Saturday, April 15, 2017

Anarchist Reformism (1956)

From the April 1956 issue of the Socialist Standard

An article in Freedom (31.12.55) shows the bankruptcy and reformist tendencies of the Anarchist movement. The article, entitled "The Vicious Circle of Gas Rings" deals rather briefly with the monastic (set-up) of modern bed-sitters; how the landladies are after as high a price as they can squeeze for their commodity (as if other sellers aren't!); that conditions are unhygienic, and the distressing fact that a cooker is conspicuous by its absence. "If amenities were made available, such as a small cooker . . . then at least half the trouble could be melted away."

The author of the article seems to think that this business is encouraged by the State, which is actively interested in getting people to many, as a married person with Hire Purchase commitments is "less inclined to be a radical or a revolutionary . . . "The writer of the article goes on:—"No council would consider letting one of their flats to a single person. And that is one of the things we need to change."

At least one council (Chelsea Borough Council) lets flats to single people and we can be sure there are others. But apart from this, let us examine the logic of our anarchist's argument. If it is true that the authorities encourage the above state of affairs, so that people tend to get married and therefore not become revolutionaries, etc., and are less inclined to want the “FREE SOCIETY" which the anarchists would have us believe they are after, then their position should be one of supporting the landladies and lodgers set-up; opposing the introduction of cookers in bed-sitters, on the principle that more misery makes more revolutionaries! For, if our “bed-sitters" get their “amenities" it is surely only a matter of time before they too have their H.P. commitments and are lost in the day-dream world of trying to keep up with the Jones’s!

The fact is that neither by increasing misery nor by tinkering around with the effects of Capitalism (a gas stove here or there) can we get rid of the class problems of this society. It is property—the ownership by a few, to the exclusion of the many, which causes social problems. Whether it is war—the squabble over property in the form of markets, realisation of profits, sources of raw materials, trade routes, etc., by National groups, or poverty —the position that all workers are in—lacking enough of the things of life to lead a comfortable existence, harassed by insecurity, fear of unemployment, etc., the fact that workers, generally speaking, never get more of the wealth produced by them, than is necessary for them to reproduce themselves as wage-workers. Or even the more superficial problems like refusing to work with coloured people; and “bed-sitters.” These are all the problems of a society which produces wealth socially, but doesn't distribute it according to need, a society in which the wealth produced by the working-class (who run society from top to bottom) is in the possession of a parasitical minority who own and control either privately or through the State.

To get rid of the above problems it is no good (as the anarchists do) advocating petty reforms, or the smashing of the State machine. What must be done is the organisation of the working class throughout the world into a cohesive, class-conscious whole, until Socialists are a majority. Then by taking control of the existing political apparatus, they will take over the means of living and make the earth and all that is on it and in it, the common-possession of all people, without distinction of race or sex. For only in a world where all have freedom of access to the wealth of society, can we be rid of war, poverty, bed-sitters, and so on. Such a society, of course, can only be brought about on a world-wide scale by people who understand, desire, and are prepared to work for it in an organised fashion; undermining the basis of Capitalist society and organising for a new one. rather than tinkering around with the effects of this one. like our Anarchist opponents.
Jon Keys

1 comment:

Modernsocialist said...

First, why do you talk about the 'Anarchist enemy'? This is the divide and conquer that the Capitalist class uses to protect its position. Anarchists are also revolutionary Socialists, and as even Jeremy Corbyn has said, there are no enemies among the left.
You mention marriage as a way of making people feel attached to the system, but Thatcher’s sale of council houses was also a way of making the majority feel they have a stake in protecting the Capitalist order, this ideology reaching it's peak in Blair and New Labour's strong endorsement of a 'stakeholder society' in which, of course, the masses would be highly unlikely to wish to overthrow, having too much of their own interests entangled in and be unwilling to put them at risk.
The only future hope is that with young people now finding it harder and harder to buy a home, and are being employed in work with less and less security, they find they have no real stake in this society, a creation of Global Capitalism, and see through its self-congratulatory ideology of multiculturalism, with its dialectical problems of consumer blandness and cultural fundamentalism, and start to organise again along the lines of Socialist Revolution. We are the people who continue to carry that dream and it is our responsibility to pass it on to the next generation, the victims of late capitalism.