I just re-read some of the book Black Flame. It’s a very good book. I have a few quibbles about it (some details in a review here, I also don’t find the authors’ category ‘broad anarchist tradition’ very compelling.) Still, I recommend it highly. I want to get on to some of the disagreements I have with it, or take it as a jumping off point for some thoughts that the authors would probly disagree with but I want to spend a moment on how it’s good book, so that “I recommend it” is a real recommendation.
The books is an excellent overview of what are, in my opinion, the best parts of the anarchist tradition, as well as other radical non-anarchist movements like the IWW and the Deleaonists. It presents all this with attention to both ideas and the social context and background of the people who formulated those ideas. To the degree that there is or will be an anarchism that’s worth much, it’ll be one largely in keeping with what Black Flame advocates. So, what’s here is good, and even when I disagree with the book or think it’s wrong, it’s still productive.
I’m short on time so I’m just going to make the point in abbreviated form and with no quoting, I may edit this post later. The books argues for formal political organizations of anarchists in addition to revolutionary unions. The book suggests that revolutionary unions have had to rely on de facto political organizations to accomplish important parts of their work, and implies that this supports the case for formal political organizations. But why should this be the case? The de facto political organizations within revolutionary unions are informal networks and affinity groups of members. Why can’t those suffice? The book doesn’t supply historical evidence that they can’t. It seems to me then that the informal groups of members of revolutionary unions might be an alternative to the formal political organizations the book calls for. There are informal internal groups, internal in the sense of made up entirely of members of the parent organization and entirely or at least largely oriented toward the parent organization such that tasks of and within the larger group make up basically all of the smaller groups work. And there are formal organizations that unite people across membership in larger group. Why aren’t informal internal groups and formal mixed internal-external groups two different alternative methods for accomplishing the same goals?
My mind has changed a lot on all this, and this is partly sparked by this post and the ensuing (and, sadly, largely my fault, the unfortunately heated) discussion – http://libcom.org/blog/fragmented-thoughts-political-organization-15062012