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political theory

A Democratic Socialist Appeal to Anarchists

The struggle for a democratic alternative to capitalism has seen many conflicting traditions. Communism, Anarchism, Socialism and countless variations and combinations have emerged. Today, when the call for a new world has been revived by the explosive protest movements surrounding corporate globalization, most of these differences seem to be archaic and almost theological. Such divisions, many argue, are grist merely for café debates. Who cares which revolutionary messiah we wear on our T-shirts? There is work to be done.

homepage: homepage: http://www.onwardnewspaper.org/archives/2-2002/appeal.html

response 22.Jul.2003 02:39

badger queen

A good article, but it doesn't address the reason why a state is needed in the end. Most of was is said about how we deal with the state at this current point in time I think most anarchists would agree with, but why is it necesary to maintain a state if all workplaces are worker owned and all neighborhoods are communaly run and federally coordinated? Especially the implied idea that we should even attempt to maintain the current US government. The American state has not yet proved that it is socially and economically feasible in the long run, I think it's inevitable that the US state breaks down into smaller "nations" over time. Another thing is that @'s aren't looking for "public" services to be maintained we're looking for collectivized services run either locally or regionally.

I understand this piece was written for a larger audience than just the Portland area, but still, portland is starting to see the emergence of three (potentially) strong anarchist or anarchist leaning groups in the IWW, ACA and ACAN, so why would local @'s take a subserviant role to socialists just when all our shit is starting to come together. If the appeal is indeed to work together then I don't see a problem, but if the article was meant to convert @'s then I think it was posted in vain.

work to be done ? 22.Jul.2003 04:17

skeptical enquirer

Does this work that you have to get done include shoving small business operators like myself into concentration camps ? Am I, my family, and hardworking friends slated to become your "Kulaks" ? Lest I sound silly, let me merely cite history : at least 100 million human beings died at the hands of self-proclaimed "Socialists" in the last century, according to the records kept by those Socialist governments. The figure could be even higher, but all we have to go on at this date, apart from the wild conjecture of desperate ex-citizens of Socialist Utopias, are those internal records. Thus potential Paradises are engulfed in the mire of your thinly disguised thirst for political power, over and over again, and transmogrified into boneyards.

No thanks, Brownshirt. I'll stay on the Anarchist side of the fence, with my guns, garden, chickens, and tools. When you come to round me up, wear a Kevlar vest, cabron.

HMMM 22.Jul.2003 11:14


How many people have died at the hands of so-called capitalists?

I can think of one reason 22.Jul.2003 16:28

Red Baron

at least in the transition, a governmental body (or possibly co-op; anything but a private entity) would be able to pool resources for restoration of the environment. If all those nuclear/chemical plants, illegal waste dumps, etc. aren't carefully dismantled, instead left to rust, then we've got 20-25 years, tops.

Da-da-da da-dada! SUPERFUND!

reply to mr skeptical enquirer: anarchists don't redbait 22.Jul.2003 17:42


Anarchists are not "antisocialist." Anyone who thinks that doesn't have a clue what anarchism is. Anarchism is itself a school or variety of socialist thought. Anarchists are not Libertarians. The central principles of Anarchism are solidarity and mutual aid. It's hardly a coincidence that the most famous Anarchist book written has that title. Get a clue. Your vitriol is cockeyed on so many levels:

1) You're using braindead rightwing American anti-intellectual rhetoric which fails to make the most basic of distinctions between democratic socialist, social democratic, and Marxist Leninist ideologies. Go read up on it and you'll see there's a world of difference between the them.

2) Even for the schools of socialist thought where Anarchists partially share your critique, they wouldn't use the kind of over-the-top rightwing rhetoric you do. Anarchists were the first in history to denounce the authoritarian and despotic tendencies of Bolshevism, but that doesn't mean that Anarchists try to lay at their feet "100 million deaths." This is just plain cockeyed history, lumping together innumerable events and tendencies into a single absolutely monolithic whole. It's like blaming "the Jews" for killing Christ, or "the Greeks" for killing Socrates. It's an exceedingly blunt instrument. Although it might seem like an excessively subtle distinction, it also fails to recognize that there's a difference between the willful mass murder of someone like Stalin and the plain gross economic incompetence of someone like Mao, which led to so many deaths due to famine in China. This doesn't get Mao off the hook, but there's a big difference, because if you're going to lay charges of mass murder for famine in China at Mao's door, you have to lay the same charges at the doors of the captains of capitalist industry who allow millions more to die of famine to this day in a world of perfectly adequate food production to feed all. Which brings us to the last point:

3.) It ignores the fact that capitalism and imperialism have been guilty of unspeakable crimes and atrocities for hundreds of years. Go read Frantz Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth" to understand how the first instinct of the oppressed in dealing with the rage and hatred generated by grinding poverty, racism, and colonialism is usually inward turning and self-destructive -- and social elites know this and deliberately use tools like COINTELPRO to exacerbate this self-destructive tendency. (And misguided revolutionary zealots like Mao did also.)

Interesting Article! 22.Jul.2003 20:15


This article brought up some very good points dealing with the role of the state and the role of compromise. Compromise doesn't mean you can't start barking for more again once you get some. Compromise on a moderate reform, then the next time around, campaign for a little more reform, then a little more, etc, etc. This was how the British (and American) Fabians felt that socialist ideals would become injected into society. Through a series of small but realistic improvements you can move yourself at least closer to utopia. Just think: Aim for the Sun and you might reach the Moon. But first you have to get a ride up to the stratosphere, then the Space Station, then geostationary orbit, and so on.

The federal government is a double-edged sword: as George Washington said "it is like fire, a useful servant but a terrifying master." And indeed government is most respectable when the people command it, not the other way around. But which policies and institutions are considered "servant government" and which are "master government"?

Servant government refers to our social services and public institutions. Master government refers to things like our military foreign policy, prohibition, moralism, drug wars, Star Wars, and corporatism. Franklin D. Roosevelt believed in a strong servant government (leaning towards social democracy); Ronald Reagan wanted the states to do the services on their own but he nevertheless supported a powerful master government (leaning towards soft-core fascism).

Like many on the left, I feel that the proper role of government is servant not master, even if you sometimes have to use semi-authoritarian tactics to protect the weak from the strong, or protect the minority from the majority, or to protect the environment so the economy doesn't destroy itself. Even the military was originally designed to protect and defend the people of a particular country from invasion. (But of course the objectives of the US Military have become badly perverted by time and money.) In the same way, police are supposed to "protect and serve" the community but, somewhat frequently, the cops who work in these institutions abuse their authority and use it to protect their jobs and create more jobs and pay for themselves (which is why police departments are constantly lobbying against marijuana-legalization activists as the cops fear that legalization would take away their jobs which is not really true since violent crime is dreadfully underenforced).

But the problems of abusive police and military powers are rooted in the problem of false job creation -- using authoritarian political agendas to maintain full employment at least for a privileged sector of the labor force. But there are so many essential social and public services which are not getting built, that could provide far more public-sector jobs as a military-industrial complex or a drug war ever could.

Anyway, it's an interesting topic, and yes we must "save Social Security" but also work to expand it into universal health care someday soon. We must support opportunities to lower penalties for pot-smokers, not as an end in itself, but first as an immediate step of compassion and second as a step toward legalization in the future. We must support efforts to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $5.75 but not stop there. See it as a small step in the right direction. As a member of the Socialist Party of America (now called the SPUSA) I understand the gradualist compromise tradition of Fabianism only too well.

The realistic means for achieving idealistic goals is to whittle away at the problem little by little and make sure that we do not lose back our gains in the midst of the process.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

clarification for NA 23.Jul.2003 14:06


There are as many flavors of modern Anarchism as in any other ideology. Ultimately, I'm a pragmatist, and this is where I drift towards the Libertarian end of that particular spectrum. "Mutual Aid" is a nice, antiquated book. On a small level, the idea even works. But mainly it just exists to perpetuate the same kind of irrational fantasies that nonsense like Marx does, in the minds of callow schoolboys and apologists for evil Communist regimes like yourself. We could keep up with the little jibes all day, but, really, you just call the place and time, and I'll be happy to kick your teeth in with my steel-toed boots. Otherwise, knock it off with the insults, OK ? It's childish. Cowardly, too, especially when you hide behind a modem.

The reason I fear Socialism and all it represents is not "braindead Rightwing...rhetoric." It is history, pure and simple. Check out "The Black Book of Communism," written mainly by former French Communists, which demonstrates beyond any shred of a reasonable doubt that the deaths of all those people can indeed be laid right at the feet of Leftist ideology. Including Mao's deliberate and systematic starvation of the Chinese people, for starters...But hey, don't read stuff which might upset your worldview if you don't want to.

And, as evil as THIS regime may be, it seems somewhat less evil than others, you know ? After all, I'm merely one person, and a very pragmatic one at that.

That "Anti-Intellectual" enough for you ?

skeptic: please back up "deliberate and systematic" 23.Jul.2003 16:05


I'm afraid you've got your history confused. Stalin, yes. Deliberately and systematically starved people.
Mao, no. Don't think so. Not saying he was a great guy, certainly no hero of mine. But it won't do to play
so fast and loose with the facts. Point me out some credible sources. The famine in China occurred because
of systematic MISMANAGEMENT, ridiculously over-optimistic expectations, and poor planning, vid. Philip Short, _Mao_. Also, you won't win points in a debate using physical threats. You're eager to accuse others of being brownshirts, but it is you who threaten to kick people's heads in with "steel toed boots." That's not right. You're walking a thin line that separates acceptable from unacceptable rhetoric on this website. (By the way, steel-toed boots and blackjacks are the classical tools of brownshirts. Read some books about the nazis, e.g., William Shirer, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.")

Are you fucking kidding me? 23.Jul.2003 18:36


Na - really, are you kidding me? Mao's famine was precisely the same as Stalin's forced-famine in the Ukraine. Yes, as with most socialist disasters, the problem started with simple exaggerations and naively optimistic estimates. But it ended with Mao's men stealing grain from the peasants. A forced famine.

And tens of millions died.

It's no made-up fantasy. It's been documented by the Chinese government itself. China has since foresworn almost every Maoist policy, and indeed, the only reason China is not stagnating is because of the massive foreign investment in its economic free zones.

The Chinese Government has come to grips with the fact that Mao was a monster, so why are you still skeptical?

China and Big Business 23.Jul.2003 20:19


As usual China has been conned into supporting Big Business as the only model of free enterprise possible in the modern world. When will the people wake up and realize the potential and egalitarian benefits of Small Business?