1970s >> 1970 >> no-791-july-1970

Letters: An Anarchist Listens

Sir,
 
One is used to reading lies in the Socialist Standard but some are more unjustifiable than most. You claim: “Both anarchists and bolshevists counterpose leadership plus formal organisation to leaderlessness plus ‘spontaneity’. The socialist proposal that ordinary working . . .” (Listen Anarchist, March). He goes on to claim that Anarchos is rare among anarchists in thinking that Communism is state capitalism.
 
Certainly some anarchists believe in spontaneity, some believe in syndicalist organisation, the two argue the case vigorously, but coexist happily in the same movements and since asking workers to act for themselves is the important part and the suggestion made by some and deprecated by others that industrial unionist organisation will help does not prevent very similar work being done by both. What we deny is that a bourgeois parliament is a suitable forum or vehicle for ordinary working people to operate democratically without leaders and insist that they need to build their own organisations to do this, whether this is done spontaneously i.e. without preparation, or whether it is done by a slow process of construction in syndicate organisations, or whatever.
 
Many anarchists — if not most — would perhaps prefer to use the term managerialist rather than state capitalist (even the Socialist Party of Great Britain has at last in its 1969 Conference acknowledged that the capitalist nature of the Soviet ruling class resides in its nature as an whole class and not in individual holders of capital) but with the exception of a very small minority anarchists do use one or other term to denote a class system.
 
No anarchist believes in leadership — though some of us advocate a militant minority pressure group, provided it is certain that it has no leadership function — and we are generally attacked for alleged opposition to all forms of organisation (untrue) and belief in spontaneity (not always true).
 
It is interesting that you claim that what is advocated in Listen Marxist has been advocated in the Socialist Standard for years or decades past. I have no particular liking for the Anarchos group, and have written to the English publishers with criticisms. but one might remind you of what Marx said on the matter; basically that it is Utopian to advocate demands beyond what the economic development of the age will stand, so if it is true that for decades the Socialist Party has been advocating all that is in Anarchos, which being edited by a cyberneticist is perhaps overly enamoured of automation, then you most certainly were idealistic Utopians advocating policies ahead of the time.
                                                                                                                            Faithfully,
Laurens Otter, 
Thornton Heath.
 
 
Reply:
Maybe it’s because he is not always strictly accurate himself that Laurens Otter is always reading lies! For example, in the article he mentions we said that ‘‘most” of the ideas Anarchos proclaimed as new had long been advocated by us. Otter turns this into a claim that we advocate “all that is in Anarchos”. Frankly, we did not even know’ that Anarchos was a regular magazine.
 
We are well aware that there is a great variety of anarchisms (see ‘‘What is Anarchism”, Socialist Standard, December 1967) whose only common factor is an anti-State ideology. Otter concedes that he is one of those anarchists who stand for minority action. This was a feature of bourgeois revolutions like those of France in 1789 and Russia of 1917. Which is why we say that anarchism and Bolshevism are both left-overs from bourgeois revolutionary theories and stand opposed to the Socialist view that the workers must emancipate themselves.
 
Finally, a few points about the Socialist Party of Great Britain. We say that the workers must organise democratically to control Parliament because this controls the State machine which, at the very least, must be taken out of the hands of the capitalist class before the attempt to establish Socialism can be made. The democratic self-organisation of the working class, by the way, will not be through Parliament but in the socialist political party (and any economic organisations set up in preparation for the change-over to Socialism) which will control Parliament.
 
The resolution passed at our 1969 Conference on the Russian ruling class does not commit us to a managerialist view. It stated quite clearly that the ruling class in Russia were capitalists not managers and was mainly concerned with the terminology we use when referring to the Russian rulers. It did not represent any change in our analysis of state capitalism there.
Editorial Committee

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