the ruling group.

Now, I think one possible line of reply would be to acknowledge that racism and patriarchy and authoritarian hierarchies can each generate its own dynamic, that affects other things, including the class struggle itself. For example, the authoritarian hierarchy in AFL-CIO unions creates its own problem for the class struggle.

4. The Four-Forces Theory
Some people will take this to the conclusion that the underlying structure of contemporary American society really has four distint facets or structures — patriarchy, racism, class, and political authoritarianism. Each is equally fundamental, they will say, with each acting as a distinct influence on everything else. This is what I call the “Four Forces Theory.” For example, you’ll find this theory worked out in the book “Unorthodox Marxism” by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel.

Since socialist-feminists in the ’70s had convinced me that gender was equally basic as class, I’m not going to try to defend “minimal materialism” nor am I going to try to answer the question of whether the Four Forces Theory is the best way to understand contemporary American society. I’m going to leave that as an exercise for you to figure out.

I do want to make one point however. What I want to claim is that anarchosyndicalism is just as compatible with the Four Forces Theory as it was with Minimal Materialism or the views of the socialist-feminists.

The reason is simple. All of these theories acknowledge that class is basic. They are all thus implicitly committed to the inevitability and importance of the class struggle. They are all consistent with the idea that it is through a movement developed directly by workers that class oppression can be overthrown and workers control over production created.

5. Critique of the Marxist Theory of Class
I’ve talked about class structure, but What is class?

What I want to argue is that Marxism has a mistaken theory about class. Marxism historically has assumed that there are only two major classes in capitalism, namely, labor and capital. Marxism assumes that it is ownership that is the key relation that defines class. The investor class, who own the means of production, are thereby the ruling class. Everyone else must seek work as hired labor.

The problem with this theory is that it leaves out a class. There are in fact three major classes in advanced capitalism, not just two.

Ownership may be the most important basis for power over social production in advanced capitalism but it is not the only such basis. There is also another class of people, who I call the techno-managerial class. Their role is that of controlling the labor of the working class. This is the class that includes the management hierarchy and the professional consultants and advisors central to their system of control — as lawyers, key engineers and accountants, and so on.

The point is that it is *power* relations in social production that creates a class stratification, and there are different ways that people can have power over others in production; ownership of productive assets is just one such basis.

Historically the techno-managerial class developed as capitalism reorganized the nature of work, diminishing the dependence of employers on the skill and intellectual ability of workers to coordinate their own work, and vesting this increasingly in a layer of expert intellectual cadre. The redesign of work processes, to break up work into pieces and minimize the reliance on skills in the workforce aimed at changing the balance of power against the workers and making the whole process more dependent on management coordination.

The members of the techno-managerial class may have some small capital holdings, either via things like stock options or small investments or ownership of their houses or other small property. But that is not what their livelihood and way of life is based on. Rather, they have their class position because of their relative monopolization over knowledge, sklls, and connections. This what enables them to gain access to the positions they have in the corporate and goverment hierarchies. They share in common with the working class that they are hired labor.

It’s true that there are relative differences in power and privilege within this class, but this is true of all classes — there are huge differences in the wealth and power of different capitalists, and among different groups of workers there are big differences in wage rates and conditions of work or autonomy in work.

Another thing to note about the techno-managerial class is that it is capable of being a ruling class. This is in fact the true historical meaning of the Soviet Union and the other socalled Communist countries. They are in fact systems that empower the techno-managerial class.

What is interesting is that the failure to see or appreciate the significance of this class is a central blindspot in Marxism. This is one of the things that enables Marxists to fail to see aspects of Marxism that programmatically lead to techno-managerial class dominance.

6. Partyism versus Syndicalism
One of the techno-managerial aspects of Marxism is its partyism. By partyism I mean the following idea. Marxists will often argue that struggles of this or that union or this or that group of the population are partial struggles. A particular union or other group will focus their attention on demands or aims that are partial, not a complete class-wide program. A key tenet of Marxism is that the development of a class-wide program, a program that can represent and advance the interests of the working class as a whole, is developed by coalescing forces behind a labor or socialist political party. Marxism is strategically partyist, that is, its strategy for change is that of a political party leadership gaining control of a state.

The traditional anti-authoritarian critique of partyism is that it is substitutionist, it substitutes the party for the class. The anarchosyndicalist or councilist alternative is that it is the class as a whole, through mass organizations like workers councils, that is to gain power, not a party leadership through a state.

Partyism will tend to elevate to leadership and control those who have the most education, who are the most articulate, the best speakers, the intellectuals and policy wonks of the movement. Bakunin pointed out that Marx’s partyism is a strategy for the empowerment of the intelligentsia, the people who monopolize scientific knowledge.

Nonetheless, anarchists have never really developed that insight. Despite the fact that anarchists often say that class is based on top-down hierarchy in production, anarchists have never really developed fully a theory of the techno-managerial class, as a distinct economic class in virtue of its position in a hierarchy in social production. Nonetheless, the theory of the techno-managerial class is consistent with anarchist insights.

It’s true that often worker struggles are partial, are over demands or goals limited to a particular sector. How do we answer the Marxist argument that the coalescing of the movement into a party is the solution to this? I think we can say that there is an alternative way of envisioning how unity and class-wide program might emerge, in a more grassroots, horizontal way. I think we could conceive of a movement developing where self-managed unions are getting together horizontally for mutual support and develop a program that addresses a worker’s whole life, issues that affect us all like housing and health care and so on, and that they involve other grassroots mass organizations in the community as part of this process, such as tenant groups, community organizations of various kinds. I call this idea a “people’s alliance.” Some people have talked about the idea of “alternative central labor councils” as a way of developing a more militant horizontal solidarity. This is another example of how a horizontal development of a class-wide program could emerge.

So, I would counter this idea of a horizontal, grassroots people’s alliance to the partyist strategy. That is, we can conceive of this being the way that power of numbers and solidarity is developed, independently of the state and political parties.

7. Critique of Spontaneist Theory of Organization
Lastly, I want to address a key problem that faces us in developing a movement that is genuinely self-managing, and does not contain within it the seeds of new hierarchies emerging.

The IWW has an old slogan, that “We Are All Leaders.” As an ideal, as what we aim for, I think that is right. But the question is, How do we make sure our practice approximates to that ideal?

The existing society is divided by all kinds of inequalities, inequalties of access to education and knowledge and opportunities to develop skills. Inequalities along lines of class, education, gender and race will be reflected in these differences in people in these ways.

Some people have more knowledge about how things work, a more “theoretical” understanding, some have more formal education than others, some are more self-confident that others, some have had opportunities that have enabled them to develop skills at public speaking or articulating ideas. Others may have the latent ability to develop such skills but they’ve just not had the opportunity to develop them through practice.

This tells us that any movement that organizes itself in a purely “spontaneous” way will “spontaneously” tend to replicate within itself these inequalities that have been shaped by the larger capitalist society.

This means a genuinely egalitarian movement cannot be created in a purely spontaneous fashion. We need to consciously be aware of differences in skill development and consciously work to bring out in people their latent abilities, to play a positive role in the movement. There are a variety of things that can be done in this direction. Things like encouraging people to speak, to participate in debates, study groups and activist schools to develop knowledge and the ability to “theorize” one’s experience, and to develop critical thinking skills so that people can think for themselves.

Through a conscious and collective practice of developing skills in people, we can ensure that people are better able to play an active role in the movement.