Monday, 1 April 2013

Some good quotes on strategy.


"If we get caught up in brooding on evils, if we let the sickness and ugliness of this society pervade even our rebellion against it, we forget what we are fighting for and end up losing the very capacity to love, to create, to enjoy."-Ken Knabb.
 
"Nothing undermines authority like holding it up to ridicule. The most effective argument against a repressive regime is not that it is evil, but that it is silly"-Ken Knabb.
 
"At demonstrations in Italy in the 1970s the Metropolitan Indians (inspired perhaps by the opening chapter of Lewis Carroll s Sylvie and Bruno: Less Bread! More Taxes! ) carried banners and chanted slogans such as Power to the Bosses! and More work! Less pay! Everyone recognized the irony, but it was harder to dismiss with the usual pigeonholing."-Ken Knabb.
 
 
"Humor is a healthy antidote to all types of orthodoxy,
left as well as right. It s highly contagious and it reminds
us not to take ourselves too seriously. But it can easily
become a mere safety valve, channeling dissatisfaction
into glib, passive cynicism. Spectacle society thrives on
delirious reactions against its most delirious aspects.
Satirists often have a dependent, love-hate relation with
their targets; parodies become indistinguishable from
what they are parodying, giving the impression that
everything is equally bizarre, meaningless and hopeless."-Ken Knabb.

"In itself, voting is of no great significance one way or the
other (those who make a big deal about refusing to vote
are only revealing their own fetishism). The problem is
that it tends to lull people into relying on others to act for
them, distracting them from more significant
possibilities. A few people who take some creative
initiative (think of the first civil rights sit-ins) may
ultimately have a far greater effect than if they had put
their energy into campaigning for lesser-evil politicians"-Ken Knabb.


"In the name of realism, reformists limit themselves to pursuing winnable objectives, yet even when they win some little adjustment in the system it is usually offset by some other development at another level. This doesn t mean that reforms are irrelevant, merely that they are insufficient."-Ken Knabb.
 
"To suppose that a series of reforms will eventually add up to a qualitative change is like thinking we can get across a ten-foot chasm by a series of one-foot hops."-Ken Knabb.
 

"The best projects are those that are worthwhile for their
own sake while simultaneously containing an implicit
challenge to some fundamental aspect of the system;
projects that enable people to participate in significant
issues according to their own degree of interest, while
tending to open the way to more radical possibilities.
Less interesting, but still worthwhile, are demands for
improved conditions or more equal rights. Even if such
projects are not in themselves very participatory, they
may remove impediments to participation."-Ken Knabb.
 
"total critique means that everything is called into
question, not that everything must be totally opposed.
Radicals often forget this and get caught up in
outbidding each other with increasingly extremist
assertions, implying that any compromise amounts to
selling out or even that any enjoyment amounts to
complicity with the system. Actually, being for or
against some political position is just as easy, and
usually just as meaningless, as being for or against some
sports team."-Ken Knabb.
 
"This spirit is well exemplified by those Italian workers who have gone on strike without making any demands whatsoever. Such strikes are not only more interesting than the usual bureaucratic union negotiations, they may even be more effective: the bosses, uncertain of how far they have to go, frequently end up offering much more than the strikers would have dared to demand. The latter can then decide on their next move without having committed themselves to anything in return."
 
"As in May 1968, when the more developed countries are
threatened with a radical situation, they usually rely on
confusion, concessions, curfews, distractions,
disinformation, fragmentation, preemption,
postponement and other methods of diverting, dividing
and coopting the opposition, reserving overt physical
repression as a last resort. These methods, which range
from the subtle to the ludicrous,(9) are so numerous that
 it would be impossible here to mention more than a few."-Ken Knabb.


"Any vestige of hierarchy within a radical movement will
be used to divide and undermine it. If there are no
cooptable leaders, a few will be created by intensive
media exposure. Leaders can be privately bargained with
and held responsible for their followers; once they are
coopted, they can establish similar chains of command
beneath them, enabling a large mass of people to be
brought under control without the rulers having to deal
with all of them openly and simultaneously."-Ken Knabb.


Only at certain moments are people together enough to
revolt successfully. The more lucid rulers know that they
are safe if they can only disperse such threats before they
develop too much momentum and self-awareness,
whether by direct physical repression or by the various
sorts of diversion mentioned above. It hardly matters if
the people later find out that they were tricked, that they
had victory in their hands if they had only known it: once
the opportunity has passed, it s too late."-Ken Knabb.

"Modern revolution has the peculiar quality that the exploited majority automatically wins as soon as it becomes collectively  aware of the game it is playing. The proletariat s opponent is ultimately nothing but the product of its own alienated activity, whether in the economic form of capital, the political form of party and union bureaucracies, or the psychological form of spectacular conditioning. The rulers are such a tiny minority that they would be immediately overwhelmed if they had not managed to bamboozle a large portion of the population into identifying with them, or at least into taking their system for granted; and especially into becoming divided against each other."-Ken Knabb.

 
"...spontaneous action of masses is everything. All that individuals can do is to clarify, propagate, and work out ideas corresponding to the popular instinct, and, what is more, to contribute their incessant efforts to revolutionary organization of the natural power of the masses - but nothing else beyond that; the rest can and should be done by the people themselves. Any other method would lead to political dictatorship, to the re-emergence of the State, of privileges of inequalities of all the oppressions of the State - that is, it would lead in a roundabout but logical way toward re-establishment of political, social, and economic slavery of the masses of people. "-Mikhail Bakunin.


"For us, as revolutionaries, meaningful action is whatever increases the confidence, autonomy, initiative, participation, solidarity, egalitarian tendencies and self-activity of the masses, and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, cynicism, differentiation through hierarchy, alienation, reliance on others to do things for them, and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others, even those acting on their behalf."-Maurice Brinton.

"Such is the true meaning of workers' candidatures to the Parliaments of existing States, and that of the conquest of political power by the working class. For even from the point of view of only the town proletariat to whose exclusive profit it is desired to take possession of political power, is it not clear that the popular nature of this power will never be anything else than fiction? It will be obviously impossible for some hundreds of thousands or even some tens of thousands or indeed for only a few thousand men to effectively exercise this power. They will necessarily exercise it by proxy, that is to say, entrust it to a group of men elected by themselves to represent and govern them, which will cause them without fail to fall back again into all the falsehoods and servitudes of the representative or bourgeois regime. After a brief moment of liberty or revolutionary orgy, citizens of a new State, they will awake to find themselves slaves, playthings and victims of new power-lusters. One can understand how and why clever politicians should attach themselves with great passion to a program which opens such a wide horizon to their ambition; but that serious workers, who bear in the hearts like a living flame the sentiment of solidarity with their companions in slavery and wretchedness the whole world over, and who desire to emancipate themselves not to the detriment of all but by the emancipation of all, to be free themselves with all and not to become tyrants in their turn; that sincere toilers could become enamored of such a program, that is much more difficult to understand."-Bakunin.

"It follows that we don't regard any of these countries as socialist and that we don't act as if we had lurking suspicions that they might be something other than what they are: hierarchically-structured class societies based on wage slavery and exploitation. Their identification with socialism - even as deformed variants - is a slander against the very concept of socialism (abortions, after all, share some of the attributes of their parents). It is moreover a source of endless mystification and confusion. It also follows from this basic assessment that we do not support China against Russia, or Russia against China (or alternatively the one and then other), that we do not carry NLF flags on demonstrations (the enemies of our enemies are not necessarily our friends), and that we refrain from joining sundry choruses demanding more East-West trade, more Summit Conferences or more ping-pong diplomacy.  In every country of the world the rulers oppress the ruled and persecute genuine revolutionaries. In every country the main enemy of the people is their own ruling class. This alone can provide the basis of genuine internationalism of the oppressed"-Maurice Brinton.

"Socialism cannot be equated with the "coming of power of parties claiming to represent the working class". Political power is a fraud if working people do not take over and retain power in production. If they achieve such power, the organs exerting it (Workers' Councils) will take and implement all the necessary political decisions. It follows that we don't advocate the formation of "better" or "more revolutionary political parties whose objective would remain the "capture of state power". The Party's power may grow out of the barrel of a gun. The power of the working class grows out of its management of the economy and of society as a whole.
Socialism cannot be equated with such measures as the "nationalization of the means of production". These may help the rulers of various class societies to rationalize their system of exploitation and solve their own problems.."-Maurice Brinton.
 
"It follows that we reject analyses (such as those of every variety of Leninist or Trotskyist) who define the main crisis of modern society as "a crisis of leadership". They are all generals in search of an army, for whom recruitment figures are the main yardstick of success. For us revolutionary change is a question of consciousness: the consciousness that would make generals redundant"
-Maurice Brinton.
 
"When we refer to the "traditional parties of the left" we don't only have in mind the social-democratic and "communist" parties. Parties of this type have administered, administer and will continue to administer exploitative class societies. Under the title of "traditional parties of the left" we also include the trad revs [traditional revolutionaries], i.e. the various Leninist, Trotskyist and Maoid sects who are the carriers of state capitalist ideology and the embryonic nuclei of repressive, state-capitalist power.
These groups are prefigurations of alternative types of exploitation. Their critiques of the social-democratic and "Stalinist" or "revisionist" left appear virulent enough, but they never deal with fundamentals (such as the structure of decision-making, the locus of power, the primacy of the Party, the existence of hierarchy, the maximization of surplus value, the perpetuation of wage labour, and inequality). This is no accident and flows from the fact that they themselves accept these fundamentals. Bourgeois ideology is far more widespread than many revolutionaries believe and has in fact deeply permeated their thinking. In this sense Marx's statement about "the dominant ideas of each epoch being the ideas of its ruling class" is far more true than Marx could ever have anticipated"-Maurice Brinton.
 
"As far as authoritarian class society (and the libertarian-socialist alternative) is concerned the trad revs are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Those who subscribe to social-democratic or Bolshevik ideology are themselves either victims of the prevailing mystification (and attempts should be made to demystify them), or they are the conscious exponents and future beneficiaries of a new form of class rule (and should be ruthlessly exposed). In either case it follows that there is nothing "sectarian" in systematically proclaiming opposition to what they stand for. Not to do so would be tantamount to suppressing our critique of half of the prevailing social order. It would mean to participate in the general mystification of traditional politics (where one thinks one thing and says another) and to deny the very basis of our independent political existence."-Maurice Brinton, As We Don't See It ,1972.
 
"When we talk of "man's positive self-consciousness" and of "his understanding of his environment and of himself we mean the gradual discarding of myths and of all types of false consciousness (religion, nationalism, patriarchal attitudes, the belief in the rationality of hierarchy, etc.). The precondition of human freedom is the understanding of all that limits it. Positive self-consciousness implies the gradual breakdown of that state of chronic schizophrenia in which - through conditioning and other mechanisms - most people succeed in carrying mutually incompatible ideas in their heads. It means accepting coherence, and perceiving the relation of means and ends. It means exposing those who organize conferences about "workers' control" ... addressed by union officials elected for life. It means patiently explaining the incompatibilities of "people's capitalism", "parliamentary socialism", "Christian communism", "anarcho-Zionism", "Party-led 'workers' councils' ", and other such rubbish. It means understanding that a non-manipulative society cannot be achieved by manipulative means or a classless society through hierarchical structures. This attempt at both gaining insight and at imparting it will be difficult and prolonged. It will doubtless be dismissed as "intellectual theorizing" by every "voluntarist" or "activist" tendency, eager for short cuts to the promised land and more concern with movement than with direction"-Maurice Brinton.
 
"Linked to our rejection of revolutionary myths is our rejection of ready-made political labels. We want no gods, not even those of the Marxist or anarchist pantheons. We live in neither the Petrograd of 1917 nor the Barcelona of 1936. We are ourselves: the product of the disintegration of traditional politics, in an advanced industrial country, in the second half of the twentieth century. It is to the problems and conflicts of that society that we must apply ourselves"-Maurice Brinton.
 
"When we say that socialist society will be "built from below", we mean just that. We do not mean "initiated from above and then endorsed from below". Nor do we mean "planned from above and later checked from below"-Maurice Brinton.
 
 In terms of the development of socialist consciousness how a struggle is waged and what it is about are of fundamental importance. Socialism, after all, is about who takes the decisions. We believe this needs stressing, in practice, from now- Maurice Brinton.

"We are not pacifists. We have no illusions about what we are up against. In all class societies, institutional violence weighs heavily and constantly on the oppressed. Moreover the rulers of such societies have always resorted to more explicit physical repression when their power and privileges were really threatened. Against repression by the ruling class we endorse the people's right to self-defence, by whatever means be appropriate.
The power of the rulers feeds on the indecision and confusion of the ruled. Their power will only be overcome if confronted with ours: the power of a conscious and self-reliant majority, knowing what it wants and determined to get it. In modern industrial societies the power of such a majority will lie where thousands congregate daily, to sell their labour power in the production of goods and services.

Socialism cannot be the result of a putsch, of the capture of some Palace, or of the blowing up of some Party or Police Headquarters, carried out "on behalf of the people" or "to galvanize the masses". If unsuccessful, all that such actions do is to create martyrs and myths - and to provoke intensified repression. If "successful", they would only substitute one ruling minority for another, i.e. bring about a new form of exploitative society. Nor can socialism be introduced by organizations themselves structured according to authoritarian, hierarchical, bureaucratic or semi-military patterns. All that such organizations have instituted (and, if "successful", are likely to continue instituting) are societies in their own image.

The social revolution is no Party matter. It will be the action of the immense majority, acting in the interests of the immense majority. The failures of social-democracy and of Bolshevism are the failure of a whole concept of politics, a concept according to which the oppressed could entrust their liberation to others than themselves. This lesson is gradually entering mass consciousness and preparing the ground for a genuinely libertarian revolution.

9. Because we reject Lenin's concept that the working class can only develop a trade union (or reformist) consciousness it follows that we reject the Leninist prescription that socialist consciousness has to be brought to the people from outside, or injected into the movement by political specialists: the professional revolutionaries. It further follows that we cannot behave as if we held such beliefs."- Maurice Brinton.
 
" The trade unions and the traditional parties of the left started in business to change all this. But they have come to terms with the existing patterns of exploitation. In fact they are now essential if exploiting society is to continue working smoothly. The unions act as middlemen in the labour market. The political parties use the struggles and aspirations of the working class for their own ends. The degeneration of working class organizations, itself the result of the failure of the revolutionary movement, has been a major factor in creating working class apathy, which in turn has led to further degeneration of both parties and unions"-Maurice Brinton.

"No ruling class in history has ever relinquished its power without a struggle and our present rulers are unlikely to be an exception. Power will only be taken from them through the conscious, autonomous action of the vast majority of the people themselves. The building of socialism will require mass understanding and mass participation. By their rigid hierarchical structure, by their ideas and by their activities, both social-democratic and Bolshevik types of organizations discourage this kind of understanding and prevent this kind of participation. The idea that socialism can somehow be achieved by an elite party (however "revolutionary") acting "on behalf of the working class is both absurd and reactionary" -Maurice Brinton.

“The theory of statism as well as that of so-called ‘revolutionary dictatorship’ is based on the idea that a ‘privileged elite,’ consisting of those scientists and ‘doctrinaire revolutionists’ who believe that ‘theory is prior to social experience,’ should impose their preconceived scheme of social organization on the people. The dictatorial power of this learned minority is concealed by the fiction of a pseudo-representative government which presumes to express the will of the people.”-Mikhail Bakunin.
 
"This fiction of a pseudo-representative government serves to conceal the domination of the masses by a handful of privileged elite; an elite elected by hordes of people who are rounded up and do not know for whom or for what they vote. Upon this artificial and abstract expression of what they falsely imagine to be the will of the people and of which the real living people have not the least idea, they construct both the theory of statism as well as the theory of so-called revolutionary dictatorship.
The differences between revolutionary dictatorship and statism are superficial. Fundamentally they both represent the same principle of minority rule over the majority in the name of the alleged “stupidity” of the latter and the alleged “intelligence” of the former. Therefore they are both equally reactionary since both directly and inevitably must preserve and perpetuate the political and economic privileges of the ruling minority and the political and economic subjugation of the masses of the people.
Now it is clear why the dictatorial revolutionists, who aim to overthrow the existing powers and social structures in order to erect upon their ruins their own dictatorships, never were or will be the enemies of government, but, to the contrary, always will be the most ardent promoters of the government idea. They are the enemies only of contemporary governments, because they wish to replace them. They are the enemies of the present governmental structure, because it excludes the possibility of their dictatorship. At the same time they are the most devoted friends of governmental power. For if the revolution destroyed this power by actually freeing the masses, it would deprive this pseudo-revolutionary minority of any hope to harness the masses in order to make them the beneficiaries of their own government policy."-Bakunin.

 
 "
These elected representatives, say the Marxists, will be dedicated and learned socialists. The expressions “learned socialist,” “scientific socialism,” etc., which continuously appear in the speeches and writings of the followers of Lassalle and Marx, prove that the pseudo-People’s State will be nothing but a despotic control of the populace by a new and not at all numerous aristocracy of real and pseudo-scientists. The “uneducated” people will be totally relieved of the cares of administration, and will be treated as a regimented herd. A beautiful liberation, indeed!

The Marxists are aware of this contradiction and realize that a government of scientists will be a real dictatorship regardless of its democratic form. They console themselves with the idea that this rule will be temporary. They say that the only care and objective will be to educate and elevate the people economically and politically to such a degree that such a government will soon become unnecessary, and the State, after losing its political or coercive character, will automatically develop into a completely free organization of economic interests and communes.

There is a flagrant contradiction in this theory. If their state would be really of the people, why eliminate it? And if the State is needed to emancipate the workers, then the workers are not yet free, so why call it a People’s State? By our polemic against them we have brought them to the realization that freedom or anarchism, which means a free organization of the working masses from the bottom up, is the final objective of social development, and that every state, not excepting their People’s State, is a yoke, on the one hand giving rise to despotism and on the other to slavery. They say that such a yoke – dictatorship is a transitional step towards achieving full freedom for the people: anarchism or freedom is the aim, while state and dictatorship is the means, and so, in order to free the masses of people, they have first to be enslaved!

Upon this contradiction our polemic has come to a halt. They insist that only dictatorship (of course their own) can create freedom for the people. We reply that all dictatorship has no objective other than self-perpetuation, and that slavery is all it can generate and instill in the people who suffer it. Freedom can be created only by freedom, by a total rebellion of the people, and by a voluntary organization of the people from the bottom up."-Bakunin.


"
Nothing is more dangerous for man's private morality than the habit of command. The best man, the most intelligent, disinterested, generous, pure, will infallibly and always be spoiled at this trade. Two sentiments inherent in power never fail to produce this demoralisation; they are: contempt for the masses and the overestimation of one's own merits.

"The masses" a man says to himself," recognising their incapacity to govern on their own account, have elected me their chief. By that act they have publicly proclaimed their inferiority and my superiority. Among this crowd of men, recognising hardly any equals of myself, I am alone capable of directing public affairs. The people have need of me; they cannot do without my services, while I, on the contrary, can get along all right by myself; they, therefore, must obey me for their own security, and in condescending to obey them, I am doing them a good turn.

Is there not something in all that to make a man lose his head and his heart as well, and become mad with pride? It is thus that power and the habit of command become for even the most intelligent and virtuous men, a source of aberration, both intellectual and moral."-Bakunin.

"All work to be performed in the employ and pay of the State– such is the fundamental principle of Authoritarian Communism of State Socialism. The State having become sole proprietor–at end of a certain period of transition which will be necessary to let society pass without too great political and economic shocks from the present organisation of bourgeois privilege to the future organisation of the official equality of all–the State will be also the only Capitalist, banker; money-lender, organiser, director of all national labor and distributor of its products. Such is the ideal, the fundamental principle of modern Communism. "-Bakunin.

"But in the People's State of Marx, there will be, we are told, no privileged class at all. All will be equal, not only from the juridical and political point of view, but from the economic point of view. At least that is what is promised, though I doubt very much, considering the manner in which it is being tackled and the course it is desired to follow, whether that promise could ever be kept. There will therefore be no longer any privileged class, but there will be a government, and, note this well, an extremely complex government, which will not content itself with governing and administering the masses politically, as all governments do to-day, but which will also administer them economically, concentrating in its own hands the production and the just division of wealth, the cultivation of land, the establishment and development of factories, the organisation and direction of commerce,, finally the application of capital to production by the only banker, the State. All that will demand an immense knowledge and many "heads overflowing with brains" in this government. It will be the reign of scientific intelligence, the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant and contemptuous of all regimes. There will be a new class, a new hierarchy of real and pretended scientists and scholars, and the world will be divided into a, minority ruling in the name of knowledge and an immense ignorant majority. And then, woe betide the mass of ignorant ones!

Such a regime will not fail to arouse very considerable discontent in this mass and in order to keep it in check the enlightenment and liberating government of Marx will have need of a not less considerable armed force. For the government must be strong, says Engels, to maintain order among these millions of illiterates whose brutal uprising would be capable of destroying and overthrowing everything, even a government directed by heads overflowing with brains."-Bakunin.

".. consider that Marx is a very serious revolutionary, if not always a very sincere one, and that he really wants to uplift the masses and I ask myself–Why it is that he does not perceive that the establishment of a universal dictatorship, whether collective or individual, of a dictatorship which would perform in some degree the task of chief engineer of the world revolution–ruling and directing the insurrectional movement of the masses in all countries as one guides a machine–that the establishment of such a dictatorship would suffice by itself alone to kill the revolution, or paralyze and pervert all the people's movements? What is the man, what is the group of individuals, however great may be their genius, who would dare Into flatter themselves to be able to embrace and comprehend the infinite multitude of interests, of tendencies and actions, so diverse in each country, province, locality, trade, and of which the immense totality, united, but not made uniform, by one grand common aspiration and by some fundamental principles which have passed henceforth into the consciousness of the masses, will constitute the future social revolution"-Bakunin.

"The idea that socialism can be achieved by an "elite" party, however "revolutionary" acting on behalf of the working class, is both absurd and reactionary. Solidarity does not present itself as yet another "leadership" but merely as a tool of struggle."-Maurice Brinton.
 
""The emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves". The working class cannot entrust its historical task to anyone else. No "saviours from on high" will free it. The class will never achieve power, its power, if it entrusts the revolutionary struggle to others. Mass socialist consciousness and mass participation are essential. The revolutionary organization must assist in their development and must ruthlessly expose all illusions that the problem can be solved in any other way.
Moreover the working class will never hold power unless it is prepared consciously and permanently to mobilize itself to this end. All previous attempts by the working class to delegate power to specific groups, in the hope that such groups would exert power "on its behalf" have resulted in the formation of bureaucracies and in the economic and political expropriation of the working class. Socialism, unlike all previous forms of social organization, requires the constant, conscious and permanent participation of the great majority"-Maurice Brinton.
 
“the emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves”. We would do well to remember those words as we struggle against austerity, as there’s no shortage of would-be vanguards vying to substitute themselves for mass collective action.
The most obvious of these are the various Leninist/Trotskyist parties, who are openly vanguardist in theory and practice (derived mostly from the writings of Lenin). Leninist theory states that the working class is by itself unable to achieve the required consciousness to challenge capitalism, and so requires a political party led by professional revolutionaries to lead it – a vanguard party. The concept of leadership is very important. Trotsky himself wrote that “the historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership” and this perspective continues to inform his contemporary followers."-Brighton Solfed.

"This means that vanguardist politics of the Leninist/Trotskyist kind aims essentially at securing leadership of various campaigns and organisations. The clearest recent example is the attempts to unseat NUS President Aaron ‘Despicable’ Porter. The problem here is that the mass, direct action and social disobedience witnessed at Millbank and subsequently in London and across the country has already bypassed Porter and made him irrelevant. So to channel that energy back into replacing Porter with a member or fellow traveller of some Trotskyist party is to recuperate the movement, to go from mass, self-organised direct action back onto the terrain of representative politics, where action once more becomes the preserve of privileged actors – the ‘revolutionary leadership’ of the vanguard party. The proliferation of anti-cuts fronts, all calling for unity whilst splitting off under the leadership of the different Trotskyist parties has to be understood in the same light."-Brighton Solfed.

"Vanguardism lives by sucking the life out of mass movements, and lives the more the more it sucks. But Leninists/Trotskyists are only the most obvious, because they are self-described, kind of vanguardists. Vanguardism also exists in the form of radical liberal activism, often aping the language of anarchism."-Brighton Solfed,Beware all vanguards!


"However, the clarity and self-evident transparency that Pouget saw in the term ‘direct action’ has given way with the later emergence of a rival conception which in many ways is the opposite of the anarchist one. This radical liberal version is best summed up by an oft-quoted maxim by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Here instead of mass, collective, working class action we have individual, exemplary action by ‘committed citizens’. A clearer example of the gulf between anarchism and liberalism would be hard to find.

It is this liberal version of direct action that also ends up in vanguardism. Once more the task of social change is taken away from the workers themselves and entrusted to a group of specialists acting on their behalf. However, instead of a vanguard party, here the specialists are “committed activists” willing to sacrifice themselves to arrest and police brutality for the cause of justice. There is no doubting the sincerity, and often courage of such activists. But such a mode of action is nonetheless vanguardist – activists are substituted for the working class in our emancipatory struggle.

This has practical implications for anti-cuts struggles. The liberal conception of direct action promotes tactics which privilege individual actions, often favouring ‘accountable action’ where arrest ceases to be an occupational hazard but part of the objective. Activists encourage people to glue themselves to crime scenes and get criminal records which can seriously hamper employment possibilities. For full-time activists this isn’t a problem (whether they scrape by on the dole or are personally wealthy enough to not need a job). And many students don’t realise the consequences further down the road – consequences which apply disproportionately to working class students lacking the connections of their more affluent peers.

Encouraging people to sit down and be beaten by police is rationalised as providing outrageous footage – a sign of the righteousness of the cause, no doubt informed by a Mead-style misreading of the history of US Civil Rights and Indian Independence struggles (which were won by mass struggles, not individuals martyring themselves). In fact police violence is explained by protestors not being passive enough – the cries to ‘sit down, sit down!’ effectively blame the victims of police violence. The youths who fight back against the police don’t ‘get it’. Lacking the ‘correct’ consciousness, they should leave it to the specialists in social change."-Brighton Solfed.
 
 


 


 

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