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Monday, 5 January 2015

putting our ideals into practise

For many trying to change the world is something which may take many different forms to different people. I am of the belief that we should try to live as close to our ideals as we can. In today’s world long before some unspecified date when the revolution will come. For me this means living by our ideals on a daily basis including our attitudes towards sexism, racism and all forms of discrimination these are not issues we cannot put off until after the revolution. Solidarity is a concept talked about allots within those who wish to change society in a revolutionary socialist way but what do we mean by this? To quote from an anarchist FAQ. "To practice solidarity means that we recognise, as in the slogan of Industrial Workers of the World, that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Solidarity, therefore, is the means to protect individuality and liberty and so is an expression of self-interest. As Alfie Kohn points out: “When we think about co-operation... we tend to associate the concept with fuzzy-minded idealism... This may result from confusing co-operation with altruism... Structural co-operation defies the usual egoism/altruism dichotomy. It sets things up so that by helping you I am helping myself at the same time. Even if my motive initially may have been selfish, our fates now are linked. We sink or swim together. Co-operation is a shrewd and highly successful strategy — a pragmatic choice that gets things done at work and at school even more effectively than competition does... There is also good evidence that co-operation is more conductive to psychological health and to liking one another.” [No Contest: The Case against Competition, p. 7] And, within a hierarchical society, solidarity is important not only because of the satisfaction it gives us, but also because it is necessary to resist those in power. Malatesta’s words are relevant here: “the oppressed masses who have never completely resigned themselves to oppress and poverty, and who ... show themselves thirsting for justice, freedom and wellbeing, are beginning to understand that they will not be able to achieve their emancipation except by union and solidarity with all the oppressed, with the exploited everywhere in the world.” [Anarchy, p. 33] By standing together, we can increase our strength and get what we want. Eventually, by organising into groups, we can start to manage our own collective affairs together and so replace the boss once and for all. “Unions will... multiply the individual’s means and secure his assailed property.” [Max Stirner, the Ego and Its Own, p. 258] By acting in solidarity, we can also replace the current system with one more to our liking: “in union there is strength.” [Alexander Berkman, What is Anarchism? p. 74] Solidarity is thus the means by which we can obtain and ensure our own freedom. We agree to work together so that we will not have to work for another. By agreeing to share with each other we increase our options so that we may enjoy more, not less. Mutual aid is in my self-interest — that is, I see that it is to my advantage to reach agreements with others based on mutual respect and social equality; for if I dominate someone, this means that the conditions exist which allow domination, and so in all probability I too will be dominated in turn. As Max Stirner saw, solidarity is the means by which we ensure that our liberty is strengthened and defended from those in power who want to rule us: “Do you yourself count for nothing then?” he asks. “Are you bound to let anyone do anything he wants to you? Defend yourself and no one will touch you. If millions of people are behind you, supporting you, then you are a formidable force and you will win without difficulty.” [Quoted in Luigi Galleani’s The End of Anarchism? p. 79 — different translation in The Ego and Its Own, p. 197] Solidarity, therefore, is important to anarchists because it is the means by which liberty can be created and defended against power. Solidarity is strength and a product of our nature as social beings. However, solidarity should not be confused with “herdism,” which implies passively following a leader. In order to be effective, solidarity must be created by free people, co-operating together as equals. The “big WE” is not solidarity, although the desire for “herdism” is a product of our need for solidarity and union. It is a “solidarity” corrupted by hierarchical society, in which people are conditioned to blindly obey leaders. " "Anarchists have long argued that people can only free themselves by their own actions. The various methods anarchists suggest to aid this process will be discussed in section J (“What Do Anarchists Do?”) and will not be discussed here. However, these methods all involve people organising themselves, setting their own agendas, and acting in ways that empower them and eliminate their dependence on leaders to do things for them. Anarchism is based on people “acting for themselves” (performing what anarchists call “direct action” — see section J.2 for details). Direct action has an empowering and liberating effect on those involved in it. Self-activity is the means by which the creativity, initiative, imagination and critical thought of those subjected to authority can be developed. It is the means by which society can be changed. Society, while shaping all individuals, is also created by them, through their actions, thoughts, and ideals. Challenging institutions that limit one’s freedom is mentally liberating, as it sets in motion the process of questioning authoritarian relationships in general. This process gives us insight into how society works, changing our ideas and creating new ideals. To quote Emma Goldman again: “True emancipation begins... in woman’s soul.” And in a man’s too, we might add. It is only here that we can “begin [our] inner regeneration, [cutting] loose from the weight of prejudices, traditions and customs.” [Op. Cit., p. 167] But this process must be self-directed, for as Max Stirner notes, “the man who is set free is nothing but a freed man... a dog dragging a piece of chain with him.” [The Ego and Its Own, p. 168] By changing the world, even in a small way, we change ourselves. In an interview during the Spanish Revolution, the Spanish anarchist militant Durutti said, “We have a new world in our hearts.” Only self-activity and self-liberation allows us to create such a vision and gives us the confidence to try to actualise it in the real world. Anarchists, however, do not think that self-liberation must wait for the future, after the “glorious revolution.” The personal is political, and given the nature of society, how we act in the here and now will influence the future of our society and our lives. Therefore, even in pre-anarchist society anarchists try to create, as Bakunin puts it, “not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself.” We can do so by creating alternative social relationships and organisations, acting as free people in a non-free society. Only by our actions in the here and now can we lay the foundation for a free society. Moreover, this process of self-liberation goes on all the time: “Subordinates of all kinds exercise their capacity for critical self-reflection every day — that is why masters are thwarted, frustrated and, sometimes, overthrown. But unless masters are overthrown, unless subordinates engage in political activity, no amount of critical reflection will end their subjection and bring them freedom.” [Carole Pateman, the Sexual Contract, p. 205] Anarchists aim to encourage these tendencies in everyday life to reject, resist and thwart authority and bring them to their logical conclusion — a society of free individuals, co-operating as equals in free, self-managed associations. Without this process of critical self-reflection, resistance and self-liberation a free society is impossible. Thus, for anarchists, anarchism comes from the natural resistance of subordinated people striving to act as free individuals within a hierarchical world. This process of resistance is called by many anarchists the “class struggle” (as it is working class people who are generally the most subordinated group within society) or, more generally, “social struggle.” It is this everyday resistance to authority (in all its forms) and the desire for freedom which is the key to the anarchist revolution. It is for this reason that “anarchists emphasise over and over that the class struggle provides the only means for the workers [and other oppressed groups] to achieve control over their destiny.” [Marie-Louise Berneri, Neither East Nor West, p. 32] Revolution is a process, not an event, and every “spontaneous revolutionary action” usually results from and is based upon the patient work of many years of organisation and education by people with “utopian” ideas. The process of “creating the new world in the shell of the old” (to use another I.W.W. expression), by building alternative institutions and relationships, is but one component of what must be a long tradition of revolutionary commitment and militancy. As Malatesta made clear, “to encourage popular organisations of all kinds is the logical consequence of our basic ideas, and should therefore be an integral part of our programme... anarchists do not want to emancipate the people; we want the people to emancipate themselves... , we want the new way of life to emerge from the body of the people and correspond to the state of their development and advance as they advance.” [Op. Cit., p. 90] "Unless a process of self-emancipation occurs, a free society is impossible. Only when individuals free themselves, both materially (by abolishing the state and capitalism) and intellectually (by freeing themselves of submissive attitudes towards authority), can a free society be possible. We should not forget that capitalist and state power, to a great extent, is power over the minds of those subject to them (backed up, of course, with sizeable force if the mental domination fails and people start rebelling and resisting). In effect, a spiritual power as the ideas of the ruling class dominates society and permeate the minds of the oppressed. As long as this holds, the working class will acquiesce to authority, oppression and exploitation as the normal condition of life. Minds submissive to the doctrines and positions of their masters cannot hope to win freedom, to revolt and fight. Thus the oppressed must overcome the mental domination of the existing system before they can throw off its yoke (and, anarchists argue, direct action is the means of doing both — see sections J.2 and J.4). Capitalism and statism must be beaten spiritually and theoretically before it is beaten materially (many anarchists call this mental liberation “class consciousness” — see section B.7.4). And self-liberation through struggle against oppression is the only way this can be done. Thus anarchists encourage (to use Kropotkin’s term) “the spirit of revolt.” Self-liberation is a product of struggle, of self-organisation, solidarity and direct action. Direct action is the means of creating anarchists, free people, and so “Anarchists have always advised taking an active part in those workers’ organisations which carry on the direct struggle of Labour against Capital and its protector, — the State.” This is because “[s]much a struggle ... better than any indirect means, permits the worker to obtain some temporary improvements in the present conditions of work, while it opens his [or her] eyes to the evil that is done by Capitalism and the State that supports it, and wakes up his [or her] thoughts concerning the possibility of organising consumption, production and exchange without the intervention of the capitalist and the state,” that is, see the possibility of a free society. Kropotkin, like many anarchists, pointed to the Syndicalist and Trade Union movements as a means of developing libertarian ideas within existing society (although he, like most anarchists, did not limit anarchist activity exclusively to them). Indeed, any movement which “permit[s] the working men [and women] to realise their solidarity and to feel the community of their interests ... prepare[s] the way for these conceptions” of communist-anarchism, i.e. the overcoming the spiritual domination of existing society within the minds of the oppressed. [Evolution and Environment, p. 83 and p. 85] For anarchists, in the words of a Scottish Anarchist militant, the “history of human progress [is] seen as the history of rebellion and disobedience, with the individual debased by subservience to authority in its many forms and able to retain his/her dignity only through rebellion and disobedience.” [Robert Lynn, Not a Life Story, Just a Leaf from It, p. 77] This is why anarchists stress self-liberation (and self-organisation, self-management and self-activity). Little wonder Bakunin considered “rebellion” as one of the “three fundamental principles [which] constitute the essential conditions of all human development, collective or individual, in history.” [God and the State, p. 12] This is simply because individuals and groups cannot be freed by others, only by themselves. Such rebellion (self-liberation) is the only means by which existing society becomes more libertarian and an anarchist society a possibility. " An excellent piece by Phil Dickens over at Propety is theft puts it really well too "If, in the end, we want a self-managed society, this has to come from a self-organised movement. You cannot get it from a heavily stage-managed, top-down “democratic centralism” wherein The Party becomes the vanguard or revolutionary leadership of the working class. To believe that “a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” will tend towards true communism, and that the state will “wither away” is nothing short of delusion. Rather, our means must reflect our aims. Just as building a top-down revolutionary movement sets the stage for tyranny, so a movement without hierarchy is the necessary starting point for a society without hierarchy. As the Solidarity Federation explain in the leaflet what is anarcho-syndicalism? (PDF); The role of anarcho-syndicalist networks and unions is not to try and recruit every worker, but to advocate and organise mass meetings of all workers involved in each struggle so that the workers involved retain control. Within these mass meetings anarcho-syndicalists argue for the principles of solidarity, direct action and self-organisation. In this way anarcho-syndicalism is completely different to trade unionism, which seeks to represent our economic interests and the so-called ‘workers parties’ which seek to represent our political interests. Instead, anarcho-syndicalism unites the political and the economic and opposes representation in favour of self-organisation. By organising this way, we learn to act for ourselves, exercising our power without being led by union officials or political vanguards. These calls into question the way society is organised and prefiguring the world we want to create, without bosses or rulers: libertarian communism. And it is not just our organisations which should reflect this horizontal structure, but the spaces we occupy as well. FPRIVATE "TYPE=PICT; ALT=" Anarcho-syndicalists promote solidarity, direct action, and bottom-up organisation precisely because we believe that a free society can only be born of a libertarian revolutionary movement On the smallest scale, this would apply to radical social centers; Then and now social centre volunteers come from a range of backgrounds: community activism, animal rights, anti-war, climate-change, feminism, anarchism and more. We don’t agree about everything, nor do we need to, but what unites us is a shared desire for: ‘A fair, free and sustainable society – without hierarchy, discrimination or the exploitation of people, animals and the planet for profit.’ Creating the social centre as an autonomous, non-hierarchical, do-it-yourself space is part of trying to realise this. We don’t claim to or seek to represent anyone. Instead we look to provide resources for people to work for themselves, to increase their own self-confidence and to improve their own lives. More broadly, we can put the same principle to work in our actions. An occupied workplace can become an example of anarchism in action, the management structure replaced with cooperation, consensus decision-making, and solidarity and mutual aid both internally and with activists on the outside. This applies whether the aim is to take over the workplace for the workers, or simply to force concessions out of the bosses. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a community union, a squat, a social centre, an occupied workplace, or a national federation. What matters is that the way you have organised reflects the way you want to see society organised. And if you’re an anarcho-syndicalist, that means on the basis of “solidarity, direct action, and self-organisation.” There is no over-arching blueprint or formula for anarcho-syndicalism, either in the present or in a post-revolutionary world. Instead, we have a set of key principles, developed and strengthened through practice. We are not conducting an intellectual or philosophical exercise, and so practice is – ultimately – what counts. Just as our principles today are born of the practice of the past, so our practice today is what defines where we end up in the future. We truly are building the new world in the shell of the old one." With thanks to Phil Dickens over at Property is theft

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