Draft scheme for 19 and 26 January day schools

Submitted by martin on 10 January, 2008 - 8:22 Author: Martin Thomas
These schools work best, I think, divided into three workshop sessions. So I've tried to group the issues we identified in the discussion on the Sunday of the week school into three main themes.

==Reading== I'd suggest: General - PowerPoint presentations on [http://www.workersliberty.org/node/9781 anarchism from Proudhon to 1917] and [http://www.workersliberty.org/node/9785 anarchism today]. For Theme 1 - [http://www.workersliberty.org/system/files/marx-indiff.pdf Marx's article on Political Indifferentism] and [http://www.workersliberty.org/system/files/trotsky-rocker.pdf Trotsky on Communism and Syndicalism, and Rudolf Rocker on anarcho-syndicalism]. For Theme 2 - [http://www.workersliberty.org/system/files/bakunin.pdf Marx's Conspectus of Bakunin's Statism and Anarchy], and [http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/index.htm Lenin's State and Revolution] For Theme 3 - [http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm Tyranny of Structurelessness], and [http://www.workersliberty.org/node/5750 chapter 9 of We Stand For Workers' Liberty].

==Theme 1== The road to a new society is through developing the logic of working-class struggle, not through projects of individual or small-group revolt with no close link to working-class struggle. Discussion points: a. The sort of trade-union activity that Marxists do in current conditions is mostly limited to rather small issues of wages and conditions and so on, and does not appear to involve much questioning of the entire basis of the current system. How can it be revolutionary activity? b. Whatever Proudhon may have written, and whatever about right-wing free-market libertarians who share some ideas with anarchism, pretty much all anarchists today generally support strikes and workers' struggles against employers. Only, they tend to think that activities like social centres, permaculture projects, guerrilla gardening, bike-mending co-ops and so on do more to challenge the capitalist way of life. Are they right? c. These days anarchists tend to claim that Marxists are narrow-minded and concerned only with narrowly "worker" issues, while anarchists are the champions of broader human liberation and the struggles of oppressed groups. How does this argument fit with the historic record of anarchism? How do Marxist arguments about prosecuting the class struggle on "three fronts" (as against "economism") and about "hegemony" counter it? d. Anarcho-syndicalists are largely on the "Marxist" side of this argument, against other anarchists. So, what's wrong with anarcho-syndicalism? Why did Trotsky describe pre-1914 French revolutionary syndicalism as "a remarkable rough draft of revolutionary communism"? Why, despite that, did the revolutionary-syndicalist CGT end up backing the French government in World War One?

==Theme 2== The working class that makes a revolution needs to build a "semi-state" of its own - not try to prevent the formation of a revolutionary government, nor rely on a loose-knit federation of communes emerging by spontaneous agreement between diverse small-scale local groups, or on "invisible pilots". Discussion points: a. In [http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/ch04.htm#s2 State and Revolution] Lenin wrote that "the anarchists were justified in saying about... prevailing official Social Democracy... that they were failing in their task of giving the workers a revolutionary education" and that "the usual criticism of anarchism by present-day Social-Democrats has boiled down to the purest philistine banality [which]... cannot but repel workers who are at all capable of thinking and revolutionary-minded". What did he think was wrong with the previous prevailing "official" Marxist arguments on the state? b. Many anarchists claim that "State and Revolution" is an aberration by Lenin, an almost-anarchist text. Lenin was possibly hypocritical about it, and anyway did not take it seriously, as shown by his efforts to set up a strong government after October 1917. What do you make of that? (Relevant fact: although "State and Revolution" was largely written in August-September 1917, it was never fully finished, and it was not published until December 1918, when the rigours of civil war were already in full swing). c. By what logic did the big Spanish anarchist movement end up joining the bourgeois Republican governments of Catalonia and Spain in 1936, during the Spanish Revolution? d. How do anarcho-syndicalists, as distinct from other anarchists, deal with the question of organisation and a "state" - or something like a state - after revolution?

==Theme 3== Both the working class as a whole (even for trade-union struggle), and the revolutionary activists specifically, need ongoing, structured, democratic organisation. Consensus decision-making and affinity groups have their place, but are not a challenge to capitalism in and of themselves; cannot suffice in serious struggle (even at the level of a serious strike); are not superior to effective democracy; and indeed are likely to lead to cliquism and "the tyranny of structurelessness". Discussion points: a. What do you make of Jo Freeman's arguments in [http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm The Tyranny of Structurelessness]? b. Anarchists these days usually argue that Stalinism was the inevitable result of the Bolsheviks organising as a "vanguard party". Revolutionary anarchists in the 19th century, though they insisted that all organisation should be "federal", were a bit different. Their main paper in the late 1870s was called "The Vanguard"; they spoke freely of "the anarchist party"; and Malatesta parted ways with Kropotkin on the grounds that he considered Kropotkin "spontaneist". Should we build a revolutionary political party? Should it be centralised or federal? Why do we want a centralised revolutionary party? And how is our idea of such a party different from the Stalinist and kitsch-Trotskyist models? c. By what logic have anarchists repeatedly ended up organising highly select secret societies - like Bakunin's various enterprises, and the FAI in Spain after 1927 - to control big movements in which they have been involved?

=="Overseers"== Who should "oversee" each session? Based on what people were writing on Sunday, here are some suggestions. Because most people at the week school were from the south, we are short of "overseers" for the Sheffield school. I'm hoping that Daniel (who did at least come to one day of the school) and Tom (who was scheduled to come, but failed to make it because of sickness) may be able to help out here. Anyway, here are the suggestions: Theme 1: London - Sofie, Robin. Sheffield - Chris Theme 2: London - David. Sheffield - Tom Theme 3: London - Laura. Sheffield - Daniel.

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