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Sunday, 21 December 2014

British Trotskyism in 2014

Britain has never had a strong movement of Trotskyism let’s be clear. In 2014 with the two major forces on the left identifying as Trotskyist as the socialist party SP and the Socialist Workers party – SWP Both have had high points in their history to the leading of the Liverpool City Council in the 1980’s of the former Militant Socialist party to the SWP who claim to be the leaders of the stop the war movement in and around 2003 with the estimated march of over a million on the streets of London opposing the Iraq war. Both claim to hold true to the true meaning of Trotsky and his perspectives and look to replicate a Russia 1917 all over again and be the head of that movement. In the UK we have many Trotskyist groups claiming to be the one true revolutionary group yet none getting the irony that Marxism is all about a working class party which does not seek to create other party’s to oppose it. Yet in the UK we have so many little left sects who all believe they are right and all the other groups are wrong. For me I have only been a member of one trot party that being the Socialist party of England and Wales. The SP for ease of reference. This party while similar to its others on the surface likes to boost about its proud tradition in the unions and in leading mass campaigns. Trotskyists are not anything if they are not unique in explaining why they are the real followers of Leon Trotsky and that how their tradition follows in his footsteps not any other group. For me seeing the SP and the SWP go into battle for the same battle ground saddened me in many ways we were almost taught to hate the SWP much like if we were a rangers fan we were born to hate Celtic fans and vice versa. Despite many not even gaining an understanding as to why and how our party came to hate this other lot and we must oppose them wherever we can. It’s just something many did not and will not question but accept that they are not part of our party so must be against us. I did find a lot of good SWP members and I am still in touch with many now who have left their own party for all together other reasons but are still sound people and are committed to changing society for the better despite no longer being in a party like myself but most importantly not wishing to continue the SWP’s and trotskyist poisonous politics any further. For me they are better for this. The authoritarian nature of these groups is no coincidence for me. Having put a term to the experiences I came across in the SP authoritarianism is something which is think is deeply held within certain parts of Marxism and Leninism as an extension of this tradition. For me the blind loyalty to a leadership you may have elected your delegate of your branch to go to congress to decide on your behalf if its good enough or not despite not knowing much on their inn’s and out’s is something which troubled me deeply. I was once a branch sectary of a local branch and felt as though I was carrying my branch’s thoughts and opinions on my shoulders yet when I got to congress I ended up falling in line with the majority decision of our region who felt we should all vote a retain w ay. This for me was me being part of a hierarchical structure of following those on high as those higher up must understand more and I should back them. This for me was one of many points in which I found myself catching myself to ask am I doing the correct thing here. For me I felt my views my opinions were getting sub subsumed into the party line I was pumping out the party line instead of my own thought out views and opinions on things. For me a political organisation of any sort can’t have a dictated line of which all should follow us all have our own minds and thoughts which must be put forward if so desired we can’t just elect others to represent us to then vote on our behalf. This is not democracy and for me is the reason why representative democracy is a sham and will not ever worked for the many. I think in Britain due to so many failures and few success’s many identified trotskyists try to get back to what Leon himself felt to be the true path to victory yet forgetting Trotsky himself never won as such. He came under huge scrutiny from the then Stalinist dictatorship which his previous supporters of Lenin and co who formed the communist party set in motion. Trotsky eventually came to his end by a Stalinist agent who tracked him down due to his opposition to a leadership not run by him and of him. So today’s British trotskyist party’s wish to recreate a movement where they are against the so called Stalinist leadership of the “right wing trade union leaders” which for the SP was a long held up bogey man which is the eternal baddie in the struggle and only a left wing Marxist leadership i.e. a socialist party run union leadership can make things right. Of course this would not solve anything as the PCS union shows who is lead by a left wing fighting leadership we are told which is in affect a socialist party run union with many of its own members at the head of this union. Only this weekend we have been told the union is under attack from the government not surprisingly of course as it has tried to resist some of the cuts in rhetoric anyway and have been under financial attack by the go who wish to end their “check off” system of how subs are paid as a consequence the union as seen fit to suspend all group and sector elections for the next 12 months. Ok the union is under attack but to suspend elections come on this is nothing but a b bureaucratic stitch up to muffle descent in the union and to centralise the union to doing what the leadership feel is necessary which in its view is staff cuts and its own version of austerity More can be read at http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/pcs_comment/index.cfm/government-steps-up-political-attack-on-pcs One of the many irritating things about British Trotskyism as I cant speak for any other country’s own version is their dogmatic approach to selling papers and this idea of hyper activity if we are not filling our free days with activity of visiting a work place or having a paper sale we were wasting vital opportunities for convincing those mystic radical workers which were out there waiting for our call to come join us in our mission for global change. I spent many a morning on a cold damp paper sale trying to flog our latest line on why we need a “24 hour general strike” while ordinary people walked past wondering why we bother while they go about saving vital cash to afford their weekly shop. We rarely sold a paper when I was involved in a sale I gave away more than I sold I have to admit. Yes the paper fascinated me I contributed the odd article even but never did me feel this was vital to our work. The idea of pamphlets and literature explaining the current situation I’m not against what I am against is the contra sending shite we pumped out the stupid repetitive slogans of “strike now” “save our NHS” “vote for a socialist alternative against the boss’s party’s” and so on. I have been guilty of similar sloganeering on this very blog from my time in such party’s but stating the obvious has rarely got us anywhere in the past so why would it now? The political traditions that explicitly look towards the legacy of the Russian revolution have to some degree or another sought to replicate the political, ideological and organisational paradigms of Leninism. What is more, attitudes towards the USSR split the labour movement, sometimes in obvious ways such as attitudes to NATO, sometimes in less obvious ways, such as the anti-Communism of some union leaders being more motivated by opposing what they saw as outside interference in their own unions. Hugh Wilford’s excellent book “The CIA, the British Left and the Cold War: Calling the Tune?” highlights the degree to which British and American Trotskyism in the 1950s reflected the impact of individualist liberalism on the left, and itself reinforced anti-communism, and common sense misconceptions of “totalitarianism” that conflated communism and fascism, and overlooked the degree to which Western liberal freedoms were themselves founded upon the crimes of colonialism, and that the political liberties were predicated upon unequal economic power. Communism itself, in its Leninist form, assumed the overthrow of existing social relations, and therefore the need to create not only a new society but also a counter-hegemonic ideological project, founded upon a disciplined party. As Pierre Bourdieu has remarked “Once a system of mechanisms has been constituted capable of objectively ensuring the reproduction of the existing order by its own motion, the dominant class have only to let the system they dominate take its own course in order to exercise their domination; but until such a system exists, they have to work directly, daily personally, to produce and reproduce conditions of domination which are even then never entirely trustworthy”. I find many Marxists who define themselves as such today do not ever put their real politics to the front in arena’s such as elections in which they believe they can gain a platform from they always water down what they stand for to the supposed understanding of “ordinary people” this often comes across as highly condescending in my experience and does nothing to further their eventual goal. I still do know many good members of various British left sects and think they have a lot of good intentions but those with good intentions have been wrong in the past and directed us in a very dark direction. Taking a section of Trotsky’s many works on where he ended up and how many of today’s party’s follow such lines “In contrast to the Right Opposition, Leon Trotsky, ever since his expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1929, had worked strenuously to build up a Leninist faction internationally. The Trotskyists saw their prime task as the reform of the Comintern, with the idea of bringing it back onto the road of Leninism as well as the reintroduction of workers' democracy in the Soviet Union. Trotsky right up until 1933 and the victory of Hitler defended this perspective. The victory of Hitler constituted an historic turning point for Trotsky. The utter failure of the German debacle, which was caused primarily by the ultra-left policies of the Stalinists, to stir up any opposition or criticism within the ranks of the Communist International, meant that the Comintern was dead. Incredibly, the leadership of the Comintern declared their policies absolutely correct. "After Hitler", they said, "our turn!" The actions of the Stalinists were comparable to the betrayal of the social democrats in 1914. Trotsky drew the conclusion that reform of the Comintern was no longer tenable, and that new revolutionary parties would have to be built and a new international prepared. "After the shameful capitulation of the Communist International in Germany", stated Trotsky, "the Bolshevik-Leninists, without hesitating a moment, proclaimed: the Third International is dead!" “ Does this remind you of anything? The SP and its co thinkers now thinking the labour party is dead for workers and we no need a “new workers party” pumped out in article after article even from me at one point who was convinced “new workers party” is all we need to forward revolutionary matters for the working class in this country. If only we had a proper mass party to represent our views I used to think. Well creating a labour party mark 2 was my eventual conclusion and well if one labour party was bad enough why on earth were we trying to create another one on similar lines backed by the same tired out reformist bureaucratic union leadership who area apparently on the same left as us hilariously. The Left today is akin to ghosts which have arisen due to an improper burial service. Trotsky was never properly buried, so all sorts of distortions and revisions of his figure continue to haunt the scene of the Left to this day. His repressed legacy returns as the return of the repressed, which is what we find as the grotesque symptom of Leftist sectarianism in the contemporary political arena. I learnt a lot from my time in the SP and will be forever grateful for introducing me to class politics but the bad parts I will not take with me and will look to expose forever more and where I find it. A better world is possible, but not if we don’t learn from our past however uncomfortable that may be. I learnt many lessons inside and outside of various political party’s I conclude by thinking hierarchical political party’s have had their day in many ways and we need to start to think beyond them whilst not forgetting the good lessons they have taught us all.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Going hungry this christmas

This christmas many in this country will go hungry disgracefully. To be poor is not a crime – yet in Britain, the poor have been criminalized and demonized by a propaganda campaign that gives new meaning to the word 'vicious.' In the UK, with Christmas approaching, hunger stalks the land. An ever-increasing number of lives have been reduced to misery and despair, yet for those at the top, 'austerity' remains nothing more than a word in the dictionary. It is proof that British society has now officially departed the 21st century and is heading at high-speed towards the Victorian era of the late 19th century. This is the only conclusion to be drawn from a week in which it has been revealed that food poverty – or hunger, to use the proper word – is a fact of life for millions of UK citizens. A recently published report by an All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty in Britain leaves no doubt that the UK in 2014 is governed by a gang of rich, privately educated sociopaths whose contempt for the poor is such that they are content to let them starve. That four million people in Britain are in danger of going hungry, that 500,000 children live in families that can’t afford to feed them, and that 325,000 adults do not get enough to eat, with close to a million forced to rely on food banks (charities set up to feed people unable to feed themselves), this is a despicable state of affairs. Moreover, the fact that it is happening in a country that presumes to lecture others on human rights and justice, this comes as yet more evidence of the rank hypocrisy and double-standards which lie at the heart of the British establishment. Compounding matters are the sentiments of Tory Baroness Anne Jenkin, which she expressed during the launch of the report. Calling to mind the infamous words of Marie Antoinette who, when informed of the desperate plight of the poor in Paris prior to the French Revolution, said, “Let them eat cake,” Baroness Jenkin postulated that one of the reasons was to claim that the poor do not know how to cook and should eat porrige . Tories breathtaking hate of the poor knows no boundaries. A recent excellent post by Johnny Void over at the void the report to food banks and their use has been published last week not surprisingly the real causes for food bank use's being on the increase were not spelt out. I'll allow Johnny to do this for us "The growth in foodbanks dates back to before the current Government weren’t elected as Labour’s decimation of the social security started to take its toll. The rise in benefit sanctions also began in the dying years of Labour’s administration as did the introduction of the despised Atos run Work Capability Assessment, designed to strip sickness and disability benefits from one million people. Alongside this Labour’s normalisation of workfare led to unprecedented numbers of people forced to work without pay. And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, along came Iain Duncan Smith. With him came the bedroom tax, council tax benefit cuts, the benefit cap, housing benefit cuts, freezes of almost all in and out of work benefits, more Atos tests for disability benefits, the scrapping of Crisis Loans and countless other measures all precision targeted at cutting the incomes of the poorest. Yet to read today’s report into foodbanks, you would think that none of this had ever happened. Instead it insists that the growth in people going hungry has been caused by market forces and modern economic conditions – beyond the control of us mere mortals and simply something that is here to stay no matter what we do. It is true that alongside the slow dismantling of the welfare state, the minimum wage stagnated whilst the cost of living for the very poorest soared. The erosion of social housing meant the greedy private rental sector became out of control as competition for low cost housing became ever more intense. As supermarket dominance grew, small local shops closed and with them out of the way food prices began to rise. A privatised energy market did exactly what you would expect from profit hungry vultures and fleeced their most voiceless customers, often elderly or disabled people who have no choice but to try and keep the heating on. Payday lenders and pawn shops started to appear on every high street. In some areas wherever you look you will see companies owned by the rich dressed up in pauper’s clothing as they attempt to wring every last penny of profit they can from the poor. All of these things are a direct result of government policies supported by all the major parties to allow the parasites of capital – landlords, supermarkets, energy companies and legal loan sharks – to run rampant in the name of the free market. But you won’t read that in today’s report either. Instead it proposes tinkering with the rules on prepay gas and electricity metres, vague and unspecific policies to slightly edge up the minimum wage and yet more patronising fucking garbage about cooking lessons and budgeting skills. Meanwhile calls for benefit payments to be made quicker are redundant when the government is planning a waiting period of up to six weeks for Universal Credit. This is not even mentioned in the report. They are not just willfully ignoring the cuts to social security that have already happened, but also the ones that are still set to come. The huge rise in the number of people who face benefits being stopped or sanctioned has mirrored almost exactly the growth of foodbanks. An ever more complex and draconian system now forces unemployed, sick and disabled claimants into pointless and irksome ‘work related activity’ for days, weeks and even months on end. Any breach of the rules means benefits are stopped. The report endorses this increased “responsibility to look for work”, calling it a “welcome move”. Instead it merely makes the same calls for improvements in communications with claimants and access to hardship payments that we have heard before. These bastards really think it is okay to leave someone in desperate poverty for missing a meeting with the Jobcentre as long as you write them a nice letter explaining why. This comes with a proposal for a condescending ‘yellow card’ warning system, which was first suggested by the Tory think tank the Policy Exchange. You can see their thinking on this one. Poor people like football after all, so it will be easy for our little minds to understand. Even this comes with conditions attached. Whilst they recommend claimants be given a warning with the chance to explain “their offence” before a sanction is applied, it suggests that this could come with an “additional requirement” to be met. This might as well be to go outside and hop on one leg for half an hour whilst quacking like a duck for all the good most Jobcentre requirements do to help people find work. Punishing people for their poverty is behind this idea, not helping them find jobs. Those behind the report are adamant that nothing can be done to halt the rise in the use of foodbanks. But abolishing benefit sanctions completely would slash the number of people going hungry in the UK overnight. As would scrapping the bedroom tax, council tax reform and halting George Osborne’s benefit freeze. In time honoured tradition however, politicians are clubbing together to say a functioning welfare state is over, time to move on and bring food parcels into the social security system. this. The growth of hunger in the UK did not happen by accident, it has been socially engineered. And the people who did that are the same vermin politicians who write reports telling us how terrible and inevitable it is." You can read the report at: http://foodpovertyinquiry.org/ with thanks to johnny void and his excellent blog over at http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/savage-cuts-to-benefits-go-ignored-in-flagship-foodbanks-report-they-really-think-we-are-fucking-idiots/

Looking closer at the state and how it functions

How we perceive and interact with the state is key to many peoples politics. Some on the left and right call for a bigger better state while some want rid of it all together. Some even think it can be used to further the working class's own interests such as leninists who promote a workers state as a start to a transformation of society towards a state-less one. Is this even possible or more to the point desireable ? I quote from the introduction to the state piece over at www.libcomorg "States come in many shapes and sizes. Democracies and dictatorships, those that provide lots of social welfare, those that provide none at all, some that allow for a lot of individual freedom and others that don't. But these categories are not set in stone. Democracies and dictatorships rise and fall, welfare systems are set up and taken apart while civil liberties can be expanded or eroded. However, all states share key features, which essentially define them. What is the state? All states have the same basic functions in that they are an organisation of all the lawmaking and law enforcing institutions within a specific territory. And, most importantly, it is an organisation controlled and run by a small minority of people. So sometimes, a state will consist of a parliament with elected politicians, a separate court system and a police force and military to enforce their decisions. At other times, all these functions are rolled into each other, like in military dictatorships for example. But the ability within a given area to make political and legal decisions – and to enforce them, with violence if necessary – is the basic characteristic of all states. Crucially, the state claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, within its territory and without. As such, the state is above the people it governs and all those within its territory are subject to it. The state and capitalism In a capitalist society, the success or failure of a state depends unsurprisingly on the success of capitalism within it. Essentially, this means that within its territory profits are made so the economy can expand. The government can then take its share in taxation to fund its activities. If businesses in a country are making healthy profits, investment will flow into profitable industries, companies will hire workers to turn their investment into more money. They and their workers will pay taxes on this money which keep the state running. But if profits dip, investment will flow elsewhere to regions where profits will be higher. Companies will shut down, workers will be laid off, tax revenues will fall and local economies collapse. So promoting profit and the growth of the economy is the key task of any state in capitalist society - including state capitalist economies which claim to be "socialist", like China or Cuba. The economy As promoting the economy is a key task of the state, let's look at the fundamental building blocks of a healthy capitalist economy. Workers The primary need of a sound capitalist economy is the existence of a group of people able to work, to turn capitalists' money into more money: a working class. This requires the majority of the population to have been dispossessed from the land and means of survival, so that the only way they can survive is by selling their ability to work to those who can buy it. This dispossession has taken place over the past few hundred years across the world. In the early days of capitalism, factory owners had a major problem in getting peasants, who could produce enough to live from the land, to go and work in the factories. To solve this, the state violently forced the peasants off common land, passed laws forbidding vagrancy and forced them to work in factories under threat of execution. Today, this has already happened to the vast majority of people around the world. However, in some places in the so-called "developing" world, the state still plays this role of displacing people to open new markets for investors. Property A second fundamental requirement is the concept of private property. While many had to be dispossessed to create a working class, the ownership of land, buildings and factories by a small minority of the population could only be maintained by a body of organised violence - a state. This is rarely mentioned by capitalism's advocates today, however in its early days it was openly acknowledged. As the liberal political economist Adam Smith wrote: Laws and government may be considered in this and indeed in every case as a combination of the rich to oppress the poor, and preserve to themselves the inequality of the goods which would otherwise be soon destroyed by the attacks of the poor, who if not hindered by the government would soon reduce the others to an equality with themselves by open violence. This continues today, as laws deal primarily with protecting property rather than people. For example, it is not illegal for speculators to sit on food supplies, creating scarcity so prices go up while people starve to death, but it is illegal for starving people to steal food. What does the state do? Different states perform many different tasks, from providing free school meals to upholding religious orthodoxy. But as we mentioned above, the primary function of all states in a capitalist society is to protect and promote the economy and the making of profit. However, as businesses are in constant competition with each other, they can only look after their own immediate financial interests – sometimes damaging the wider economy. As such, the state must sometimes step in to look after the long-term interests of the economy as a whole. So states educate and train the future workforce of their country and build infrastructure (railways, public transport systems etc) to get us to work and transport goods easily. States sometimes protect national businesses from international competition by taxing their goods when they come into the country or expand their markets internationally through wars and diplomacy with other states. Other times they give tax breaks and subsidies to industries, or sometimes bail them out entirely if they are too important to fail. These measures sometimes clash with the interests of individual businesses or industries. However, this doesn't change the fact that the state is acting in the interests of the economy as a whole. Indeed, it can be seen basically as a way to settle disputes among different capitalists about how to do it. State welfare Some states also provide many services which protect people from the worst effects of the economy. However, this has rarely, if ever, been the result of generosity from politicians but of pressure from below. So for instance, after World War II, the UK saw the construction of the welfare state, providing healthcare, housing etc to those that needed it. However, this was because of fear amongst politicians that the end of the war would see the same revolutionary upheaval as after World War I with events like the Russian and German revolutions, the Biennio Rosso in Italy, the British army mutinies etc. This fear was justified. Towards the end of the war, unrest amongst the working classes of the warring nations grew. Homeless returning soldiers took over empty houses while strikes and riots spread. Tory MP Quitin Hogg summed up the mood amongst politicians in 1943, saying “if we don't give them reforms, they will give us revolution.” This does not mean reforms are 'counter-revolutionary'. It just means that the state is not the engine for reform; we, the working class – and more specifically, our struggles – are. When our struggles get to a point where they cannot be ignored or repressed anymore, the state steps in to grant reforms. We then end up spending the next 100 years hearing people go on about what a 'great reformer' so-and-so was, even though it was our struggles which forced those reforms onto them. When as a class we are organised and militant, social reforms are passed. But as militancy is repressed or fades away, our gains are chipped away at. Public services are cut and sold off bit-by-bit, welfare benefits are reduced, fees for services are introduced or increased and wages are cut. As such, the amount of welfare and public service provision to the working class in a society basically marks the balance of power between bosses and workers. For example, the French working class has a higher level of organisation and militancy than the American working class. As a result, French workers also generally have better conditions at work, a shorter working week, earlier retirement and better social services (i.e. healthcare, education etc) -regardless of whether there is a right or left wing government in power. A workers' state? For decades, in addition to the struggle in workplaces and the streets, many workers have tried to improve their conditions through the state. The precise methods have differed depending on location and historical context but primarily have taken two main forms: setting up or supporting political parties which run for election and are supposed to act in workers' interests, or more radically having the party seize political power and set up a workers' government through revolution. We will briefly examine two representative examples which demonstrate the futility of these tactics. The Labour Party The Labour Party in the UK was created by the trade unions in 1906. It soon adopted the stated aim of creating a socialist society. However, faced with the realities of being in Parliament, and therefore the dependence on a healthy capitalist economy they quickly abandoned their principles and consistently supported anti-working class policies both in opposition and later in government . From supporting the imperialist slaughter of World War I, to murdering workers abroad to maintain the British Empire, to slashing workers' wages to sending troops against striking dockers. When the working class was on the offensive, Labour granted some reforms, as did the other parties. But, just like the other parties, when the working class retreated they eroded the reforms and attacked living standards. For example just a few years after the introduction of the free National Health Service Labour introduced prescription charges, then charges for glasses and false teeth. As outlined, this was not because Labour Party members or officials were necessarily bad people but because at the end of the day they were politicians whose principle task was to keep the UK economy competitive in the global market. The Bolsheviks In Russia in 1917, when workers and peasants rose up and took over the factories and the land, the Bolsheviks argued for the setting up of a "revolutionary" workers' state. However, this state could not shake off its primary functions: as a violent defence of an elite, and attempting to develop and expand the economy to maintain itself. The so-called "workers' state" turned against the working class: one-man management of factories was reinstated, strikes were outlawed and work became enforced at gunpoint. The state even liquidated those in its own quarters who disagreed with its new turn. Not long after the revolution, many of the original Bolsheviks had been executed by the government institutions they helped set up. Against the state This doesn't mean that our problems would be solved if the state disappeared tomorrow. It does mean, though, that the state is not detached from the basic conflict at the heart of capitalist society: that between employers and employees. Indeed, it is part of it and firmly on the side of employers. Whenever workers have fought for improvements in our conditions, we have come into conflict not just with our bosses but also the state, who have used the police, the courts, the prisons and sometimes even the military to keep things as they were. And where workers have attempted to use the state, or even take it over to further our interests, they have failed - because the very nature of the state is inherently opposed to the working class. They only succeeded in legitimising and strengthening the state which later turned against them. It is our collective power and willingness to disrupt the economy that gives us the possibility of changing society. When we force the state to grant reforms we don't just win better conditions. Our actions point to a new society, based on a different set of principles. A society where our lives are more important than their 'economic growth'. A new type of society where there isn't a minority with wealth that need to be protected from those without; that is, a society where the state is unnecessary. The state needs the economy to survive and so will always back those who control it. But the economy and the state are based on the work we do every day, and that gives us the power to disrupt them and eventually do away with them both."" With thanks to the guys over at libcom for their excellent work and reading material you can check out this article in full and more like it at https://libcom.org/library/state-introduction

Monday, 8 December 2014

Thinking beyond Leninism

I have fallen out with political partys it may or may not be clear to all. I have been on a political journey which started back in 2010 starting with the labour party embarrassingly for myself it was the first glimpse into politics and social structures I encountered. I didn’t spend long in this disgusting party which claims to represent the working class. I am now here today following a time in a trotskyist party called the socialist party of England and Wales having found that a Leninist party is not for me. I genuinely believed the SP was the revolutionary party and Marxism of the Leninist variety had all the answers if only we had a more militant left union leadership and a new workers party for the working class to feel represented by. For a while I was wondering where I should go next and I still do in many ways. I'm in a state of flux my ideas always changing my thoughts developing and learning new ideas and ways of thinking all the time. Theory is incredibly important to me politically. Spending time to read and discover what others are going through and are thinking is key to anyone’s development as a human being. I have come to the position of rejecting hierarchy and preferring situations where we are not controlled what we think by a group of self imposed leaders of the vanguard of the working class. I still do hold to allot of what I understand of Marxism especially the economic writings which are still by far the best analysis of capitalism and how it works and is prone to crisis's being hugely important for today. For example I still do support and lend my full solidarity to the remaining comrades in the CWI who are battling the leadership hard on the cause of the great recession and taking on their corrupt and bankrupt ideas on capitalist crisis being a crisis of under consumption. They have come under huge attack and two of their members are still suspended indefinitely some democratic organisation huh? But on the other hand I reject Marxism’s authoritarian tendencies. I have seen it put to use and abused against our own members of our own class. At the time, these groups represented everything I believed in and wanted to work towards: internationalism, anti-capitalism, anti-discrimination, anti-racism, a strong central government that would provide the needs to survive for everyone, and the like. One topic that would frequently come up within all of these groups - whether Stalinist or trotskyist - was how there is not a single marxist-leninist state around today (even North Korea calls itself "jucheist", not marxist-leninist), and that we could build a new one if we recruited enough people into a future vanguard party and sold them more papers. A huge portion of what these groups talked about was recruitment. Their members were always seeking out ways to recruit others into their groups, and with finding ways of having their organization members get into positions of power within the current political system. Even during that time I felt a bit disconnected; I completely understood that capitalism was a destructive and immoral system, but I wanted to do far more than just recruit and vote for members of particular political parties (and parties that had very little clout in the mainstream at that). I found the more I learnt about leninism the more questions would arise how could these projects of socialism in one country like Russia, Cuba and the former Eastern blocks all fall back to capitalism in the end ? was our thinking bound to fail and we were simply naval gazing for old times’ sake. During my time in the Socialist party I learnt a lot including methods of organising and methods which I now feel are detrimental to changing things for the better. I fully accept that we need to base ourselves on the type of society we wish to see. So by creating more hierarchical structures like political parties with a leadership how will this look once the working class is in power or so called power. The Russian revolution is key to many on the left and often defines your thinking. Mine included I read allot about Lenin and Trotsky and their roles in the 1917 uprising... But one thing never sat well with me despite my acceptance of the Russian revolution being a very good thing initially for the working class the first time the workers had over thrown elite and had gained power. Or had they? I could not get my head around how did the highs of 1917 turn into the Stalinist grotesque bureaucratic monster it turned into? How can things have gone so badly wrong? Was it simply due to what the trotskyists still say today that Russia was bound to turn in on itself being a backward country with little history of capitalism and the Russian revolution being isolated and this was unfortunate as the revolutionary wave did not spread across Europe as it should have done. This is what I believed up till recently when I’ve tried to look for answers as to why this happened and could this have been prevented in anyway. For me it comes down to democracy and who is in power and how they are using power. For me the Bolsheviks started off with good intentions but good intentions alone does not make you right in your analysis and your methods. Spending time in the Socialist party has enabled me to understand how Russia turned out the way it did party's like the SP, SWP and their other 57 varieties of vanguard party's work today and wishing to recreate Russia terrifies me as the same language same methods of closing down debate and devotion to the great leadership is exactly the route the Bolsheviks took and that lead to destruction and deaths on a incredible scale putting the working class back hundreds of years. Replying to this idea that Russia was bound to fail due to isolation and destruction of the economy made democracy alive and political progress to keep on track is taken up by the excellent guys over at anarchist FAQ http://www.infoshop.org/AnarchistFAQAppendix41 " One of the most common explanations for the failure revolution is that the Bolsheviks faced terrible economic conditions, which forced them to be less than democratic. Combined with the failure of the revolution to spread to more advanced countries, party dictatorship, it is argued, was inevitable. In the words of one Leninist: "In a country where the working class was a minority of the population, where industry had been battered by years of war and in conditions of White and imperialist encirclement, the balance gradually titled towards greater coercion. Each step of the way was forced on the Bolsheviks by dire and pressing necessities." [John Rees, "In Defense of October," International Socialism, no. 52, p. 41] He talks of "economic devastation" [p. 31] and quotes various sources, including Victor Serge. According to Serge, the "decline in production was uninterrupted. It should be noted that this decline had already begun before the revolution. In 1916 the output of agricultural machinery, for example, was down by 80 per cent compared with 1913. The year 1917 had been marked by a particularly general, rapid and serious downturn. The production figures for the principal industries in 1913 and 1918 were, in millions of poods: coal, from 1,738 to 731 (42 per cent); iron ore, from 57, 887 to 1,686; cast-iron, from 256 to 31.5 (12.3 per cent); steel, from 259 to 24.5; rails, from 39.4 to 1.1. As a percentage of 1913 production, output of linen fell to 75 per cent, of sugar to 24 per cent, and tobacco to 19 per cent." Moreover, production continued "to fall until the end of civil war . . . For 1920, the following indices are given as a percentage of output in 1913: coal, 27 per cent; cast iron, 2.4 per cent; linen textiles, 38 per cent." [Year One of the Russian Revolution, p. 352 and p. 425] According to Tony Cliff (another of Rees's references), the war-damaged industry "continued to run down" in the spring of 1918: "One of the causes of famine was the breakdown of transport . . . Industry was in a state of complete collapse. Not only was there no food to feed the factory workers; there was no raw material or fuel for industry . . . The collapse of industry meant unemployment for the workers." Cliff provides economic indexes. For large scale industry, taking 1913 as the base, 1917 saw production fall to 77%. In 1918, it was at 35% of the 1913 figure, 1919 it was 26% and 1920 was 18%. Productivity per worker also fell, from 85% in 1917, to 44% in 1918, 22% in 1919 and then 26% in 1920. [Lenin, vol. 3, pp. 67-9, p. 86 and p. 85] In such circumstances, it is argued, how can you expect the Bolsheviks to subscribe to democratic and socialist norms? This meant that the success or failure of the revolution depended on whether the revolution spread to more advanced countries. Leninist Duncan Hallas argues that the "failure of the German Revolution in 1918-19 . . . seems, in retrospect, to have been decisive . . . for only substantial economic aid from an advanced economy, in practice from a socialist Germany, could have reversed the disintegration of the Russian working class." ["Towards a revolutionary socialist party," pp. 38-55, Party and Class, Alex Callinicos (ed.), p. 44] Anarchists are not convinced by these arguments. This is for two reasons. Firstly, we are aware that revolutions are disruptive no matter where they occur (see section 1) Moreover, Leninists are meant to know this to. Simply put, there is a certain incredulous element to these arguments. After all, Lenin himself had argued that "[e]very revolution . . . by its very nature implies a crisis, and a very deep crisis at that, both political and economic. This is irrespective of the crisis brought about by the war." [Collected Works, vol. 30, p. 341] Serge also considered crisis as inevitable, arguing that the "conquest of production by the proletariat was in itself a stupendous victory, one which saved the revolution's life. Undoubtedly, so thorough a recasting of all the organs of production is impossible without a substantial decline in output; undoubtedly, too, a proletariat cannot labour and fight at the same time." [Op. Cit., p. 361] As we discussed in detail in section 2, this was a common Bolshevik position at the time (which, in turn, belatedly echoed anarchist arguments -- see section 1). And if we look at other revolutions, we can say that this is the case. Secondly, and more importantly, every revolution or near revolutionary situation has been accompanied by economic crisis. For example, as we will shortly prove, Germany itself was in a state of serious economic collapse in 1918 and 1919, a collapse which would have got worse is a Bolshevik-style revolution had occurred there. This means that if Bolshevik authoritarianism is blamed on the state of the economy, it is not hard to conclude that every Bolshevik-style revolution will suffer the same fate as the Russian one. " "moreover Peter Kropotkin had argued from the 1880s that a revolution would be accompanied by economic disruption. Looking at subsequent revolutions, he has been vindicated time and time again. Every revolution has been marked by economic disruption and falling production. This suggests that the common Leninist idea that a successful revolution in, say, Germany would have ensured the success of the Russian Revolution is flawed. Looking at Europe during the period immediately after the first world war, we discover great economic hardship. To quote one Trotskyist editor: "In the major imperialist countries of Europe, production still had not recovered from wartime destruction. A limited economic upswing in 1919 and early 1920 enabled many demobilised soldiers to find work, and unemployment fell somewhat. Nonetheless, in 'victorious' France overall production in 1920 was still only two-thirds its pre-war level. In Germany industrial production was little more than half its 1914 level, human consumption of grains was down 44 per cent, and the economy was gripped by spiralling inflation. Average per capita wages in Prague in 1920, adjusted for inflation, were just over one-third of pre-war levels." [John Riddell, "Introduction," Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress, 1920, vol. I, p. 17] Now, if economic collapse was responsible for Bolshevik authoritarianism and the subsequent failure of the revolution, it seems hard to understand why an expansion of the revolution into similarly crisis ridden countries would have had a major impact in the development of the revolution." Since leninists can point to only one apparent success of their model, namely the Russian Revolution. However, we are warned by Leninists that failure to use the vanguard party will inevitably condemn future revolutions to failure: "The proletariat can take power only through its vanguard. . . Without the confidence of the class in the vanguard, without support of the vanguard by the class, there can be no talk of the conquest of power . . . The Soviets are the only organised form of the tie between the vanguard and the class. A revolutionary content can be given this form only by the party. This is proved by the positive experience of the October Revolution and by the negative experience of other countries (Germany, Austria, finally, Spain). No one has either shown in practice or tried to explain articulately on paper how the proletariat can seize power without the political leadership of a party that knows what it wants." [Trotsky, Stalinism and Bolshevism] To anarchist ears, such claims seem out of place. After all, did the Russian Revolution actually result in socialism or even a viable form of soviet democracy? Far from it. Unless you picture revolution as simply the changing of the party in power, you have to acknowledge that while the Bolshevik party did take power in Russian in November 1917, the net effect of this was not the stated goals that justified that action. Thus, if we take the term "effective" to mean "an efficient means to achieve the desired goals" then vanguardism has not been proven to be effective, quite the reverse (assuming that your desired goal is a socialist society, rather than party power). Needless to say, Trotsky blames the failure of the Russian Revolution on "objective" factors rather than Bolshevik policies and practice, an argument we address in detail in "What caused the degeneration of the Russian Revolution?" and will not do so here. So while Leninists make great claims for the effectiveness of their chosen kind of party, the hard facts of history are against their positive evaluation of vanguard parties. Ironically, even the Russian Revolution disproves the claims of Leninists. The fact is that the Bolshevik party in 1917 was very far from the "democratic centralist" organisation which supporters of "vanguardism" like to claim it is. As such, its success in 1917 lies more in its divergence from the principles of "democratic centralism" than in their application. The subsequent degeneration of the revolution and the party is marked by the increasing application of those principles in the life of the party. Thus, to refute the claims of the "effectiveness" and "efficiency" of vanguardism, we need to look at its one and only success, namely the Russian Revolution. As the Cohen-Bendit brothers argue, "far from leading the Russian Revolution forwards, the Bolsheviks were responsible for holding back the struggle of the masses between February and October 1917, and later for turning the revolution into a bureaucratic counter-revolution -- in both cases because of the party's very nature, structure and ideology." Indeed, "[f]rom April to October, Lenin had to fight a constant battle to keep the Party leadership in tune with the masses." [Obsolete Communism, p. 183 and p. 187] It was only by continually violating its own "nature, structure and ideology" that the Bolshevik party played an important role in the revolution. Whenever the principles of "democratic centralism" were applied, the Bolshevik party played the role the Cohen-Bendit brothers subscribed to it (and once in power, the party's negative features came to the fore). Even Leninists acknowledge that, to quote Tony Cliff, throughout the history of Bolshevism, "a certain conservatism arose." Indeed, "[a]t practically all sharp turning points, Lenin had to rely on the lower strata of the party machine against the higher, or on the rank and file against the machine as a whole." [Lenin, vol. 2, p. 135] This fact, incidentally, refutes the basic assumptions of Lenin's party schema, namely that the broad party membership, like the working class, was subject to bourgeois influences so necessitating central leadership and control from above. Looking at both the 1905 and 1917 revolutions, we are struck by how often this "conservatism" arose and how often the higher bodies were behind the spontaneous actions of the masses and the party membership. Looking at the 1905 revolution, we discover a classic example of the inefficiency of "democratic centralism." Facing in 1905 the rise of the soviets, councils of workers' delegates elected to co-ordinate strikes and other forms of struggle, the Bolsheviks did not know what to do. "The Petersburg Committee of the Bolsheviks," noted Trotsky, "was frightened at first by such an innovation as a non-partisan representation of the embattled masses, and could find nothing better to do than to present the Soviet with an ultimatum: immediately adopt a Social-Democratic program or disband. The Petersburg Soviet as a whole, including the contingent of Bolshevik workingmen as well ignored this ultimatum without batting an eyelash." [Stalin, vol. 1, p. 106] More than that, "[t]he party's Central Committee published the resolution on October 27, thereby making it the binding directive for all other Bolshevik organisations." [Oskar Anweiler, The Soviets, p. 77] It was only the return of Lenin which stopped the Bolshevik's open attacks against the Soviet (also see section 8 of the appendix on "How did Bolshevik ideology contribute to the failure of the Revolution?"). The rationale for these attacks is significant. The St. Petersburg Bolsheviks were convinced that "only a strong party along class lines can guide the proletarian political movement and preserve the integrity of its program, rather than a political mixture of this kind, an indeterminate and vacillating political organisation such as the workers council represents and cannot help but represent." [quoted by Anweiler, Op. Cit., p. 77] In other words, the soviets could not reflect workers' interests because they were elected by the workers! The implications of this perspective came clear in 1918, when the Bolsheviks gerrymandered and disbanded soviets to remain in power (see section 6). That the Bolshevik's position flowed naturally from Lenin's arguments in What is to be Done? is clear. Thus the underlying logic of Lenin's vanguardism ensured that the Bolsheviks played a negative role with regards the soviets which, combined with "democratic centralism" ensured that it was spread far and wide. Only by ignoring their own party's principles and staying in the Soviet did rank and file Bolsheviks play a positive role in the revolution. This divergence of top and bottom would be repeated in 1917. Given this, perhaps it is unsurprising that Leninists started to rewrite the history of the 1905 revolution. Victor Serge, a "Left Oppositionist" and anti-Stalinist asserted in the late 1920s that in 1905 the Petrograd Soviet was "led by Trotsky and inspired by the Bolsheviks." [Year One of the Russian Revolution, p. 36]. While the former claim is correct, the latter is not. As noted, the Bolsheviks were initially opposed the soviets and systematically worked to undermine them. Unsurprisingly, Trotsky at that time was a Menshevik, not a Bolshevik. After all, how could the most revolutionary party that ever existed have messed up so badly? How could democratic centralism faired so badly in practice? Best, then, to suggest that it did not and give the Bolsheviks a role better suited to the rhetoric of Bolshevism than its reality. Trotsky was no different. He, needless to say, denied the obvious implications of these events in 1905. While admitting that the Bolsheviks "adjusted themselves more slowly to the sweep of the movement" and that the Mensheviks "were preponderant in the Soviet," he tries to save vanguardism by asserting that "the general direction of the Soviet's policy proceeded in the main along Bolshevik lines." So, in spite of the lack of Bolshevik influence, in spite of the slowness in adjusting to the revolution, Bolshevism was, in fact, the leading set of ideas in the revolution! Ironically, a few pages later, he mocks the claims of Stalinists that Stalin had "isolated the Mensheviks from the masses" by noting that the "figures hardly bear [the claims] out." [Op. Cit., p. 112 and p. 117] Shame he did not apply this criteria to his own claims. Of course, every party makes mistakes. The question is, how did the "most revolutionary party of all time" fare in 1917. Surely that revolution proves the validity of vanguardism and "democratic centralism"? After all, there was a successful revolution; the Bolshevik party did seize power. However, the apparent success of 1917 was not due to the application of "democratic centralism," quite the reverse. While the myth of 1917 is that a highly efficient, democratic centralist vanguard party ensured the overthrow of the Provisional Government in November 1917 in favor of the Soviets (or so it seemed at the time) the facts are somewhat different. Rather, the Bolshevik party throughout 1917 was a fairly loose collection of local organisations (each more than willing to ignore central commands and express their autonomy), with much internal dissent and infighting and no discipline beyond what was created by common loyalty. The "democratic centralist" party, as desired by Lenin, was only created in the course of the Civil War and the tightening of the party dictatorship. In other words, the party became more like a "democratic centralist" one as the revolution degenerated. As such, the various followers of Lenin (Stalinists, Trotskyists and their multitude of offshoots) subscribe to a myth, which probably explains their lack of success in reproducing a similar organisation This is not to say that the Bolshevik leaders were 100% happy with the state of their revolution. Lenin, for example, expressed concern about the rising bureaucratic deformations he saw in the soviet state (particularly after the end of the civil war). Yet Lenin, while concerned about the bureaucracy, was not concerned about the Party's monopoly of power. Unsurprisingly, he fought the bureaucracy by "top-down" and, ironically, bureaucratic methods, the only ones left to him. A similar position was held by Trotsky, who was quite explicit in supporting the party dictatorship throughout the 1920s (and, indeed, the 1930s). Needless to say, both failed to understand how bureaucracy arises and how it could be effectively fought. "It is this insubordination, this local autonomy and action in spite of central orders which explains the success of the Bolsheviks in 1917. Rather than a highly centralised and disciplined body of "professional" revolutionaries, the party in 1917 saw a "significant change . . . within the membership of the party at local level . . . From the time of the February revolution requirements for party membership had been all but suspended, and now Bolshevik ranks swelled with impetuous recruits who knew next to nothing about Marxism and who were united by little more than overwhelming impatience for revolutionary action." [Alexander Rabinowitch, Prelude to Revolution, p. 41] This mass of new members (many of whom were peasants who had just recently joined the industrial workforce) had a radicalising effect on the party's policies and structures. As even Leninist commentators argue, it was this influx of members who allowed Lenin to gain support for his radical revision of party aims in April. However, in spite of this radicalisation of the party base, the party machine still was at odds with the desires of the party. As Trotsky acknowledged, the situation "called for resolute confrontation of the sluggish Party machine with masses and ideas in motion." He stressed that "the masses were incomparably more revolutionary than the Party, which in turn was more revolutionary than its committeemen." Ironically, given the role Trotsky usually gave the party, he admits that "[w]without Lenin, no one had known what to make of the unprecedented situation." [Stalin, vol. 1, p. 301, p. 305 and p. 297] Which is significant in itself? The Bolshevik party is usually claimed as being the most "revolutionary" that ever existed, yet here is Trotsky admitting that its leading members did not have a clue what to do. He even argued that "[e]very time the Bolshevik leaders had to act without Lenin they fell into error, usually inclining to the Right." [Op. Cit., p. 299] This negative opinion of the Bolsheviks applied even to the "left Bolsheviks, especially the workers" whom we are informed "tried with all their force to break through this quarantine" created by the Bolshevik leaders policy "of waiting, of accommodation, and of actual retreat before the Compromisers" after the February revolution and before the arrival of Lenin. Trotsky argues that "they did not know how to refute the premise about the bourgeois character of the revolution and the danger of an isolation of the proletariat. They submitted, gritting their teeth, to the directions of their leaders." [History of the Russian Revolution, vol. 1, p. 273] It seems strange, to say the least, that without one person the whole of the party was reduced to such a level given that the aim of the "revolutionary" party was to develop the political awareness of its members. Lenin's arrival, according to Trotsky, allowed the influence of the more radical rank and file to defeat the conservatism of the party machine. By the end of April, Lenin had managed to win over the majority of the party leadership to his position. However, as Trotsky argues, this "April conflict between Lenin and the general staff of the party was not the only one of its kind. Throughout the whole history of Bolshevism . . . all the leaders of the party at all the most important moments stood to the right of Lenin." [Op. Cit., p. 305] As such, if "democratic centralism" had worked as intended, the whole party would have been arguing for incorrect positions the bulk of its existence (assuming, of course, that Lenin was correct most of the time). For Trotsky, "Lenin exerted influence not so much as an individual but because he embodied the influence of the class on the Party and of the Party on its machine." [Stalin, vol. 1, p. 299] Yet, this was the machine which Lenin had forged, which embodied his vision of how a "revolutionary" party should operate and was headed by him. In other words, to argue that the party machine was behind the party membership and the membership behind the class shows the bankruptcy of Lenin's organizational scheme. This "backwardness," moreover, indicates an independence of the party bureaucracy from the membership and the membership from the masses. As Lenin's constantly repeated aim was for the party to seize power (based on the dubious assumption that class power would only be expressed, indeed was identical to, party power) this independence held serious dangers, dangers which became apparent once this goal was achieved." I now understand that the root issue of politics is not who is on top of the hierarchy but the fact that the hierarchy exists at all. You can paint the governmental state any color you'd want, christen it with any ideology you'd desire, but it is still a force that rules over you and others. That was the other big thing I remember when the topic of anarchists came up in the Marxist-Leninist circles I was a part of (usually online): the notion that anarchists were weak philosophically and that they depended on Marx and Marxist thinkers for most of their "good" theories. However, the historical reality is that a lot of Marxist ideas came from early anarchism, and if one takes a look at it they'll see how a lot of these arguments that Marx had come up with were arguments Proudhon came up with years before. For example, in Marx's early manuscripts from 1844 he talks about abolishing private property through its universalization. Of course, this was a political communism, since the state would still exist (not to mention, Marx would desire a socialist republic where the governmental principle would be present, though that's really not all that surprising when one considers the political situation of his home country Germany that existed at the time). What's striking is how this was essentially identical to Proudhon's early idea on revolution. Two years before, Proudhon had called for property to be universalized as a means to its abolition. It should be noted that Proudhon later changed his definition of "state" from a monopoly on force to a collectivity, so instead of a transition from a governmental "workers' state" to an era of "statelessness", he called for a transition from the governmental state to the "state" as a collective force. When reciprocal property relations are put into place, and new institutions based on these principles are formed, the oppressive hierarchies dissolve. With this comes the dissolution of the managerial class as workers appropriate the means of production. Credit is re-organized, so the money class dissolves as well. But all of that is beside the point; the real point here is that one can see a lot of instances where Proudhon's ideas are repeated in Marx. Theories of property (at least, early on) and theories of exploitation are very similar. It's all very weird. To sum it all up, what drove me away from Marxism and towards anarchism wasn't just the re-evaluating this whole concept of what would be called the governmental principle, or what's called the state in modern lexicon, but the history of these ideas as well. " I'm still on a journey learning all the time. I don’t reject all forms of Marxism allot of it is still very useful for today but we cannot be locked into some long time dead Russian or German to tell us what we should be doing today. We face very real and very different problems which neither Marx, Lenin nor Trotsky could ever have foreseen. We need to start in the here and now and not pretend we are in a better place than we are. We on the left are in a very low position having faced defeat after defeat over decades the unions in this country are pathetic on the whole in terms of mounting any fight back to austerity. I believe when Karl Marx rejected being labeled a Marxist too. He felt that any change in society must be brought about by the working class and the working class acting on its own not being lead by the nose by a self appointed vanguard of the working class. Nothing could be more patronizing than being told what to think and how to act. While not stating I’m any ism or it’s I am a free thinker and want to hold to that. I was close to joining the green party as seemed more left and had a chance of power but quickly realised where this would lead with them passing cuts in Brighton and various examples of greens in power across the world concerned me greatly . The Best description for Marxism and Leninism I’ve ever read has to be “analysing everything through the eyes of corpses.” Genius. This was a reference to the tendency of nearly all groups and currents (though far from all individuals, I hasten to add) which identify as Marxist to treat the writings of Marx, Lenin, et all as gospel. http://propertyistheft.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/leninism.jpg This for me is dangerous while allot of what these thinkers wrote can set you on a good path of class analysis repeating word for word a Lenin text in a meeting full of workers wishing to take action is not likely to mean much to them. Relating your everyday issues with your understanding of theory is the key to any good revolutionary. If you think reeling off a passage of Trotsky will win you support in the workers movement you are seriously out of touch. Yes, some dead guys with beards said some things which are spot on. But they were still flawed people who got things wrong as well. That’s why anarchists are anarchists and not Proudhonists, Bakuninists, Kropotkinites, etc. If you use the fact that some revered thinker of the past said it as proof of your argument instead citing them as someone who made a particular point more articulately, then what you have is dogmatism and not reasoned argument. History is something we should learn from, but we shouldn’t live our lives through it. Unless we’re after a career as an archaeologist. , the difference between anarchists and other flavours of communist to two sentences from Karl Marx can be summed up as; Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. The most significant anarchist contention with Marxism is with the idea – solidified and put to brutal practice by Lenin, but originating with Marx – that the working class need a revolutionary leadership, and that rather than building the new world in the shell of the old we need this “transitional state” where a new elite takes over the state apparatus to run things in the interests of the workers before “true communism” can be achieved and the state magically “withers away”. We know this not to be true from history. The analysis of the state is what divides many authoritarian and non authoratiarian thinkers on the left. Some think we need a stronger state a "workers state" to work in the interests of the working class others see a state of any sort a block on progress. I'd tend to favor the later. "You can expand upon this, polemicise it, write gargantuan essays about it, (and – believe me – many have) but that’s about the crux of the thing. Non-anarchist communists, from this point referred to as Communists for ease, believe that a workers’ state led by a workers’ party is the necessary transition from a capitalist society to a stateless, “true” communism. Anarchists, on the other hand, believe that the state and capitalism must be dismantled simultaneously. All this does is supplanting one upper class with another. And their self-appointed role as “vanguard of the proletariat” gives them justification for self-righteous tyranny. In the words of Mikhail Bakunin, Marx’s anarchist contemporary; We do not admit, even as a revolutionary transition, either National Conventions, or Constituent Assemblies, or so-called revolutionary dictatorships; because we are convinced that the revolutionary is only sincere, honest and real in the masses, and that when it is concentrated in the hands of some governing individuals, it naturally and inevitably becomes reaction. The most obvious fulfillment of this prophecy comes in the form of Josef Stalin, with his murderous purges and the vast network of gulag slave labour camps. This is undeniable even to most Communists, who are more than eager to fling the term “Stalinist” at each other across party and factional lines. But are the other Communist leaders they exalt any better? Though Stalin was the most extreme despot of any Communist regime, save perhaps Pol Pot and Mao Zedong, the fact is that they are just the thick end of the wedge. The stage for Stalin was set by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks.” "Lenin’s arrogant assertion that nobody else could rule would become Stalin’s iron-fisted tyranny. His fear-mongering that everyone who disagreed with him was with the capitalists would become Stalin’s paranoid, and bloody, purges. We can look at Leon Trotsky similarly. Today, he is the thinker that most Marxists and Communists look to, his exile and death at the hands of a Stalinist agent lending him some credibility. Trotskyism is perhaps the largest wing of the Communist movement today, but the same flawed principles of vanguardism and dictatorship of the proletariat dominate. For example, for Trotsky the mistake of the POUM in the Spanish Civil War was that they didn’t mobilise “the masses against the reformist leaders, including the Anarchists,” and “they did not form their own nuclei inside the CNT, and in general did not conduct any kind of work there.” In other words, they didn’t attempt an entryist takeover. This “isolates [end] the revolutionary vanguard from the class” and so “rendered the vanguard impotent and left the class without leadership.” Once again, the assertion that the working class need an elite (conveniently enough, the same people making this assertion) prevails, and even highly successful bottom-up organisations like the CNT require a “nuclei” of vanguardists pulling the strings. Forgetting, of course, that it was the self-organised militias and collectives which were most successful against the fascists, whilst the Liberal-Communist government was more concerned about destroying worker autonomy than about General Franco. Trotsky’s attitude her matches Lenin are to the Russian soviets. And, of course, he shared Lenin’s contempt for the rebels at Kronstadt. As Bakunin once so astutely noted, “no dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it.” Those who follow the vanguardist path are the elite who will lead the workers to utopia and nothing else (especially free self-organisation, can be tolerated. We can see this even today, where accusations of being “sectarian” (that is, diverting from the party line) are not yet the first step on the road to the gulag. Taking Britain as my example, as usual it is the one I am most familiar with; we can see this most explicitly in what are currently the two biggest “left” parties: the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers’ Party. The present Socialist Party argues that its electoral policies are based on Trotsky’s transitional programmed, and it is at the forefront of the Campaign For A New Workers’ Party. After all, “in the absence of a mass workers’ party that had the confidence of the working class to fight on their behalf,” workers – whose role is reduced to that of “voters” – are simply left with “a deep sense of powerlessness.” The party almost seems proud it got itself expelled from the labour party and takes it upon itself to be the main promoters of the need for a "new workers party" which they see TUSC as a precursor of sorts. You just have to look back to last week to my post on "why we don’t need another left party" to see that the SP intend to create a labour party mark two only with them in the leadership and keen to lead the workers to grand victory. More overtly open to criticism are the SWP. Not just for their cheap and irrelevant stunts, or the engineering of pointless mini confrontations in order to appear “militant” or “radical.” They adhere to the vanguardist principle of “democratic centralism.” That is, traditional top-down authoritarianism and attacks on those who don’t adhere to the central party line. The crisis which has engulfed the SWP in the last few years of cover up's of rape allegations and rape apologism for leaders of their own party and their attitude to women stinks. I won’t expend a great deal of time drawing out the SWP’s laundry list of failures here, as they have been done to death a thousand times over. I will instead point, briefly, to members resigning over the lack of democracy and accountability, and its propensity for setting up front groups. The most notable of these, Unite Against Fascism, has a record of hijacking events [http://whitechapelanarchistgroup.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/whitechapel-united-against-division-reflections-on-the-anti-edl-mobilisations-on-sunday/ But, in the meantime, let’s return to that fundamental difference between anarchism and Marxism: bottom-up self-organisation versus the dictatorship of the proletariat in a transitional state. The latter is clearly a corruptible idea, but surely this doesn’t mean the idea itself is inherently flawed? After all, if it started with Lenin, he was only thirteen when Karl Marx died, and when he gained power the Communist Manifesto had been in print for 69 years! This point falls down when we realise that, unlike Lenin, Bakunin was contemporaneous to Marx. More than that, he was open and vocal in his disagreement with him. The result was Bakunin’s expulsion from the International Workingmen’s Association, along with all those who supported his position. We can only speculate what Bakunin’s fate might have been had their been a Communist revolution in Marx’s lifetime. Bakunin saw him as “a vain man, perfidious and crafty,” whilst noting that “the instinct of liberty is lacking in him; he remains from head to foot, an authoritarian.” It was, after all, Marx who provided the theoretical foundations upon which Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, and Maoism are all built. It is Marx’s “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” to which those upholding that same mentality today aspire. As Bakunin asserts; "If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself. This is one reason why establishing a “workers’ state” will not lead to genuine, anarchist communism. If you establish “the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat,” Stalinist tyranny is the inevitable result. True revolution must come from below." with quotes and extracts from communism and the state blog post by Phil Dickens at http://propertyistheft.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/communism-and-the-state/ and an anarchist Faq at http://www.infoshop.org/AnarchistFAQAppendix41

Prisons, who are they really for ?

This has been something which i've toyed with in my head for a while now. Are prisons a thing for good in society in locking up violent and often horrific criminals and this will make society a safer place. or do they do more harm than good. An excellent blog over at http://propertyistheft.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/abolish-the-prison-system/ Details alot of my current thoughts on the matter i quote below. "As with borders, the prison system is an element of state structure deemed to be beyond question. Debate rages on whether it is “too soft” or “too tough,” on whether it needs reform, and on how it can be made to work better. However, the idea of its abolition remains unspeakable, indeed unthinkable. There simply must be a prison system, the argument goes, or society would rapidly descend into chaos. Criminals would run rampant on the streets, anti-social behaviour would spiral out of control, and society would be gripped by a culture of fear and lawlessness." This is the popular thinking to why we need prisons and why we must lock away the bad people in society who those we percieve to be a danger to the stability of everyday life. "In response, I argue that prisons do not serve justice but the dominance of established power. That all the claimed consequences of lacking prisons exist already precisely because of their existence. And that their abolition would pave the way for a system of popular justice that would allow communities to safeguard themselves against crime, violence, and coercion without the institutionalised servility to power that serves only to make victims out of the poor, minorities, and the marginalised." Of course this is not something that can just happen over night or next year its a mentality thing more than anything. We seem to think the best place for those who've sinned is to be locked away out of harms way and out of sight out of mind. Any sort of rehibilitation program is something which we hear very little of and even then is it garunteed to help people reconnect back into society or would the time spent behind bars leave long term mental and sometimes physical scars of their time inside. "Incarceration as a form of punishment and retribution is, in fact, a relatively new and revolutionary idea. Before Jeremy Bentham first developed the idea of the modern penal system in the 19th Century, prisons were usually used to detain criminals until trial or the administration of punishment. However, the idea that – in their modern format – they serve to reform criminals, deter crime, or offer reconciliation to the victims of crime can and must be challenged. The idea that prisons serve to reform criminals is a nonsense. In Anarchism: its Philosophy and Ideal, Peter Kropotkin made the argument that the result was in fact the opposite; And in our every-day relations with our fellow-citizens, do you think that it is really judges, gaolers, and police that hinder anti-social acts from multiplying? The judge, ever ferocious, because he is a maniac of law, the accuser, the informer, the police spy, all those interlopers that live from hand to mouth around the Law Courts, do they not scatter demoralization far and wide into society? Read the trials, glance behind the scenes, push your analysis further than the exterior facade of law courts, and you will come out sickened. Have not prisons-which kill all will and force of character in man, which enclose within their walls more vices than are met with on any other spot of the globe-always been universities of crime? Is not the court of a tribunal a school of ferocity? And so on. When we ask for the abolition of the State and its organs we are always told that we dream of a society composed of men better than they are in reality. But no; a thousand times, no. All we ask is that men should not be made worse than they are, by such institutions! This critique was, of course, written in 1896, when society as a whole was arguably far more brutal than it is today. However, modern statistics do seem to confirm Kropotkin’s analysis from over a century ago. According to the Howard League for Penal Reform, “in the ten years to 2003, the [UK] prison population increased by 66%, in the case of women, 191%” whilst “Home Office data reveals that about 78% of people sentenced to immediate custody in 2003 had committed non-violent offences.” Moreover, in a penal system overwhelmingly populated by perpetrators of non-violent or marginal offences, the brutalisation evident is overwhelming. “During 2004, 95 people killed themselves in prison service care. This included 50 people on remand and 13 women. In addition, a 14 year old boy took his own life in a Secure Training Centre in 2004.” And “data shows that in 2003, 30% of women, 65% of females under 21 and 6% of men in prison harmed themselves.” So, a century after Kropotkin wrote of prisons “which kill all will and force of character in man,” we still see an overwhelming brutalisation of human beings within their walls. And the result? “61% of all prisoners released in 2001 were reconvicted within two years” and “73% of young male offenders released 2001 were reconvicted within 2 years.” The brutal conditions of incarceration offer up one reason why recidivism is so high in Britain, which serves as a typical example of Western justice systems (with the United States as an extreme which magnifies the problems a thousand-fold). The treatment of children is a particularly poignant example of this. Reporting to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Children’s Commissioner for England found that “the protection of children in custody remains a fundamental concern. There are high incidences of mental health problems, self-harm and bullying with a significant proportion of children feeling unsafe. There are high levels of intimidation, violence and abuse, not only from other prisoners but also from staff.” The Howard League, once again, draws the statistics on children together to paint a shocking picture; Facts and figures on children in prison Since January 2002, 6 children have died in penal custody. This includes 4 children in prison and 2 children in secure training centres. The youngest child to die was 14 years old. One child died following restraint by staff Children in prison are 18 times more likely to commit suicide that their counterparts in the community (The Lancet, 15 Sept 2005) Restraint is widely used in prisons and secure training centres. Between 2004 and 2006, 27% of boys and 19% of girls in prison had been physically restrained by staff (Young People in Custody 2004-2006, HMIP and YJB 2006) The Howard League recently slammed a government decision to allow private security companies running child jails to continue using pain on children. Between January 2005 and October 2006, restraint was used on 676 occassions on boys at Huntercombe prison. On 134 occassions it resulted in injuries to the child (HC deb, Col 416W, 27 Nov 2006) A survey by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of Prisons and the Youth Justice Board found that 31% of the boys in prison had been insulted or assaulted by other young people. 22% had been insulted or assaulted by a member of staff (Young People in Custody 2004-2006, HMIP and YJB 2006) The strip searching of children is routinely carried out on all children in prisons on reception and frequently before and after visits. Between January 2005 and October 2006 a total of 6,832 strip searches were carried out on boys at Huntercombe prison (HC deb, Col 416W-417W, 27 Nov 2006) Between January 2005 and October 2006, 100 boys were forcibly strip searched in 5 prisons. (HL deb, WA56, Jan 8 2007 and HL deb, WA 108, Jan 10 2007) Children in prison are being held for days and even weeks at a time in segregation. Between January 2004 and January 2007, 276 children had been held in the segregation unit for more than 7 days and 21 children had been held there for more than 28 days at the privately run Ashfield prison (HC deb, Col 1684W, 23 Jan 2007) And, as the Howard League states, “the treatment of children experienced by children in prisons would in any other setting, be considered abusive and trigger a child protection investigation.” Clearly, such a system is nothing short of barbaric, and still “it is ineffective in terms of reducing offending.” This makes a nonsense of the argument, often found shrouded in overly-emotive language in tabloid newspapers, that the reason crime and anti-social behaviour is so high is because we are “too soft.” An approach that favours violent coercion over rehabilitation isn’t the only reason for high recidivism, however. Another important one is that what is on offer to convicts once they leave prison, even after brutalisation, can often be much worse. An overwhelming amount of prisoners, upon release, face homelessness, illiteracy and lacking education, mental health problems, and addiction." Clearly, then, the prison system does nothing to reduce recidivism in ex-offenders and in fact "exacerbates matters in most cases. Further to which, I would argue, prison as an institution is part of a much wider societal malady which increases and encourages crime overall – the state-corporate structure. As the Anarchist Black Cross, a major anarchist abolition movement, explain; We live in a society where a tiny minority own the wealth, the land, run the big companies and live in luxury on the backs of the working people who produce everything. They try to control our lives and keep us in line by every means possible – schools, the media, the DSS, drugs, Disneyland. If we obey orders, work hard, don’t answer back, we can live a reasonable life – until the next recession. We can help our bosses keep others down, like the police or bailiffs do, and get our rewards: power, wealth, security. But for those of us not willing to work to keep our rulers in luxury, or those who try to take back any of the wealth that we have made, there is the justice system. Strike for a decent wage, steal to stay alive, resist the control and abuse in our lives, or break the bosses’ laws in any way and we face police, courts, prison. Prison is the bottom line in control – their ultimate weapon. Prison means isolation, bloody punishments, divided families. It drives people to despair and suicide. The whole system is to split us up and isolate people who could set an example to the rest of our class. Likewise, if we step outside so-called normal behaviour, such as women who refuse to accept the role of wife and mother, anyone whose sexuality is so-called deviant, we may be stigmatised, tranquillised and ultimately imprisoned. On the outside, fear of prison is built up to stop us from fighting back against the injustice in our lives and myths are created about prisoners to divide us from them. Most people are inside for trying to survive. In Britain, 94% of recorded crimes are against property. About one third are inside for non-payment of fines or taxes. Thousands are on remand. Many others are guilty of nothing more than being working class, irish, black, framed by the police. Full prisons give us the impression that the police are ‘cracking crime’ and reminds us who is in control. Most prisoners are working class people, just like the rest of us. They are not all the mad beasts the papers would have us believe." "The press hype up stories of ‘violent crime’ to give the existence of prison some justification and to divide us from prisoners. But the fact is that only a tiny percentage of crimes are violent or anti-social. It is also true that such crime is not prevented by prisons. The system we live in encourages competition, power relationships and self-interest. This system is also anti-social; while it remains intact there will always be violence. Calling the shoplifter, the person on the picket line and the rapist all criminals as if there were no difference between them, uses most people’s horror of anti-social violence against the vast majority whose offences are to do with property and resistance." "We live in a system of entrenched privilege and injustice fostered by the marriage of state and private power and the insitutions of private property. Immense wealth and immense poverty often exist side by side, further illustrating the divide that exists in our society. Within such a system, crime is almost inevitable as a result, as Emma Goldman noted in Anarchism: What it really stands for; The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation. Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime. What does society, as it exists today, know of the process of despair, the poverty, the horrors, the fearful struggle the human soul must pass on its way to crime and degradation. Who that knows this terrible process can fail to see the truth in these words of Peter Kropotkin: “Those who will hold the balance between the benefits thus attributed to law and punishment and the degrading effect of the latter on humanity; those who will estimate the torrent of depravity poured abroad in human society by the informer, favored by the Judge even, and paid for in clinking cash by governments, under the pretext of aiding to unmask crime; those who will go within prison walls and there see what human beings become when deprived of liberty, when subjected to the care of brutal keepers, to coarse, cruel words, to a thousand stinging, piercing humiliations, will agree with us that the entire apparatus of prison and punishment is an abomination which ought to be brought to an end.” "The link between poverty and crime should be no mystery to anyone who has witnessed the increase of crime in this or any prior recession. The Thatcher era in Britain also saw this link demonstrated beyond doubt. As the number of jobless rose to 3.6 million by 1983, and homelessness increased from around 57,000 households in 1979 to around 127,000 in 1989, crime rose by about 124%. The connection between poverty and crime is even more stark when you consider the fact that we live in a society that perpetuates and entrenches both extreme poverty and extreme wealth. A report by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) tells us that “intergenerational income mobility” saw a “sharp decline” for “for children born in 1970″ and reaching employment age under Margaret Thatcher “compared with those born in 1958″ which has “stabilised,” or remained constant, “for children born in the period 1970-2000.” The birth of the neo-liberal economics that today dominate the globe, then, saw social mobility grind to a halt." There are a multitude of reasons for this. One is education. The Ofsted report, Educational inequality: mapping race, class, and gender shows that “there is a strong direct association between social class background and success in education: put simply, the higher a child’s social class, the greater are their attainments on average.” Moreover, “there is evidence that the inequality of attainment between social classes has grown since the late 1980s. For example, in relation to the five higher grade benchmark, between 1988 and 1997, the gap between children from ‘managerial/professional’ backgrounds and ‘unskilled manual’ groups grew from 40 to 49 percentage points.” At the same time, educational inequalities also exist on an ethnic basis whereby “inequalities of attainment in GCSE examinations place African- Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils in a disadvantaged position in the youth education, labour, and training markets, and increase the likelihood of social and economic exclusion in later life.” And there is no evidence whatever to suggest that ethnic minorities or poorer people are naturally less intelligent or capable. Rather, the imbalance is systemic; Research in both the United States and Britain overwhelmingly concludes that Black pupils and their working class white peers are likely to be over-represented in lower-ranked teaching groups, for example, where schools adopt ‘setting by ability’ or other forms of selective grouping. Their disproportionate concentration can be mapped by tracing the process of selection inside schools. Research has documented how these processes are significantly influenced by differential teacher expectations, which tend to be markedly lower for these groups of pupils. The pupils’ subsequent placement in lower ranked teaching groups, in both primary and secondary schools, institutionalises these differences and can create additional barriers to achievement. Even in schools that do not embrace setting, some form of selection is increasingly common. The structure of the GCSE examination itself now requires most subject areas to enter pupils for one of two different ‘tiers’ of exam, where the highest grades are only available to pupils in the top tier." It is no surprise that this group of people are more likely to fall into povety and into a trap of struggle which they will find it hard to get out of. "If we accept, then, that prisons are merely another facet of the state-corporate system and serve not to punish or diminish crime but to remove those who do not serve the interests of power from society, what do we put in its place? So in place of prisons what should we we look to be an alternative and how could we get t here this is brilliantly summed up by Phil Dickens again over at Propety is theft "In a world of anarchy, where poverty and inequality are removed through the abolition of private property and the control of capital by labour, crime will be greatly reduced. People will not be forced to turn to theft, prostitution, or racketeering in order to make ends meet. Local communities organised on the basis of mutual aid will resist organised crime as readily as the domination and coercion of the state or capital. Such as drug use will be seen, properly, as a social problem rather than a crime, with addicts treated and rehabilitated, and farmers free and organised so that they do not have to grow illicit crops in order to make a living. Dissent and independence will be encouraged rather than criminalised, and the crimes of war and state will be eradicated. But there will still be crime. Anarchists do not envision a utopia. We do not imagine human beings more perfect than they are, merely recognise the dramatic negative effects of violence, coercion, and hierarchy upon society and the increase in disorder that results from our atomisation in the name of profit. No, though it will be greatly reduced, there will still be crime in anarchy. The question is, if the prison system is such a brutalising instrument of state, how do we deal with it? The answer to this question – as well as useful summation of the argument for the abolition of the prison and state-justice system – is offered up by the authors of An Anarchist FAQ. As such, it is worth quoting at length; We are not saying, however, that anarchists reject the concept of individual responsibility. While recognising that rape, for example, is the result of a social system which represses sexuality and is based on patriarchy (i.e. rape has more to do with power than sex), anarchists do not “sit back” and say “it’s society’s fault.” Individuals have to take responsibility for their own actions and recognise that consequences of those actions. Part of the current problem with “law codes” is that individuals have been deprived of the responsibility for developing their own ethical code, and so are less likely to develop “civilised” social standards (see section I.7.3). Therefore, while anarchists reject the ideas of law and a specialised justice system, they are not blind to the fact that anti-social action may not totally disappear in a free society. Therefore, some sort of “court” system would still be necessary to deal with the remaining crimes and to adjudicate disputes between citizens. These courts would function in one of two ways. One possibility is that the parties involved agree to hand their case to a third party. Then the “court” in question would be the arrangements made by those parties. The second possibility is when the parties cannot not agree (or if the victim was dead). Then the issue could be raised at a communal assembly and a “court” appointed to look into the issue. These “courts” would be independent from the commune, their independence strengthened by popular election instead of executive appointment of judges, by protecting the jury system of selection of random citizens by lot, and by informing jurors of their right to judge the law itself, according to their conscience, as well as the facts of a case. As Malatesta pointed out, “when differences were to arise between men [sic!], would not arbitration voluntarily accepted, or pressure of public opinion, be perhaps more likely to establish where the right lies than through an irresponsible magistrate which has the right to adjudicate on everything and everybody and is inevitably incompetent and therefore unjust?” [Anarchy, p. 43] In the case of a “police force,” this would not exist either as a public or private specialised body or company. If a local community did consider that public safety required a body of people who could be called upon for help, we imagine that a new system would be created. Such a system would “not be entrusted to, as it is today, to a special, official body: all able-bodied inhabitants [of a commune] will be called upon to take turns in the security measures instituted by the commune.” [James Guillaume, Bakunin on Anarchism, p. 371] This system would be based around a voluntary militia system, in which all members of the community could serve if they so desired. Those who served would not constitute a professional body; instead the service would be made up of local people who would join for short periods of time and be replaced if they abused their position. Hence the likelihood that a communal militia would become corrupted by power, like the current police force or a private security firm exercising a policing function, would be vastly reduced. Moreover, by accustoming a population to intervene in anti-social as part of the militia, they would be empowered to do so when not an active part of it, so reducing the need for its services even more. Such a body would not have a monopoly on protecting others, but would simply be on call if others required it. It would no more be a monopoly of defence (i.e. a “police force”) than the current fire service is a monopoly. Individuals are not banned from putting out fires today because the fire service exists, similarly individuals will be free to help stop anti-social crime by themselves, or in association with others, in an anarchist society. Of course there are anti-social acts which occur without witnesses and so the “guilty” party cannot be readily identified. If such acts did occur we can imagine an anarchist community taking two courses of action. The injured party may look into the facts themselves or appoint an agent to do so or, more likely, an ad hoc group would be elected at a community assembly to investigate specific crimes of this sort. Such a group would be given the necessary “authority” to investigate the crime and be subject to recall by the community if they start trying to abuse whatever authority they had. Once the investigating body thought it had enough evidence it would inform the community as well as the affected parties and then organise a court. Of course, a free society will produce different solutions to such problems, solutions no-one has considered yet and so these suggestions are just that, suggestions. As is often stated, prevention is better than cure. This is as true of crime as of disease. In other words, crime is best fought by rooting out its causes as opposed to punishing those who act in response to these causes. For example, it is hardly surprising that a culture that promotes individual profit and consumerism would produce individuals who do not respect other people (or themselves) and see them as purely means to an end (usually increased consumption). And, like everything else in a capitalist system, such as honour and pride, conscience is also available at the right price — hardly an environment which encourages consideration for others, or even for oneself. …Therefore, by reorganising society so that it empowers everyone and actively encourages the use of all our intellectual, emotional and sensuous abilities, crime would soon cease to be the huge problem that it is now. As for the anti-social behaviour or clashes between individuals that might still exist in such a society, it would be dealt with in a system based on respect for the individual and a recognition of the social roots of the problem. Restraint would be kept to a minimum. Anarchists think that public opinion and social pressure would be the main means of preventing anti-social acts in an anarchist society, with such actions as boycotting and ostracising used as powerful sanctions to convince those attempting them of the errors of their way. Extensive non-co-operation by neighbours, friends and work mates would be the best means of stopping acts which harmed others. An anarchist system of justice, we should note, would have a lot to learn from aboriginal societies simply because they are examples of social order without the state. Indeed many of the ideas we consider as essential to justice today can be found in such societies. As Kropotkin argued, “when we imagine that we have made great advances in introducing, for instance, the jury, all we have done is to return to the institutions of the so-called ‘barbarians’ after having changed it to the advantage of the ruling classes.” [The State: Its Historic Role, p. 18] …However, there are psychopaths and other people in any society who are too dangerous to be allowed to walk freely. Restraint in this case would be the only option and such people may have to be isolated from others for their own, and others, safety. Perhaps mental hospitals would be used, or an area quarantined for their use created (perhaps an island, for example). However, such cases (we hope) would be rare. So instead of prisons and a legal code based on the concept of punishment and revenge, anarchists support the use of public opinion and pressure to stop anti-social acts and the need to therapeutically rehabilitate those who commit anti-social acts. As Kropotkin argued, “liberty, equality, and practical human sympathy are the most effective barriers we can oppose to the anti-social instinct of certain among us” and not a parasitic legal system. [The Anarchist Reader, p. 117] with quotes and extracts taken from the excellent blog at propety is theft you can read more at http://propertyistheft.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/abolish-the-prison-system/