Sunday, February 7, 2016

'The reign of images and Spectacles' (1997)

Book Review from the April 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

Beyond Resistance—A Revolutionary Manifesto for the Millennium by the Anarchist Communist Federation. £2

Socialists can agree with the first half of this pamphlet in which capitalism is criticised and the alternative society to it outlined. On the other hand, we can't agree with the second half where the ACF sets out how they think the alternative society will come about and what they think revolutionaries should be doing today.

The crisis of capitalism is correctly analysed not just as an economic and an ecological crisis, but also as a crisis of civilization whose features are a “collapse of community spirit and solidarity; the false cult of individualism as opposed to individuality; law of the jungle as the rule of life; poverty of real thought; the reign of images and of the Spectacle (e.g. consumerism, wars and famines as televised 'entertainment', the whole of life as a commercialised show); crisis of artistic creation and recycling of old recipes in the market of culture and entertainment; disenchantment and melancholy; cynicism".

The alternative to capitalism is seen as a society in which "all forms of exchange and money will be abolished and all land and property will be taken into the control of the community".

So far, so good. But how to get to such a society which we call "socialist" but they call "anarcho-communist"? The ACF see violence as the only way and we are offered a nightmare vision of the revolution as a re-run of the Spanish Civil War on a world scale but in which, this time, the good guys win.

There is nothing appealing or inspiring about this. Just the opposite in fact. The prospect of the next century being one in which a world civil war will break out, with all the death and destruction this would involve, is positively off-putting.

Fortunately, this is not the way to socialism. Certainly, the ruling class in all countries will have to be forced to give up their power and privileges but by mass popular pressure, including voting out their political representatives.

As to their strategy for today, the ACF want to build up a "Culture of Resistance" amongst the working class, but their conception of the working class seems to be restricted to young male workers who live on council estates or in inner-city areas. At least, it is to this section of the working class that their appeal is directed, with its emphasis on resistance to "police presence on our streets” and on dealing with "anti-social elements in our communities” (for whom the ACF proposes punishment beatings).

But what about the rest of the working class: those (most of us) who have a fairly steady job and are buying our homes from some building society? Ignoring the more representative majority of workers means that the ACF’s particular strategy for building a "culture of resistance" differs little in practice from "lifestyle anarchism" which sees anarchism not as an alternative society but as an alternative way of surviving under capitalism.
Adam Buick


For the Anarchist Communist Federation's reply, see here.

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

The front cover of the pamphlet accompanying this 1997 review is from a later edition.