Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Anti-parliamentary dogmatism (2001)

Book Review from the April 2001 issue of the Socialist Standard

Against Parliament. For Anarchism. Anarchist Federation.

This latest offering from the Anarchist Federation (formally known as the Anarchist Communist Federation) once again re-affirms their position that the revolutionary process towards “anarchist communism” can and must in no way involve the use of parliament. Indeed, the pamphlet itself is comprised of a discussion of the main political parties in Britain (including a chapter on the far left and right), all of whom advocate the use of parliament to advance their political programmes.

Unfortunately, the AF did not feel it necessary to mention the Socialist Party which is a shame as we are well-known to the AF and although not part of the same milieu, members of both organisations have been able to strike up cordial relations on occasion. The reason for this is that the AF's definition of “anarchist communist” society is almost indistinguishable from our view of socialism, i.e. moneyless, stateless with free access to goods and services. Perhaps, the main bone of contention is how we get there and here there are some real differences.

Whereas we emphasis mass democratic political action by a majority of the global working class (which may well involve socialist delegates being sent to parliaments) as the best means for attaining world socialism, the AF see the revolutionary process more in terms of community/worker resistance and mass action through strikes and riots and the like. However, some of their views seem remarkably similar to those of the Socialist Party's:
 “Anarchist communism would depend on mass involvement. This is both to release everyone's inventiveness and ideas and to prevent the formation of some sort of elite. Two forms of organisation are crucial in this context. The first is regular mass meetings of communities and workers, to ensure that full discussion and participation in matters affecting a locality could be achieved. The second is federation, as many issues need a broader perspective than the local. Federalism would run through successive bands—local, district, regional, international—to take decisions appropriate to that band” (p.54).

Needless to say that the AF's vision of a new society is far more edifying than the oxymoronic Trotskyist notion of a “workers' state” (state capitalist nightmare), but their anti-parliamentary dogmatism means that the question of the state in a revolutionary situation is effectively ignored.

No-one can be exactly sure which form the revolutionary process will take and it may well involve some of the things the AF point to. However, we in the Socialist Party believe that the potential use of parliament as part of a revolutionary process may prove vitally important in neutralising the ruling class's hold on state power. For us, this is the most effective way of abolishing the state and thus ushering in the revolutionary society.

The pamphlet itself is not a bad read (for a quid) and is especially interesting for budding political anoraks who wish to differentiate between the “National Democrats” and the National Front or the Scottish Socialist Party from the Socialist Workers Party. This said, it is more descriptive than analytical and the AF are wrong—even slightly disingenuous—to mix up the parliamentary reformism of the Trotskyists without reference to the revolutionary approach of the Socialist Party.
Dave Flynn

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