…for juan and liz…
Ah-ah-ah, ha-ha, ho-ho!
Fly into the streets! All who are still fresh and young and not dehumanized — to the streets! The pot-bellied mortar of laughter stands in a square drunk with joy. Laughter and Love, copulating with Melancholy and Hate, pressed together in the mighty, convulsive passion of bestial lust. Long live the psychology of contrasts! Intoxicated, burning spirits have raised the flaming banner of intellectual revolution. Death to the creatures of routine, the philistines, the sufferers from gout! Smash with a deafening noise the cup of vengeful storms! Tear down the churches and their allies the museums! Blast to smithereens the fragile idols of Civilization! Hey, you decadent architects of the sarcophagi of thought, you watchmen of the universal cemetery of books — stand aside! We have come to remove you! The old must be buried, the dusty archives burned by the Vulcan’s torch of creative genius. Past the flaky ashes of world-wide destruction, past the charred canvases of bulky paintings, past the burned, fat, pot-bellied volumes of classics we march, we Anarcho-Futurists! Above the vast expanse of devastation covering our land the banner of anarchy will be proudly unfurled. Writing has no value! There is no market for literature! There are no prisons, no limits for subjective creativity! Everything is permitted! Everything is unrestricted! ~ ‘Shturmovoi, opustoshaiushchii manifest anarkho-futuristive’, K Svetu (Kharkov), March 14, 1919, p.1, in The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution, Paul Avrich (editor), Thames and Hudson, 1973, pp.52–53 [extract]
The accused have never denied the charge of misappropriating the funds of the Strasbourg Student Union. Indeed, they openly admit to having made the union pay some 5000 francs for the printing of 10,000 pamphlets, not to mention the cost of other literature inspired by the “Situationist International.” These publications express aims and ideas which, to put it mildly, have nothing to do with the purposes of a student union. One need only read what the accused have written for it to be obvious that these five students, scarcely more than adolescents, lacking any experience of real life, their minds confused by ill-digested philosophical, social, political and economic theories and bored by the drab monotony of their everyday life, have the pathetic arrogance to make sweeping denunciations of their fellow students, their professors, God, religion, the clergy, and the governments and political and social systems of the entire world. Rejecting all morality and legal restraint, these cynics do not shrink from advocating theft, the destruction of scholarship, the abolition of work, total subversion and a permanent worldwide proletarian revolution with “unrestrained pleasure” as its only goal. ~ Judge Llabador, Strasbourg District Court, December 13, 1966
I was one of the organisers of the G20 demo from the Stop the War Coalition and I am also in Socialist Alternative.
The anarchist crazies involved in the ultra-violence were in no serious sense part of the demo. Just like their black bloc mates in Europe they simply exploited the demo for their own purposes.
Right throughout the lead-up to the demo they made clear their hostility to and contempt for other protestors. On the day they did all they could to disrupt the demonstration and were hostile, abusive, threatening and ultra-sectarian towards people on the demo.
Australia, fortunately, has not previously been blighted by the sort of black bloc anarchist activities which have had such a disastrous impact on demonstrations in Europe. These people are simply provocateurs that open up protests to police repression. In Europe their ranks have been riddled by police agents and fascists.
What gave them a certain critical mass at the G20 was the presence of considerable numbers of anarchists from overseas. One of our members from New Zealand said he recognised at least 40 NZ anarchists. He knew at least 20 of them by name. There were also a considerable number of black bloc anarchists from Europe. We know of people from Sweden, Germany and England. These people are like football hooligans who travel the world looking for violence.
On top of that there were also a considerable number of anarchists from interstate.
Because of the behaviour of these provocateurs the media and the law and order brigade are having a field day.
The left should offer no comfort to these crazies. We should do whatever we can to isolate them. They are wreckers. If they grow in Australia it will simply make it harder to build future protests and movements. ~ Mick Armstrong, Leftwrites, November 19, 2006
A Trotskyist groupuscule which formed in 1995 as a split from the International Social Organisation (ISO), Socialist Alternative (SAlt) is almost certainly the largest group on the student left. On the subject of anarchism, it provides a fairly orthodox Trotskyist appraisal, albeit one given a slightly demented twist by the likes of its chief ideologue Mick Armstrong. (This is most in evidence in Mick’s response to the events at G20, but is also evident in his article ‘Is there anything radical about anarchism?’, which appeared in the June 2007 edition of SAlt’s monthly.) Thus ‘anarchism’ is understood on roughly the same terms as ‘Marxism’. In this schematic, ‘Marxism’ is the body of theory based on the productions of the mind of nineteenth century bourgeois philosopher Karl Marx (along with other notables — Engels, Lenin, Trotsky et al); while ‘Anarchism’ may be understood similarly as having issued forth from other nineteenth century figures (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin in particular: one or the other, depending on the source, being bestowed with the title “the father of anarchism”).
And so on and so forth.
I’ve already replied to Mick’s diatribe on anarchism — in essence, he argues that it’s a form of ‘bourgeois individualism’ — so I won’t do so again here. I will note, however, that SAlt did issue a statement on G20 two days after Armstrong’s initial outburst, on November 21, which constituted a less crazed attack on the actions of ‘the anarchists’ at G20, but which otherwise served as a recapitulation of Mick’s basic argument. (Note that the now seemingly defunct Melbourne Stop the War Coalition issued a near-identical statement.) It concluded:
That’s why the left who want to reach out to masses of people need to:
1. Politically oppose anyone coming to protest rallies wearing masks or other forms of disguise. We need openness and accountability in the movement. Such dress creates a sinister atmosphere, breeds distrust, and makes police infiltration more likely.
2. Make it clear that there is a sharp dividing line between those involved in the violent provocations at G20 and the genuine left who want to relate to masses of people in order to change the world.
3. Make no concessions to the idea that this is just a form of “diversity”, just another difference of opinion. These tactics are completely counterproductive and the left will pay the price if we make concessions to them.
These questions are urgently in need of discussion as we are about to begin organising for the APEC forum next September in Sydney which Bush is expected to attend. If we are to maximise our ability to mobilise significant numbers, we have to take this clear stand and prepare to organise on the basis of genuine mass protest with no role for the kind of violent provocation we saw at G20.
I think comment on the above is superfluous.
Curiously, in the interim, the statement has been removed from the SAlt site, and its most recent, and only, statement regarding G20, dated March 8, 2008, condemns the “outrageous” sentencing meted out to Akin Sari, one of the anarchist crazies involved in the ultra-violence who was in no serious sense part of the demo and who simply exploited it for his own purposes (and a foreigner to boot).
“However that is not the main issue now”, as they say.
Instead, two things.
First, Shazam! ‘New facts explode an anarchist myth’ (Daniel Lopez and Corey Oakley, March 2006).
Secondly, SAlt claims possession of ‘Ideas to challenge capitalism’. That is, it’s organising a series of conferences in August on ‘Socialism’: in Melbourne on Saturday, August 16; in Brisbane on Sunday, August 17; in Sydney on Saturday, August 23; and in Perth on Sunday, August 24.
As a general rule of thumb, when groups such as SAlt address the subject of anarchism, it’s to warn off their members from expressing too close an interest. As such, it’s interesting to note that as a part of conference proceedings in Melbourne and Sydney — but not Brisbane or Perth — SAlt is organising a presentation on ‘Anarchism Put to the Test: the Spanish Revolution of 1936’ (I wonder if it passed?).
Now, call me crazy, ultra-violent, silly, exploitative, hostile, contemptuous, abusive, threatening, ultra-sectarian, a provocateur, possibly a foreigner, a hooligan, and a wrecker best isolated from those who genuinely seek radical social change, but I would suggest that a better, more accurate account of the role of the anarchists in the Spanish Revolution will be found in the documentary film Vivir La Utopia — recently screened as part of the La Mirada Spanish Film Festival, but also, happily, available for viewing on YouTube. Here’s Part One:
Hue & Cry and Lopez, Oakley & Kramer on Kronstadt
As for Kronstadt and the earth-shaking revelations breathlessly reported by Daniel and Corey, their reportage is a trifle odd, not least because when they reported their discovery of them, these ‘explosive new facts’ were in reality several years old. Further, in terms of ‘new facts’, their article (dated March 2006), merely refers to another article, ‘Kronstadt: Trotsky was right!’ by ‘A Kramer’, published on the International Viewpoint site in December 2003.
- As near as I can figure, Kramer is an Israeli Marxist and one-time editor of Iskra, the possibly defunct publication of the International Marxist Tendency in that country. As an aside, Kramer also wrote an article for the IMT on the subject of the Black Panthers in Israel: “The Black Panthers usually used the so-called tactic of “direct action”. For example in March 1972 they stole all the milk destined for the wealthy Jerusalem Rechavia district and transferred it to the poor suburb of Kirjat-Uvel. In every bottle was a short letter, explaining that milk was more important for poor children than for rich people’s cats.” In Sydney, Australia, the same stunt was conducted by anarchists at around the same time. The leaflet they left at bourgeois homes read: “Dear Householder, This is to inform you that it was not your milkman who failed you this morning. Your milk was delivered but has been redirected. While you were snoring in your cosy beds, Sydney members of the Dairy Liberation Front have struck! This activity is in conjunction with simultaneous action interstate. The material comfort we have seen here is in sharp contrast to the lives of the people to whom we are redelivering this milk. We pay the cost of your wealth in poverty and alienated labour. Today your milk, tomorrow your “bread”! Dairy Liberation Front.”
Kramer’s article re-capitulates the standard line on Kronstadt, the one first articulated by Trotsky. However, it also refers to two books, The Unknown Trotsky and Kronstadt 1921, published in Moscow — presumably in Russian — in 2000 and 2001. I’ve looked, but unfortunately can find no online reference to them anywhere but in Kramer’s essay. Moreover, in terms of astonishing revelations, there appear to be — to be precise, there are claimed to be — two: one is a quote from a document apparently produced by some sailors, viz, “The men of the White guards that are leading the rebels can do a lot of damage to the Republic, and they may not even hesitate to bomb Petrograd“. That is, an indeterminate number of sailors, loyal to the Bolsheviks, wrote a letter to the Kremlin supporting its view.
The second, according to Kramer, concerns “what happened in the town around Kronstadt. During the attack on Kronstadt, the workers of the town moved against the putschists and liberated the town even before the main forces of the Red Army arrived. So in reality what we had was not a workers’ and sailors’ rebellion against Bolshevism, but a workers’ and sailors’ Bolshevik uprising against the “rebels”!”.
This is a kinda kooky take on Kronstadt, in my opinion, especially given the existence of considerable evidence to the contrary, and, moreover, the fact that the documents — as, presumably, they are to be found in the Russian publications of 2000 and 2001 referred to by Kramer — are drawn from the Communist archives; while Kramer’s article provides no other details, it appears reasonable to assume that these are likely to have reflected State opinion. As such, this is a very weak basis upon which to conclude, as Daniel and Corey do, that while anarchists view the Kronstadt uprising and its suppression by the Bolshevik regime as evidence of its counter-revolutionary nature, “new evidence revealed from the USSR’s archives proves beyond doubt the falsity of these claims.” They further conclude that the Kronstadt rebels were:
A sorry collection of anti-Semitic peasants, led by pro-Tsarist Generals who openly admit that their adherence to “soviet” power was nothing but a device to take it themselves. These heroic “rebels”, when faced with a workers’ uprising in support of Bolshevism, which was also backed by many sailors, used terror and repression to maintain their hold on power. An interesting bunch of facts on which to hang a theory denouncing Bolshevism!
Those silly anarchists! Will they ever learn?
To which the answer is, of course, ‘yes’. One of the lessons to be learned is to treat such pronouncements with extreme caution. With regards the accusation that the Kronstadt rebels were “a sorry collection of anti-Semitic peasants”, for example, one might ask the question: What evidence is there of anti-Semitism among the sailors, soldiers and workers of Kronstadt? Daniel and Corey cite the following: “a sailor[,] Dmitry Urin, wrote [March 5, 1921] to his father in the Ukraine: “We in Kronstadt made a resolution to send all the Jews to Palestine, in order not to have in Russia such filth, all sailors shouted: ‘Jews Out’.”
Given the title of their piece, it might be assumed that this letter is a startling new discovery unearthed in the Soviet archives. In fact, it is not, and is merely a reiteration of a claim made many years earlier by fellow Trotskyist Abbie Bakan (“A Tragic Necessity”, Socialist Worker Review, No.136, November 1990). To which the authors of the anarchistfaq have already responded:
Bakan asserts that anti-semitism “was vicious and rampant” yet fails to provide any official Kronstadt proclamations expressing this perspective. Rather, we are to generalise from the memoirs of one sailor and the anti-semitic remark of Vershinin, a member of the Revolutionary Committee. Let us not forget that the opinions of these sailors and others like them were irrelevant to the Bolsheviks when they drafted them in the first place. And, more importantly, this “vicious and rampant” anti-semitism failed to mark the demands raised nor the Kronstadt rebels’ newspaper or radio broadcasts. Nor did the Bolsheviks mention it at the time.
Moreover, it is true that the “worse venom of the Kronstadt rebels was levelled against Trotsky and Zinoviev” but it was not because, as Bakan asserts, they were “treated as Jewish scapegoats.” Their ethnic background was not mentioned by the Kronstadt sailors. Rather, there were strong political reasons for attacking them. As Paul Avrich argues, “Trotsky in particular was the living symbol of War Communism, of everything the sailors had rebelled against. His name was associated with centralisation and militarisation, with iron discipline and regimentation.” As for Zinoviev, he had “incurred the sailors’ loathing as the party boss who had suppressed the striking workers and who had stooped to taking their own families as hostages.” Good reasons to attack them and nothing to do with them being Jewish. [Kronstadt 1921, p. 178 and p. 176]
Given that something like 16,000 sailors, workers and soldiers attended the mass meeting on March 1, 1921 that adopted the 15-point program of the Kronstadt rebellion, it would appear a little bit silly to claim that, because one sailor expressed his hatred of Jews in a private letter to his father, that the Kronstadt rebels were therefore “A sorry collection of anti-Semitic peasants”. Nevertheless, this is the claim being made. And this rather odd conjecture is reinforced by Kramer in another article (The Makhno anarchists, Kronstadt and the position of the Russian peasants in post-revolutionary Russia, In Defence of Marxism, November 17, 2004).
The rather pathetic nature of the Trotskyist claim that anti-Semitism was rife among the rebels, and can partly explain their rebellion, applies equally to the rhetoric regarding the political and social composition of the rebels (they were backward peasants), as well as the lie that the rebellion was led by “White Generals” (first mooted by the Bolshevik state apparatus in March 1921).
Note that the day after the surrender of Kronstadt, March 19, the Bolsheviks celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Paris Commune. And while on the one hand the lies and distortions continue unabated, on the other hand the political monstrosity that the Bolsheviks created — and in the defence of which the rebellion was crushed — now lies in the dustbin of history.
Next on the chopping block:
Isn’t the concept of a revolutionary party elitist?
…So anarchists or people who consider themselves “movement activists” declare that they too want to see revolutionary change, but that a party is either unnecessary or is a barrier to radical change. Commonly such critics argue that a revolutionary party is “elitist”, by which they mean that a revolutionary party seeks to lead, and that this is by definition a Bad Thing. They have in mind a Stalinised bastardisation of the party – one which seeks to stand “above” the working class (and social movements), dictating to the class what it should and should not think. And when the time is right, it will opportunistically seize power and establish a new dictatorship…
The lessons of the anti-APEC protests
Behind all of this was the domestic agenda of the “war on terror”. While the main focus of this has been fear-mongering about Muslims, Howard, Iemma, the cops and the media were not going to miss the opportunity to try to equate demonstrations with terrorism, in order to intimidate people out of protesting.
In this they were assisted by the actions of a small number – the so-called “Arterial Bloc” – at the demonstration against the G20 leaders in Melbourne last November. In a totally elitist fashion, these people decided to throw themselves at the police lines without reference to the thousands of demonstrators who had come to the rally.
It is not accidental that the NSW police constantly referred to these events as the “justification” for their massive militarised presence at the APEC protest, nor that it was G20 footage of small groups of masked idiots in white chemical suits that the media ran to “prove” the protest at APEC was going to be violent…