Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Paris Commune and the idea of the state - Mikhail Bakunin

Bakunin, a man often mistakenly credited with founding the political theory of Anarchism (because most modern day Anarchists have massive problems with Proudhon the actual founder) was also greatly inspired by the brief existence of the Commune of Paris and wrote about what were for him the most important lessons of this new social organisation.

The Paris Commune and the idea of the state - Mikhail Bakunin

Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin on the Paris Commune and the idea of government and the state.

This work, like all my published work, of which there has not been a great deal, is an outgrowth of events. It is the natural continuation of my Letters to a Frenchman (September 1870), wherein I had the easy but painful distinction of foreseeing and foretelling the dire calamities which now beset France and the whole civilized world, the only cure for which is the Social Revolution.

My purpose now is to prove the need for such a revolution. I shall review the historical development of society and what is now taking place in Europe, right before our eyes. Thus all those who sincerely thirst for truth can accept it and proclaim openly and unequivocally the philosophical principles and practical aims which are at the very core of what we call the Social Revolution.

I know my self-imposed task is not a simple one. I might be called presumptuous had I any personal motives in undertaking it. Let me assure my reader, I have none. I am not a scholar or a philosopher, not even a professional writer. I have not done much writing in my life and have never written except, so to speak, in self-defense, and only when a passionate conviction forced me to overcome my instinctive dislike for any public exhibition of myself.

Well, then, who am I, and what is it that prompts me to publish this work at this time? I am an impassioned seeker of the truth, and as bitter an enemy of the vicious fictions used by the established order - an order which has profited from all the religious, metaphysical, political, juridical, economic, and social infamies of all times - to brutalize and enslave the world. I am a fanatical lover of liberty. I consider it the only environment in which human intelligence, dignity, and happiness can thrive and develop. I do not mean that formal liberty which is dispensed, measured out, and regulated by the State; for this is a perennial lie and represents nothing but the privilege of a few, based upon the servitude of the remainder. Nor do I mean that individualist, egoist, base, and fraudulent liberty extolled by the school of Jean Jacques Rousseau and every other school of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the rights of all, represented by the State, as a limit for the rights of each; it always, necessarily, ends up by reducing the rights of individuals to zero. No, I mean the only liberty worthy of the name, the liberty which implies the full development of all the material, intellectual, and moral capacities latent in every one of us; the liberty which knows no other restrictions but those set by the laws of our own nature. Consequently there are, properly speaking, no restrictions, since these laws are not imposed upon us by any legislator from outside, alongside, or above ourselves. These laws are subjective, inherent in ourselves; they constitute the very basis of our being. Instead of seeking to curtail them, we should see in them the real condition and the effective cause of our liberty - that liberty of each man which does not find another manpis freedom a boundary but a confirmation and vast extension of his own; liberty through solidarity, in equality. I mean liberty triumphant over brute force and, what has always been the real expression of such force, the principle of authority. I mean liberty which will shatter all the idols in heaven and on earth and will then build a new world of mankind in solidarity, upon the ruins of all the churches and all the states.

I am a convinced advocate of economic and social equality because I know that, without it, liberty, justice, human dignity, morality, and the well-being of individuals, as well as the prosperity of nations, will never amount to more than a pack of lies. But since I stand for liberty as the primary condition of mankind, I believe that equality must be established in the world by the spontaneous organization of labor and the collective ownership of property by freely organized producerspi associations, and by the equally spontaneous federation of communes, to replace the domineering paternalistic State.

It is at this point that a fundamental division arises between the socialists and revolutionary collectivists on the one hand and the authoritarian communists who support the absolute power of the State on the other. Their ultimate aim is identical. Both equally desire to create a new social order based first on the organization of collective labor, inevitably imposed upon each and all by the natural force of events, under conditions equal for all, and second, upon the collective ownership of the tools of production.

The difference is only that the communists imagine they can attain their goal by the development and organization of the political power of the working classes, and chiefly of the proletariat of the cities, aided by bourgeois radicalism. The revolutionary socialists, on the other hand, believe they can succeed only through the development and organization of the nonpolitical or antipolitical social power of the working classes in city and country, including all men of goodwill from the upper classes who break with their past and wish openly to join them and accept their revolutionary program in full.

This divergence leads to a difference in tactics. The communists believe it necessary to organize the workers' forces in order to seize the political power of the State. The revolutionary socialists organize for the purpose of destroying - or, to put it more politely - liquidating the State. The communists advocate the principle and the practices of authority; the revolutionary socialists put all their faith in liberty. Both equally favor science, which is to eliminate superstition and take the place of religious faith. The former would like to impose science by force; the latter would try to propagate it so that human groups, once convinced, would organize and federalize spontaneously, freely, from the bottom up, of their own accord and true t their own interests, never following a prearranged plan imposed upon "ignorant"; masses by a few "superior" minds.

The revolutionary socialists hold that there is a great deal more practical good sense and wisdom in the instinctive aspirations and real needs of the masses than in the profound intelligence of all the doctors and guides of humanity who, after so many failures, still keep on trying to make men happy. The revolutionary socialists, further more, believe that mankind has for too long submitted to being governed; that the cause of its troubles does not lie in any particular form of government but in the fundamental principles and the very existence of government, whatever form it may take.

Finally, there is the well-known contradiction between communism as developed scientifically by the German school and accepted in part by the Americans and the English, and Proudhonism, greatly developed and taken to its ultimate conclusion by the proletariat of the Latin countries. Revolutionary socialism has just attempted its first striking and practical demonstration in the Paris Commune.
I am a supporter of the Paris Commune, which for all the bloodletting it suffered at the hands of monarchical and clerical reaction, has nonetheless grown more enduring and more powerful in the hearts and minds of Europe's proletariat. I am its supporter, above all, because it was a bold, clearly formulated negation of the State.

It is immensely significant that this rebellion against the State has taken place in France, which had been hitherto the land of political centralization par excellence, and that it was precisely Paris, the leader and the fountainhead of the great French civilization, which took the initiative in the Commune. Paris, casting aside her crown and enthusiastically proclaiming her own defeat in order to give life and liberty to France, to Europe, to the entire world; Paris reaffirming her historic power of leadership, showing to all the enslaved peoples (and are there any masses that are not slaves?) the only road to emancipation and health; Paris inflicting a mortal blow upon the political traditions of bourgeois radicalism and giving a real basis to revolutionary socialism against the reactionaries of France and Europe! Paris shrouded in her own ruins, to give the solemn lie to triumphant reaction; saving, by her own disaster, the honor and the future of France, and proving to mankind that if life, intelligence, and moral strength have departed from the upper classes, they have been preserved in their power and promises in the proletariat! Paris inaugurating the new era of the definitive and complete emancipation of the masses and their real solidarity across state frontiers; Paris destroying nationalism and erecting th religion of humanity upon its ruins; Paris proclaiming herself humanitarian and atheist, and replacing divine fictions with the great realities of social life and faith in science, replacing the lies and inequities of the old morality with the principles of liberty, justice, equality, and fraternity, those eternal bases of all human morality! Paris heroic, rational and confident, confirming her strong faith in the destinies of mankind by her own glorious downfall, her death; passing down her faith, in all its power, to the generations to come! Paris, drenched in the blood of her noblest children - this is humanity itself, crucified by the united international reaction of Europe, under the direct inspiration of all the Christian churches and that high priest of iniquity, the Pope. But the coming international revolution, expressing the solidarity of the peoples, shall be the resurrection of Paris.

This is the true meaning, and these are the immense, beneficent results of two months which encompassed the life and death of the ever memorable Paris Commune.

The Paris Commune lasted too short a time, and its internal development was too hampered by the mortal struggle it had to engage in against the Versailles reaction to allow it at least to formulate, if not apply, its socialist program theoretically. We must realize, too, that the majority of the members of the Commune were not socialists, properly speaking. If they appeared to be, it was because they were drawn in this direction by the irresistible course of events, the nature of the situation, the necessities of their position, rather than through personal conviction. The socialists were a tiny minority - there were, at most, fourteen or fifteen of them; the rest were Jacobins. But, let us make it clear, there are Jacobins and Jacobins. There are Jacobin lawyers and doctrinaires, like Mr. Gambetta; their positivist...presumptuous, despotic, and legalistic republicanism had repudiated the old revolutionary faith, leaving nothing of Jacobinism but its cult of unity and authority, and delivered the people of France over to the Prussians, and later still to native-born reactionaries. And there are Jacobins who are frankly revolutionaries, the heroes, the last sincere representatives of the democratic faith of 1793; able to sacrifice both their well-armed unity and authority rather than submit their conscience to the insolence of the reaction. These magnanimous Jacobins led naturally by Delescluze, a great soul and a great character, desire the triumph of the Revolution above everything else; and since there is no revolution without the masses, and since the masses nowadays reveal an instinct for socialism and can only make an economic and social revolution, the Jacobins of good faith, letting themselves be impelled increasingly by the logic of the revolutionary movement, will end up becoming socialists in spite of themselves.

This precisely was the situation in which the Jacobins who participated in the Paris Commune found themselves. Delescluze, and many others with him, signed programs and proclamations whose general import and promise were of a positively socialist nature. However, in spite of their good faith and all their goodwill, they were merely socialists impelled by outward circumstances rather than by an inward conviction; they lacked the time and even the capacity to overcome and subdue many of their own bourgeois prejudices which were contrary to their newly acquired socialism. One can understand that, trapped in this internal struggle, they could never go beyond generalities or take any of those decisive measures that would end their solidarity and all their contacts with the bourgeois world forever.

This was a great misfortune for the Commune and these men. They were paralyzed, and they paralyzed the Commune. Yet we cannot blame them. Men are not transformed overnight; they do not change their natures or their habits at will. They proved their sincerity by letting themselves be killed for the Commune. Who would dare ask more of them?

They are no more to be blamed than the people of Paris, under whose influence they thought and acted. The people were socialists more by instinct than by reflection. All their aspirations are in the highest degree socialist but their ideas, or rather their traditional expressions, are not. The proletariat of the great cities of France, and even of Paris, still cling to many Jacobin prejudices, and to many dictatorial and governmental concepts. The cult of authority - the fatal result of religious education, that historic source of all evils, depravations, and servitude - has not yet been completely eradicated in them. This is so true that even the most intelligent children of the people, the most convinced socialists, have not freed themselves completely of these ideas. If you rummage around a bit in their minds, you will find the Jacobin, the advocate of government, cowering in a dark corner, humble but not quite dead.

And, too, the small group of convinced socialists who participated in the Commune were in a very difficult position. While they felt the lack of support from the great masses of the people of Paris, and while the organization of the International Association, itself imperfect, compromised hardly a few thousand persons, they had to keep up a daily struggle against the Jacobin majority. In the midst of the conflict, they had to feed and provide work for several thousand workers, organize and arm them, and keep a sharp lookout for the doings of the reactionaries. All this in an immense city like Paris, besieged, facing the threat of starvation, and a prey to all the shady intrigues of the reaction, which managed to establish itself in Versailles with the permission and by the grace of the Prussians. They had to set up a revolutionary government and army against the government and army of Versailles; in order to fight the monarchist and clerical reaction they were compelled to organize themselves in a Jacobin manner, forgetting or sacrificing the first conditions of revolutionary socialism.

In this confusing situation, it was natural that the Jacobins, the strongest section, constituting the majority of the Commune, who also possessed a highly developed political instinct, the tradition and practice of governmental organization, should have had the upper hand over the socialists. It is a matter of surprise that they did not press their advantage more than they did; that they did not give a fully Jacobin character to the Paris insurrection; that, on the contrary, they let themselves be carried along into a social revolution.

I know that many socialists, very logical in their theory, blame our Paris friends for not having acted sufficiently as socialists in their revolutionary practice. The yelping pack of the bourgeois press, on the other hand, accuse them of having followed their program too faithfully. Let us forget, for a moment, the ignoble denunciations of that press. I want to call the attention of the strictest theoreticians of proletarian emancipation to the fact that they are unjust to our Paris brothers, for between the most correct theories and their practical application lies an enormous distance which cannot be bridged in a few days. Whoever had the pleasure of knowing Varlin, for instance (to name just one man whose death is certain), knows that he and his friends were guided by profound, passionate, and well-considered socialist convictions. These were men whose ardent zeal, devotion, and good faith had never been questioned by those who had known them. Yet, precisely because they were men of good faith, they were filled with self-distrust in the face of the immense task to which they had devoted their minds and their lives; they thought too little of themselves! And they were convinced that in the Social Revolution, diametrically opposite to a political revolution in this as in other ways, individual action was to be almost nil, while the spontaneous action of the masses had to be everything. All that individuals can do is formulate, clarify, and propagate ideas expressing the instinctive desires of the people, and contribute their constant efforts to the revolutionary organization of the natural powers of the masses. This and nothing more; all the rest can be accomplished only by the people themselves. Otherwise we would end up with a political dictatorship - the reconstitution of the State, with all its privileges, inequalities, and oppressions; by taking a devious but inevitable path we would come to reestablish the political, social, and economic slavery of the masses.

Varlin and all his friends, like all sincere socialists, and generally like all workers born and bred among the people, shared this perfectly legitimate feeling of caution toward the continuous activity of one and the same group of individuals and against the domination exerted by superior personalities. And since they were just and fair-minded men above all else, they turned this foresight, this mistrust, against themselves as much as against other persons.

Contrary to the belief of authoritarian communists - which I deem completely wrong - that a social revolution must be decreed and organized either by a dictatorship or by a constituent assembly emerging from a political revolution, our friends, the Paris socialists, believed that revolution could neither be made nor brought to its full development except by the spontaneous and continued action of the masses, the groups and the associations of the people.

Our Paris friends were right a thousand times over. In fact, where is the mind, brilliant as it may be, or - if we speak of a collective dictatorship, even if it were formed of several hundred individuals endowed with superior mentalities - where are the intellects powerful enough to embrace the infinite multiplicity and diversity of real interests, aspirations, wishes and needs which sum up the collective will of the people? And to invent a social organization that will not be a Procrustean bed upon which the violence of the State will more or less overtly force unhappy society to stretch out? It has always been thus, and it is exactly this old system of organization by force that the Social Revolution should end by granting full liberty to the masses, the groups, the communes, the associations and to the individuals as well; by destroying once and for all the historic cause of all violence, which is the power and indeed the mere existence of the State. Its fall will bring down with it all the inequities of the law and all the lies of the various religions, since both law and religion have never been anything but the compulsory consecration, ideal and real, of all violence represented, guaranteed, and protected by the State.

It is obvious that liberty will never be given to humanity, and that the real interests of society, of all groups, local associations, and individuals who make up society will never be satisfied until there are no longer any states. It is obvious that all the so-called general interests of society, which the State is supposed to represent and which are in reality just a general and constant negation of the true interests of regions, communes, associations, and individuals subject to the State, are a mere abstraction, a fiction, a lie. The State is like a vast slaughterhouse or an enormous cemetery, where all the real aspirations, all the living forces of a country enter generously and happily, in the shadow of that abstraction, to let themselves be slain and buried. And just as no abstraction exists for and by itself, having no legs to sand on, no arms to create with, no stomach to digest the mass of victims delivered to it, it is likewise clear that the celestial or religious abstraction, God, actually represents the very real interests of a class, the clergy, while its terrestrial complement, that political abstraction, the State, represents the no less real interests of the exploiting class which tends to absorb all the others - the bourgeoisie. As the clergy has always been divisive, and nowadays tends to separate men even further into a very powerful and wealthy minority and a sad and rather wretched majority, so likewise the bourgeoisie, with its various social and political organizations in industry, agriculture, banking, and commerce, as well as in all administrative, financial, judiciary, education, police, and military functions of the State tend increasingly to weld all of these into a really dominant oligarchy on the one hand, and on the other hand into an enormous mass of more or less hopeless creatures, defrauded creatures who live in a perpetual illusion, steadily and inevitably pushed down into the proletariat by the irresistible force of the present economic development, and reduced to serving as blind tools of this all-powerful oligarchy.

The abolition of the Church and the State should be the first and indispensable condition for the real enfranchisement of society which can and should reorganize itself not from the top down according to an ideal plan dressed up by wise men or scholars nor by decrees promulgated by some dictatorial power or even by a national assembly elected through universal suffrage. Such a system, as I have already said, would inevitably lead to the creation of a new state and, consequently, to the formation of a ruling aristocracy, that is, an entire class of persons who have nothing in common with the masses. And, of course, this class would exploit and subject the masses, under the pretext of serving the common welfare or saving the State.

The future social organization should be carried out from the bottom up, by the free association or federation of workers, starting with the associations, then going on to the communes, the regions, the nations, and, finally, culminating in a great international and universal federation. It is only then that the true, life-giving social order of liberty and general welfare will come into being, a social order which, far from restricting, will affirm and reconcile the interests of individuals and of society.
It is said that the harmony and universal solidarity of individuals with society can never be attained in practice because their interests, being antagonistic, can never be reconciled. To this objection I reply that if these interest have never as yet come to mutual accord, it was because the State has sacrificed the interests of the majority for the benefit of a privileged minority. That is why this famous incompatibility, this conflict of personal interests with those of society, is nothing but a fraud, a political lie, born of the theological lie which invented the doctrine of original sin in order to dishonor man and destroy his self-respect. The same false idea concerning irreconcilable interests was also fostered by the dreams of metaphysics which, as we know, is close kin to theology. Metaphysics, failing to recognize the social character of human nature, looked upon society as a mechanical and purely artificial aggregate of individuals, suddenly brought together in the name of some formal or secret compact concluded freely or under the influence of a superior power. Before uniting in society, these individuals, endowed with some sort of immortal soul, enjoyed complete liberty, according to the metaphysicians. We are convinced that all the wealth of man's intellectual, moral, and material development, as well as his apparent independence, is the product of his life in society. Outside society, not only would he not be a free man, he would not even become genuinely human, a being conscious of himself, the only being who thinks and speaks. Only the combination of intelligence and collective labor was able to force man out of that savage and brutish state which constituted his original nature, or rather the starting point for his further development. We are profoundly convinced that the entire life of men - their interests, tendencies, needs, illusions, even stupidities, as well as very bit of violence, injustice, and seemingly voluntary activity - merely represent the result of inevitable societal forces. People cannot reject the idea of mutual independence, nor can they deny the reciprocal influence and uniformity exhibiting the manifestations of external nature.
In nature herself, this marvelous correlation and interdependence of phenomena certainly is not produced without struggle. On the contrary, the harmony of the forces of nature appears only as the result of a continual struggle, which is the real condition of life and of movement. In nature, as in society, order without struggle is death.

If order is natural and possible in the universe, it is only because the universe is not governed according to some pre imagined system imposed by a supreme will. The theological hypothesis of divine legislation leads to an obvious absurdity, to the negation not only of all order but of nature herself. Natural laws are real only in that they are inherent in nature; that is, they are not established by any authority. These laws are but simple manifestations, or rather continuous variations, of the uniformities constituting what we call 'nature.' Human intelligence and its science have observed them, have checked them experimentally, assembled them into a system and called them laws. But nature as such knows no laws. She acts unconsciously; she represents in herself the infinite variety of phenomena which appear and repeat themselves inevitably. This inevitability of action is the reason the universal order can and does exist.

Such an order is also apparent in human society, which seems to have evolved in an allegedly anti natural way but actually is determined by the natural animal's needs and his capacity for thinking that have contributed a special element to his development - a completely natural element, by the way, in the sense that men, like everything that exists, represent the material product of the union and action of natural forces. This special element is reason, the captivity for generalization and abstraction, thanks to which man is able to project himself in his thought, examining and observing himself like a strange, eternal object. By lifting himself in thought above himself, and above the world around him, he reaches the representation of perfect abstraction the absolute void. And this absolute is nothing less than his capacity for abstraction, which disdains all that exists and finds its repose in attaining complete negation. This is the ultimate limit of the highest abstraction of the mind; this absolute nothingness is God.

This is the meaning and the historical foundation of every theological doctrine. As they did not understand the nature and the material causes of their own thinking, and did not even grasp the conditions or natural laws underlying such thinking, these early men and early societies had not the slightest suspicion that their absolute notions were simply the result of their own capacity for formulating abstract ideas. Hence they viewed these ideas, drawn from nature, as real objects, next to which nature herself ceased to amount to anything. They began to worship their fictions, their improbably notions of the absolute, and to honor them. But since they felt the need of giving some concrete form to the abstract idea of nothingness or of God, they created the concept of divinity and, furthermore, endowed it with all the qualities and powers, good and evil, which they found only in nature and in society. Such was the origin and historical development of all religions, from fetishism on down to Christianity.

We do not intend to undertake a study of the history of religious, theological, and metaphysical absurdities or to discuss the procession of all the divine incarnations and visions created by centuries of barbarism. We all know that superstition brought disaster and caused rivers of blood and tears to flow. All these revolting aberrations of poor mankind were historical, inevitable stages in the normal growth and evolution of social organizations. Such aberrations engendered the fatal idea, which dominated men's imagination, that the universe was governed by a supernatural power and will. Centuries came and went, and societies grew accustomed to this idea to such an extent that they finally destroyed any urge toward or capacity to achieve further progress which arose in their midst.
The lust for power of a few individuals originally, and of several social classes later, established slavery and conquest as the dominant principle, and implanted this terrible idea of divinity in the heart of society. Thereafter no society was viewed as feasible without these two institutions, the Church and the State, at its base. These two social scourges are defended by all their doctrinaire apologists.

No sooner did these institutions appear in the world than two ruling classes - the priests and the aristocrats - promptly organized themselves and lost no time in indoctrinating the enslaved people with the idea of the utility, indispensability, and sacredness of the Church and of the State.
First Published in 1871 Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY 
PDF Version 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

On X Wings and Shuttlecraft

Image Source


Star Trek one of the most well known and successful science fiction franchises in the world.Even if you've never watched the show or the films chances are you're familiar with the basic premise, a big ship with a crew flying around battling aliens, or trying not to battle aliens. But despite its popularity and the dedication of its large fan base to analysis and remember every trivial detail there's quite a few myths about it.

One has clearly been pushed by the shows creators and money men and it concerns its record on Civil Rights. For the record I think the show has done some good in this area just nowhere near as much as it would have us all believe. It's also at times been counter productive, but that's for another day. The Second myth I've addressed briefly but apparently not well enough so I'll try again this time going back to basics and the source.

People believe Star Trek is some sort of Marxist message show. Now when I first heard this I honestly thought it was a joke, I'd been watching the show since I was a little kid and while not exactly a biographer of Marx I know enough of what he wrote to know that simply wasn't possible. But nevertheless the myth gets around. I think a lot of this disinformation comes from an essay written in 2000 called The Economics of Star Trek which when I first encountered it I dismissed it as a very funny joke. I did that because it was hosted on which is a Star Wars fansite and the Star Wars and Star Trek fans don't get on very well, so I just assumed it was a jab at the Trekkies.

But no apparently its serious, so I'll give a serious revaluation it's only fair after all. The objective of this essay is to

The primary goal of this document is to show that the writers and producers of Star Trek are promoting the values and ideals of communism. I should note that this has not always been the case; the TOS Federation was clearly a free market, and I can only imagine that some sort of coup occurred during the intervening period between TOS and TNG. One could theorize that radical left-wing activists took control of the government agenda.

 The bolding is mine, here's the fundamental flaw, the author doesn't actually know what the values and ideals of Communism are. Instead of comparing events in episodes to Marx's actually works most of it is comparing it to the Soviet Union which just shows that they don't know what Communism is. Another critical flaw is that the author hasn't done much in the way of research. They only cite the Manifesto which is a serious problem. Despite the name the Manifesto is not a summary of the fundamentals of Communism, most of the work is dedicated to criticism, criticism of Capitalism, and criticism of rival ideologies. The rest is a brief outline of an action plan for several different Communist groups.

Another problem is that Marx soon changed his mind about many parts of the Manifesto. He and Engels wrote it in 1848 during the great turmoil and discontents of Europe, the Manifesto was to gain support for Marx's ideas at the time. It makes several predictions about the unfolding Revolutions which turned out to be wrong. For example the Manifesto urges German Communists to support the Bourgois Revolution, this was because he thought the Bourgeoise would seek to displace and overthrow the Feudal aristocracy and would welcome the aide of the other Revolutionaries. Instead most wealthy citizens supported the established government with the exception of Idealistic students, as did many peasants. 

Because of this Marx viewed neither sections of society to have any real value to the Revolutionary process.

Communism: A society without a state, and without a class system.

Now the Soviet Union, had a state (officially it had dozens) and had a class system so it isn't Communism. To be fair the Soviet Leaders themselves called there society Socialist (when it wasn't) and on the way to Communism.

This is what the author thinks Communism is instead, 

As most people are vaguely aware, communism was first popularized by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, in the mid-19th century. In February of 1848, they published their "Communist Manifesto", which eventually became the inspiration for Communist revolutions in Russia, China, North Korea, North Vietnam, Cuba, and numerous other nations
It starts of ok but then deteriorates, the Communist Manifesto is not the inspiration for any of those revolutions. Marx believed revolutions in those nation were impossible because they were to underdeveloped. The inspiration for the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917 was Lenin's works including the State and Revolution. In China the People's Liberation Army followed Mao's ideology which included un Marxist ideas like an alliance with Peasants and the "Progressive" Bourgeoisie both of which Marx believed to be impossible and inadvisable. From the Communist Manifesto

 Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes, directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.

North Korea didn't even have a Revolution it was occupied by the Soviet Army who installed its regime, just like how South Korea was occupied by the United States who installed its regime.
And again the North Vietnamese regime came to power via the Viet Minh which was a coalition of Ho Chi Minh's Communists (they violently crushed rival Communist groups) and Nationalists opposing French Colonial rule. A similar event occurred in Cuba, Castro didn't align his government to the left until 1960 after his broad coalition of anti Batista forces crumbled. 

The premise that the Manifesto inspired these acts is simply not possible since those revolts deviated from both the Manifesto and each others experiences. But ultimately the biggest flaw in the argument is this, the Manifesto does describe a Communist society it describes a method of which a group Communists may eventually achieve Communism. In the Manifesto as part of his program of action he supports French Communists working with Social Democrats against the Conservatives. Lenin in contrast led the Bolsheviks in armed opposition against both of them, as did Mao so in addition to fancy theories we have practical contradictions to consider. And the very end even endorses German Communists working to support the Bourgeois Revolution of 1848 as part of this program because he believed the feudalist tendencies within the Germanic states needed to be abolished first.

Let me repeat that, this supposed blueprint for a Communist society ends by endorsing a Bourgeois Revolution. This would mean that the American and French Revolution where Proto-Marxist since Marx not only references these events in the manifesto but gives a thumbs up for the German version of them.

The Communists turn their attention chiefly to Germany, because that country is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution that is bound to be carried out under more advanced conditions of European civilisation, and with a much more developed proletariat, than that of England was in the seventeenth, and of France in the eighteenth century, and because the bourgeois revolution in Germany will be but the prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution.
If you accept the premise 

 The Manifesto, as the name makes incredibly obvious, is a political Manifesto outline the Communists beliefs and proposed actions its a means to an end not the end. In fact its spends most of its pages criticising other competing groups then talking about its own program.

I'm not even sure I believe the authors claim to have read the Communist Manifesto, because of the following disclaimer.
(I suppose I should note that neo-Marxists deny any connection to these communist states, claiming that they were "perversions" of the lofty, wonderful, perfect Marxist ideals that would have created a paradise on Earth if we had only given them a chance. Of course, they are reluctant to acknowledge that Marxist ideals defy implementation for numerous reasons of practicality and human nature, so a real-life communist state will always be a perversion of the "ideal").
Note the usually strawman about "human nature" and the repetition of the phrase "Communist State". Anyone who uses that phrase doesn't know even the basics of Communism. It's impossible to have a Communist state, the whole point of Communism is to abolish the state. They haven't grasped the basics and yet smugly declare what is and what isn't really Marxism. And this is just the introduction.

Oh and just before we move on one more point on the author is using terms they don't understand. Neo-Marxism, its a real term and its quite a broad and loose term at that. Unfortunately it's not loose or broad enough to cover our authors definition. They're using to refer to supposed Marx purists, aka traditionalists. The problem being actually Neo-Marxists are the opposite of that, again the name is kind of a clue. They took Marx's basic ideas as there foundation and then adapted an updated them, and even came up with there own ideas.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Mr Block: He Gets Stung

The only real distinction is between exploiter and the exploited.

I have some sad news

That's the last of the Mr Block comic strips I have, I do have some extra images though which I'll post up later.

Scratch that I found a few more, as well as some more images and written pieces by the artist.

Thanks to Ernest Riebe for this amusing and surprisingly timeless comic strip.

The rest of the strips.
Here's an archive (includes extra's)

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Loafers Glory and the West

Episode two of Loafers Glory focuses on the West, in its dying days in the 1910's. It covers the stories of Old Western Miners, loggers and farm hands. From the Logging camps in Washington state to Butte Montana and the conditions of the Miners who toiled away underground.

Includes music and poetry from Cowboys and Loggers including Gail I Gardner, and Bill Young (not the US legislator) and from other Wobblies such as Bruce Brackney and Mark Ross. Stories include a bit of Logger folklore like the story of the death of Tom Lamb. It also comes with a special Utah Phillips pie recipe. But the bulk of the show concerns Butte Montana miners in the 1910's in particular that Speculator Mine Disaster of 1917.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Theses on the Paris Commune - Situationist International

Despite its obscurity the Paris Commune was such an important chapter of world history that virtually every organisation that wishes to change society and abolish the current sources of human misery, Capitalism, Nationalism, Militarism, the State, has given those days in 1871 some detailed thought. Here is an essay by the now defunct Situationist International, a group of Marxists centred around Guy Debord in France. They opposed the state and both the Soviet Union and the Western Alliance.

Parisian barricade - 1871
The Situationists reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of a great revolutionary moment; "the biggest festival of the nineteenth century".
" is time we examine the Commune not just as an outmoded example of revolutionary primitivism, all of whose mistakes can easily be overcome, but as a positive experiment whose whole truth has yet to be rediscovered and fulfilled."

Theses on the Paris Commune

“The classical workers movement must be reexamined without any illusions, particularly without any illusions regarding its various political and pseudotheoretical heirs, because all they have inherited is its failure. The apparent successes of this movement are actually its fundamental failures (reformism or the establishment of a state bureaucracy), while its failures (the Paris Commune or the 1934 Asturian revolt) are its most promising successes so far, for us and for the future” (Internationale Situationniste #7).
The Commune was the biggest festival of the nineteenth century. Underlying the events of that spring of 1871 one can see the insurgents’ feeling that they had become the masters of their own history, not so much on the level of “governmental” politics as on the level of their everyday life. (Consider, for example, the games everyone played with their weapons: they were in fact playing with power.) It is also in this sense that Marx should be understood when he says that “the most important social measure of the Commune was its own existence in acts.”(1)
Engels’s remark, “Look at the Paris Commune — that was the dictatorship of the proletariat,” should be taken seriously in order to reveal what the dictatorship of the proletariat is not (the various forms of state dictatorship over the proletariat in the name of the proletariat).
It has been easy to make justified criticisms of the Commune’s obvious lack of a coherent organizational structure. But as the problem of political structures seems far more complex to us today than the would-be heirs of the Bolshevik-type structure claim it to be, it is time that we examine the Commune not just as an outmoded example of revolutionary primitivism, all of whose mistakes can easily be overcome, but as a positive experiment whose whole truth has yet to be rediscovered and fulfilled.
The Commune had no leaders. And this at a time when the idea of the necessity of leaders was universally accepted in the workers movement. This is the first reason for its paradoxical successes and failures. The official organizers of the Commune were incompetent (compared with Marx or Lenin, or even Blanqui). But on the other hand, the various “irresponsible” acts of that moment are precisely what is needed for the continuation of the revolutionary movement of our own time (even if the circumstances restricted almost all those acts to the purely destructive level — the most famous example being the rebel who, when a suspect bourgeois insisted that he had never had anything to do with politics, replied, “That’s precisely why I’m going to kill you”).
The vital importance of the general arming of the people was manifested practically and symbolically from the beginning to the end of the movement. By and large the right to impose popular will by force was not surrendered and left to any specialized detachments. This exemplary autonomy of the armed groups had its unfortunate flip side in their lack of coordination: at no point in the offensive or defensive struggle against Versailles did the people’s forces attain military effectiveness. It should be borne in mind, however, that the Spanish revolution was lost — as, in the final analysis, was the civil war itself — in the name of such a transformation into a “republican army.” The contradiction between autonomy and coordination would seem to have been largely related to the technological level of the period.
The Commune represents the only implementation of a revolutionary urbanism to date — attacking on the spot the petrified signs of the dominant organization of life, understanding social space in political terms, refusing to accept the innocence of any monument. Anyone who disparages this attack as some “lumpenproletarian nihilism,” some “irresponsibility of the pétroleuses,”(2) should specify what he believes to be of positive value in the present society and worth preserving (it will turn out to be almost everything). “All space is already occupied by the enemy. . . . Authentic urbanism will appear when the absence of this occupation is created in certain zones. What we call construction starts there. It can be clarified by the positive void concept developed by modern physics” (Basic Program of Unitary Urbanism, Internationale Situationniste #6).
The Paris Commune succumbed less to the force of arms than to the force of habit. The most scandalous practical example was the refusal to use the cannons to seize the French National Bank when money was so desperately needed. During the entire existence of the Commune the bank remained a Versaillese enclave in Paris, defended by nothing more than a few rifles and the mystique of property and theft. The other ideological habits proved in every respect equally disastrous (the resurrection of Jacobinism, the defeatist strategy of barricades in memory of 1848, etc.).
The Commune shows how those who defend the old world always benefit in one way or another from the complicity of revolutionaries — particularly of those revolutionaries who merely think about revolution, and who turn out to still think like the defenders. In this way the old world retains bases (ideology, language, customs, tastes) among its enemies, and uses them to reconquer the terrain it has lost. (Only the thought-in-acts natural to the revolutionary proletariat escapes it irrevocably: the Tax Bureau went up in flames.) The real “fifth column” is in the very minds of revolutionaries.
The story of the arsonists who during the final days of the Commune went to destroy Notre-Dame, only to find it defended by an armed battalion of Commune artists, is a richly provocative example of direct democracy. It gives an idea of the kind of problems that will need to be resolved in the perspective of the power of the councils. Were those artists right to defend a cathedral in the name of eternal aesthetic values — and in the final analysis, in the name of museum culture — while other people wanted to express themselves then and there by making this destruction symbolize their absolute defiance of a society that, in its moment of triumph, was about to consign their entire lives to silence and oblivion? The artist partisans of the Commune, acting as specialists, already found themselves in conflict with an extremist form of struggle against alienation. The Communards must be criticized for not having dared to answer the totalitarian terror of power with the use of the totality of their weapons. Everything indicates that the poets who at that moment actually expressed the Commune’s inherent poetry were simply wiped out. The Commune’s mass of unaccomplished acts enabled its tentative actions to be turned into “atrocities” and their memory to be censored. Saint-Just’s remark, “Those who make revolution half way only dig their own graves,” also explains his own silence.(3)
Theoreticians who examine the history of this movement from a divinely omniscient viewpoint (like that found in classical novels) can easily demonstrate that the Commune was objectively doomed to failure and could not have been successfully consummated. They forget that for those who really lived it, the consummation was already there.
The audacity and inventiveness of the Commune must obviously be measured not in relation to our time, but in terms of the political, intellectual and moral attitudes of its own time, in terms of the solidarity of all the common assumptions that it blasted to pieces. The profound solidarity of presently prevailing assumptions (right and left) gives us an idea of the inventiveness we can expect of a comparable explosion today.
The social war of which the Commune was one episode is still being fought today (though its superficial conditions have changed considerably). In the task of “making conscious the unconscious tendencies of the Commune” (Engels), the last word has yet to be said.
For almost twenty years in France the Stalinists and the leftist Christians have agreed, in memory of their anti-German national front, to stress the element of national disarray and offended patriotism in the Commune. (According to the current Stalinist line, “the French people petitioned to be better governed” and were finally driven to desperate measures by the treachery of the unpatriotic right wing of the bourgeoisie.) In order to refute this pious nonsense it would suffice to consider the role played by all the foreigners who came to fight for the Commune. As Marx said, the Commune was the inevitable battle, the climax of 23 years of struggle in Europe by “our party.”
18 March 1962

________________________________________ [TRANSLATOR’S NOTES]
1. The Marx quotation and the following one by Engels are from The Civil War in France.
2. pétroleuses: Communard women who were rumored (probably falsely) to have burned down many Parisian buildings during the final days of the Commune by throwing bottles of petroleum.
3. Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just, one of the Jacobin leaders during the French Revolution, was executed along with Robespierre in 1794.
“Sur la Commune,” written 18 March 1962, was reproduced in the tract “Aux poubelles de l’histoire” (February 1963) and later reprinted in Internationale Situationniste #12 (Paris, September 1969). This translation by Ken Knabb is from the Situationist International Anthology (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2006). No copyright.
Source; Bureau of Public Secrets;
PDF Version here

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Loafers Glory the Hobo Jungle of the Mind

My introduction the IWW was the film Reds, I liked what they seemed to stand for but since I hadn't heard of them before I assumed they were one of those radical groups that became a casualty of the Red Scares. Letter on I found they were still around an while much smaller had actually spread to other nations including the UK.

My introduction into the Wobbly philosophy was the songs and little stories of Utah Phillips, a folk singer, song writer and Father Christmas impersonator. I love his songs and covers, and I really liked the little bits of story he'd use to book end them in many of his recordings. My favourite album by him Fellow Workers for this reason.

Later another Wobbly shared an archive of a community radio show Utah did in the 90's, Loafers Glory. It was weekly, around an hour, lasted 100 episodes and is just fascinating to listen to. Since I have a bit (ok a lot) more free time at present I've been making videos of them like I did for Free Speech Radio News. Which has made a comeback.

The program was a mix of folk songs -some of which hadn't been heard before at the time- and stories about important but overlooked people and events, many of whom Utah had a personal connection too.

Here's the first one.

The introduction is a bit less focussed then the other episodes, the others focus on a particularly theme, for example episode 2 is about the West (as in Cowboys). The introduction includes everything from the life and death of Mother Jones, Tom Scribbner and the art of musical saws (yes that's right using saws to play music), to the Spanish Civil War with a beuatiful rendition of Freiheit (freedom) by Eddie Balchowsky, and some quite sad but sweet tributes to Utah's deceased friends from his hobo days.

 Since I do still have some work to do and am prone to distraction finishing the other 98 (I already did Episode 88) may take sometime but the full archive is freely available on the Long Memory.

Here's the playlist to be updated as and when.

Mr Block: He Fails to Connect

Most newcomers to the Job Centre act like this, they usually see some sense after the first month or two.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Mr Block: He Works in the Woods

"I'll join them- when they get a little stronger" Possibly the most common reason given for not joining the Wobblies.

Do you agree with Mr Block? Doesn't seem to smart to me.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The New Babylon

Commune graffiti 

The film The New Babylon (Novyy Vavilon) was directed by Kozintsev and Trauberg in 1929. It is a sympathetic account of the history of the Paris Commune of 1871 and tells the story of two lovers who are separated by the fighting.

The film The New Babylon (Novyy Vavilon) was directed by Kozintsev and Trauberg in 1929. It is a sympathetic account of the history of the Paris Commune of 1871 and tells the story of two lovers who are separated by the fighting. The film was ultimately suppressed by the Bolsheviks for its anti-war message. It also contained a lot of formal innovations and the musical score for the film was written by the young Dimitri Shostakovitch. Guy Debord used extracts from the film in his own The Society of the Spectacle in 1973.

The film was something of a lost treasure, the film and those who worked on it particularly Shostakovich who scored it fell out of favour with the Stalinist regime so didn't enjoy a big run or distribution of film reels. As such it mainly survived in the West being past around by film clubs and cut up and inserted into documentaries and student films. There was however a project set up to remaster and release the film to DVD, that process was successful and you too can on this work of art for the low, low price of er £75.

Seriously that was the price the group that remastered it were asking for when I looked it up. So it remind pretty obscure, but then a light, one it seems that a group of musicians had acquired a copy, but curiously decided to remove the original score (which did survive and outgrow the film in the west) and substitute there own. 

After watching that I asked myself some questions, why? Who the hell are the Magic Lantern Show Orchestra and what are they playing at. But as far as I could tell it were the only freely available version of the film around. So what I did was mute the video and then play the original score here it is.

But after getting fed up of that I kept looking I eventually found another version with the original score in tact.

Here it is

It really is a great film of the silent era, and a rare look at the Paris Commune and the brutal repression by the French Army.

And yes there is now a torrent.

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