This is pretty much a disorganised mish mash useful for references.
Much of this is taken from hereMinsk, August 9th 2020
Repression in Belarus, August 2021:
Interview with anarchist there: https://www.fifthestate.org/archive/409-summer-2021/anarchy-in-belarus/
(a discussion of this follows a chronology of the events of 2020)
Suppression and extinction of the strike movement
Assessment of: Working movement, Protests in the regions, Drivers and the Armenian scenario, Women’s marches, Anarchists, anti-fascists and soccer fans, self-defense groups, MIA/KGB, Neighborhoods/districts and an attempt to speculate on what might happen next. This – as far as I can see from a relatively ignorant position – seems a pretty good text, and not banally anarchist as so many anarchist texts can be . However, at the end it says “The radicalization of the protest itself will come sooner or later. There are no doubts about it. It will most likely come not from the appeals of anarchists or other radical groups. But it will come because of violence on the part of cops against the people.” Whilst for an anglophone outsider like me it’d be impossible to assess how much influence anarchists or other radical groups have, it’s pretty determinist to say “The radicalization of the protest itself will come sooner or later. There are no doubts about it.” – particularly as the rest of the article says that the current situation is only contestatory in the regular weekend demos in Minsk, and points to various weaknesses elswhere. It seems as if it’d be necessary for other towns, for women, for workers, for all the other sections of the population to understand the limits of the protests and the constraints on struggle produced by the elements of separation between such sectors. But of course, I’m not there and obviously such a comment by me is limited by this fact.
For more on the women’s marches see this.
“Men in green uniforms and black balaclavas encircled female protesters who shouted, “Only cowards beat women!”…Police detained so many protesters that they ran out of room in vans and had to free some of the women, according to AFP news agency. ..In total, more than 300 women were detained”
“The period of defeat of w/c struggle over the past 30+ years is unprecedented and there is much to worry about over where it’s leading. It seems that, as the working class has lost its powers and fragmented, its self-awareness of its collective potential has been largely lost. ‘Working class identity’ is a problematic double-edged sword – but a minimum requirement for understanding the function of this society is recognition of its class nature and that this determines one’s conditions of existence in this society. If you don’t see class division as crucial you won’t see the importance of acting as a class for class interests.
But, for many, other identities have replaced class as ones that deliver a primary collective sense of belonging; particularly race and nation. Older organisational models emerged from different historical situations, from different cultures. Those cultures were based largely on groups of workers that shared locations and workplaces – often for a working lifetime over several generations. The self-identity with one’s trade, workplace and related local communities was the primary defining collective identity in those lives and their strongholds.
Now that’s all gone, we’re deep in the shite and desperate solutions that seem to promise at least some improvement unsurprisingly sometimes gain traction. But we live in an age of incredible self-delusion and ‘post-truth’, examples of which can be found in political behaviour and beliefs expressed on and offline constantly; where people seek a comforting narrative and facts that refute it become irrelevant.
When Thatcher was asked what she regarded as her greatest achievement she replied, “Tony Blair”. The general ever-rightward shift in politics has shifted what is considered radical and realistic rightwards with it.””In a time where the left’s influence is so marginal the faults of its policies and programmes can’t explain a lack of struggle. It’s not as if the working class is having its native revolutionary energy straining at the leash repeatedly dispersed by reformist leftism; if the working class is seen as capable of self-determination it has to be seen to have some responsibility for where it is at present; it is never solely determined by external forces. If it has no responsibility for its present condition where is the possibility of an agency that can self-determine? The abstract constituency we call ‘the working class’ is concretely composed of individuals and collectives with a margin of choices. It’s never the case that working class weakness is due to it’s not having had the right ideological offer from the left.”
Although it mainly focuses on attacking the idiot supporters of pre-1989 state capitalism, and seems confused about what an anarchist perspective is (emphasising decentralisation somehow misses the point, and dismantling power isn’t clarified in the least), this has some interesting comments and facts.
“Let’s start with the point of the welfare state. After watching some videos and reading a bit of state propaganda, you might think belarusian state is the last true social state in Europe. People are paying only partly for public transport. Factories are still owned by the state. Unemployment is one of the lowest in the world and everybody is happy. However, all the so-called social programs are there as remnants of the soviet times. Since coming to power, Lukashenko was slowly step by step dismantling social benefits. Most of it done to save economy from collapse. Healthcare in Belarus is indeed for free. However, there are some extra rules applied. Even in state hospitals people with money get priority treatment, while those without have to wait in the longer queue. In some cases you have to wait up to 6 months to get tests done. Of course social state can’t have plebs treated together with the privileged one. State bureaucrats and politicians have their own hospitals and healthcare as well as police has its own hospital in capital of the country. There are a lot of points where you can go further to evaluate the social side of belarusian state, but I think the initiative from 2017 will give the best example on how antisocial current regime is. This idea was to introduce back into labor dynamic concept of social parasite. People who are not working but still using social services are parasites on the back of society. So if they want to live in our beautiful utopia and enjoy all its benefits – they have to pay. The rule was very simple – if you don’t work for over 6 months per year, you have to pay at least 150 euro yearly. You might laugh about such a sum sitting in your house or flat somewhere in West. But 150 euro is the salary that many people are getting for their 40-50 hour working week. This comes together with another social part of belarusian state – if you are unemployed you can apply for financial support from the government. This will hook you up with 10 euro per month. That’s it. The loaf of bread costs 50 cents. To pay just for electricity, water and gas you would have to give away around 30 euro. So nobody applies for this money, because you will have to work at some job for 1 day per month for this 10 euro. Fun fact – you remember one of the lowest numbers of unemployment in the country? Well, only those registered and receiving direct help are counted as officially unemployed….
The long history of oppression of Soviet State and later dictatorship of Lukashenko destroyed most of the anti-capitalist feeling in the country. Most of the belarusian people are standing for free association and fair elections. Very few are critical of capitalism and many want to live like they do in EU. However, this is a self-organized popular uprising against Lukashenko without a clear political agenda. If people are critical of communism (in fact Communist Party still goes to meetings to support Lukashenko), they are not critical of anarchism. Many see demands of decentralization as reasonable in the context of dictatorship. As anarchist in Belarus, we don’t think this revolution is going to bring anarchist society to the region. But on one side if regime falls it will give people this notion of collective power that can change social process. Because of the current role of the workers in the uprising, it will give a boost to the working class organizing. We can try to push the demands of decentralization and dismantle of power in the country. But at the end of the day the people will decide where to move. We see this revolution as an important part in building true revolutionary society in our country, but there is a long way to go for libertarian revolution.”
Belarus: teachers head rallies against Lukashenko’s government…after official “opposition” calls for strikes (only in state-owned companies) that have already happened without them calling for them
“President Alexander Lukashenko instructed the governor of the Grodno region to completely close the factories taking part. He also threatened to fire those participating in the strikes.”
From RS in Russia:
” …more and more police are quitting the force because of the state violence at those protests and posting their letters of resignation alongside their official identity cards online. They are also posting public video messages to their former colleagues, in spite of the consequences that they might face. …”
“…The Interior Ministry has announced the arrest of at least 6,700 people since the outbreak of protests challenging Alexander Lukashenko’s election victory. There were numerous testimonies of young protesters arrested and beaten. Electrocuted, beaten, burned with a cigarette. Belarusian protesters recount their ordeal in Lukashenko’s prisons: “I thought he was burying us here” …”
Although a human chain to show anger at torture and imprisonment seems uncomplicatedly “a good thing”, human chains are largely symbolic, easy moral displays, mostly just shows of solidarity mainly for the cameras. However, they can potentially embolden prisoners and boost their morale, even if those participating in the human chain take no risks themselves.
This is in the Grodno region, where there’ve been significant developments in self-organised strikes by factory workers. I don’t know but this is possibly an implicit threat to the strikers; it reminds me of the way the “People’s Liberation Army” of China started doing mlitary maneouvres in Hong Kong during the social movement there back in autumn last year.
“… in front of the MTZ factory riot police dispersed the crowed of supporters. People went to hide in the park, but riot police followed them and two people were arrested.The OMON has lined up in a chain and is not letting the support group to the plant. But people chanted “Well done” to the workers leaving the building…”
Google Translate of some of this:
“…the workers of Belaruskali went on strike and started forming committees. The workers explained that they went on strike because their demands were not being met. “Our salaries are the bullets of the riot police,” said one of the interlocutors … Some said they would go on strike until there was a change. Management encouraged employees to put their requirements on paper, but not stop production. Among the demands of the workers is to withdraw the OMON [riot cops] from Soligorsk, where the enterprise is located, and to bring to justice those who have exceeded their powers during and after the election campaign…the workers signed a notification addressed to the head of the company, Ivan Eismont, in which there were demands to dismiss the head of the CEC, Lidia Yermoshina [member of the Central Election Commission since 1992, and Chairwoman since 1996], to release political prisoners, to abolish censorship in the media…The workers of the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant are joining the strike…The team stated in an appeal that it refuses to perform labor functions from 12.00 to 17.00 on 17 August. Employees are ready to go on an indefinite strike from August 20, if their demands are not met: the resignation of the president, the Council of Ministers and both chambers of parliament, as well as new elections, the release of political prisoners and an end to the detention of people who do not violate public order. The chairman of the trade union committee, Alexander Koleda, said that he supports the initiative of the strike, but proposes to organize it in accordance with the country’s labor code.”
Various discussions of aspects of this uprising and others
The following was sent to me by RS in Russia:
“Events in Belarus have shown the strength of the factory working class.
The working class of the Republic of Belarus (the working class in the broad sense, both workers and non-managerial specialists) became an important component of the protests. According to the information that comes from this country, dozens of labor collectives are joining a political strike. The names of these groups flash every minute – BMZ, GrodnoAzot, Himvolokno, Hephaestus, etc. The giant (11 thousand) BMZ metallurgical plant in Zhodino became the flagship of protests (among other plants). Furniture factories and construction sites, machine-building plants, the Metro and railway workers protest. They are joined by doctors, research teams, and even theater actors. This is a political strike. People demand the dictator’s departure, the recognition of the election results and the release of political prisoners.
Workers in large state-owned factories or factories with mixed (private and public) capital were long considered loyal to the regime: Lukashenko managed to avoid the Russian-Ukrainian disaster of the 1990s by saving their jobs. The turn of the working class against the regime means radical changes in Belarusian politics. In addition, these strikes could hit the country’s economy.
Workers are irritated [SF note: this vocabulary is not exactly appropriate – the word “irritated” is, I imagine, an understatement; no criticism meant here – his English is a billion times better than my Russian] by the repressive dictatorship – many of them have relatives, friends, neighbors who were arrested and tortured. In 10-million Belarus, the regime has arrested 7,000 people just in few days. Riot police organized torture, they beat people, rape women and men (!), make them lie in their own filth – a combination of sadistic humiliation. There are already several dead. In addition, workers are irritated by humiliations from their superiors. For example, railway employees demanded to stop humiliating during inspections. Russian political scientist B. Kagarlitsky reports that in some cases, various economic requirements are put forward. Economic stagnation has continued in Belarus for 10 years, but today it has been intensified by the pandemic and the global crisis. However, not all factories that are active are fully on strike. Some stop work for several hours, organizing protest rallies and demonstrations.
The peculiarity of Belarus is that it was an advanced part of the scientific and industrial complex of the USSR. This country has kept the plants to the present time. It is interesting that liberal economist Vladimir Milov notes a higher average level of training of Belarusian specialists than in Russia. With such a concentration of the skilled working class-experienced professionals able to do complex smart things, it is not surprising what is happening today.
Unfortunately, a significant part of the Belarusian working class may lose their jobs in the course of future privatizations or factory closures. This will become a reality in the coming years. This will be a tragedy for hundreds of thousands of people and a social catastrophe. Often, when the liberal-democrats came to power in Eastern Europe, they destroyed large-scale industry. This means plunging society into chaos in the style of the 1990s, when half of the factories and research institutes of the USSR were destroyed. It means destroying people morally and physically. They lost their jobs, became beggars, became small traders, sellers or unemployed, turned into alcoholics or went into bandits. A vile situation in the style of Gaidar-Chubais Russia of the 90s may come to Belarus. I went around the country in the 90s and saw what happened then.
However, it is pointless to complain that the political revolution, destroying the dictatorship, will lead to the closure of factories. Unfortunately, these factories will be closed even under Lukashenko’s dictatorial rule. In Belarus a very large part of the industry is in a poor state. The public sector factories are inefficient, unprofitable or low-income. This is reverse side of nationalization policy of Lukashenko. State-owned enterprises are usually unprofitable or low-income, because their bosses live on subsidies from the Treasury and are not interested in rationalizing production. About 60 percent of the country’s factories are unprofitable or low-income. All this existed thanks to the multibillion-dollar support of the Russian Federation. In 2019, Russia decided to curtail subsidies to Belarus within 6 years (this, in particular, is reported by Sergei Guriev, a former leading economist at the European Bank). Lukashenko already went to the IMF with an outstretched hand, but something did not work out there and he was left without loans….
In any case, the awakening of workers ‘ activity today gives labor collectives a chance tomorrow. They could keep privatizers out of factories. This is not a full-fledged solution to the problem, but it stops the process of destroying factories and the population for a while. If this happens, the next step may be to fight for workers ‘ autonomy, for the power of the General assemblies of workers and their subordinate Councils of delegates. Theoretically, this is possible. In practice the working class of Belarus has only just woken up from sleep. The trouble is that they may lose their jobs already tomorrow. The modern working class of Eastern Europe rarely shows such Autonomous initiatives, unlike Hungary in 1956 and Poland in 1980.”
He put the above up on Libcom blog and followed it with this:
“Spontaneous non-leader protests that have taken place around the world in recent years (Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran). Non-leader protests in the modern world, organized with the help of social networks , are not an exception, but the rule. People organize themselves and take to the streets. They have no clear leaders, no one commands them, although various leaders spontaneously arise, who organize the construction of a barricade or hold a meeting in a factory to hold a strike. In addition, various reactionary groups can also join the protests.
Self-organization in factories during strikes in Belarus complements and expands network self-organization. These strikes are not subject to Union officials or political groups. But people are not yet organized enough to establish direct labor democracy in their cities and the power of labor collectives in factories. They do not yet have a more solid structure than just an agreement on a joint action in one or another point of the city. Therefore, even if the protests are successful, the power may end up in the hands of a new oligarchy – different political parties and large businessmen. At the same time, the privatizers will try to take over the factories (they will lay off half of the workers), and the unions with their bureaucrats will take control of their protests and manipulate labor sales to their advantage. Another important point is the multi – class composition of territorial protests, which also leads to discord and prevents the development of a class agenda and the autonomy of the councils of delegates.”
I did not comment on this as I didn’t see it until 19th August. But I have some comments now.
He says “Spontaneous non-leader protests that have taken place around the world in recent years (Ecuador, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran).” This is part true part ideology. In Ecuador, for instance, tribal leaders were able to sell-out the movement. And the IMF, who’d demanded the imposition of austerity measures that led to the explosion of fury, has managed to re-impose intensified misery, the movement having, in the end, followed the professional tribal Leaders. “In Ecuador, the impact of the coronavirus is one of the most devastating in the world, severely exacerbated by the IMF-backed policies implemented before the crisis. Yet, even now, Ecuador is undergoing IMF-mandated structural reforms that further dismantle its health system ” – here.
In Chile, despite the fact that the movement was and is still largely without leaders (in the sense of people who play the role of Leader, though invariably there are individuals and groups who at one moment or the other initiate things), the only idea that those involved in the struggle have is to change the Constitution (something RS criticises elsewhere but not in this libcom post). Even, according to a friend who went there, those anarchists who, in private or in their online discourse, oppose this development, remain silent in all the meetings and never oppose this publicly (possibly for fear of being unpopular). Horizontalism in terms of mere form is not in itself a guarantee of a clear anti-vertical content by any means. If people are colonised by, in the case of Chile, Allendeism or social democratic reforms of simply a piece of paper like the constitution, they don’t need Allende’s ghost to appear before them so as to lead them. If they still look to external authority, his ghost will continue to haunt them despite their apparent leaderlessness. The pressure to assert some “positive” goal, which in this case is utterly compatible with dominant politics, leads people away from an understanding of the repeated historical failures of such “positive” attitudes (eg the constituent assembly in German after WWI, which contributed to the derailing of the German revolution). Equally, there’s a very powerful tendency to over-exaggerate the positive aspects of social movements and ignore or minimise the weaknesses (and certainly not just from RS).
Re. the desire for an immediate popularity. This, from anarchists in Belarus, is indicative of a traditional leftist “realistic” populism; though also involving an attempt to go beyond the standard separation between immediate demands and long-term goals, it doesn’t really overcome this separation:
“Our 5 requirements:
– Resignation of Lukashenko, parliament and all ministers
– Release and amnesty for all political prisoners
– Dissolution of riot police and all security forces responsible for violence on the streets of the country
– Direct democracy – The people should be included as much as possible in making important decisions
– Reinstatement of all those dismissed from work for participating in protests” (see below)
Of course, this seems pedantic, given that a more developed critique wouldn’t fit on such posters, but let’s look at these demands.
1.“Resignation of parliament” etc. This is vaguely realistic, and is what the bourgeois opposition is demanding – not, of course, as something permanent, but in order to have an election that is “free”. Not something anarchists should be getting involved in. In fact, this anarchist site reports “one of the striking workers suggested Lukashenko to kill himself”, a suggestion that anarchists should also take up, maybe adding that such advice should be given to “parliament and all ministers” – not of course, realistic, but indicative of a subversive spirit, and not one that the respectable pseudo-opposition would approve of.
2. “Release and amnesty for all political prisoners“. Why just the ones defined as political ? In a sense, all prisoners are political prisoners , and certainly those imprisoned for contravening the rich and powerful’s property laws. Why no banner demanding the destruction of all prisons?
3.“Dissolution of riot police and all security forces responsible for violence on the streets of the country”. A better banner would be “Dissolution of the police, as they are innately responsible for the defending the violence of capitalist expropriation of the poor”, though its length means it would either have had to have been on an advertising billboard-size poster or have only been read by those with a magnifying glass or telescope handy.
4. “Direct democracy – The people should be included as much as possible in making important decisions”. So many dubious things enshrined in this nice-sounding demand. Who are “The people” ? Does this include ruling class people? Cops? What does “should be included as much as possible” mean ? Who defines what is “as much as possible”? What are “important decisons” ? The whole of the commodity economy – which has been imposed by the bourgeoisie bit by bloody bit throughout the world over the last 200 years or more – was and continues to be the most important decison that the vast majority never were included in making but which has so colonised our lives that for people to directly and democratically oppose it would not involve any formal direct democracy outside of the areas where the forces of commodification have been forced to retreat. And even then there’s no attempt to consider what the form and content of the “direct democracy” being proposed here would be. “Democracy”, direct or indirect, is a loaded and highly questionable term and can lead to individuals submitting to the majority even if the majority believe the world is flat or whatever.
5. “Reinstatement of all those dismissed from work for participating in protests”. About the only one that is both realistic (should Lukashenko feel forced to leave after holding “genuine” bourgeois elections) and, given that work means survival or at least a better level of survival than no work, necessary. Without Lukashenko being forced out, the practical question of struggling to realise such a demand would have to involve a considerable movement of solidarity, and almost certainly work-place occupations. A movement capable of realising such a U-turn by the state would be capable of going a lot further and so beginning to put the whole notion of the state and capital into question.
Moreover on this anarchist site, they write (here): “Unfortunately the CIA, Soros and World Zionism are currently quite greedy”, which hints at anti-semitism (why no mention of “greed” in other aspects of capitalism?).
Discussion of original introduction
I wrote (in relation to the original text above, the text beginning “Events in Belarus have shown the strength of the factory working class”):
“…There are quite a few things here which are problematic to say the least. For instance, the sentence: “With such a concentration of the skilled working class-experienced professionals able to do complex smart things, it is not surprising what is happening today” implies that such protests require a degree of complex smartness that wouldn’t happen if such proletarians weren’t doing these kinds of jobs, an elitist concept if I’ve understood this implication correctly. Also, he could have said something more nuanced about the closure of factories, say along the lines of doing so in this society is an attack on both workers living standards (through unemployment) and on their potential ability to get together and discuss the miseries of this world and of trying to oppose them. But destroying factories in itself – at least when it’s done by proletarians and in particular those having to work in them – is fine. What’s more, if there were to be a successful revolution many factories would be dismantled and/or significantly transformed. Moreover, instead of looking at the obstacles to the development of a revolution – both ideological and material – he asserts positive models coming from different epochs and different situations (Hungary ’56, Poland 1980) and what has become a fixation for him – “the power of the General assemblies of workers and their subordinate Councils of delegates” without mentioning any precise situations in present-day Belarus that have some germ of such a possibility, which would make such references to the past less abstract. Given that the movement there so far hasn’t moved beyond the bourgeois terrain of elections, shoe-horning in General Assemblies and Councils of Delegates is particularly off-the-point.”
He responded by email with this quote from what I wrote:
«But destroying factories in itself – at least when it’s done by proletarians and in particular those having to work in them – is fine. What’s more, if there were to be a successful revolution many factories would be dismantled and/or significantly transformed. Moreover, instead of looking at the obstacles to the development of a revolution – both ideological and material – he asserts positive models coming from different epochs and different situations (Hungary ’56, Poland 1980) and what has become a fixation for him – “the power of the General assemblies of workers and their subordinate Councils of delegates” without mentioning any precise situations in present-day Belarus that have some germ of such a possibility, which would make such references to the past less abstract. Given that the movement there so far hasn’t moved beyond the bourgeois terrain of elections, shoe-horning in General Assemblies and Councils of Delegates is particularly off-the-point.»
“This paragraph is a typical concentration of views of modern “anarchism”, which has nothing in common with the working-class anarchism of Mikhail Bakuin and it is a form of rejection of the consistent conquest of society by workers and the rejection of the doctrine of taking the means of production into the hands by organized workers. Meanwhile, according to recent reports from Belarus, workers in some enterprises have started forming strike committees (i.e., actually Workers ‘ Councils). This process began at the giant Belaruskali plant in the city of Soligorsk, which employs 20 thousand people https://news.mail.ru/society/42999723/?frommail=1. The workers, in particular, demanded the departure of riot Police from their city. Also, according to Boris Kagarlitsky (a Russian social Democrat and political scientist), criticism of the government’s economic policy is heard at the factories, but it has not yet been expressed in specific requirements.”
I responded with:
“Thanks for the link to the article about the Belaruskali plant in the city of Soligorsk. Potentially an interesting development. But why do you say that the strike committees are actually Workers’ Councils? Is there any basis for this assertion? I’ve known strike committees that have neither had anything to do with Workers Councils nor have they even been answerable to those whom they represent. Is there a factual reason for you saying this other than wishful thinking? I hope there is but please give me something other than your assertion that they’re Workers Councils.
As for your other comments – would you say that the Bangladeshi garment workers who burnt down 16 garment factories in 2006 were “a typical concentration of views of modern “anarchism”? Would you chide them for not having read or followed Bakunin, who clearly is the final word on working-class anarchism? In your revolution are no factories to be dismantled and/or significantly transformed? In your revolution do workers merely have to conquer society as it is and take the means of production into their hands as they are? Should everyone only follow the old theoreticians of the old workers movement? Should they never develop ideas and actions that correspond to their own needs and point of view?”
He responded to the above with:
“As for the first, I wrote that the workers form strike committees. What is the question? Initially, in Russia, the workers ‘ councils are the strike Committee. Simply, as the labor movement develops, this Committee, along with other similar committees, can take on more and more functions. Today in Belarus, as in 1905, workers put forward political demands, talk about economic problems (and in some places include them in the list of demands), and begin to form strike committees. Moreover, neither parties nor trade unions take part in this.
As for the second question concerning Bangladesh. Usually workers want to keep factories, because they want to work in them, they need jobs. Or, at a higher stage of development, the workers see these factories as their collective ownership, which should better serve their interests. In some cases, during strikes, workers in Bangladesh could burn down factories, most likely in response to mass layoffs. In some cases, workers can threaten bosses with sabotage by destroying equipment, as it happens. However, in the vast majority of cases, workers tend to keep factories for the two reasons I have indicated. The reasons for this are obvious – they need to live and work somewhere. They are not parasites, and no one will feed them except themselves.
As for «Given that the movement there so far hasn’t moved beyond the bourgeois terrain of elections, shoe-horning in General Assemblies and Councils of Delegates is particularly off-the-point.»…. Well This statement of yours testifies to your ignorance of the history of the formation of Soviets in revolutionary Russia in 1905. The movement of Soviets developed as a tool of the working class, and initially it supported the same demands as today in Belarus, and only later this changed. The workers ‘ Soviets during the General strike of October 1905 (the first in history) put forward (unfortunately) precisely bourgeois-democratic political demands.”
I responded with:
“Re. your comment on the Bangladesh garment workers: “In some cases, during strikes, workers in Bangladesh could burn down factories, most likely in response to mass layoffs” :
Whilst it may be possible that Bangladeshi garment workers have burnt down factories in response to mass lay-offs, I’ve not heard of any such thing. However, it would have been easy for you to find out about the burning of 16 factories back in 2006 for other reasons, reasons that may not fit into your belief that workers tend to keep factories because of their need to live and work somewhere. I feel tempted to say “This statement of yours testifies to your ignorance of the history of Bangladesh garment workers” (to mirror the arrogant presumption in what you said about me and the 1905 soviets). Maybe I’m wrong but I suspect the fact that you haven’t bothered to read about it implies a reluctance to test out any facts that contradict your very narrow notion of social revolt, a notion that arises out of an indifference to most theoretical and practical developments beyond the old workers movement, which would also include the majority of developments globally during your own lifetime. In fact, the destruction of the factories in 2006 was due to the arrests of 3 workers, and then followed the shooting dead of a worker by the cops:
“In late May and through June this year , there has been a wave of fierce class struggle in the Bangladesh garment industry. To illustrate the scale of events: around 4000 factories in Dhaka went on wildcat strike, 16 factories were burnt down by strikers and hundreds more ransacked and looted, pitched battles were fought with cops and private security forces in workplaces and workers’ neighbourhoods, main roads were blocked. Casualties include 3 workers shot dead , thousands injured, several thousand jailed. The Government eventually felt compelled to bring in the Army to restore ‘order’…..The revolt began on Saturday 20th May in Sripur in the Gazipour district of Dhaka. 1,000 garment workers gathered at FS Sweater Factory, refusing to work until 3 arrested fellow workers were released from custody. The factory bosses locked the striking workers in the factory, cutting the power and water supplies. Eventually, the sweltering heat proved too much and by 11 am the workers fought their way out, then gathered on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway. Now joined by locals, they barricaded the highway for 6 hours and fought pitched battles with the cops. One person was killed and 70 others, including cops and journalists, were injured.
On the morning of Monday, 22 May at Savar Export Processing Zone (EPZ), a suburb of Dhaka, workers at Universal Garments Limited gathered in front of the factory to demand payment of 3 months owed back wages. They were attacked by factory security staff. In response the workers went to neighboring factories and called out other garment workers for support. The growing group of workers then went from factory to factory calling on other workers to join them; 20,000 workers are reported to have joined this angry procession. By the afternoon hundreds of other factories in Savar EPZ and New EPZ had joined the strikes . Two factories were torched and 100s more ransacked, over 300 hundred company and management vehicles wrecked….” – https://libcom.org/news/article.php/bangladesh-garment-revolt-140706
Of course, in this society people “need” jobs. Which, as you well know, is a need imposed by the essential need political economy creates – the need for money. In this society the tasks and transformations of life and the world are called “jobs”, a narrow focus on tasks and abilities that in circumstances of revolt and revolution are shared and developed by all the individuals who want to share and develop such tasks/abilities. A society which progresses towards and eventually abolishes money and/or rationing will involve deciding what tasks and transformations of life and the world would be necessary and desirable and which wouldn’t, which would almost certainly involve destroying or radically transforming a significant amount of infrastructure, a significant amount of the “wealth” accumulated over centuries and centuries of class exploitation. The need to live and feed ourselves is obviously a part of deciding what will be destroyed, what will be transformed and what will be kept more or less as it is, all of it being non-hierarchically self-organised. In squats, in factory occupations, in land takeovers, in any takeover of capitalist property, almost invariably there’s been some transformation and destruction – though such transformations are limited by the speed with which the forces of repression re-expropriate the area. I can’t imagine any lengthy occupation of infrastructure or land that would not involve transformation or destruction of its original form and content.
In this text – https://dialectical-delinquents.com/war-politics/communisation-does-not-move-in-mysterious-ways-june-2015/ – I wrote a critique of the kind of “modern anarchism” dogma which you falsely accuse me of as well as, in passing, your own particular old workers movement dogma, both of which are false choices : “A factory, regardless of size, is mostly inhuman until it is transformed by the workers within it, who then begin to recognise their misery as a social relation and begin to affirm their desire for life by changing the world around them. This might necessitate the burning of factories but also maybe other forms of transformation; some industrially-produced products will still be needed in a post-revolutionary society and the hows and whys of such production will require an understanding of human necessity, which would include also evaluating the ecological cost of such forms of production. Elements of the production of nuts and bolts and other useful things will still be produced “industrially”. Equally, some aspects of production will have to be organised globally – things needed or desired but not available in one part of the world will need to be transported to those areas in an ecological manner. Not globally organising producing and transporting such things might prove to be more disastrous than producing them. To be dogmatic one way or the other means blocking out the experimentation needed to assess what is suitable and refusing to countenance overcoming the false dichotomy of a simple rejection of “Big Industry ” or a simplistic acceptance of it (and it’s an attitude that wants to work out how the new society will exist well before the material means to realise it have been created). “Big Industry” will have to sometimes be destroyed and sometimes be transformed, both in its form and content and in the breakdown of the separation between work and other aspects of life (which already happens at times when people start to take over their factories). Whilst an ideology of simply changing the use from production for profit to production for need can hide the inhuman aspects of working on machines, in horrible environments, we could apply such an understanding to everything – buildings, streets, homes, gardens, living rooms, etc. “
As for my apparent “ignorance of the history of the formation of Soviets in revolutionary Russia in 1905” and your wishful thinking that Belarus 2020 will follow the same trajectory as the transformation of strike committees into soviets back in Russia 1905, that remains to be seen. But unfortunately 99% of strike committees don’t develop that way. Perhaps if you now went to Belarus and gave speeches to the workers about your take on history and on Workers Councils, the workers will suddenly recognise the connection between Russia 1905 and Belarus 2020 and will create soviets around the country, which will then spread to Russia and all the previously USSR countries and from then throughout the world. Perhaps. If you were true to your hopes and beliefs you’d go there and do that. But, though I’d love to be proved wrong, I suspect, however, there’d be a certain reluctance on the part of the workers to take up your suggestions. For one thing, people’s point of view is far more colonised by the false choices of this world than they were in 1905. It takes time and reflection and discussion to develop both the desire and confidence to take things further. Getting together debates amongst 20,000 people, as they did in 1905, is something that would take a great deal more effort and development. The internet is just a poor limited expression of such a possible debate. For another thing, the power of the state, and this society in general, to kill, maim, take away your means of survival, control , imprison, etc. is a tiny bit different from the means Russian capitalism had over 100 years ago, and that may play a part in how far the workers of Belarus may take this. Moreover, the state has learnt not to massacre hundreds of workers led by a priest ( one of the most significant events that sparked off the 1905 revolution) in front of today’s worldwide media. Nowadays they’re subtler and it could be far more useful to examine such subtle manipulations and constraints than to speculate on a vague possibility. But go ahead, test your “theory” in practice – I look forward to a holiday postcard from you with a picture of you smiling in the courtyard of a Belarus soviet.”
He wrote back the following:
“1. I can assume that the reasons why workers in Bangladesh burned down factories may have been different from layoffs, and as I said, workers sometimes resort to sabotage because they are forced to use it as a means to fight capital. However, it is clear that in the vast majority of cases, workers do not do this. The reasons for this are obvious and have already been indicated by me. People want to save work or see the factory as their collective future tool. They are not parasites and have to think about it.
2. I think that in the vast majority of cases, the issue of destroying factories during protests does not exist. Especially because in the conditions of revolutionary chaos, it is especially important for people to keep their factory. I have never received unemployment benefits in my life, like the vast majority of people in the world never received unemployment benefits, so people usually value their work. And it is especially dangerous to lose your job in the conditions of revolutionary chaos. Of course, I do not deny the fact that much of the factory work is hard and unbearable. This only means that the factories will be rebuilt in the future. Perhaps some or many of them will be closed, but this will only happen when other factories or research centers can give the work to the people. However, this is a matter of complex future transformation by joint efforts of numerous collectives. It is a mistake to say that you can simply destroy a significant part of the factories during the uprising. This would lead to disastrous consequences, strictly speaking, this is what happened in Russia in 1918 (due to the incompetent management of the Bolsheviks).
3. As For the councils of delegates, I believe that I have clearly explained everything to you. By the way, according to the latest information, such Councils are formed in the city of Grodno. Unfortunately, the original demands of the Soviets in Russia, as they are today, were bourgeois-democratic in 1905. This did not prevent some of the anarchists and maximalists from agitating for the transfer of power and factories to the Soviets. Of course, the conditions are different, but now the workers form their own strike committees there, just as they did in 1905 (when socialist demands did not dominate these committees or councils), and I see no reason to refuse direct agitation.
4 Thank you for your advice. I have participated in various strikes and protests many times, including two huge factories in different parts of the country that were taken over by workers, in Vyborg and Yasnogorsk. But then I had a group of comrades with whom I did this, and today my comrades, supporters of close ideas of councile communism, live in some other countries, and I alone can hardly do anything at a factory in a foreign country. However, I try to publish relevant materials on websites that are read by hundreds of Belarusian residents which helps me distribute them. Quite a few people understand them.
5. I think that the working class of Belarus will go through a series of tragedies and catastrophes. But I will try to tell hundreds of people about other possibilities, instead of accepting the bourgeois reality myself.”
And a later email from RS:
“According to the fragmentary information received, some large Belarusian factories have started forming strike committees. However, the workers do not have the necessary experience. A special feature of Belarus is that the government has crushed all independent trade unions. This has an important advantage – workers are not controlled by the Union authorities. But on the other hand, workers have almost no experience of fighting (although there have sometimes been few spontaneous strikes in the past). In particular, in the city of Grodno, where such strike committees are reportedly being formed.
Similar messages come from the city of Soligorsk, where workers are currently on strike at the Belaruskali plant, the largest in the country. There, too, workers are attempting to form a strike Committee. At the same time, they act very carefully, and intend to pass their demands to the authorities through the official channel – the official (fictitious) trade unions of Belarus.
It is also reported that the liberal democratic opposition, which is supported by part of the business, promised workers financial support, paying part of the compensation for downtime.
At the same time, the workers ‘ protest is growing because of the dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s statements. He said that all workers who participated in the strikes will be dismissed. Thus, he left the workers no choice (at least those who had already taken part in the struggle): either they will overthrow him, or he will fire them and arrest them.”
RS doesn’t respond to most of the critical points I’ve made (the elitism of saying “With such a concentration of the skilled working class-experienced professionals able to do complex smart things, it is not surprising what is happening today” ; the idea that strike committees are in themselves precursors to Workers Councils; his caricaturing my position re. destroying factories, etc.). Moreover, saying “Lukashenko…left the workers no choice (at least those who had already taken part in the struggle): either they will overthrow him, or he will fire them and arrest them.” assumes that it will be the working class who will take this initiative and not the bourgeois opposition waiting in the wings, the most likely scenario.
Check out Syria – Saura uprising with self-managed cities to resist army, elected councils.
The following are some comments I’ve previously made, in other contexts, about Workers Councils, but come from an invitation-only discussion forum in which I and RS amongst others participate:
The heart of our views is the idea of autonomous workers ’ councils created during the class struggle of the lower classes, during their resistance and revolts against business and state. Revolutionary organizations are always created by the masses themselves in the course of the social struggle whether it is the Commune of Paris in 1871, the Workers ’Councils in Budapest in 1956, the Workers ’ Councils in Iran in 1979 and in Iraq during the uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991.
This modern struggle of grassroots workers is chaotic and often misguided (like the demand for a government made up of non-partisan experts in Iraq and Lebanon, or constitutional reform in Chile). Nevertheless, giant waves of class resistance from Chile to Iraq, from strikes in Italy to Tahrir square riot in Cairo, come every 5-10 years in the 21st century. No epidemics and no repression will be able to prevent this global movement against modern turbo-capitalism. Business itself has created huge networks of production and information that have engulfed the planet, and now the resistance also has become global.
In time the masses will gain the necessary experience and will be able to create the thing which is called a “party” by Anton Pannekoek (but it would be better to call it a revolutionary minority like the German KAPD or AAUD-E or the radical anarcho-communists “Friends of Durruti” in Spain). This core is not a bureaucracy commanding the masses, nor a force intent on taking power. This is the initiator of protests, the generator of certain ideas and practices, the active core of the working class, which initiates strikes and protests and prepares the creation of councils.
However, it is not the party, but the Autonomous assemblies of workers themselves (and the Councils strictly controlled by these regular assemblies) that will establish their power, taking control of all spheres of public life.
We could speed up this process by creating an international network of activists, protestors, publicists, etc., which could become a translator and distributor of this ideas in our countries. Today, the authorities are trying to block different States. Our goal is to create an international network in order to build a the human universe without borders, without businessmen, without officials, without poverty.
The issue is related to the current stage of the class struggle, which requires the unification of the activities of the internationalists. We still strongly assert the necessity of an international meeting as a support to the proletarian international movement advancing day by day. The movement must advance more and more as long as the global crisis deepens more and more.
I’m amazed you keep on banging on about this one idea constantly, as if present madness can be achieved if only everybody would realise this one truth. I’m not against giving information about past examples of proletarian power, though invariably in the light of looking at some of what led to their defeat, but you want proletarians to leap into something without seriously analysing the enormity of current contradictions which, despite common elements, are in so many ways very different from those of the past.
What’s more, “Workers Councils” – they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_Workers%27…
As for me, I can say the following about this.
1) I consider it equally important to talk about the goal and the means to achieve it. “Finalism”, that is, the creation of a society based on the system of councils of workers ’ delegates, is necessary, because without it, the movement degrades into senseless anti-activism (Kayoe Brendel, Eshange) or into trade unionism or it will come to some degenerate forms of modern anarchism (antifa, anti-industrial environmentalism, demanding to close factories and throw workers on the streets, etc.). On the other hand, I see an opportunity for the formation of the historical social-revolutionary organization “of Pannekuk” through its crystallization, within such movements as the modern leaderless uprisings in Iraq, Chile, Iran, or non-Union strikes in China. However, this will not happen without spreading and accepting the ideas of “finalism”.
2) I have stressed many times that we are talking about councils of workers ’ delegates who take control of all spheres of public life. Therefore, your argument about separating the form from the content in this case is useless. “However, it is not the party, but the Autonomous assemblies of workers themselves (and the Councils strictly controlled by these regular assemblies) that will establish their power, taking control of all spheres of public life.” – this is from this text of mine.3) “It comes over as wanting to recruit people to an idea.” You often repeat this argument. I find it strange. People have been doing this since they were born as humanity (the biological species Homo sapiens), including the names of unknown inventors who created the spear, the artificial method of producing fire, and the inventors of the wheel. You are repeating the anti-activist argument of Kayo Brendel, which led the great movement to degradation. If not for Brendel and his supporters, the Council communists have been much more active during the revolutions of the 20th century.
4) “but you want proletarians to leap into something without seriously analysing the enormity of current contradictions ”
P.S. And Yes, until we have a solid network of like-minded people, those who have an impact on society, we will only be contemplators, able only to discuss modern catastrophes.
How do I “dislike” a comment here. Thumbs down.
” I have never mentioned detailed planning of all social and economic life.”
“I have stressed many times that we are talking about councils of workers ’ delegates who take control of all spheres of public life.”
How do I “dislike” a comment here. Thumbs down.
“councils of workers ’ delegates who take control of all spheres of public life.” This is a hierarchical perspective – implying that the delegates would control public life. Maybe you didn’t mean to write it like that. If such a situation were ever to arise, I would absolutely oppose workers’ delegates taking control of all spheres of life. Workers assemblies might choose delegates for co-ordinating certain aspects of public life. But it would be the assemblies themselves which would make the decisions, not the delegates.
“councils of workers ’ delegates who take control of all spheres of public life.” This is a hierarchical perspective – implying that the delegates would control public life.”———————————-
Like Gi Debord and most German-Dutch Council communists, I am referring to the power of the workers ’ assemblies. The Council of delegates can only work in accordance with the instructions of the regular assemblies, which may change its composition at any time.
“And, besides, there are a lot of aspects of public life that should not be controlled by assemblies. Should they decide when I can leave the house, for how long, for what distance, whether I should be confined if I’m over a certain age, whether I should walk on the right hand side of the pavement, whether I should go round a park clockwise or not, etc?”
Anton Pannekoek wrote in his article ’ Party and class: “While the working class needs unlimited freedom of spiritual development to increase its strength and to conquer, the basis of party power is the repression of all opinions that do not conform to the party line. ”
And I think that perhaps I am prepared to allow more individual freedom in this sense than you are, because I am not against freedom of speech for people with absolutely hostile views (although I am, of course, against granting freedom of speech to those who openly advocate genocide or to people who openly call for dictatorship or ethnic pogroms).
In addition, following the Russian socialist-revolutionary-maximalist (Aron Zverin) I think that the future society needs a horizontal Association aimed at protecting individual rights from the possible tyranny of the majority. But this is also an Assembly and it will probably have its own Council of delegates, so there is no contradiction here 😉
So, let me get this straight: 1) the worker’s councils (which don’t exist) must take control of everything but 2) they don’t need to plan everything because it isn’t necessary that everything be planned or even run by workers councils (like bakeries or small farms as long as the “complex and necessary industries” are kept running by “associations of delegates” which are somehow different from elected representatives) and 3) that isn’t contradictory!? What exactly does control without planning mean? Or is it that bakeries and small farms aren’t a part of public, social, or economic life? Or is it that I gave engagement with you an honest try but the mental gymnastics you’re requiring are beyond by abilities? Why not just admit that you’re human and that you sometimes put your foot in your mouth? This seems like a more honest approach than doubling down and shifting your arguments to make it seem like you didn’t write what you clearly did write. Oh right, I forgot, I’m not supposed to talk about how you discuss things, only what you discuss. My apologies.
I don’t much like this idea either: “until we have a solid network of like-minded people, those who have an impact on society, we will only be contemplators, able only to discuss modern catastrophes.” Why not just say, “until there’s a revolution there won’t be a revolution.” Myself and those I interact with (the network of my relations) is very small and relatively powerless but I don’t think that means my only role is to contemplate the modern catastrophe like some sort of disinterested philosopher. I’m not at all interested in building a network of ideological council communists, but a network of people who enact some form(s) of relevant-to-our-shared-experience class struggle together is interesting to me. And trying to build that network in the present moment seems worthwhile even if it doesn’t change the course of the modern catastrophe in a significant way.
1) I almost didn’t understand your comment, and Yes I’m not going to discuss your personality or my personality and psychology with you. And I’m surprised you’re always trying to do that. Although perhaps I just don’t understand your language well.
2) “cellar-door I’m not at all interested in building a network of ideological council communists,”
3) I think any small community or cooperative that produces something has to solve a lot of problems together with other communities. These problems are related in one way or another to the use of public collective resources (land, natural goods, medical services and big hospitals, universities). Therefore, it is highly likely that any community will be integrated into a particular Association in order to coordinate the use of resources and will be represented in a particular local Council of delegates.
4) Planning is an extensible concept. I do not know how and to what extent planning and coordination will be carried out, and I do not have any specific plans in this regard. That’s what I wrote. We know from history how this can happen. For example, in Aragon, Spain, in 1936, local workers and peasants, with the assistance of small groups of intellectuals, seized land and factories in their settlements. They created the agro-industrial communes of Aragon and elected the Aragon defense Council. These communes then reached an agreement on a further communization process in February 1937 in the town of Casper. They abolished borders between communes, agreed to create statistical offices to collect information about the needs of the population and to jointly produce some of the necessary things according to the needs of the population. It is likely that if the social revolution is successful, there will be a similar development. As i said “I have never mentioned detailed planning of all social and economic life.”
” “associations of delegates” which are somehow different from elected representatives”
magid: “I think that freedom of speech, assembly, the press, and of course the right to travel are absolutely necessary things in a society organized on the basis of the power of workers ’ assemblies”
Earlier you quoted me – “It comes over as wanting to recruit people to an idea.” and you replied “You often repeat this argument. I find it strange. People have been doing this since they were born as humanity (the biological species Homo sapiens), including the names of unknown inventors who created the spear, the artificial method of producing fire, and the inventors of the wheel. You are repeating the anti-activist argument of Kayo Brendel, which led the great movement to degradation.”
magid: “I think that freedom of speech, assembly, the press, and of course the right to travel are absolutely necessary things in a society organized on the basis of the power of workers ’ assemblies”
“But then that means that the assembly council form is not the core of revolution as you call it but just one aspect of it, because as a form it doesn’t automatically guarantee those things. The problem with the reduction of everything to the assembly form is that the content just seems secondary, even if you personally insist on a content which the form doesn’t automatically guarantee.
No I don’t agree with that. The main conflict of modern society is the hierarchy of power and the system of exploitation of employees, not the question of who to fuck with whom, and where to drink beer. Modern spectacle society is organized around a system of financial and commodity fetishism. This is a capitalist society, the heart of which is wage labor. And the blow must be delivered directly to that heart.
By the way, the anarchists of the time of Bakunin and Kropotkin knew about this. The core of modern capitalist society is the exploitation of the working class and wage labor by the state and business. Resistance against capitalism is primarily class resistance, not the question of who should drink beer with whom. Modern anarchism has completely degraded, moving away from its class roots and equating the importance of issues of drinking beer and hair color to issues of class resistance. The most important thing is that all the great historical revolutions, from the Commune of Paris to the workers ’ Soviets in Russia, Hungary, and Iraq, were class revolutions. There are no other social revolutions.
Another thing is that the question of the intellectual and personal freedom of the proletarians is an important question. Therefore, Pannekuk writes about the importance of individual freedom of discussion, while Aron Zverin even proposed a special form of workers associations (protecting individual rights), along with political and economic workers ’ councils. You can think of this as another form of workers ’ councils of delegates, designed to monitor the individual rights of workers. After all, as I hope, you are not going to protect the rights of rich African-Americans and businesswomen.
“Recruiting to an idea is not the same as wanting to influence people with ideas, both immediately practical ideas and the practical idea of a long-term goal. Unlike the “non-interventionism” of Brendel and others I think it’s essential to express ones ideas in order to develop them to find out what is limited and/or wrong with them, and to possibly influence people to act on them and as part of acting on them yourself. But I would never base organising something on just one idea. In tending to reduce everything to an ideology of councils you come over as very one-track-minded, dogmatic and unwilling to explore other areas of life, or if you do so you tend to end up with “the solution is the power of the councils!”, the way some people invariably reduce things to the abolition of money or getting rid of patriarchy or whatever aspect of misery that has to be done away with. But these are aspects, sometimes necessary to consider, but they’re only a part of the whole.”
I think it’s a big mistake to equalize all kinds of oppression and all kinds of problems.
First, a political movement must focus on Central ideas. In politics or social struggle, you must make decisions about the use of your limited resources. This means that you must separate the Central issues from the secondary ones.
Second, social revolutions are usually class revolutions, and there are no other social revolutions in the history of capitalism. This is not surprising, since capitalist society is organized primarily around a system of commodity fetishism, which has taken the form of spectacle in the modern era, and not around the question of who, when, and with whom go to fuck or drink beer.
When someone, following modern degraded anarchism, equalizes these issues, it prevents us from seeing the significance of the real social-revolutionary struggle, which is always a revolution of the lower social classes against the bosses and the state,
And even in a place like Russia, the state almost doesn’t stop you from fucking whoever you want, and practicing any religion and drinking any drinks. It is quite another thing when you try to organize a strike or criticize police violence against poor people -then you yourself become a victim.
In addition, I strongly doubt the reality of the feminist myths about capitalism as a “Patriarchal society”, because capitalism is primarily an unconscious movement of capital, which does not care about “men or women”, and which uses any form of sexuality to advertise its products and ideas. For example, today it is fashionable to show in Hollywood or in British TV series, strong women who make a cool business career or win over crowds of space aliens, while cute gay or lesbian help her.
On the other hand, as I wrote above, the freedom of discussion, assembly, and the press of the working class is very important (this is not for bourgeoisie). But this is one of the functions of special sections of the working Councils, specially created from below for this work.
And besides, I very much doubt that if this happens, you will support free speech for people you don’t like. For my part, I would not try to expel my opponent from the workers ’ meeting, but would try to oppose him and prove to the workers that he was wrong.
As the left SR Donat Cherepanov, a supporter of self-organized workers ’ Soviets (he also fought against Lenin’s regime and he with the anarcho-Communists blew up the building of the Moscow city Committee of the Communist party on October 25, 1919, killing and wounding about 100 Bolsheviks) said, the workers have the right to listen to the opinions of anyone, from anarchists to monarchists.
You took some of my comments a bit too seriously, just as you take yourself a bit too seriously. “Free beer for the workers” is an old song from England, which goes “Free beer for all the workers…when the red revolution comes” – see this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5K3gRr3WqI . The “free” means – you don’t pay for it not merely that it’s freely available. It was meant to be a bit frivolous.
As for “free speech” – it depends on context. For instance, in my ( and I suspect in your) living space , I don’t tolerate fascists or Stalinists. In more public situations I might be in favour of kicking out those who come up persistently with fascist or Stalinist viewpoints because it prevents any useful practical activity – if it were just “speech” without obnoxious practical consequences, that’s a different matter. But most of the time there are obnoxious consequences and to separate speech from consequences is just a purely intellectual way of behaving. I mostly support , for instance, the attacks on Milo Yiannopoulos when he tried to speak in Berkeley in February 2017. And I would have openly criticised and refused to participate in the assemblies in Moscow in 2012 you once mentioned which were protected from “lumpen” disrupters by unpaid “security guards” comprising an extraordinary alliance of skinhead fascists and so-called anti-fascists, because such a refusal of so-called “free” speech is both an expression of refusing to tolerate the intolerable as well as a way of potentially influencing people in way which is not just “intellectual” – i.e. giving out a critique separate from action. Like in ’68 when the enragés walked out of the Sorbonne when a major Stalinist was given the platform. Action and words combined speak far louder than both separately.
“You took some of my comments a bit too seriously, just as you take yourself a bit too seriously. As for the anti-commodity, anti-spectacle, class revolutionary stuff etc. you say – of course this is fundamental. But you’re teaching your grandmother how to suck eggs (an expression meaning “teaching someone something they’ve already known for a long time”).”———-
Well, as for you, I rather think of you not as a grandmother, but as a grandfather, with all due respect to your services to the revolutionary movement of fair France and the foggy Albion from the Situationists to the yellow vests.*(This means retelling the joke of our good President Putin, who likes to repeat that if grandma was a granddad, she would have a huge penis – this is his favorite thought, and he often often talks about the penis).
But seriously, I have a lot of respect for your experience in various social movements. It just seemed to me that you were trying to blur the meaning of the class struggle. Maybe I was wrong.
I agree that the social revolution should change thousands of things. But in order to talk to people and spread ideas, I need to be able to speak simply, clearly, and offer transformations that at least have concrete outlines. I am not the architect of life and not the architect of the universe, I have no idea how people will fuck and drink wine in a society based on the power of councils of workers ’ delegates. I have no idea how to solve a whole sea of issues related to these things. My task is much more modest – to focus on the most important social transformations, to convey these ideas to the proletariat, perhaps contributing to its transformation into a class-for-itself. The focus here is on the main issue of the modern world – the question of getting rid of wage labor, capital, and bureaucracy, and the transfer of power to the hands of workers ’ assemblies creating the conditions for what Debor called reborn “Athens and Florence”.And it looks like you suggest something vague, some kind of cloud. I don’t think this is a good way to gather people. People gather around clear goals, not around fog.
That’s why I’m talking about the role of workers ’ Councils. But why should I be so interested in something else? Here I want to act as a spontaneist. Why should I deal with these issues? I believe that free men and women who will manage factories and countries and create the associations of workers ’ Councils are quite capable of negotiating new forms of love and life for themselves. My task is only to give a certain impetus to this process.
Or Maybe I already have some well-established attitude to sex, love, etc and I do not want to change it much, but I do not seek to impose it on others?
I only spoke about modern feminism because many of the ideas of its dominant groups, who talked a lot about “fighting the Patriarchy”, were implemented within the framework of bourgeois society, and in the end we got control from all these powerful women-capitalists, whom you named, and many others, and yet life did not change for the better. I just don’t think Patriarchy is the Central problem of capitalism. That’s why I brought it up
“But at least you emphasise the content of the “core” of revolution. Workers councils are part of the means, but no way in themselves the whole of the content.”————————————————-
I don’t think that in this case, in the case of a social revolution, we can separate the means from the content. It seems to me that the workers ’ Soviets are a gigantic social laboratory within which the proletariat strives for a free social life and overcomes its alienation. But at the same time, this is also the goal of the movement (at least partly), because the Assembly of workers, open to discussion and making vital decisions, is a place where thousands of different individuals really meet and interact: thousands of different ways of life building a common life. I cannot completely separate the means from the aim here.
I will give an example or analogy, perhaps it was meant by Debor. Perhaps Ancient Athens, freed from slavery and inequality would have been beautiful, but Ancient Athens was the people’s Assembly in its various forms (political Assembly, theatrical presentation where the entire Polis is present, the court-heliea, phalanx (militia) + fleet), that is, it is the core of Athens and the way of existence of individuals.
I didn’t answer all. I will answer later about something.
Yiannopoulos… I will tell you briefly. Although I do not take a clear position on this issue of removing this person, and although I am opposed to his ideas, I do not like the intention to prohibit someone from participating in the debate (unless this someone directly calls for ethnic or religious pogroms or attacks, or mass repression). Perhaps it is because I was born in a country where everything was based on such prohibitions. I do not trust such measures, because I think that the working class has the right to choose the solution itself, and because people can have disgusting views without the risk of being subjected to repressions’ (although I would like to do everything so that these views are not dominant).
The left social revolutionaries and maximalist social revolutionaries and other social revolutionary factions, including the anarcho-Communists, often supported the Bolshevik repression against moderate socialists (Mensheviks and others). But repression also fell on the revolutionary factions. And then many of them, like Cherepanov, realized that they were wrong. I am not talking about a white armed counter-revolution. But anti-authoritarian revolutionary factions began to advocate for free speech for all, sometimes even for unarmed monarchists. This was a reaction to the tragic experience of the Russian revolution.
However, this attitude applies only to people of my class. If this Yiannopoulos is a bourgeois, I am not a supporter of freedom of speech for him, let him first start living honestly.In addition, these students grant freedom of speech to Zionists, Islamists, Leninists, Black racists and separatists, so why should Yiannopoulos be expelled? And what about the Bolsheviks or Islamists? On the other hand, do you propose to expel all of them? But I do not understand how discussions are possible if so huge efforts are made to expel a huge number of factions…
From my from my discussion about this text https://www.facebook.com/groups/communistleft/permalink/1603591556470196/
1. The first is related to the attitude to parties, trade unions, parliamentarism, and Councils of workers ’ delegates. It is obvious to me, as I think it is obvious to you, that the workers ‘assemblies, which meet regularly and control the elected Councils of workers’ delegates (with the right to give a new mandate or change any delegate at any time), are the core of any consistent class struggle. Of course, the transition to a new society (stateless communism) is the extension of the total power of the Workers ’ Councils to all spheres of public life (organization of strikes and occupation of factories and territories, production and distribution of various products, organization of non-commodity production, militias, etc.).
2. As for the party or, I prefer to call it the “revolutionary minority”, it cannot be a centralized organization controlled by a management (Central Committee) that makes independent political and financial decisions, since this principle of decision-making is bourgeois, as shown by Otto Ruhle and Anton Pannekoek. Similarly, the paBritish ambassador to Uzbekistanrty cannot make decisions instead of councils. “We said before that the term “revolutionary party” was contradictory from a proletarian point of view. We can state it otherwise: in the term “revolutionary party,” “revolutionary” always means a bourgeois revolution. Always, when the masses overthrow a government and then allow a new party to take power, we have a bourgeois revolution – the substitution of a ruling caste by a new ruling caste. It was so in Paris in 1830 when the finance bourgeoisie supplanted the landed proprietors, in 1848 when the industrial bourgeoisie took over the reins. In the Russian revolution the party bureaucracy came to power as the ruling caste. ” (Pannekoek). Therefore, any organization that stands on the principles of Leninism (or kautskyists, between them there is a big difference) is a bourgeois force, or intends to become one. The same applies to participation in trade unionism and parliamentarianism – purely bourgeois institutions. The real organization of the revolutionary minority is formed in the course of the class struggle. It does not control the working class. Rather, it initiates important public discussions and agitates for the total power of the workers ’ councils, using word and deed.
The modern Council communism is a sad thing. This is sad thing partly due to the decline of the class struggle. Another problem is his acceptance of the degenerate ideas of Cayo Brendel, associated with the refusal to directly participate in the struggle of workers. This terrible mistake prevented many activists from taking an active part in the great cycles of struggle in Italy, France in the 1960s of the last century, and possibly in other places. Our task is to overcome these harmful misconceptions.
On the other hand, I have not yet met representatives of the so-called Italian left Communists who would be willing to renounce the bourgeois ideas of Lenin and Kautsky. Their analytical notes on modern capitalism can be interesting and can be disseminated. And if they criticize the bourgeois wars of States, it is good. But their programming ideas are not useful and unfortunately I did not notice any flexibility in them. If you have another experience, you can talk about it. I don’t mind sharing certain texts and ideas with them, but I wouldn’t expect much from such an exchange.
However, in the modern world there are groups and individuals who are interested in the social revolutionary ideas of the German-Dutch. We are quite capable of creating a network of supporters of these or similar ideas, or those activists who came to similar ideas on their own. And I think this planetary network may be quite large.
My article is currently being discussed on the LIBCOM forum and on some Facebook forums. Some people have already approached me with suggestions and ideas and are discussing these issues among themselves. Write to me all who are interested in the Union of supporters of Autonomous workers ’ councils.
I do not agree with many of the ideas expressed by the supporters of communization in “Communisation – Troploin”. The authors of the text on communization probably do not realize that billions of people in the world suffer from underconsumption. This is Eurocentrism. I suspect they don’t even know how many people live badly in Europe, let alone India, China, Russia, Africa, the Middle East. With 40 percent of young people in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and most Syrians unemployed and suffering from thousands of problems, such as lack of medicines, quality water and food, adequate housing, and air conditioning, the authors ‘ proposals to close half of the factories and cut down on consumption are a Eurocentric mockery. However, they do not propose to destroy all the factories, although they do propose to close many of them.** https://libcom.org/library/communisation
But i agree with this idea of communization supporters from “Communisation – Troploin”: “We live neither in a post-industrial society, nor in a post class society, nor therefore in a post working class society. If work had become inessential, one might wonder why companies would have bothered in the last twenty years to turn hundreds of millions of earthlings into assembly line workers, crane operators or computer clerks. Work is still central to our societies, and those in the world of work – currently employed or not – will have better social leverage power, at least in the early days or weeks of communisation.”
Plus these eclectic takes on the situation, much of which is over-optimisitic: