The Slow Burning Fuse

an atheisitic anarchistic scorcher www.facebook.com/TheSlowBurningFuse

An Anarchism of the Working-Class: A Review of Whither Anarchism?, by Kristian Williams (To the Point/AK Press, 2018), Reviewed by Miriam Pickens

Felix16-27
We have pulled bits from a good review of a pamphlet Whither Anarchism?, by Kristian Williams (To the Point/AK Press, 2018)….the whole article itself is a worth checking out
“I appreciate Kristian Williams’ pamphlet, both the thought put into it and the challenge it represents. I learned a lot from its history, and in particular gained insight into the behavior of anarchists I meet today. Williams traces some practices of contemporary US anarchism back to pacifism, looking at how contemporary anarchists unthinkingly accept much of that philosophy. In my view, that influence led to the movement prioritizing providing comfort to its participants, rather than organizing to change the circumstances that led to the discomfort they feel with society in the first place.
“This emphasis accepts the inevitability of capitalism and is therefore a strategy to live within its parameters. But I don’t think capitalism will allow us these spaces.  Instead, it has to be overthrown and not allowed to come back.
True-Comics-1942-10-25
“My activity inside Marxist organizations (Independent Socialist Clubs, International Socialists, Revolutionary Socialist League) and my thirty years inside a Detroit auto factory put me in the middle of a movement that sought to understand and challenge power.
“We incorporated insights gained from the Black freedom struggle, feminism, the emerging gay movements, and the intersectionality of the Black women’s movement, and used them to broaden and deepen our ideas of “the working class,” so that we spoke of the working class as specifically not only white men, but of all races, all genders, and all orientations.  We began to develop understandings of how skilled workers and their families were given more middle-class opportunities, better housing and education, than those workers on the bottom.
“We saw how demands for “respectability” were used to control and contain our movements and to divide our class. We focused our attention on the lowest paid workers, with the idea that if they get their needs met, all the rest would too.”
On building a new society…
“A point of difference I have with Williams is that I don’t think revolution is a slow chipping away at power. I think a revolutionary upsurge must take power away from the bourgeoisie, and smash that power, do away with it: root and branch. This is violent, and it must go all the way.  Any small hesitation will allow the reaction to overpower our forces and turn back our attempts to take power.  History shows us, from the days of Versailles, that the streets will run with our blood if we neglect this.
“Williams’ view of revolution here seems unreal to me, as if we live in a vacuum.  Where is the ruling class, with all its police and armies, in this scenario? What are they doing while we are building our new society?  They are attacking us, dividing us, killing us. They are fighting our revolutionary movement with all the resources available to them! If we are not prepared to meet theirviolence with all the resources at our command – our organization, unity, our vision, along with a practical material struggle – we will certainly lose.
“Our revolution is a form of self-defense. We must withhold the labor and resources they take from us.  We must organize strategically and tactically to fight them:  for resources, including land, territory, food, water, what we need to survive. Do not think this will not be violent.
“On their part, willful violence, as we have seen our whole lives, taken out on individuals as police murders, on communities as the bombing of the MOVE organization in Philadelphia showed, on the taking of entire countries and land. On our part, an armed defense of ourselves, our families, our communities, our neighborhoods, our land, our revolution.
WIN05-25
“Power is never given away. It must be taken. This is not a gradual unfolding, this is a wrenching away, a destruction of the state apparatus, a burning of prisons and records of debt. The existing power must be destroyed root and branch before we can gradually build anything. When we encourage people to join our fight and do not prepare for this, we are being negligent and dishonest. This is an either-or situation. We cannot have a free society as long as capitalism continues to exist.”
On theorising…
“who is doing this theorizing? If it is not working-class people engaged in working class struggle, it remains the province of an elitist middle class seeking, as always, to control, speak for, represent, and substitute themselves for the working class.
Land_of_Plenty_1952_APG_17_11_Ger_Apeldoorn_CBpop.cbz - Page 15
A leadership of ideas, rather than a leadership of cult celebrities, can cut through a lot of the pretension of the current anarchist movement, as described so aptly by Williams. However, we need people who are committed to organizing for these ideas, taking responsibility within the movements of which we are a part.
“Marxists, tend to fit what they see into predetermined boxes and that almost always leads them to support the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie.  As anarchists we are trying to promote a view that our enemy is the entire capitalist class, both its reactionary and its reformist elements, including its state capitalist manifestations, like the former Soviet Union. In fact, it is the reformist element we need to watch out for in particular ways, as it is always trying to rope us in to support of its section of the ruling class.”
anarchism in the US
“the Red Scare of 1917-1920 all but destroyed the IWW, and with it the movement.  What this resulted in was “What remained of syndicalism was occupied primarily with legal defense, and other anarchists came to focus more on education and creating counter institutions, rather than mass organizing.  Hence, anarchists were on the sidelines during the upheavals of the 1930s. Then, during the Second World War, the remaining movement split over the question of militarism, with pacifism becoming the dominant strain.
“At the same time, increasingly much of anarchist activity was in the cultural sphere, and the movement became wedded to the emerging counterculture.” All of this resulted in the type of anarchism all-too-familiar today, with, as Williams quotes Andy Cornell observing “[R]eadings, performances, and exclusive parties (having) moved to the center of anarchist praxis.” (14) Williams concludes by lamenting that “Anarchists deserted the class war at precisely the moment that the largest number of workers were clamoring to enlist in it.”
“Williams takes issue with the anarchist emphasis on prefiguration, which he identifies originating with the influence of pacifism, which “locked the anarchist movement in a particular ‘prefigurative’ orientation.”( Williams shows how this orientation has limited our movement, resulting in an attempt ”to compensate for our underdeveloped politics with an overdeveloped moralism, and anarchists (becoming) preoccupied with the minutiae of individual choice rather than organizing collective action.”
“Anarchists stopped thinking of themselves as a social force potentially capable of organizing millions of people, destroying the existing power structure, and reconstituting society.  The anarchist vision shrank, from the One Big Union and the General Strike, to the affinity group and the poetry reading.””
Apartment-3G-1967-12-23
Anarchism needs to be pulled back to its working-class roots, to its involvement in material struggles, to its direct condemnation of all attacks on the entire, international working class and all of its most vulnerable sections.  Capitalism must be identified as the systemic cause of the violence, oppression, lack of freedom and equality experienced by all people. When this system is abolished, by the direct action of the working class of the world, we will have begun to lay a basis for true freedom and a possibility of living our lives as we freely choose. (our emphasis)

Institute for Anarchist Studies

whither_anarchismI appreciate Kristian Williams’ pamphlet, both the thought put into it and the challenge it represents. I learned a lot from its history, and in particular gained insight into the behavior of anarchists I meet today. Williams traces some practices of contemporary US anarchism back to pacifism, looking at how contemporary anarchists unthinkingly accept much of that philosophy. In my view, that influence led to the movement prioritizing providing comfort to its participants, rather than organizing to change the circumstances that led to the discomfort they feel with society in the first place.  This emphasis accepts the inevitability of capitalism and is therefore a strategy to live within its parameters. But I don’t think capitalism will allow us these spaces.  Instead, it has to be overthrown and not allowed to come back.

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This entry was posted on August 28, 2018 by in anarchy, book, Uncategorized and tagged .
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