Personal Blog of Mark Hoskins – Anarchist Writer and Activist
Some men, faint-hearted, ever seek
Our programme to retouch,
And will insist, whene’er they speak
That we demand too much.
’Tis passing strange, yet I declare
Such statements give me mirth,
For our demands most moderate are,
We only want the earth.
James Connolly – We only want the Earth (1907)
There is a growing division amongst the radical left – those who call themselves socialists or communists or anarchists. It is not a new division, it has always existed and has before somewhat crudely been referred to as the question of revolution or reform. But the difference now is that it is occurring amongst a new left in a different time. First as tragedy, then as farce. It is the division between those who believe revolution in our lifetime is possible and those who do not, nay between those who believe that revolution is the only way out of the crisis humanity is faced with, and those who believe we can triumph by defending the few good things the state provides and then, slowly ebb away at capitalism’s stranglehold over society by incrementally raising taxes on corporations and little by little investing in new state services and state industrial investment. Our demands most radical – a slight increase in corporation tax and please don’t close any more hospitals.
This is not the only division that exists. Andrew Flood has written about the phenomenon of the ‘Nostalgic Left‘, who Andrew writes, are nostalgic for “The days when the grouping of massive numbers of workers into mines and factories made the process of class self identification simple, indeed through their eyes automatic. A time when workers looked very different from capitalists but when, as they imagine it, those workers were not differentiated by sex or race. So the complexities of what they term ‘identity politics’ were gloriously absent, submerged in a uniform proletariat. A time when the intellectual leadership of ‘the party’ could lead an undifferented mass of workers into the final conflict with the bosses.” This group and the incrementalists are not the same, but there is a big crossover.
The fact that the incrementalists and the nostalgics, and the revolutionists (FYI this does not mean insurrectionist) and the intersectionalists don’t always neatly line up makes differentiating difficult and makes the task of libertarian communist/revolutionary socialist realignment difficult. There are people on the incrementalist side with good gender and race politics, people on the revolutionist side who are not so good on those issues. So there are incrementalist nostalgics and revolutionist nostalgics and incrementalist intersectionalists and revolutionist intersectionalists. It’s all very confusing. To make things even more complicated, there are those who self identify as revolutionist, but whose policy and program look suspiciously like incrementalism.
Where does that leave the future? Both the future of radical opposition to capitalism and hierarchy, and the future we wish to build? Is regroupment possible? Is it possible for revolutionists who take an intersectional approach to co-operate with the other groups? And how do we regroup when the lines of division aren’t neatly demarcated by organisational loyalty?
I have been criticised before for not going into specifics about who I’m talking about, but the people who do that usually think it’s about them, when it’s really about a group, too many to single out just one individual or a small sect or party. The real reason I haven’t gone into specifics isbecause in the aftermath of the Trump victory, I have seen so many posts and articles claiming that the white rustbelt working class and their concerns were the key to winning support in the USA, that it was impossible to single out anyone. But people often see in antagonistic posts or comments, whatever the particulars of it are, themselves. If you see a post or article and you suspect it’s about you, you are singling yourself out.
So rather than single out anyone here, I’m going to allow the reader to single themselves out. I’m going to list what I believe are the necessary minimum requirements for regroupment of the revolutionist camp, mainly in my view, the libertarian communists (anarchists and libertarian Marxists and others who come close), and then, what I believe are the minimum requirements for co-operation with the incrementalist camp for fighting for reforms – because not only is that necessary, but it is also the time tested method of building a revolutionary movement.
Requirements for revolutionist regroupment
1. Genuine grass roots campaign groups – no party led fronts.
2. No steering committees packed with politicos.
3. No structures that allow parties to pack meetings with their own members.
4. Communities lead their own struggles, where we are not directly part of that community and we intervene we are there to assist, not lead or lecture.
5. No tolerance of white male cis-het centric
‘class analysis’ identity politics.
I deliberately don’t deal with the question of ideological anarchist group organisation here as I want to come back to that in greater detail. But the reasons for doing this are not sectarian, in fact, the second set of requirements above are strict anti-sectarian measures. But in terms of political regroupment, it is important to know who you are dealing with and their motivations for particular activities, for too often has it been for people or groups to go into campaigns together in good faith, only to realise later that their aims diverge sharply. It is better to be up front, than end up wrecking campaigns in acrimonious sectarianism.
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