Thinking about anarchism

Why can't you all get together?


Last November about 70 or 80 people, from a number of left wing groupings, attended a conference in Dublin calling for 'Left Unity'. The organisers of the meeting wanted to set up an alliance like the Socialist Alliances in Britain, or even a new party like the Scottish Socialist Party. This would be an alliance, based on Leninist groups, coming together primarily to contest the next general election.

Interestingly, there was no discussion about what sort of 'socialism' all this effort would be in aid of. Where would freedom fit into things? Would the country be ruled by a parliament, by workers' councils or even by a one party dictatorship? Would it be old-style left Labour or libertarian socialism? Would it be sympathetic to the Castro regime in Cuba, or even to the totalitarian Stalinist dynasty in North Korea?

Anarchists have a good record of supporting genuinely open campaigns as opposed to party political fronts. Our activity in this area is geared towards winning whatever victories are presently possible and towards using methods that encourage working class self-confidence rather than reliance on personalities or leaders. We certainly don't put the narrow needs of our own organisations ahead of the need to advance progressive politics and working class self-activity.

However when it comes to the proposal for a Socialist Alliance we need to be critical of what is on the table. It appears that the major purpose is to bring together existing left political organisations in an alliance that is primarily electoral in nature.

We don't see this as the way forward. The failure of the left in the last century was, to a very large extent, that it adopted the political organisation of capitalism in promoting a system of choosing some person or party to govern the working class. For anarchists, a real revolutionary movement has to reject these methods in favour of direct democracy through assemblies, and mandated and recallable delegates.

This emphasis on leaders and parties as organisational forms is also a legacy of the failure of 20th century 'socialism'. And let us not forget that practically all of this left takes its inspiration from the Bolshevik party and its state capitalist rule in the old Soviet Union. What we need today is not some sort of united front of existing parties, but rather a break with that whole methodology.

Most importantly, we see socialism as being inseparable from freedom. All those effected by a decision should have the opportunity of taking part in making that decision. We reject as contrary to our political project any vision of socialism that does not explicitly oppose the division of people into rulers and ruled.

We will continue to work with people from other 'left' traditions in the struggles to beat the bin tax, to motivate more of our fellow union members to lodge claims in excess of the PPF terms, to combat racism, to win greater democracy in our unions, to oppose the proposed abortion referendum.

We are happy to work with all sorts of people in order to win gains for our class, to raise people's aspirations and to discuss, not only how to change society - but, much more importantly, what sort of society we want to live in.


This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper '
Workers Solidarity'. We also provide a PDF file of the latest edition for you to print out and distribute locally

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This edition is No62 published in January 2000