Hat tip to Tom Wetzel for this fine article. Check it out. Full disclosure and a little bragging, I know Tom, we’re both involved in the Workers Solidarity Alliance, so I’m biased. Anyhow, read his piece.
My favorite three bits are quoted below. With these bits I was reading it and I was like “yeah, this is what I try to do in this kind
of work but I haven’t put it this clearly before,” which is a cool feeling, like the article put clearly into words what had been more of a gut feeling for me or stuff I’d fumbled and put badly before.
1. “Dual organizational anarchists often say that the role of the anarchist political organization is to “win the battle of ideas,” that
is, to gain influence within movements and among the mass of the population by countering authoritarian or liberal or conservative ideas. Bakunin had said that the role of anarchist activists was a “leadership of ideas.”
But disseminating ideas isn’t the only form of influence. Working with others of diverse views in mass organizations and struggles, exhibiting a genuine commitment, and being a personable and supportive person in this context also builds personal connections, and makes it more likely one’s ideas will be taken seriously.”
2. “mass struggles and mass organizing as the process for changing society…because it is through the active participation of growing numbers of ordinary people, building and controlling their own movements, that they develop the capacity and aspirations for changing society.
From the point of view of “organized anarchism with a class struggle perspective,” two kinds of organization are needed: (1) forms of mass organization through which ordinary people can grow and develop their collective strength, and (2) political organizations of the anarchist or libertarian socialist minority, to have a more effective means to coordinate our activities, gain influence in working class communities, and disseminate our ideas. In the World War 1 era Italian anarchists coined the term “dual organization” for this perspective.
An organization does not have to be large to be a “mass organization” as I’m using this term. If 30 tenants in a building get together and have meetings and form a tenants union, this is a “mass organization.” A mass organization is put together to fight in some area and people join because they support the aims…such as having a union at work to oppose management or an organization at a college to fight tuition hikes. Membership in a political organization, on the other hand, is based on agreement with a particular ideology or political perspective.
A political organization is desireable for a variety of reasons. To pool resources for projects, to provide each other feedback and
support, to achieve greater public visibility for social anarchism, to coordinate organizing. We learn from trying to put our ideas into practice, and political organizations enable activists to discuss lessons of practical experience and develop their ideas.”
3. “Anarchism with a class struggle perspective” doesn’t mean it is “class reductionist” (…) capitalism is a system of exploitation of people who are subordinated in the work process, and a continual resistance or tug of war ensues because of this…sometimes on a small scale, sometimes breaking out in large social events such as general strikes. Ultimately there is no liberatory replacement for capitalism unless workers are able to gain control over their own productive activities and potentials. If we take seriously the principle that “the emancipation of the working class is the work of the workers themselves,” it’s hard to see how this emancipatory result is going to happen without a movement actively developed by workers themselves.
That said, class isn’t just about struggles in workplaces between workers and bosses. The power of the dominating classes spreads outward throughout society, in their control over the state and media. Class struggles occur at the point of consumption, among tenants and public transit riders for example. Environmental justice struggles over pollution in communities of color or working class neighborhoods are also class struggles.
The working class is highly heterogeneous. Workers are women, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, skilled and less skilled, and so on.
Many anarchists who work with a class struggle perspective these days operate with an “intersectional” analysis of oppression. Structural racism and structural gender inequality (patriarchy) or homophobia/transphobia have their own sources though they are also exploited by capitalism, to weaken the working class. It is equally important to fight all of them. They intersect in the lives of actual working class people. An African-American woman working as a postal clerk at the post office is subject to the gender, race and class systems, but she lives her life as a totality…these oppressions aren’t in separate worlds.”